Rifles photo

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Old age, said Benjamin Disraeli, is a regret, and very high on my list of regrets is selling a rifle made by David Gentry.

Gentry, who left us in 2007, was a highly creative gunsmith who worked out of Belgrade, MT, and in 1985 he built me a .257 Roberts. I got this rifle ass-backwards. Peter Barrett, Field & Stream’s then-Executive Editor, retired, and sold me all his .257 Roberts components. So, naturally, I then had to have a rifle to shoot them.

The result turned out to be one of the best working rifles I’ve ever owned. It was a left-hand Remington 700 that David had shortened, replaced the bolt handle, replaced the trigger, replaced the extractor, installed a stiff 21-inch barrel made by an outfit called Matco, and electroless-nickled the whole thing. The stock was David’s own, and I believe it was fiberglass.

I got the .257 in 1985, and it was one of the few big-game rifles I owned in that decade that would shoot under an inch. For whatever reason, I got sensational ballistics out of it, way beyond what factory loads deliver. With a now-discontinued Norma powder called MRP and 115-grain old-style Nosler Partitions, I got 3,120 fps. With a now-defunct Hodgdon powder called 205, and 100-grain new-style Partitions, it gave me 3,111.

The rifle, despite its synthetic stock, was not particularly light, but it was very handy, had almost no recoil, and killed like The Wrath to Come. There is one odd memory associated with the rifle. Between 1978 and, I think, 1987, I had a long string of hits with no misses on big game. I finally broke it with this rifle on a wild pig in South Carolina. Rather than take a second shot, I sat there in shock as the unscathed porker departed the locale.

I sold the .257 in 1990, and hope that whoever owns it is taking good care of it, because it’s a much better gun that he deserves.