Monday, August 25, 2008

Quick Fix For Scope Movement on Savage 111FXP3

I own a Savage 111FXP3 model 30:06 bolt action on which I have mounted a Muller Red Dot 3X9X40 scope with a battery operated red dot. I really like this set up and am pleased with the performance of both the gun and the scope. The Savage has shown a liking for 150 grain and some 165 grain factory loads. The 180's would be fine for a baited bear hunt at known ranges under 75 yards, however beyond that, the gun will not group the 180 grainers very well. This does not disturb me much as I also own a Ruger Hawkeye in .338 Federal and also a Ruger Mdl 77 in .350 Remington Mag. If I need bullets heavier than the 150 or 165's in a 30:06, these other calibers can deliver that in spades. I also have a Marlin Mdl 1895 in 45-70 caliber. Out to 150 yards or so, that particular gun stuffed with Buffalo Bore 405 grain slugs is a real thumper.

Back to the Savage. I have had the scope shift forward in the rings twice now after 40-50 rounds have been fired through it. Nothing is loose per se and the rings were snugged down tight. The scope shifted forward enough over time that the variable turn knob ends up butting up against the rear ring, making it difficult if not impossible to turn the variable adjustment knob.

I was up in Maine last week on vacation and visited the Kittery Trading post there and spoke to their scope man about the problem. His quick fix was to cut a couple of pieces of wider than average rubberbands and lay them in the bottom half of the scope rings, align the scope for proper eye relief etc. and tighten down the rings again with the rubber bands in place. I did that and after firing about 30 rounds at the range on Saturday, it has not moved. Weather permitting, I am going back to the club tonight and try to decide whether to sight in using the Hornady 150 Grain Interbonds, or the Winchester 150 grain PP.

Both shot well at 100 yards, with the Hornady turning in a 3/4 inch 3 shot center to center group and the Winchesters, turning in a 1.25 3 shot center to center group.
The crazy part is the point of impact on the Hornady's at 200 yards was approximately 4 inches high and 3.5 inches to the right. The Winchesters on the other hand were dead on elevation wise and maybe 1/2 inch to the right of the target.

To be fair to the testing process, the bbl was getting very hot, as I had sent some 30 rounds down range without letting it cool sufficiently.

I took the gun home, cleaned it and if I have an opportunity tonight, I am going to test two three shot groups at both 100 and 200 yards with both loads and show the results here. The gun also seems to like Remington 150 grain PSP Corelokts, however I have none in stock right now.


Friday, August 22, 2008

The Possibles Bag

What should one put into a possibles bag before heading for the woods? That is a good question. I am one of those who would rather take it and not need it, than need it, and not have it. Over the years, I have taken too much stuff into the woods with me, especially for a one day hunt close to home.

I now take:

7 speedloaders /Never needed more than two
12 /209 primers /(TC makes a neat little carrier for these)
1 flashlight
1 knife
1 compass
1 spare breech plug / haven’t needed this yet either
1 take down tool /(TC makes an all in one tool)
1 breech plug wrench
several wet cleaning patches / pre packaged
several dry cleaning patches
1 screw in t-handle for my ramrod/ (TC makes these)
1 extender swivel jag
1 roll of black plastic electrician’s tape /(for muzzle if it is raining or even just to keep dirt and debris out of the muzzle if you slip and fall)
1 small pair of needle nose pliers / for stubborn 209 removal
1 patch worm – if a cleaning patch comes off the jag

In addition to all this, I carry a backpack of some sort with lunch, water, thermos, GPS Unit, extra compass, thick pad to sit on, foldable shooting sticks, some parachute cord, spare pull over face mask hat, lightweight rain poncho, scents, rattle bag, grunt calls, t-paper, handi wipes, scent killer spray, gum-o-flage for breath etc. I also carry a good pair of 8X42 Binos with me around my neck in a bino harness.

In my vehicle trunk, I keep a plastic toolbox, with other tools, extra saboted bullets, (either pyrodex pellets or pyrodex RS loose powder), cleaning rod and supplies, extra 209 primers etc.

I normally stay out all day if I can, because over the years, I have shot a lot of bucks around mid day when many hunters hit the local diner for a bowl of chili. When they go out for lunch, the bucks are moving around.

Where can you buy a decent possibles bag? Buffalo Bill’s Shooting Store on the web, has a good selection of traditional leather and felt bags along with “ball bags” ranging in price from $5.95 for their round ball bags up to around $168.75 for some of their custom leather bags.

Of course BassPro, Cabelas, Gander Mountain and others have a variety of camo bags made of different materials which are priced very reasonable. Cabela’s makes a “Long Hunter”, soft fleece bag in camo with several compartments to keep your items separate. I carry one of these with my TC Encore 209/50. At the time of this article, that bag sells for $33.99.

There are also possibles bags with a belt loop that carry the bare necessities for those who like to travel light.


3/8 inch 3 shot group 100 yards with Federal 130 Grain Hi Shok Factory Load

200 yards on paper plate target with 150 grain round nose

“Jack O’Connor’s Beloved .270 Win”

The .270 Win was developed by Winchester Arms Co. in 1923 and had its debut in 1925 in Winchester’s, bolt action mdl 54. It has been in continuous production since that date. I am not talking about the Mdl 54 rifle itself, but of course the .270 Win cartridge. The round started out with a 130 grain bullet at around 3140 fps and was later reduced to around 3060fps. Later a 100 grain varmint load was added and a 150 grain load for game up to and including moose. Over the years, the .270 has been offered in single shots, lever actions, bolt actions, pumps, semi-autos and rare double rifles. It has been offered in bullet weights from 90 to 180 grains for handloaders. Factory loads have included, 100, 130, 140, 150 and 165 grain weights. Most popular have been the 130-150 grain loads. One of the newest loads is the Winchester XP3 load in 130 grain weight. Per Winchester specs, this load has a MV of 3050fps, and ME of 2685 foot pounds and drops just 6.5 inches at 300 yards when sighted dead on at 200 yards.

When I was a kid growing up, I used to pour over the various ballistics tables and memorized the data for several factory cartridges. I also read much of what was in print at the time from both Jack O’Connor and Elmer Keith. They were from different schools of thought on killing power, I.E. “small bore/high velocity rounds” (vs.) “big bore, heavier bullets”. Elmer of course was from the big slow moving bullet school of thought and once in print indicated, “The .270 Win was a damned adequate coyote rifle”. The debate went on for years between these two talented gentlemen, however I always felt there was room for both schools of thought.

I own a .270, which of course was Jack’s rifle of choice in large part and I also own a .338 Federal, and a 45-70 which falls on the Elmer Keith side of the fence. I also own a .35 Remington, which from a bore size perspective is on Elmer’s list but would fall short in the energy department.

The .270 Win is by the way, if my sources are correct, the second most popular caliber coming in right behind the 30:06 in terms of ammunition sales. O’Connor was also very fond of the 30:06 and used it quite a bit. The 2007 edition of Cabela’s shooting catalog list no less than 21 different factory loads for the .270 from six different manufacturers. Cartridges come and go, however the .270 has stood the test of time since 1925.

My .270 is a Ruger 77/MKII with a synthetic stock and stainless bbl and action. This gun has been a backup on several hunts and yet I have never taken a big game animal with it. It has been with me to Maine several times and also went to Saskatchewan on a whitetail hunt and to Canada on a moose hunt. I owned another Ruger mdl 77/MKII at the time in .300 Win mag and since that gun never failed me, the .270 stayed in camp. I no longer own, the .300 mag (regrettably so), and perhaps the .270 will become the rifle of choice on some future hunts.

Mine wears a Simmons Aetec 2.8X10X44 (1st generation scope and not the newer Master series). The rifle has always shot both 130 grain and, 150 grain loads well. I once shot a 1.25”, 200 yard group with this gun using Federal 130 grain hydrashok loads. That particular bullet is no longer made by Federal, and it is now sighted in with Winchester 150 grain power points. The Winchester’s recently produced a 100 yard ¾” 3 shot group center to center. Remington 150 grain core lokts produced a 1.25”, center to center 3 shot group at essentially the same point of impact and Federal 150 grain Fusion load went into 2.5” for a 3 shot group. I left out the 140 grain loads for a reason, as my particular rifle will simply not shoot them well. If your rifles does, then the 140 grain load is a good compromise between the 130 and 150 grain loads.

