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THE COMPREHENSIVE GUIDE TO SPORTING FIREARMS FOR TODAY’S RIFLE BUYER

IN-DEPTH REVIEWS The best writers in the business tell it like it is

ALL THE BIG BRANDS n CALIBRE CHOICE GUIDE n TURN-BOLT OR STRAIGHT PULL?

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Contents

Editor-in-chief Pete Carr Deputy editor Colin Fallon Art editor Steve Mumby Advertising sales fieldsports@futurenet.com All departments Units 1&2, Sugarbrook Court, Aston Road, Bromsgrove, Worcestershire B60 3EX fieldsports@futurenet.com Production Head of production UK & US – Mark Constance Production controller – Nola Cokely Subscriptions & back issues Online: www.myfavouritemagazines.co.uk Email: contact@myfavouritemagazines. co.uk Telephone: UK: 0344 848 2852 International: +44 344 848 2852 Management Managing director, bookazines – Jon White Art director, bookazines – Greg Whitaker Editorial director, field sports – Paul Newman Licensing Senior licensing and syndication manager – Matt Ellis Matt.Ellis@futurenet.com +44 (0)1225 442244 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be transmitted or reproduced in any form without written permission from the publishers. The opinions expressed by the correspondents are not necessarily those of the publishers.

CONTENTS

Sporting Rifle recommends that readers satisfy themselves as to the accuracy of advertisers’ claims before any purchase is made, and accepts no responsibility for any loss arising from any purchase. Readers are advised to make appropriate enquiries and take appropriate advice before sending money, incurring any expense or entering into binding commitment in relation to an advertisement in this publication. Future PLC shall not be liable for loss or damage incurred or suffered as a result of accepting or offering to accept any invitation contained in any advertisement or article published in this title. Future Publishing Limited provides the information contained in this publication in good faith and makes no representations as to its completeness or accuracy. Individuals carrying out any instructions detailed in this publication do so at their own risk and must exercise their independent judgement in determining the appropriateness of parts, equipment and environment for a particular use. Appropriate protective/ safety gear should be worn at all times when handling dangerous equipment. To the fullest extent permitted by law, neither Future Publishing Limited, its supplier or any of their employees, agents, subcontractors or contributors shall have any liability in connection with the use of this information, provided that nothing shall exclude or limit the liability of any party for personal injury or death caused by negligence or for anything else which cannot be excluded or limited by law.

7 RIFLE CHOICE: FOXING

49 TURN-BOLT CENTREFIRES

12 RIFLE CHOICE: STALKING

96 STRAIGHT-PULLS

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110 MY FIRST RIFLE

RIFLE CHOICE: SPORT ABROAD

112 S  UBSCRIBE TO SPORTING RIFLE

21 RIMFIRES

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Welcome

EDITOR’S FOREWORD

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elcome to the second bookazine in the Sporting Rifle Handbook series, the Book of Rifles. For true hunters, buying a rifle should be on a similar level to choosing a wife. You will be spending a significant amount of your free time – quality time – with your rifle. Therefore, you must like the look of it. Everyone has different tastes and many would argue that aesthetics shouldn’t even be considered when buying a rifle, but I disagree. The rifle will spend more time propped on your lap and shoulder than it ever will in the firing position, so the first consideration is whether you like the look of the firearm. That bit is the easiest part, and the least important, but it is still a valid consideration. So you have your eye on one or two models that you like. The next step is to consider the practical applications, and the most important of these will be calibre. For example, if most of your shooting will be dealing with foxes, then a fast .22 centrefire such as the .22-250, which will be flat shooting, coupled with frangible bullets, will deliver massive trauma and kill the fox instantly. Clearly, meat damage is not a consideration when foxes are the primary target. However, for those who will be primarily deer stalking, the .308 to the .300 Win Mag would be a good option if one is looking to hunt all UK species. Though the .300 will be a big calibre for the smaller species, it will be great on the big forestry stags. Breaking this down further, for stalkers who mainly shoot muntjac, Chinese water deer and roe, a .243 is perfect. Leave the roe out of it and you can go smaller still, but ethics do come into play – I’ve always gone for the bigger option.

