So far in this current series, I’ve suggested six possible advantages of a single-shot rifle. By possible advantages I mean that any one of them may apply or perhaps all six depending on a number of factors.
There are an additional four which I’ll attempt to cover adequately, but briefly, in this final article on the current theme:
7) Reasonable modifications by a competent gunsmith could be easily and cheaply done.
As an example of what I have in mind, my Ruger No.1 in .45-70 has been slightly modified by having the factory throat lengthened by .30-inch, as many of you are already aware. The work was done by a very accomplished Swiss-German gunsmith who lives and works only 35 minutes “down the road” from me. Total cost was a mere $75.
What all of that means is, depending on the bullet used, I can have an overall cartridge length that equals the standard length of a .458 Winchester Magnum with equal ballistics in a light-weight, very strong, handy rifle.
Now, I’m not suggesting that what I’ve had done to my Ruger No.1 in .45-70, everyone who owns the same rifle, chambered for the same cartridge, should hire a gunsmith to do the same for them. Yet I do know of several who have. But my point here is to illustrate what is possible for mere “pennies”.
When I had a .340 Weatherby (rechambered from a .338 Win Mag by the same gunsmith) in a 26″ Browning A-Bolt SS (LH), I was seriously considering another .340 Weatherby by purchasing a good condition, used .338 Win Mag in a Ruger No.1 and only having the chamber reamed to .340 with an extra-long throat enabling long-seating of the 250s to 300-grainers. In other words, to make it a “thumper” on anything big… not a deer rifle! I’m regretful that I didn’t proceed with that plan. On the other hand, I’m still open to the idea. The Browning was 46″ in length, while a 24″ barrel on a Ruger No.1 would only be 40″ in overall length (And, by the way, the abbreviation for overall-length should not be OAL but OL, since “overall” is not two words, but one.).
In any single-shot, a simple lengthening of the throat, that allows seating of heavy bullets and monolithic bullets long, frees up space for powder, which means adding a possible 150 to 200 fps greater muzzle velocity for those particular projectiles. Also, a more efficient powder may be more practical than what was previously used. For example, with the longer throat of my .45-70 I’ve switched to a slower ball powder for the most heavy bullets — the 450s and 500s. The ball powder (H335) allows an additional 5 – 6 grains by itself over the same speed stick powders, and an additional 200 fps employing the 500gr Hornady is possible due to those two factors: 1) A more condensed slower powder, and 2) .30″ more case capacity, which amounts to about +19%. The difference between a .458 Win Mag and a normal .45-70 is about 17% in favor of the .458 that is negated by the 19% increase for the .45-70 “Improved”. I refer to it as a .45-70 Improved, or IMP, even though it doesn’t have an “improved” chamber. The chamber specs are still .45-70, but it has an “improved” free-bore which allows it to function as though it had a standard length magazine. But singles have no magazine which is an advantage as promoted here.
While any cartridge can be “improved” by using less of its initial powder capacity in seating bullets long — permitted by long-throating it, the magazine of a bolt rifle still dictates COL… NOT SO in a single-shot which is only constrained by bullet length.
8) Can accommodate any cartridge design or caliber at equal cost.
All No.1 Rugers have the same cost, on any given year, whether it’s a .416 Rigby with a 24″ heavy barrel contour or a 22″, .223 Remington with a standard barrel contour.The only exception to that “rule” that I’m aware of is one with a full stock which is usually a few dollars more.
It is customary for manufacturers of rifles to charge substantially more for rifles considered to be “African” than rifles destined for the domestic market. Sometimes that can amount to several hundred dollars for basically the same rifle, only somewhat heavier. The same manufacturers produce several levels of costs for a .308 Winchester, for example. A generic “cheap” model with a “standard” trigger, synthetic stock and even with a cheap scope mounted in cheap rings may cost far less than a .308 Winchester that’s considered a varmint or target class. And the differences may amount to $1000 or more for a rifle that raised expenditures for the company by less than $100! Have you ever come across a domestic manufactured .458 Winchester in recent years that cost less than $1200? Zastava exports a .375 H&H and .458 Winchester into Canada that is sold for just under $1000.
9) Retains value over the long haul.
Recently I saw a “lovely” H&R or NEF with a laminate stock in .45-70 for sale at a cool $250. I know these are great rifles that are very strong and accurate. You could keep it for 5 – 6 years and sell it for $245!
