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March 12th, 2023

Sunday GunDay: Hunt to Remember with .30-06 Tikka T3 Lite

Colton Reid deer hunt hunting utah Tikka t3 rifle .30-06 springfield stalking Leica geovid LRF rangefinder buck

A Hunt to Remember

by Colton Reid
In hunting, great opportunities are a rare and precious thing. Their scarcity and the difficulty in distilling clear lessons from those opportunities is what makes hunting one of the most challenging and yet most rewarding activities I have ever pursued. As Tom Hanks succinctly stated in A League of Their Own, “The hard is what makes it great.” But, in my recent hunt in Utah’s high country I was given not only a chance at some of the biggest deer in my life, but also two opportunities to harvest a trophy buck after a heartbreaking series of hard lessons learned.

About the Gear — Tikka T3 Lite in .30-06, SWFA Scope, Leica GeoVid LRF Binoculars
Colton was using a Tikka T3 Lite* chambered for the .30-06 Springfield. The scope was an SWFA Super Sniper 3-15x42mm with 0.1 MRAD clicks. Colton painted the Tikka rifle and scope himself with a combination of colors for camouflage. The cheek pad is a piece of balsa wood Colton sanded to correct height and covered with a SKD tactical PIG rifle stock pack. For spotting and ranging Colton employed a set of Leica Geovid 10×40 LRF binoculars. Carry bags were from Badlands.

Colton Reid deer hunt hunting utah Tikka t3 rifle .30-06 springfield stalking Leica geovid LRF buck

Ammunition: For this hunt, Colton handloaded his .30-06 ammunition with Lapua brass and Sierra 165gr SBT GameKing bullets. Drop was approximately 13″ at 300 yards.

October Hunt in Utah’s Central Mountain Range

Colton Reid deer hunt buck hunting utah Tikka t3 rifle .30-06 springfield stalking Leica geovid LRF

In late October I traveled to Utah’s central mountain range for one week trip in pursuit of mule deer. I have never hunted this area before and, to add difficulty, there were several snowstorms expected throughout the week. Simply stated, I was in for a tough hunt. Given the newness of the area and no opportunity to scout pre-season, my strategy was to spend the first couple of days hiking slowly between various vantage points to locate the best animal activity. I saw several mature bucks during this period, but none that I chose to harvest. On day three, my efforts were rewarded with one of those rare opportunities.

Colton Reid deer buck hunt hunting utah Tikka t3 rifle .30-06 springfield stalking Leica geovid LRF
This buck was sighted early in the hunt in a family group of does. This image was taken through my Swarovski spotting scope. The buck was about 150 yards away.

Six inches of snow covered the ground. A storm had crept in the night before and began to color a forest of green and brown pines in a picturesque winter white. Snow was still falling as I started my morning hunt in a new area. The temperature, now in the low teens, was a constant reminder to keep my layers on and jacket zipped. I started my hike down a rugged ridgeline road, and periodically peeked through the adjacent pine trees to glass a hillside across a small valley. After several instances of stopping to glass with my Leica Geovid 10×40 LRF binoculars, I spotted a monster grazing the exposed grass at the edge of a group of bare poplar trees. At 1100 yards I could easily tell this was a nice 4×4+ buck.

Colton Reid deer buck hunt hunting utah Tikka t3 rifle .30-06 springfield stalking Leica geovid LRF

I sat and watched him for several minutes and noticed he was grazing near a group of does that were slowly moving down their hillside and towards the base of mine. The buck, however, was slowly moving up and to the right. If he continued this path he would soon be around the corner of his hill where I could not see. Concerned that he would move out of sight, I decided to attempt a speedy stalk in the hopes of cutting him off. My first mistake. Gathering up my gear, and not knowing the terrain, I took the most direct path I could see. My second mistake. The hope was a direct path would put me into an equivalent altitude on his hillside, where I could make an ethical and successful shot. At least, that was the plan.

As I descended the hillside, I soon realized that the does I spotted were funneling directly towards me. To avoid spooking them I began to traverse the hillside at my current elevation and move to an area that completely changed my site picture of the hillside and where I saw the buck. Great, I had “solved” one problem and created another.

In this new area, I proceeded to again move down my hill and up the buck’s hillside in the hopes of reaching my previously planned location. But, I had no idea what was in front of me. I could not see this “new” area when glassing on the ridge. And now I was close enough to the buck’s area that spooking another deer would likely push the buck. So I had to go slow, and waste time I didn’t think I had.

