Month: June 2019

Down the Practical Hole: Part 3

When I wrote the first piece in this series, I wasn’t expecting it to turn into a series, but the responses led to the second piece, which again, I thought would put the issue to rest. It didn’t. It seems that I have stumbled onto a topic that has either sparked or tapped into a previous field of interest among shooters.

The point that I thought I made in Part 1 was that in the current era of the American rifle, the AR is indeed the most practical (and efficient) option. In Part 2, I outlined my selection criteria and why I passed on the OEM factory options on the market.

I KNOW that I can custom build the rifle that I want.

I KNOW that I can modify an existing rifle into what I want.

If I may be graciously blunt, I don’t need either of those options pointed out to me. I’m already aware.

Erik Lund dropped by my Social Shotgun/Levergun Manipulations class yesterday at the Red Hill Range, and he brought along two rifles for testing.  One was a Tikka bolt gun in .308 equipped with a Kinetic Research Group stock, and the other was an AR build in 6.5 Grendel (6.5G).

Tikka .308 and an AR build in 6.5 Grendel

I shot two 10-round mags through the bolt rifle; one each suppressed and unsuppressed.  I fired one mag of Wolf ammo through the AR along with one mag of Hornady 123gr SST.  All shots were on steel at 100 yards.  This was not an extensive test, and I make no pretense that it was.  It was simply to let me get some trigger time with a bolt gun and to get a feel for the 6.5G through an AR.

The session led me to two conclusions.  The first is that my determination in Part 1 holds true.  The AR was pleasant to shoot.  The recoil was hardly more than that of an AR in .300 Blackout, but the ballistics are far superior, and I am simply a few mouse clicks away from the configuration I desire.

The recoil from the .308 was not harsh.  It had more muzzle rise than push against the shoulder.  However, a lighter recoiling round such as the 6.5 Creedmoor would be more to my liking.  The 20″ barrel was heavier and more unwieldy than what I want for the intended role.   Thus, my specs of a lighter, handier bolt gun as outlined in Part 2 were validated.

Even though I am now more convinced of the expediency of the AR-option, I am still intrigued by the idea of a bolt gun, and I keep coming back to a particular rifle.  I just need to get my hands on one to see if I like the feel of the stock.  If I do, perhaps there will be a Part 4.

I’ll close with the following video.  There’s a rifleman in it doing some impressive work, and I imagine one of those straight pull bolt rifles would be mighty practical.



Down the Practical Hole: Part 2

When I wrote Down the Practical Hole, I had no intention of it leading to additional articles on the topic, but the responses have been both amusing and bemusing, and I am thus prompted to write at least Part 2.  Whether or not there will be a Part 3 will depend upon whether or not I move forward in this line or if I simply accept my previous conclusion and purchase an appropriate AR-upper.

I specifically didn’t outline my preferred specifications as I knew I was posting the piece on the interweb and that there were would be no shortage of people willing to tell me that I was wrong about what I want in my rifle.

I’m not trying to pick a rifle for anyone else.  I’m picking a rifle for me, and I don’t imagine myself to be Jeff Cooper.  As I am not trying to convince anyone of anything here, I won’t argue my specifications.

At this point, I want to thank Erik Lund for patiently enduring my barrage of phone calls and text messages as we painstakingly evaluated options.  Erik has been extremely generous with his time and expertise for as long as I have known him.

I do appreciate the many well-intentioned suggestions of “Have you looked at the XYZ rifle?”, but when I stated that I studied the current offerings and found none to my liking I must not have been clear because what I meant was that I had studied the current offerings and found none to my liking.

Here we go:

First, let’s dispense with the caliber discussion.  I wanted a round capable of taking hog and deer sized game at 300 yards, perhaps 400.  Erik is quite fond of the 6.5 Grendel; so, I looked at several options in that round.  Quite frankly, if the Ruger American Ranch were available in 6.5 Grendel, the search would have started and stopped there.  Yes, I know they offer it in other configurations of the American, but none are to my liking.  As I wrote in the original piece, I didn’t want to spend a lot of money and effort on mods.

I also considered 6.5 Creedmoor (6.5CM henceforth) and the venerable .308 Winchester/7.62 NATO.  The plus for 7.62 NATO is the availability of fodder ammo for practicing the practical rifle techniques; however, ultimately I decided on 6.5CM as it will perform as desired, but it generates less recoil than 7.62 NATO.  Plus, it’s a cartridge that is on the rise, and it has staying power in the market.  Again, this is my rifle.  If you prefer 7.62 NATO, good for you.

