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calendar   Wednesday - March 27, 2013

Gun Lust

Return Of The Beast

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Whoever owns Winchester these days is doing a good thing. A brave and bold thing. They are making a number of the old classic Winchester rifles, models long gone. And they are making them right, with good wood, proper polishing, machined steel, and the kind of quality bluing that has been nearly unavailable on most rifles built in my lifetime. That costs money, but it’s worth it.

And one of these “back from the dead” guns is the original niche rifle, the Model 71. The last of the best, the Model 71 was a modernized and downsized version of the older Model 1886, a gigantic lever action that could handle the biggest of the old black powder Express cartridges. Buffalo killing behemoths like the .50-110 and the .50-120. Cartridges that wouldn’t look too out of place in a Bofors gun.


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the .348 compared to a .30-30

at .610”, the .348 uses the fattest cartridge head of any civilian cartridge ever made



The Model 71 was only chambered in one cartridge, the unique .348 Winchester. It’s the only smokeless 34 caliber rifle cartridge ever made. And it’s a short range cannon. There is nothing in the woods that the .348 can not hunt with authority. It’s a bear cartridge for the biggest bruins. It’s an elk cartridge for the most whacking great Wapiti that ever walked. Deer? Oh please. The softest loads in the .348 are more than sufficient. Soft cast lead wrapped in lubricated paper patches will do just fine, meandering down range at a meager 1700fps if you want. It’s a woods gun, like the .45-70, but the big 71 can handle a “standard short” 2.8” cartridge, whereas a Marlin 336 can only deal with the “medium length” .45-70’s 2.55” overall length (OAL). And the .348’s smaller caliber means a somewhat better BC, BC being “ballistic coefficient”, the poor concept of aerodynamic ranking that the shooting world is stuck with. So the .348 generally shoots a bit flatter, which makes 250 yard shots a bit easier on the hunter. Aim and shoot; you don’t have to figure bullet drop or wind drift quite so much. And even at those ranges, the .348 Winchester still packs far more punch than a smaller, more modern (but still effective) mid-power cartridge ... oh, say, like the JJ’s Brit (trademark asserted) that I covered the other day. The .348 Winchester is at the lower edge of what real high powered rifles are all about.

And now Winchester is selling them again. Ammo is expensive, so make your own. That’s pretty much a given, when commercial ammo is north of $80/box, if you can even find any at the big mail order stores. It’s another given that you will never find .348 ammo at any shooting store south of Alaska. It’s that rare. But in Alaska, .348s are still in demand. In that big land, full of big critters, some with big teeth and claws, a big gun like this makes big sense.

MSRP for the plain rifle is $1459, and the deluxe version with prettier wood and fancier checkering is $1659, so there isn’t really any reason to buy the plain version if you can afford a rifle in this price range. Real world price is probably several hundred bucks less. Yes, that sounds quite expensive, but original rifles, made from 1935-1957 and well used since then, sell for more than this, sometimes double that amount or more. So this one is sort of a bargain. Mostly.

Joe at RealGuns.com has two nice posts on the new Model 71, one on the gun itself , and another on load development for this 3000 lb/ft class thumper.

The Model 71, as compared to my other hunting compadre the Marlin Model 1895 Guide Gun, has a higher comb and more shallow drop at the heel. The game plan, as it was when the Model 71 first went into production, was to provide good support while moving the stock away from the shooter’s face under recoil. Remember, the 348 WCF is a pretty hefty cartridge. The Marlin mostly is content to beat the shooter profusely about the head and ears, which most of us come to enjoy after a time.

...

I’ve missed these rifles. They connect me to the events and experiences of my life, something good firearms should accomplish. There is a place for rifles with synthetic stocks and modern autoloaders, however, I have a preference for wood and steel and some sign of presence of skilled craftsmanship. I also like early and earlier cartridges because I don’t think anything introduced in the past fifty years has advanced ballistic performance.

I couldn’t agree more Joe. grin


Jim Taylor over at leverguns.com has more on the .348 Winchester.

And there’s a very nice article on the old thundergun over at Practically Shooting too (use the page’s search for “.348” if it doesn’t come up as the lead post).

See More Below The Fold

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Posted by Drew458   United States  on 03/27/2013 at 08:38 AM   
Filed Under: • Guns and Gun Control •  
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