Varminter.com recently released a First Hunt Report on the new Savage A17 rifle. Savage’s new semi-auto .17 HMR has caused quite a stir. Accurate and affordable, the Savage A17 is also the first .17 HMR to feature a delayed blow-back action. We think the A17 may be the most important new rimfire rifle of 2015, so we were pleased to see that Eric Mayer, Editor of Varminter.com, put the new semi-auto Savage through its paces.
Mayer wanted to see how the new Savage would perform, accuracy-wise, and he also wanted to see how the A17 fared in the field. Mayer achieved one-MOA accuracy with the Savage A17 using the latest CCI-brand ammo, and he demonstrated the A17 is wickedly effective on ground squirrels. Here are some highlights from Varminter.com’s Savage A17 First Hunt Report:
Never had a chance to hunt prairie dogs in the American west? Then check out this video. Dan Eigen (aka “Walleye Dan”), host of the We Love It Outdoors Television series, head to South Dakota for some varmint hunting. Dan teams up with Varmint Hunter Association President Jeff Rheborg to patrol some South Dakota Dogtowns where things get serious. In the video, you’ll see p-dog hits at distances from 70 yards to roughly 450 yards. The hunters were shooting from portable, wood-topped swivel rests, using AR-platform rifles on X-type sandbag rest. (Rifle zeroing session is shown at the 5:30+ mark.)
Multiple cameras were employed so you can see both the shooter’s POV and close-ups of the prairie dogs downrange. Watch the shooters having fun with a prairie dog cut-out and some Tannerite at the 9:00-minute mark. This guys are having a grand old time sending critters to Prairie Dog Heaven — we think you’ll enjoy the video.
Mossberg has announced its new MVP (Mossberg Varmint Predator) line of dedicated varmint and predator bolt-action rifles, based on the Mossberg 4×4™ centerfire rifle. The big news is that Mossberg’s MVP rifles have a unique, patent-pending bolt design which allows them to reliably feed from AR15 magazines. Yes, we’ve been waiting for that functionality for a long time. Congrats to Mossberg for finally building a small bolt-gun that takes AR mags.
The first MVP Series Varminters were recently unveiled at the 2011 NRA Convention in Pittsburgh, PA. Two MVP versions will be offered initially. The first is a standard rifle with 10-round mag and factory-installed, Weaver-style bases. The second is a combo package which includes the rifle, 4-16x50mm scope (mounted), bipod, and 10-round magazine. Both guns have 24″ fluted, medium-contour barrels, with 1:9″ twist rates. MVP rifles will ship from the factory with sling swivel studs and factory-installed Weaver-style scope bases. Without scope, the MVP varminter weighs roughly 7.25 pounds. Mossberg claims its MVP rifles can deliver “MOA accuracy right from the box!”. We’ll see…
MVP Rifles Feature Adjustable Triggers
MVP rifles are fitted with Mossberg’s LBA “Lightning” Adjustable Trigger System, which adjusts from 2 to 7 lbs. pull weight. The LBA trigger, like the Savage Accutrigger, features a central blade that blocks sear movement unless fully depressed.
Nice Laminated Stock with Wide Fore-End
One of the best features of the MVP rifles is the stock, which comes with factory-fitted pillars. Mossberg fitted the MVPs with a nice, laminated stock that should work well either on sandbags or when shot from bipod. To ride the bags better, the fore-end is wider than typical hunting stocks, with a flat bottom. Stippling on the fore-end and pistol grip provide for positive hand placement. We think this stock is a pretty good design for the rifle’s intended uses.
Mossberg MVP Series Varmint Rifle Specifications:
CALIBER: 5.56mm NATO (.223 Rem)
TOTAL CAP: 10+1
BARREL: 24″, Med Bull Fluted Matte Blue
TWIST RATE: 1:9″ Twist
SIGHTS: Weaver-type bases
STOCK: Benchrest-Style Grey Laminate
WEIGHT: 7.5 lbs. MSRP: $649
CALIBER: 5.56mm NATO (.223 Rem)
TOTAL CAP: 10+1
BARREL: 24″, Med Bull Fluted Matte Blue
TWIST RATE: 1:9″ Twist
SIGHTS: 4-15x50mm Scope, Weaver-type bases
STOCK: Benchrest-Style Grey Laminate
WEIGHT: 10 lbs. MSRP: $796
Story tip from Edlongrange. We welcome submissions from our readers.
