Take this advice when it comes to eyeing a new hunting rifle.
Do you have the itch? Is there a certain rifle on your mind for this year’s big game hunting season?
Every time you see it in a store, on the Internet, or in a magazine, you have to stop and daydream a moment. You want it. You want it bad.
I feel your pain. But I am also here to tell you what to watch out for. There’s a lot involved in buying a new (or used) gun, and it’s worth remembering a list of noteworthy features.
Here are some things to look for to assure that you are getting the rifle of your dreams:
1. Don’t buy now…
It might be tough to hear, but the middle of summer may not be the best time to make your purchase. A little patience will pay off big in the end.
We are focused on hunting rifles here, but this wisdom applies to most any type of hunting gear. Hunters are just as fashion-driven as any other purchasing group. We want to have the latest and greatest when we hit the field this fall.
In part, this is perceived as an advantage over quarry, but there are plenty of reasons it’s understood as true. Once the season has peaked, this year’s gear is no longer the latest and greatest.
2. …Buy later!
Towards the end of a season the market is glutted with used gear. Even big box retail stores start running clearance sales to get rid of the current year’s inventory. They know what I am telling you is true; the weapon of choice this year will not be the same next year.
For the savvy hunter, most interested in performance, this is the time to strike. The money you save on the basic price can be enough to upgrade your planned optics or even enough to go with a higher end version of the rifle you originally drooled over.
3. Should you go used?
Yes… most of the time. Keep in mind that current technology allows that even low-end rifles are capable of a thousand rounds or more. The average hunter is not likely to put more than a box of ammunition through a rifle in a single season.
Even a decade later, the average rifle probably still has not fired 200 rounds. The disclaimer comes from how well maintained the firearm was during that time span.
Pay close attention to the rest of the list, they apply to used guns but are worth looking at on any new purchase.
4. The crown matters
The crown of the rifle should be free of scratches, etching, or any deformity of the lands, grooves, or the bore itself.
This part of the bore where the bullet disengages from the barrel is the most critical part of rifle accuracy. Even if the rest of the rifle is pristine, a single flaw here will ruin the rifle.
Big time shooters usually have the crown machined to precise specifications. The crown matters.
5. That’s not swell at all
Working from the crown back, look for swelling in the barrel itself. Sometimes a shot fired in a partially obstructed barrel will not put enough pressure on the barrel for it to fail but enough to deform it. If you see it, run away.
6. Illuminate the barrel
Bore lights are far too economical these days to get stuck with a deformed barrel or barrel damaged by pitting and scarring. With the chamber open, look down the bore for anything out of place.
7. Oil it up
If it wasn’t clear already, the barrel is critical.
Ask to run an oiled patch down the barrel. Does it show the telltale brown of rust?
If you have any doubts, have it checked by a professional or don’t bother.
The chamber and breech should be clean in all the nooks and crannies.
Gunpowder, especially black gunpowder, is corrosive to steel. Shine your bore light towards the breech looking for scratches and gouges in the metal indicating that a round got stuck in the chamber and had to be manually extracted.
9. Ask for the gun’s history
The cause of stuck rounds or other malfunctions may be as simple as a dirty extractor or as severe as firing the wrong caliber ammunition. Just because .270 round fits in a 30-06 does not mean its a good idea to shoot it.
It may be an easy fix, but you cannot afford to risk failure here when you will repeatedly place your face and eye inches from an explosion. Unless told otherwise by a gunsmith, avoid any guns that we not properly used throughout their entire life, and had only approved ammo shot through them.
10. Cover it all
Look at the forearm carefully; search for cracks, especially if there is a wooden forearm. It is uncommon for composite stocks to crack, so if you see one, that would surely be a reason to pass.
Remember, precision shooters float their barrels for uniform distance between the forearm and the barrel for the entire length they come in contact. Flaws here can effect accuracy. Be prepared to pass.
12. Seeing clearly
Optics may be your biggest advantage in a used firearm, or your worst mistake. Typically the full value of the scope is not present in the asking price. However, you will be stuck paying full price if you have to replace faulty optics.
Make sure that the optics are clear with no clouding. Lenses should be free of scratches. There should not be dents on the scope itself. Check the parallax by aiming at a single spot in a safe direction. Once the crosshairs are settled on a spot, move your head very slightly left, right, up, and down.
Does the impact point of the crosshairs change? If so, its a bad scope. That doesn’t mean the rifle itself is bad but do factor in the cost of replacing the optics.
13. Be realistic
Cosmetic damage itself is not a huge concern. A rifle that is actually used will have friction spots where surfaces are slightly worn.
Dents, cracks, deep scratches and obvious deformities are warning signs that the gun has suffered trauma, was misused, or poorly treated. You cannot know how compromised the rifle is. If you’re in any kind of doubt, don’t pull the trigger, figuratively or literally.
And so you see how, with a little patience, a little timing, and a little care in purchasing, even that rifle you think you will never afford can suddenly come into financial reach.
What else should you keep in mind if you’re in the market for another hunting rifle?