Friday, April 10, 2009

At last, at long last, a rifle of my own!

It was a beautiful Friday afternoon. After several days of rain, the clouds were clearing. The sun was sinking toward the horizon. I'd run my last work errand for the day, and I was on my way home. In short, I was feeling good.

As I approached the turn into my neighborhood, I thought to myself, "Why not keep going?"

You know you've had that feeling. Screw routine - you're ready to do anything.

So I did. I kept driving all the way to Wild Sports - my local hook-n-bullet store - and I bought my first rifle. Read more...
Well, that's sort of a lie. My first rifle was a family heirloom I inherited after my dad died. An 1896 Krag - a pristine one. It's a shame that was my first rifle, because the action on that thing is like butter, and it spoiled me, and I don't think there's a modern rifle that can hold a candle to it.

But it shoots like crap - nothing I can hunt with.

So I've borrowed Boyfriend's rifle - a .270 Remington 700 - for all the big game hunts I've done, and while it's lovely that he's shared it with me, I've always wanted my own damn rifle.

I kinda had an idea what I wanted when I sauntered into Wild Sports - yeah, I'm buying a gun, baby! - but I really wanted to check out my options, which are limited because I'm a tough customer.

I ticked off my issues to the guy behind the counter: "I'm right handed, but I'm left-eyed. I could probably shoot either way, but I have arthritis bad in my right index finger, so I'll get more shooting years if I shoot left-handed. But my right hand has more strength..."

The guy sized me up. "You're a real mess, aren't you?"

"Yep," I said.

"Yeah, me too," he said, proceeding to list all of his problems. Now we're talkin'!

Up to this point, I'd had my eye on a Savage 114 Classic in .270 Win, left-handed model. But you can wait a long time for a lefty model, so I was open to new ideas. All I had decided for sure was that I wanted a .270, because that's a caliber that can handle the game I'm most likely to hunt - pig, deer, maybe an elk someday.

He showed me the right-handed Savage 114 - and demonstrated how it wouldn't be so tough to pull the trigger with my left hand and work the bolt with my right. And the safety, he pointed out, was in the center.

I liked it. My right hand's better with the bolt anyway.

"Show me more," I said.

He handed me the Remington 700. "I don't know if I have it in the left-handed model," he said.

"I don't care," I told him. "My boyfriend has a Remington 700. I don't want the same gun as my boyfriend."

Besides, I remembered that incredibly loud safety that spooked the biggest buck ever before I could even get a look at him.

He understood completely.

Next, he pulled down the Tikka T3. Nice action. Too light - recoil would kill me. But my gunsmith could drop some lead in the stock to take care of that (yeah, I'd already talked to him).

But the safety for the Tikka was on the right, and that just wouldn't fly with left-handed shooting. I handed it back.

He showed me a couple more, but none of them felt as good as the Savage did.

I engaged him in a conversation about what makes the Savage good and why the Tikka, for example, might be considered a better gun. He talked to me about bolt construction and a bunch of stuff that I comprehended at least halfway. He told me about the biggest flaw in the Savage - something about a pin in the bolt - and that it was something that would potentially be an issue with high-volume shooting. Way higher volume than I'd be shooting.

"I'll take the Savage," I said with a big fat grin on my face. Perfect. I could shoot left-handed. My strongest hand could work the bolt on the right. My strongest index finger could work the trigger on the left. Safety was in a neutral position. Weight was good. Length was good. Everyone I know who's ever owned a Savage has raved about them. Deal done.

"How about scopes?" I asked. "Can you install them here?"

Why, yes, they could.

I'd been contemplating a Leupold VX II - 3-9x40, just fine for the distances I'm willing to shoot at this stage of the game. That's what Boyfriend has on his rifle, and in this case, I didn't mind mimicking him.

"But is there a way to adjust this control?" I said, pointing to the magnification thingie. It is so damn stiff on the Leupold that my stupid arthritic hand can barely move it. That caused me a lot of problems pig hunting last summer, trying to move from high magnification to lower magnification to locate the animal in my sights.

"Maybe you could send it back to the factory..." he said.

