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VOLUMES 147 & 148--------SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2014





October 28, 2014

After many years of wearing out the pages of catalogs and magazines, using lots of bandwidth surfing websites, and visiting and writing about a number of Northwest Montana gunmakers, I finally reached a point in life where I felt like I could spend the kind of money it takes to get into a custom or semi custom rifle.

I began seriously talking about this ever hotter burning desire in my August 2009 newsletter.  Having finally taken the plunge with the Cooper, resulted in my frequent picturing and writing about this purchase from order date to delivery a bit over a year later.

So, after bragging up this purchase and so looking forward to my project of owning, comparing, and shooting two left hand bolt actions in my favorite .280 Remington caliber, it was somewhat disconcerting to report the problems I experienced.  However, as I state on the home page of my original 'Old Missouri Hillbilly Website':

"In my monthly newsletters on this site, I write about various shootin', huntin' and reloadin' topics, along with some family and neighborhood happenings.  The various products I write about are items I have bought for my own use, and there ain't nobody payin' me to say anything, good or bad, about this stuff. . . ."

So, when I write about something, I write it precisely as I observe and experience it, and that remains non-negotiable.  I have always rejected proposals to place paid advertisements on my sites for that very reason.  I do, and will continue to, provide hyper links to sites I find of interest, products that I like, and companies who provide exemplary customer service when problems do occur.  These recommendations and my evaluations of products, are mine and mine alone.

On September 7th Ann and I headed to Missoula, Montana for the start of a planned road trip and get-away for a few days.  After a pleasant afternoon shopping and eating BBQ'd brisket at Famous Dave's, we spent a restful night at one of our favorite overnight hostelries.  A fireplace suite at the Grant Creek Inn Best Western always makes for a relaxing night's rest.

Prior to our departure from home, the beginning of this trip was coordinated with Mike Hudgins at Cooper Firearms, to drop off my rifle for corrective action.

My July/August newsletter (Here) discusses the issues regarding feeding and ejection should you care to refresh your memory on that.

Mike met us in the front office at 10:00 AM on the 8th, with dummy ammo in hand to check out the rifle.  His cycling cartridges from the magazine resulted in the same problems I had experienced.

Mike said, "We will get on this right away, and if you have something else to do for a while you can probably take the gun with you."

Since we were on our way to Salmon, Idaho and points south, we elected to move on down the highway, and leave the rifle with Mike with plans to retrieve it on our return trip back home.

A stop at a rest area at the summit of Lost Trail Pass, on U. S. Highway 93, made us realize that we were within 20 miles or so of the site of the Battle of The Big Hole in August of 1877.

This was a battle between a faction of the Nez Perce tribe under Chief Joseph and the U. S. 7th Infantry led by Colonel John Gibbon.  After serious casualties on both sides, the Nez Perce withdrew to continue their flight to the North, hoping to reach sanctuary in Canada.

A short few weeks later, Colonel Nelson Miles accepted the surrender of the Nez Perce after the Battle of the Bear Paw Mountains, almost within sight of the Canadian border.

The short drive to the Visitor's Center of what is now a National Battlefield under the auspices of the National Park Service, provided a panoramic view of the Big Hole Basin, a video, and other information about events prior to, during, and after what happened in the valley nearly 140 years ago.

Big Hole Basin where  the battle took place

Please excuse my excursion into the Indian wars, but Ann and I have visited several of the battlefields and studied the conflicts with Native American Tribes of the West for many years, and just can't resist seeing and talking about them when given the opportunity.

What are purported to be accurate portrayals of this era can be found in the historical novels of author Terry C. Johnston.  Terry takes us through many of the battles and happenings of the time through the eyes of a fictional character, but with the rest of the cast being the real people who were there, and the events as they actually occurred.

I met Terry some 15 or 20 years ago at Auntie's Bookstore in Spokane, early in his career.  At that time he lived nearby, and was researching material for future novels about the Native American conflicts in Eastern Washington and Northern Idaho.  He later moved to the Billings, Montana area to continue his work.

His intention was to write about the entire history of the Western Native American conflicts, but that dream was cut short by succumbing to colon cancer in 2007.  His books are still available through various sources and are well worth the read if you are interested in that period of our history.

That night found us at the Stagecoach Inn Motel in Salmon, Idaho.  This is a stop we made many years ago when on a road trip vacation.  We fondly remembered the second floor room overlooking the Salmon River, also known as the 'River of No Return.'

Good look at the Salmon River below our balcony

Good lookin' woman lookin' at the river

Brought back pleasant memories.

