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November 05, 2008

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Petzal: Kenny Jarrett, in Perspective

I now write regularly about big-game rifles that break the minute-of-angle mark, and I’m still uneasy about doing it because for a very long time such guns did not exist at any price. You could shoot for years without seeing that kind of accuracy.

In 1985, I was hunting in South Carolina with the great knifemaker and die-hard Secessionist George Herron, who told me about a gunsmith named Kenny Jarrett, down the road in Jackson, who was building sub-moa big-game rifles. Yeah, sure, I said, so George went into his shop and brought out six benchrest targets  and a stubby 7mm/08 Improved that Jarrett had built on a Remington 700 action. Each of the six groups could be covered handily by a nickel. I was like to swoon, and had to grab a nearby canebrake rattlesnake for support. And down the road I went to  to meet Kenny.

Kenny Jarrett was a farmer (and still is) with no formal mechanical training who became interested in benchrest shooting in the 1970s. Being mechanically aptituded, it seemed logical that he should build his own guns, and so he did just that, and began winning. He was also a whitetail hunter who often shot at long distances across beanfields, and it seemed to him that if you could build a big-game rifle that shot to benchrest standards it would make the deer sweat.

And so he did. His first big-game rifles were crudely finished and heavy, but he got them to the point where they would shoot a half-minute of angle or better. At the time, this was unheard-of, but word got around, and so did the rifles, and eventually Jarrett found himself in the gun business.

Over the years he has gone from a shade-tree gunsmith who built rifles out of other peoples’ components to the head of a small factory that makes barrels and actions and assembles, finishes, breaks in, and develops loads for, completed rifles. (Jarrett’s Kevlar and fiberglass stocks are made by a separate contractor to his design and specs. He gets his triggers from Jewell and his scope bases and mounts from Talley.) It employs 11 people, and smacks as much of aerospace as of gunsmith. He is the only gunmaker I know of who has an EDM machine—and an employee whose sole job is to keep the EDM happy.

A number of years ago he developed his own bolt-action, a three-lug design which he calls the Tri-Lock, and since then his rifles have taken on a distinctive look of their own. There are six different models, but the representative one is the Ridge Walker, a gun that typically weighs 8 ½-pounds with scope, has a 25-inch #3 taper barrel, and almost invariably comes with a muzzle brake of Jarrett’s own design.

He has his own line of proprietary cartridges, the most popular of which (in a walk) is the .300 Jarrett, a fire-breathing .30 magnum based on the 8mm Remington magnum. Jarrett loads it with 150-grain (at 3,500 fps) to 200-grain (3,000 fps-plus) bullets.

Every rifle is broken in and has a handload (or loads) developed for it, and no rifle leaves Jackson with fewer than 150 test rounds through it.  They are very expensive guns, but from what I’ve seen they will outshoot anything else you can buy, when used with their tailored ammo. In .30-caliber and under, they will shoot a half-minute or less, and I’ve seen .300 Jarrett test targets—lots of them—that went under .200. There are plenty of factory rifles that will shoot MOA, and a great many custom guns will do much better than that, but I don’t know of anything else that will shoot to this standard.

And what Kenny will be remembered for is dragging everyone else along with him. The most influential rifle makers of the late 20th century are Chet Brown and Lee Six who pioneered the synthetic stock; Melvin Forbes of Ultra Light Arms designed and built the first truly light big-game rifles; and Kenny Jarrett, who said, in effect, “What you’ve got isn’t accurate; this is accurate.”
Long may he flourish.


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Red Blade

Praise Allah! A good El-Pres at last! Hope he bans Pork products & makes you all study the Koran!

Clay Cooper

Funny thing?

The most successful hunters I know shoot MOP (Minute Of Pieplate) at 100 yards!


OK, I will give these guys credit for making accurate rifles for benchrest shooting, but I will also be critical of them for making hunters think that they now have the right to shoot at animals at 600 yards plus over beanfields or meadows. This is NOT something that we should be proud of. Shooting at targets is one thing, but shooting at game is something else. No reason why someone should feel the need to kill something at 600 yards when it can be done at much shorter distances and at the same time be a lot surer of a clean kill.

Dick Mcplenty

Kenny Jarrett rifles are about as overrated as you can get.I've seen a couple dozen of his rifles sold used over the last ten years and at best they sell for 60% less then new.They're also the most available used rifle of any custom maker,which clearly shows what little attachment their owners feel for them.