What I am adamant about is that the .243 is not up to shooting big reds. Indeed, during the rut I think it is marginal on revved-up hill stags. The only thing I will say in the favour of the .243 for hill stags is that the 105gn Geco bullet does help massively. I’m sure a ballistician will tell you why, but I have seen and used this bullet in the field and that extra five grains do make a difference. Once the calibre issue is sorted, the rifle has to fit you. Most factory rifles will shoot sub-MOA if they like what ammo is being fed to them, so accuracy should be a given. Fit, however, is much more relevant. As we all have different tastes, we have different builds too. In my opinion, fit is the most important consideration in choosing a rifle. Please remember that your chosen scope should also be mounted to the rifle to get true fit. If the rifle comes up as second nature, and you like the look of it, it’s time to exchange the readies and take it to the range. Once you’re there, you can tackle the intricacies of how it shoots – much of this can be adjusted, and once you are achieving a tight group, you will be confident of making the right decision. I hope this bookazine gives you a good understanding of the factory rifle choices available today. Choose carefully, and remember it should be seen as a long-term commitment if you are going to get the best out of your buy.

Peter Carr, editor-in-chief

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Rimfire: Lithgow Arms

Lithgow LA101 Lithgow Arms’s LA101 ‘Crossover’ rifle claims to suit any use – hunting or target. Can it really be true? Stuart Wilson gets the rifle on to the range to find out

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ithgow Arms has been manufacturing and providing firearms since 1912, with customers ranging from the Australian defence force to more recent ventures designing, manufacturing and now supplying to the civilian market. The LA101 rimfire and the LA102 centrefire both carry the Crossover label, highlighting the broad capability of Lithgow’s rifles – not confined to one ‘camp’, they are hunting/varmint/target rifles. Let’s see how the LA101 rimfire model, which Highland Outdoors were good enough to send me for review, measures up to its multi discipline name. The initial unboxing never gets old for me. It is always enjoyable getting my mitts on new gear. That said, I would have no hesitation in packing something away quickly if it didn’t

make the grade. The LA101 arrived from the importer as a kit, with scope, mounts and moderator all included to get me shooting post-haste. So after a 20-minute workbench session, the LA101 was scoped and modded ready for shooting, and after the obligatory action cycles, clicking and twiddling, I was keen to see how the field test was going to pan out. But let me cover the main features of the rifle before I go over the results. The stock on the review model is a brown laminate – a synthetic version is available too. The laminate feels solid, with standard dimensions, and after firing 200-300 rounds on to paper I felt completely comfortable shooting the LA101 in the usual positions (prone, sat shooting off the tail gate and standing). Prone is usually the clincher for me – if I am going to

struggle at all, this position will reveal it. I shot for initial zero using a Harris BR 6-9in bipod and a rear bag – this seemed the logical way to start with the LA101. Fastening the bipod draws you to the sturdy forend, which a bipod snugs up to with excellent stability, with neat stippled panels for extra grip. The same panels are present on the pistol grip, which is semi-vertical and nicely proportioned. The butt of the stock put my cheek to a good height for scope use, and the comb appears level across its top. Underneath the butt you will find a perfect place to locate a rear bag, as well as a cut-out, allowing the left hand to secure the butt firmly in your shoulder. The barrel is free-floated, as you would expect, and the laminate stock has a lacquered finish, which I would describe as satin.

Left: The see-through magazine makes keeping track of shots a breeze

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Rimfire: Lithgow Arms

Looking to the barrel and action, the machining is excellent. It really is a cut above and even sports a Cerakote finish in titanium colour for extra durability. The action is CNCmachined from high tensile steel, the rear of the action has the three lug abutments that the bolt locks into, and the short 60-degree throw eliminated any scope/bolt fouling while also making for quick action cycling. As you cycle the tactical-style bolt, complete with nylon bolt handle, you get a sense of the quality as bolt and action slip over each other with little resistance, only giving away the reassuring feel of two exactingly machined surfaces. After depressing the trigger the bolt removes cleanly to reveal the three locking lugs in front of the rear nylon shroud that houses the red cocking indicator. The front of the bolt is reminiscent of a CZ 452. The safety sits on the right side of the action. It’s a simple two-position affair, which importantly allows operation of the bolt while

