Bought a rifle recently that was a real surprise to me in many ways with some lessons learned and relearned, the biggest surprise being that I bought a nice wood and blued rifle, which just does not happen anymore.
Have a young nephew, now 12 and growing fast, that has been using a R700 in 243. He asked if he could move up to something bigger, even though his 243 with Barnes TTSX has never let him down. My wife is my long time hunting buddy, and while she has only one rifle, it is very nice, but heavy. Thought it would be nice for her to have something nice, but light, to use.
By happenstance, I saw this 80's vintage R700 in 308 built by Sterling Davenport including a nice Zeiss scope and thought it would be a nice gift for both of them to go hunting with me. The seller had it listed for a crazy number, but had a note that said make an offer. Well, I thought what the heck, don't be afraid to make a fair offer. I offered what I thought it should be worth, which was substantially less than the asking price. We chatted back and forth a bit, and worked out an agreed price. Skipping some difficulties in the dialogue of the rifle not exactly matching the listing, notably having a factory R700 barrel which had been turned down and set back rather than a custom barrel as advertised being a big issue, I decided to give it go and see how it shot anyway.
Took it to the range and it sprayed bullets all over the place. Tried four different loads. Never had any 308 do this poorly, much less one actually built by a gunsmith. 308's usually are about the easiest of all rifles to make run well. Here was an example at 100 yards. This was after a good cleaning and checking for the correct torque on every screw.
Ok, looks like the gun is sick, not sure what is going on. Now thinking to myself - "Wood sucks. Remington sucks. Wood + Remington with a duplex reticle on it, just to remind how much they really suck too, is the trifecta of failure. Boy did I make a mistake. Now I remember why I quit using wood and blue rifles."
Table the project until I have some time. The seller agrees to pay for a new barrel since it was a factory Rem barrel rather than a custom aftermarket as advertised. So today, I am about to pack it up and send it off to a smith to rebarrel, but think, wait a minute. That Zeiss scope that came on it is nice and bright, but maybe the scope is sick and not the rifle?
Pull off the Zeiss that came on it, find a pic rail and a NF 2.5-10x42 and mount them up at the range this afternoon and give it a test drive. Three shots to zero, and here are the next three shots at 100 yards. Wow, I love this rifle! It instantly ties for one of my favorites.
So, just a reminder to myself, take a new (or new to me) rifle through one variable at a time, and have some patience. Use a known reliable scope to start off if possible, and definitely so if the rifle is not meeting expectations. Also, this reminds me of why I think Nightforce scopes are worth the price. This particular scope has a lot of rounds on it on some heavy recoiling rifles, but it runs like the day it was new. The Zeiss in comparison probably has not had even 100 rounds under it from looking at the minimal wear on the feed ramp. Reminder to self yet again, durability and reliabilty of function always are the most important factors for a scope.
Here is a nice photo at the end of the range trip this evening. Built by Sterling Davenport in the 80's. Note the replaced bolt handle, which is welded or brazed on, which is a nice touch. Hard to get a good photo of the stock, which is what he is known for.