Sighting in

Columnist Dale Valade sights in his rebuilt .30-06 rifle in the spring of 2016.

Some guns, like cars, are simply classics, and classics never go out of style. A few years back, my favorite rifle (christened long ago as “Old Reliable”) was at a fork in the road. The barrel was not giving any sort of consistent, acceptable accuracy. Extensive research and precision equipment revealed that the barrel was toast. It was time to make a decision.

When your favorite firestick is suddenly throwing wild groups, regardless of the loads you feed it, it could be symptomatic of a ruined barrel. Now before you get a speeding ticket making your way to the gunsmith, a proper diagnosis is key. My barrel was inspected with a borescope, a digital camera on the end of a small rod which when inserted into a rifle’s barrel can reveal any micro imperfections or problems on your computer screen. These “problems” can vary in origin and severity.

Not all accuracy problems stem from a burnt out barrel. Improper bedding or poor cleaning practices are often to blame, neither of which require a new barrel.

Poorly crafted or inconsistent ammunition is also frequent. Some rifles can be impudently picky about what bullets they will or will not shoot well. Wooden stocks swell or shrink in moist or artificial climates, scopes wear out and break. Many are the potential candidates causing accuracy issues in our rifles.

An improper diagnosis of issues can lead to unnecessary treatments of the same. In medical terms, one would not undergo a heart transplant if the issue was merely an ingrown toenail. Once proper diagnostics indicate a bad barrel, there really are only two options, to rebuild or to replace. Such was my decision to make at the aforementioned fork. A quick perusal of new firearms proved dissatisfactory and quickly led me to look into a new barrel. What can I say, I love classics. The newer guns just don’t have the aesthetic appeal that classic rifles such as the Winchester Model 70 holds for me. After making a call to my gunsmith I learned that the cost of rebarrelling was roughly the same price as a replacement firearm of equal brand value. Without hesitation, I pulled the trigger. Pun very much intended. After several weeks, Old Reliable was back at it again, better than ever. Quality takes time. You’ll have to be patient while your gunsmith works his magic. When going the rebuild route, you can be certain you aren’t getting a lemon, and you can have it built for any caliber that your action is compatible with.

Obviously not everyone will choose to rebuild but rather to replace when the time comes. Whatever your budget, there are options. Many of my friends like the new cartridges, the look of carbon barrels, chassis stocks, obtuse bolt handles and muzzle breaks. Reinventions of the wheel abound with technology improving by the year. Some of the newer designs are very basic and practical while others are much more complex. Anything that gets us out shooting is a good thing. Whatever might be your taste, there is something out there for you.

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Dale Valade is a local country gent with a deep love for handloading, hunting and shooting.

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