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Unraveling Extractors

Extractors can present some confusing options, but what’s best in a hunting rifle?

If you’re thinking of getting into hunting, then chances are you’re spending some time looking at rifles, and the smart money says you’re looking at bolt guns.

The bolt-action rifle has been on the rise since the end of WWII without as much as a hiccup in its road to ascendancy.

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Of course, there’s good reason for this; the bolt gun is a rugged, affordable design capable of excellent accuracy. It’s also strong enough to handle the high pressure cartridges in use these days. Combined with a scope the bolt gun is easily the most popular hunting arm on the market today.

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Really, the only complaint you’re liable to hear about bolt guns involves their extractors. It’s rumored that some work and some don’t.

Some folks claim something called claw extractors are the way to go, while other won’t trust them.

What should you do to work this out? Well, let’s examine extractors a bit to help you.

To begin with, what is an extractor? Defined simply, an extractor is a little hook that pulls cartridge cases out of a gun’s chamber.

Just about every gun has an extractor of some sort, but a serious debate only rages over them when it comes to bolt guns.

This argument started back in the fifties when Remington had the gall to break with tradition by offering what was known as a push-feed rifle. This rifle had a tiny little extractor that popped over the bottom of a cartridge.

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Until Remington’s itty-bitty extractor came along, bolt action rifles had only been equipped with “claw”, or controlled-feed extractors, which looked not unlike a bent butter knife attached to one side of the bolt.

These extractors didn’t “pop” over anything. The only way to get a cartridge hooked on them was for the cartridge to rise up out of the magazine and slip behind the extractor’s hook.

With a push-feed rifle, you can set a round on top of the magazine, close the bolt and the extractor will pop over the case rim for extraction when the bolt is opened. With a controlled-feed gun you must push the round down into the magazine before closing the bolt.

So do they both work? In practice, both these systems work quite well. Most of the gripes that come into play when discussing push-feed guns have more to do with the fact that a tiny little extractor just looks less reliable. The big extractor appears as though it has more material in contact with the case, thus providing better reliability.

This gets even more absurd when you take into account the fact that many companies like Savage, Howa and now even Ruger make push-feed guns with extractors that are almost as large as their controlled-feed predecessors.

The fact that a controlled-feed extractor will generally have more area in contact with the case was far more important in the old days when ammo was less consistent. Today both systems will handle all but the nastiest ammo without trouble.

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The long and the short of it is that you should pick the rifle you prefer and focus less on the mechanics.

The rifles currently on the American market are better than any that ever came before them, so don’t sweat the small stuff or let some gun crank talk you out of a rifle that fits you well.


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Unraveling Extractors