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If you’re wondering what to ask Santa to deliver this holiday season, how about a Quilted Maple 300 WSM Varminter? That’s what Santa brought Barry O. (aka TheBlueEyedBear) last December. Barry, a respected long-time member of our Shooters Forum, ordered a new 300 WSM Varminter in 2009 and it arrived just in time for Christmas. The beautiful rifle, smithed by Richard Franklin, features a BAT Action, Bartlein 30″ barrel, and a stunning Quilted Maple wood stock. Barry’s new 300 WSM is capable of delivering 125gr Ballistic Tips at over 4000 fps, with great accuracy.
Barry reports: “Here is my 300WSM Varminter built by Richard Franklin of Richards Custom Rifles. This is one awesome piece of work — And YES, it shoots! I expected a lot when I asked Richard to build this gun, and believe me; I got more than I expected. I am not a machinist, nor am I an engineer, but I can tell you for certain that this is the finest quality work you can expect from a gun builder.
As you can imagine, my reason for building this gun was for long range varminting. I had read articles about the flat-shooting 300 WSM Varminter on AccurateShooter.com, and how it could launch a projectile at over 4000 fps with great accuracy. I also read some of the brutal articles on other sites from the nay-sayers. So, I had to have one. Simply put: THE NAY-SAYERS ARE WRONG! You CAN launch a 125gr Ballistic Tip bullet over 4000 fps and terrorize those little fury creatures way far away. I love this thing… I think I’ll ask Richard to build me another!” [Editor’s Note: Anyone wanting Richard Franklin to build a custom rifle had better act quickly. Richard is retiring and he will not work on any orders submitted after January 1, 2011.]
Franklin 300 WSM Vaminter Specifications:
BAT Machine SS Model ‘B’ action, RB/RP, Diamond fluted bolt
BARTLEIN 30″ SS str. 1.25″-diam. barrel (polished) 1:16″ tw, .337 neck
BAT Machine polished aluminum trigger guard
HOLLAND recoil lug
JEWELL BR trigger set at 1.5 oz.
HARRELL’s muzzle brake
UNDERTAKER stock in Quilted Maple, clearcoated
RCR polished SS pillar bedding
LIMBSAVER recoil pad (I hate recoil)
BAT Machine SS 20moa scope base
NIGHTFORCE 30mm scope rings
NIGHTFORCE 8x32x56 NSX with NP-2DD reeticle
NIGHTFORCE angle meter
U.S OPTICS cant indicator
Richard Franklin To Retire — Final Order Deadline Announced
Richard Franklin, builder of the beautiful rifle shown above, has announced his retirement. He will be taking orders for custom rifles through January 1, 2011, but that’s it — he’s giving up the business. Orders received after January 1st will be built by Richard’s protégé Tommy Shurley. Read on…
Richard Franklin Will Retire. Order Cut-Off Date is 1/1/2011
I will be taking orders for custom rifles and muzzle loaders until the 1st of January, 2011. When these orders are completed by me in 2011 I will be officially retired from building rifles as a business. After Jan. 1st, 2011 Tommy Shurley of Shurley Bros. Custom Rifles will be taking over my business known as Richards Custom Rifles. I will retain my website and answer questions as usual. Any rifle orders coming in after Jan. 1st will be directed to Tommy Shurley. Tommy has been working with me for some time now here in my shop and I will continue to work with Tommy in his shop in Heber Springs, Arkansas until I am satisfied that Tommy can build rifles as I have been building them. Tommy will have a full service shop and be able to meet all your shooting needs. — Richard Franklin
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Leupold has launched a dedicated website to educate hunters and shooters about the Custom Dial System (CDS™) feature for VX-3® riflescopes. The innovative CDS system is darn clever. Basically what Leupold has done is create calibrated elevation knobs that allow hunters and varminters to simply dial the yardage to their targets, rather than input a specific number of clicks. For example, to shoot a buck at 300 yards, you simply rotate the elevation turret to “3” on the scale. CDS helps hunters and shooters get on target at any range, with any load, by matching their scopes to the ballistics of their ammunition.
