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November 17, 2008

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Petzal: Some Responses to Comments

Your comments are always interesting, but we seemed to hit the mother lode (not load) with my 11/10 post, “The Rifleman’s Badge of Honor.”

First, to all of you who suggested sources for deer targets, thanks and God bless. I shall pursue them.

To Jack, who asked for a Veteran’s Day post, this comes late, but I hope it strikes a chord. In 2000, when I fished on Midway Atoll, I ran into a retired Marine Lt. Col. who had spent his career as a logistics officer. It had been his job to get bullets and MREs and gasoline and water and everything else to the guys who were doing the shooting. He used to recruit Marines by saying, “If you want medals, go to the infantry. If you want to win the goddamn war, come work for me.”

For everyone who pulls a trigger there are probably 100 servicemen and women who repair gear, or man radar equipment, or work in hospitals, or process payrolls. They get no medals; they work long, hard hours; they sometimes do not have enough to work with; they are usually highly skilled and could make a lot more money as civilians but they stay in anyway. They are heroes.

About John Barsness: Don Polacek, who is president of Wolfe Publishing, says that John and the company had a disagreement about business and that their parting was non-hostile. Polacek says that he still considers John a friend. I asked Polacek why there was no mentiion of John's departure in the first issue of Rifle without his byline, and Polacek pointed out that this is a tradition with the magazine. In the past, when other greats such as John Wootters, Ken Waters, and Bob Hagel have left, there was no mention of their going, either. I think they're going to miss John a lot, but they have other talented people. I've been a subscriber since the 1970s, and will be keeping my subscription.

A blogger named Joe C. objected to my making light of scope cuts, and felt that they are a result of poor training and poor scope mounting. I beg to differ. If you work with horses for any amount of time you are going to get kicked or bitten or thrown no matter how careful you are. If you fish you are going to get hooked, no matter how careful you are. If you shoot enough you are going to get scope cuts, no matter how careful you are. I would be lying if I said otherwise.

True sportsmen are able to laugh at minor misfortunes, and every scope cut I’ve seen qualifies as a minor misfortune. Getting your teeth kicked out or getting a tarpon hook in the eye is not funny, but if you can’t smile at the lesser stuff, stay away from me. I don’t want to hunt with you.

To RJ, who has to learn to shoot right-handed. First, don’t give up on the idea of using a scope. It may be that if you give your right eye some help it can do the job. Get in touch with Decot Sport Glasses (sportglasses.com) and explain your problem. They’ve been around forever, and have seen every eye-related shooting problem there is to see. Try that first. If glasses don’t work out, I would consider a ghost ring rear sight with a big bead up front. It’s the easiest type of iron sight to use, and you can do some very respectable shooting with it.

To Carney, who asked about Susan Casey. As far as I know, Susan has put down her rifle forever. She is simply unwilling to kill. The last I heard she is doing a book on a small group of surfers who are looking to ride rogue waves in mid-ocean—the 70- to 100-footers that sink ships. I wish her all the best. It was a hell of a story, wasn’t it?


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WA Mtnhunter


Last night I read your article on Gentleman Jim. Well done. As a subscriber to both OL and F&S, I'll miss Jim's writing. I might even have to go out and buy a .280 Remington!

Dr. Ralph

WTF? Am I going to have to renew my subscription to Outdoor Life? I got tired of reading the same articles in two different magazines owned by the same company but if Dave is switch hitting I guess I can find 20 bucks around here somewhere...

WA Mtnhunter

Read the little insert cards. I got 3 years for $10.


My Father was a deuce and a half driver in the occupation forces in Japan, He was in the Engineers, sorry don't remember unit numbers or anything else.
My oldest boy is getting a Congressional nomination to West Point, or the Naval Academy, or the Merchant Marine Academy. Pretty much his choice where he goes! Everyone should have this kind of decisions to make!
Any suggestions on which is "Best" choice?

Jim in Mo

T.W. Davidson,
If you or anyone else is interested Remington is coming out with an anniversary edition M700 for the .257 Bob. Pics I saw look nice.

