I took a twenty-year hiatus from hunting, and since I have returned to it I’ve been going for black-tails at a friends property, which we refer to as ‘The Happy Hunting Grounds.’ Since one seldom even sees a deer beyond fifty yards there my home-grown 7.35mm Carcano carbine‘s iron sights have been just fine. I actually sold my scoped .30-06 because it really didn’t seem like I’d need it. Oops… but more on that later.
This year I had a hankerin’ to try something different; Eastern Washington Mule Deer. I figured to take my Abilene .44 magnum, mount an optic and try my luck. I picked up a Bushnell TRS-25 red dot and planned to mount a rail on the gun. Likely with the right load and a little practice I’d be good-to-go out to 75-100 yards.
…or not. My buddy Jake offered to drag my sorry ass along on his hunt in Eastern Washington, where shots of 100-300 yards happen. Too long for me with a handgun, and I’ve always figured the Carcano to be a 100-yard gun, given my aging eyes and the iron sights. I bemoaned selling the .30-06 to Linda, and she shrugged and said, “So buy a scoped rifle. Pinto’s will have something…”
Is it any wonder I love this woman beyond reason?
Pinto’s did, of course, have something. I was spoiled for choice, in fact. I don’t know if this holds true across the country, but on the used market here a scoped rifle sells for about the same price as one without a scope mounted. Even restricting myself to a scoped rifle in one of a few specific calibers I had a number of options. The one I finally bought was a Remington Model 660 in .243 Winchester. It has a TruGlo scope mounted and a sling. The scope isn’t the best out there, but it’s serviceable, and the sling is a bonus; saved me the time and modest expense of purchasing and mounting one. Another bonus is that the plastic trigger-guard has been replaced by an aluminum unit, which is quite a bit more robust.
The Model 660 was an improved version of the Model 600 carbine; among other changes the sight rib was eliminated and the barrel lengthened by two inches. Over 45,000 of these carbines were made from 1968-1971, after which it was replaced by the Model 600 Mohawk.
I felt that as old, fat and out of shape as I am the handy 6.5 lb. rifle was just about ideal, and the modest recoil and flat trajectory of the .243 Winchester was suited to the task. I got three boxes of PPU 100gr. Spitzer bullets (so I’d have plenty to practice) and headed for Renton Fish and Game Club to try her out.
I got a zeroing target and set it out at 100 yards, though I figured the odds of the rifle already being sighted in to be high. Just for giggles I decided to shoot the first three-shot string standing/unsupported. This produced a 2″ group very slightly high/left. Not shabby at all! Recoil was moderate, the action very smooth and the trigger light, with a nice clean break.
Okay, time to shoot from a rest and see what she’ll really do. I set out the rest with a couple of sandbags and fired my three-shot string, then moved to the spotting scope to check the results. Huh… a 2″ group. Better knuckle down and try harder… Rinse and Repeat, checked the spotting scope and saw another 2″ group. Huh again…
Hmmm… I broke out the range’s Steady Rest, mounted the rifle and fired another string. 2″ group. OK then, good enough.
After much discussion with other firearms boffins I figure this is simply the limit of what this rifle can do with that cartridge. PPU is OK ammo, but it’s no one’s idea of a premium round. For this season it’s good enough; after hunting season I’ll work up some handloads and see what happens.
So, Wednesday morning at zero-dark-hundred Jake and I will hop in Moby Truck and head for the Channelled Scablands, a region of gullies and badlands in Eastern Washington cut into the desert by a massive super-flood during the last ice age. With any luck we’ll bring home some venison. Either way I’ll let you know how it goes.
Michael Tinker Pearce, 13 November 2019