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This is a story about my hunting buddy Alex Thomason and his quest...

for a hunting rifle. This story starts off with Alex spending hours on the internet and reading Woods ‘n Water for information on the caliber and rifle that would best suit his needs. Alex lives in Florida and needed to find a rifle and caliber that would work well on deer and hogs.

After many hours of research, he decided on a .308 or .30-06 and a bolt-action rifle, but was not 100% sure as to what make or style. He wanted something with the power to bring down his prey with one, well-placed shot, was readily available in both factory and reloadable ammo with many sizes and styles of bullets available. I think his decision might have been based just a bit on me having the equipment and the knowledge for reloading both of these rounds.

He looked at Winchester, Remington, Sako, Ruger, Marlin and probably a bunch more before deciding on a Ruger M77. His choice was based on how pretty the rifle was, that it was American made and was dependable.

The next step was to find a new or almost new one in pristine condition for the right price. He and I searched high and low for a real nice used one, but there were none to be found – until we went to an auction in Clay County, where we found, lying on a table with many other fine guns, a Ruger M77 in 308!

This rifle was in mint condition and had either been shot only a time or two or had never fired. There were no nicks, scratches or dings anywhere. The bore was perfect, the action worked great, and the rifle was darn good looking.

Oh yeah, it also had a real nice Leupold scope and scope rings, which was a big plus, as Alex was planning on buying a Leupold scope.

Now all we had to do was fix a maximum price he wanted to bid and wait until the rifle came to the block. After sitting though a couple of hours of other firearms being auctioned, the Ruger finally had its turn. The bidding started at $350, then went to $375, $400, $450, then $475. Just before the gavel hit wood, Alex shouted, “$500!”

The auctioneer said, “$500 once, $500 twice, SOLD for $500 to the guy with the big grin on his face!” The easy part was over, and the big chore was ahead of us. This is where the title of the story comes into play. We all know that all rifles do not shoot the same ammo with the same accuracy, so the next day he went and purchased about 8 or 10 different brands, styles and sizes of .308 ammo ranging from about $20 to over $40 a box in brands like Winchester, Remington, Nosler and more.

Before heading to the range, we bore-sighted the rifle, Loctited the scope and gave the rifle a good once over. At the range, I broke out my Savage 10FP in .308 and we began to shoot. He started out at 25 yards to be sure we had bore-sighted the rifle, then went to 50 and finally to 100 yards. I had already been at the 100-yard range, testing a few more reloads, so I already had a few holes punched in the paper that he could see as we walked down to hang his target.

He was mumbling a little as he looked at my targets, so I asked what he was saying. To my dismay, he said that he was not getting any good groups at 50 yards with his rifle. Now, my groups were in the .30- to .50-inch range. The first thing I thought was that we had messed up mounting the scope. Sadly, that was not the problem.

He went ahead and shot three rounds of one brand and three rounds of another and so on, until he had 8 three-round groups. I leaned over on each shot and viewed the target through my scope, and with each shot, I was saying to myself, “What a P.O.S. this Ruger is!”

If you had been there, you would have been thinking the same thing, as the groups were, at best, 8 inches, despite being shot from a Lead Sled rest. Poor Alex’s head was hanging low, and I believe you could have purchased that rifle then and there for $200. He had high hopes for a rifle that shot like my Savage, but his was just plain terrible.

I gave him a few of my reloads, but they weren’t any better. I shot it a few times, and couldn’t get it to shoot any better, so we packed up and went to the house. I offered him $200, but he didn’t think it was too funny.

That night Alex spent many hours on the internet, researching his rifle and trying to find out what he could do to make it shoot right. He read articles about the rifle needing a new trigger, barrel, sights, wing dings and most everything else on the internet.

The next day he called, saying he was lost and needed help. I asked if the barrel was touching the wooden stock, telling him to place a dollar bill under the barrel and see if it would slide all the way under the fore grip to the receiver.

When he came back and told me the dollar would only go about an inch or so before it stopped, I told him the barrel could not be touching the stock. It had to be free-floating all the way to the receiver if he wanted an accurate shooter.

He said goodbye and went back to the internet for more research.

The next day, he called and said he had sanded out a bunch of wood so the barrel no longer touched the stock, and I suggested we head back to the range. He asked if I would reload some rounds he found on the internet that were supposed to shoot good in a Ruger M77. Of course, I had no problem with it, and by the next day he had several loads in a few different weights and powders.

Back at the range, the rifle shot big 6- to 7-inch groups. I asked if he had taken off enough wood, so he stood up, slid a $1 bill under the barrel, and it stopped about a quarter of the way down. The stock and barrel was still rubbing.

Here’s the deal with the barrel-rubbing thing. When you pull the trigger and the rifle goes “BOOM,” the barrel vibrates just like a tuning fork. If it is rubbing on the stock, the barrel does not return to the EXACT place it was on your first shot. So, your next shot will be off, along with the third one, and so on.

Now, I know some of you are saying, “WHAT? The barrel vibrates when the rifle is fired? No way that big, heavy piece of hammered steel can be vibrating!” Well it does. Even a .22 with a big, fat, bull barrel vibrates.

We packed up and headed home, where I suggested getting out the chainsaw to help grind out some wood, but he wouldn’t let me help. I told him I could hit it just a few times with the chainsaw and have plenty of wood removed.

It might have looked a little rough but it would have been done! Instead, that night he sanded more and more until he had a nice FREE-FLOATING barrel. Then he put on some stain and sealed the wood with varnish.

A few days later, we headed back to the range. This time I had loaded about 25 hand loads in different sizes and powders. I’ve run out of space for now, so check back next month for more “Fun Shooting,” and find out how Alex’s quest for a great-shooting rifle ended up.

(For Part 2 of the story, click here)


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.”