in the safe position. This is good in the respect of being able to unload the rifle safely, but one word of caution for vehicle based shooters: It is possible to have the bolt lift slightly as you travel around. This is easily spotted, though, as your thumb will feel that the bolt handle is high when reaching for the safety catch, and you can re-close the action. Forward for fire is always my preference on any safety catch. A small red dot behind the safety also indicates the ‘fire’ position. It is smooth and positive – my only criticism would be that the positive nature of the catch leads to an audible click. The action top is drilled and tapped to allow the supplied weaver bases to be attached, which makes for a positive mount solution. If it’s not already available, I am sure a full-length rail would come in handy for NV mounting. Moving on to the hammer-forged, militarygrade steel barrel, it’s in six-groove design with a 1-in-16in twist, semi-match chamber, 11-degree crown and factory-threaded ½x20 UNF. The barrel measures 20.875in with a semivarmint profile, all well finished to the highest standard.

You get a sense of the quality as bolt and action slip over each other with little resistance

The two-position safety allows operation of the bolt while in the safe position

TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS Overall length: 995mm/39.25” Barrel length: 530mm/20.875” Trigger pull weight: 3.5lb Overall weight, scoped and moderator: 8.75lb SRP (Laminate stock .22LR) £1016.99 Nikko Stirling Panamax Ill 4.5-14x50 SRP £208.99 Aimsport Rimfire mod SRP £68.99

The rifle was tested from prone off a bipod and rear bag

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Rimfire: Savage

It wasn’t possible to adapt existing rimfire designs given the increasing pressure loading. So Savage has created a rifle with a handful of quirks

centrefire rifles, it’s less obvious here. On the B-Mag two grub screws sit either side of the receiver, holding the barrel in with the correct head spacing. The three recessed rings at the chamber end of the barrel only serve to disguise the interface. The barrel itself is button rifled and the version I tested came with a heavy varmint profile – ideal for such a cartridge and its intended use. Unusually the breech of the barrel extends beyond the flat face, forming a cone shape at the extremity of the chamber. Savage has opted for the now well established AccuTrigger, adjustable for pull weight from 3-6.2lb when tested. This is achieved by removing the plastic bottom assembly and exposing a simple synthetic adjustment wheel. It’s not the most robust of designs but it works. In the past I have

been surprisingly impressed with Savage’s trigger system – a design I tried to dislike when it first came out. It is very good, although I found this one in need of a little tweaking for a crisp let-off. A first glance at the belly of the rifle may also cause a little bemusement regarding the disassembling of the rifle – the action screws are nowhere to be seen. However, the plastic undercarriage is held in place via a hidden clip released by unscrewing a flat-screw inside the magazine well. Savage has opted for an eight-shot rotary magazine instead of a protruding single stack as you would find on a CZ rimfire. Sitting flush with the underside of the rifle, the wide plastic release catch forms an integral part of the magazine itself. Tension is applied to the top of the mag via an

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internal spring found inside the magazine well. This enables an easy release. As far as I can tell, the main body is made from the same synthetic polymer material as the stock, while the rear section is metal to provide longevity of the internal guides and springs. Magazine loading is a tad fiddly, requiring cartridges to be slotted in at a slight angle to efficiently rotate the drum. In terms of cycling the only issue I had concerned the top round in a freshly loaded magazine – but only if it was incorrectly seated. Other than this it never failed in the limited testing I completed. As always my preference is for the simplicity and reliability of a single-stack mag, but the unobtrusiveness of a flush rotary is nice. The bolt release is standard and the safety a simple two-position sliding affair,


Rimfire: Savage

There was some flexibility in the stock but the rifle performed well off a rest

Unusually, the rifle cocks on the down-stroke of the bolt

Clocking in just under 3,000fps, it’s a blistering calibre indeed

A range test precedes the rifle’s blooding on a rabbit control mission

situated both at the rear and underneath the bolt shroud. Unfortunately, it is impossible to operate silently. The recoil system for the action to stock interface is simple and minimal, with a hex screw not only performing this task but also securing the magazine latch to the round receiver. It also forms the anchor point for the forward action screw. Given the minimal recoil experienced from using such a cartridge I can’t see this multifunction being an issue.