WA Mtnhunter

Jim in Mo

Where did you see that? Sign me up!

Jim in Mo

WA Mhunter,
This is from Richard Manns blog Ramworks. I hope his site takes off too. If my address doesn't get you right there go to top and click 'main', you'll find it. Surprisingly the anniversury model isn't that much more.

Jim in Mo

I get my mail slower than most. Someone please tell about Carmichael and OL. I hope he retired and not died.

T.W. Davidson

Jim in Mo--

Thank you for the tip about the 257 Roberts in a Remington 700 Aniversary model. As I understand it, this rifle will be made in a short action. This surprises me a little, because my Remington 700 Classic made about a decade ago in 257 Roberts is a long action. The Classic is an excellent rifle that has served me well. It is now a 257 AI with an H-S Precision stock.

T.W. Davidson
Tyler, TX

Jim in Mo

Do you feel the short action will be a detriment to the cartridge?
If so, would it be the inablity to handload the bullet out far enough, if so wouldn't that have to do with the way the chamberes cut? Thanks let me know what you think.

T.W. Davidson

Jim in Mo . . .

There's been a lot of arguments and debate among handloaders and shooters over the years about short action 257 Roberts rifles vs. long action 257 Roberts rifles. Personally, I've found no evidence that the short action deprives the cartridge of its true capabilities when a handloader uses the right modern high energy powders. As I've mentioned in earlier blogs, my experiments with Hodgdon's H-100-V (see the Hodgdon online handloading data website) and with also with VVN-550, RL 19 and RL 22, have proven very fruitful, safely giving me velocities in the 257 Roberts that rival a number of standard 25-06 factory loads. I realize that some people who read this may shake their heads and think that I have been loading the 257 Roberts or 257 AI to insane pressure levels, but I assure you I have not.

For the entire life of the 257 Roberts cartridge, ammunition manufacturers have been loading the round to an artificially low SAMMI-specified chamber pressure (something like 40,000 or 45,000 psi) because of weak Mauser 93 and Mauser 95 actions on the market decades ago. But any strong bolt action can safely handle chamber pressures in cartridges shaped like the 257 Roberts (such as the 270, the 25-06, the 260, 7mm-08, etc.) of 60,000+ psi, and the 257 Roberts and 257 AI can, too. Indeed, Accurate Smokeless Powders Loading Guide Number Two (Revised) states the company developed its 257 AI loads with the same SAMMI-specified chamber pressures as the 25-06. (And the 257 AI loads in that Guide match or surpass the 25-06 loads, because the 257 AI is an inherently more efficient cartridge than the 25-06.)

The SAMMI cartridge overall length standard (OAL) for the 257, if I recall correctly, is 2.780". On my daughter's short action M-70, because of the short magazine length, I am only able to load cartridge for that particular rifle to around 2.80" or 2.82". This is because the magazine length of the rifle is short, and the chamber is somewhat short-throated, too. But I have no gripe about my daughter's rifle. Using the powders listed above and loads from Hodgdon's website, and loads from Walt Berger of Berger Bullet Company (who will happily send you 257 Roberts data he developed in a short action M-70 for his Berger 115-grain VLD bullet producing muzzle velocities well over 3000 fps), plus numerous loads I've developed on my own, it's clear to me that whether the 257 Roberts is in a short action or long action makes no significant performance differences at all.

But having said this . . .

I personally prefer using a long action in 257 Roberts and 257 AI. The long action gives me a bit more flexibility in fiddling with OAL and my never-ending quest for smaller groups. I've generally gotten a little better accuracy out of my long action 257 rifles than via the M-70 short action, although the short action M-70 Featherweight, like a short action Kimber Montana 257 Roberts I lovingly held a few months ago, handles much better than my long-action rifles. All the rifles, however, when properly loved, petted, teased, bribed and encouraged, will (or did) produce MOA (or better) groups with the Hornady 75-grain V-Max, the 100-grain Nosler Ballistic Tip, the 115-grain Combined Technology Ballistic Tip, and the 115-grain and 120-grain Partitions. The Berger 115-grain VLD, perhaps due to its very long slender shape, took real work for me to find the perfect OAL for best accuracy in my rifles, but once I found that perfect OAL, and using the right powder loads, it turned out to be the most accurate bullet I've ever used in any 257 Roberts or 257 AI rifle, whether long action or short action, short-throated or not.

