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Back in the day, the Browning Safari Grade .30-06 rifle was...

one of the best-made guns you could get.

But, back in the mid 1960s, Browning was having problems getting enough kiln-dried wood to make all of the stocks they needed. One of their employees in charge of finding new stock wood found a company that was drying wood using a new process of packing wood in salt.

This process dried the wood much faster than the kiln-drying process, and this company could keep up with the demand for stock wood. Browning thought their problems of finding enough stock wood were over. Little did they know they were headed for more problems than they could have ever imagined.

This salt-curing process began in 1966 and continued until around 1971. Not all of Browning’s guns manufactured during that time had salt-cured stocks, but a large number did.

Not long after these salt-cured stocks were put in production, the problems started pouring in. Browning’s warranty and repair division was swamped with rusted guns – Safari grades, Olympians, Medallions, Midases, Diana grades and everything in between.

Now, Browning was real good about trying to fix this problem by refinishing the metal and trying to seal the stocks, or replacing both metal and stocks. But, with thousands of salt-cured guns on the market, this task was overwhelming and hurt them financially.

Even after 40 years, there is still a pile of these salt-cured guns out there, and if you look, you can see one or two at almost every gun show.

How can you tell if the gun you have – or are considering purchasing – has a salt-cured stock? One old guy told me that he could taste the salt, but another sure-fire way is to remove the stock or fore grip from the gun and look for even the smallest amount of rust.

If you see any rust RUN, don’t walk, away from the gun, as the only way to fix the rust problem is to re-stock the gun, which is probably going to cost you more than the gun will ever be worth.

Here is some more not-so-good news. Browning was not the only company to end up with these salt-cured stocks. They can be found on some of these company’s guns: Winchester, Weatherby rifles, the old Fajen and Bishop gun stocks and probably some I don’t know of.

I am telling you about this because, I was at an estate sale recently and, guess what was over in the corner, just looking like a million dollars?

Yep, a Browning Safari Grade in .30-06 that was actually talking to me. I tried to get away, but each time I would turn my back, I could faintly hear it whispering, “Jimmie...come over here, Jimmie.”

I really tried to ignore the calls, but the temptation became more than I could stand. Once I put my hands on it and verified that the serial number was not a salt gun, I put it on my list. And, when it came around, you guessed it, I just had to have it. As you can see from the photo, it is real pretty, and I am a sucker for a pretty face.

After the auction, I headed right for the gun room, where I removed the metal from the stock for a quick look-see. Ah, no rust, dings, corrosion or bad places. This rifle was as close to new as a used one can be.

Then I needed to dig deep in the safe to find a scope that was in the same time period as this fine rifle, but all I could find were scopes of a newer era. Once I installed the scope, then came the fun part – shooting it.

I was pretty sure I could find a load for this rifle that would shoot sub-MOA because these rifles are supposed to be very accurate. But, I really did not want to spend weeks (or even months) experimenting to find the perfect load and bullet, so I made one phone call to a guy I know that is a GURU on hand loads for most rifles.

See, he is retired and his full-time job is finding the perfect load for guns. He has people all over the country sending their guns to him, and when they get them back, he has them shooting as well as possible. This is not only an art, but it takes many years to collect the knowledge base he has.

Using his advice, I sat down at the reload bench and loaded a few using his recipe: (IMR 4350) 56.1 grains, case length of 2.483”, OAL of 3.295” with a 168-grain bullet.

He suggested I use a Nosler AccuBond 165-grain bullet, BUT I did not have any of those. So, I substituted a Combined Technology 168-grain, as the design is very similar to his suggested bullet and I have hundreds of them.

At the reloading table, I proceeded to load some using his recipe and varied it a little in each direction. I hand-loaded some with a tad more powder and some with a hair less. Once this was done, I pulled a few boxes of factory loads from the safe, and off to the range I headed.

Now, you have heard me mention before that when trying to find the accuracy of a gun or load, it is not a contest to see how well I can shoot, but how accurate the gun is with a particular load, so out came the Caldwell Lead Sled. If you like to shoot different guns with different loads, this is an invaluable piece of equipment and you all should have one.

I started with the loads that had a little less powder than “the guru’s” recommendation and worked my up to the loads than had a little more powder. Most of these loads were sort of okay, but not what I was looking for as far as accuracy. I saved his for last, and with the pull of the trigger, the bullet hit real close to the mark. I squeezed of a few more of this load, and each hit real close to the mark.

I then wanted to try some of the factory loads in 150-, 180- and 220-grain bullets. Only one of these looked good and shot about 1.25-inch groups at 100 yards. The guru’s recommended hand load shot groups of right at 1 inch.

Here is what I would do if I were going to keep this rifle and hunt with it. If I did not reload, I would shoot the Remington 180-grain PSP CoreLokt #R30065 – as this was the most accurate factory load I tested.

If I were to hand-load a hunting bullet, I would get some AccuBonds and load this recipe and see how it shot. I would probably do as I did with my hand loads and vary the powder amounts a couple of 1/100ths in each direction and vary the seating depth a few 1/1000ths in each direction.

I am pretty sure with a little effort at hand loading, one could come up with a combination that would shoot real close to one-hole groups in this rifle.

As I sit here writing this article, I am really torn as what to do with this gun now. It is undoubtedly one of the nicest I have ever had, and it is not likely I would be able to easily replace it, BUT, I usually buy one, shoot it, write about it and sell it so I can use the money to purchase another one to shoot and write about.

Well, I have a few more I can shoot and write about now, but one day it will have to find another home.

It’s really strange that I feel this way about this rifle, because just a few days ago my hunting buddy was saying he has “seller’s remorse” after selling an extra-fine, cherry Marlin 336 so he could buy something else. He asked me if I had ever had this problem, and, to date, with all the many guns I have sold, this is the first time I have had second thoughts about selling one.

Now, would I like to have hundreds of them? YES! You just can’t imagine how badly I would like to build a house that had a giant walk-in safe so I could FILL ‘ER UP with guns. But, unless the winning lottery ticket falls from the sky and into my pocket, that is just a dream.

If you are out and about and run into a rifle like this, be sure to check it out so you do not end up with a salt-cured stock gun. If you have one of these rifles that is not as accurate as you would like, you now have a real good starting place for some hand loads.

Shoot Safe, Shoot Straight. If all guns were treated as if they were loaded, there would be NO MORE accidental shootings.

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Jim Hammond has had some sort of gun in his hand since he was 5 years old. He started with a Daisy BB gun as a small boy, and with careful instruction from his very safety-minded father, has become a skilled and knowledgeable shooter now willing to share his knowledge and experience as he has FUN SHOOTING. “Safety first and everything else will follow.”