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April 09, 2008

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Weight a Minute

A National Guard friend of mine, currently on active duty, tells me that the weight of the much-modified M-16 she is carrying (with red dot sight) is 9 pounds. This caused my semi-annual smile, because one of the selling points of the Armalite rifle from which the M-16 evolved was that it weighed only 7 pounds, and was much easier to lug though the rice paddies than the M-14 which was 9 pounds, or the M-1 which weighed 9.6 pounds (SIR!). So we are back to square one.

Actually, there is something to be said for heavy rifles. Some years ago in Texas, Craig Boddington loaned me an 8mm Remington magnum that had been built for him by John Rigby (in California, not London) and weighed 12 pounds. Because of its weight, the rifle had almost no recoil, and as fate had it, the shot I got was one where I had to jam my eye right against the scope. I resigned myself to a great scope cut, but nothing happened. The rifle hardly moved when I pulled the trigger.

The Thompson submachine gun weighed 12 pounds and was extremely effective because it recoiled very little. Ditto the Browning Automatic Rifle at just under 20 pounds. Civilian guns, too, profit by some weight. A skillful shot can hit with a 6-pound rifle (in a reasonable caliber) but an unskilled shot will have fits--the gun will be just too twitchy.

The real problem with a heavy gun comes in rough country, particularly mountain country. You not only have to carry the thing uphill, but because the footing is uneven, you'll be fighting the rifle every step of the way as it does its best to pull you off balance.


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retired waycar rider

KJ-- Cabelas sell a sling called the Hush Stalker--comes in lots of colors --made of nylon with a great rubber shoulder piece--won't slip and makes going up the hills in our pine ridge seem much easier. this is the sling I use on my Ruger #1B in 280 Remington wihh Hornady 154 SST bullets and H4350 powder and a Burris 6 power scope--a bit heavey for an old fart like me --but-- what a shooter

SD Bob

I have mixed emotions on lite rifles versus heavy. When I lived in Michigan and walked 1/4 mile to a mile to a stand and sat all day it was a moot point. Hunting the bluffs along the Missouri river or the Black Hills at first made my m700 lengthen my arms after an all day foray. Now that I'm 3 years into that form of hunting and my body has acclimated, I am able to handle it much better and don't notice the weight difference in my 300 win mag (rem 700) of my 7-08 (rem 700 in a mountain rifle). Add 20 years and maybe I'll change my mind.

Ishawooa is correct about those damn ammo manufactures loading shotshells with no shot! Tuesday this week we started our weekly skeet shooting and I opened with a 24 (never did better than a 21 previously), then shot a 20 and followed up with a 15. The only logical explanation was shells with no shot.


I agree with Chuck B, and think that we should hold the line on rifle--and shotgun--weight. Can a rifle or shotgun be TOO light? Of course. They can definitely be too heavy! I know that I can get my Remington Mountain Rifle in .30/06 on target faster than I can my Weatherby Mark V in .300WM, or my Model 70 Safari Express in .416 Remington Magnum. As others have said, balance is important, too. A rifle should be just a little bit muzzle heavy--if the weight is primarily in the receiver area, the rifle is going to be muzzle light and the barrel is going to be hard to steady. I also think that decent recoil pads help immensely. I don't do muzzle brakes because my shoulder can heal, whereas hearing damage is permanent. I like less recoil these days because I have also had to deal with a detached retina. Our bodies do wear out, folks, and we are unrealistic to not make accommodations--thus I prefer a lighter rifle these days, with lighter recoil, and my next shotgun will be a 28 gauge. Improved bullets and shot have reduced the need for magnum cartridges and gauges. These days, the magnums are actually more niche cartridges than mainstream hunting cartridges--and that's due to improvements in bullet construction. Today you don't necessarily have to shoot a bigger caliber for the bullet to hold together and penetrate deeply. It could perhaps be said that today's .30/06 with high tech bullets would outperform yesterday's 7mm or .300 magnum with "previous generation" bullets. When you throw in "light magnum" loads, you would be hard pressed to find a deer or elk that could tell the difference from a .30/06 or .300 magnum hit. Now, when I can get "virtual magnum" performance out of my .30/06 in a Mountain Rifle that doesn't feel like I'm carrying a howitzer, why would I want to lug a 12-pound Weatherby on most of my hunts? No, weight doesn't matter too much in a tree stand or in a horse scabbard, but when you're climbing slopes or even when you are still hunting in the woods, that extra weight takes a toll. Like ChuckB said, those extra pounds can leave you huffing and puffing, and it's hard to shoot any kind of rifle when fatigue takes over!


