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January 29, 2008

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On Cheap Rifles, Part II

"Cheap" refers not only to price. A great many pre-64 Model 70 Winchesters were cheaply made but still carried hefty price tags. It was so pervasive that in the mid-1960s the Gun Digest ran an article by Bob Hagel entitled "How to Fix Your Model 70 and Learn Ballroom Dancing at Home." The triggers were lamentable, the inletting appeared to have been done with an adze, and the checking was executed with a rooster claw.

Remington used to build the Model 788 bolt-action, which was cheap but not a bad gun at all. It was so simple that there was not much opportunity to screw it up. It had a rear-lugged bolt, an uncheckered stock, and a pretty fair trigger. The 788s that I got my hands on shot very well.

The Tikka T3 at $700 is not cheap at all, but considering the fit and finish and accuracy, it is cheap. T3s are very, very nicely put together, and for what you get for your money, it is a cheap gun.

But the best cheap guns of all are used guns. Lunatics like me sell wonderful firearms for all sorts of inane reasons, and you can profit from our folly. I recently put a rifle on the market for $500 which would cost nearly $3,000 if you bought it new today. It's 20 years old and has had serious usage, but it's still a $3,000 rifle for one-sixth the price. And, oh yes, it's been sold.

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Comments

Blue Ox

$500? What was it?

Clay Cooper

Time For Remington to bring the Model 788 back!

YooperJack

Dave:
I ran into a couple of your guns on a website. They were well described, but definitely not economical! I'm not hunting Cape Buffalo, so I wasn't really interested.
I enjoy shopping for guns but its a little tough in "fly over country". You need to stop in every little store. Sometimes you find a nice model, even an occasional lefty. Unfortunately, this winter I'm not traveling like I was in the past. Now that I'm shopping, it seems like I never get to these little Mom & Pops.
YooperJack

KJ

Price does not always mean value, and value can be a very subjective thing. Aesthetics and sentiment have a bearing on value as much as the cost of the firearm. I've got a dinged-up Marlin 336 that I scrimped and saved to buy several years ago. It isn't remarkably accurate, but it's killed a bunch of deer and I'll not sell it, simply because of the time and effort I put into buying it.

Jim in Mo.

In 'cheap part 1" I mentioned my 311. Cheap as in price, you bet cheap as in looks, certainly but cheap in performance? It's still shooting and I bought it in '69 after high school.

WA Mtnhunter

Tikka T3 for $700? My local gun emporium sells the T3 synthetic for about $550 new. I have a 1985~ vintage Winchester M70 Featherweight that is very nicely finished and shoot MOA with my handloads. I have never shot any factory loads in it because I roll all my own .257 Roberts loads. Paid $425 a few years ago with nary a scratch on it, LNIB. That was a cheap gun!

I also have a Savage 99 in .358 Winchester that I picked up for $249 three years ago. Go check the price on one of those babys now. A bargain indeed! And it shoots well.

ishawooa

The quick lock time added to the somewhat limited appeal of the 788. The ones I see nowadays on the rack are well used and priced about double of what they sold for new. The plastic magazine in some of them tended to melt if exposed to excess heat (as in a pickup truck in August) and modified your repeater into a single shot. Otherwise they tended to be very accurate and reliable at a "cheap" price when new. Folks loved them.
The 311s will last several lifetimes giving complete satisfaction to all but the most discriminating hunter. I actually have see a couple that had been reblued and restocked with good wood that were almost elegant in appearance.
Obviously the other piece of this cheap gun thing is buy a rifle chambered for a non-common cartridge. A fantastic 7 x 61 S & H sat for years on a local gunsmith's shelf before someone purchased it. The rifle was a real piece of quality work on a mauser action with a Shilen barrel. Apparently only one person wanted the 7 x 61 good as it was. The same holds true for about anything but garden variety cartridges.

ishawooa

I intended to add that the 7 x 61 sold for less than a good mauser action would cost you at that time which was only three years ago.

PbHead

Dave, please name the locations of where you buy, shop or trade for guns. Would I be welcome there or would it be like when the salesman ran my blue jean clad butt out of the Merecedes/Jaguar showroom?

I used to work with two scavengers who would read the divorce notices looking for their hunting buddies who needed to dispose of guns. They believed good shopping conditions for guns, boats and motorcyles started to form about six weeks into a Catepillar or Firestone strike.

To PBHead

To PBHead: I never trade for guns, and I buy maybe one a year. Unless it's something really extraordinary, I can't justify it anymore. The only gun store that always has interesting left-hand guns is Safari Outfitters in Salt Point, NY, which I've mentioned on this blog before. Would you be welcome there? Most likely. it depends on just how scruffy you are.

Carney

It is rightly said that "Cheap guns can be expensive"!

One thing that amazes me though, is that fewer and fewer American men have been "brought up" to know how to clean and tinker with firearms. Granted I'm not a gunsmith and have no desire to "tinker beyond the basics" with a $3000 gun -- not even if it only cost $500. Nor do I desire to spend a lot of time trying to coax excellence out of a "shot out piece of rusty pipe".

BUT there are many things that just a little know how can fix. AND a little know how can save you trouble.

