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January 28, 2008

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On Cheap Rifles

I recently got a plaintive letter (it smelled strongly of government cheese) from a young man who asked me to write something about cheap rifles that ordinary people could afford. Very well.

During my formative years as a shooter, I was as poor as a church mouse (actually, a church mouse was too wealthy to be me) and could only afford cheap rifles. The first centerfire rifle I bought was a Model 340 Savage in .222, and it was a true inanimate hideosity. It cost something like $50 used (in 1961), but it shot acceptably and went bang when you pulled the trigger.

My next rifle was also a Savage--a new Model 110 left-hand .22/250. It was a  better than the .340, but not much. It had a soda-straw barrel with a rear-sight bulge (but no rear sight), a stock that would have doubled nicely as a canoe paddle, and a 15-pound trigger with lots of creep. But it was cheap.

Eventually I replaced the stock and had the trigger stoned down to a dangerously light pull, but I still had a cheap rifle.

It was about this time that I met John Dewey, Larry Koller, and Russ Carpenter who, along with their other talents, were fine gunsmiths, and took the trouble to explain to me that a cheap rifle almost always had something major wrong with it, and would not allow you to do your best shooting (or in some cases, even acceptable shooting), and that no matter how you cobbled on it, it would never really be right.


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Take a used car to a mechanic before you buy, take a used gun to a gunsmith before you buy. at least drive the car, shoot the gun.

Joe Nordin

Im 16 and going on a black bear hunt on my dad and my uncles connected land in the U.P. next year. I am currently shooting a ruger m77 in .308 with 180gr bullets and am wondering if this would be a wise choice for which to tackle bruins with.

John T. Jeffery

Joe Nordin: I hunt with the same rifle using 150 grain bullets and have not hesitated to use it on black bear.

AP: When my sons were starting out shooting and hunting I bought them NEF's Handi-Rifles as Combos with interchangeable barrels in 20 gauge and .30-30 Win. They could hunt anything in Pennsylvania with that combination, and what is better, their father could afford them! I handloaded the .30-30 for them with spire point bullets since it was a single shot. One load was a minimum load with a 135 gr single-shot pistol bullet that was deadly within 100 yards, and the other was what has been called a ".30-30 long" in an old magazine article that got a lot of attention on the range for its ballistics. Both were very accurate, and both bagged nice whitetails for my sons. The stocks refinished nicely, and with a decent scope, and a hammer spur extension they make fast handling woods guns. I don't think you can go wrong with them. I have my eye on their .223 varmint version.

Chev Jim

A few days ago I visited a gun store that also sold surplus rifles, and picked up a "sporterized" Peruvian Mauser in .30/06 for $99. The barrel was really dirty, but some Shooters Choice and a brass brush got the crud out and the bore is excellent. I have a laminated stock for a Mauser 98 and will put the barreled action into that. The action was made by FN and was worth the cost of the entire rifle. The bolt handle has already been bent, but I might go with a different style bolt knob. I may rebarrel it to 7mm Mauser--I'm thinking about it! But for $99 you could take this rifle to the woods and knock off a whitetail, or elk or moose. Also, like Dave P, my first rifle was a Savage 340, but was in .30/30. It was actually a pretty good rifle, even if it was not very pretty. In fact, it was a much better rifle than the Ruger .44 magnum carbine that I traded the Savage for. But the used gun rack often contains some real bargains. The older rifles were often made better, particularly the military ones with their intricate machining and smooth bolt operation. If I were going to buy a new rifle right away, it would probably be a Remington XCR with the Tri-Nyte finish--because my current "need" is for a weatherproof rifle. I want a rifle I can hunt with in a downpour and not have to worry about.

Rocky Mtn Hunter

Cheap guns are just tht CHEAP. With the price today of some new firearms a peson can buy a good new gun that he can afford. Try a Mossberg, Savage or the newe MArlin Bolt gun. All teh above are less than 400.00. You can buy a cheaper used gun, but what's wrong with it and the price a good gun-smith charges,you could end up with more in that old gun than a new one. I suggest you save you $$$ till you can afford a new gun be it one of the 3 I mentioned above. I used a use shotgun l6 ga till I could afford a 30-30 in l952,paid $55.00 bucks for it. I paid the guy 5 bucks a month till was paid for. I yet buy used guns, but what I buy, I buy to trade on sale and do know what is the better used firearms. Few good gunsmiths left, and the new one's know litle of older guns.If you have a tad of knowledge and can fix it yourself, so much the better. A little gun blueing and Tru oil, fine sandpaper and steel wool can make a 2 bit gun look like a gun worth owning. Don;t mis-understand, I realize all can;t own a new gun,but save a little Pizza, Beer, Video money and soon you will have enough for a down payment on a gun you not afraid to go hunting with. I;ve been down that same road back in late 40' 50's but thank god I can now own a new gun if I want one to go to the Rockies and try out. Shop wisely and look carefully, never buy unless you can return if it donlt operate proper. A quality gun shop will allow you to do such, if not beware of that guy.

green giant

I would just like to state that i would also not mix paint with a 710. But i wouldnt mix a porta potty with a savage!

