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Varmints Beware: David Petzal Reviews the Dakota Predator

The Black hills of south Dakota were called Paha Sapa by the Sioux, who considered them sacred. The city of Sturgis is located in the Black Hills and is sacred to the half a million bikers who rally there each summer, and to lovers of fine guns, because it is the home of Dakota Arms, which builds breath-taking rifles and shotguns at breathtaking prices.

Dakota (605-347-4686; www.dakotaarms.com) has recently joined with Nesika Bay Precision Inc., which builds ultra-accurate varmint, hunting, and benchrest rifles, also for considerable sums, though not so high as those of Dakota. While Dakotas are blued steel and fine walnut, Nesikas are stainless steel and synthetic or laminated stocks. It is hard to develop warm, gooey feelings for them unless you are an accuracy freak and know that Nesikas do things like put 10 shots into .242 inch at 200 yards. Then you can get quite worked up.

The two companies have joined forces to produce firearms under the name of Dakota Varmint Rifles. It is a specialized line made from Nesika actions, Dakota stocks, and Lilja barrels (which are button-rifled, stainless-steel world-beaters made by Montanan Dan Lilja [www.riflebarrels.com]. I just had one installed on a .22 rimfire and I still don't quite believe the groups I' m getting). The Predator has a gorgeous stock with a beavertail fore-end and a heavy barrel that is sharply tapered and gives the gun a streamlined look.

Dakota Varmint Rifles are all single-shot bolt actions chambered for the .223, and for various factory and wildcat .20 and .17 calibers. They are also chambered for the Tactical Twenty, a proprietary .20-caliber round based on an improved, necked-down .223 Remington case. It is roughly comparable to the .204 Ruger—32- and 40-grain bullets traveling at 3800 to 4200 fps, along with minimal recoil, noise, and barrel erosion.

I was sent a Predator in .223. When I took it from the case, I had two immediate thoughts. First, This thing is more gorgeous than Charlize Theron. Second, How do I write about a $4,000 varmint rifle? In a mild panic I called the company and was told that prices for the line run from $1,500 to $2,000, which is a long way from $4,000.

The Predator is a serious shooter. Using handloads only, which is what I'd do if I owned it, I was consistently able to print five-shot groups ranging from .300 to .400 inch, and I believe that if I'd had the rifle longer and screwed around more with what I fed it, I could have shrunk its groups even more. I have yet to meet a prairie dog that would not be proud to be sent pinwheeling by a rifle that shot well under half an inch and looked this good.

AN IRONCLAD CASE
Last year, a friend of mine shipped his $5,000 rifle to Africa in a case he thought was strong enough, but the gun arrived with a busted stock, and he collected not one cent in damages. If you'd like your rifle to arrive intact, I commend to you Bear Track aluminum gun cases, which are made by Freedom Arms Co. These things are strong, and they are not all that expensive (rifle cases start at $399) or heavy (the single-gun cases weigh 24 pounds), considering the degree of protection they afford. I sent one via air to Alaska, Colorado, and South Carolina last year, and it survived with hardly a scratch, much less a dent.

If you would like your new Predator, or any other gun you value, to survive the tender ministrations of the ramp apes, call Bear Track at 307-883-2468; www.beartrackcases.com. Bear Tracks are made in a variety of sizes for rifles and handguns, and with a choice of colors and lock options. These are the best cases I know of, period. —D.E.P.

Comments (3)

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from Edward J. Palumbo wrote 5 years 11 weeks ago

I've explored the Dakota Arms website repeatedly and admired the shooting equipment they offer, but I have seen and examined only one (1) Dakota Arms rifle, a Model 10, and exhaled an appreciative "Wow!". As has happened in the past, other priorities far outweigh the likelihood of any such purchase unless the bank absolves me of my mortgage and my children can go without groceries for a few months. For those who wonder if craftsmanship is alive and well in America, Dakota Arms is another refreshing reassurance that all is well.
I may have to rearrange a few priorities and perhaps there's room on the rack for yet another varmint rifle. My wife, bless her heart, has a sense of humor, and she has witnessed one firearm or another being sold or traded for others. She understands that I cycle regularly through rifles and handguns, but remain steadfast in my choice of one woman (which is wise, because my wife is a good shot).
Thanks for writing this one and further complicating my life, Dave!

