August 26, 2013
Perfect Rifles: My Custom John Noveske .280
By David E. Petzal
In my post of Aug. 21, I mentioned that a .280 of mine, built by now-departed riflesmith John Noveske, was a perfect gun. Reader R. Peterson, who is obviously a person of taste and culture, asked if I would write a bit about the .280 and run a photo. Pleased to, but there is a chance I covered this gun three years or so ago. If I have, indulge me.
Back in 2008, I became aware of Bedrock Rifles*, a company that offered high-grade bolt guns in left-hand only. Having spent a shooting lifetime being ignored, scorned, and told to f**k off by the gun biz, as all southpaw shooters are, I was enthralled and had to have one. The guns were actually built by John Noveske of Grants Pass, Oregon. He was one of those supremely skilled fellows who did virtually perfect work.
Noveske used left-hand Nesika actions, which are made in the same plant that produces Dakota rifles. The Nesika is much-beloved of precision shooters. It’s flat bottomed, has a fixed, rather than plunger-type ejector, a bolt-knob that unscrews so it can be changed for another style, and an extremely tight lockup. For stocks, Noveske went to High Tech Specialties in Pennsylvania, which makes very light fiberglass stocks that are about as flexible as your average aircraft carrier hull. Better than High Tech, there is not. The triggers were made by Jewell (If you have not touched off a properly set up Jewell trigger, you do not know what bliss is.) and the barrels came from Lilja which, like everything else here, is top of the heap. I asked for a #2 contour barrel , 22 inches long, 1-10 twist.
Now, sometimes in the wonderful world of made-to-order rifles, you can assemble a gun from top components and they do not form a harmonious whole. Either the thing doesn’t shoot or there is something wrong somewhere. Jack O’Connor once wrote that the only perfect rifle he owned was a .416 Rigby built by a gunsmith named, I believe, Bob Johnson, and since O’Connor owned the very best work available at the time and a lot of it, this gives you some idea.
For example, I have a Griffin & Howe 7mm Weatherby Magnum that was built in 1972 and with which I’ve taken a whole menagerie of big game. It was very accurate (before I burned it out), has fantastic wood, and a lovely and ornate checkering job that was done by Winston Churchill when he worked at G&H. But the cheekpiece looks like a cow turd that was slung over the comb and left to dry. What was the stockmaker thinking?
But such was not the case with the Noveske rifle. It came out perfect, just as I had envisioned. Weight, with a Zeiss scope on board, is precisely 8 pounds, which is correct to the ounce. It shoots everything well, and will group Nosler E-Tips in .600-inch. I showed the rifle to Craig Boddington and asked him to find something wrong. He simply smiled and shook his head.
All it needs is luck. Just one break. Just one head of big game with which to be photographed. That isn’t so much to ask…or is it?
*Despite John Novekse’s passing, Noveske Rifleworks, LLC, is carrying on his work. I believe that their entire production now is geared to ARs, and AR parts and barrels. Bedrock Corp. is alive and well, but no longer sells bolt-actions, having switched to Noveske ARs—in left-hand only.