I dont have alot money for the record. But i dont care how much a gun costs. If its exactly what i want, i will make it mine. I dont shoot and hunt for the economy of it. Its my great passion. I enjoy that great passion more with a finly crafted firearm. These pasions are the only reason i waste my time at work toiling away day after day.

jack bowen

love old guns would love to find old stevens or savage .222 bolt with long barrel . own several savage/stevens guns and would not swap them for brand name guns . would love to find orginal old 1905 to 1920 rabbit eared L. C. smith double barrel that i could afford

John White

I have owned both inexpensive and more expensive rifles and shotguns in my 64 years. New and used. To shorten my story, I was robbed of all my great collection. Insurance paid most of it but I never wanted to spend the cost for many of those only to be robbed again. So I went to walmart and bought a .270 in a weatherby vangard. Put a used redfield on it and bought the factory ammo( I am a life long reloader) and shot the rifle in at 100 meters, not yards. No breakin , nothing. When I looked in the spotting scope I was shocked. My 5 shot, not 3, was measured at .455 inches. The gun still shoots under 1/2". Cost--under $450. Then I bought a savage 25.06 with a detachable mag. for $388. and put a new 3x9 Burris for $199. The gun shoots factory ammo under 2" at 300 meters, not yards. I bought a 270 WSM ticka t3 new for $399 and added another 3x9 burris and with factory ammo shot the first three rounds measured under .4" at 100 meters. I bought a new Rem. 700 SPL for $499( on sale at Bass Pro) in .223 and it can't stay under 2" and doesn't eject one out of every 4 cartridges.
I went back to Walmart and ordered a savage Varmint in .223 and it shoot under .25" at 100 meters and cost $425.

Unfortunatly Walmart is closing out firearms at many stores, but in rural areas the stores have and will custom order whatever you want with in reason.

More grisley bears have been shot with the lowly 30-30 then all the calibers in the world. but we still get suckered into 300+ mags. Most guides in the west shoot a 25.06 or 2 .270. I shot aa elk at 300+ yards with one neck shot from a .243. Placement is everything.


Speaking of 30-30, I've read that Mossberg is coming out with a lever-action this year. Has anyone heard what they will cost? I can't imagine it will be a lot, coming from Mossberg.


I have this, and that Winchester will be introducing the 94 back in 2009, and the parts will be made in America.


Rocky Mtn Hunter:
[email protected]
drop a line, get back to you on Ky.Elk...


Bubba, I just bought a H&R Handi-Rifle in .204 Ruger I like single shots but the little bull barrel H7R rides good on my four wheeler and I'm not worried what others might say, I just like Handi-Rifles...I also own a Wolf Muzzle loader.. (Talk about cheap- not the rifles, ME)YUK YUK.

Jim in Mo.

Joe Nordin,
You will do fine. Make it a 180 SP., all the gun you need (lucky kid).

Jim in Mo.

John White,
Appreiated your testimonial on the Savage, Burris combo. Great products great value.

Rocky Mtn Hunter

Sarg. Thanks, a e-mail is on its way to you.

Rocky Mtn Hunter

Sarg:I tried the e-mail address you sent, but it would not go.Said something was missing from the to field. I tried this.

[email protected]

what did i do wrong?


Rocky Mtn Hunter, that's the correct e-mail address. I got your E-mail and responded...


Rocky Mtn Hunter, found out what was wrong with you e-mail, You didn't say Good morning sarg. (just kidding) should work for you.

Rocky Mtn Hunter

Sarg: I cannot get te pictues to come up. Had my Daghter try on her machine and it worked for her, she forwarded back to me and would not ome up again. I;m sure it's my Puter. Goig up to Daughtes in a day or so and wll look at them then. No replyies from KY Game Dept, apparently they received my request and info on its way,I hope. Did you enjoy your vacation? Buy any knives or parts to make a few?

Clay Cooper

Rocky Mtn Hunter

Reload you JAVA!