Yet there are few bargains in used Ruger No.1s or Brownings. I could sell my Ruger in .45-70 for basically what I’ve got into it after twenty years of use because it’s still in like-new condition. Yes, of course, I didn’t pay $1495 for it at the time. It was about a thousand. Then I had it “improved” for $75 and have added a scope, which I’d keep for myself anyway. But don’t get your hopes up… it’s not for sale until my wife needs to sell it for funeral expenses.
And I acknowledge that some bolt rifles and lever guns retain about 75% of their initial cost if maintained in very good to excellent condition. But full custom rifles will lose a much greater percentage of their original value than those “cheapies” mentioned earlier.
10) Most safe
There is no rifle on the market that is as safe as a single-shot. No matter what the argument, no safety device is fool-proof! And, if you must work a bolt, lever or pump to chamber a round there is no guarantee that the rifle will not fire! It happens. And twice it has happened to me in making the rifle ready for ejecting a live round from the chamber at the end of a hunt by simply moving the safety to the ‘OFF’ position. In both cases the action was a bolt-action repeater. The first was many years ago when I was whitetail hunting in a remote area alone. The rifle was a Sako chambered in 6.5 X 55. And while the rifle was pointed in a safe direction in a wilderness area, it startled me! The second occasion was only a few years ago on a bear hunt with a couple of friends. As darkness enveloped us, we unloaded our rifles. Mine was pointed toward a sand bank just a few feet away. The rifle was a CZ550 in .458 Win Mag with a set trigger. The “set” feature was not in operation because I had adjusted the trigger to a point where only a regular pull of about 3 lbs would cause it to fire. Unfortunately, the safety had to be released to open the bolt. In moving the safety to the “fire” position, the rifle fired! I later sold that rifle as it had some features that I came to dislike, or not trust.
And, of course, any rifle or firearm is ONLY as safe as the person who operates it!
Now, all that is not to suggest that bolt rifles are unsafe! But a repeating rifle of any type action is not as inherently safe as a single-shot. Please keep in mind the following facts:
1) A rifle is ONLY 100% safe when there is NO live round in the chamber!
2) Multiple rounds in a magazine — regardless of action type — increase the potential for mistakes or foul-ups.
3) That is especially true when all rounds must be ejected by a bolt, lever or pump. One of my sons owns a Remington 700 Mountain Rifle in .338 Win Mag. It has a blind magazine to save weight. All cartridges must be “emptied” by working the bolt! I’ve also owned a 700 Mountain Rifle in .270 Win. The action froze in a freezing rain storm and I couldn’t even use a floor plate to dump those still in the magazine. I didn’t keep that rifle either!
I’m fully aware that the M70 has a 3-position safety, and Ruger has incorporated a 3-position safety into some of their bolt actions that allows ejection of a live round from the chamber with the safety still on “safe”. However, that should not be fully trusted either because with heavy gloves on in cold weather, working a side safety can be “iffy”. Are you a “safe person”? Are you 100% certain that the “safety” is between “lock bolt” and “fire”?
In a bolt action — and I have owned many — I prefer a clip magazine for several reasons. And for those same reasons, I prefer a clip in a lever-action, as in my former Ruger 96/44. What reasons? First of all it’s much handier — you release the clip by a simple push on a release button, and then all your ammo can be slipped into a jacket pocket in the clip, then returned from there into the action when needed with a simple push and a click. Too many times have cartridges slipped through cold fingers into snow, wet grass, dirty mud or gravel from which they have had to be retrieved, wiped off before pushing them one at a time back down into the magazine with a floor plate!
Then, under pressure of shooting dangerous game, are we sure that the chamber or magazine is empty? How many did we fire? With a single-shot that is NEVER an issue or question! One shot fired and the action is opened for clear inspection before another is ever loaded. Single-shots are used in training cadets in Canada before they ever move on to repeaters. There’s a logistical and logical reason for that! It’s much more safe in teaching new recruits with singles than in rapid fire full automatics, or even with clip magazines. Yes, they will eventually move on to magazine rifles and full automatic rifles to be sure. And many male Americans have military training because of all the wars they’ve been involved in. But for those who haven’t had military training, or special training as competitors in sport shooting, nothing is as safe as a single-shot.
And apart from the other potential advantages, I very much appreciate being able to carry my Ruger, over the shoulder or in one hand, with the action open until I need to chamber a round. The short lever is never an obstacle to fast acquisition of loading one when the action is left open; in fact, the time factor is shortened. And I chamber a round with the safety on, and it is extracted with the safety on while the muzzle is under control!
Until the next when we will begin a discussion on how to realistically compare and evaluate ballistics for Mediums and Big Bores.