The battle for supremacy among lightweight hunting rifles gets hotter with a new entry from an accuracy leader.
by Chick Blood
It seems what is true of neophyte hunters in Alaska is true of the same in Maine. Wander into any gun store south of the North Slope in our 49th State if you’re in the market for a .348 Winchester hunting rifle. None of them lined up in the rack have been used more than once.
In Maine, the .348 isn’t equally abundant. Any rifle weighing over seven pounds is. The heavy weights just keep showing up. They’ve all been brought along by first time out-of-state hunters. Depending on the season, they’re after white-tailed deer, black bear or moose. I don’t know if you’ve ever roamed some of the Maine woods, but they can get very dense. More than one game warden has told me the average range per clear shot is 50 yards. Still, the unaware keep arriving with eight pounders. The husky rifles usually are wearing sporting scopes more suitable for reaching out to mule deer or big horn ram. The knowing and shrewd owner of a Maine gun shop will acquire several of his local client’s favored hunting rifle to await as bargaining chips in the trades sure to occur upon the return of the hunters from away.
Note: “From away” is where all who visit Maine are said to come from when spoken of by a native-born Mainer. My Dad was born in Maine. He graduated from the University of Maine. I spent the first 18 summers of my life at Sebec Lake, located in the middle of Maine. I went to Maine fishing for brookies with Dad for thirty years. I go to Maine every year to see old friends and still surviving family. Yet, I remain referred to as being from away.
The favored rifle I mentioned weighs about six pounds with a scope of no greater power than 3-9X and chambered for .35 Remington. Why that caliber? Simply by using a heavier factory bullet makes the round suitable for taking any large game found in Maine. Local folks hunting the north woods won’t be owning two or three game-specific rifles. Eighty percent of them couldn’t afford it. The other twenty percent are too smart. Decades of success with a .35 Remington are hardcore proof it’s the way to go. So, “If it taint broke, don’t fix it” prevails.
Therefore, I hereby recommend to Savage Arms they add a .35 to the impressive list of Axis chamberings. The rifle already meets the previously stated requirements of a dedicated Maine hunter’s favorite. One, the Axis lessens or equals the $500.00 cost of lightweight hunting rifles presently available. Out-of-the box, sans its available 3-9X scope, it weighs in at 6.5 pounds and is what I freely choose to refer to as “Savagely Accurate.” One reliable test reported printing of one-inch groups at 100 yards with factory loads of the lighter weight bullets (55 grain) off a sand bag rest. Even with heavier bullet loads, the average only opened up to 1.17 inches. Now that my old friend and acquaintance, Ron Coburn, has retired I will pass my recommendation along to Al Casper, the new Chairman of Savage Arms. That’s a promise. Not a threat.
Accuracy is no accident. Savage Arms has built its broadly-held reputation for accuracy the hard way: They’ve earned it. The Axis is their newest offering. It happens to be a chip off the well-accepted Savage Edge hunting rifle. The Edge was built with a removable recoil lug, which served to retain flush contact between barrel and action. The recoil lug in the Axis is firmly anchored in the stock. It’s possible to remove the lug but Savage would much prefer you leave it alone.
Read more in our January 2014 issue. Back issues are available.