The choice to go with 6.5CM knocked the Ruger and Savage Scout rifles out of contention.  Both are fine rifles, and I was (and still am) very tempted by them.  I also don’t want a forward mounted scope.  I am aware that the Ruger will accept a traditionally mounted scope; however, this would mean giving up the rear sight, and while iron sights weren’t an absolute requirement of mine, I just don’t like the idea of removing them.

Ruger Scout Rifle

Note:  Dr. Sherman House and I tossed around the idea of a forward mounted red dot paired with a magnifier in a flip mount.  Ultimately, we concluded that eye relief on the magnifier would be problematic if using the forward rail.  In a traditional rail setup,  a variable power scope with a true 1x power would accomplish the same thing as the magnifier and red dot; so, why bother (he typed rhetorically)?

Now, let’s move on to my specs:

  • 16-inch, threaded barrel (18 would be acceptable but NO longer)
  • Length of pull NO longer than 13-inches
  • Accepts a common magazine such as an AICS pattern mag or a PMAG
  • Traditional scope location mount/rail
  • Strongly preferred:  tang safety
  • Somewhat preferred:  iron sights

Again, I am not trying to convince anyone of the merits of the listed criteria.  I have reasons for each of them.  For instance, the shorter stock makes it easier to mount the rifle centerline and to get into other-than-standing firing positions as well as maneuvering in and out of vehicles or through buildings, and it helps if wearing a thick coat or body armor.  You may have noted that the stock on the levergun I’m holding in the original piece is so shortened.  It’s actually around 12.5.  I run my shotgun stocks at 12.5 as well.

I am fully aware that rifles can be modified to meet the above-listed criteria.  I’m also aware that each modification has an associated cost.

Down the Practical Hole

I was fourteen years old or thereabouts when one of the elders in my family handed me an old Glenfield Model 30 and told me I had proven ready to receive it. I’ve maintained a steadfast loyalty to the levergun in the decades since that day. I grudgingly accepted AR platform rifles when my teaching responsibilities required me to do so.


The author during his Social Levergun presentation at TacCon19. Photo credit: Tamara Keel

Still, I have maintained a firm grip on my levergun roots. I presented a block on leverguns for defensive use at the 2018 and 2019 Tactical Conferences, and I offer a Social Levergun class.

After my presentation at TacCon19, one of the attendees commented on the need to keep social bolt action rifle skills alive. That comment stuck with me.

I will digress here to mention that about that same time, my buddy, Erik Lund, told me about his adventures in hog hunting out west and taking hogs at distances up to 400 yards.  I love it out west.  I like shooting hogs.  Therefore, I’d probably enjoy shooting hogs out west.  One problem became readily apparent though in that I don’t currently (at the time of this writing) own a rifle suitable for taking wild sausage humanely at such distances.

All of this, of course, was a clear sign that I need a general purpose turn-bolt rifle.

Source material for the “practical rifle” is not scarce as the great Jeff Cooper wrote prolifically on the topic.  Two extant courses that are keeping Col. Cooper’s material alive are Gunsite’s 270 Rifle and Randy Cain’s Practical Rifle.  Aside from those two schools, however, rifle training has taken a marked turn in a Stoner-ly direction since Col. Cooper’s days.

Chris Baker of Lucky Gunner Ammo has addressed the topic in several of his excellent videos such as this one:

Chris delved into modern bolt action rifle equipment here:

The software solution is out there should one choose to look for it.  The hardware solution is actually more difficult.  I rolled out the above mentioned levergun class in early 2013 at the height of a politically induced buying surge that resulted in a dearth self-loading rifle availability.   The current situation is the reverse.  AR-pattern rifles are readily available in a myriad of configurations.  Current bolt and lever rifle production quality is a shadow of what it once was (on a craftmanship scale) whereas AR-pattern manufacturing is in its golden age.

The most simple solution for a western hunting excursion would be to buy a new upper in a caliber such as 6.5 Grendel and use it with one of my current lowers at half the cost of a new rifle.

Finding a from the factory bolt action rifle in the configuration and caliber that I want is proving to be difficult.  While some of the available rifles could certainly be modified accordingly, such modifications would greatly add to the cost of the rifle.   

I set out to specifically to not go the AR route, but it turns out that it is actually the most “in common use” rifle platform currently available on the American market. 

It’s simply the most… practical.