Ask Petzal: Bullets in the Rain, the Alaskan Interior, and Hunting Hippies

David E. Petzal answers your questions about guns, shooting, hunting, and life.

David E. Petzal answers your questions about guns, shooting, hunting, and life. Got a question for our rifles editor? Send it to We cannot guarantee polite answers to all questions.

Q: What is the strangest thing you’ve ever seen in the outdoors?—Kenneth Smythe, Pittsburgh, Pa.

A: Years ago, while hunting in Montana, I encountered a hippie couple who said they were hunting deer. The man had a rifle and looked like he had just left Woodstock. The woman, who had roughly the shape and looks of Mama Cass Elliot of the Mamas and the Papas, was wearing a serape beneath which shivered a Chihuahua. I have no idea what they were doing in those freezing woods with the miserable step-on dog. Maybe they were going to eat it if the deer didn’t pan out.

Q: I’m curious: Can rain deflect a bullet?—David Singleton,Greensboro, N.C.

A: I’ve wondered about that myself, and the answer as nearly as I can determine is no, rain does not affect a bullet’s flight. I’ve shot in some absolute toad-strangling downpours and not seen the slightest difference in point of impact.

Q: Would glass and pillar bedding a wood-stocked rifle create a platform for which environmental conditions would be less likely to affect the point of impact?—Matt Criss, Argo, Texas

A: If you combined those two measures with a free-floated barrel, maybe. If you’re looking for definitely, I would opt for laminated wood or synthetics. Wood by itself is intrinsically unstable and has a sense of humor to boot, so attempts to build a stable gun around it are always doomed to uncertainty.

Q: What rifle should I get for my 71⁄2-year-old daughter to start with and possibly grow into for deer hunting?—Tom Weeks, Millbury, Mass.

A: I’d go with the Thompson/Center Dimension. The ones I’ve shot have impressed the hell out of me. Get it in .243, and swap out the barrel if you want to go bigger later.

Q: What is the perfect setup for varmints out to 700 yards or more?—Mason Moore, Swink, Colo.

A: I would go with the .220 Swift and a fast-twist barrel for .224 bullets of 70 grains or more. I think 600 yards is pretty much the limit for any of the .22 centerfires unless you’re willing to experiment with stuff like this. If you want to go bigger, I suggest the 6.5 Creedmoor with 140-grain bullets, and get ones that will not ricochet, if you can. You’ll spend a lot less money on the Creedmoor in the end.

Q: Which would you choose for the Alaskan interior, the .308 Winchester, .375 Ruger, or .338 Lapua?—Patrick Angel, Camano Island, Wash.

A: In Alaska one must always factor in Mr. Bear, who thinks a gunshot is an invitation to dinner. For that reason, I would rule out the .308. The .338 Lapua is a horrific cartridge designed for long-range tactical shooting, and out of place for what you’re talking about. The .375 Ruger would be terrific, particularly in the Ruger Guide Gun. I would also throw in the .338—my favorite—and the .375 H&H.