The .270 has a bad rap in some circles from an accuracy standpoint and for that matter, so does the Ruger. Personally I have NOT found that to be the case. In fact, the Ruger MKII in .270 has proven to be one of the most consistently accurate rifles in my safe. I did have a trigger jog done on it by Allen Timney in Cerritos, CA when the rifle was new, which contributes in the accuracy dept. Other than that modification, the gun is the same as it left the factory. I have always admired the Ruger integral ring set up as one of the most rugged in the industry.

If your pursuit is long range deer in the Midwest, whitetails in the Maine woods, or black bear over bait, you can’t go wrong with a .270 Win in your hands.

Dan 10/11/2007

Proverbs 22:2 KJV "The rich and poor meet together; the Lord is the maker of them all"



20 Gauge or 12 Gauge For Slug Hunting Deer
There is an ongoing debate of sorts on the 12 GA (vs.) the 20 GA for deer hunting. The truth of the matter is, that both are entirely adequate. Although my very first deer was killed with a Remington semi-auto 20 gauge with foster slugs, all the rest of my deer with a shotgun have been with Ithaca Deerslayer 12 gauges.

Let’s take a look at the 20 GA. The old rule of thumb is that it takes 1000 foot pounds of energy at the target to humanely harvest a whitetail deer. The 20 gauge utilizing the Win Supreme 2 ¾ inch Partition Gold load uses a 260 grn bullet at apprx 1900 fps and a ME of 2084 ft lbs. This exceeds the 30-30 Winchester load and we all know the 30-30 is near the top of list for taking the most deer over the years. The 3 inch version of this load adds a 100 fps, and 225 ft lbs of ME. We are talking about premium slugs in a rifled barrel. I assume anyone purchasing a new shotgun for hunting deer would go with a rifled slug barrel version (vs.) the old IC, or straight cylinder bored bbl, utilizing Foster Slugs. As mentioned I killed my first deer (8 point buck) using a 20 GA and Foster slugs. That deer was taken cleanly through the chest at about 20 yards. In the days when most of us were relegated to Foster Type slugs, the 20 GA was probably a 75 yard gun. If truth be known, so was the 12GA except more so because of accuracy than energy levels. I never thought about it much in those days, since most deer were (and still are) taken under the 75 yard mark. Today with rifled slugs available from Winchester, Remington, Federal, Lightfield, Hornady, and Hastings, that range can be extended out to 125 yards or a bit beyond. Hastings now makes a 3.5 inch 20 gauge slug, that weighs 410 grains and has a ME of 2000 ft lbs. It shoots fairly flat and retains the energy needed for deer out to around 175 yards. Of course, now you have to factor in the reason you selected a 20GA in the first place………..LIGHTER recoil primarily.

I killed the majority of all the deer I have ever taken with a vintage Ithaca Deerslayer with a cylinder choke bbl and wearing a Weaver K2.5 fixed power scope. I switched from Federals, to Remington’s and then onto Winchester Foster slugs over the years. I found my particular gun, shot the Winchesters best. I rarely had any deer go more than 50 yards after taking one of those slugs in the chest. I gave my old Deerslayer to my son-in-law a couple of years ago for Christmas, and upgraded to a NEW Ithaca Deerslayer II Storm Model with a rifled bbl. I had a trigger job done on it, the stock shortened a little for me and a LimbSaver recoil pad put on it. I topped it off with a Nikon Prostaf 2X7X32 scope and have since switched the scope to a Simmons Master Series Pro-Hunter, also in 2X7X32. It was a natural transition for me to stay with the 12GA that has served me so well over most of my deer hunting adventures. The debate will continue over the 12GA (vs.) the 20 Ga, and my 2 cents will not change that much. I am NOT particularly recoil shy, and have on different occasions ran up to 20 /¾ OZ (360 grain) Federal Barnes Expander slugs through this gun off the sandbags in a T-shirt. I was no worse for wear from the experience. When hunting with this gun, I never have noticed the recoil.

As mentioned elsewhere on my BLOG (, my brother-in-law uses an old Remington Pump action 16 gauge with Foster slugs and has great luck with that combo. He rarely takes a shot much over 50 to 75 yards.

I think the debate is a lot of controversy over nothing. BOTH, the 20GA and the 12GA are adequate for the task at hand. I love the 12GA and always have, however if you want to hunt with a 20GA, I respect you for it. Different strokes for different folks. Both have had a lot of research and gains made in more streamlined, aerodynamic rifled slugs, and both will take deer cleanly inside their respective range. My Ithaca 12GA Storm model will put 5 shots easily covered by the palm of your hand out to 125 yards and on occasion out to 150 yards. That is not far behind most in-line muzzleloaders. I have had great success with the Federal Barnes Expander loads, however this next summer I am going to experiment with the Hornady SST 12 Ga loads. I try to stay on top of the technology, however part of me believes in the old adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.


Proverbs 18:24 KJV "A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly, and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother"

TC Thumbhole Omega .50 cal ML


TC Thumbhole Laminated Stainless Omega .50 cal

As mentioned in the Encore article, I am now down to only two muzzleloaders. Both are Thompson Center’s and both are .50 cal. I love both of these guns, however I think the Omega is a little easier to clean and maintain. It of course is not a break open action like the Encore and thus none of the concerns over “Hinge Pin” tightness, free floating the forearm wings etc. The Omega trigger is decent out of the box at between 3 and 4 pounds, and comes with excellent adjustable sights for those areas that still do not allow a scope for ML seasons. I read complaints about the slippery trigger face, noisy cocking etc., however those points do not bother me much. The Encore of course is more versatile in that you have a choice of purchasing additional barrels in a wide variety of centerfire, & rimfire calibers and even shotgun slug barrels. I already own several rimfires, centerfires and a dedicated rifled slug shooting Ithaca Deerslayer Storm 12 ga. For that reason, my Encore is also a dedicated .50 cal ML.

The original Omega was brought out by TC Arms in 2002, and it has been one of their biggest success stories. Mine wears a laminated one piece thumbhole stock and I consider it an excellent gun for a tree stand or for someone who sits on stand most of the day. It sits very stable in the hands even in the offhand shooting position.

The gun uses a drop action system activated by pushing forward on the extended trigger guard. This exposes the breech plug and makes it easy to cap and deprime the gun using either a 209 capper or even your fingers. One minor annoyance is that occasionally one of the spent 209 primers, falls down into the action and you have to turn the gun a little and gently shake it to make sure the spent primer comes out. It doesn’t happen often and when it does, it is easy to fix. There is no blowback of residue to the trigger assembly and other than pulling the breech plug, cleaning the bbl and wiping down what is visible from the rear with the action open, no further assembly is required. I DO remove the stock and wipe down the breech area and everywhere I can reach on the drop down trigger assembly before putting away for an extended period. This is in contrast to my Encore which I normally have to drive out the hinge pin, occasionally pull the swivel extractor and wipe down the inside of the exposed frame before reassembly. I honestly do not consider either gun a hassle to clean properly, however the Omega wins the easier cleaning award. I remind myself, that in my opinion, the Encore is handier to carry while still hunting, and the trigger on mine is at 2 ½ pounds and very crisp with no over travel. Both of these guns have now been updated with the Omega being replaced by the Triumph and the Encore by the Encore Pro. Progress never stops and I guess that is why they call it progress. You can still find a lot of NEW Omegas and the original version of the Encore 209/50 rifles out there at great prices.

The gun is capable of producing groups on the order of 1.5 to 2 inches with a variety of loads. The breech plugs are interchangeable with the Encore 209/50. They are reasonably priced from a number of outlets and I own several as during extended range sessions, I will normally pull the breech plug, clean the barrel and threads and install a clean breech plug while allowing the bbl to cool down. I always carry an extra one in my possibles bag in the event I need to pull the plug in the field and accidentally drop it and can’t find it in the leaves, or grass etc. The sights and bases and rings are also interchangeable with the Encore.