Negatively speaking, the stock lets down the rifle a tad. Admittedly I was not expecting anything outstanding from a basic injection mould, but the flexibility in the forestock does have potential to have accuracy implications. I can’t wait to really uncover what the .17 WSM is capable of. The few readings I covered through the chrono clocked the 20gn Hornady bullets just 10fps under the magic 3,000fps quoted. I shot the rifle only at 100 metres, and it required around 50

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rounds for the barrel to settle down after cleaning. At this point, and with careful attention paid to avoid twisting the stock on the sand bag, I was beginning to pull in groups which danced around the one-inch mark. Putting it to its intended use, my shooting buddy bowled over a bunny at the same range that evening. Contact Edgar Brothers for more information: 01625 613177, www. edgarbrothers.com ■


Centrefire: Mauser

Mauser M12

Stuart Wilson takes the rugged Mauser M12 Impact out into the field, and finds plenty to like despite a lack of bucks to test it on

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finally got my hands on the Mauser M12, Mauser’s most recent fixed-barrel rifle, in the Impact finish, which is certainly designed for more rigorous use in the field. Chambered in .308 Win and sporting a Minox ZE5i 3-15x56, it was crying out to be blooded in the field. But my first job would be to check the scope mounts and perform an initial zero Arriving at my zeroing land, I set up a target against a bank of pasture, and loaded the magazine with five rounds, two of which were sent down-range on to the target board showing low and left. My normal routine now would be to walk to the target with slung rifle, to inspect the bullet strikes and adjust the scope next to the target. I had forgotten the sling so had to carry the rifle in hand – which made me realise how portable this little M12 is. Even with scope and moderator it is pleasingly light to lug around. Firing

the first shot with a new rifle is always an experience to look forward to; in this case the first two rounds were just touching at 100 yards. Things were going well. Soon I finished zeroing and the M12 was ready for some outings, which are what really allow you to get to know a rifle.

Stock The stock on the Mauser M12 Impact is synthetic with a soft-touch finish, reassuringly grippy, with chequered panels at the pistol grip and forend, sporting a recoilabsorbing butt pad. Shouldering this rifle, you are left with a feeling of dependability coupled with solid performance. When you drop the action out of the stock you then see the rear bedding pillar, and to the front the steel recoil lug that doubles as a bedding pillar and takes the front action screw. This

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all makes for very accurate reassembly if the gun ever needs to be cased for transport. I shot the M12 prone off a bipod, standing off sticks, and comfortably rested in a high seat. In all cases the stock made my job easy. It’s also worth noting that the straight stock is effectively ambidextrous (apart from the bolt), which proves handy in the confines of a hunting blind when a left-handed shot is the only option. The forend has the sling swivel stud located in the tip, which keeps the balance good while on the shoulder. There is also a second swivel stud in the bottom of the forend to take a bipod when needed; a nice, well thought out touch.

Barrel and action Moving on to the barrel and action, the Impact stands out with the Ilafron coating. It almost looks like a bead-blasted stainless


Centrefire: Mauser

Double-stacked, the mag on test held five rounds, added to one in the chamber

The Picatinny rail, bolt handle and safety. You can see the red of the cocking indicator behind the bolt

Releasing the magazine through a handily recessed button

Chequering-style textured panels on the pistol grip are a good touch

finish, but Ilafron is a dedicated coating that provides corrosion resistance and steadfast durability in tough conditions. The fluted, threaded barrel (M15x1) measuring 19in is what makes the M12 Impact so pleasing. Sneaking around with a light, compact rifle makes my life easier – which undoubtedly will mean more deer in the larder. The action top is stepped and rounded and readily takes a Weaver/Picatinny rail, which is my preferred option, though Mauser does also offer its own QD Hexalock mount. The straight bolt handle on the M12 has a tactical look and feel, making for positive operation, and a 60-degree throw and a low height once fully upwards, giving maximum clearance from any optics mounted on the rifle. At the back of the bolt Mauser has opted for a rolling three-position safety: fully locked bolt and safety on, safety on with bolt operation to

enable safe unloading, and finally fully forward when ready to fire. The centre of the bolt shows a cocking indicator clearly marked red, indicating when the firing pin is cocked. I am fussy when it comes to safety catches when it comes to their use in a hunting situation – after the usual safety considerations, I want something positive that can’t be knocked off, but it must be silent or as close to silent as possible. The M12’s safety will need to be carefully taken off using finger and thumb of your trigger hand – simply shoving it forward with your thumb just makes too much noise for my liking. Bolt removal is achieved by pressing a small button on the left-hand side of the action. This is when you will see the bolt’s six lugs, and the double cartridge ejectors, which really fling spent cases (caution all you reloaders!) I was curious as to why Mauser

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would use two when one has normally done an effective job. My theory is the directional control two ejectors give to the ejecting case – it definitely makes cases eject at a repeatable angle every time, ensuring the best ejection essential for quicker reloads.