I know a guy who sent a brand new semi-auto rifle back to the factory because it wasn't cycling right. He had never checked or cleaned it and had only shot six bullets through it -- all from the same box that he had randomly picked off the shelf because it was "the right caliber"...

Guns are a little like women -- you're headed for trouble if your expectation is "perfection" right out of the box!

A little know how can make a good gun work right and could make a cheap gun shoot well! To say nothing of what a little know how can do for your wife!

Wulffy

I do agree with the used rifle philosophy. I buy most of mine used: pawn shops, yard sales, gun shows, etc. I have made a few good deals by following guys out of the local pawn shop after the pawn shop owner didn't offer them quite enough. (Don't let the pawn shop owner catch you doing this, you could end up on his sh!t list.)

Speaking of the Remington 788... A few years ago, I was looking for a 22-250 for coyotes and rock chucks. I was pretty broke, and couldn't afford the various new rifles for sale through out my town. My brother spotted a 788 at a local yard sale and gave me a call. I dropped down to the sale and offered $250 to the old timer that had bought it new in the early '80s. Long story longer, I ended up with a great varmint rifle that, now that I handload, will shoot sub dime at 100 yards with the right load.

True indeed - guns are like women. Your imagination is their greatest asset.

Back when I hunted it was all I could do to scrape up $200 every few years. Bought a Fox Model B and 311 that I still have. Now that I can afford any gun I want, I don't hunt.

God isn't above financial cruelty.

Steve C

True indeed - guns are like women. Your imagination is their greatest asset.

Back when I hunted it was all I could do to scrape up $200 every few years. Bought a Fox Model B and 311 that I still have. Now that I can afford any gun I want, I don't hunt.

God isn't above financial cruelty.

so what rifle would you recommend a fellow wanting a good varmint rifle and he can only scrounge up $350-$450 to buy it?

Dr. Ralph

Funny thing, all the guns in the classifieds around here are priced used higher than new... must be the convicted felon's market. There are not a lot of used guns in the mom & pops around me either. Maybe I should start frequenting pawn shops but truthfully I have no love for pre-64 Winchesters or sporterized Mausers, so a Walnut stocked Vanguard guaranteed to shoot between .75" and 1.5" @ 100 yards for $540- in thirteen standard and two Wby Mag calibers is enough to keep me out of the used weapons market, unless I am buying from a friend or relative.

Jim in Mo.

At one time I considered buyin a Vangard and then Weatherby realized they were selling some real shooters so after testing they would set them aside and call them Vangard MOA., and charge more money. So now if you buy a standard Vangard your pretty much asured you won't luck out and get a real tackdriver.

Dr. Ralph

So spend $725 and get a real tack driver guarandamteed. Who else picks out rifles that group .75" or under at the factory and sells them for under $750???

Jim in Mo.

No thank you,
I take a man at his word. So Weatherby realized they were giving the consumer a good deal and they said, oops, we take it back.

Bernie Kuntz

Dr. Ralph makes a good point regarding firearms advertised in newspaper classifieds. I never have seen a firearm advertised locally that wasn't listed at full retail price and then some. I cannot explain it.

I have to tell a story about a friend of mine from North Dakota. He was hunting coyotes in Manitoba in the 1970s, just across the U.S./Canada border from where he grew up. He stopped in and visited with a farmer, got permission to hunt coyotes, and the talk turned to guns. Turns out the farmer had a rifle that survived a house fire. The stock finish was bubbled a bit, but my friend bought the rifle for $125. It is a pre-'64 Model 70 Win. in .264 Win. Magnum. It still has the B & L Balvar-8 scope on it, stock has been refinished, and my friend uses it every season. We all dream of falling into deals like that.

Foxy

I've been very pleased with the value of my Tikka T3 Lite Stainless 270 WSM. I also got it for under $600...i forget exactly.

It shoots moa with both of the factory 150 grains I've tried, and I'm an average shooter (at best).

c sommer

The place to buy used hunting rifles, at least in urban areas, seems to be gun shows.

As older hunters quit, and fewer younger hunters take their place, their hunting rifles are often available at excellent prices- they seem to be a drag on the market here in Maryland. The last gun show I went to had a nice selection of scoped Savage, Remington, Weatherby, etc fir around three fifty to five hundred dollars.

Seems that young. non-hunting shooters want black rifles - no discounts there, far as I can tell.

c sommer

The place to buy used hunting rifles, at least in urban areas, seems to be gun shows.

As older hunters quit, and fewer younger hunters take their place, their hunting rifles are often available at excellent prices- they seem to be a drag on the market here in Maryland. The last gun show I went to had a nice selection of scoped Savage, Remington, Weatherby, etc fir around three fifty to five hundred dollars.

Seems that young. non-hunting shooters want black rifles - no discounts there, far as I can tell.

Jim in Mo.

c sommer,
Your right about gun shows. Two years ago I was at a gun show here in Mo. and a man had an 30-06 Rem 760. He wanted 325 but since it was as is I offered 275 and he finally took it. Good thing I bargained cause after a box of shells my gunsmith had to do $40 work on the bolt. Never said exactly what was wrong except to say it looked like a little home gunsmithin had gone on.
That gun shoots 180gr CL's extremely well.

tay

Savage rifles are not among the most handsome but in my experience outshoot all other major American production rifles and cost the least.




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