I have used mostly Pyrodex 50 grain pellets and Pyrodex RS loose powder in this gun along with Winchester 209 primers. I plan on putting in a couple of range sessions with this gun and running a variety of saboted bullets and powders through it along with experimenting with the Win 777 primers (vs.) the Remington Kleen Bore primers. I should mention that even though the Omega is advertised with a 28” bbl as opposed to the Encore’s 26” bbl, they are both essentially 26”.


I forgot to mention that my Omega is topped off with a Bushnell Legend 2X7X32 scope. I consider this scope a good buy for the money. The adjustments are precise, and the scope has held up through over 300 rounds sent down range through the Omega. This scope is the Best of the Bushnell low end scopes (including the Banner series, and the Trophy line). It retails for right around $149.95.

I obtained (two) ½ inch center to center groups at 100 yards with the 240 Grain XTP, using two 50 grain pyrodex pellets and the new Win 777 primers.

I obtained a ½ inch center to center group with two pyrodex pellets and the Barnes 245 Grain spitzer using Win 777 primers.

I then switched to Triple 777/fffg powder and dropped my load down to 90 grains as I had been having no luck at all in either the Omega or the Encore 209/50 with loads of triple 777 from 100 to 120 grains. I shot a 2 1/2 inch center to center group with the same Barnes 245 Grn Spitzer and a 2 ¾ inch groups with 90 grains 777/fffg and the 300 grain XTP. I am coming to the conclusion that for some yet unattainable reason, neither my Omega or the Encore like triple 777 powder. NOT to worry, as they both seem to like Pyrodex pellets and Pyrodex RS loose powder.

I have had several groups with 100 to 110 grains of loose Pyrodex RS powder behind the 240 and 300 grain XTP, 295 grain powder Belts, 245 Grain Barnes Spitzer, 300 Grain Precision QT and 260 grain Precision dead centers that were all under 2 inches at 100 yards.

Your Omega might absolutely love triple 777 powder including pushing the envelope to 120 or 130 grains of either ffg or fffg. Mine for reasons unknown to me at this time, simply does not shoot well with 777 powder in any load from 90-120 grains of fffg. I have tried a dozen or more bullets through it and the groups while acceptable for deer hunting out to 120 yards or so, have not impressed me.

I have also tried American Pioneer powder and have been totally unimpressed with the results from that powder trying several different combinations of bullets.

For that reason, I will probably stick with Pyrodex RS or the pellets. Right now for this fall, I will settle on the 2/50 grain pellets and the Barnes 245 Grain Spitzer (target shown here) and consider myself fortunate. I am about 1.5 inches high at 100 yards and dead center and that will give me an effective load out to 150 yards and perhaps a bit further. I don’t lose sleep on the “bit further” as most deer are taken on the near side of 100 yards, especially where I hunt. I would not hesitate to use the 240 or 300 grain XTP either and both are very consistent. Point of impact of course varies and on my gun if I move my scope adjustment UP(4) ¼ min clicks and left (7) ¼ min clicks, I can switch point of impact from the Barnes load back to the 240 grn XTP.

I try to keep an record of this if I find TWO or more loads that shoot really well. The 240 grain XTP and the 245 grain Barnes spitzer both shoot well under an inch and by a simple scope adjustment, I can be sighted in for one or the other in seconds.

Little things:

When I remove the stock from the gun to do a more thorough cleaning job, I want to make sure I replace it exactly the way it was. Muzzle loading of course is a game of consistency. You must be consistent in your measuring of powder charges, using the same primer, the same bullet, applying the same pressure to your ramrod, making sure your scope is aligned property and you are not canting the gun when shooting, etc. etc. Once I find a load or two the gun really likes to eat, I want to replace that stock and screws with exactly the same pressure as it was when I shot those great groups. On the Omega, I made a small mark on the laminated stock with a black marker pen to identify the position of the two screws for tightness. I then put a small dab of white out on one edge of the screw slot matching up with the mark on the stock. Now, I can remove the stock, clean the gun and know that I am putting it back together, just like it came apart.

If you are contemplating buying an Omega, I think you will be pleased with your purchase. Dan 8/2/07

Proverbs 28:6 KJV "Better is the poor that walketh in his uprightness, than he that is perverse in his ways, though he be rich"

Thursday, August 14, 2008

TC Encore 209/50 Accuracy Tips

300 Grain Precision Rifle sabot / 100 yards

Accuracy Tips For the TC Encore 209/50 ML

Every gun is a law unto itself and what may shoot well in my gun, will not necessarily shoot well in yours. This is true even though they are identical in make, model and caliber and come off the assembly line at the same time. Following are some practical accuracy tips and suggested loads to try in your 209/50.

I will list several items to check and perhaps modify to get the best accuracy out of your Encore. These are NOT in order of importance as they all play a role in getting the most out of your muzzleloader.

· Trigger job – All else being equal, you will never shoot your best with a heavy, gritty or mushy trigger pull. My gun out of the box had a trigger pull in the neighborhood of 5 lbs. After some excellent work performed by E. Arthur Brown Co., it now has a crisp, light 2 ½ pound trigger pull with an over travel screw installed. Trust me, when I say this makes a big difference, especially beyond the 100 yard mark.
· Quality bases and scope mounts, along with a quality scope. I have experienced a bad set of rings on three different rifles over the years. I had a set of Millet rings and two sets of Weaver style rings that were bad out of the box. I am not knocking Millet or Weaver rings, as both make a quality product. Remember why the auto industry has a “lemon law”, as even a $30,000 automobile escapes out the factory now and then that is defective. My current rings on the Encore 209/50 are “Warne Maxima’s” and they work very well. Other options include but are not limited to “Interlock Magnum” rings and one piece base as sold by E. Arthur Brown. Another option is a one piece base and rings made by Tally and listed on the Cabela’s website for $49.99. There are many other good combinations out there, however room does not permit listing them all.
· Free floating the forearm – You should be able to easily slip a sheet of computer paper between the frame and the wings of the forearm where they cover the hinge pin. If not, then the side pressure of the forearm wings as they bear up against the frame, could throw your shots to the left or right and cause inconsistency from one shot to the next. My Encore wears a black synthetic stock. I did experiment with putting rubber washers between the forearm and the barrel studs to free float the forearm channel. It did not seem to make any difference in group size on my gun.
· Tightening the hinge area is another important area. I have seen several proposed solutions to this problem. I have seen solutions as simple as buying Aluminum AC duct type tape with a white peel off paper backing. This was an inexpensive and quick fix to the hinge pin moving to the left and right and causing inconsistency and large groups. Tape is reputed to stay put stopping the lateral movement and solving the problem. When it is time to remove it, it comes of easily. This can be found on the Precision Rifle website.

The most recent solution seems to be a replacement hinge pin called the Encore Locker Pin and consists of a hinge pin with a locking side cap held in place by a small screw. This would definitely stop the side to side movement, however I am not sure if it would do anything for the rotation movement, or actually tightening the hinge. This retails for $39.95 plus shipping and can be purchased from Precision Rifle or E. Arthur Brown Co.

I went with what I feel is possibly the best solution as offered by Mike Bellm at I ordered Mike’s oversize #1 and #2 hinge pin kit which at the time of this article retails for $28.80. It made the most sense to me to fix both the side to side and rotational movement and to effectively TIGHTEN the hinge. The #1 standard pin is apprx .4377 diameter or .0005 which is ½ of one thousandth of an inch larger than most factory hinge pins, and the #2 pin is apprx .4383 diameter. Mike indicates that in about 75% of the cases, either the #1 or #2 hinge pin will solve the problem. In my case following his detailed, but easy to understand instructions that came with the pins, the #1 pin has effectively tightened my hinge and improved accuracy. The #2 pin I felt was too large. With the #1 pin in place, there is now NO side to side or rotational movement and the lockup is tighter and more consistent. To Quote Mike, “There should be an interference fit of the hinge pin and the action should open and close like a high grade trap gun, or English double rifle or like a bank vault”.

