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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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Mike Diehl

"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."

I'd like to see a gun show like that one. 'round here it's mostly junk at "pristine in box" prices.

Jim in Mo.

Correctomundo, but I disagree about looks. Savage has done a good job of dressing their rifles up.


Funny,... At the gun shows here in SC the prices on used are as high or higher than new ones. The dealers are always complaining about not selling anything but that doesn't bring their price down a bit.

Jim in Mo.

Correctomundo, but I disagree about looks. Savage has done a good job of dressing their rifles up.


Any gun shows i have been at lately has had just junk and you can go out and buy most rilfes new for less then they want at the shows.


Steve C!

Carney is happy to receive all the guns you can now afford but do not want because you no longer hunt!!! He promises to give them a good home and regular workouts!!! ;-)


I don't know much about the Tikka T3, but a few years ago I found a good used lefty Tikka whitetail (model 695) in 300 win mag. This is probably the best rifle I own, certainly the most accurate (3/4 inch groups at 200 yards). Everyone seems to malign Tikka, but my experience says otherwise.

Del in Kansas


When you get to the SHOT show go by an visit Ultra Coatings, Inc. Bill Evans one of the owner's is a hunting pal. Anyway I would like to hear an unbiased opinion(yours) of their products. They weathercoated my Benelli SBE now I don't worry about hunting waterfowl in the rain. Next I plan to have them coat my new Kimber 8400 classic. I'm testing their borecoat product that prevents copper and lead fowling and so far results are great.

As much as you shoot you might want to give this stuff a look. It really cuts down on cleaning time no borebrush needed. they are at www.Ultracoatingsinc.com

Del in Kansas


It looks to me like this weathercoating is a much better finish than blueing. It looks as good and unlike blueing it absolutely will not rust even in salt water. It also comes in many different colors.


The next time you have the urge to sell a rifle for 1/6th the new price give me a call. i will come pick it up and i'm left handed.

Steve C


Deal. If you can make it to The Nations Gun Show outside Washington DC in a couple of weeks, I'll be the one carrying a mint Nylon 66 on my shoulder for sale. 28 years olds and only one box of shells through it.

Clay Cooper

The only problem that I've witnessed out of the Model 788? Everyone that bought one was happy with it and as everyone knows, that’s not supposed to be so! One fella bought one couldn’t hit the ground with it and the problem was? It was chambered for 7mm-08 with a 30 cal barrel, O’TISH! Got a case of Remington 165 grain 30-06 for the Ruger M-77 he had to buy to go deer hunting that year with it!! If I was Remington, I would have given him the top of the line 30-06 and enough ammo to burn the barrel out that would have lasted a life time!!


Can someone explain the pricing strategy that most of the large scale retailors have implemented?

As an example of what I am referring to. I was in the local Cabelas Moday afternoon looking through the used rifles when I came across a Tikka T3 in 6.5 X 55 for $549. I then proceeded to ask one of the clerks what this rifle sold for new, and he informed me that he thought the price was $559.99.

Now I know there was probably some room for negotation on the used rifle, but nonetheless, I cannot imagine the price was going to be reduced enough to make it a good deal.

In my pursuit of higher education, I took several Economics and Managment courses, and I cannont recall such a scheme ever being discussed.


Some of the best "cheap" lever action rimfires I have ever used are Henry's they cycle very smooth and are resonably accurate.

Jim in Mo.

Just got home and reading recent posts brings up another question of 'cheap' as in building or re-building a rifle. I have never done it but as I've mentioned on other blogs I want to.
All the barrel makers from Shilen to Pac Nor (to name a small few) claim to be the best and I can see they are expensive but are they worth it? Thats my honest question, I don't know. Shaw barrels tells me I'll be just as happy with theirs at half price and they'll blue it too (which some of the big boys won't). I only brought up barrels but the same thing goes for stocks.
To a new person like me wanting to re-build and rechamber, what would be cheap (as in waste of money) and what not?