Leupold’s CDS system is a user-friendly invention that can really simplify shooting at multiple yardages. The big single-digit Arabic numerals on the elevation dial correspond to 100-yard intervals, while the smaller numbers show 50-yard intervals. (Click values are otherwise 1/4-MOA.) No longer do you have to remember specific come-ups for particular distances. For the CDS system to work correctly however, your load’s ballistics must match a set of master loads that Leupold uses to calibrate the dial scales. Hunters using most common cartridges should find a calibrated load that matches their muzzle velocity and bullet BC. CDS turrets are available on these scopes: VX-3 3.5-10x40mm, VX-3 3.5-10x50mm, VX-3 4.5-14x40mm, VX-3L 3.5-10x50mm and VX-3L 4.5-14x50mm.
Free CDS Calibrated Dials with Purchase of VX-3 Scopes
Leupold’s CDS system is explained at www.leupold.com/VX-3CDS. Visitors to the VX-3 CDS webpage will find an educational video and graphics, an overview of how the system works and its advantages, and details on a special offer. With the purchase of any VX-3 CDS riflescope, shooters receive two customized, ballistically-matched adjustment dials ($100 retail value) at no extra cost. This offer ends December 31, 2010. Click the image below to learn more (turn down your speakers before clicking as a loud video will auto-play).
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Howa previewed some impressive new varmint models at SHOT Show 2010. We liked the new Howa 1500 Thumbhole. This features a skeletonized, laminate varmint stock with a nice wide, flat fore-arm. The fore-arm is about 2.25″ wide and is completely flat on the bottom. Slab sides run almost all the way back to the action. This provides a very stable platform that should track well in the bags. Varminters put lots of rounds down-range, so barrel heat can be an issue. To help keep your barrel cool, the fore-arm has four “Buick” vents on each side (left and right), plus SIX large vents cut in the bottom.
Behind the action there is a comfortable pistol grip carved at a good angle for shooting from the bench. It has a nice palm swell at the bottom but is narrow enough at the top that you can get your thumb around for secure, properly aligned grip. I tried out this stock and it was very comfortable. The slightly raised comb was shaped nicely and the grip really felt good in the hand. The middle section of the stock is completely carved away (presumably to save weight). However on the last 5″ or so, the stock has a conventional section on the bottom. This provides a solid platform to ride the bags.
The new Howa 1500 Thumbhole Varminter will cost between $695 and $830 depending on chambering. It will be offered in both short action and long action versions. Available chamberings are: 204 Ruger, 223 Rem, 22-250, 243 Win, 6.5×55, 25-06, 270 Win, 308 Win, 30-06, 300 Win Mag, 7mm Rem Mag, and 338 Win Mag. For more information, contact Legacy Sports Int’l, USA Distributor for Howa rifles.
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Thompson/Center (TC) has started shipping its new, ICON™ Precision Hunter varmint/deer rifle. From what we’ve heard, these guns should be shooters. Five chamberings are offered: 204 Ruger, 223 Rem, 22-250, 243 Win, and 308 Win. TC’s Precision Hunter features a 22″ heavy-contour, fluted 5R button-rifled barrel. The action mates securely to the stock via a machined aluminum bedding block (see photo below). All models feature a 3+1 detachable magazine with single-shot adapter. Tom Manners of Manners Composite Stocks has tested some wood-stocked ICONs with 5R barrels, and he says they “shot really well”. The ICON™ Precision Hunter comes with a 1 MOA accuracy guarantee, and we’d expect it to shoot quite a bit better than that with quality handloads.
The ICON Precision Hunter features a laminated hardwood stock with a beavertail fore-end incorporating vents on the underside. TC claims these vents allow better barrel cooling. Hmm… well those vents can’t hurt. The action, which has a 60° bolt lift, is very smooth to operate. The action comes standard with integral Picatinny-style bases for scope mounting. The trigger adjusts from 3.5 lbs to 5 lbs. On the prototype units we tried, the triggers broke clean and crisp, with very minimal creep. It’s a nice hunting trigger and we expect that with a spring swap you could lower the pull weight a bit.
TC is now owned by Smith & Wesson. It appears both S&W and TC are committed to building a quality varmint rifle with serious accuracy. “Thompson/Center has continued to push the definition of accuracy in a production rifle with the new ICON Precision Hunter, which is certified to deliver sub-Minute of Angle (MOA) accuracy right out of the box,” said Tom Kelly, Vice President of Marketing for Smith & Wesson. “We have listened to the bench shooters and varmint hunters, heard their ideas on what a perfect gun for their style of hunting would be and have designed the ICON Precision Hunter to exceed their expectations.”