I should mention here that this kit requires NO measuring, NO reaming out of any holes and comes with complete instructions for installation. Since there is No reaming or enlarging existing holes, etc. this may or may not affect the warranty on your gun. For further explanation of the hinge pin kit, trigger jobs, action work and other services offered by Mike, contact him by e-mail above, or

· QLA – if you have tried all of the above and are still having group therapy problems or concerns, do a visual check of the QLA (Quick Load Accurizer – free bore space of apprx 1 inch in the end of the muzzle). If you can shine a light into the end of the bbl and check for any unevenness, this might be an area that Mike Bellm could help with as well. If the QLA is not aligned and cut properly, it could cause you to start bullets down the bore tipped slightly to one side and again cause accuracy problems. My QLA passed the visual inspection.

On my own Encore, I have installed the Bellm #1 oversize hinge pin, had a trigger job performed, sanded the wings or ears of the forearm to free float those areas to ensure no side to side pressure, installed quality bases and rings and topped it off with a Mueller 2X7X32 red dot illuminated scope.

Since my website is geared for the working man, let’s add up the expense:

E. Arthur Brown Co. trigger job - $50/send in your action, sans scope and barrel
Mike Bellm’s #1 and #2 hinge pin kit $28.80
Sand Paper for free floating forearms - $2.00
Warne Maxima rings - $30.00
Mueller 2X7X32 red dot illuminated scope - $139.95 (E. Arthur Brown Co.)
Bases – one piece base for Encore apprx $15.00

$265.75 for the entire package. Remember that figure includes the accuracy work and what I consider a great scope for the money. Accuracy work alone in my case amounted to only to $80.80.

Does every Encore 209/50 need this tune up? The short answer here is NO. My guess is that thousands of these guns have been made and most leave the TC factory performing like they should and they are most assuredly a quality firearm and built to last. If your particular gun is not shooting as well as you think it should, one or more of these tips will give you somewhere to start looking for the problem. If you have one of the thousands of Encores that do not need to have anything done to them other than a quality scope sitting on top of quality bases and rings, then God Bless you and don’t knock it.

Over the past 12 years, I have owned several muzzleloaders. Among them, were CVA’s, Traditions, Knights and my previous favorite, the Ruger 77/50. I now own only two, and they are both TC’s. One is the Encore 209/50, pictured here and the other is a TC laminated, stainless thumbhole stocked Omega. I made the right decision for me and you can bet I am a fan of TC Arms. If I were in the market for a new muzzleloader today, I would look probably look at the Savage ML w/accutrigger. I plan on an upcoming article with my brother’s Savage.

Now, let’s go to the range and come up with some loads that will be a good place for you to start from.

First of all, I swab between every single shot. I use one pre-moistened and one dry patch and then put in my powder charge or pellets, and seat my chosen bullet, cap it with either a Winchester 209 primer or the new Win 777 primer and I am good to go. I do NOT use bore butter in my muzzleloader in between shots and I do not buy into the “Seasoning your bore like a cast iron griddle” philosophy. IF it works for you, go for it. My feeling is that I am shooting a stainless steel barreled muzzleloader and not a cast iron griddle. I don’t honestly feel you can season a stainless steel bore. I used to buy into that and when I first took any seasoned muzzleloader out of storage and ran a wet patch down the bore before loading, it ALWAYS came out brown colored and rusty, especially with blued steel sidelocks. I have also read that seating sabots on top of the powder charge in a bore treated with bore butter, allows the sabot to creep back up towards the muzzle and off the powder charge. I don’t feel you should use bore butter or any lubricant on the base of the sabot. Again, if this method works for you and you are happy, I am not here to convince you differently. I load my saboted loads down a clean dry barrel and they seat nicely and stay put. After cleaning my muzzleloader and before storing it, I run a patch lightly coated with a product called “Clenzoil” down the bore/ Since adopting that procedure, my first dry patch down the bore after storage comes out with no discoloration and no rust. I have never had any contamination of the powder charge using this product for storage. I always run one dry patch down the bore before loading.

I have recently ordered some triple 777 powder and Win triple 777 primers. As soon as they arrive, I will include the range results in this article.

While on the subject of ignition or volume of fire to the powder charge, here is another area with different solutions being offered. It has been somewhat established that the typical 209 shot shell primer is simply more fire than is needed to ignite a given powder charge of Pyrodex RS or pellets or the newer triple 777 powder. It seems that the ignition is so hot and explosive that the projectile is actually being lifted off the powder charge slightly before the powder burns and propels the bullet out the barrel. This causes inconsistent groups and a crud ring just ahead of the breech plug, especially with the 777 powder. I never experienced this with Pyrodex and the explanation I guess is that Pyrodex is charcoal based and the newer triple 777 powder is sugar carbon based. The hotter 209 primers result in more heat and a faster peak pressure which causes the crud ring with triple 777. As mentioned I always swab between every shot anyway regardless of the powder I am using, so it has not been a big problem for me.

Proposed solutions out there currently include purchasing a small rifle primer adapter kit selling for $24.95 from both Precision Rifle and E. Arthur Brown Co. Advertised results look good, however this solution requires purchasing the kit, extra adapter’s as time goes buy and the added expense of the small rifle primers.

An earlier version of this and still available uses an after market modified breech plug and the use of .25ACP cases and again switching to small rifle primers.

I read some articles on the new Winchester triple 777 primers which Cabela’s sells for $29.99 for a 500 pack plus regular shipping and a $20.00 hazardous shipping fee. I am going to try this FIRST as it seems to me the least hassle to solve the “TOO MUCH FIRE” in the hole problem. I think that both the .25 ACP and the Vari Flame Adapter solutions probably accomplish the same task, however one requires a custom after market breech plug and both require small rifle primers and extra tools. Depending on your powder selection, it could be an answer to a problem that doesn’t exist.

The Win 777 primers utilize the existing TC breech plugs and this solution makes the most sense to me. TC designed these guns to work with 209 primers. I find it difficult to believe that your gun will not shoot unless you buy a custom after market breech plug, an adapter kit and small rifle primers.

Some saboted bullet loads that shoot very well and have proven themselves in the field are; Barnes 245 Grain Spitfires, Hornady XTP’’s in both 250 and 300 grain persuasion, TC 250 grain shockwaves and Buffalo Bore 375 grain sabots. All of these have produced sub two inch groups at 100 yards, using 100 grains of Pyrodex RS or 2/50 grain pellets. 295 grain Powerbelts have never shot well in any previously owned muzzleloaders, however they are around 2.5 inches center to center in the Encore. I have also had sub two inch groups with Dead Center saboted loads in the 260 and 300 grain version.
Another interesting choice would have to include the NEW Harvester muzzleloading bullets in both the saboted 260 and 300 grain Scorpion version and also the Saber Tooth belted bullets in .50 cal. The belted bullets in 250, 270, 300 and 350 grain are an excellent replacement for the Power Belts. In brief the power belts are NOT bore sized conicals at all and are in fact undersized which is why they fit so easily down your bore. The only contact with the bore is the plastic skirt or belt attached to the bottom. In some bores they load too easily and can come up off the powder charge if the muzzle of your gun is carried facing downwards as it should be. The Harvester bullets as I understand are actually .502 and the bottom of the bullet is indexed so the bullet actually fits inside of the belt. The Harvester Sabre Tooth belted bullets eliminate the hole in the center of the power belts and therefore should have a better gas seal. I am ordering (4) packs of the 260 grain Scorpion .451 PT gold polymer tip from Midsouth Shooter Supply for $8.31/12 pack. (4) packs of the Scorpion funnel tip sabots would be only $5.59/12 pack. I will add range photos to the website after trying these loads. In the interim, visit and read the testimonials and judge for yourself.

