Nick testing the Sako Black bear in 9.3x62mm

A lot of gun hearsay dispelled

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Q: I’m considering my first rifle, more for use on game than varmints. I’m lookingfor quality for price, good accuracy, manageable recoil andavailability of ammo, as I’m not sure whether I will startreloading. My choices include the .260 Rem., 6.5x55mm, .270 Win.,7mm-08 Rem., and .308 Win. I favour the .308 as I found the recoilof Federal factory ammo in a Mauser rifle, fired standing andkneeling after 40 rounds bearable. Are there any issues using the.308 with match bullets for target shooting? Does modern once-firedbrass have a shelf-life before reloading? Other calibres aresupposed to be flatter shooting and have milder recoil, but manypeople tell me that .260 and 7mm-08 ammo is hard to get and costsmore I’ve heard U.S-made 6.5×55 ammo is underpowered and Europeanammo is nearer its potential. Does Euro ammo cost more and havelimited options? Would recoil of full-power 6.5×55 ammo be less thana .308? I know calibres smaller than .270 are not legal on some deerand might not handle game as well as the .308. I have only fired two rounds of .270 Win. in a $800 Marlin at the bench and found its recoil greater than the .308 Mauser with a Pachmayr pad. I have hadno experience with the other calibres. Some people have said the.270 and 6.5×55 are better than the .308 for hunting and at longrange, and that the 6.5×55 is more accurate for targets.Does the.270 have greater downrange energy than the .308 ? I’ve been told bya target shooter that .308 factory rounds don’t buck wind well over600 yards. Would lighter-loaded .270 ammo be the same for targets?One writer claims the .270 WSM is better than the standard .270 Win.Does the .270 WSM have greater recoil and burn the barrel outfaster? With regard to recoil reduction, I’ve heard of Kick-EEZ(70%); Limb Saver (50%); Remington Super-Cell (54%), Howa Talonstock (65%) Have you tried these or other recoil reducing devicesand found them worthwhile? I assume I’d have to get a gunsmith toattach them, I’m not keen on muzzle brakes as it annoys me whenothers use them. Are button-rifled barrels really more accurate thanless likely to metal-foul than hammer-forged barrels? Some say thelatter are harder and better resist wear. What twist rates would yourecommend for the above calibres? What rifle models would yourecommend that have adequate barrel lengths, good stock design andan effective recoil pad? Savage rifles appear to have excellentaccuracy for the price, but one NZ writer said he’d seentool-skipping. scoring inside the barrels of recent new rifles.Still, the Savage LongRange Hunter looks pretty good to me. I readyour review of the Howa-Hogue in .22-250. What do you think the accuracy and recoil would be like in a .308? Also, is a recent problem with barrel tightness a sign of their general quality? Tikka T3 seems reasonably popular, but the Yanks don’t seem impressed because it has a long action whuch is blocked off for shorter cartridges. Sako appears to have a good reputation but ismore expensive. I saw an article in a recent SSAA magazine that gaveit huge praise for hunting and long range target shooting, but it isexpensive and maybe its long range accuracy is exaggerated? I’veheard good things about the high-end Ruger rifles, some bad thingsabout new Remingtons needing trigger and action jobs, but not muchabout Winchester Model 70s or Browning X-Bolts. Last year at thebiggest Brisbane gun shop a salesman told me that American riflesare very hard to get here and some orders are taking over two years.Would you recommend a traditional riflescope over an Aimpoint style?I am a novice and this is a long letter, but you have great wealthof knowledge and experience, and I enjoy reading your columns andarticles. Your advice would be appreciated.

Jamie Stirling


A: My personal choicefor hunting would be the .270 Win. rather than the .308 as itshoots flatter and is overall more versatile. But surely,there’snothing wrong with the .308 Win. You can use military ammo in it,but why bother when there’s so many better and more accuratecommercial loads available? Ammo for the .260 Rem., and 7mm-08 isnot always easy to find and the 6.5x55mm is pretty much redundant.European ammo for it is rather expensive compared with Americancalibres, but Geco and Sellier & Bellot is affordable.Once-fired brass can be stored for quite a time without any problemswith it getting brittle. Recoil of the .270 and .308 is not muchdifferent in a properly stocked rifle. The 6.5x55mm is highlyregarded as a target cartridge throughout Scandinavia. Don’t believeall you hear; there are target loads in .308 that will shootaccurately out to 1000yds, but only in a simonpure target rifle. The.270 loaded-light wouldn’t show up too well on distant targets orgame. The .270 WSM is more powerful and kicks harder than thestandard .270 Win, and is harder on barrels. But how much shootingdo you intend doing? All of the recoil pads you list soften recoilto some extent, but I’d query the amount of reduction stated in theads. A properly shaped stock helps just much. I’d avoid the uglyTalon stock as it moves the scope about 38mm to the rear every timethe rifle is fired. If you are inclined to crawl the stock you’llcop a “Weatherby eyebrow.” I haven’t noticed any difference in accuracy between button rifled barrels and those thatare hammer- forged, but the latter usually have a longer life. Twistrates are normally set on factory rifles, but different twists are available on some .223 and .308 rifles. All the Savage rifles I’vetested have been well-made and superbly accurate. The Long RangeHunter would be an excellent choice. I’d take what that NZ writersaid with a large grain of salt. The Howa-Hogue .308 is mild toshoot. The Tikka T3 is an inexpensive rifle and hence relativelypopular. The Sako like the Steyr Tactical Elite is quite expensive.The accuracy of the Steyr is in no way exaggerated, but I’d hardlycall it a hunting rifle. Don’t believe all that crap you hear aboutRemingtons or what counterjumpers in some gunshops say, they oftentell porkies. The only American rifles that sometimes are hard toget are Cooper and Kimber. I think that you are confusing huntingrifles with target rifles; you either buy one or the other – orboth. My personal preferences for a hunting rifle are the WinchesterModel 70 and the Browning X-Bolt. For hunting I’d always recommend a traditional hunting scope with a simple Duplex-type reticle over theAimpoint. If you have been reading my articles you wouldn’t needto ask about scopes. Tactical scopes and Tactical rifles were neverintended for hunting and the “Tactical” label is scatteredabout with gay abandon these days even being applied to air rifles.What next, I wonder?

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