Am I a gun nut? I don’t know. Non-hunters or shooters would say I was, but they almost never get anything right when comes to guns, shooting or hunting. I do admit to having a bit of an obsession with great gear, lightweight gear, great design and construction in any gear, whether it be designed for shooting, hunting, fishing, camping,….or any other sport or pastime that I’m in to. That applies to classic old school gear as well as new, high-tech gear. Yes guns certainly are something that I’m very interested in and as with any tool, designed for a specific purpose, design, quality, performance and details matter to me. The rich history of guns, which relates directly to the entire Industrial Revolution, and by default, to all the technology that we take for grated today is an integral part of everyone’s life, whether you know it or not! I can appreciate and admire a 200 year old Lancaster county flintlock muzzle-loader, a 100 year old, hand built London side by side, sporting engraved side plates and figured walnut or a modern marvel of carbon fiber, Titanium and stainless steel. Let’s discuss the later today.
A rifle for high places.
If you hunt where the air is thin, the weather is variable, the animals are tough and if you have to carry your home and possessions on your back up steep rocky slopes, you’ll appreciate a gun that addresses three very important aspects of mountain hunting. They are accuracy, light weight and weather proof construction. If you’ve covered those three, and if you intend to acquire or build a custom rifle, you’ll then only need to pick a load that suits your needs. If you’re smart, you’ll pick one that can handle any game you’re likely to encounter. You’ll pick one that isn’t too rare and hard to find, or load ammo for. Old standards make more sense than the “flavor of the month”. You’ll pick one that can be built light. You’ll pick one that can shoot relatively flat, at relatively long distances, even if you don’t intend to take long shots, you’ll have confidence that you can. I won’t suggest which cartridge is best, to avoid a litany of opinions. I will tell my preferences for this rifle. But bear in mind that I have other rifles. If you want one rifle to do everything…well that should influence your personal decision. There are dozens of calibers and chamberings that your mountain rifle can be based on.
This gun, my gun, is based on a short action, because short actions can generally be made lighter, and stiffer, the latter generally speaks to accuracy. My choice here is one of my pet cartridges, the .260 Remington It can handle anything from small desert Cous deer to moose. Yes, it can handle moose. North Eastern European hunters have been taking moose with 6.5 cartridges with virtually the same performance as the .260 Remington for almost a hundred years. (The .260 is a .264, or 6.5mm bullet just like a 6.5×55 Swedish Mauser, a 6.5 Creedmoor, and 6.5 PRC and many other great and capable 6.5 rounds). The 6.5 “Swede” and the .260 Rem…and for that matter the 6.5 Creedmoor are almost identical in performance. The .260 Remington predates the Creedmoor by 20 years, and is based on the .308 Win., and .260 brass can be made from any of the other cartridges based on the .308 including the 7mm-08, or the .243. The .260 Rem is the best and most versatile round in the .308 family! There are lots of bullet options up to and including 140 grain bonded lead core, or 120 grain Barnes copper bullets that punch WAY above their class and are great for larger, tougher game.
Some, but not all factory .260s come with a 1:9” rifling twist, which is unfortunate because a 1:8” twist is much better for stabilizing the heavier and longer .264 caliber bullets available today. My rifle has a 23” stainless steel, fluted barrel with 1:8” twist and a threaded muzzle. The fluting is for weight reduction, though the barrel, by Hart barrels in NY., Hartbarrels.com, started off at .030” thicker than a standard “Sporter” contour. Adding flutes puts the weight below an off-the-shelf “sporter” barrel while keeping it stiffer with more surface area to cool, making for a very accurate, lightweight and stable barrel that won’t move, and become inaccurate as it heats up, like most pencil thin barrels that are often found on “mountain” rifles. A carbon fiber wrapped barrel would be another good choice. The action is an ultralight skeletonized SS short-action by Pierce Engineering in Lansing, MI. Pierceengineeringltd.com I’ve had great success with SS and Titanium actions by Pierce. You can’t get a better action on which to build a custom rifle. Pierce also Ceramic-coated all the metal on this rifle to provide the utmost in weather protection.
