Why Classic Deer Hunting Rifles Will Never Go Out Of Style

BY Herschel Smith
6 days, 21 hours ago

Outdoor Life.

Let’s get this part out of the way first: I am not a Fudd. I own lots of rifles and shotguns with synthetic stocks, I’ve shot smart scopes, and I’ve hunted with AR-style rifles. Plus, I’m a Millennial, at least as defined by age. I know that new shooting technology is useful and has its place. But I think that those traditional, wood-stocked bolt-action rifles have their place, too.

In my opinion, that place is deer camp where tradition thrives. The gold standard here would be hunting with Grandpa’s old gun (perhaps a Savage 99 or Marlin 336), but maybe you didn’t grow up in a deer hunting family, or maybe Grandpa is still hunting with his rifle. Sure, you could shop around for an old, used gun (maybe a classic Remington 700 or a Winchester Model 70), but the nicks and scratches in that rifle won’t be yours. I think there’s still value in buying a new, wood-stocked rifle, marking it with your own memories, and then one day passing it down.

The good news is there are still plenty of quality rifles being made with wood stocks. This fall, I spent my deer season hunting with a new Winchester Model 70 Super Grade rifle that’s fitted with a beautiful maple stock. And, I plan to hunt with this gun for many deer seasons to come.

We were just discussing this a few days ago.  I agree.  But I will say that (a) the number of offerings in fine Walnut stock isn’t what it used to be, and (b) those wood stocks sure are heavy.

It’s also not possible to put enough oils on the stock to prevent swelling without also changing the appearance of the wood.


Comments

  1. On January 10, 2022 at 1:27 am, Ohio Guy said:

    I’ve seen some old walnut stock rifles that are just simply works of art. They give the rifle a spirit all it’s own. Like a talisman from an ancient past. THAT is a special rifle.

  2. On January 10, 2022 at 2:52 am, Longbow said:

    “It’s also not possible to put enough oils on the stock to prevent swelling without also changing the appearance of the wood.”

    Perhaps true, but a nice resin-impregnated laminate is just as pretty and warm to the touch, with the stability of a synthetic.

  3. On January 10, 2022 at 6:05 am, Wes said:

    A regular at the deer camp finally reached the age where he bequeathed his ’63 Model 70 in 30-06 to his grandson, scratches and all, with its Weaver K4. It was a pretty cool moment around the farmhouse kitchen table. Somehow I don’t think synthetics get there…

    Just anecdotally, a walnut-stocked gun doesn’t make the same disturbing ‘tok’ sound when earning a scratch bumping into a tree that a synthetic stock does. Different timbre. One easily noted as a man-made sound, the former is more a “forest noise” kind of thing.

  4. On January 10, 2022 at 11:25 am, Frank Clarke said:

    I just turned green (with envy).

  5. On January 11, 2022 at 12:26 am, Georgiaboy61 said:

    If you are a fan of those old wood-and-steel classics, at least once in your life you owe it to yourself to own a genuine Winchester Model 70 bolt-action rifle, a.k.a. “the rifleman’s rifle.” Yes, they are somewhat more expensive to buy than the latest carbon-fiber laminate wonder-rifles down at the big box store, but that is because genuine craftsmanship, fine materials and workmanship don’t come cheap.

    Don’t worry, though: You needn’t raid your retirement fund to afford a pre-1964 collector’s classic (though if you have the bucks, go for it!). The new Model 70’s manufactured by Fabrique National-Herstal of Belgium are superb rifles in their own right, every bit as good as the old and now-famous pre-1964 models. How does the saying go? Cry once, laugh forever… meaning that you may wince spending the money needed to buy one now, but you’ll never regret it. And you’ll have a genuine heirloom worthy of being passed down to your children and grandchildren once you’ve hung it up for the last time.

  6. On January 11, 2022 at 12:12 pm, Paul B said:

    I have many rifles in synthetic stock as well as wood and laminate. The laminates all are more accurate that the other two. Could be other factors at play but I do like laminate stocks.

  7. On January 11, 2022 at 10:57 pm, Georgiaboy61 said:

    @ Paul B

    Laminates and synthetics have their place, without question. They aren’t as aesthetically-pleasing as a finely-figured walnut stock, but they resist the elements better and are lighter, too. Those things matter, which is why the Remington M700 M40 rifle, which was the standard precision rifle for the Marine Corps for so many years, came out in wood only initially, before the Corps mandated the switch to composites in subsequent models.

    On the other hand, weight can sometimes be your friend when trying to make a shot, so choose whatever works best for you and drive on…..

  8. On January 12, 2022 at 8:54 pm, Mike in Canada said:

    I so envy and appreciate those times past when the above was a serious event, and the craftsmanship was the norm, not an exception.
    Unfortunately, these times we are in are going to demand a suspension of sentiment. The tools must be plastic and metal, and ideally the goal is to create something that can be left leaning against a tree, retrieved a year later, put into battery and touched off… the materials now exist to create tools that will withstand the harshest environments, the roughest handling… Durability with a minimum of maintenance will mean that the heirlooms survive long enough to become such.
    Such are the times we face. I look forward to a resumption of hand-made effort in the future, where the engraver and the artisan are as important as the engineer and the tool & die maker.
    Make ready.
    Hold the line.

  9. On January 13, 2022 at 12:23 am, X said:

    Walnut stocked rifles are nice to look at and fondle while sipping bourbon in front of the fireplace, but let’s face it: a meat-getting rifle is a tool, and it is going to get muddy, snowy, and soaking wet. It is going to fall over, get dinged against your truck, get dinged by branches, and get blood on it from your hands after field-dressing your kill. I don’t want a “work of art” for that. I have a laminate/blue Remington 700 for dry days, and a stainless/synthetic one for wet and nasty days. I have two because I got them both new for very decent prices. The laminate one is heavier, more accurate, it shoulders better, it is floated and bedded and has a Timney. But if I could only have one tool to do the job in any conditions it would be my stainless synthetic ADL in .308. For the $399 I paid for it, it simply can’t be beat.

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You are currently reading "Why Classic Deer Hunting Rifles Will Never Go Out Of Style", entry #29083 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Firearms,Guns and was published January 9th, 2022 by Herschel Smith.

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