So here's my view: If you like the beautiful handling qualities of a fine short-action rifle in .257 Roberts, buy one and enjoy. The Kimber Montana comes to mind, and it is guaranteed to be MOA-accurate or better. But if you are obsessive about developing high performance handloads and ever smaller groups in a 257 Roberts or 257 AI, and if you don't mind the (generally) heavier weight and (generally)poorer handling qualities of a long action rifle, then you might want to think about getting one, but that's just one man's opinion. If and when money permits, I may someday purchase a Kimber Montana in 257 Roberts and rechamber it in 257 AI. Now that would be a very, very sweet, accurate, high-performance, and beautifully-handling rifle. If only Kimber made a left-handed version . . .

If I can answer any more questions, don't hesitate to ask.

T.W. Davidson
Tyler, TX

O Garcia

Mr. Petzal,

I thought it was during the Kenny Jarrett blog post that we hit the mother lode. But I suppose you're the better judge of that.

Don Polacek

Mr. Petzal,

I read your post regarding John Barsness. My last conversation with John was cordial. I think you have your facts wrong. If you are going to write about me or my company, it would be nice if you interview me first. Feel free to call me anytime.

WA Mtnhunter

I think all of us will miss John Barsness writing in Rifle and Handloader magazines. I'm sure he will continue to be published elsewhere.

Glad to see there are still .257 Roberts fans out there what with all the short magnum mania.

A civilized and efficient cartridge no doubt.

Clay Cooper

Thanks to each and every one of you praising us Vets.


As a Owner of a Medical Billing Service, I occasionally get a terminally ill or special medical needs Disabled Vet claim across my disk and the VA treats them like dog crap on the bottom of their shoes and turns down there claim. They do not get the support they need!




Thanks for your kind words. Try to reach me through my live hunt pageat the link below the post. You have to setup a page of your own to comment and cvontact (if you don't have one yet), but it's free and except for being slow to load a really good "my space" kind of site for hunters!

Peter W. Melera


I am new to using a rifle for deer hunting as until a few years ago shotguns were pretty much it for the area around Cooperstown, NY where I was raised and have hunted for nearly 50 years. But when rifles were allowed I chose to use both a Model 1899 Savage 303 my Dad had gotten in the late 40's and more recently a new Browning X Bolt in 25-06. I'm still learning on the X bolt and am having some trouble dealing with obtaing a quick site picture through the scope. The 303 is another story, and with its open sights and diminutive size it is a pleasure to shoot, quick and easy handling. And its rotary magazine is a terrific. Not only that, but thanks to finding two boxes, 40 rounds, of ammo this past fall, I was able to sight it in, and at 100 yards it is right on! I was pleased to read in your latest Field and Stream article that you listed both the 303 Savage and the 25-06 as two of the best deer rifles ever made. I cannot yet comment about the 25-06 (except that it is very accurate) but the 303 is a wonderful rifle, particularly in the heavily wooded areas I generally hunt. I simply cannot understand why it has been discontinued. And the fact that one can no longer buy ammunition for it really sucks! I took my first deer with it at 50 yards last week. One shot and the animal dropped in its tracks. I now have about 20 rounds left. At my age that should be enough but if you know of any place to find more I'd love to hear about it.



Peter Melera,
and anyone else,
There's a website at ows-ammo.com
(stands for Old Western Scrounger) that has oddball ammunition etc.
They have found stuff for me that I thought wasn't available anymore, such as ammo for calibers that haven't been made for almost 100 years, such as 40-65 and 40-82 for a couple old Model 86 Winchesters I stumbled across.
Good fun spot to shop for the odd stuff.
I did see they had Savage 303 in stock.
Good luck.


I have a 303 Savage rifle and am thinking or having it re chambered, Is this a good idea and if so what round should it be chambered to?

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