January 28, 2008
On Cheap Rifles
By David E. Petzal and Phil Bourjaily
I recently got a plaintive letter (it smelled strongly of government cheese) from a young man who asked me to write something about cheap rifles that ordinary people could afford. Very well.
During my formative years as a shooter, I was as poor as a church mouse (actually, a church mouse was too wealthy to be me) and could only afford cheap rifles. The first centerfire rifle I bought was a Model 340 Savage in .222, and it was a true inanimate hideosity. It cost something like $50 used (in 1961), but it shot acceptably and went bang when you pulled the trigger.
My next rifle was also a Savage--a new Model 110 left-hand .22/250. It was a better than the .340, but not much. It had a soda-straw barrel with a rear-sight bulge (but no rear sight), a stock that would have doubled nicely as a canoe paddle, and a 15-pound trigger with lots of creep. But it was cheap.
Eventually I replaced the stock and had the trigger stoned down to a dangerously light pull, but I still had a cheap rifle.
It was about this time that I met John Dewey, Larry Koller, and Russ Carpenter who, along with their other talents, were fine gunsmiths, and took the trouble to explain to me that a cheap rifle almost always had something major wrong with it, and would not allow you to do your best shooting (or in some cases, even acceptable shooting), and that no matter how you cobbled on it, it would never really be right.