Our next day covered many miles, through Rexburg, Idaho, Jackson, Wyoming, and points south and east, with a planned overnight in Rock Springs, Wyoming.  Slight Problem!  Rock Springs had changed from the sleepy little town full of trailer houses that we remembered from 20 or 30 years ago, to a small but modern bustling city.  We had not concerned ourselves with reservations, and quickly found that a room was hard to find!

After visiting three full up establishments, we parked in a motel parking lot and began some cell phone work.  Finally, after being on hold for 'a week and a day', a lady at the Comfort Inn took our information and credit card number and booked us into their last room.

The cross town drive took maybe 20 or 30 minutes, and as we walked in the door we heard the registration desk crew and the hotel manager talking about the Parmans.  Turned out that someone had booked our room online as the lady was taking our information on the phone!

They expressed their dismay that this had happened and the manager informed us, "We have made arrangements for you at a hotel down the street.  We are comping the room, and you will have a King Suite, just like you ordered here."

Hard to beat a free night's stay in a somewhat dated, but clean and roomy suite with a king size bed!

Next day we traveled to Laramie, Wyoming, which would be our headquarters for a couple of nights.  (Yes, I made reservations at the Hampton Inn well before we arrived)

The plan here was to drop in, unannounced, at Two Bars Seven guest ranch on the Colorado/Wyoming border south of Laramie.  We spent some summer vacations at the ranch when we lived in the Omaha area, and after our first stay Rick spent the rest of the summer there as an employee.  We spent more time at the ranch after we moved to Denver in 1983 and in the process became friends with the owners.  We wanted to surprise them after some 25 years of no contact.

Another plan gone awry.  Even though Two Bars Seven and a neighboring ranch are located 5 or 6 miles from U. S. Highway 287, along a narrow and winding dirt and gravel road, the owners of the ranches had found it necessary, in today's world, to install an electronic gate to prevent unwanted traffic.

There went the surprise, but after telephone contact, we did manage to have short visits with those we came to see.  The ranch is owned and operated by Polly Millican and her two daughters, Peg and Leah.  Leah stopped in at our hotel for a visit the next morning, and then we ventured to the ranch for some time with Polly and Peg later that day.

If you have an interest in learning more about Two Bars Seven and their accommodations, visit their website at www.twobarssevenranch.com.

I should mention, that even mid September can see some winter weather in Wyoming.  We only saw high winds and a little sideways snowfall during our last night in Laramie, but 300 miles to the north, Sheridan had 13 inches of snow!  Fortunately, the rest of our trip was sunny and warm and we had no bad roads to contend with.

As we began our return trip, we overnighted in Dubois, Wyoming, and proceeded into and through Yellowstone National Park the next day.  We didn't linger as we drove through the park, but did get a closeup view of a bugling bull elk, and an even closer look at a couple of bull bison that caused a traffic jam by meandering along in the middle of the road.

Yellowstone Elk

Yellowstone Bison

An overnight in Belgrade, Montana, and another in Missoula's Grant Creek Inn, put us in position for the short excursion to Stevensville to the Cooper factory to pick up my rifle on the morning of September 15th.  An exchange of emails had set this appointment and revealed,  "All good.  We had it fixed within two hours after you dropped it off.  It's ready to go."

Glenn May brought the rifle to the front office after our arrival, we un-boxed it and ran some of my dummy rounds through the magazine.  So far so good!  My copy of the repair order, in the 'FINDING - FINAL ACTIONS:' area stated, " Modified ejector, replaced extractor, modified magazine.  Test function."

After returning home that evening the rifle went back into the safe, for further work after scope mounting.

Before our little road trip, I had ordered scopes for the Browning and Cooper directly from Leupold's factory in Oregon.  The order also included bases and rings for the Browning.  The Cooper was ordered with Talley bases and case colored scope rings to match the rifle's receiver so were already on hand.

Son Rick, who was checking on the home place daily, had notified us via text message that the scopes had both arrived while we were gone.  We still had not seen the bases and rings for the Browning.  Inquiry a few days later revealed that the base and ring set was on back order and would be shipped as soon as they were made.  They arrived about a week later.

As a side note, Leupold (www.leupold.com) has an excellent program for discounts on their products for state certified hunter education instructors.  With limitations, of course, scopes, other optics, and accessories can be ordered through the program with substantial savings.  If you are a certified instructor, contact your state agency for details.