Dave, RWR,
Thanks for the sling recommendations. I've used a Vero Vellini sling in the past, which did a lot to help carry a Mark X Mauser that weighed about 9 lbs, scoped and loaded. It was no good, though, to steady shooting from a standing or sitting position. Most nylon slings I've used slide off my shoulder every step, so I'm partial to leather. I appreciate the advice.


I have an Interarms MK X in 7mm Remington Mag. that weighs 9 3/4# fully dressed. It hits like Thor's hammer with 160 gr. Speer Magtips and is accurate if I do my part. Despite it's weight, recoil is still comparable to a 3" 12 ga. I use it when watching the open hay fields because of the weight, and switch to a Ruger Ultralite in .257 Rbts. (6 3/4#) when it comes time to assemble the deer drives. It is always a balancing act between weight, recoil, and performance, but is not impossible. Question for all of you knowledgable folks out there. Like that Magtip a lot but Speer offers very limited selection in that configuration. Wonder why? Good shooting, all.


Sling your rifle right!
I may be weird but I don't like it across my back, holding it like I'm about to shoot it the barrel gets slid up the left arm and over the head and slung across the chest, removal is opposite of placement and the rifle forend comes down to the left hand ready to shoot, at worst you may knock off your hat un-slinging it. And as I already have plenty of excess weight to carry in front of me the rifle weight is hardly noticed!
Also is easier to steer clear of brush and limbs when it's in front than on the back.

I prefer nothing less than 9 lbs.


John R: Thanks for the comments on the sly observtions but in truth I cannot honestly take credit for creating a single one of them. They are just things that I have heard around shooting ranges and in elk camps that struck me as particularily humourous if you happen to be a gun nut. A couple of old timers who are no longer with us could spit this sort of thing out constantly. I sure wish I had written down what they said but often I was too busy laughing just as they intended. Oh and more on the morbid side of funny always remember to only shoot at the charging grizzley 5 times with your .44 (or whatever), you might need the last one for yourself in case your accuracy is faulty.


You are right on the money re: the Dick Murray slings. I bought a dozen of them back when and many have seen extensive use in the field - couple are still NIB. Dick is a personal friend and in addiition to making great leather products he is just a damn good guy! I like the SS hardware with the lockdown screw on the attach points.
Re: lightweight rifles, it seems that, usually, the answer to the recoil on the extreme lightweights, in other than very light calibers, is the G..D... muzzlebreak which is a mixed blessing to be sure. I hate to think of how many guides have lost an eardrum before learning to get the heck back away from the muzzle before it is fired - all too often prematurely by an over anxious client.


Sixth shot! - that's why you file the front sight off the barrel.

