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.