Melvin Forbes of NULA,offers 100x the rifle for the least money.Noslers retired test action of melvins ula says it all. Jarrett would have to stand on his mothers shoulders,to kiss melvins arse.On top of this melvins stock design is so good,you don't need a halfassed muzzle brake.

Dick Mcplenty

The NULA offers you an action and complete rifle that will be the lightest in its class(which is important for those that actually still hunt on foot),capable of sub moa accuracy with a crummy douglas barrel no less and your great great grandchildren couldn't wear the SOB out.All for around $2800-$3000.A fraction of what jarrett gets for some phucked over rebuilt M700 action,a mcmillan stock and aftermarket trigger.

WA Mtnhunter

Amen Clay!

Get close + shoot straight = meat in the freezer.

I get so tired of hearing the blah blah blah about energy, drop, etc. for the mythical 400-600 yard shots. Most hunters can't hit a bull in the butt with a bass fiddle out past 200 yards.


If you can throw a bass fiddle 200 yards, you don't need a rifle, period!


Oh, and Red Blade, go easy on that Praise Allah stuff. The worst enemy a Muslim has in this world is another Muslim. If the USA went Muslim, we'd bomb the snot out of every heretic in the mideast (everybody) and claim we were doing it for their own good.

WA Mtnhunter

LMAO eyeball!

T.W. Davidson

To Mr. Mcplenty . . .

Seems like you're being unnecessarily hard on Jarrett and his rifles. Have you ever owned one or shot one? I have not, nor have I ever met Mr. Jarrett, nor can I afford one of his rifles, but I appreciate a finely crafted, superbly accurate and beautiful rifle as much as anyone, and besides, no one is forced to buy a Jarrett rifle, and I doubt very much that Mr. Jarrett forces anyone to buy his rifles. It is a free market out there and a crowded one at that. Obviously, Jarrett's rifles are incredibly accurate, well-crafted and even beautiful, otherwise he wouldn't be in business today.

Sure, I admit to you that the average $500 plastic stock Savage bolt action will shoot sub-MOA groups--I have a .270 Savage that ALWAYS shoots sub-MOA groups--but there is nothing beautiful or particularly well-crafted about such a mass-produced rifle either. It is one in a line of boring millions. On the other hand, sometimes we pay for craftsmanship and beauty, as well as superb accuracy, and find, with time, that our hard-earned dollar was well spent.

T.W. Davidson
Tyler, TX

Tyler (NC)

Now that Obama has won, and there is conviently a gun show in town this weekend I want to buy my first hand gun. Any suggestions? Im thinking about a revolver but any and all suggestions are appreciated.

FYI I work as LEO and am therefor paid as such so lets not go down the 1911 route. Id prefer something I can use as back up


Who will care which rifle is the best after Obama takes them all away

Dick Mcplenty

Actually own a used jarret in .280AI.I paid right at 70%less then what it cost new.It shoots under an inch.Damn near a year before I bought the jarrett,I had a M700 action trued,trigger lightened,krieger barrel chambered for .280AI installed and a mickey classic stock installed.That rig cost me a little over 100 bucks less then the jarrett.It shoots and functions just as well as the jarrett,plus I got all new hardware.
The bottom line is there's hundreds of smiths here in america that can build the same phucked over rebuilt M700 as jarrett,for a fraction of the cost.Yet still perform just as well.Mickey Coleman is probably in the top 10 of realistic riflesmiths,that cost a fraction of jarretts.Sisk gets alot of press,but you can buy a nula for less then one of his phucked over rebuilt M700.

I also have two NULA's.One in .223 rem and one in 30/06.They are what a hunting rifle should be and cost a fraction of what Jarretts rifles cost brand new.Melvin Forbes is the working mans custom rifle maker and yet his quality is as good as anything costing 5 times as much.When melvins gone a true lose will be felt.I hope that hillbilly never comes to his senses and starts charging what his rifles are worth.


It's (currently) a capitalist's market. If Jarrett can charge what he does, get buyers that accept the value, and stay in business, great! As for getting bargains in the aftermarket, I am not complaining. Buy and enjoy!

I truly, truly appreciate accuracy, but also truly appreciated my old pie-plate MOA Model 71. Would get another to use in the woods, except the prices have gone the wrong direction. I am complaining about that.

