New Rifles for a New Rifle Cabinet

Having been living and working in Asia for the past several years I will be leaving in a few months and returning to my home country. When I left my home country I had to sell or give away the entire contents of my rifle cabinet, which was a bit of a hard thing to do. Not just because I would have preferred to keep the guns but also because each individual rifle carried with it quite precious memories of friends, past hunting trips and the stories associated with them. These are the associations from which we get our affection for our old rifles with their patina of careful usage, this is why our old used rifle becomes far more special to us than a new one.

When I return home I will be needing to re-acquire the basics of life, buying a house in a suitable rural town and a Land Rover to make its driveway untidy; and I’ll be needing a new rifle cabinet and some rifles to fill it up. What will I choose? Because I’ve been an active shooter for well over a couple of decades it actually didn’t take me long to decide and create my little prioritized wish list. My wish list is short, it contains just three rifles. It may be different to a wish list that you would create – but that’s part of the fun of shooting and being a shooter. My thoughts are that I will need just three rifles which I can categorize as the “eargesplittenloudenboomer”, the “stumpy thumper”, and the “bunny buster”.

The “Eargesplittenloudenboomer”

My highest priority is a rifle with which I can travel quite literally anywhere in the world and be equipped for any big game hunt from deer and boar on up. Where I plan to live in South Eastern Australia will put me in reasonable travel distance from country where Sambar deer can be found and going Sambar stalking is right at the top of my hunting “to do” list. Because I’ve lived overseas for extended periods of time I also expect to travel with this rifle so it needs to be a rifle for the “one gun world wide hunter” as John Taylor puts it. I’ve covered this one in a previous article “One Rifle With Which to Travel the World“. My caliber of choice is the 375 Holland and Holland Magnum, which has been called “the world’s 30/06” because it has long since become the caliber of choice for international hunters in the same sense that the 30/06 became the caliber of choice in the United States.

The 375 Holland and Holland Magnum is popular for reasons other than the fact that it has been around for a long time. It is capable of Minute of Angle (MOA) accuracy and can be loaded with an array of bullets that render it capable from a role as a long range rifle all the way to being a dangerous game stopper. The Lyman 48th edition reloading manual lists loadings that will push the Barnes 235grain XLC bullet at a shade under 3000fps out of the muzzle of a 24 inch barrel and the Barnes reloading manual lists loadings that go a tad over the 3000fps mark. The 235grain Barnes lists a Ballistic Coefficient of .400 which gives it competitive velocity retention and trajectory compared with the various 300 magnums. It becomes a reasonable choice as a long range rifle if loaded like that. This velocity and Ballistic Coefficient are directly comparable with the 165grain bullet loads listed for the 300 Winchester Magnum in the same Lyman 48th Edition reloading manual.

My rifle of choice will be a Winchester Model 70 Alaskan. Back in the seventies and eighties when I was stocking my first rifle cabinet I avoided purchase of a Winchester Model 70 because, back then, the rifles were not of the original Pre-64 controlled feed type. The big magnum rifle I bought instead was a Mannlicher Shoenauer which did, and offered four fat magnum rounds in its rotary magazine instead of three in rifles like the Winchester Model 70. Now that Winchester Model 70’s are again being offered with the controlled feed action and a trigger that I see consistently good reviews of it becomes the natural choice.

Winchester Model 70 Alaskan.

Winchester Model 70 Alaskan.

Having chosen the rifle and the caliber the next consideration is the scope and mounts. Because I like to use open sights if I’m in thick cover I prefer to be able to remove the scope from the rifle if needed. Quick detachable mounts offer that advantage plus the bonus that you can remove the scope from the rifle when transporting it and carry the scope in your hand carry onto the aircraft as a little bit of insurance against the no so gentle ministrations of the baggage handlers. My experiences with EAW pivot mounts from Germany have been all good so I’ll be opting for them. The EAW mounts require intelligent set up and maintenance so they may not be for everybody, but they are for me. They rarely require adjustment once set up and the adjustments are not rocket science to do when required.

EAW pivot mounts.

EAW pivot mounts.

For the telescopic sight I’ll be choosing a Kahles Helia C 2.5-10x50mm. This provides a wide field of view at its lowest power, long range capability at its highest power, and a nice big 50mm objective lens to ensure light gathering power to get the required 7mm exit pupil up to 7x magnification in low light conditions.