The neat thing about muzzleloading is you simply have to do a lot of shooting off the bench at 50 to 200 yards to determine for yourself what will work in your rifle. If you are happy with 2 to 3 inch groups at 100 yards, then there are a number of projectiles out there which will accomplish that for you using either 100 grains of Pyrodex or Triple 777. If you want better than that and want to regularly obtain groups in the ¾ to 1 inch variety at 100 yards, you are going to have to pay attention to the accuracy tips outlined above and you are going to have to put some time in at the bench. You can’t wait until two days before opening day, stop at Wally World and pick up a pack of 295 grain powerbelts, shoot it once at a rock on the side hill and go hunting. I know there are guys out there who do this every year, and a lot of them take their deer. Personally I get a lot of satisfaction out of trying to find that one load that my particular rifle likes to eat and in knowing that I can make a given shot on demand, because I have done my homework. To quote Dirty Harry Callahan from Magnum Force, “A man has got to know his limitations”. If you have not done your homework at the bench, experimented with powders, bullets, primers etc. out to 200 yards, then simply do not ATTEMPT a 200 yard shot. The same can be applied at 150 yards or whatever distance you are shooting. If you are not sure, you can make the shot, then don’t pull the trigger.

That being said, “Let’s look at some results”.

7/4/07 using 100 grains of Pyrodex RS loose powder and a Precision 300 grain QT load/ / with Win 209 ML primers (NOT the new 777 primers), I obtained a three shot center to center 1.5 inch group at a lasered 100 yards.

7/4/07 using 100 grains of Pyrodex RS loose powder and 295 Grain power Belt HO along with Win 209 ML primers, I obtained a three shot group of 1.5 inches at 100 yards.

7/12/07 using 100 grains of triple 777 powder behind a 250 grain TC shockwave and Remington Kleen Bore primers, I shot a ½ inch center to center group at 100 yards. This only a two shot group as a thunder storm drove me off the shooting range.

A couple of observations concerning 777 powder and the Remington Kleen Bore primers. The triple 777 powder was noticeably easier to clean and less residue in the bore and in and around the breech plug area than has been my experience with Pyrodex RS. I have read conflicting reports on the Remington Kleen Bore primers, however I have personally been through over 200 of these now with NO misfires, NO hang fires and a noticeably cleaner breech plug after shooting. My supply of these is about exhausted so I am switching to the newer Win 777 primers, however I have had ZERO problems with the Remington primers.

I will be following up with some additional groups using the harvester 260 Scorpion loads and the new Win 777 primers. It is fun to experiment with different bullets, powders and primers. It is also neat to take a good gun and personalize it and try to make it better. In all of this, I try to remind myself that I have killed 27 deer over the years with a 12 Ga Ithaca deerslayer with an old Weaver K2.5 scope mounted on it and foster slugs. That shotgun was “minute of pie plate” accurate, however it was state of the art at the tie for shotguns. My son-in-law inherited that gun and still hunts with it.

Dan 7/13/07

Proverbs 21:21 KJV "He that followeth after righteousness and mercy findeth life, righteousness, and honour"

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Marlin Lever Action Model 336 in .35 Remington

“The Quintessential Eastern Woods Rifle”

This evening I went to the local gun club with one of my favorite rifles for whitetails and black bear. It is the Marlin mdl 336 in .35 Remington. This gun has its origin in the work of John M. Marlin born in 1836 in Connecticut. During the civil war, John worked for Colt and in 1870, he hung his sign out on State Street in New Haven, Connecticut. He started out making his own revolvers and derringers. He was able to attract some very talented individuals to his business resulting in Marlin models 1891 and 1893. The model 1891 of course was used by Annie Oakley in her shows. Those model are what are today known as the famous mdl 39 and the mdl 336. These happen to be the oldest shoulder arms in the world still being produced. Guess you could say the mdl 336 has been around for a while.

All you have to do is pick one up, close your eyes and shoulder it and you understand why it is so popular. In addition to the nostalgia of growing up with TV Westerns, it points like an extension of your arm. I used to own one with a receiver sight installed and in my then youthful eyes, it was deadly. As I remember it had different screw in apertures and I created my own “ghost ring” set up by simply removing the aperture for quick alignment. My current one wears a 1.5X4.5X20 Swift scope and I think I am faster today with that scope on 2.5X than I was with the open sights back then.

I arrived at the gun club a little late and did not have a lot of time for testing, however the conditions were ideal. There was no perceptible wind at all and it was around 78 degrees out. It had been a while since I had a session with the .35 Rem and with limited time, I shot off the bench at 50 and 100 yards, per the range finder I was using.

As you can see from the photos, I ended up with a 50 yard group of 1.5 inches for 3 shots. I then moved the target out to 100 yards and in the fading light fired an additional 5 shots without letting the bbl cool. Interestingly enough the 100 yards group was also 1.5 center to center, extreme spread.

With those groups I will unlikely be heading for “Camp Perry” to compete, however you can be sure I will take it with me to the Adirondacks and likely to use it in some of the counties in NYS which opened to rifle last year. Most of our shots in NY for whitetails come on the near side of 100 yards and for that, the .35 Rem gets the job done.

I will be following this up with a range session using the new “Hornady Leverevolution” ammo in .35 Rem utilizing a special pointed tip bullet in 200 grain weight. The new load utilizes a special elastomer pointed flex tip that is SAFE in lever action rifles with tubular magazines like the mdl 336. The ballistic coefficient of the Hornady load is .300 (vs.) somewhere in the neighborhood of .195 for the round nose 200 grain slugs. If you are not into such numbers, it translates into the Hornady slug delivering more energy and retaining velocity better down range. I have yet to try a box as I had a good supply of the Remington 200 grain round nose core lokts on hand. I am going to pick up a box at the local Gander Mountain Store and repeat the exercise at 50 and 100 yards, and stretch that out to 175 and possibly 200 and report back.

Based on early test reports I expect to see quite an improvement in both group size and extending the range of the .35. It seemed to take a long time for Hornady to get this ammo on dealers shelves and now that it is finally here, I am going to test it.

Dan (original article 2007)

Proverbs 14:12 KJV "There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death"

Monday, August 11, 2008

Savage Weather Warrior .308 Win

100 yards/ 3 shots/ Winchester 150 grain PP

GET-ER-DONE” rifle in .308

If you are looking for a rifle that won’t break the family budget and will please anyone interested in nice looking, nice handling, weatherproof ACCURATE rifles, then read this article as this one will GET-ER-DONE.

I have always been a fan of the Win .308 cartridge. The .308 of course is the commercial name for the military 7.62X51mm NATO cartridge. It was introduced in 1952 as a commercial hunting round labeled the .308 Win. The two cases however are not exactly identical.

Brass is plentiful for this round if you are a handloader. The three most popular bullet weights in this caliber are the 150, 165 and 180 grain loads. It is possible to go lighter and heavier, however for the majority of hunting with this round, one of these three will serve you best. My understanding is that the most common barrel twist rate for this cartridge is 1 in 12, however the Savage Weather Warrior in .308 used for this test has a 1 in 10 twist. The 150 grain weight is an ideal whitetail load and my Savage likes the 150 grain Win PP factory loads the best. It will shoot the 165 grain and 180 grain loads with adequate big game hunting accuracy, but it does best with the 150’s. I would not even try to guess how many whitetails have fallen to the 150 grain soft point loads in both Winchester PP and Remington Core Lokt persuasion.

The subject of this article is the Savage Weather Warrior bolt action .308 w/AccuTrigger. The action of course is short. The weight is 6.5 lbs, with a magazine capacity of 4 rounds and as mentioned a twist rate of 1 in 10”. Stock is black synthetic with positive checkering and dual pillar bedding and a free floated & button rifled barrel. The ergonomics on this rifle are fantastic and combined with the light weight, make it a pleasure to tote into the woods or field.

Mine wears one of the newer Simmons Master Series 3X9X40 ProHunter models with hydra shield lens coating. I consider this scope a best buy for the working man and they can currently be found at SWFA for $99.00. Weight is 10.3 OZ, with 3.75 inches of eye relief and a field of view at 100 yards of 33-11. Features include the patented TrueZero adjustment system and a constant eye relief throughout the entire magnification range. They also feature a larger eye box for getting on target fast. Are the optics just as good as a Leupold for a lot less? NO, but they are better than you think they are and it beats buying a scope from under the counter at Wally World and putting it on your rifle. I have done a fair amount of shooting with two of these scopes on a .308 and another one on a .243. They hold their zero and the optics are a lot better than they should be for a C-note.