Magazine The M12’s magazine is a polymer doublestack design with a metal baseplate sporting Mauser’s coat of arms. It clips in positively and is removed after pushing a small recessed button in front of the bottom metal. The fact that the release button is recessed helps prevent magazine loss when crawling through undergrowth to get into deer. The capacity of five rounds for .308 Win is handy – added to that, the magazine can be loaded not only as normal, but also through the top of the action.


Centrefire: Savage Model 11 Trophy Hunter

Savage Model 11 Mike Powell gets his hands on the Savage Model 11 Trophy Hunter – a hardworking all-rounder that boasts Savage’s flagship trigger

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always look forward to trying out Savage rifles. The Model 11 sent for this test and review was the Trophy Hunter and was chambered in this instance for .243 Winchester. Savage offer this model in no fewer than 16 calibres ranging from the diminutive .204 Ruger up to the 7-08 Remington so there’s something there for everyone! I chose the .243 as, despite the ever-raging controversy as to the suitability of this calibre as an all rounder, I have shot everything from rabbits to fallow with it and the end results have always been satisfactory – while I have never shot reds, I am told by keeper friends in other parts of the country that the .243 works well on these too. On opening the box the rifle was there with the scope mounted ready to shoot. Together with the rifle there were the appropriate allen keys, a gun lock, and a set of ear plugs, a zeroing target, and a tool for adjusting the

AccuTrigger and the instruction manual, so it really is a complete package. I have had really expensive rifles from other makers that come without all these little extras. They don’t cost the makers very much but for the new owner I think it’s a nice touch. The rifle is pleasing to look at; the grey synthetic stock has sharp chequering set in panels, and four each side on the forend and two each side of the pistol grip. The butt pad is made from soft spongy rubber and matches the stock. Length of pull was 14 ¼ inches. The free floated barrel is of medium weight and is tapered; the moderator thread was well cut. Savage rifles I find give plenty of space when it comes to floating their barrels and this rifle was no exception – you could slide a plying card from the tip of the forend up to the action quite easily. I rather doubt there would be any chance of the barrel coming into contact with the forend even if

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used to fire several rounds on the range. The matt grey finish of the barrel and the rest of the metalwork matched the rifle very well, making the whole package look very smart. Moving to the action, the item that strikes you first is the bolt. It has a rather nice jewelled finish, which contrasts nicely with the sombre grey of the rest of the rifle. To remove the bolt you really need to use both hands: firstly, check the rifle is unloaded then slide the three-position safety catch forward, and with one hand simultaneously depress the trigger and the bolt release catch situated at the front of the trigger guard. The bolt can now be withdrawn, I know it sounds a bit complicated but once mastered it is a simple operation. The heart-shaped safety as mentioned above has three positions; slide it to the rear and everything is locked up, both trigger and bolt can’t be moved. Slide it forward to the central position and although the trigger is