What’s the price? MSRP for the ICON Precision Hunter is $1,149.00, so we figure street price will settle around $950.00. For more information, visit www.tcarms.com.
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Most factory “short” bolt actions are designed to fit a .308 Winchester-sized cartridge. Such actions are longer and heavier than they really need to be when used with the smaller varmint cartridges. CZ-USA offers a very compact action that better suits small cartridges. The CZ 527 model has a true micro-length Mauser style action with controlled round feed and 3- or 5-round detachable magazine. Most 527 models sold in the USA feature a crisp, single set trigger. CZ offers various versions of the 527 chambered in .17 Remington, .221 Fireball, .22 Hornet, .222 Remington, .223 Remington, .204 Ruger, and 7.62×39.
Forum member Raidman owns multiple CZ and recommends them: “The CZ 527 American is a great choice in .221 Fireball for a walking varmint gun. They are inexpensive, great shooters and have a superb set trigger that is fully adjustable in both positions. I have 6 in different calibers and all shoot great.”
Award-winning Rifles Starting at $530.00
For centerfire shooters, CZ’s Model 527 has won more awards in the “light rifle” category in Europe than any other rifle…ever. Shown below are some of the variations of the model 527. The “street prices” of model 527s start at about $530.00 for basic models with synthetic stocks, and approach $800.00 for the desirable Varmint Kevlar model ($955.00 MSRP).
The CZ 527 Varmint (wood) model is chambered in .17 Remington, .223 Rem, or .204 Ruger. It features a 24″ heavy barrel, 5-round magazine, and an American-style Turkish walnut stock.
The CZ 527 Carbine is a great “carry-around” varminter, with back-up iron sights, and a 5-round detachable mag. Offered with a handsome Turkish walnut stock, it is chambered in .223 Rem or 7.62×39. Compact, lightweight, and versatile, this is a great multi-purpose “ranch rifle” for predator control.
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AccurateShooter.com has teamed with Robert Whitley and Carl Bernosky to develop a new AR15-based, 20-caliber rifle optimized for varminting. The chambering is a 20-223 with a PT&G (Kiff) reamer, aka the “20 Practical”, a name coined by Warren Brookman*. The cartridge uses standard .223 Remington brass. Case forming is simple — just neck down the brass (Robert did this in two steps, with .233″ and .225″ bushings). You do NOT have to move the shoulder back as with the 20 Tactical. You can even use your existing .223 Rem Redding dies by swapping out some internal components.
While Carl is still working on special (top-secret) “furniture” to help the 20 Practical AR ride the bags, Robert was able to test the first complete 20 Practical AR upper built with a Bartlein barrel. Without any special load development, the gun has proved very accurate, putting 5 rapid-fire shots in a dime-sized group at 100 yards. Robert was using H335 with 40gr bullets. This load runs 3750 fps and Robert thinks more velocity may be possible with H335. We will also test other load recipes for both both 40gr and 32gr bullets. H322 should also be a good choice for both bullet weights. Quickload predicts H322 will send the 32-grainers past 4000 fps, and Warren Brookman says: “For both 32gr and 40gr bullets, Vihtavuori N133 is just about the perfect powder for the 20 Practical. It burns clean, delivers great accuracy and good velocity.”
Robert reports: “I loaded up some new brass today (Winchester brass, factory primed). I only used H335 and the Berger 40 gr BTHP bullets at about .010″ off the lands (2.228″ OAL). The thing is very accurate. First group shot off the bench after sight-in is shown in the video. Keep in mind this was done with no load work-up and I shot fast to ensure the video was not too long. The load was with 26.0 grains of H335 and the Berger 40-grainers going right around 3750 fps.”
If you shoot a .223 Rem currently it’s easy to load for the 20 Practical. You will need a Redding Type ‘S’ neck-bushing full-length sizing die, and Robert recommends a Redding Comp Seater. Then you’ll need some extra bits of kit:
1. Powder funnel that fits .20-Cal case mouths
2. Two neck bushings: .233″ and .225″
3. 20-Caliber cleaning rod with brushes, jag, patches, etc.
4. Decapping rod assembly for 20 Cal (a 204 Ruger one works perfectly — about $15)
*The 20 Practical chambering, a modern 20-223 Wildcat, was popularized by Warren Brookman, whose 20 Practical bolt gun was featured as our 61st Gun of the Week. In that 20 Practical Article, Warren explains the thinking behind the cartridge and shows how to adapt .223 Rem Redding dies.
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