Spike Camp

My Hunting Rifles

My Hunting Rifles
« on: December 11, 2021, 11:52:40 AM »
I didn't grow up in a hunting or shooting family.  Although my Dad gave me a single shot bolt action .22 rifle when I was 10 and he took me to a local indoor gun range to learn how to shoot it, it wasn't until I was in college in the mid '60s that I really got into guns and hunting.

My 2nd year of college I roomed with some guys from northwest Colorado who had grown up shooting and hunting.  My first fall with them, one of them took me to his Dad's hunting camp and I killed my first deer, a spike muley, with a borrowed Win .32 Special.  The next year he took me back to that camp and I killed my first elk, a 5x5 bull with a borrowed .30-40 Krag.  And I was hooked!

The next year I had a summer job with the US Forest Service in Steamboat Springs, CO and I asked that I worked with, who had grown up shooting and hunting there, what rifle I should buy for deer and elk hunting.  They both said to get a bolt action in either a .270 Win or .30-06.  So, I bought a .30-06 barreled action and semi inleted stock from Herter's and I had my first centerfire rifle.

That year I was also rooming with a guy in Steamboat who reloaded for his only hunting rifle, a .257 Roberts.  So, I bought some basic reloading equipment from Herter's and started reloading.

Back then we didn't have anywhere near the reloading choices that we have now, so I just found the most accurate 150 grain bullet for deer (Hornady Spire Point), and the most accurate 180 grain bullet for elk (Sierra GameKing) in my rifle and went hunting.  Back then the Colorado deer and elk seasons were concurrent, and I quickly found out that if put the bullet into the right place, either bullet would easily kill a deer or elk.

Jump ahead 10 years and I had served 3 years in the Army, with a tour in Vietnam, graduated from college, got married, and had a full-time job with the Forest Service in northwest Montana.  My next-door neighbor quickly became my best friend and hunting partner.  He had a 7 mm Rem for elk (and later moose) and a .243 for deer and varmints.  He also had a .30 Gibbs case that he gave me and after carrying it in my pocket for a couple of months, I decided that I had to have my .30-06 re-chambered to .30 Gibbs.

I then had Les Bauska in Kalispell rechamber my -06 to .30 Gibbs, and at the same time I had him rechamber a .25-06 barreled action that I had bought to .257 Ackley, and for him to build a .22-250 barreled action for me.  I then thought that I had a pretty good battery of rifles for Montana (or North American) hunting:  my .30 Gibbs for elk (and later moose), my .257 Ackley for deer and antelope (and later elk, sheep, and varmints), and my .22-250 for varmints (and deer and antelope).

Over the years I also got into black powder shooting, both pistols and rifles, and shot my best mule deer buck, 30" spread and trash, with a .45 Caliber CVA Kentucky rifle that I built, and a buffalo with a Green River .54 caliber Hawken rifle that I built.  I also got into shotgun shooting to the point that I was competing at the State level in both Trap and Skeet where I have reloaded about 300,000 shotgun shells and have been making my own shot for 35 years or more. 

I have also picked up enough other rifles and pistols that I can barely get them all into my safe.  For the past 40+ years I turned a spare bedroom into my reloading room where I am set up to reload 4 shotgun gauges, 11 rifle cartridges, and 6 pistol cartridges.

When I went on my first hunt in Africa I was in the middle of a very nasty divorce where I couldn't use any of my own rifles, so I borrowed a 7 mm RM from one of the guys that I went with and the most accurate bullets that he had loaded for it were 140 grain Nosler Ballistic Tips.  The guides and outfitter said those bullets were too light and would blow up on impact, but with proper bullet placement I made one shot kills on my Kudu, Blue Wildebeest, Gemsbok, and a few other animals.

A few years later I bought a .375 RUM for an African Cape Buffalo hunt.  I ended up taking that rifle on two African hunts, one with 300 grain Barnes bullets and the other with 270 grain Barnes bullets.  Again, with proper bullet placement, those bullets made one shot kills on a wide variety of animals from a 25-pound Steenbok to a 1800-pound buffalo.