Centrefire: Savage Model 11 Trophy Hunter

The three-position safety is simple and effective

The chequering on the synthetic stock afforded a positive grip

The magazine fits flush to the stock and holds three rounds

still locked the bolt can be opened to remove the round, and finally slide the safety forward and the rifle is in the “fire” position, all in all a simple but very effective system. Incidentally, there is a cocking indicator in the rear of the bolt. This shows the rear of the bolt moving to the rear of the bolt housing and moves forward when firing takes place. Personally I would have like the rear of the bolt to have been made to protrude slightly when the rifle was in the cocked position as although you can just about feel the difference between the cocked and uncocked positions, it would be more definite if it was slightly proud of the bolt as you could feel that the rifle was cocked more easily, but that is a very minor gripe. The three-shot capacity magazine is part polymer and part metal. As you would expect, feed, extraction and ejection worked perfectly. Turning to the flagship item of Savage rifles, the AccuTrigger, the idea behind this unit is to give a single stage trigger a two-stage feel but retain the crisp and adjustable elements of the single stage unit. The factory set the trigger on the test rifle at almost exactly three pounds, which I found perfectly acceptable, the break was very sharp and there was no creep whatsoever. Should you wish to adjust the weight of the trigger pull you can do so, but it’s a fairly delicate operation and personally unless you have real issues with the factory settings the trigger is probably best left alone. The function of the AccuTrigger blade that protrudes through the centre of the normal trigger blade is not only to give the shooter

the tactile feel of that first stage of the trigger operation, but also to give additional safety as the trigger itself cannot be released until the AccuTrigger blade reaches the main trigger. I have always really liked this system as it gives the shooter maximum feedback when operating the trigger. Having looked at the actual build and operation of the Model 11, I took it out to the range to set it up, as I would be taking it out on a fox control mission within the next few days. Bore sighting it at 25 yards to start with I soon had it shooting well out to 100. Shooting at 100 yards I was pleasantly surprised at how well the Trophy Hunter performed with factory ammo. Sub-1¼ inch groups were achieved. I got the distinct impression that if you were loading your own the good groups I was getting could be improved upon without too much effort. Having got the rifle set up to shoot where it was pointed, the next step was to see what I could do with on the fox control front. It was the autumn so there were plenty of opportunities so I set off one summer evening to see if I could deal with yet another poultry killer. Carrying the rifle was easy, as with the scope mounted it only weighed in at 7½lb. Waiting out in one of my favourite spots, as is often the case when you really need something to turn up nothing appeared! However, the second outing proved far more successful and after a quiet stalk round on a beautiful evening I happened across a couple of well-grown cubs out on the hunt. Just for

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The AccuTrigger offers the feel of a two-stage trigger with the crisp and adjustable elements of a one-stager

a change, everything was in my favour, there was a good backstop, the sinking sun was behind me and the two young foxes were totally unaware of my presence. This family had caused a nearby farmer a considerable amount of grief and while I had a pretty good idea of where they were located, this was the first time I had actually come across them. The Savage went upon the Primos tripod, I took the cub nearest the cover first and at the shot the second one froze and was also swiftly dealt with. The Savage Trophy Hunter had done everything really well and I thought this was a really nice all-round rifle that combined looks, function and accuracy to deliver a package that any owner, no matter how experienced, would be more than happy to own. ■

HOW MUCH? Savage Model 11 Trophy Hunter £1,085 Weaver 3-9x40 scope £740 Macctecc moderator £309 Edgar Brothers 01625 613177 www.edgarbrothers.com


Back page: Nostalgia

Remember your first? We’ve seen a dizzying array of modern rifles – but what about the one rifle that got you started? Our top writers reveal the stories behind their first rifles

Mike Powell

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y first rifle came into my hands about 70 years ago and was a present from my grandmother (quite why she chose it I don’t know). It was a BSA Cadet air rifle, and was I thrilled. For a few years I shot virtually everything up to rabbit size, but rats were my speciality. By the time I was 12 I had a single-shot .410 but I desperately wanted a 12-bore. Someone my Dad knew gave me an old Belgian side-by-side hammer gun, which could be described as not only unique but also highly dangerous. The top lever was held in place with a green elastic band; the barrels were so badly off the face that when you held the stock and shook the gun up and down, the barrels could be seen moving. The right sear didn’t work so you had to ‘fan’ it. The left hammer did cock, but if you did so and fired the right, both went off together.

