What the hell is it with hunting rifles these days and when did they get so crappy? I’ve been looking at possible replacements for a vacant slot on my ticket and the whole experience has left a sour taste in my mouth.
Now i don’t consider myself old at 38 but i grew up with what i consider real guns; guns that are solid built with robust materials and a decent wooden stock. A stock which is both robust and rigid. My first rifle, a Parker Hale Safari in 308 could never be considered a fine gun but it was definitely a capable stalker’s gun. The receiver milled from solid stock, a rigid wooden stock with real chequering which was there to improve grip and handling rather than just for decoration and completely devoid of bloody plastic.
Bloody plastic. Just when exactly did we allow manufacturers to delude us into thinking that using plastic components was a good thing? Over the last few weeks i’ve handled injection moulded, tupperware type plastic stocks lacking any strength or resistance to flexing, thin plastic trigger guards and flimsy magazines. Another thing – when did it become standard for stalking rifles to have detachable magazines?
I’ve handled some truly awful guns lately that quite frankly i wouldn’t want to be behind and pull the trigger: Remington 710 & 700, Mossberg ATR, etc but also supposedly ‘better’ rifles that just don’t impress. One dealer pulled out a laminated magazine review which couldn’t be more complimentary of the Tikka T3 light that i held in my hands. The review bore no resemblance to the rifle i had – didn’t the reviewer note how poor the stock was, how its forend flexed and hit the barrel when tapped from below, didn’t he notice the thin trigger guard and laughable chequering? What exactly is a ‘lightweight’ rifle anyway? To me it seems the term gives the manufacturer licence to bolt together a whip thin barrel which will open up dramatically after only a few rounds but saves them on material, a nasty stock guaranteed to flex and move, drastic plastic magazines which lack strength and are likely to drop out during a stalk and an assortment of plastic components which seem more for decoration than use; trigger guards, etc.
Dealers were desperate to mention the guaranteed accuracy of these rifles. An inch at 100yds – i’ve heard that claim repeatedly but they soon clam up when i ask if that was in perfect conditions and from a bench. No dealer was keen to guarantee that same accuracy claim when shot from a bipod (with that same flexing stock). God forbid i asked for a guarantee concerning quality of manufacture and resistance to general wear and tear.
It would be easy to claim that the demise is due to the cost of materials or due to us demanding more for less money. But if so, then why do some manufacturers seem to hold closer to the traditional build qualities and for the same price?