How I build a rifle for myself …
… is based on a number of factors
The most important of which is the experience that has come from building thousands of rifles. Seeing what works and what doesn't. Building rifles for myself also enables me to try new materials or techniques before we offer them to you. Sometimes these new things do not work, but if they don't, we will know it before we put it in our line. I would rather have a failure on my own gun then on yours.
Now, the main thing to think about is caliber selection. There are obviously a number of caliber choices out there. On my own guns I am fairly specific on caliber selection, however, I feel caliber selection is a very personal thing. I will try to explain what my choices are and why I make those choices.
Another important consideration is what action to use. Again this is very personal. When I am trying to save weight, the Remington 700 is the choice. On a gun that will be used for dangerous game the Winchester Model 70 with controlled round feeding gets the call.
This is kind of a tough one because there are so many different types of varmints. In general, the Pro-Varminter rifle is my choice. For small varmints (squirrels, prairie dogs, etc) I will use a couple different rifles depending on the conditions I am shooting in. For medium range shooting (under 250 yards) I use a .222 Remington, .223 Remington, or even a 6mm PPC*. In any case I use a Remington 40X single shot action, or a custom benchrest single shot action. The single shot will tend to be more accurate then a magazine feed gun. I use a Select Match grade stainless barrel in number 7 contour 22" long in. The barrel will have the Cryogenic treatment performed. I don't bother with a metal finish because I will not be hunting in bad weather. I use the Hunter Bench style stock which rides sand bags very well, but can also be used offhand, or prone. I will go with the 8×40 bases screws, not because of recoil, but enlarging these screws allows us to make sure they are perfectly straight and square with the barrel and action. The speedlock firing pin spring will be used to increase lock time as well as provide a heavier "hit" for the primers.
For longer ranges, very windy conditions, or if I will be shooting animals such a coyote or rock chucks, I will use a 22-250 Remington, or .243 Winchester with a 24" barrel, but everything else the same. I use these calibers because they are more geared towards longer ranges, or larger animals, and will buck the wind a little better. The Talley scope mounts with 8 x 40 base screws will hold a Swarovski 6-24×50.
If I want an all around varmint gun that I want to carry, the Light Varminter gets the call. I go with either the 22-250 Remington or .243 Winchester because of their accuracy and versatility. I will use a number 4 barrel contour 24" long on the Remington 700 action. I will use our Classic style stock and Talley scope mounts with the 8 x 40 base screws, and speedlock spring. The scope would be something in the medium power range like the 4-16×50 Swarovski, or 5-15×42 Zeiss.
*Note: There are a number of great calibers for varmint shooting, and we can chamber for the one that fits your application best.
Medium Size Game
This is another one that is fairly tough because it really covers a large range. For game such as deer, sheep or antelope I use a .270 Winchester on the Remington 700 action. A Cryogenically treated 22" stainless barrel in #2 contour, Teflon metal finish, Talley scope mounts with 8 x 40 screws and speedlock firing pin spring. I use the Kevlar Pound'r classic style stock with our lightweight recoil pad because weight is an issue. On this gun I use a Zeiss 5-15×42 or Swarovski 4-12×50 scope because of the additional light gathering. Like I said, weight is an issue, and these scopes are fairly light, but light gathering is often critical on a deer or sheep hunt. This is the gun I use for hunts in the high country and on backpack hunts.
I really like the .270 because it will shoot a 130 to 150 grain bullet with good velocity, has fairly light recoil and the weight can be kept to a minimum. With a good quality bullet, this caliber will still work very well for caribou and even elk. The rifle I use is our Custom High Country.
Medium to Large Game
This covers everything from deer and antelope to moose and elk. In this circumstance I try to choose something that will give me some versatility. I don't want to get too big for deer, antelope, and sheep, but still have enough for the bigger stuff. In this case I again use the Custom High Country but in .300 Winchester Magnum caliber and Remington 700 action. I go with a #3 contour stainless steel barrel 24" long, Cryo treatment, Teflon metal finish, Talley scope mounts with 8 x 40 screws and speedlock spring. I use the High Performance Muzzle Brake because I am recoil sensitive. I use the Kevlar Pound'r stock on this rifle as well because of it's weight savings. Even though the recoil is increased with the Kevlar, this gun will be used in the high country, so an extra 4 to 5 ounces of weight savings is nice. Again a scope in the medium power range works well. Some people will load lighter bullets for smaller game and heavier bullets for the big stuff, but I am a believer in keeping it simple and loading one bullet for everything. The 180 grain bullet works best for the .300, so I will load it and shoot everything with these bullets.
