5 Factors That Make the Best Mountain Rifle
A sheep or goat hunt is a once-in-a-lifetime deal for most of us. And why would we want to pay so much for a no guarantee? Because we are hunters – there’s never a guarantee. It’s the challenge of something new that fuels the fire for many of us. We want to know what’s over the next mountainside or in the low-lying valley just across the cold Alaskan river.
Equipment for such hunts is something we talk about a lot. What to take. What to leave at the sporting good store. Better splurge for the occasion we tell ourselves. Do I really need a customized rifle specific to the terrain? It helps. But then again there are the Rocky Mountain elk and high-country mule deer that support the use of a mountain rifle. It’s not a one-and-done gun that’s going to live out its existence in a safe.
These three factors tie into one another so it seemed appropriate to group them all together. We might say well, of course accuracy is paramount. Or close to it.
But what about guaranteed sub-half MOA accuracy on a gun with an 18-inch barrel? That’s virtually unheard of. Or used to be. This will vary depending on your intent. While a longer, say 28 to 30 inches, barrel is generally preferred for target shooting, some hunters are happy heading into the deer woods, not to speak of Rocky Mountain fourteener, with a 22-inch barrel. The latter of which is contrary to popular belief that a round such as the 6.5 Creedmoor reaches its greatest muzzle velocity with a barrel no shorter than 26 inches. In fact, a recent article by Rifleshooter.com did a fine job debunking these beliefs. Using a Hornady 120-grain A-MAX round, there was only a slight 233-feet-per-second difference between a barrel that was 27 inches and the same one that had been cut down to 16. The results were 2,961 and 2,728 fps, respectively.
The same scenario was tested using Hornady brass and CCI #200 large primers and loaded with 142-grain SMK bullet over 41.8 grains of Hodgdon H4350 powder. Note: According to Rifleshooter.com, this load exceeds the 41.5 grain published maximum listed by Hodgdon in their reloading manual, so it should only be considered safe in the gun being tested by Rifleshooter.com. The results from the test conducted with the heavier round indicate that there was only a 158-feet-per-second overall difference between the 27-inch barrel and the 16. They recorded 2,663 and 2,505 fps, respectively. Plenty of umph for sheep and goats.
Ruggedness translates into reliability no matter the conditions. If it’s wet, your mountain rifle better fire. If you slip, same outcome better happen or that sheep could walk away never to have the eyes of man lay on him again.
Get good glass. Anyone reading this doesn’t need an iteration on the importance of the rifle:scope relationship. An accurate, rugged rifle that’s not going to let you down in the moment of truth needs the complement of a scope of the same quality.
That’s what defines a true mountain rifle – short barreled, compact and accurate as hell in the most extreme weather conditions. Truth is you don’t want to lug a barrel-heavy 30-incher up through the dense forests into the high altitude where sheep, elk and mulies reside. When it’s more about will than lungs and legs, shed every ounce you can.