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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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Clay, I also liked the 788

craig curtis

got a 270 ruger mark and it was 400 something . this is a good value and shoots dimes at 100 yards wish i could affoed the tika its my next rifle !!!!

cactus kid

700 dollars for a t3? i guess i got one of those Lunitic Deals that you described. For 600 bucks I bought a t3 Varmint, only 10 rounds through it, with bipod, warne rings, a nices sling and tactical bag. i love when gun nuts become strapped for cash!


My Tikka T3 Lite in 270 WSM shoots .375" for [email protected] yards with 150 grain Swift A-Frame @3020 fps (mild) chrono. Very dependable round. With the 110 V-max it shoots .6875 for [email protected] yds. at 3350 (mild load). This gun will outshoot any Ruger I've ever owned, and I've owned a pile of them, #1's and 77's. I'm ordering a Tikka T3 Lite in .223 with 1 in 8 twist so I can shoot the Barnes 62 and 70 grain triple shock bullets. The price is great for a super accurate rifle. Around $550. And the trigger is good also.

Clay Cooper

That model 788 is no punk!


Mid Mich Hunter,
You From Saginaw, Bay City or Midland Michigan?



In fact, "lightweight" and "accuracy" are the buzzwords most frequently used to "spin" hunting rifle reviews in a paying advertiser's favor. The Savage 110 hunting rifle is not very pretty by most folks' standards. ... Great performance from a relatively cheap gun, with a very cheap scope. http://p100.ezboard.com/fgunsofthemoviesfrm7

M. Scott


I enjoy your articles, but think your idea of cheap or inexpensive differs from most of the readers. Your comment about Gov. cheese as an example. Where I grew up and hunt, most people I know have had it one time or another. While most of us are avid about hunting and guns, if we were to take $500 - $750 out of our budgets to purchase a rifle (new or used) our wives would either scalp us or cut us off for a month or so!

While finding a good deal on a used gun is somewhat satisfying, if I have to save for 6 mos to a year, I would rather save a little more and get a new Remington M-700. I have 2 Rems in my gun cabinet, a M-700 BDL in 300 RUM and a M-710 (remeber the one you would not stir paint with) in 300 Win Mag. Admittedly the BDL has a better trigger and shoots smaller groups, but the 710 for me and my brother does exactly what it is supposed to for a decent price. The trigger is sluggish and it will only print about 1.5" - 2" @ 100yds, however you put a deer out to 150 to 200yds and I will deliver you tenderloin steaks with either rifle. Although showing off at a range or braging about sub moa groups is fun, I have never had a paper sandwich before. Whether you buy new or used, the important thing is that you have a functional gun that will put the round with in the vitals at the disatnces you normaly hunt.

M. Scott

BTW DP, I almost forgot. Don't you get the rifles you test for free from the companies and get to keep them?

Jim in Mo.

I just finished reading an article about the T/C Icon Long action rifle. This rifle has a hinged floor plate. I've always been curious about them and the ease of dumping all your bullets at once. Since I have never owned or handled a rifle constructed as such I always wondered about noise or rattling. Would a rifle need to be extemely tight fitting to prevent this or are they pretty quiet in general?
BTW, my son's rifle is a Rem 760 and the detach. box mag is as quiet as a church mouse.

The only problem I personally witnessed with the Model 788 was a screw up at Remington when a 30 cal barrel wound up on the 7mm-08 line! I would think that the firearms would be test fired, but this one got in the hands of a hunter in Alamogordo New Mexico. Talk about bullet tumble! The person wound up using a loaner Ruger M77 30-06 from the store owner and wound up buying it. Found out that he like the 30-06 better than the 7mm-08’s he has been shooting! Remington gave him a case of 165 grain 06 for all his trouble and should have paid for the rifle also! Other than that, the 788 is a great rifle!

Sean Reeves

I purchased a Remington 788 in .308 for my daughter to shoot Elk. It was never fired and needed a scope, rings and base. These rifles had a three hole screw pattern and I picked up a Redfield 788 LA base and if I line up the single rear screw hole which aligns the ejection port cut out, the base appears to be about 1/3" short of the front two screw holes. Did Remington change the screw locations at sometime? Perhaps a factory mistake? Any insight? Sean & Shannon Reeves

Jim in Mo.

Sean Reeves,
A .308 is a 'short action' i.e. SA. Get bases accordingly.
If I were you I'd take the bases and receipt back to store along with cased rifle and purchase proper bases.

Jim in Mo.

Sean Reeves

I had to purchase the base off E-bay because the gun has been out of production for so long, the bases are hard to find. The Long Action Base was close and a friend of mine bought a Redfield short action base at a local gun shop and it was short by 1" as opposed to the Long action being short by 1/3". Hence my question. Thanks for your comment anyway.

Jim in Mo.

Sean Reeves,
Try 2 piece bases. Brownells has bases for 788. Rear base #955-010-076(76), front base #955-010-075(75). These are Weavers stock #s, ask for them at local gunshop or Brownells.

Jim in Mo.

Out of curiousity do you think the bases you are trying are actually for a Rem.78 rather than 788?