Clay Cooper

Del in Kansas
As an Aerospace Structural Technician, the problem I see with Ultra Bore Coat is, if you have the slightest bet of rust or other dissimilar metals and/or materials, this bore coat will coat over them and cause damage to the bore. You must have the bore absolutely clean of any and all foreign matter before applying it. Maybe nice stuff, but I'll pass!


I’m baffled too by sellers demanding what I consider wildly inflated prices for used rifles and shotguns. I can’t see paying a $100 difference between a generic 30-06 new and used rifle, either. In fact, I’ll pass.

Some used makes and models are notoriously inflated such as Model 70’s and Belgium Browning O/U’s. The inconsistencies in Model 70’s have been well blogged here and the problems with Belgium Browning O/U’s in the 60’s are well known, yet both items hold an undeserved monetary value when bought on the used market.

It seems many sellers have with wildly inflated idea of their firearms values because they have the item and you don’t. I guess the long, short, and tall of all this rant is for a gun buyer to concentrate on the proverbial fruit and not the flower.

PS: Jim in MO. I've used Shaw barrels. They're a good button-cut barrel. I had just as good luck with them as Douglas and Shaw barrels are available. It takes a long time to get a barrel from Hart and Douglas now. One famous barrel maker's shop is/was his garage in Syracuse, NY. Good barrels, but it took you two-years to get delivery.

Unfinished stocks by Bishop and Fajen were very good, and cheap...although there was a lot of wood on them to file off.

I hold any person who starts making his own rifles really begins to gain some shooting knowledge. Enjoy the Journey!

Chad Love

I ran across a couple of Dave's cast-aside and forsaken rifles over at Champlin's in Enid one day a couple years ago, but they weren't anywhere near $500...

Jim in Mo.


What do you know about Hogue overmolded stocks. I've heard their well worth the money but looking at the pictures on their web site they look fat. I don't have large hands and i'll pay more for a good slender stock espesially in the wrist.

Bernie Kuntz

Jim in Mo.--Shilen barrels from Ennis, TX, and Lilja barrels from Plains, MT are some of the best made. They are not cheap but you never will regret having one installed on your rifle.


Jim in Mo,

My experience with synthetic stocks is very limited although I have been exposed to the butt ugly things. I grudgingly admit they certainly perform well and do as claimed, yet I refuse to fall to the Dark Side by having my rifle so stocked.

My observation is a shooter better really like a synthetic stock’s particular dimensions since it seems rather difficult to modify pull, cast, pitch, drop, etc. I can’t say how synthetics compare in price to a good unfinished wood stock. Myself, I would check as many models out as possible in the flesh prior laying out the cash...prior to the Fall to The Dark Side.

Notice you seldom see synthetics on a trap gun. Trap shooter are always fiddling with their stocks.

PS: Gotta take a buddy up to get his new Beretta O/U. How cool is that?

Clay Cooper

Jim in Mo.
Hogue overmolded stocks are not the prettiest looking by far. However, if you have a rifle like my Remington 700CDL and you know it’s going to be dinged up and/or you need a shorter stock for your 8 year old grandson to be able to use it for his first deer hunt then I wouldn’t give Hogue overmolded stocks a second thought. There excellent for what they are intended for. No gunsmithing or fitting is required and it’s a snap to install. You use all the same parts to install it from your current application.

A many of hunters I knew in Alaska used synthetic stocks because of the harsh environments from torrential down pours to freezing temps, rock dings and falling half way down the mountain to name a few. Besides, at the end of a 4 day Alaskan Fly in hunt, that coyote ugly synthetic stock will be looking better than you, LOL!

Black Rifle Addict

so many guns...so little funds!

Ralph the Rifleman

I was looking over the Marlin web site yesterday and noticed they have a bolt action model back on the market. I believe it is chambered in 25-06,.270, and 30-06,only!
Does anyone have any experience with this model bolt offered by Marlin?
Dave, have you shot one yet?

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