This covers everything from elk and moose to bears and African plains game. Again the Custom High Country is the choice, but the .338 Winchester Magnum is the one I go with here. Remington 700 action, #4 contour stainless steel barrel 23" long. with the Cryo treatment, Teflon metal finish, Talley mounts, 8 x 40 screws and speedlock spring. On this gun I will use the High Performance Muzzle Brake as well. The scope on this rifle will be something in the 2.5 – 10 range with a 30mm tube. Again Swarovski or Zeiss. This will work great in low light conditions, like in a lion or leopard blind, but have enough on the upper end for a long range shot on sheep or elk. Again this caliber has a lot of versatility in bullet selection, but keeping it simple I shoot the 250 grain bullet. The 225 grain works well also and would be the choice if I were using this gun for lion and leopard only, but the fact that I use it for elk, moose and plains game in Africa, I like the heavier choice. The 23" barrel is a little different, but we have found this works extremely well for this caliber. With this barrel length we get it all, great velocity and extreme accuracy.
For this application I actually have two choices. My first choice is the Pro-Hunter Elite in .416 Remington Magnum caliber. Everything about the Pro-Hunter Elite is the way to go, including the drop box trigger guard. This gives me an extra round which is nice insurance when hunting things that can eat you or run you over. On the big gun I will use a barrel that is Cryogenically treated in #5.5 contour 22" long. This is shorter than most people go with, but I know I can get the velocity with no problem, and a short, quick handling rifle is really nice in the long grass of Africa, or the thick brush on a bear hunt. I also use the High Performance Muzzle Brake to help tame recoil, and of course the Teflon metal finish. I use the 1.5-6×42 Zeiss or Swarovski scope. These scopes are great in low light conditions like lion or leopard blinds or in the thick country up north.
My other choice is exactly the same except in .375 H&H magnum caliber. Again a Cryo barrel, but this one in #5 contour, but also 22". The determining factor between these two calibers is where and what I will be hunting. If I am hunting Africa for buffalo and maybe elephant I will carry the .416 and also bring the .338 Custom High Country for the cats and plains game. If I am in the north country, or in Africa after everything except elephant and buffalo, and want to carry just one gun, I will use the .375 H&H. Again, both of these calibers have a lot of bullet choices, but I will again stick to what works best, 300 grain for the .375 and 400 for the .416.
Some Closing Thoughts
The specs on the above rifles I have outlined are based on personal experience and opinion. There isn't any special magic in these choices, these are just guns I know I can handle and shoot well and that I can be effective with. You might choose different options for different reasons. You might want the lightest rifle on the planet, fine we can build it. You might want a different caliber, barrel length or metal finish, fine we can build that too. The only thing we ask is you think about ever aspect of the rifle and make intelligent decisions based on those thoughts.
We are commonly asked what calibers are best. There is really no set answer. The most important things in choosing a caliber are 1) pick a caliber you can handle and shoot well, 2) shoot a well constructed bullet (I believe this is the single most important thing in the hunting game), 3) put that bullet in the right place, 4) practice, 5) practice, 6) practice. No matter what caliber you are using, if you shoot an animal around the edges you have not done yourself (or the animal) any favors. With the introduction of some of the new "hot rod" calibers, many people think shooting at long range is as easy as putting the cross hairs on the target and pulling the trigger. There is nothing farther from the truth. No matter what caliber you are shooting the shooter still has to do their part.
Another thing to consider, and a very important reason why I have chosen the calibers I have, is the availability of ammunition in different parts of the world. If I get separated from my ammunition on my way to Alaska, Africa or even Alabama, will I be able to find something to shoot in my rifle? There is no worse feeling then landing in Whitehorse on your way to a sheep hunt and not being able to find ammo for the .300 Boom-N-Slammer you have in your gun case. Now I am not saying there is anything wrong with "hot rod" calibers or wildcats, on the contrary they are a lot of fun and can be very effective, you just need to consider all aspects when deciding on the best caliber for you needs. Of course I am an advocate of having lots of guns, so don't let caliber selection (or anything else) keep you from ordering a new rifle!
Mark Brown, President, Brown Precision