After more than 50 years of wanting a Weatherby rifle, about 10 years ago I finally bought one, a Vanguard in .300 Wby.  Being a rifle tinkerer, before I first shot that rifle, I replaced the factory stock with a AA Fancy semi inleted blank that I shaped, finished, and checkered.  I also pillar and glass bedded the action and barrel and free floated the barrel.  I had a KDF brake put on it, I put a recoil reducer in the stock, and I replaced the factory trigger with a Timney.  It immediately became my favorite rifle.

I liked that Vanguard rifle so much that I bought two more Vanguards, this time in Stainless Steel with Griptonite stocks, one in .308 Win and the other in .223 Rem.  I lengthened both of these stocks 1/2", put Limbsaver pads on them, and glass and pillar bedded the actions and free floated the barrels, gave the stocks a spider web paint job.  I have Leupold CDS scopes on all 3 of these rifles, and the .308 and .223 are my weekly "go to the range" plinking rifles at the steel gongs out to 430 yards.

My whole purpose of this rant is that just about every time I get on a hunting forum, I see posts where the poster is asking what rifle, caliber, cartridge, or bullet to hunt mainly deer, but also many other animals or in other places.   Questions are good, that's how we learn.  But the most important factor in hunting is that the hunter is completely confident and comfortable with their rifle that they can put their bullet in the right place.  This only comes with proper gun fit and many, many bullets down range.

My 7 main hunting rifles are all in the 9-10 pound weight range, all have the same length of pull and physical feel, and all have the same or very similar scopes.  I go to the range throughout the year and just about every week that I am home.  On each trip I try to shoot at least 10 shots from field positions with each rifle that I brought, shooting at the steel gongs from 200 to 430 yards.  A month or two before a hunt, the rifle that I will be hunting with is one of the rifles that I will practice with.
« Last Edit: December 11, 2021, 12:05:27 PM by buffybr »
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Re: My Hunting Rifles
« Reply #1 on: December 11, 2021, 05:29:44 PM »
Nicest rifles and reloading setup 👍🏻
Best Regards, Mike


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Re: My Hunting Rifles
« Reply #2 on: December 11, 2021, 09:16:31 PM »
 +1 on the purpose of your post, with an interesting story all the way through. You can never reiterate enough to new shooters/hunters that practice, practice, practice, is the one factor that will build the self confidence in yourself and in whichever firearm you choose to practice and hunt with. Knowledge of the right bullet construction and right bullet weigh can also teach you how and when you can substitute different bullet types to extend the use of the right caliber or the use of a lesser caliber for game.
  BTW, that is a good looking and well organized reloading room 8)


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Re: My Hunting Rifles
« Reply #3 on: December 12, 2021, 03:02:55 AM »
Enjoyed your "rant" as well as the pictures
Trust your neighbor,but brand your cattle.

Remember 10534

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Re: My Hunting Rifles
« Reply #4 on: December 12, 2021, 09:04:07 AM »
Thank you - excellent post.

Re: My Hunting Rifles
« Reply #5 on: December 12, 2021, 07:28:49 PM »
Thanks for the post. Nice looking rifles and reloading room. I feel the way about shot placement and practice.

Re: My Hunting Rifles
« Reply #6 on: December 15, 2021, 05:50:27 PM »
Now that's a hunting story thanks for sharing !!!

Re: My Hunting Rifles
« Reply #7 on: December 15, 2021, 06:27:38 PM »
I couldn't fit all that equipment in my reloading room. :)

Re: My Hunting Rifles
« Reply #8 on: December 16, 2021, 09:31:45 AM »
I couldn't fit all that equipment in my reloading room. :)
My loading bench rarely looks that good.  I did some major cleaning for that picture.

That room is full of things that I haven't seen in 40 years. :-\
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Re: My Hunting Rifles
« Reply #9 on: December 17, 2021, 12:45:19 AM »
Very nice setup buffy. I wish mine area was that size and as organized. I've been fighting space issues lately and can say that your work stations and space are impressive.