Oh no. I'm not in the mood for that.

"What do you have with something a little easier to move?"

He pulled out the Bushnell Elite series scope. I held it up and checked out the guy walking up way down the gun counter. No, not that kind of checking out - he wasn't hot. He was a filthy-T-shirt-wearing-guy going to the gun counter.

I zoomed in and out. Much better. Like my camera. Not like opening a jar Boyfriend has screwed shut so tightly that it would survive nuclear impact.

"I like this one," I said.

Yeah, I know Leupold is better. But that doesn't do me one bit of good if I can't work the thing properly, so I got the Bushnell and saved a bundle of money too.

All that was left to do was pay the man (damn, I did not get in under four figures), and go through all that background check stuff, telling them, and initialling, and signing seventeen times, that I had never been convicted of a felony and I was not defective in any way. And giving them my thumb print.


Except I have to wait 11 days to get my gun, because California wants to make sure I'm not going to go out and kill some pig in anger.

Oh well. That gives me something to blog about on April 21.

© Holly A. Heyser 2009


The Suburban Bushwacker said...

Which calibre did you go for?

Blessed said...

Congratulations on the new rifle!

My favorite scope maker is Nikon - those are some awesome scopes, of course you wouldn't have saved a bundle of money on the scope if you'd gone with a Nikon instead of the Bushnell. The scope I bought for my husband's 7mm Mag Remington the year I bought him that gun for his birthday cost as much as the gun did!

Bushnell's are nice too though - I picked him up a 3x9x40 for his black powder rifle for Christmas at the local Bushnell outlet for about $30.

Enjoy the new gun!

NorCal Cazadora said...

Bushwhacker: Doh! Totally forgot that - it's added into the story now. It's a .270.

Blessed: This scope cost WAY more than $30 - it was $200. He showed me a Nikon too, and it also felt better than the Leupold. But it was too spendy for me. Not as much as the gun, which was $680, but it was in the $400s. And of course, I passed by the Swarovski and just laughed. That was about the size of my mortgage payment.

I figure I'm willing to give this a try. If I feel like it's holding me back in some way, I can always upgrade later. But like I told Boyfriend when I got home: Having the better Leupold doesn't do me any good if I can't work it properly. I literally have to use two hands on that thing.

Marian Love Phillips said...

Congrats on your new rifle Holly - you will really enjoy it. I have a .270 Winchester with a Leopold scope and would not trade it for anything. I just love my gun! Happy Hunting with your "NEW" rifle and Happy Easter to you and Boyfriend! :)

Bobby Nations said...

Congrats, Holly! It sounds like you had a fun day at the mall ;-)

I don't know where I heard this, but it's not a bad rule of thumb: expect to spend about half of what your rifle costs on the scope. By that rule of thumb, you came out a bit ahead. Of course, the lower model scopes now are much much better quality than they used to be, so that rule of thumb should probably be adjusted downward somewhat.

I can concur on the worthiness of the Bushnell line of scopes having just grabbed a pristine example of a Bushnell Trophy 6-18x40 at an estate sale last week. It's an older model from when they were still made in Japan and is an absolute delight to operate. Your comparison to operating a camera lens is very apt. I'm a big Bushnell fan now.

Here's my dilemma. I really bought the gun it was attached to, a Beeman R7 air rifle, and the scope was just a nice touch. Beeing too large for the little rifle, I at first thought to sell it off to recoup some money, but after playing with it for the last two weeks, I'm leaning more and more to replacing the scope currently on my own Remington 700 .270 with this new one. The problem is that the older scope would be worthless on the resale market. Sigh, decisions, decisions ;-)

Oh, and the Krag actions were very sweet indeed. I handled one in a local gun shop once. Like butter.



Live to Hunt.... said...

Sounds like a very nice combo you put together there NC. I think that the .270 is probably the very best cal. for Californa hunters - so versatile. I don't know that I would us it on my annual elk trip to Colorado, but it will take care of business for anything with 4 legs out here in blacktail land. Congrats, and let us know how it shoots when the State of California decides to hand it over.

NorCal Cazadora said...