Sean Reeves

Both the Redfield bases for my Remington 788 I obtained are stamped 788 LA and 788 SA respectively. I am waiting for one more to show up in the mail and keeping my fingers crossed that it might fit. My buddy is betting it might take a Remington 700 base. Kinda quirky aint it? If the other base doesn't fit, I'll try to take it up with Remington if they will respond.
Thanks for the info on the Weaver bases, but I really prefer the Redfield single piece bases for rigid/durability/confidence in design.

Jim in Mo.

Sean Reeves,
Have a friend who swears by his Redfield setup including original Redfield scope. Keep in touch like to hear whats wrong.

Sean Reeves

Your not going to believe this, I got my other 788LA Redfield one piece base in the mail today and it was completely different and also didn't fit the screw pattern. One 788LA had the front ring mount between the 1st and 2nd screw, the other had the front ring mount in front of both front screws. This really sucks. We are going to try a Remington 700 short action base tomorrow. I can't beleive my luck on this rifle. Who is to blame, Remington or Redfield? Going insane!

Jim in Mo.

Sean Reeves,
Not to beat a dead horse but I still think your problem lies in using LA bases on a short action gun.

Dean in KY

The Ultra Bore Coat simply puts, Flat Works and delivers more than promised. It is one thing to clean a gun but another to have to clean a gun.

I have it in a Sig, an 870 slug gun and also a 45-70. I just put nearly 100 rounds of copper jacket hallow points and a few lead rounds through the 45-70 (ouch!). It took about 15 minutes to make the bore look like new. You can not complain about that.

I can not believe it is not everywhere.

Del in KS


I live in Olathe and know the guys at Ultracoatings, Inc the only distributer of Ultraborecoat. So far I have coated a flintlock longrifle, a .45 in-line and my Shiloh Sharps 45-70. When I told Doug and Bill this stuff is better than stated they said they diidn't want to overstate the product. This morning I shot my longrifle 15 times without running a patch down the bore. In the past it had to be cleaned between shots because a patched ball fits tight and the BP crud made it very hard to seat the ball on the powder. Also had to use an overpowder felt wadd or the patch would be cut and accuracy would suffer. My chonograph indicated a loss of 100 fps when using the felt wadd. So the sum total is since borecoating it has higher velocity, better accuracy and cleanup is a snap. Also the appearance of the gun is exactly the same-it still looks old with no newfangled gadgets. The barrel is a Getz 39" swamped with Siler lock and Davis DS triggers. My load was 20 gr Goex FFg and 70 gr Pyrodex. The Goex is hard to find in these parts and I have a good supply of Pyrodex so do this to stretch my BP supply. With a Flinter you have to have a base charge of black powder to insure ignition. It's lot more fun to shoot now.

Del in KS

Oh, forgot to say this stuff is gaining in popularity fast. Just wait until all the skeptics find out how good it is. I was one myself.


I have a Savage 110 LD (left-handed) in 338 Winchester. It will put three shots inside of an inch at 100yds with Federal Fusion 225 gr bullets (or Remington CL 225's). I understand that this is remarkable for anything over 30 caliber, especially a gun that kicks this much. The gun was really ugly (home-made stock, carved with a table-knife, broken trigger tip) when I bought it for $245 it included rings and bases and a box of premium ammo! I put it in a Ram-line stock and put a weaver K4 on it,and put in a Timney trigger. It's still not pretty, but it hits where I'm looking and kills anything it hits.
I also have a Remington 788 that is left-handed. It was originally 6mm, but the chamber was damaged when I bought it for $175. I had the barrel changed out for one in 260 Remington by Dave Young of Tracy, MT. It shoots sub-1/2 inch groups with Remington's 140gr Core-Lokt Ultra. I couldn't be happier, and I would not trade either rifle for a Weatherby.
788 Magazines are getting hard to find though. Dave Young tells me that the bench-rest crowd have quietly gobbled-up the 788's on the market for their actions which are highly-desirable in some bench-rest black-magic sort-of way. That's why you don't find them on the market as you did before. Some people like hunting with them too.
I never buy new guns (or cars,or tools, or appliances), I let someone else take the depreciation on it. Being lefty, I have to take what I can find. Although many manufacturers list left-handed rifles in the catalog, actually finding one on the shelf at the dealer is less certain.
I hit a lot of yard sales, estate sales, newspaper classifieds pawnshops and gunshops. I always hit the used gun rack first just to keep an eye on the market. Lots of people (stupid people) buy guns and then sell them when the next thing strikes their fancy (bowling season for instance), easy pickins.

Mr. Smith

When I started seriously buying firearms a few years ago I lucked into a like new Kimber short action rifle in 7mm-08 for $635 retail. I added a Kahles 3-9x40 and I can't begin to tell you how much I appreciate that rifle. It made the difference between my being a newbie and a half-way competent rifle shot. The lock time is quick, the scope to precise and repeatable, the caliber so easy on recoil and yet so deadly. Frankly it was the best purchase I've ever made in a firearm. Now I buy almost 100% ANIB, yes it takes time to scout but you can save a great deal if you use just a little common sense. I only shop from reputable stores that offer a no BS return policy if something is wrong. (You got to shoot them with in a few days and can't be a jerk about little things...) Any good store won't put out bent barrels or other serious problems on their sale rack. I really like the Savage line, also Remington, Ruger and Marlin are keeping gun making alive in the US.

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