The scopes ordered were both VX3 2.5 - 8 x 36mm, one in matte finish to match the Browning, and the other in gloss for the Cooper.  Scope mounting went without problems, although these VX3 scopes are short enough that there is not a lot of room between the rings on a long action firearm for eye relief adjustment.  The length of pull on both rifles makes the eye relief perfect for me with a center placement between the rings.  Extension rings are available for most brands of bases in the event more adjustment is needed.

I won't go into detail about the scope mounting process, but if you want to see a detailed explanation of 'how to do it,' you can review my January 2008 newsletter (Here).  At the time I wrote that piece, torque values as to how tight mounting screws should be were sometimes hard to come by.  With the proliferation of measuring tools on the market today, Leupold now puts their torque recommendations on the product packaging.  A quick phone call to Talley Manufacturing obtained their torque recommendations as well.

The only minor glitch in the mounting process was that the base screws furnished with the base and ring set were too long for the front two holes in the front receiver ring on the Browning.  They bottomed out on the barrel threads before tightening on the base.  A bit of grinding shortened the screws and fixed that problem.  This was the first time I've experienced this issue with Leupold bases packaged for a particular rifle model, and I've installed a bunch of them over the years.

Browning and Cooper with Leupold VX 3 2.5 - 8 X 36mm scopes

Getting my crew of shooters together for a detailed accuracy testing session with the Cooper and Browning, will now have to wait for another time.  Deer season is upon us, and I wanted both rifles sighted in to be potential deer slayers should the opportunity occur.  In inclement weather, it will likely be the Browning, with the Cooper reserved for dry conditions.  I do not intend to carry that beautiful Cooper around in the snow or rain!

Sight in sessions with newly mounted optics begin with the LaserLyte bore sighter.  (www.laserlyte.com)  Use of this device is also covered in the January 2008 newsletter referenced above.  Proper use of the LaserLyte has always put me 'on the paper' at 100 yards with the first shot.  I next move the benchrest outside the door of the shop to our 100 yard range.

Sight in routine for me, after bore sighting, includes one shot for initial impact area, scope adjustments to compensate, then a 3 shot group.  Fine tuning if necessary, and another 3 shot group for confirmation.  I will mention here that these new Leupold scopes have finger adjustable turrets so no coin or screwdriver is needed.  The problem for me was, the click adjustments are so fine that I had trouble feeling and counting the appropriate number of clicks.

Sight in with both rifles utilized Remington factory ammo with 140 grain 'Core-Lokt' bullets.  I was not impressed with the group size from either rifle with that ammo, but I'm sure some of the problem was operator error.  Even from the bench, it usually takes me several shots to become accustomed to the individual trigger feel of the firearm, and re-acquaint myself with proper technique.  I soon had both rifles printing groups about 1.5 inches above point of aim at the hundred yard distance.

After finishing with the Remington ammo, I decided to shoot a three shot group with each rifle with some handloads I had on hand.  These were loaded on October 8, 1995 with 160 grain Nosler Partition bullets and a rather mild load of IMR 4831 powder.  The label on the reloads indicated they chronographed at 2700 fps.  If memory serves, they were originally loaded for the old Remington 760 Pump for a black bear hunt which never occurred.

First I fired the Cooper at a clean target.  After marking a green circle around the Cooper group, I fired the Browning at the same aiming point.  Imagine my surprise to find the two groups nearly superimposed upon one another!  Both were nearly 'dead on' at the 100 yard aiming point.  Each group individually measured barely .75 inch, with all six shots only widening the group to a tad over the one inch mark!

Cooper group outlined in green with Browning group just above circled in black

Washington's early deer season in our area opened on October 11th and closed October 24th.  While Ann and I could have legally taken whitetail does during the early season because of the 'old farts' provision in the regs, we elected not to do so.  We will await the late season which runs from November 8th through 19th, and try to harvest a mature buck.  None of the family drew second deer tags this year.

We have seen little or no buck activity so far here at home although there are plenty of does and fawns hanging around.  This is normal for us, as the bucks usually don't start cruising for estrus does until the first week of November.

We have had a couple of contacts from our 2014 Hunter Education classes lately.  Two students had good luck with their deer hunting on opening day.  There are pictures of 11 year old Jamie Kennedy, and 12 year old Blake Butner on the Hunter Education page of the Old Missouri Hillbilly site if you would like to take a look. (Here)

As I write this, my brother Ed and his sons are on a guided moose hunt in Newfoundland.  I'll be reporting on the results next time.

This month's hillbilly wisdom comes from a quote by the 'Duke', John Wayne:

"Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway!"

Well, it's time to shut down here, so. . . . .
'Til next time, Keep 'em shootin' straight, shoot 'em often, and above all, BE SAFE!!!

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