David E. Petzal answers your questions about guns, shooting, hunting, and life. Got a question for our rifles editor? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.