Bruce Potts selects his dream quartet of ideal stalking all-rounders…
Rifle choice as with any gun is a very personal thing, as we all hold the ideal weapon in our mind’s eye and have a specific purpose that suits our hunting needs to which that rifle would offer optimal performance. But common to all are good value, reliability, handling and, above all, accuracy. Thankfully, today’s factory rifles cover all of those demands, but some better than others. Of all the rifles I test a year these four rifles I tested on the range and out in the field against game really have stood out as excellent all-rounders and, hopefully, will give one an idea of what to look for in your ideal stalking rifle.
Remington’s new American Wilderness Rifle (AWR) is built to withstand the harsh Alaskan winters, with its synthetic fibreglass stock and bedding ensuring a consistently accurate rifle in heat or cold. The Cerakote-finished metal work is perfect for tough stalking duties and the new 5R rifled barrel ensures extreme accuracy and velocity coupled with easier cleaning.
The AWR is currently available as a long-actioned rifle, as the Yanks like their longer cartridges and magnum calibres. You have a choice of .270 or 30-06 in the standard cals, good for the GB, but also available in 7mm Rem Mag and 300 Win Mag as well as 300 or 338 Ultra mag for large game or long shots.
The action is your classic Remington Model 700 configuration in the long action, sizing being 7-inches long with a 3.25- inch ejection port. It`s your typical twin locking 60-degree bolt lift action design with Remington`s famous three rings of steel. This means the bolt shrouds the case, the barrel surrounds the bolt and the action surrounds all these.
Remington still use the small sprung ejector, which is okay, but the sprung plunger ejector is forceful. The magazine system is a hinged floor plate design, and I like this system as no magazine to lose and loads four .270 cartridges. The trigger is good for a factory rifle, the X-Mark Pro is set at 3.25lbs and is adjustable, externally.
The barrel is made from 416 stainless steel, and best of all is the 5R rifling within five rifling grooves so the rifling lands are directly opposite the grooves for less pressure and the shallower angle of the rifling edges reduces fouling from the copper jacket of the bullet, and powder residue so enhances accuracy. At 24-inches in length, it is sensible on a 270 Winchester to maximise velocities, and it comes factory threaded with a metric 14mm/1 thread.
Overall finish of the entire metal work is the supertough baked-on Cerakote black colour, which had a smooth texture to reduce reflections and further enhances the stainless steel beneath for extra weather protection. The Greyboe synthetic stock is a midbrown and black spider web colour, very practical and a good stable epoxy based fibreglass synthetic stock with pillar bedding. Waterproof even in the worst weather or temperature changes, the zero of your rifle will not change.
The AWR looks good, shoots remarkably well, is weatherproof and well-priced and the 5R rifled barrel is capable of longer shots with confident. If you are a professional needing a tough go anywhere and dependable stalking rifle then look no further.
MAUSER M12 IMPACT
Mauser, the oldest name in sporting and military rifles has a winner with their Impact rifle version of their M12 model. It combines a great price with stainless steel metal work and synthetic stock for real-world hunting makes the Mauser Impact a superb all-rounder for any game, target, weather or range.
First, that stock – it’s light but feels very solid with a moulded two section profile and a strengthen forend section to avoid twisting and flexing when rested or with a bipod fitted, and the rear butt section feels solid and balances the Impact well, even with a moderator fitted. There is a transverse steel lug to secure the front of the action, whilst the rear is perfectly aligned with an aluminium pillar giving the best possible bedding system for a stable platform between metal work and stock.
There is no cheekpiece or little cast to the stock and the high straight comb is comfortable for great handling. Exterior finish of the stock is very tactile with its overall grey softtouch finish over the synthetic shell and the moulded in checkering with rectangular raised checker pattern.
The barrel and action are all stainless steel on the Impact, and as such gives a hard wearing and almost weatherproof finish. Barrel length is 21.5-inches with a 15/1-inch thread, with muzzle cap supplied and a good medium profile. It is free floated and further enhanced by flutes to the barrel to reduce weight and also aid cooling.
The action, as you would expect from Mauser, is smooth with its two sets of three bolt lug arrangement, three large 0.277-inch forward lugs with three smaller 0.20-inch for safety. This allows a 60-degree bolt open position with a straight/low bolt lift with large teardrop knob for positive reloading. There is an inset extractor claw and twin plunger type ejectors that grip the cartridge and ejects very forcefully!
The trigger is superb factory set at 2.25lbs, which breaks like glass with no creep whatsoever and the safety is typical Mauser-style with a large bolt shroud and wing lever design three positions. The magazine is detachable and all-polymer with a double stack arrangement that fits into an aluminium floor plate with a release lever in front of the mag. In 6.5x55mm it has a five-round capacity.
Key features are: consistently accurate with factory or reloads, great handling and feels light but solidly built with great handling and weather protection. It is hard to fault, as its very practical and ergonomic hunting stock with a great performance for the price.