Moving along the hillside I eventually spotted the poplars that marked where I had seen the buck last. 600 yards away, the trees now obscured the area where the buck had been feeding. Seemingly my only option, I pressed on through the snow. As I reached the 400-yard mark I spotted a young buck and doe less than 50 yards in front of me. I was now faced with a choice to proceed forward and spook these two deer in front of me or move downhill around them and try to climb up directly below where I spotted the big one. I chose the latter. Mistake number 3. Once I moved 100 yards below the young buck and doe, I traversed sidehill directly below where I had spotted the 4×4+ and started my climb.

Colton Reid deer buck hunt hunting utah Tikka t3 rifle .30-06 springfield stalking Leica geovid LRF
This buck was spotted among trees early in the hunt. Scroll down to see the larger buck that Colton took on Day 3 of his Utah adventure.

Creeping up to the edge of the poplar trees I saw lots of fresh sign and decided to load a round in the chamber. I couldn’t see very far in front of me due to the snow and slope of the hill, but it seemed I was close. Moving further into the trees I saw nothing but bare trunks and a snow-covered ground. A feeling of disappointment and frustration washed over me. I had missed my window. Without thinking I let my guard down and stood up, mistake number 4. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a blur of brown and white bound away through the trees, only catching glimpses a white rump and large antlers as the buck moved out of the poplar trees and around the corner where I lost sight of him. I was heartbroken. Exhausted and defeated I started back toward the ridge.

Colton Reid deer buck hunt hunting utah Tikka t3 rifle .30-06 springfield stalking Leica geovid LRF
In the higher elevations there was snow everywhere. Winter wonderland in October Utah.

My long hike back to the road gave me time to think. I walked along the ridge of the hill where I spotted the buck and found that this location intersected with the road. As I trudged up the road to my truck, I learned that simply following the road would have given me a good vantage point of the poplar trees and obscured me from view until I reached the ridgeline of the buck’s hill. If only I had known this before!

The whole night I replayed the events in my head. Where did I go wrong? What could I have done better? I decided that my best way to learn from it and that the first hasty decision put me in a tough situation from which I made more poor decisions. If I had sat and watched the deer bed, I would have had more time to figure out an easier stalking route (like the road!) to get a clean and ethical shot above the animal. And since I saw lots of sign in that area, I decided to give it a second try the next day.

Colton Reid deer buck hunt hunting utah Tikka t3 rifle .30-06 springfield stalking Leica geovid LRFThe next morning, I was back on the road and stopping at periodic vantage points to glass across the valley. The whole time I was thinking “will I really get a second bite at the apple”?

When I started to glass at the first opening, I slowly and methodically scanned the poplars where I had seen deer the day before and caught a glimpse of a brown spot moving through the trees. I pulled out my tripod for more stability and focused on where I had seen movement.

Lo and behold a nice buck was limping along the trees toward a small grass patch. Yes limping. Having the failure of yesterday’s stalk very fresh in my head I decided to wait until I saw the buck stop moving. After some slow grazing, the buck bedded at the base of a large tree just above his grazing area. Now was the time to move above him.

Because the buck was moving slowly from his limp, I figured I had time to work my way around to the ridgeline that would offer me an ethical shot. Again, learning from yesterday’s failures, I walked along the ridgeline road and periodically glassed the area where the buck was bedded.

During these periodic checks I was not able to see the buck, but there was no reason to think the buck had moved. It also offered several advantages: I refreshed my site picture as I moved to different positions, I checked my range to the poplars, and I found the location and range to where I wanted to shoot. While I walked, I noticed a storm rolling in that would soon be make this stalk much harder. I continued along the road until I found the ridge of the buck’s hill intersected, and I turned to make my way towards the buck.

colton reid deer buck hunt utah hunting tikka t3 .30-06
Click Photo for large, full-frame image of stalking path.

Walking through the trees and slightly below the ridgeline I moved to a spot perpendicular to where the buck should be bedded and crept toward the ridgeline. As I crested the ridge I moved carefully from tree to tree, checking the wind was anywhere but behind me and used my binoculars at each stop to relocate the buck. As I approached a large grassy opening between my trees and the poplars, I spotted him bedded down right where I saw him lay down. He was 330 yards away, but I didn’t have a good angle for a clean vital shot. Where I stood the trees were thinning and I had no intention of blowing my stalk by being seen in the last 30 yards. Dropping to the ground I took off my backpack and army crawled in the snow to a downed log where I could rest my rifle for a shot.

Colton Reid deer buck hunt hunting utah Tikka t3 rifle .30-06 springfield stalking Leica geovid LRF
For this Utah hunt, Colton’s bullet choice was the Sierra 165gr SBT GameKing. In this photo, the cartridge in the Tikka magazine has a 168gr Barnes all-copper TSX bullet.

