Rifles photo

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Bloodlines, in horseracing, are everything. Breed the best to the best, conventional wisdom goes, and you’ll get a winner. That’s why American Pharaoh will spend the rest of his life screwing his brains out for unimaginable stud fees.

The same thing may apply in rifles. Legendary Arms works is the union, to stretch a metaphor, of two top-flight gun builders, and the resulting rifles are something else. There are three Legendary Arms models—the Closer, which is a standard-weight gun, the Professional, a lightweight, and the Big Five, which is a heavy rifle for animals that can bite and stomp you.

The basis for the three is an action that was developed by Ed Brown Precision, which is best known for its supernaturally fine Model 1911s. From 2006 to 2010, Brown also built big-game and tactical rifles, based on a bolt action he designed. It was called the Model 704.

The Model 704 is a controlled feed action. But rather than employ a full-length extractor like the Model 98 Mauser, the lower part of the 704’s bolt face is cut away so the case can snap into its clutches as each round rises up out of the magazine. Once in the grasp of the bolt, the case head is held by an M-16-style extractor, and is kicked free by a small, tasteful, fixed ejector. The Model 704 is heavy, very positive in operation, and operates with gratifying snaps and clicks.

Brown Precision built the Model 704 rifles from 2006 to 2010, and he got out of the rifle business, I believe, because he was having enough trouble simply keeping up with the orders for his handguns. But the 704 was too good to lie dormant.

Mark Bansner, a Pennsylvania gun builder who has been at the trade for 30-plus years and who specialized in very high-grade wood- and synthetic-stocked hunting rifles, has resurrected the Model 704 action, combined it with his own High Tech synthetic stocks, and is building something that is really superior.

I owned a Bansner .270 WSM for about ten years, and got a ton of use out of it. I also made my finest snake shot with the gun, but that’s neither here nor there except to the serpent.

Legendary Arms sent me a Professional in .30/06 to test, and you can see that it was built by a guy who hunts, not by an engineer. The weight is 7 pounds even, the 24-inch barrel is deeply fluted and crowned by a removable muzzle brake, and all the metal is Cera-Koted so you can forget about rust. The trigger is by Timney, and breaks at a perfect 3 pounds.

This particular rifle is fussy. It’s very consistent, and is one of the few that I’ve shot that prints in the same place with the muzzle brake on or off, but it fought me tooth and fang until it would deliver the kind of groups that its heritage dictated. (To put this in perspective, a “bad” group from this gun was 1.25 inches, which I would take hunting anytime.)

After a mighty struggle, I got the following averages of three 3-shot groups:
Hornady SST 180-grain–.618
Hornady SST 165-grain–..675
Berger VLD 155-grain–.483

And when you go sub-half-minute-of-angle with a lightweight .30/06 hunting rifle, you know that a new era is upon us.

The Professional carries a price tag of $1800, more or less. The specs are the same for the Closer (as in close the deal; get the critter on the ground so you can take pictures of it) but the price is $200 less. Both rifles are available in 18 chamberings from .22/250 to .35 Whelen. The Big Five comes with iron sights, a muzzle brake, a weight of 9.3 pounds, and a choice of .375 H&H, .416 Remington, and .458 Lott. The price is $2,743.

The price range of all three rifles is no more than you can pay for a surprising number of factory guns, and these three are worth every cent. Only one thing is lacking: Ed Brown made the Model 704 left-handed as well as right-handed. So, how about it, Legendary Arms?