S&L CLASSIC SYNTHETIC
S&L from Denmark have always produced rifles of the highest-quality without compromise, but it is only now that, after years of research, they have produced a synthetic stock for their rifles that is worthy of their name. This Classic synthetic model, as its name suggests, is a superbly traditionally made sporting rifle, yet possesses all the technological advantages of modern-day materials and manufacture.
You have a satin blued action to complement the barrel and a polished bolt with a detachable magazine, easily detachable scope mounts and barrel threaded for a sound moderator. Pretty standard, but the Classic handles and operates just that bit better than any other rifle I have tested.
The action is quite long to accommodate the available calibres, ranging from .22- 250 to .358 Norma Magnum, and scope mount fitment is via either the drilled and tapped attachment method or utilising their excellent receiver cut dovetail and return to zero system.
Instant alteration The bolt is silky smooth and has a low opening height or angle due to the three locking lug arrangement, and its insert claw extractor and sprung plunger ejector are utterly reliable.
The S&L’s action possesses a quick-change barrel system where calibres can be altered, turning a stalking rifle to plains game, boar or fox gun instantly. All you need to do is slacken off the two large Allen screws which secure a clamping collar at the front of the action that holds the barrel, using the tool provided. The barrel precisely locates on a lug located at 6 o`clock to perfect align, so you can store, transport or change calibres without loss of zero.
S&L make their own 23-inch barrels with a 14mm/1 pitch, which are stress relieved chrome molybdenum steel with perfect concentricity and precision-cut rifling. Taking longer to produce, they are incredibly accurate as S&L hone and lap the inner surfaces to maximise accuracy and minimise fouling.
The triggers are very good, being a single stage unit, and adjustable, but this one broke at 2.65lbs with no creep or backlash. The safety has three positions, safe at back position, midpoint a little undefined is safe, with bolt opening and forward as the fire position.
The detachable magazine sits in an all-steel floor plate with a push button release that releases the mag – a three-shot capacity for this calibre.
The new synthetic stock is a sporter profile with a very attractive hunter green moulded-in colour with a semi matt-textured finish. You have a two-half moulded system that uses a high degree of glass fibre content increasing its density without weight. Thus, it feels solid and does not flex at all, so accuracy in any adverse weather can be relied on for consistent accuracy.
S &L has combined tradition with modern thinking to create a classic-looking stalking rifle with all the advances in accuracy, stocks and trigger design built-in. The new stock is superb, and you can quick change barrels if you want, so one rifle for everything that is superb value for money.
TIKKA T3X CERAKOTE
The Tikka T3X has to be one of the most widely sold and accepted stalking rifles in Britain today and best value for money too. This version of the T3X wears the super tough and practical Cerakote finish that is an applied surface coverage system which adheres to the metals pores and forms a protective polymer ceramic composite coating. It gives metal a high resistance to abrasion, corrosion, wear, chemical attack impact strength as well as hardness. This grey/black finish stops reflections and on stainless barrel is much more hunter-friendly.
The underlying rifle is your excellent T3X, which has the improved stock design from three years ago, modular stock inserts, improved bedding, larger ejection port, metal bolt shroud and, of course, Tikka’s legendary smooth bolt system and accuracy.
The barrel is 20-inches in length having a 1 in 10 rifling twist with six grooves with a metric 14mm/1 muzzle thread for a sound moderator.
TX3 actions are smooth and lightning-fast, which can be attributed to the low bolt lift, and it has a twin locking lug arrangement opposite and a semi coned in profile with a single extractor claw and a plunger type ejector.
Scope attachment has been enhanced with additional drilled and taped holes for a scope rail i.e. Night Vision use, or you can just fit the proprietary Opti Lok scope mounts. The Tikka TX3 has a metal bolt shroud now, which is sturdier than the older plastic one and safer too to stopping ruptured primer gases.
The trigger is a safe and reliable single stage unit which is adjustable, but I would leave it as is at 2.85lbs. The safety is a toggle unit that in the forward position is for fire and rearward for safe which locks both the bolt operation and trigger.
The magazine system is three shots in this 243 Win example and is made of a hard-impact polymer making it light and durable.
The T3X stock was revamped three years ago and has the addition of a steel recoil lug position in the stock for consistent bedding of the action to stock, resulting is better accuracy.
The green moulded in colour to the stock is more rigid and the foam filler stops any hollow sounds when knocked. The recoil pad is a redesign too, with better, softer and grippier finish, and the new modular pistol grip has elements that can be replaced to vary grip angle.
The Cerakote version of the Tikka brings a custom feature to a commercial rifle and so further enhances the ability of the Tikka TX3 as a stalking rifle. TX3s are always accurate and reliable, and now with the improved stock design and Cerakote finish you have a rugged reliable stalking rifle.