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February 14, 2007

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If It Ain’t Broke...

When entrusted with the education of a new shooter, I try to point out three great truths about successful marksmen:

  • They handle a gun—any kind of gun—with a minimum of movement. If you watch them at work, there doesn’t seem to be much happening.
  • They are able to shoot fast. They have taken to heart the Gunsite adage that “A good fast shot is better than a slow perfect shot because you’re not going to get time for the slow, perfect shot.”
  • They don’t jack around with their guns. They accept the fact that if they miss, it’s not the gun, it’s them.

    Back in my formative years, I left several fortunes in the hands of gunsmiths who were constantly diddling with my rifles and shotguns. I wanted them lighter or heavier. I wanted the stocks shorter or longer. I wanted a new trigger. I wanted a new chambering. I wanted different sights. In the end, I doubt if any of it was even remotely worth the money.

    I began to catch on to this when I was shooting registered trap, and noted that the guy who won everything at the shoots I participated in used a plain-vanilla Remington 870 pump. He beat the hell out of all the guys with Perazzis and Berettas and Kriegfhoffs. He did not own choke tubes, never adjusted his comb height when he shot yardage, and did not get a release trigger or any of that stuff. All he did was break targets.

    I once asked “Smoker” Smith, the Brit was the world Sporting Clays champion back in the 80s, which choke tubes he used.

    “’Ow the ‘ell would I know?”, he said. “And it doesn’t make any difference anyway. The bloody things have been rusted in place for years.”


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    Dave, a question: What is the barrel life of a big game rifle (let's say a .30-06 or .270) assuming the owner cleans and oils it diligently after each use? 10,000 rounds? 100,000 rounds? 1,000,000 rounds? I'm sure there are variables that could affect the barrel life. I've heard of a barrel being "shot out" and haven't yet accomplished that feat, even in my little Marlin M99 M1 - my first rifle.


    When I was younger, single and less concerned about how much amunition costs, I used to take my Springfield Armory 1911 to the range every week end. I put about 200 rounds through it every week. I was no expert, but I got pretty good after a while. Now that I am older, married and dance lessons for an 8 year old cut into my recreation budget a little, I hardly ever get to the range. And when I do, those groups are not quite as tight as I remember. Not accounting for my degenerating eye sight, I assumed that my pistol needed new sights. After reading this post I think I might be better off investing that money in a few boxes of amunition and a few hours on the range.

    Dave Petzal

    To KJ: Sorry I didn't get to your question sooner. Here are some very rough guides to barrel life, assuming chrome moly barrels that are not abused or neglected (stainless lasts somewhat longer). This is about the number of rounds that you can get through one before you notice accuracy falling off. Useful accuracy lasts much longer.

    .22 rf--25,000
    .22/250 2500
    .270 3000
    7mm Rem Mag 2500


    Thanks Dave. "Useful accuracy" is a good qualification. At last count I've fired 8,395,004,221 rounds through my Marlin .22. Tin cans still quiver when I'm around.

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