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from ishawooa wrote 5 years 6 weeks ago

The only problem I ever had with Dakota Arms is that I already have several varmint rifles. More than likely if I purchased another or had one more built my wife would eventually figure it out. It is conceivable that I would flip like a prairie dawg when she got through with me. All Dakotas are wonderful.
Dave you might recollect year before last I mentioned that a friend arrived in South Africa only to find that his rifle cases and rifles had been brutalized by the ramp apes. Actually the cases were a well known brand. He had to hunt with the PH's rifles. I told him about the Bear Tracks which he immediately ordered. Last summer's trip to central Afica worked out great thanks in part to these durable rifle cases. Freedom Arms is another manfacturer, while not cheap, consistently turns out a product tht you will be proud to own and will serve you for years.

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from DakotaMan wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

The Dakota rifles are a work of art and I am happy to see an American company producing some of the best in the world. I would also like to see their Dakota line of cartriges endure since they set the trend for todays big magnums. I still shoot the .300 Dakota and can not say enough for it. What a cartrige! Thanks to founder Don Allen (may he rest in peace and satisfaction) for sticking his neck out. As far as performance, it eclipses the .300 Weatherby and is so accurate it is scary. Their .338 Dakota may be one of the finest all around cartriges ever. Once Don produced these, they were quite easy for others to copy so now we have numerous versions. Thanks David for giving praise where due. My appreication and respect to Dakota Arms.

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from Edward J. Palumbo wrote 5 years 11 weeks ago

I've explored the Dakota Arms website repeatedly and admired the shooting equipment they offer, but I have seen and examined only one (1) Dakota Arms rifle, a Model 10, and exhaled an appreciative "Wow!". As has happened in the past, other priorities far outweigh the likelihood of any such purchase unless the bank absolves me of my mortgage and my children can go without groceries for a few months. For those who wonder if craftsmanship is alive and well in America, Dakota Arms is another refreshing reassurance that all is well.
I may have to rearrange a few priorities and perhaps there's room on the rack for yet another varmint rifle. My wife, bless her heart, has a sense of humor, and she has witnessed one firearm or another being sold or traded for others. She understands that I cycle regularly through rifles and handguns, but remain steadfast in my choice of one woman (which is wise, because my wife is a good shot).
Thanks for writing this one and further complicating my life, Dave!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from ishawooa wrote 5 years 6 weeks ago

The only problem I ever had with Dakota Arms is that I already have several varmint rifles. More than likely if I purchased another or had one more built my wife would eventually figure it out. It is conceivable that I would flip like a prairie dawg when she got through with me. All Dakotas are wonderful.
Dave you might recollect year before last I mentioned that a friend arrived in South Africa only to find that his rifle cases and rifles had been brutalized by the ramp apes. Actually the cases were a well known brand. He had to hunt with the PH's rifles. I told him about the Bear Tracks which he immediately ordered. Last summer's trip to central Afica worked out great thanks in part to these durable rifle cases. Freedom Arms is another manfacturer, while not cheap, consistently turns out a product tht you will be proud to own and will serve you for years.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from DakotaMan wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

The Dakota rifles are a work of art and I am happy to see an American company producing some of the best in the world. I would also like to see their Dakota line of cartriges endure since they set the trend for todays big magnums. I still shoot the .300 Dakota and can not say enough for it. What a cartrige! Thanks to founder Don Allen (may he rest in peace and satisfaction) for sticking his neck out. As far as performance, it eclipses the .300 Weatherby and is so accurate it is scary. Their .338 Dakota may be one of the finest all around cartriges ever. Once Don produced these, they were quite easy for others to copy so now we have numerous versions. Thanks David for giving praise where due. My appreication and respect to Dakota Arms.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

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