Illustration by Mark Matcho
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: I want the perfect caliber for a lightweight rifle used to take elk out to 400 yards. I’ve narrowed it down to .280 Rem. or .280 AI. Which would you choose?—Jim Brown, Erie, Pa.
A: I’m not a fan of the .280 Ackley Improved. In my experience you get a minimal increase in velocity at the expense of a big increase in pressure. Stick with the standard .280 Rem., and load strong 160-grain bullets.
Q: I want to put a suppressor on my .270 Browning A-Bolt. Do I need a new threaded barrel, or can I have mine threaded? —Paul D. Erwin, Chatham, Va.
A: There’s no need for a new tube. Threading a barrel for a suppressor is no big deal; any good gunsmith can do it. Get a thread cap in case you want to use the rifle without the can. I assume your barrel doesn’t have a front sight. If it does, that part of it would have to be sawed off first.
Q: Lately I’ve been reading about the benefits of fixed-power scopes over variables. What’s your take? —Ryan Peterson, Ontario
A: In all my experience with scopes, I’ve had only one that broke because it was a variable, and it still functioned. That was in 1968. It’s worth remembering that Marine Corps, Army, and Navy sniper rifles come with variables as standard equipment.
Q: Should I use a silicone-impregnated cloth to wipe down my rifle?—Byron Crownover, Batesville, Ark.
A: I don’t think silicone does anything for wood or metal that lasts any longer than five minutes. Modern wood-stock finishes don’t need to be wiped down, and as for metal, something more substantial than silicone is called for.
Q: I’m going on my first ever moose hunt. Should I bring my .30/06, .270, or .308, and what should I load?****—Harold Norris, Pittsburgh, Pa.
A: Moose, despite their size, are not hard to kill. After you shoot one, it stands there looking bitter and then keels over dead. That said, go ahead and take the .30/06. Remington and Norma load the cartridge with 180-grain Swift A‑Frames, and that’s what you want to use.
Q: You’ve hunted all over the world, I presume. What is the most interesting hunting ritual you’ve seen?—Laurie Saldano, Fresno, Calif.
A: The most interesting ritual I’ve ever seen was in Germany, after a very big driven hunt during which something like 75 head of game of all types were taken. At twilight, the beasts were laid out in ranks, in order of ascending value as trophies, and a torchlight ceremony was held honoring their lives and thanking them. The custom may be 1,000 years old, and it was quite wonderful.
Q: No bull, what’s the best shot you’ve ever made in the field, on purpose—one that really made you shake your head?—Dave Walters, Johnson City, Tenn.
A: Probably the best shot I’ve made was in Wyoming, where I killed an elk at what had to be over 500 yards (the snow was so deep we couldn’t pace it off accurately) during the last minute or two of shooting light, a couple of hours after a horse had kicked me in the face.