Thanks, everyone!

And Bobby, I hope I made a good choices on the scope. I was willing to spend more. Just not a TON more.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations Holly!

Sounds like you made some wise decisions with your new rifle.

While I like Rem 700s myself (they're the action of choice by accuracy gunsmiths, when building super-accurate rifles), the Savages rate really highly on their out-of-the-box accuracy!

And yes, Leupolds are great scopes, but the Bushnell Elite series are really good for their clarity of optics and are one of the best "bangs for the buck".

Also, I recall murmurs of "thinking about a .243".

I'm glad you stuck with the .270 Win.

It's a little tougher on the shooter off the bench, BUT it's a superior game killing cartridge on everything up to and including Elk.

I can just "feel" more stories coming about your new rifle and seasons ahead!

Bill C.-Orygun

NorCal Cazadora said...

Bill, you're right. I hated the kick of the .270, but realized it was a problem at the range - not in the field where recoil and the blast are quickly forgotten. I think this gun will keep my options open.

And I can't WAIT to have stories to tell about this gun. One thing I do know, though: I did all the big game hunting in this house in 2008, and Boyfriend has informed me that I will not be the only one filling the (too small) freezer this year. The size of the freezer (and our bellies) will limit what I can do.

native said...

Well, it is about time Holly!
I was beginning to wonder when or if you would ever get one.

The 270 is an excellent choice, good clean and humane kills without the kick of the 300.

The newer bushnells I hear are much superior to the ones a decade ago, so if the optics hold up under the recoil and shock of the rifles sound waves, then you are set up pretty well.

Now, go git' sompthin' with that thing!

tom said...

What's wrong with .30-40 for deer hunting. Bit of a new stock, re-barrel and target crown, mount a decent scope, trigger job....You just didn't have the right Krag or gunsmith to tune your's up and tweak it a bit. I don't hunt with it as much as I used to but it still does as fine a job as my .30-30s do and the blots are slick as a whistle, as ya know. :-)

This one has taken lots of deer and it ain't for sale until after I die.

tom said...

Pardon being able to gunsmith a rifle and shoot and not being able to type the word "bolt". Took out a new shooter today. Seems keen. Listened to instruction. Looks like we have another brother in arms in the offing. Wore me and my brain out, though.


Hubert Hubert said...

Congratulations! Happy Easter and Happy New Rifle!

Josh said...

Yeah, Holly! Congrats. I shoot a Savage .270, too, a 20-year-old 110E that is a hideous tack-driver. I'm sure your's is prettier.

SimplyOutdoors said...

I sadly don't own a rifle of my own either. I think this might be a motivational post for me.

And congrats on your new rifle. Buying guns is always cool.

suzee said...

Happy hunting with your new friend!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations, and now you can make that rifle yours with practice and a little tinkering. What sort of sling did you get? Are you going with shooting sticks or bipod? Anyway, I hope you enjoy the process.

It may still be possible to find/develop a good load for your 30-40Krag so you have a backup rifle.


NorCal Cazadora said...

Thanks everyone!

And Tom, when I got that Krag, I took it to a gunsmith to have it checked out, make sure it was still safe to shoot after sitting in a drawer under my parents' bed for years. When I set it on the counter and opened the case, the gunsmith made a sound that I can describe only as the sound a horny old man would make if you were to set a naked Playboy centerfold girl on the counter and tell him to enjoy.

Why? The value of my Krag is that it is pristine. Many Krag owners shortened barrels and made other modifications that diminished their value. Everything on my gun is 100% original. And since my own grandfather bought it from the NRA when he returned from the trenches of France in World War I, there's no way I would ever mess with it. It's more important to me as an heirloom than it is as a tool.

I do take it out and shoot it once in a while for fun, and in hopes that some day I might hit the bull's eye with it. But that's good enough for me.

NorCal Cazadora said...

And Jean, I haven't gotten a sling yet. I'll pick up accessories when I get my gun next week.

MY gun!


Yay :-)

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on your new rifle. I haven't even thought that far yet, but it sounds like there are a lot of things to consider when purchasing a gun. That's good to know.

tom said...