If you have twice that much to spend, then look at the Bushnell 3200 series 3X9X40 with rainguard and firefly. I mounted one of these on my Ruger Hawkeye .338 Federal and am very happy with it. In between those two prices I have had great luck with the Mueller 3X9X40 Red Dot scopes with 1/8 min clicks.

I previously had an older Simmons 2.5X10X44 Aetec on this rifle and used it on a deer hunt in Maine last fall. 3 out of the 5 days we hunted were in wet melting snow and pouring rain conditions. That is the primary reason I switched scopes to the Simmons with hydra shield.

Attached are photos of the rifle itself with Simmons scope and 3 targets. The first one is a 1 inch center to center group 3 shot group at 100 yards. The second one is 2 1/2” 3 shot group on the same target at 155 yards and the last one is an additional 3 shot group at 215 yards. The 215 yard group went into just under an inch.

This struck me as very strange except I had been doing a fair amount of firing in some pretty warm weather 85 degrees plus and the bbl was hot to the touch. I pulled the bolt, ran a few cleaning patches through the bore and let the rifle sit in the shade for a while to cool down before firing the last group. On the 155 yard group I was getting heat waves in the scope and the bbl was too hot to touch.

Any way you slice it all of the shots can be covered by the palm of my hand. I will go back and try some addl 3 shot groups letting the bbl cool completely between groups. I suspect it will prove this rifle is a real shooter and gets the job done with plain Jane vanilla flavored Win power points.

No Whitetail out to 250 yards will ever know the difference.

8/11/09 UPDATE - Since this article was written, I have found another load in the Federal Fusion 150 grain that also shoot right around 1-1 1/4 inches 100 yards and under 2.5 at 200 yards.

Dan 8/12/07

Psalms 138:2 KJV "I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy loving kindness, and for thy truth: for thos hast magnified thy word above thy name"

Ruger Hawkeye .338 Federal w/Bushnell 3200 scope

Ruger Hawkeye .338 Federal First Impressions

Power without pain, Provides the energy of a 7mm Magnum in a necked up .308 case, A rare moment of sanity cartridge wise, and Short Action Superlative are a few of the phrases coined to describe the new .338 Federal Cartridge. After my first bench session with the New Ruger matte stainless, synthetic stocked Hawkeye, I have to agree with all of the above.

This rifle could easily become one of my favorites, as it is a handsome piece, light in weight, short with great ergonomics, can be maneuvered through brush with one hand, points naturally, decent trigger out of the box and recoil is negligible.

The new Ruger Hawkeye has the improved LC6 trigger and mine out of the box was around 4.5 pounds and very smooth with no creep or grittiness to it. I think the average guy out there will love this trigger just as it is.

I mounted a Bushnell Elite 3200 3X9X40 with rainguard and firefly into the Ruger integral rings set up. I believe the integral rings on the Ruger to be one of the most rugged set ups in the business and one less thing to concern yourself with on an out of state hunt. As mentioned in my “Bigger Critter Rifle” article, I wanted a rifle in synthetic and stainless and liked the integral rings on the Ruger. The Hawkeye in my opinion is a better handling rifle that the Mdl77MKII which I also own in .270 Win. It just plain feels good in the hands and looks good leaning against the corner of the room too.

The .338 Federal is not very complicated and in essence is a .308 Win case necked up to accept a .338 bullet. As other writers have pointed out; it is short, but not fat. It is not a magnum and on the other hand doesn’t recoil like a magnum. Current factory loads are available from Federal:

· 180 grain Nosler Accubond
· 180 Grain Barnes Triple Shock X
· 200 Grain Fusion
· 210 Grain Nosler Partition

Velocity runs from around 2630 to 2830 depending on bullet weight. By virtue of availability, I purchased four boxes of the 200 Grain Fusion load. These are available and in stock at the time of this article from several mail order companies including Midsouth Shooter Supply for around $20 a box. I did notice the other loads are running almost twice that. Federal prints the velocity and energy figures right on the box, so I will share them here. At the muzzle, this load has 2660 FPS and 3140 ME. At the 100 yard mark, it is still traveling 2450 FPS and hits with 2665 ft lbs of energy. At 200 yards it is traveling 2250 and still hits with 2245 ft lbs. With a 100 yard zero, it is only –4.3 at 200 yards. It carries 1875 ft lbs of energy to the 300 yard mark where it drops –15.6 with a hundred yard zero. I dare say that most guys will sight this load in at between 1.5 and 3 inches high at 100 yards which should make it easy for a dead on hold on big game to around the 250 mark.

My first shot out of the Hawkeye was exactly 1.5 inches right and 1.5 inches high at exactly 25 yards. A slight adjustment and two more shots put me right on at 25. I then placed the target at a lasered 100 yards and shot two separate two shot groups both exactly 1 inch center to center.

I did run into one little glitch with the Ruger. I had a feeding problem occasionally when chambering a round and at first I thought the case neck was hanging up on the feeding ramp. I then discovered it was the bolt itself that was hanging up at the midway point. Not every time but often enough that it needed attention. It appeared that the base of the cartridge was not fully seating into the bolt face and this was preventing the bolt from closing smoothly.

UPDATE: 2013 - I did eventually send the rifle back to Ruger to look into the problem. They fixed it and paid shipping both ways. They stand behind their guns.

As mentioned on my web site, I am no longer into handloading. I have a full time business, in addition to this website. I simply do not have the time to load anymore, however I love to shoot. I am saving my brass for the .338 Federal and have someone locally who will handload these for me. It looks to me that the Federal Fusion factory load will become a favorite in this caliber based on price and performance.

The Federal fusion line of bullets came on the scene in the fall of 2005. These bullets feature a bonded core with a “molecular-fused” jacket. “The jacket is actually applied to the core one molecule at a time to totally eliminate separation and assure mass integrity”, per Federal literature. The box indicates that the skived tip provides long range expansion and short range toughness. The pressure formed core, achieves a combination of expansion and strength never before available in a deer rifle bullet. The bullet is also a boat-tail design to enhance long range accuracy. To sum it up, it is one heck of a bullet for $20 a box. The fusion line is optimized for CXP2 Game (a great deer bullet as the box indicates), however I recently read an article where a sizable black bear was shot through the shoulders with this bullet and it worked very well. On heavier game, the 210 Nosler Partition may be warranted.

Concerning the Ruger Hawkeye .338 rifle itself:

Handsome synthetic stock with matte stainless 22 inch bbl
NEW recoil pad
NEW LC6 trigger
Patented steel floorplate with Ruger Logo
3 position safety
Mauser controlled feed with claw extractor
Integral scope rings included at no extra charge
Available in wood stocked blue bbl or my choice in stainless/synthetic
Suggested retail is $749 – Gander Mtn has these for $615 at the time of this article

I will be adding additional photos to this website of a future range test after getting the gun back from the gunsmith.

For the money, I think the Ruger is the best looking rifle in its class and there are no flies on one inch center to center groups right out of the box. This rifle with the Fusion 200 grain bullet could make a terrific rifle for everything from whitetails to moose and in the synthetic, matte stainless version with a Bushnell RainGuard 3200 Elite scope on board, is set for any weather conditions you might encounter. I love this gun.

Dan 7/17/07

Ecclesiastes 1:4 KJV "One generation passeth away, and another cometh, but the earth abideth forever"

Revolutionary war factoid: "Christopher Ludwig of Philadelphia frequently infiltrated the British lines to urge German mercenaries to desert and become farmers in Pennsylvania. Many Did." Source: "It Happened In The Revolutionary War" by Michael R. Bradley/The Globe Pequot Press

Sunday, August 10, 2008


I now own a Ruger .350 Rem mag, and a Ruger Hawkeye in .338 Federal.