I checked my range and angle — 301 yards and a 5-degree decline from me to the target. No significant wind in any direction. I had sighted in my rifle at 1000 feet above sea level in 75 degree weather and was now at 9500 feet with the temperature a bone-chilling cold. Instead of the 1.1 MRAD dope I estimated 1 MRAD and held directly over vitals. With slow steady breaths I calmed my heartrate, took a deep breath, exhaled halfway and held. A smooth squeeze of the trigger and the rifle roared. Maintaining my sight picture, I re-acquired the buck and cycled the bolt. He was on his side making a last attempt to run. Like a dog chasing a rabbit in his sleep. 20 seconds later and his chase had ended.

When I moved my head from behind the scope, I noticed snow steadily falling all around me. The storm had held until the job was done. As if my rifle was the signal for the heavens to let loose. To say that I was happy in this moment is a gross simplification of what this experience meant to me. I was happy with my success, I was thankful for the opportunity, I was sad at the loss of life of such a majestic creature, I was proud of having learned my lesson from the day before and having executed the best stalk of my life, while also harvesting the biggest buck of my life. My hunt was successful. My hunt was over. And now, the real work had started.

Colton Reid deer buck hunt hunting utah Tikka t3 rifle .30-06 springfield stalking Leica geovid LRF

Arriving at the downed deer I checked for life. He had passed. My shot went directly through the buck’s heart, and he had lost most of his blood in the first 15 seconds. As ethical as it gets. The storm was starting to really gain momentum now, so I had to choose to either quarter the deer and hang it for tomorrow or gut it and drag it to the road, which was approximately a mile away. With the snow blanket from previous storms, I decided it would be easiest to drag the deer using my body harness (Muddy Deluxe Deer Drag Harness).

The drag back to the road reminded me of grandpa’s route to school: 20 miles in the snow and uphill both ways. The drag was tough. Each incline felt like I was climbing vertically with a 100-lb. pack. Fortunately, the snow helped the body slide and I made it to my truck in about an hour.

My drive back to camp was dead quiet. I tried to soak in the experience as much as I could. To fully appreciate the opportunity, I had been given. The sacrifice my family had made so that I could be here.

And as Vince Lombardi once noted: “Any man’s finest hour, the greatest fulfillment of all that he holds dear, is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle — victorious.”

Colton Reid deer fire snow buck hunt hunting utah Tikka t3 rifle .30-06 springfield stalking Leica geovid LRF

* Colton Reid has the Tikka T3 Lite, which has been superseded by the T3X LITE, which has some enhanced features. The notable T3X LITE upgrades are covered in this Tikka Product Video.
This article is Copyright 2023 Any republication on any another website gives rise to damages for copyright violations.

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March 12th, 2023

Barrel Break-In: Expert Barrel-Makers Explain the Best Methods

Barrel Breakin Break-in conditioning cleaning Wade Hull Shilen Walther Eric Mayer Video interview barrels
Photo courtesy Sierra Bullets.

The question of barrel break-in is controversial. Some folks advocate an elaborate, lengthy cycle of shooting and brushing, repeated many times — one shot and clean, two shots and clean and so on. This, it is argued, helps barrels foul less and shoot more accurately. Others say minimal break-in, with patching and brushing after 10-15 rounds, is all you need. Still others contend that break-in procedures are a total waste of time and ammo — you should just load and shoot, and clean as you would normally.

We doubt if there will ever be real agreement among shooters concerning barrel break-in procedures. And one must remember that the appropriate break-in procedure might be quite different for a factory barrel vs. a custom hand-lapped barrel. This Editor has found that his very best custom barrels shot great right from the start, with no special break-in, other than wet patches at 5, 10, and 15 rounds. That said, I’ve seen some factory barrels that seemed to benefit from more elaborate break-in rituals.

What’s the best barrel break-in procedure? Well our friend Eric Mayer of decided to ask the experts. A while back Eric interviewed representatives of three leading barrel manufacturers: Krieger, Lothar-Walther, and Shilen. He recorded their responses on video. In order of appearance in the video, the three experts are:

Wade Hull, Shilen Barrels | Mike Hinrichs, Krieger Barrels | Woody Woodall, Lothar Walther

Barrel Breakin Break-in conditioning cleaning Wade Hull Shilen Walther Eric Mayer Video interview barrelsDo I Need to Break-In a New Rifle Barrel?
Eric Mayer of says: “That is a simple question, [but it] does not necessarily have a simple answer. Instead of me repeating my own beliefs, and practices, on breaking-in a new rifle barrel, I decided to answer this one a bit differently. While we were at the 2016 SHOT Show, we tracked down three of the biggest, and most popular, custom barrel makers in the world, and asked them what they recommend to anyone buying their barrels, and why they recommend those procedures. We asked the question, and let the camera run!” Launch the video above to hear the answers — some of which may surprise you.

