May 31, 2006
The Guns I Own: The Earl Butz Commemorative .280
By David E. Petzal and Phil Bourjaily
Back in the early 1970s, I was pals (still am) with a gunwriter who has since become enormously wealthy and famous, and who has considerably ability as a gunsmith. (I can’t mention his name because he writes for one of our competitors, and to reveal who he is would be sedition, or treason, or something). I offered to trade him a pair of Leitz binoculars for a .280 rifle that he would build on a left-hand Remington 700 action.
The project took 4 years as I recall, and I received the rifle in October 1976, on the very day that President Gerald R. Ford forced Secretary of Agriculture Earl Butz to resign for telling a non-p.c. joke where reporters could hear it. So the rifle has been called the Earl Butz Commemorative ever since.
The rifle has a 22-inch barrel that was cut-rifled by Bill Atkinson, and in its original form it was a hefty tube indeed. The stock is a near-perfect copy of those turned out by the great custom riflemaker Al Biesen, and is carved from English walnut that is undistinguished in color and figure but as hard as flint.
As it came to me, the .280 weighed 9 pounds with a scope, which is way too much, so I took it to Griffin & Howe and had the barrel turned down and the stock hollowed out. That took off over a pound, and put the weight right where I wanted it.
From the day I got it until the mid-1980s, this was my main big-game rifle. I used both 140-grain Nosler Solid-Base 140-grain bullets for deer and the old-style 160-grain Partitions for elk. I used it so much that it’s been reblued at least twice and the stock refinished three times.
It’s been retired for some years, superceded by synthetic-stocked guns, but it’s still ready to go, and as fine a working rifle as you’d want.