March 23, 2010
Petzal: How I Test Rifles
By David E. Petzal
Since I’m in veritable frenzy of rifle evaluation for our "Best of the Best" section of the magazine, I might as well say a few words about how I do it. Or I could say something about health care. No, rifles. First, I clean the barrel. This is because all gun makers, when they learn they are to ship a rifle to me, pour a mixture of baboon sperm, vulture puke, coal oil, radioactive waste, industrial sludge, and copper dust down the barrel and bake it a while. I’ve never gotten a clean gun from anyone, so step number one is to get hot with the cleaning rod.
Step 2: Weigh the trigger and check for creep and overtravel.
Step 3: Weigh the rifle.
Step 4: Remove the barreled action from the stock and check the fit and finish. Do parts gall and chafe, or does everything fit together with no strain? Is the inletting a mess? If the gun is epoxy bedded, does the epoxy look like a turd that fell out of a tall cow’s ass, or is it done neatly?
Step 5: Mount a big fuggin’ scope. The more Xs you have, the smaller a target you can sight on, and the smaller the aiming point, the more precisely you can shoot. This year I’ve been using a Zeiss Victory 4.5X-14X for most of my range work, and currently have a Bushnell 4200 Elite 8X-32X on a .22/250.
Step 6: Shoot at the range. I never let the barrel get as far as warm, so I shoot two or three rifles at a time and rotate them. I like to try a minimum of three different loads, and am perfectly happy to shoot match ammo or handloads. The .22/250 I shot this morning grouped in 1 ½ inches with two brands of factory ammo, but inside a half-inch with handloads.
Step 7: Cycle rounds through the magazine to see how it feeds.
Step 8: Clean the barrel every 20 rounds.
Step 9: When I’ve gotten a good idea of how well it shoots, write something more or less honest about the rifle.
Step 10: Send it back—clean.