Mike Reeder

I think DP has it about right; ie, it all depends. I toted my Dad's custom, combination varminter/deer .243 up and down the big, brushy, rocky hills around Uvalde once many years ago, when I was young, fit and tough as nails, and I was ready to shoot myself with it by the end of the first day. The thing weighed right at 11.5 pounds and my arms were hanging around my ankles by the time I was through. It also had a heavy, 26" barrel that hung up on all kinds of things in tight spaces. On the other hand, it's a nice rifle to have in your lap on a stand, provided the stand's not very far from where you park. All my rifles but one weigh about 8 to 8.5 pounds, fully loaded and equipped, and that strikes me as about right. All have 22-inch barrels and they all balance well. I think if you go much lighter or shorter than that it does make it more difficult to swing smoothly or hold on target. My one personal exception is a little Rugar 77 Mannlicher-stocked carbine with an 18-inch barrel that I use only for still hunting in heavy cover. It flashes to the shoulder and doesn't hang up on brush, and since any shots will be short the tradeoffs aren't bad. The largest caliber I shoot is an '06 so recoil is tolerable in an 8-pound rifle, although I'll admit my tolerance begins to wear thin after about 15 shots from the bench.
As for the military's long fascination with light rifles, I would assume that's all part of its historic search for firepower as opposed to marksmanship. The lighter the rifle, the more ammo a soldier can carry. Now that the services are composed of professional volunteers instead of hastily trained draftees, better marksmanship should probably allow for slightly heavier weapons at the expense of more ammunition.


Dickgun: The old timers around here say that not only should you file the sight off but also add a coating of vaseline to the barrel. The multiple purpose of this endeavor is that it provides a quicker draw from the holster and, if you do miss 5 times, allows an easier insertion for that last "center shot" to ease the pain of the bear attack.
I am also told that the ultimate bear gun is a S & W Model 34 in .22 LR. When you see the bear coming you simply shoot your hunting buddy in the knee and haul butt yourself. I better quit before this gets any worse. Guys please realize that all of this is a joke and stated purely for entertainment purposes...DO NOT TRY IT AT HOME OR IN THE WOODS...it should be known that Mr. Petzal most likely does not approve of these actions and that I will not accept responsibility of anyone stupid enough to follow this advice...

Jim in Mo.

ish, oh now you tell me and my sights half way off !!!


What!! You were kidding?!?!?! Now where in the hell am I gonna get a front sight for my .44 Blackhawk?!? And it's an old 3 screw, no less!!

Del in KS


Suspect you have been reading my posts about light guns and recoil.

I have a custom made Penn. longrifle. It is a joy to carry and very accurate from a rest. Built with a Getz swamped 39" barrel, Siler flint lock, Davis double set triggers in a curly maple full stock. The balance is perfect and the gun only weighs about 6.5 lb. There is the problem. While standing offhand is my best position I can't hit a thing with this particular gun beyond 40 yd because it is so light. Had good success with other flinters built with straight barrels which are of course heavier and more weight forward.
I always shot better with the M16A2 than the A1 for same reason.


I always liked the Winchester Featherweight. seems to be just the right weight. Not too light..but with a scope, sling. it seemed prrrrrrrrfect. I have never bought one..and it will be a while before I can. Im sort of in the process of selling most my guns. Partly because I need some money right now. In a couple years Ill get back into shooting.


I have an old 3 screw Super Blackhawk that I bought back in the late sixties. After years of packing the 7 1/2 inch barrel around I decided I needed less weight. I asked John Linebaugh to do an action job on it and trim the barrel down to 4 5/8" plus reinstall the original front sight. Boy did he complain about lopping off the barrel on the old Ruger. My reply was "John this is my revolver and always will be and I want the barrel shorter". Reluctantly he did the job and I have never regreted it. It is so silky smooth that the uninitiated will touch off a round withut meaning to do so. The short barrel did not decrease my velocities to any significant degree, it does not ride up my side when I am horseback, and is ever so much lighter to pack in the hills. No Mag-na-porting or any of that sort of thing. I will say that she roars like a bellowing T-Rex and blows out fire similiar to a bazooka when you touch off one of those 300 gr. hard cast bullets. Oddly enough the front sight proved to be tall enough inspite of normally shooting heavier than 240 gr. bullets. I will look into what you guys can do who have started filing. Maybe John can replace them for you. He has a cool website that you might want to check out sometime.