Thinking About A Bigger Critter Rifle written early 2007

Been thinking lately about a bigger critter rifle and just wanted to share some thoughts. Opinions are my own, and like most gun purchases are a personal thing. When I say bigger critter, I am talking about big bears, including the interior Grizzly, coastal Brown Bear and even the bigger black (cave bears) as Jim Shockey calls them of Vancouver Island etc.

Do I really NEED another rifle? First of all, need has nothing to do with most rifle purchases. On the other hand, YES I do need one.

If we eliminate the Alaskan Coastal Brown Bear from the equation, it would be difficult to justify another rifle. I already own a 30:06, and a Marlin mdl 1895 45-70. The 30:06 loaded with 180 grain loads is enough for any black bear, anywhere, anytime. Ditto for the 45-70 and you can put brown bear back into the equation when loading up with Garret Hammerhead loads. The Garret loads have been shown to out penetrate a .458 Win Mag in tests performed by others. For example, they load a 420 grain hard cast hammerhead bullet Plus P load at 1880 FPS, a 540 grain hard cast at 1550 FPS and a 350 grain Woodleigh Weld-core JSP at 2000 FPS (all safe in the Marlin 1895). CHECK twice before you buy a box of these to make sure your gun is rated safe. If in any doubt, visit their website at Garrett Cartridges Inc. or call them before you buy. The only drawback is the range at which you might have to shoot. When one spends anywhere from $6000 to $20,000 for a coastal Alaskan brown bear hunt, you do not want to have to turn down your only opportunity at 200 yards. I realize MOST shots in that senario are going to come at less than ½ that distance, however, it makes sense to carry a rifle capable of delivering the payload out to 200 yards or better. The 45-70 with the above loads could certainly deliver the payload. It is the trajectory that you need to be concerned with.

I have looked at the various .300 mags and in fact took a moose in New Foundland a while back with a Ruger mdl/77 .300 Win mag using 180 grain Speer Nitrex loads with grand slam bullets. Unfortunately I let that rifle go a couple of years ago. While everything one can read about the subject agrees that the .300 mags are the minimum rifle you want to start something with a big Alaskan brownie, I don’t feel they offer that much inside of 100 yards to a heavily loaded 30:06.

I think perhaps I don’t need a FASTER .30 cal bullet, I need a BIGGER bullet. The 45-70 certainly fills that requirement in spades, except for the longer shot scenario.

For that reason, I am looking at one of three guns. I am leaving out several rifles and calibers that I realize could fill this need, and one can argue that there are better choices that I am outlining here. The Alaskan Brown Bear hunt is a dream of mine, however I will likely only get one opportunity to do that. I am also looking for a rifle that will be used for hunting other big game and would make an ideal if not perfect black bear rifle. Yes I know they make rifles for sale in .375 H&H mag, .338 Win Mag. .340 Weatherby etc. and these would be the wiser choice for a brown bear ONLY rifle. For me it is going to be a one time hunt and while even the 30:06 with 180 grain loads is adequate, I want to be more than adequate. The .350 Rem Mag is not ideal, but it is a step above adequate.

My search looked at (3) rifles. I considered the .350 Rem mag, the .35 Whelen, and the NEW .338 Federal. Since I already own a 30:06, I used the ballistics for that gun to help make my decision.

Caliber bullet MV(fps) ME E@200 yards Recoil rifle weight

30:06 180SP 2700 2913 1635 20.3 8 lb

.35 Whelen 200SP 2675 3177 1958 22.6 8 lb

.338 Federal 210NP 2630 3200 2266 24.0 8 lb
.350 Rem Mag 200SP 2775 3419 2122 22.3 8.5 lb

I am looking primarily at factory loads and I realize the .35 Whelen is underloaded primarily because of Remington’s decision to offer it in their new model 950 semi-auto and an occasional historical run of the old mdl 7400. I also realize that the .35 Whelen is currently offered in Remington’s mdl 700 CDL and the .350 in Remington’s mdl 7, BOTH very nice bolt actions. When considering handloads or custom ammunition as loaded by Stars and Stripes ammo as an example, there is little one can do that the other one can’t. Stars and Stripes Ammo lists (3) production loads for the .350. One is in 180 grain and two in 225 grain. They will also work with you for custom loads for your particular gun and game you are seeking.

I wanted a bolt action, however I also wanted a synthetic stock so if and when I get the opportunity to go to Alaska, I would not be concerned about the stock warping. Unfortunately at this time both the Rem Mdl 7 in .350 and the mdl 700 CDL come with blued bbl and a beautiful wood stock. Blued or stainless either one will work as I am also considering the “Black Ice Teflon” treatment as offered by I also liked the concept of the integral scope rings as offered by Ruger on their mdl 77 rifles. I think it is the most rugged set up in the business and one less thing to worry about on an expensive hunt in a wet climate.

My final choice is the Ruger mdl 77/MKII in .350 Rem Mag (IF I can find one), topped off with either a Bushnell 1.5X6X36 mdl 4200 scope with rainguard or possibly the Weaver Grandslam 1.5X5X32 scope. MY second choice if the Ruger .350 is not available is to look hard at the Ruger Hawkeye in .338 Federal. I did not post the 100 yard energy figures above, however the .338 Federal with a 210 grain Nosler partition arrives on target with 2719 foot pounds of energy, and the .350 Rem Mag with a 200 grain Core Lokt arrives with 2711 foot pounds. 100 yards and under is still the range at which most bears are shot. Using factory loaded ammo, the two are very close at the 100 yard mark in terms of energy delivered to the target. Getting back to optics, I am leaning heavily towards the rainguard feature of the Bushnell 4200, combined with their excellent optics. The rainguard feature is a special hydrophobic and olephobic lens coating to prevent fogging caused by rain, snow, sleet and even your own breath on a cold day. I think the lower magnification offered by both these scopes is ideal in tight quarters and turning up to 5 or 6 power gives one all the magnification he or she needs for a 200 yard shot. Throw in the black ice Teflon treatment and it should be a rifle that is pretty much impervious to the weather.

Cost of the total package as of the date this is written is approximately $990 complete with the Bushnell 4200 scope in place. I think half the fun is deciding what to buy and more importantly what you like and what will do the job. To get all that for under $1000 in today’s economy I think is a bargain.

Just a side thought. One could also buy a Tikka T3 .338 Federal with synthetic stock and adjustable trigger and integral scope rings with the Bushnell 4200 scope for around $950. In looking over the energy figures with the 210 grain Nosler Partition as loaded by Federal, there is only about 150 foot pounds of energy separating the two at the 200 yard mark. One can also buy a Ruger Hawkeye wood stocked blued bbl bolt action in .338 Federal for $615 new in the box. See how interesting this gets when one decides to look around.


Ephesians 4:22-27 KJV "That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye have put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. Wherefore puting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbor: for we are members one of another, Be ye not angry, and sin not, let the sun not go down on your wrath: Neither give place to the devil"

Revolutionary War Factoid: The warning spread the night before Lexington and Concord was, "The Redcoats are coming". To have said, "The British are coming" would have made no sense because everyone in the colonies were considered British. SOURCE: "It Happened In The Revolutionary War", by Michael Bradley/The Globe Pequot Press


A good place to start looking for a black bear rifle is a Ruger Hawkeye .338 Federal using 200 grain Federal Fusion factory loads, shown here with (2) two shot groups at 100 yards of under 3/4 inches.

Shot Placement on Black Bear (2003)

Shoulder shot or behind the shoulder for heart and lungs?

I have never shot a big black bear, or ANY bear for that matter, however I read a lot and have come to some conclusions based on research and many bear hunting videos I have watched.

Blackpowder Hunting Summer issue 2001:

Article entitled, “Muzzle to Muzzle Black Bear” by Joseph W. Byers,

Page 21, “As evidence of how tough a bear can be, Nemetchek (Alberta Guide), examined the hit on his hunter’s close encounter bruin. The rifle bullet broke the bear’s shoulder, exploded, but did not penetrate the vitals, typical for a .300 magnum, He said. On a big bear, the bullet won’t do that much damage”

Article starts out by mentioning that one of his hunters had shot a big bear with a .300 Win mag on the far side of a river at a distance of about 75 yards. He used a heavy caliber rifle capable of taking almost any thing on four legs and was surprised at the result.

