Friday, April 2, 2010

What Makes a Good Practice Rifle

Looking for the right first rifle part 2

  • Suitability: the right first rifle should be a 22LR bolt action rifle. While single shot rifles are totally appropriate to the task, we feel that the shooter will quickly grow out of them, and we consider that a repeating rifle is a better choice and a more versatile one. Lever action is the next action of choice: still slow enough to encourage deliberation and careful aiming, yet fast enough to allow for a lot of shooting, and fun. The .22LR is a rimfire round.
  • Fit and finish: in a highly technological item such as a rifle, it is extraordinarily easy to lower the cost of production by taking manufacturing shortcuts and using cheaper materials. In fact, it is probably impossible today to produce an affordable rifle without making compromises. Only rifles costing several thousand dollars per unit truly do not sacrifice quality. Fit and finish are an essential criterion for evaluating rifles. They often are the difference between an accurate rifle that can do the job, and one that you will leave as an heirloom to your children.  
  • Metal and Stock: the ideal combination for a go-everywhere rifle, without compromising good looks, would be a stainless steel barrel and receiver paired with a good color brown laminated stock. Stainless makes a big difference in the rain, in corrosive environments (ocean, coastlines) and in cleanup, and should be a high priority if at all obtainable. Laminated stock are definitely more robust than regular wood stock, although not as handsome, but selecting a good walnut stock would not be a bad compromise, especially as laminated stocks are typically heavier. Carbon fiber stocks and plastic stocks are extremely robust, but they take away greatly from the good looks of a rifle, and their resale value is lower.
  • Usability: a rifle should have the right size and weight to be usable as it is going to be used. A shorter rifle is easier to handle, but may lose accuracy and power. A lighter rifle is definitely easier to carry, but may increase recoil, sometimes to a degree that will decrease the shooter's accuracy. The controls should be comfortable and easy to operate in any weather where they may be used (including with gloves). The length of the stock should fit the size of the shooter. Ideal weight and size for our purpose would be no more than 6.5 lbs and 40" in overall length.
  • Reliability: there are many ways for a rifle to malfunction, and amazingly, most rifles malfunction periodically. A few malfunctions are misfeed, misfire (type I), failure to extract, stovepipe (type 2), and double feed (type 3). Some of these malfunctions can be very dangerous. All of them require training for a shooter to deal with them. The reliability of a rifle is often not related to its price. Freedom from malfunctions is an essential criterion for a rifle.
  • Longevity: a good rifle should be able to weather the elements without getting badly damaged - for that purpose we would prefer stainless metal and plastic stocks (or laminated if not too heavy). A good rifle should expect good maintenance from it owner, but be able to survive occasionally sloppy maintenance practices. It should be inherently able to withstand many tens of thousands of rounds without losing its qualities.
  • Sights vs. scope: regular iron sights are necessary in a first rifle used to acquiring shooting skills. They are are much easier to use, and will withstand more abuse.
  • Accuracy: it is often the one criterion that most shooters focus on - although the inherent accuracy of many rifles largely exceeds that of their owner. For a given round, rifle accuracy typically depends upon 8 major factors, probably in this order for a beginning or intermediate shooter: the balance of the weight, the smoothness of the trigger, the weight of the rifle, the length of the barrel, the quality of the barrel, the shape of the stock, the tightness of the action, and the bedding of the receiver and barrel upon the stock. In fact, ultimate accuracy for a rifle is not as important as how usable and comfortable a rifle is, and how much fun to shoot it is - so don't obsess on it.
  • Value: for a given functionality, the price of a rifle can vary in a proportion of 1 to 10 - or more. As usual, the value proposition for a rifle reflects the usual hockey stick: there is typically a point where more money only brings in marginally more performance.
  • Ideal: the ideal first rifle is a .22LR bolt action repeater rifle, with a stainless steel barrel receiver and a brown laminated stock or a wood stock. It has iron sights, yet it is possible to attach a scope. It is approximately 35" to 40" long, and weighs 5 to 6.5 lbs. It has a good, smooth, trigger, and a reliable, short, metal, detachable clip magazine. It is highly reliable, and feeds any ammunition reliably. Its accuracy is good but doe snot need to be exceptional. Its fit-and-finish is good. Can we reach this ideal picture in reality?

 << Previous Page                Next: performance .22LR bolt repeater rifles               Next Page >>

No comments:

Post a Comment