Tyler (NC)

Red Flame:

Saw this on Yahoo Thought you would be intrested since you thought stocks would surge after Obama


Jim in Mo

Tyler (NC),
If your gun shows are like those we have around here be very careful. If your looking at used guns expect to pay top dollar and you have no idea the condition they're in and no guarantee.
Google Ruger or S&W and look at what they've got, prices, and which one suits your needs.

Dr. Ralph

Jarrett did what Dave said he did... he showed everyone what could really be accomplished and it made the factories stand up and take notice and make their rifles more accurate. Give him a standing ovation and don't buy his overpriced masterpieces if you don't want one.

Tyler are you serious? I'm assuming LEO is law enforcement officer and you're asking for information about handguns? Don't they make you shoot x amount of rounds a month? Don't they familiarize you with different weapons and how they work in case you take one away from a perp? Am I dreaming??? Okay, take a deep breath. If you are serious about a back up I guess you have a .40 semi auto. S&W makes the best revolvers if you don't want a Ruger .44 Mag in your pants and you don't. Try their super lightweight .357's and .38's and see what feels good in your hands and pants. Many LEO's prefer a wheelgun because of their dependability and ease of operation. If you get shot your mind may not be firing on all cylinders and you can use one with one hand if your arm gets severed... Kel-tec makes really small .380's that I've heard are excellent.

Dr. Ralph

And I'm with Jim... don't buy anything at a gun show if you are depending upon it to save your life. Just not a good idea.

Clay Cooper

Here we go again!
WA Mtnhunter
Most hunters can't hit a bull in the butt with a bass fiddle out past 200 yards?
Are you going to let Alex age 9 out shoot you and that Little Man has training and the confidence to do it!
Instead of talking about MOA on the bench, how about MOP (Minute Of Pieplate) in the field!

Big O

I bought a browning W/a BOSS in .300 Win Mag. (stock) read the book on the BOSS system, even though my buddy (Cert. Gunsmith)said "They ar'nt worth a damn" and told me I bought an over priced gun,(got it on sale for $675.00+ tax) then took it and him to the range and showed him and a Jarrett owner what a "Crap stock rifle" can do, sub-MOA with two sets of shoys with two rounds in practicaly the same hole. I'll take the moneysaved to buy more re-loader equip. Thanks Kenny.

O Garcia

While we marvel at the Jarrett's technical prowess with custom loads, how about the 'mass-produced' Weatherby rifle that shoots 1.5MOA (or better in some models) with Weatherby 'factory' loads (and shoots it at incredible speed too)?

Or the Howa, Browning A-Bolt, or Savage that does more or less the same thing with Federal or Winchester ammo?

Basically, my opinion on Kenny Jarrett's rifles is the same as that of a former gunwriter (who left Wolfe under less than pleasant terms) who asked "if there's a need for load development, what's wrong with the rifle? A "really" good custom rifle should be able to shoot well with any reasonable load."


Try the Ruger LCP 380 , sweet little gun

Dick Mcplenty

That writter wouldn't be John Barsness would it..He's had some good experiences with NULA.

Jarrett really didn't do much other then market himself better then others.I've met more then one customer of jarretts that after buying one of his rifles found out it was nothing but hype.

O Garcia

Barsness is still very much with Wolfe.

O Garcia

there was something in an old article written by Jim Carmichel about Kenny Jarrett that struck me as odd. this was still in 1990 or so, when Jarrett still used Remington actions. Jim C. wrote that Jarrett replaces his drill bits when they get dull with brand new ones, and would never use resharpened drill bits for his smithing operations because resharpening drill bits often leaves the bits "off center.

My reaction to that, which basically fueled my skepticism today is this: here's a guy who tells a gun owner his factory rifle is basically crap and needs "truing", and that he(Jarrett) has just the skills to do the job, and yet he (Jarrett) would never resharpen a drill bit for fear that the bit would go "off center" and trusts that drill bits coming out of the factory are true and properly centered.

If Kenny Jarrett can trust a drill bit manufacturer, I can trust Savage, Browning or Weatherby. Right?

I hope I didn't confuse everybody. BTW, Jim Carmichel, who I respect a lot (and is probably one of the nicest guys around, or ever) is also a fan of Jarrett's.

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