For Mountain hunting, light weight and weather-proof is a must, as is durability. There’s really no place for wood stocks in the mountains anymore. They’re heavy and they expand and contract and twist with rain, snow and humidity changes, all of which will negatively affect accuracy. Synthetic stocks are a must for me in rough conditions. Carbon fiber is my first choice, typically being considerably lighter than fiberglass. My rifle is bedded into an AG Composites “Privateer” carbon fiber stock that sports aluminum pillars, a very wide barrel channel for lots of free-float space and is the lightest model in the AG line-up at the time of this writing. Feather weight, rock solid and durable, it sports a “Decelerator” butt pad which tames heavy recoil..on guns that produce heavy recoil. The .260 doesn’t, but the soft pad material makes for a very enjoyable shooting experience nonetheless. AGComposites.com
Triggers matter, a lot, in terms of accuracy. The .260 has a TriggerTech trigger set at 2.75 lbs. It breaks cleanly and consistently without a hint of creep or grit. It’s flawless, like every TriggerTech that I’ve put into rifles…which is about a half dozen now. I’ve never used an aftermarket trigger better than Trigger Tech…..actually none as good. I’ve tried them all. TriggerTech.com
This rifle is intended to be a “long range” shooter, at least in design spec. The .260’s reputation as a very capable long range round, designed as such from the beginning and used to great effect by target shooters out to 1,000 yds., and military and police snipers, not to mentions hunters, was a factor is building the rifle around this cartridge. (Also because I have other .260s, and lots of ammo, brass and bullets). To that end, my choice of scope mounts was selected to include added “MOA”, or elevation adjustment to my choice of optic. For this, and a few other past projects, I’ve picked Hawkins Precision 20 MOA, light weight mounts for the 30mm tube on my scope. Hawkins Precision ring/base combo mount right to the action without the need for a rail, and in addition to having oversized action screws to provide a very solid mount, they also have actions “pins” that drop into slots on the Pierce action to ensure that any fore and aft movement is impossible. Super lightweight, super durable and secure. The perfect scope mount for this rifle. I can’t say enough about these mounts. Hawkinsprecision.com
Finally the optic…. Again, like the cartridge choice, there are too many choices. There are great scopes from a few different brands, there are not-so-great scopes from many different brands. There are heavy scopes, there are lightweight scopes, high magnification, good glass, bad glass, huge objective lenses to gather tons of light, a multitude of reticle choices and on and on.
I wanted great glass, relative light weight, good low-light performance, long range capability, great reputation and durability. For all of those reasons, I again chose a Leupold. Weight being a consideration, I didn’t opt for huge magnification. I settled at 10x, which is plenty for 95% of the hunting situations that this gun will see. It’s frankly plenty for 95% of what any gun on any hunt will see. The VX-3HD line of Leupold scopes offer a ton of high quality features, at relatively affordable prices. My VX-3HD 3.5-10×40 CDS, ZL scopes covers all the bases for this project. Great glass. Light weight. Durability. A 30mm tube and fine duplex “fire-dot” twilight hunter reticle, great for low light, and two features that I’ll be hard pressed to omit on future scope decisions, the CDS custom turret option and the “Zero-lock” features, both worth their weight in gold. The CDS dial allows me to dial to range, out to 800 yds, matched to my exact load. The 129 grain, Nosler ABLR, bonded “long range” trophy bullet moving at 2,760 FPS, with the Ballistic coefficient, average temperature and elevation factored in. One free CDS dial comes with the scope purchase. After collecting data, I ordered the free dial, matched to my home elevation, below 1,000’, and paid a small amount for another based on the same load data, but factored for 7,000’ of elevation. I now own and have used many Leupold scopes with the CDS dials matched to my guns. They work great and I love them! The “ZL” feature is another godsend. A Zero-lock via a push button keeps your zero and prevents an accidental movement of your elevation dial, a major problem that many hunters can relate to. Nothing worse than whiffing on a shot because in the heat of the moment, you didn’t notice that your scope dial had been bumped off zero. With the ZL, or ZL2 (two full turns of elevation) feature offered by Leupold, you’ll be rest assured that if you whiff it wasn’t because your scope dial got bumped. Leupold.com
There it is. A fantastic formula for a very capable and versatile “mountain rifle”. Is it only good for the mountains? No, it’s just about perfect for deer, antelope, caribou or elk, anywhere. It’ll work fine for black bear and moose with the right bullet and shot decision. Up in the very thin air it’ll handle goats and sheep, chamois or tahr. Would it be my first choice for brown bear or Cape buffalo? No, but with capabilities very similar to a .270 Winchester, it’d do in a pinch and would be better than nothing I’d venture to say. If you take away a few ideas from my decisions, or if you make something that’s completely your own creation, well, good. Use your creation and enjoy it. That’s the point. Happy hunting.