Kahles Helia C 2.5-10x50mm

Kahles Helia C 2.5-10x50mm

My past experiences with Kahles scopes has been all good and I’m yet to come across someone who has been critical of their design, quality or customer service.

That covers the first rifle, which was subject of my previous article “One Rifle With Which to Travel the World“. Now let’s move on to the new items.

The “Stumpy Thumper”

There are times when a full sized scoped hunting rifle with only 3-5 rounds in the magazine can become too cumbersome and lacking repeat shots. This tends not to be true for hunts where you are hoping for one good shot on one animal. But when we head out vermin control shooting the agenda becomes very different. So, for wild pigs and, in Australia, feral goats, what’s needed is a rifle that’s short and handy, that packs adequate stopping power, and provides more rounds in the magazine, nine or ten being good, preferably with the capability to top up the magazine easily on the fly. If you have realized from my description I’m thinking lever action with tube magazine you’d be right.

First let’s think about the caliber. A lever action in 45/70 is not really going to provide a significant increase in magazine capacity though it will provide plenty of stopping power loaded appropriately. My preference is going to be for a 44 Magnum which will provide a power level that will prove adequate along with a nine round magazine capacity. It is curious to me that whilst most knowledgeable shooters will view a 44 Magnum handgun as being good for hunting most things, and if you are in brown bear country, good enough to serve as protection against an overly friendly bruin should the need arise. Yet if we put that same 44 Magnum cartridge in a rifle it seems to suddenly stop being viewed the same way. I find this odd because a 44 Magnum in a rifle has to be more powerful than it can ever be out of a revolver. The reason simply being the rifle has a longer barrel.

Not only does the 44 Magnum become quite significantly more powerful in a rifle it also means we can comfortably use 300 grain bullets whereas in a revolver full charge 300 grain 44 Magnum loads can be a tad uncomfortable to shoot. The Lyman 48th Edition loading manual lists 300 grain jacketed bullet loads around 1300-1400fps out of a 14 inch test barrel. Thus out of a 20 inch barrel we are going to get a gain over that, and likely quite a significant gain.

What rifle am I going to choose? My preference is going to go to the Marlin 1894 Deluxe if I can get my sweaty little paws on one. I recognize though that buying a Marlin is going to require some care and some critical examination of the rifle offered for sale.

Marlin 1894 Deluxe

Marlin 1894 Deluxe

Many reading this will know that Marlin were acquired by Remington back in 2007 and the initial results of that were catastrophic for the brand. Remington, as I understand it, layed off the original workers and moved Marlin production to the main Remington production plant. Thus, according to what I have read, they did not keep the skilled workforce and they moved already old machinery to a new location which compounded the problem. My guess is that the corporate “wisdom” ran something like “everybody’s replaceable”. However, everybody proved not to be replaceable, something corporate managers need to realize if their company is going to maintain quality. I wonder if Apple Corporation believe for example that Steve Jobs is replaceable? I suspect not. Though wisdom with the benefit of hindsight is the worse kind of wisdom to have yet it’s an old lesson. For example, in the closing days of World War II the Zeiss factory, which produced some of the best optics in the world, was about to be taken by the invading Soviet Red Army. The staff escaped to the West and after the war established a new Zeiss factory where they continued to produce some of the best optics in the world. The communists got the old Zeiss factory complete with all its equipment, but without the expert staff. Nonetheless, being communists, the truth was not high on their list of things to care about, so they started producing optics at that factory and put the Zeiss brand on them, using new staff who did not have the expertise of the original staff. The end result were optics that were agricultural at best. People matter, and nobody’s replaceable.

The bottom line on the Marlin story is that the rifles produced between 2007-2012 should be avoided like a dose of Anthrax unless you are looking for a cheap “throw in the back of the truck” rifle. These 2007-2012 rifles are referred to as “Remlins” and you are advised to beware of the “Remlin Gremlins”. I am told that Remington have now fixed the quality issues on current production rifles and that Marlins are again worth buying. There is a good post here on the details to look for if you, like me, are planning on shelling out some hard earned shekels on one.

