Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Deer Rifle Sight-In 2010 "The more things change the more they remain the same..."

As the master of malaprop reminds us, many lessons are perennial...here are six.

1) The smaller the caliber the better the shooting.

Used appropriately, the 223, 243, 308, 30'06, 357 magnum, 44 magnum, 45 Colt,
and 45/70 all kill whitetails quite neatly, but deliver different levels of recoil.

The fella with a 270 shoots better than his brother with the 300 magnum.  The boy with a 243 shoots better than his uncle with the 30'06.  In fact I'll wager that if more hunters used 243 bolt action rifles many more deer would end up in the freezer every  year. Scoped rifles chambered for the light kicking, flat shooting 243 worked really well for everybody who brought one.  Tight groups at 100 and effective groups at 200 are the norm.  They are pleasant to shoot and easy to shoot well.  Some argue that the 243 lacks killing power and leaves little blood trail, but if you strike your mark - which is much easier to do with a rifle you are not afraid of - a quality 100 grain 243 bullet will make quick work of most any whitetail.  Blood trails do help hunters track poorly hit deer.  The 243 may not leave as good a blood trail as a 30'06 but if you put an expanding bullet from most any legal cartridge through the heart and lungs of your deer you'll almost always find your venison within 50 yards.  The deer hunter using a 30'06 has a tremendous surplus of energy at his disposal but if he hits his deer in the wrong spot it all goes to waste, except for leaving a blood trail.

2) Open sights, such as those commonly used on Marlin and Winchester lever actions, are hard to use well or quickly.

Traditional lever action rifles still come with iron sights mounted on the barrel.  Several shooters could reliably shoot bullets into one ragged hole at 25 yards using iron sights.  They did well at 50 yards, shooting groups three or four inches in diameter.  At 100 yards the wheels usually fell off and an effective group was hard to come by.  By way of comparison it was a rare scoped lever action rifle that couldn't shoot a useful group at the 100 yard line.  This tells me the issue is the classic bead front sight and U-notch rear sight is just about useless for the average shooter unless their deer are very close.  I know from personal experience that an aperture rear sight and a square post front can be used to do very nice work out to 300 meters (and beyond in better hands).

3) Shooting slugs from a six pound 12 gauge pump shotgun with no recoil pad is a brutal experience.

With iron sights only half the shooters we saw could shoot credible groups - four to five inches - at 50 yards.  With scopes or optical sights some can do the same at 100.  Still, it made me wince just watching these fellas trying to shoot them well.  Don't let the pictures in the Cabela's flier fool you.  What looks like a recoil pad on the wood stock Remington 870 Express is made from rubber about as stiff as a truck tire.  Strangely the same gun with the synthetic stock is fitted with the R3 recoil pad, one of the best offered on any factory gun.  The best 12 gauge shotgun shooting was done by a fellow with a Savage 210F bolt action slug gun.  Essentially a Savage rifle chambered for the 12 gauge cartridge, it is purpose built for accurate shooting with sabot style slugs.  A good scope, good rings, and a mount bolted directly to the receiver made it look easy.  Oh yeah, it had a nice recoil pad too.

4) Alloy saddle mounts, cheap rings, and no name scopes on 12 gauge slug guns fail sooner or later.

The refrain "Gee, it worked okay last year" was heard more than once.  Most 12 gauge shotgun slugs pound a shooter as hard as a 375 Holland and Holland "elephant gun" cartridge.  This nasty recoil also ruins cheap mounts, rings, and scopes.  We saw several scopes come unglued.  If you must use a slug gun and wish to scope it select a scope made by Redfield, Burris, Leupold, or better.  I don't have much experience with red dot sights but as a rule the more you pay the less they break.  Buying one good scope is less expensive than buying three cheap ones.  Find a mounting arrangement that lets you attach steel rings to steel mounts to a steel barrel or receiver.  Shopping for quality will save you money in the long run.

5) A recoil pad cost about $15.00, but a new shooter's enthusiasm can be destroyed in about five shots.

A good recoil pad can make the difference between a great day at the range with dad or a painful experience punctuated by the disappointment of shooting poorly.  Purchase a gun that comes with an effective recoil pad installed.  The R3 pad that Remington puts on several of their rifles and shotguns (including their 870 Express Synthetic Youth Model) is a good example.  The truck tire they attach to the wood stock of the 870 Express is a bad example.  Have a gunsmith install a top quality pad on a new hunter's rifle or shotgun, adjusted for the shooter's length of pull.  A one inch thick Pachmayr Decelerator pad is as good as any and better than most.  If you can't afford to do this right now at least buy a slip-on rubber recoil boot.  It's not pretty and it may make the gun a little long but it will take the sting out of recoil.  Finally, buy your new shooter a PAST Recoil Shield.  This strap-on recoil pad is worn by the shooter and can be the difference between smiles and tears.  You can even use it yourself when the kids aren't watching...

6) Hunter Safety training creates safer shooters.

Every young person on the line who had been through the state hunter safety education exhibited excellent gun handling, muzzle control, and safety.  Hunter education may or may not inoculate against buck fever, but good firearm safety habits, once in place, are there forever.  Good on you, safety training volunteers!