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February 27, 2006

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Have We Hit The Wall?

A note of warning to all you bloggers and bloggerettes: What follows  is a subject of such luminous, transcendent importance that you are going to see it in different form in the pages of Field & Stream at some future date. If this annoys you, complain to someone who cares. I don’t.

The most illuminating single comment at the 2006 SHOT Show (aside from “Wow, have you seen the booth babe two aisles up?”) was made by my friend and colleague Dick Metcalf, a man who operates at the very highest intellectual level. (He has a PhD from Yale, and taught at Cornell, for God’s sake. How he tolerates the gun biz is beyond me.) We were sitting next to each other at a press conference at the Leica booth, viewing the latest in multi-thousand-dollar teutonic optical marvels when he said:

“We’ve gotten to the point where you can buy an over-the-counter gun that’s beyond the ability of even a good shot to get everything out of it.”

Or words to that effect. And he’s right. There were probably a dozen exhibitors in that hall who make rifles that will shoot down to around a half an inch or better, starting with the lowest-priced (Savage) and progressing up to Nesika, Ed Brown Precision, Les Baer, New Ultra Light Arms, Weatherby, and on, and on.

Benchrest competitors, who can put five bullets through one hole as a matter of course, will tell you that no one has an edge in equipment in any given match—the winner is determined by skill. Who reads the wind the best? Whose nerves are strongest? Who can crank five shots downrange before conditions change even slightly?

It will be very interesting to see if we develop a new breed of shooters to go with the new rifles. From what I’ve witnessed, we have a way to go in that department, but as Orphan Annie says, “There’s always tomowwow.”



Doubt it, most/majority of people don't have the time it takes to become good shooter.

Sid Lark

Other than the benchrest shooters that you mention, how many gun owners really need the accuracy that some of todays rifles are capable of? How much more dead can we make game that we've shot?

The manufactures need something to keep trying to increase sales, and we are always looking for a new excuse to buy.(yes, that includes me!) What is really left for the manufactors to sell?

Until they open season on the house fly, all of my rifles are able to do the job that needs done. Including some that are 30 and 40 years old !

Thomas Powell

I think the greatest room for increased performance is with the rounds themselves. And fortunately, a lot of effort is being placed in that area. Whether it is the new LeverEvolution rounds that can keep the path of my 35 Rem round straighter for a longer period or the exciting new WSM calibers with the latest in ammo technology to offer the next generation in ballistics. We are certainly living in interesting times!

Richard A. Smith

It seems that, for the most part, the gun industry has gone the way of every other industry: Make what sells, keep prices down, and quality just high enough to prevent a lawsuit.

The almighty dollar has become the main focus and purpose of everything they do. Except for a few notable (and very expensive) exceptions, gunmaking is no longer about quality, beauty and accuracy, it's about making a buck--or several million.

Sure, technology has given us some very accurate production firearms, but the quality, beauty and pride of workmanship just can't be found in a reasonably-priced, off-the-shelf firearms.

ranger Nick

How about making some more AR15 clone rifles? R&D is lacking in that field.

More plastic pistols will do.

Don't forget the camo-shotguns with low-recoil bits added on.

That's the state of gunworld.

Bring on the booth babes!

Mickey Coleman

One of the greatest fears of the average gunsmith is having a customer with a good shooting factory rifle, and there are many, want a new custom barrel installed and the new barrel not shooting as well as the factory. It does happen.

One common misconception is that all benchrest rifles are created equal. Not so. In fact, not all custom actions of the same make are created equal. For reasons unknown to any but God some actions shoot better than a seemingly identical action.

I know of one world class benchrest shooter who went through 13 custom actions before he found one that he felt delivered superior accuracy. I shot competitive benchrest for 15 years and never was able to breathe that rarified air so I can't say from my personal experience.

Another thing is that not all custom barrels are equal, either. As Tony Boyer, the greatest benchrest shooter to have ever lived, or probably will ever be, says, "A great barrel is where you find it." Tony has had as many as 20+ barrels chambered up during the winter and keep only 2-3 of them.

This brings up another point, to wit: The gunsmith is not the 'secret' to accuracy as much as it may pain me to point this out. True, the work must be done correctly but there is no magic incantations that will produce stellar accuracy. Any conscientious gunsmith will pay great attention to detail but the accuracy is in the barrel assuming the metal work and bedding is done properly. There is not a gunsmith alive that can make a poor barrel perform at a championship level.


It seems to me we have so improved and refined hunting firearms that much of the challenge in hunting has been reduced to simply an exercise in marksmanship. We have rifles/cartridges that can kill deer at 400 yards. We have handguns that can accomplish the same thing at 250 yards. We have shotguns that can reach out 125 yards and efficiently kill a deer, and black powder rifles that can go 200 yards. Sadly, hunting - like so many other areas of life - has become more about ease and leisure and less about challenge, honor, life and death, patience, endurance, and respect. I don't know if we have firearms that are more accurate than a good marksman will ever be able to realize, but I do believe we have firearms that are so accurate they have become a crutch for poor woodsmanship and hunting skills.

donald witherspoon

over 90 years ago we had rifles/cartridges that can kill deer at 400 yards they wiped out the bison a accurate rifle will never be a crutch the laser range finder has helped the most

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