I think the Marlin 1894 is a wonderful rifle to shoot, really light and quick to the shoulder, accurate out to 44 Magnum ranges which means under 200 yards, though remember, if a 44 Magnum revolver is good for Metallic Silhouette shooting at 200 yards then the rifle is going to be better, and with a scope it’s going to be a lot better.

Will I mount a scope on my Marlin 1894? I hope so. My first preference would be to get EAW pivot mounts for it and put a Kahles 1.1-4x24mm on it.

Kahles Helia C 1.1-4x24mm.

Kahles Helia C 1.1-4x24mm.

This scope is, however, not listed in the current Kahles catalog. The one that is listed, theĀ Kahles K15i 1-5x24mm, is much more expensive, rather more than the humble Marlin 1894 Deluxe is worth in fact.

Kahles K15i 1-5x24mm

Kahles K15i 1-5x24mm

I can’t find a suitable European scope in current listings so, if push comes to shove, I may well settle on a Leupold VX-R 1.25-4x20mm. It’s not a Kahles, but it is a Leupold, and it would work on a “Stumpy Thumper” lever gun, rather nicely.

Leupold VX-R 1.25-4x20mm.

Leupold VX-R 1.25-4x20mm.

The “Bunny Buster”

Also known as the “Fox Fixer” this is the small game rifle. Whether or not I actually buy or build this one will depend on hunting opportunities locally in the area I finish up living. My lovely wife does a fabulous recipe the family calls “Sticky Bunny” that involves honey, garlic, ginger, soy sauce – and a rabbit.

The caliber will preferably be 22 Hornet. Small enough that we don’t have to get bruised meat on head shot rabbits, and with a light report. It’s the sort of caliber that a farm property owner will find acceptably modest. You don’t want to turn up with your 375 H&H on your first visit to the property, just as you don’t want to turn up in full camo gear looking like an SAS sniper fresh back from a tour of duty in Afghanistan. I’ve only ever encountered one wheat farmer who liked big rifles. He used a 458 Winchester Magnum for pesky kangaroos and swore black was blue that nothing less would put them down so that they would stay down, bless him. He was a refreshing change from so many who held to an unshakable belief that a 22 rimfire was all you needed to humanely drop a kangaroo, the end result being lots of wounded kangaroos. The “Code of Practice for Kangaroo Shooting”, which I provided a technical submission for, was a welcome effort to end that practice.

The choice of a 22 Hornet rifle is for me both easy and difficult. Easy, because I know straight away what I’ll choose. Difficult, because they’ve long been out of production and finding one at a reasonable price may be a challenge. I’m talking about the BRNO ZKW 465 “Fox” rifle.

BRNO ZKW465 22 Hornet.

BRNO ZKW465 22 Hornet.

This is the small game rifle “par excellence”. I like double set triggers, especially on a rifle that is going to be used for brain shots on small animals. The 22 Hornet is good for reliable shots out to 130 yards. It is possible to shoot it out to 200 yards but once you get out there it becomes very sensitive to wind drift and much harder to shoot. I’ve shot the Australian Field Rifle Match with a 22 Hornet many times which requires shooting at 200 meters. Suffice to say I learned a lot about wind drift, and used my 308 Winchester for serious competition.

The BRNO ZKW465 is a drop dead gorgeous little Mauser bolt action with a detachable clip. It is without a shadow of a doubt my favorite small game rifle.

What scope I put on it will largely depend on what it comes with. If I need to buy a new scope for it then it will be another Kahles 2.5-10x50mm.

So there you have it, my choice for the three new rifles to re-stock my new rifle cabinet. Your choices may be different. You may live in a home where the woodchucks free roam, in which case you’ll want a “Woodchuck Whacker” as your number one rifle. If you are a shotgunner you’ll be looking for a “Duck Dropper” or a “Turkey Terminator”. But for me, the big game rifle, the handy lever action, and the rabbit and fox rifle, fit the bill. I can’t think of much of anything that walks, crawls or flies that one of those can’t respectably handle.

New Rifles for a New Rifle Cabinetchaprala-wildlife-sanctuary-12

(Feature Image and final image courtesy of Sanctuaries India – http://www.sanctuariesindia.com/chaprala-wildlife-sanctuary/)

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