Hamilton Bowen is another smith who does outstanding work on revolvers, and you can spend hours on his website -bowenclassicarms.com. His work will bring tears to your eyes (as will his prices, but boy, does he turn out some fantastic stuff). I haven't been able to find Linebaugh's website - can you help? And thanks in advance.


KJ, I like the Super Sling in 1-1/4" . It is so easy to adjust simply by pulling on one end and will stay where you leave it.. It can be adjusted for comfort or shooting as terrain changes. Try one, I have several on different rifles. you could probable add a pad from an older sling if need be. I gave all my other slings away. Gave a guy a new Military style the other day, too hard to adj..


Ishwooa, I heard something almost like the bear trick. when two hunters were confronted with a bib boar , one said to the other,"Think you can outrun him". the other hunter said "don't need to, just outrun you.."

Dr. Ralph

The best thing about muzzle breaks is that anyone within twenty feet in front or behind you will be able to experience firsthand the fireball in your face instantaneous ear ringing what the hell just happened sensation that used to be reserved for accidental discharges... luckily the one who pulls the trigger only gets the temporary loss of hearing symptom so he is immune to his hunting buddies death threats.
Weight, balance, stock design, recoil and proper fit are all the variables in this "why can I hit with this gun" equation and when I come up with the formula I will let you know.

Rocky Mtn Hunter

I'vebeen peaching rifles in teh 10 lb range for months, hopefuly afewhave listened. Yes climbing a Mtn out west is hard work, but not l/2 as hard as it will be coming down with that missed shot from a light wt gun that you could not hold steady. A wt of near l0 lbs will steady itself at the top. If 2-3 lbs is the difference in your hunting or not, then you need to loose a few lbs or get in god shape. 2-3 extra lbs will pay of when that 2-300 yd shot comes arond. Compare a gun to the horse that will carry you up part way, will a 500 lb horse or a l000 lb horse carry you better and easier?????Light is not always better by far. I will continue at 73 to hunt with a l0 lb rifle even if I must sit all day. When shot time comes I will know that I can make it with that heavier gun. I supose next the Arm Chair hunters will demand a sling-shot as a hunting rifle. O' no time tonigh, but will tell you a story about sling shots in a few nights.It's good to know we got a few people who think heavier is better.


Flip: I have had the chance to examine Hamilton Bowen's revolvers at a few guns shows. They are indeed works of art and some are rather unique, fantastic workmanship and attention to detail such as fit and finish. John Linebaugh takes a slightly more practical approach to creating the revolver in that he remodels mostly Rugers into larger calibers of his own design. Try www.customhandguns.com to see his site. His weapons are not cheap but he is always behind on production even with some assistance from his family members and a few hired hands. His big bores have downed lots of big animals on all continents. I hate to admit it but they are actually more than I prefer to handle so I stick with .44 mags and hot .45 Colts. Thankfully he did rework the old 3 screw way back before anyone knew of him and the internet did not exist as we know it.
Sarg: Used to be a huge guy from Vicksburg, MS who lived in Cody. We often joked with him about he would be the perfect bear hunting partner for the reason you submitted. One day he got a little riled as we all were sitting at the morning coffee table and we realized that he was probably more dangerous than a mad sow with two cubs and sore teats. No more joking with him.
Rocky Mtn Hunter: Except for the plains all I hunt is the mountains of Wyoming and Montana and I agree with you.
By the way I thought over ordering a NULA .300 and decided it was too much like a couple other rifles I have but only less weight. They are indeed excellent rifles if you require a light powerful weapon.


case you are still listening, yow, yow! Icelandic for yes.

Clay Cooper

Never weighed it, but my Browning A-Bolt topped with a Leupold 3x9x40 Vari-X II, loaded with Hornady 225 grain at 3000fps ( 72 grains of IMR4350 and caped with a Federal 215) with a leather GI 1 ¼ sling sure makes a dandy reach out and knockem down John rifle! Still too much bullet for Caribou at 700 yards! 7mm with a 150 grain would be ideal.

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