Ralph, everything PSYCHO says is true.
I come from the gunsmith’s perspective, and I’m about to dish some dirt:
Once you invest that amount of money in blueprinting an action, hanging on a new barrel, bedding the action (or better yet, getting a proper synthetic stock with an aluminum bedding block in it to support the round Remington action), you’re most of the way to the cost of a custom rifle on a custom action.
That’s why there’s so many custom action makers out there, making clones of a Rem 700 action. If you could achieve the results you want more cheaply by buying a Rem700 and handing it over to a ‘smith, you wouldn’t see seven or nine (I’ve lost count) custom Rem700-compatible actions out there, made to exacting tolerances on high-dollar CNC machines.
The single most important piece of the overall issue is the barrel, by FAR. There are several very good barrel makers out there, and getting a high quality, lapped, air-gaged barrel is the ticket to the long range game. The most important operation that a ‘smith can perform to make a rifle shoot well is to accurately crown the muzzle. Recessed flat, 11 degree, rounded, whatever - those aren’t the true crown. The true crown is the cut made at the very end of the rifling on the bore to insure the bullet leaves all sides of the barrel at exactly the same time. The recess flat, 11 degree coned or rounded nose are there to protect that little cut made at the end of the rifling. The thing you should do to protect your crown is to learn how to clean your rifle properly. This means that you don’t saw a damn brush back and forth over the crown the way you’ll see some Bubba’s do at the range. I try to use a brush as little as possible on my bores. Oh, and invest in and use a bore guide for your rifle. Get a one-piece cleaning rod. Never, ever try to reverse the brush in the bore. Clean from the rear (breech) of the rifle. When you start putting scopes down barrels and looking at “why won’t it shoot?” you’d be surprised at how much brush damage one can see.
PSCYHO, I’m not disagreeing with anything you’ve said - I agree completely. I’m just saying that if you look at the final bill from a ‘smith these days for all you just laid out... and you look at the bill from a smith for a rifle based on a custom action and stock to accomplish the same thing... you’re not terribly far apart any more.
Back to Ralph:
Now, want to know the dirtier truth? You can accomplish much more for your accuracy and downrange energy delivery by choosing the best possible bullet and using the best possible reloading technique than you can by choosing the hottest cartridge. I’d rather have a very low-drag bullet with modest muzzle velocities (eg, 2600 to 2800 fps) than have a bullet with a lower ballistic coefficient and mach-a-million launch velocities. The 6.5 to 7mm bullets right now have some exceedingly slippery Bc’s in modest bullet weights.
Want to know the dirtiest secret of the “gun industry?” I’m going to be crucified by insiders for saying this, but I’m an honest guy. I don’t blow sunshine up people’s backsides.
Almost everything in the area of new cartridges is a marginal improvement over the 7x57 Mauser or the .30-06. About the only exceptions I’d accept as “substantial” improvement would be the .338LM, .408 CheyTac or something similar. Forget those. They’re horribly expensive all the way ‘round. If you want to become a good shot, you need to afford to shoot a LOT. Ammo that costs you $3+/round won’t get you there unless you have money to literally burn. Something like a .30-06 has finished ammo and components you can find cheaply, everywhere, all the time. For long range shooting, there are excellent .30 cal bullets in 168, 175 and higher weights. The heaviest bullets might require a tighter twist to your barrel.
If someone comes to me and wants a rifle that can “do it all?” My first recommendation is .30-06. Always. You can’t go wrong with a .30-06. You can improve upon it, in various ways by going to other rounds, but for a one-rifle-guy situation? It is very, very difficult to go “wrong” with a .30-06 for hunting power, bullet selection, energy, modest recoil, availability of ammo when you’re out in the field, long range performance etc. That’s something else that needs to be said: Recoil hurts shooting performance. These mental masturbation magnums (as I like to call them) can kick hard if you’ve got a light (eg, hunting weight, 9lbs total and under) rifle. If they kick you hard enough, you’re going to develop a flinch. If you flinch, you can’t shoot accurately. I have a .338 WinMag. After about 60 rounds, I’m a hurting pup. Sure, it will over-kill almost anything in sight in North America. I’m just about old enough I think I’m going to pull the barrel off and re-use the action for something else, because (quite frankly) I’ve had enough. If I wanted to suffer while I’m supposed to be “enjoying” my shooting, then why not just bring a ball pien hammer to the range and ask someone to tune me up? It would be far cheaper. A .30-06 has modest recoil that won’t beat the crap out of you. If you want to get as good as a guy like PSYCHO at long range shooting, you have to shoot as much. That’s thousands and thousands of rounds. BTW - another dirty little secret: The gun industry loves magnums... because they eat barrels. Barrel life for a hot, over-bored magnum round is anywhere from 1500 to 2500 rounds. Barrel life of a .30-06? 3000 to 6000 rounds. (I am so going to gunsmith hell for dishing all this information...)
With a bolt gun in .30-06, you can use bullets of over 200gr weight in premium bullets that will put down any of the big game on North America, and most game in Africa. Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise. You don’t need some ferocious magnum nonsense to do the job. You DO need a premium hunting bullet (Nosler Partition is the starting point, IMO, and you can improve from there - eg, the Barnes TSX is a bullet I’m recently very impressed with). You can find factory ammo from Federal loaded with Partitions.
My second choice of caliber, if a person is willing to really become a reloader to obtain the best possible performance, would be a .280 Remington, which is a .30-06 necked down to .284 caliber, or 7mm. There are some new outstanding bullets being developed in .284 for long range shooting. There are bullets available in 7mm with high sectional densities, wonderful Bc’s and enough weight for hunting most anything.
Third choice, if you want to hunt only and get a different rifle for long range target shooting? .35 Whelen. Excellent hunting round. Not a target round. Best “bang for buck” in a hunting round for North America if you’re willing to reload. Based on a .30-06 case, necked up to .35. Next choice would be .338-06.
Notice something about my choices? All of them are based on a .30-06 case. There’s a reason for that. Cost. When you get into a belted magnum round, you need a different bolt face, you’re often into a different action length or magazine feeding parameter. This means more money. That’s why the gun industry is constantly trying to convince shooters their old .30-06 is “insufficient.” You need more, more, MORE POWER! You need the Ultimate Magnum, which will be so powerful that you’ll only need point your rifle in the game’s general direction and pull the trigger! They’ll die from the shock wave of a bullet that passes them at mach-infinity 50 yards behind them! You NEED THIS! NOW!
Sorry, I just can’t hold onto that revival-tent preacher buzz for very long....
Thanks for taking the time to reply. Lots of info to digest. I appreciate your advice and I will use it when making my decision.
Thank you. That is fascinating. Makes me more satisfied with my old 30.06. This is exactly the sort of fabulous information I love to get on FR when someone starts a thread like this.
Fabulous post but like an idiot, I can’t help but comment on one thing.
I don’t think the barrel life of magnums is a big deal. I inferred from your post that it was a ploy to get people to buy more barrels with the shorter life of magnum cartridges. Maybe, maybe not a ploy. But you well know that very few people put even 1500 rounds down a given gun, and gun nuts tend to own multiple guns, and as you said, Magnums have stout recoil. Add it all up, and I doubt that the short barrel life of Magnum rifles has added very much to the coffers of the firearms industry, for the reason that 99% of people will never shoot out a barrel and probably aren’t capable of shooting accurately enough to know they shot out a barrel.
Just my personal observations.