Mine was ugly and peopel were practically giving them away (I paid $35 bucks for it's beat up carcass, which was about my starter materials budget in my early 20s for many of my projects...) but the action was solid and slick. Somebody had shot a LOT of corrosive ammo in it and never cleaned it properly at one point. Barrel was garbage.

All my sportered military rifles started out as bare actions or non-collector quality with decent steel. I never have butchered a collector grade rifle. I've got a nice very original Martini Henry that you couldn't hit a barn with from the inside of the barn and I just don't shoot it. But if you find a donor Krag that's been modded or abused already, you can make a neat and accurate deer rifle out of one.

Happy shooting the .270. You'll never notice the recoil in the field. I don't notice the recoil of my .458s in the field.

Ken and Joanne said...

You have your dad's Krag? I wondered what happened to that thing. He brought it over when he got it and I fired a couple of rounds into the hill across the draw from the house and the phone started ringing off the hook. I guess the neighbors thought I was blasting a tunnel. Even if you can't hunt with it, the noise is enough to frighten most things to death.


NorCal Cazadora said...

Yep, it's in my loving hands, well cared for.

I love shooting it too, if for no other reason than every guy at the range always wants to come look at it. :-)

tom said...

In case it's of interest to anyone, the Civilian Marksmanship Program Stores just got a batch of .30-40 Krags that are for sale in various states of repair/disrepair.

Mostly ex-parade rifles. $495 and less depending on grade. If you'd like a Krag to tinker with and are qualified to purchase from CMP, it might be worth a look.

Click HERE if interested.

Happy Shooting,

NorCal Cazadora said...

That's a nice price. But if anyone bites, just prepare to be spoiled by that action. It really wrecked me for all other bolt-action rifles.

Phillip said...

Heya, I just realized I commented via text message a couple of days ago, but never replied directly here... so here ya go, an official reply.

Congrats! I believe you did exactly the right thing in your selection, and anyone looking to buy their first (or second or fiftieth) rifle would do well to follow your example. There are a lot of guns out there, and they really are pretty much all great quality tools that function and perform reliably. The real trick is to find something that suits YOU, the individual. It doesn't have to be the $1200, super-duper magnum, it doesn't have to be a work of artistry in wood and steel, and it doesn't have to carry the pedigreed mark of the most auspicious maker... it has to fit well, be comfortable to shoulder and shoot, and be appropriate to the game you're hunting.

I've got a safe full of rifles, but I'll as often as not turn to my old Savage 110, 30-06 for most of my big game hunting. Great gun, ugly as sin but reliable, durable, and scary accurate. I've since done a lot of customization to mine, which is something else you can do with a Savage and still keep within a budget.

Congrats again! Let's go shoot some pigs!

NorCal Cazadora said...

And Phillip, what do you think of my choice of scope?

And hell yes, I definitely want to go shoot some pigs as soon as school's out, but Hank has dibs on freezer space for the first kill of the year. Damn him. I might just have to hunt to fill my mom's freezer.

gary said...

Congrats Holly - just gotta ask. I too am left handed because of this eye problem and years ago I shot my dads Weatherby right hand bolt and had to almost take the rifle down to work the action. I could switch hands on the fore arm to free up the right hand but I got so frustrated doing it I finally got my own rifle. Weatherby does make a left hand model so its been the tool of the trade for the last 37 years. Course if you make the first shot count there is NO problem. Good thing you were thinking of the safety positioning as that was another problem I had.

I suspect the California big game are collectively quaking in their (boots?) Have fun.

NorCal Cazadora said...

Well, Gary, obviously I'm hoping for the best - and hoping for lots of good first shots. I never had to take an immediate second shot on my boyfriend's rifle (two one-shot kills, and one that required a follow-up shot after we found the pig), but I can say that working that bolt left-handed never felt easy. So to me, this wasn't a gun I settled for - it was a gun that solved that problem. (I could've ordered a lefty of this model, but chose this one.)

One thing going for me is that I don't see myself shooting offhand - I'm not that good; can't make a clean kill that way.