Photo credit: J.C. Sautter
I do a great deal of shooting with various firearms and I hold NRA Distinguished Expert qualifications in the Shotgun, Pistol, and Rifle disciplines. For years, I competed in competitive trap and skeet tournaments, and I also shoot in occasional USPSA pistol matches. These shotgun and pistol competitions are fast-paced, rapid fire events that require little finesse. Last fall I decided it was about time I tried something a bit calmer and more “refined.” A varmint/target rifle seemed to be made to order. Here’s what I ended up with.
First, I had to decide on a small bore caliber that had good availability of components and would be fairly inexpensive, yet easy to load and it had to have good velocity for a flat trajectory. I decided on the .204 Ruger cartridge. I chose the .204 over the .17s because has become a fairly mainstream cartridge with lots of reloading data available to the handloader. It is capable of extremely high velocities, some over 4000 fps and there are lots of bullet choices from various manufacturers. Finally, my fat fingers have a hard time loading those teensy .17 caliber bullets.
Next, I had to decide on a rifle. I didn’t want to build one from component parts; I wanted to have a gun that would work out of the box, but would give me a few options to improve it if necessary. I also didn’t want to spend a fortune. After quite a bit of research, I narrowed my choices to the Remington® 700 SPS Varmint and the Savage® Model 12FCV. Both guns have 26 inch heavy barrels and synthetic stocks, neither has sights, but are drilled for scope mounts. I believe the Remington’s stock is of better quality, its stock ventilated under the barrel, and has an extra front stud for a bipod. The Remington® weighs about 8 ½ pounds. The Savage® has their terrific AccuTrigger fire control system; it weighs 9 pounds. The Remington® has a hinged floorplate; the Savage® a blind magazine. Both guns felt good to me, but the trigger on the Savage was much better and I liked the smoothness of its bolt. I chose the Savage®.
I enjoy hunting for bargains and I was able to find a Savage FCV in .204 Ruger for $500.00 and $30.00 freight. I found the factory stock of decent quality, but not really stiff enough in the fore end to suit my intended purposes. I chose to replace it with something better. I purchased a Boyd’s laminate thumbhole target stock. It has double studs up front and the barrel channel is vented for added cooling. I had to do a little inletting for the blind magazine, but otherwise, the gun fit quite nicely. The barrel free-floated without any alterations. I chose their camo pattern and as you can see in the pictures, it is really a handsome piece of wood. As I will be shooting this gun off of a bench or sandbags, I special ordered the length of pull. Total cost delivered to my home, about 145 bucks. A really great deal!
(Photo credit: J.C. Sautter)
Now, a scope. I wanted something with enough magnification to make accurate (hope, hope) shots out to around 500 yards. Beyond that range the light .204 bullets and my old eyes sort of give up. I also wanted a side focus or parallax adjustment and resettable to zero turrets. It took me a while, but I settled on a Weaver® Super Slam 4-20×50 with their Dual-X (commonly known as duplex) reticle. I used Weaver® bases and Burris® medium height rings. This scope has a suggested retail of $968.49; I found an online sale and purchased a brand new one for $389.00. It is clear and sharp all the way to the edges, even at 20 power and an added bonus, 1/8 MOA adjustments.
So that’s my new target/varmint rifle, all for under $ 1000.00. I’m still breaking the barrel in but I have scored a 3-shot group that measured .385 inches. I think it will be a true “tack driver.” In part two, I’ll tell you of my load preparations and the accuracy results.
Be safe and good shooting.