There is NO mention of what load he was using, however I suspect having owned a .300 mag that he probably had the wrong bullet; perhaps one of the lighter 150 or 165 grain ballistic tips or something. Those are fine deer bullets at extended range, but probably did not have what it takes to break the shoulder, hold together and penetrate into the vitals. If he had been using 180 grain fodder such as (Accubond, Win Failsafe, Rem Core Lokt Ultra, Hornady Interbond etc.) the results would likely have been different.

Nemetchek goes on in the article to say, “AIM behind the shoulder and NEVER at it, to take advantage of the large lung area. No bear will go far if his properly in the lungs and it leaves a good blood trail to follow”

“The Complete Rifleman” Jon Sundra 2006 magazine

Page 13, “The reason I am for heavier and/or bonded core bullets is because I recommend taking shoulder shots rather than holding for the heart or lungs. In other words AIM for the shoulder and NOT behind it. If you are in a treestand and the bear is close by, the bullet is going to be angling downwards rather severely so aim higher than you normally would, about mid-way up the shoulder, with the intent to BREAK it down. In so doing the lungs will also be hit. Usually a well placed shoulder shot will anchor the bear right there, whereas they can go a long ways on a marginal heart/lung shot. I can’t tell you how many stories I have heard FIRSTHAND from guides and outfitters about how many bears are wounded and never recovered because the hunter took a standard behind the shoulder shot, but failed to compensate for the downward angle. He recommends the .270 Win with 150 grain bullets as a MINIMUM and NO upper limit.

Article from “Rifle Sporting Arms Journal” November 2005 on testing three new bear bullets.

Rifle used: Custom Winchester mdl 70 30:06
Bears taken / three

Barnes 150 grain triple shock bullet – bear quartering away, hit behind near side shoulder with point of aim to take out off side shoulder – bear collapsed at the shot – upon approach his head began to move so he rec another round on the point of his near shoulder – end of discussion

Hornady 165 grain Interbond (tack driver in my Savage 30:06) 6 ½ foot black bear boar – hit him at about 80 yards angling uphill. The Interbond smashed the front leg, broke two ribs going in, zipped through one lung and lodged in the centerhole of one vertebrae – bear collapsed at the shot and never moved.

Third bullet was a ROC Import slug called the GPA – not readily available and only if you handload. The bullet killed the bear with one shot – designed for the petals to break off and cause separate smaller missles flying around inside the bear – it did the job, but not relevant to this discussion.

I have read many forums where the participants are almost violent in their opinions for and against the shoulder shot.

Most arguments for the shoulder shot involved the classic breaking down of the bear on the spot so there is no tracking job. There are a number of comments from outfitters where bear have been killed that had neat holes drilled completely through a shoulder or shoulders from a previous hunter without hitting the vitals and showed NO sign of wear and were obviously NOT dropped on the spot.

Larry Weishuhn (Pronounced WHY SOON) (well know wildlife game biologist and hunter of no small acclaim) has killed numerous bears with a TC handgun and a rifle and has used both the shoulder shot and the heart/lungs shot.
One of his favorite gun/load combinations is the Marlin 45-70 guide gun using Winchester Partition Gold 300 grain slugs (No longer in production). With this combination he killed a huge bear weighing around 535 pounds with a heart/lung shot and the bear dropped in its tracks. He was hunting with Jim Shockey’s Pacific Rim Outfitters. This load put 3 shots into .62 inch out of Larry’s Guide Gun.

After taking numerous bears with both shoulder shots and heart/lung shots, he strongly recommends the heart/lung shot.

Over the weekend I watched two bear hunting videos. One of them involved Alaskan coastal spot and stalk bear (HUGE bears) and the other involved Dean Durham taking several blackies with both a rifle and a .50 cal ML.

ALL of these shots from what I could tell watching the point of impact on the bear were heart/lung shots, tight behind the shoulder and low in the chest. ALL the bears (except one) ran, but ALL were recovered and ALL left a decent blood trail.

I think it is always a judgement call and what sort of shot you may be presented with determines the shot you will take. I believe in a baited bear situation at close range however if one waits for the bear to become broadside and waits for the near side front paw to go up to the bait exposing the heart/lung area, he is better off taking the heart/lung shot. Placement should be in the lower one third of the chest tight to the shoulder as lungs and heart lie low in the chest.(Note Jon Sundra argument about factoring in sharp downward angle from your treestand however). I would guess the same would apply if the bear is standing on his hind legs and reaching into the bait bucket. Using a 45-70 with a 350 or 405 grain bullet I would not hesitate to take a shoulder shot if that was all I had. Premium loads for the 45-70 are made by:

CorBon, Garrett, Buffalo Bore and an outfit named Grizzly. I believe Cabelas sells both the Buffalo Bore and the Grizzly loads and the other two can be had on line.

They are premium bullets and you will pay between $40 to $60 a box for 20 of these puppies. The 405 grain load in particular will shoot lengthwise through a buffalo. Penetration is greater than that of a .458 Winchester mag. The problem is that while they penetrate like NO tomorrow, they can be problematic if shooting through the heart and lungs as expansion is minimal. Perhaps this is why Larry Weishuhn recommends taking the heart/lung shot for which you do NOT need a cannon to get the job done and for which you will have a very dead bear, very soon and hopefully not very far away from where you shot him.

In case you can’t tell, I am getting somewhat pre-occupied with this black bear thing again.


I Kings 19:11 KJV And he said, "Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And Behold the Lord passed by..................

Friday, August 1, 2008

Deer Rifles Old and New


I have mentioned a few times in my posts, that I am a fan of lower power variable scopes mounted low to the bore. In my opinion, they do not ruin the ergonomics and seem to add balance to a rifle and just plain look good. They make it possible to acquire your target faster, have a wider field of view, and provide all the magnification needed for most shots at whitetails, especially in the North East.

I have a variety of rifles capable of taking whitetails east or west, mostly because I am and always have been a "Gun Nut". In these posts and on my website (UNDER RE-construction/, I have written about range tests on several of these rifles. There are posts on the BLOG on the .270 Winchester using 150 grain soft points, the .308 using 150 grain power points etc. I also have articles on some older favorites like the Marlin lever action .35 Remington using 200 grain round nose corelokts and the Marlin mdl 1895 using 300 grain HP bullets at around 1800 fps. I also own a Ruger Hawkeye with stainless bbl and synthetic stock in the recently added .338 Federal cartridge. I have taken most of my whitetails with an old Ithaca 12 gauge bored improved cylinder using Foster Slugs topped off with an old Weaver fixed 2.5K scope.

I have been reading about deer rifles that were popular back 50 years or more ago and in light of all the whiz bang magnum .30 caliber rifles being touted today as ideal whitetail rigs, one has to wonder how the last generation of hunters made do with the rifles available to them.

I am talking guns like the Remington Model 8 in .25, .30, .32, .35 caliber (later upgraded to the Model 81 Woodmaster). Other favorite deer slayers were the 32-40 WCF, .30-30 Win, .32 Win Special, .257 Roberts, 7X57 and an old favorite in the .300 Savage. The .300 Savage in the Savage lever action series was a classic as was the .250/3000.

Being a certified gun nut, I LIKE them all including a nice half stocked .50 Caliber Hawken. I have stated many times, that most deer, especially in the N/E are still taken at less than 100 yards. Any of the guns listed here were capable of doing a fine job at under 100 yards and rifles like the 7X57, .257 Roberts, .300 Savage etc. could easily double that distance.

Seems our fathers and our grandfather's were really not handicapped at all in the whitetail woods.


Factoid on the Revolutionary War: "During the Revolution approximately 20 percent of the American population were Tories who supported Britain; 20% were neutral toward the war, 20% were slaves whom the British offered freedom. Only about 40% of the population actively supported the cause for independence" (Source) "It Happened in the Revolutionary war by Michael R. Bradley

Proverb 18:24 KJV "A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly; and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother"