I Hear the Siren-Song of Eastern-Washington Muleys…

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.

My beloved home-made M38 Carcano Carbine

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.

US Arms Abilene .44 magnum- an underappreciated classic!

…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 Another bonus is that the plastic trigger-guard has been replaced by an aluminum unit, which is quite a bit more robust.

Remington Model 660, chambered in .243 Winchester

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.

The Channelled Scablands of Eastern Washington. This looks like… uh… fun.

Michael Tinker Pearce, 13 November 2019

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