Long-Term Barrel Care — More Experts Offer Opinions
Apart from the debate about barrel break-in, there is the bigger question of how should you clean and maintain a barrel during its useful life. Some folks like aggressive brushing, other shooters have had success with less invasive methods, using bore foam and wet patches for the most part. Different strokes for different folks, as they say. In reality, there may not be one solution for every barrel. Different fouling problems demand different solutions. For example, solvents that work well for copper may not be the best for hard carbon (and vice-versa).

CLICK HERE for Long Term Barrel Care Article »

Shooting Sports Lohman Barrel

Chip Lohman, former Editor of Shooting Sports USA Magazine, has authored an excellent article on barrel maintenance and cleaning: Let the BARREL Tell You — Match Barrel Care. In this article, Chip shares the knowledge of a dozen experts including respected barrel-makers Frank Green (Bartlein Barrels), John Krieger (Krieger Barrels), Dan Lilja (Lilja Barrels), and Tim North (Broughton Barrels).

“Why worry about a little barrel fouling when the throat is subjected to a brutal 5,600° F volcano at 55,000 PSI? To investigate these and other questions about taking care of a match barrel, we spoke with a dozen experts and share their knowledge in this first of a series of articles.

After listening to folks who shoot, build barrels or manufacture cleaning solvents for a living, we concluded that even the experts each have their own unique recommendations on how to care for a match barrel. But they all agree on one thing — the gun will tell you what it likes best. Because the life expectancy of a match barrel is about 1,500 to 2,500 rounds, the objectives of cleaning one should include: preserve accuracy, slow the erosion, and remove fouling — all without damaging the gun. This article doesn’t claim that one cleaning method is better than the next. Rather, we set out to interject a little science into the discussion and to share some lessons learned from experts in the field.” — Chip Lohman

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March 12th, 2023

Don’t Get Barrel-Busted! Federal Barrel Length Requirements

short barrel barreled rifle shotgun NSA tax stamp ATF legal brief

The Legal Brief is a feature of that focuses on firearms rules and regulations. In this Legal Brief video, Attorney Adam Kraut explains key State and Federal regulations governing firearms, and explains how to ensure compliance with all applicable laws.

This five-minute video explains barrel length rules for rifles and shotguns, and also explains the best (and most fool-proof) methods to measure your barrel. In addition, the video explains how to measure firearm overall length. A rifle or shotgun which is less than 26 inches overall can also be classified as a “Short-barreled” rifle/shotgun subject to the NFA. NOTE: Under federal law “If the rifle or shotgun has a collapsible stock, the overall length is measured with the stock EXTENDED”.

Highlights of LEGAL BRIEF Discussion of Barrel Length and Firearm Overall Length

The ATF procedure to measure the length of a barrel is to measure from the closed bolt or breech face to the furthest end of the barrel or permanently attached muzzle device. ATF considers a muzzle device that has been permanently attached to be part of the barrel and therefore counts towards the length.

How to Measure Barrel Length: Drop [a] dowel or rod into the barrel until it touches the bolt or breech face, which has to be closed. Mark the outside of the rod at the end of the muzzle crown (if you don’t have a permanently attached muzzle device) or at the end of the muzzle device if it is permanently attached. Remove the rod and measure from the mark to the end of the rod. That is your barrel length[.]

Remember, if the barrel length is less than 16 inches, it is possible that the firearm could be a short barrel rifle (if you are building a rifle or it is already on a rifle) and if the barrel length is less than 18 inches, it is possible the firearm could be a short barrel shotgun (again if you are building a shotgun or it is already a shotgun). Both of these firearms would be subject to the purview of the National Firearms Act and would require the firearm to be registered accordingly.

How to Measure Overall Length:The overall length of your rifle or shotgun may also classify it as a Short Barrel Rifle or Short Barrel Shotgun. The overall length of a firearm is the distance between the muzzle of the barrel and the rearmost portion of the weapon measured on a line parallel to the axis of the bore. … If the rifle has a permanently attached muzzle device, that is part of the overall length. … If the rifle or shotgun has a collapsible stock, the overall length is measured with the stock extended.


Links for this episode:

ATF Method for Measuring Barrel Length and Overall Length:
Firearm – 26 USC § 5845:
Firearm – 27 CFR § 479.11:
Short Barrel Rifle – 18 USC § 921(a)(8):
Short Barrel Rifle – 27 CFR § 478.11:
Short Barrel Shotgun – 18 USC § 921(a)(6):
Short Barrel Shotgun – 27 CFR § 478.11:

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