My quest for the perfect rifle--at an end?


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Cosmoline
June 9, 2003, 03:06 AM
Well, my five-year mission to find the perfect rifle may be at an end. My goal was to find the ideal all-around rifle for south-central Alaska. It had to be fast, sufficiently powerful for a variety of game, accurate enough for the range (1 ½ inch at 100 meters), under $500, and well balanced and portable enough for long hikes.

Over the past five years I've bought, sold and traded across the range of long guns from lever actions to semi-autos. I found a lot of great rifles along the way. But in each case, I found that each rifle had shortcomings in one area or another. I will summarize my findings briefly.

Lever Actions. Winchester '94 (.45 Colt), Marlin 30A (.30-30), Marlin 1895G (.45-70). I liked these a lot, until they started to break down. Then I stopped liking them quite so much. Too many tiny springs and levers are needed to cycle the action, the failure of any one of which shuts down the whole operation. As my interest in rifles grew, I wanted to experiment with spitzer bullets with a higher BC and SD. I still have a big soft spot for the .30-30. I also want to get a Savage '99 in a Newton cartridge one day. But for now, those plans are long term.

Single Shots. Ruger No. 1 (.45-70). What can I say. Amazingly beautiful, well-balanced, but it shot very poorly. Given the price, I could not justify putting any more money into it to make it shoot straight. However, I know I'll be back for more punishment one day. These rifles are just too beautiful. I also want to get a Handi Rifle in 7.62x54R some day.

Semis. Most of the new production were out of reach here. The best I had was an FN-49 in 8x57. It was a fine rifle. The only drawback was its bulk, the way it tore up brass, and the noise of the action. Still, this is the rifle I most regret selling.

Bolt Action. This is where my attention has been focused for the last two years or so. I've been sorely disappointed with every new-production bolt action I've bought. The sights tend to be cruddy, the stocks designed for scopes, and the twist rates set for small, high-velocity bullets. Workmanship is often wanting, as well. And don't get me started on the wood. So I've favored curio & relic rifles. I've had most all of them at one point or another, from Arisakas and Mosins to Mausers and SMLE's. They're all good, but for the most part the suffer from certain problems. The iron sights often start at 200, 300 or even 400 meters--absurd distances that force the addition of aftermarket parts. And then there are the poor accuracy standards. The attitude of the brass was apparently that 3" or 4" groups at 100 meters were fine for the cannon fodder. The only exceptions came with small countries that needed their foot soldiers to kill five for every one.

In other words, the Finns and the Swiss. I tried Finnish Mosins, and while they are great, these rifles have some drawbacks. For one thing, they are quite barrel-heavy. This gets very annoying when taking them hunting or hiking. I also prefer the original Russian stock designs to the Finnish versions. And the cartridge is a bit antiquated, with its rimmed and necked design. Beyond this, I've always wanted a rifle that combines the speed of a levergun with the strength and accuracy of a bolt action.

And then we come to the Swiss. And this, my friends, is where my quest ends. For I have found the ultimate rifle. It's name is K-31. I posted briefly on it a few days ago, and I've since engaged in extensive range tests and even a long hike in the hills. It is extremely accurate, with excellent iron sights. I found I could get 1" groups at 100 meters from the rest, and could stay on the black even shooting off hand at that range.

The K-31 has great balance and handles very well in spite of (or maybe because of) the odd-looking stock. It isn't quite a straight stock, but it has the speed of a straight stock with the stability of a semi-pistol-grip. It also has a sling setup ideal for the across-the-belly carry I prefer.

The cartridge, though quite old, appears as modern as the .308. Ball ammo is all sniper-grade. And I mean sniper grade. Each cartridge is carefully prepared and packed, with seals that must make it almost totally waterproof. And with new sources of boxer brass in the works and plenty of .308" bullets, it looks to be a great candidate for hand-loading.

Best of all is the straight-pull action. It's very fast and totally intuitive.

So there you have it. I'm going to drink a beer now and relax.

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WonderNine
June 9, 2003, 04:48 AM
Isn't that ammo kind of expensive?

swingset
June 9, 2003, 04:57 AM
Isn't that ammo kind of expensive?

Compared to other surplus, yeah, but it's (GP-11) the best surplus ammo ever made, bar none. Nearly match grade stuff.

Also, it's an easy caliber to reload for. It can be made from either the 7.5 swiss brass or .284win and the bullets are standard .30 caliber.

I heartily agree they are awesome rifles, true works of art and I've yet to shoot or witness an innacurate one.

I have a scoped one that will shoot sub MOA as long as you can bear the recoil, and it will do it every time you sit down at the bench. Just a garden variety issue rifle, mind you.

Best $80 I ever spent on ANYTHING! :D

Cosmoline
June 9, 2003, 07:41 PM
Update. Graf & Sons has new boxer brass for 7.5 Swiss. I just ordered a batch. It's on backorder till July, but after that the should have a good supply. Price is good, and I had very good results with their 7.65 Argentine brass.

Vic303
September 3, 2003, 09:43 AM
You like the K31, but have you tried a Swede? 6.5x55, accurate too.

Jaywalker
September 3, 2003, 10:26 AM
Nice post.I've been sorely disappointed with every new-production bolt action I've bought. The sights tend to be cruddy, the stocks designed for scopes, and the twist rates set for small, high-velocity bullets. Workmanship is often wanting, as well. And don't get me started on the wood. I haven't bought a new bolt action since 1987, my (then) new Ruger 270 URL. Smooth action, tang safety, and pretty good wood; poor accuracy, but you can't have everything. :(

I haven't noticed the poor quality yet (except for the terrible sights), probably because I'm hanging around gunstores/gunshows looking at used rifles. You aren't the first person who's commented on it, though, so there's likely something to it.

One general exception, however: the 260 Rem, at least in the USRAC/Winchester 70 Fwt, is listed at a 1-8" twist, so they're definitely aiming at higher bullet weights.

Jaywalker

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