Rocky Mtn Hunter

Cheap: I think the word has 2 meanings, cheaply built or cheap on m wallet. A 100.00 gun to some guys s high $ stuff, and to others 500.00 is cheap. I find the better bargins at estate sales or right after gun season and a few days before Christmas. Never been abe to buy at a price I felt was ok at a pawn shop. However, I did buy one in a Pawn Shop in Crag, Co. and got the local Sheriff to walk with me to my MH for safety. Most Pawn Shops as high as a new onelike it. Can fnd many at Pawn shops that need a lot of attention, now and then can buy those cheap. But, lets not kck the guywho cannt afford a high dollar quality firearm. As a $l-$200.00 gun may be high to him and all he can afford. The main object is for us gun nuts to encourage all hunters to buy a gun and go hunting, and forget the price.( a single bbl shotgun with slugs is better than no gun at all. We have lost 6 Million hunters in past 10 yrs, based on figures I received last week.Us older guys gettig to point that age has deprived us of hunting as we would like, and this new batch is Video crazy. So encourage the guy looking for a cheap gun to do just that,buy what he can afford. Can bet your boots, if he falls in love with hunting, he will find a way to up-grade, I did. The old Gunslinger

Rocky Mtn Hunter

I was in a Super Wal-martstore yesterday and went directly to th gun section as needsomre gun suplies.I also wanted to see if tey had a new MARLIN. Guy behind counter did not knw MArlin was due out a new Bolt rifle.He did have several Remingtn 700's ADL he said. I ask to look one over and he handed me one in Black Syn/mat metal./ Man what a cheapo.The newer ADLS Wal-mart carries. (Remington told me a month ago they making ADL's only for Wal-mart). This 700 he showed me in 270 (caliber I want) looked as if was made by Daisy BB Co. cheap looking, metal to stock mating was lousy, safety looked as if would break if pushed forward . Priced as 325.00 in blk syn, laminated 427.00. The current ADLS sure not the quality of 5 years ago. I surely hope Remington don;t get greedy and cut corners on all their bought out companies. Ive used Remington for 50 odd years and never a problem. Even the newer Rem 770 looked cheaply built. So appears tht Wal-mart is now telling its gun makers to cut quality, corners to sell for X#$, and it shows up. Then I went a mile away to a gun shop and asked to see a ADL, man sad no dice, only Wal-mart. But he had a used ADL in 30-06 that was of the old school and looked great even if had a few scratches and dents was superior to the new ADL I had just held at WAL_Mart/So if a ADL is in you want list, try to find one a few years old( CAn call Remington at their 800 # and they will tell you year made.) I placed my order for a new Marlin, hoping I get one mfgered prior to FEB lst, 2008 when Rem took control of MArlin, New England Firearms and H&H. In situations such as I just described,a near looking used gun is still a good buy,dble check all features and make sure you look down the bore for chips and lots of rust. A good dealer will give you 3 days to try out and return if don;t like. Best you do that. Plus, if minor things wrong,chances he can or will have corrected by a good smith. Shop wisley and you can find a good buy in of season. Now is not a good time to buy a Shotgun, as Turkey season just around the corner here in the south. My gun-smith has a neat trick he does on a gun he;s testing. He has a mount made on a rubber tire to hold a firearm, then atttaches a string about 10 ft long to trigger and loads and shoots once, ejects the round and shoots again. Then he will look closely for other problems. I saw this and now I do the same, but I got a bench with a gun rest made on top, that I do the same thing with on a new or used gun I buy. RAther be safe than sorry with a blowed up bbl or powder burned eyes. Spend as if your last dollar, enjoy te great outdoors. Nothing eraces a woried mind like being out in the woods viewing gods cretion and teh peace and quite.A successful hunt is not always killing game, but the enjoyment of just being out ther all by your self and no phones rings kids swaking, horns honkiing, or a B----y wife telling you to take out the garbage. Let that be your day to just be yourself and relax and enjoy. O a snack comes in mighty handy. For some reason, once when I get settled in my blind (ground) I become hungary and need a Coke or coffee, best meal you ever had. And o boy do those sardines, beanie weaners,crackers and a candy bartaste like a meal fit for a king. When hunting season begins here, I buy a case of each, few boxes of crackers,case of drinks and always my huge Thermos of Coffee. I've been accused of rather eating than to hunt, nope,they just go together,and I forgot a hunk of hoop cheese. Good luck, shoot straight and often. The old Southern gunslinger. PS; one last thing, a comfortable stool with a back or folding chair a must to relax. Now are you all fired up and ready to go ,I am. See you on the trail and share a cup of coffee. It may not be deer season,but it's always season on Coyotes and foxes.Now let me think, don't I need a new/good used 223 or 22-250 for them????

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