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With the money I saved from the rabbits I shot with the ‘death trap’, I visited the local gun shop and bought my first ‘real’ rifle, a BSA Sportsman Five .22 with open sights. The choice was extremely limited in those early post-war years – in fact I seem to remember my choice was Hobson’s as the BSA was the only one available. I kept that rifle for several years shooting countless rabbits with it and a few foxes too. Today, all has changed, and for the first-time buyer the range of rifles available is almost as bewildering as the advice that can be obtained from the internet on which is the best for you. By today’s standards, the build quality and equipment available today bears little resemblance to that with which I started off with all those years ago. However, I doubt if a lad today would get any greater pleasure from his first shiny new gun than I did from those early, extremely dodgy guns and rifles. ■


Back page: Nostalgia

Peter Carr

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y first rifle, I confess, was begged. It was an old BSA mountain rifle in .30-06 and it kicked like a giraffe in poor humour, but it was accurate for a rifle in advanced age. And there is a valid point: the previous owner or owners had clearly looked after it. The knocks, dents and worn grip showed that the piece had done much work, but the barrel and action had been lovingly looked after. I’d wager the former owner was an old highland stalker who understood the value of money and necessity of looking after things to get the best value and results. I shot my first roebuck with that rifle, and despite the thick lip and cracked tooth, I loved it like Custer loved his Navy Colt.

Memory doesn’t serve me too well these days, but it was some time before I could afford my own rifle. Eventually I moved on to a more user-friendly Parker Hale in .308 that was gifted to me. This was a great rifle that I used through much of my keepering days until I eventually shot the barrel out. The first rifle I actually bought was one of the very first Browning A-Bolts in 6.5x55 – that was one of the most accurate rifles I have ever had, using Norma ammunition. Having the available wherewithal is a major factor in considering anyone’s first rifle. I had zero funds available back then and I managed to beg one, then was gifted one. Then, when I could afford it, I bought a reliable rifle to do a workhorse job. ■

Byron Pace

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had to think carefully which what my first rifle was. In the end, I decided that the first couple didn’t really count. My very first rifle was an air rifle, bought with the money I could have spent on a primary school trip, but instead asked my parents if I could get an airgun, which I did. Next up was a .17 HMR rimfire, CZ Brno, which at the time was a choice based on the price and availability of the .17 HMR, which back when I was 17 years old had only just landed in the UK.racked tooth, I loved it like Custer loved his Navy Colt. Looking past those two, the first fullbore rifle I bought was an old Sako L691 in 7x57, purchased second-hand from a gun shop down south. The model came after their most famous Finnbear and Forrester, but the particular aspect that had drawn me to it was the cartridge. It seems

a strange coincidence I write this up today, as I have just returned from a week with Rigby to showcase their new Highland Stalker rifle, of which many were chambered in .275 Rigby, the Rigby head-stamped version of the 7x57. This is how I originally came by the cartridge, made famous by writings of old. The rifle I bought, and which is now owned by a friend not far from me, does not appear in the Sako cartridge listing for that model, despite being correctly stamped. Although I haven’t asked Sako, my guess is that it came from their custom shop, and when I bought it, it had barely been used. I replaced that rifle with a 6.5x55 Schultz & Larsen, but I am pleased that I will still have the chance to lay eyes on my old rifle from time to time. ■

Jason Doyle

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uying your first centrefire is a big step in your shooting career – the choice of calibres and rifles is almost endless. When choosing my first deer-legal calibre 15 years ago, I spent a long time deliberating my options and consulting those with extensive experience. The perceived obvious choice for the beginner at the time was a .22-250 or a .243, these smaller calibres being easier to shoot owing to the low recoil. However, the best advice I got was from a good friend, who encouraged me to look beyond the beginner phase and to select a rifle that would be suitable for all the hunting I hoped to do. I knew I wanted to shoot the larger deer species and I knew I wanted to stalk in the Scottish highlands. These intentions directed me away from the smaller calibres towards something larger. Many of my friends were

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advocates of the .270 Win, so I looked at this option even though it had fallen out of favour with stalkers over the last decade or so. The sheer knock-down power of the round and moderate recoil was enough to convince me, and a second-hand Sako L691 soon became mine. The rifle served me well for many years, and to this day a Sako .270 Win is my go-to rifle for hill stalking. The best advice I can give is the same as I was given. Don’t buy a small calibre just because you feel it’s the correct thing to do. Being under-gunned can have serious implications when hunting large game in difficult conditions, so consider your future plans carefully and buy accordingly. Shot placement is everything, but I don’t know anyone who gets it right every time, and for those times when it does go wrong, a big, fast bullet can save the day. ■


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Sporting Rifle Handbook 03 (Sampler)  

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Sporting Rifle Handbook 03 (Sampler)  

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