A Better 264

The late-great 264 Winchester Magnum. As the esteemed Dave Petzal would say, “It’s as dead as a dead gun writer.”

When I was 14 I took every ammunition catalog I could find, devised a complex formula, and crunched all the numbers. My goal as to determine the best all-round rifle cartridge suitable for everything from groundhogs to elk. The numbers – as they say – don’t like, and the answer was the 264 Winchester Magnum.

I’d been saving up my paper route money and when I had enough, I went looking for a 264. I could not find one and with deer season approaching, I settled for a 270 Winchester. Fast-forward a decade or two and I finally wrangled up a 264. Took one to Africa on my first safari and took another to Montana for my first mule deer hunt.

This bushbuck was taken with a 264 Winchester Magnum and a 120 grain Nosler Partition.

The appeal of fast shooting 6.5s is of course the advantage their highly aerodynamic bullets offer. It just happens to be the right combination of diameter and length for high performance from a sporting rifle without a lot of recoil. There have been several attempts at this. The 264 for sure but it has a belt and requires a long action. Then there was the 6.5 Remington Magnum. It would work in a short action but it also had a belt and a neck that was too short. And, let’s not forget the 6.5-284, a somewhat legitimized wildcat but built on a cartridge case with a rebated rim.

I took my first mule deer hunting with one of the greatest outdoor writers of all time – John Barsness. I used a Remington Sendero in 264 Winchester Magnum and it was the first animal taken with Nosler’s 130 grain 6.5mm AccuBond.

Hornady’s new 6.5 PRC is the cartridge that sort of solves all the problems associated with the older 6.5 hot rod cartridges. I’m sure some will think that Hornady is just playing off the popularity of the 6.5 Creedmoor. While that might be partially true, the two cartridges are a different as they are similar.

The 6.5 Creedmoor is all the long-range cartridge just about anyone will ever need. The 6.5 PRC adds velocity and therefore delivers increased performance at distance. It is a better option for those wanting to shoot to 1000 yards and beyond. And, it’s a better option for those who like to use tough mono-metal bullets for hunting at extended distances, because with the PRC they will impact at the higher velocities these bullets need to expand.

The 6.5 Creedmoor is probably a better cartridge for most. But, if you want the best balance of long range performance and recoil, the 6.5 PRC is clearly a better option.

For example, with a 6.5 Creedmoor, the 120-grain GMX drops below its ideal expansion velocity at about 500 yards. With the 6.5 PRC, you can add another 200 yards to that distance, with only minimally more recoil.

I didn’t do all the math on the 6.5 PRC like I did on the 264 Winchester way back when, mostly because I did not need to. Math does not change and the 6.5 PRC will do everything the 264 will do, it just comes in a better package. The only question left is, which rifle?


The Magic Rifle

A few years back Melvin Forbes – the man behind New Ultra Light Arms – spent an evening at my deer camp talking about his rifle. I was smart enough – sometimes I have moments of greatness – to get it all on video. If you’re truly interested in learning about the most well built bolt-action rifle ever made – the rifle that started the lightweight craze – you’ll enjoy these videos.

Companies have stolen his technology and cannot not make it work right.

Gunsmiths have tried to copy these rifles, but cannot figure them out.

And, others have tried to mass produce them to no avail.

There’s only one guy that can build these rifles, and here is a small part of his story.

If I could only own one rifle…The thing is, I have four of them and I’m getting ready to order another!





New Cartridges, New Guns, and Not Shooting


I just completed finished an article detailing all the new guns, ammunition, and cartridges for 2018. Shooters will be happy to learn you will have lots to choose from, and no, I cannot tell you what they all were.

I like new cartridges, guns, and ammunition introductions – I am not afflicted with neophobia. The introduction of new stuff for shooters is like a new episode of the Walking Dead for zombie lovers, like a new wine for winos, or like a new iPhone for – I don’t know – about half the population.


The new Steyr RFP 22 LR pistol is not the defensive handgun that will stop any bad guy. It is a pistol you can use to become a better marksman. $ 425.00.

What I can also tell you is that new cartridges, guns, or ammo will not make you a better shooter. Just like new camo patterns or bottles of deer pee will not make you a better hunter. You get better at hunting by hunting, by making mistakes, learning, by being in the woods. You get better at shooting by shooting.


A new cartridge – like this .257 caliber wildcat – can be exciting. It will not make you a better marksman unless you shoot it more than you were shooting your old cartridge.


I recently created a wildcat cartridge – the 6.5 Creedmoor necked down to .257 caliber. It’s new but its nothing magic. If you like quarter-bore cartridges, it is kind of cool. It will not make you shooter better or kill coyotes or deer any better than the old 250 Savage or 243. A reader recently asked if I was going to release the cartridge to the public. Um, I already did; there is nothing proprietary there. Anyone can neck the 6.5 Creedmoor down to .257 and call it anything they want. The notion that someone is going to get rich off of a wildcat cartridge is about as ludicrous as trying to get a grizzly bear to wear lace panties.


The new Hornady 6.5 PRC will make a great long range cartridge, but it will not help you hold your rifle steadier or read the wind better.

We have two new cartridges introductions for 2018 from major manufacturers. They both offer something desirable, but like my 2Fity-Hillbilly, neither will make you shoot any better. We also have a bunch of new 1911s from various manufacturers and some of them a really cool. If you like one I’d suggest you buy it, but don’t expect your shooting to improve.



If you’re looking for the maximum velocity possible from your AR 15, the new 224 Valkyrie from Federal might be just for you.

New rifles chambered for the 6.5 Creedmoor abound as well. If you’ve been thinking about a rifle in that cartridge, but could not find the right rifle for you, maybe 2018 is your year. Still, that new rifle or cartridge will not improve your marksmanship.

The only way to become a better shooter is to shoot. Shooting, for men anyway, is considered one of the basic virtues of manliness. For men, shooting skill ranks right up there with the importance of never appearing lost, never crying, or never admitting you liked that chick-flick you watched with you wife the other day. Because of this, men are reluctant to seek training when it comes to shooting. And too, if they do, they often attend the training with the notion they will show the instructor how good they already are.


Mossberg is offering their Patriot Revere chambers for the 6.5 Creedmoor. WooHoo! Do you know how to shoot from the prone, sitting, kneeling, and standing positions properly? If not, it will just be another pretty rifle in your safe.

Do yourself a favor for 2018; make a New Year resolution to become a better marksman. Sure, buy that new rifle, chambered for that new cartridge, brag to your buddies about it, paste it all over social media, and convince your better half it is that last little thing you need to become the next American Sniper. Once you’ve done that, buy lots of ammo – affordable ammo – and go learn to shoot. If you don’t know where to do that, CLICK HERE

How will you know your shooting skills are worthy of the title of marksman? Here is the Richard Mann-Shadowland-hillbilly marksmanship standard. Until you can achieve it – on demand, you might be spending your money in the wrong place.


Defensive Handgun: Draw from concealment and put five shots into a five-inch circle at five yards in less than five seconds.


General Rifle: From the standing – port arms – start position; hit a 16-inch target at 100 yards in less than two seconds.


Precision Rifle: From the standing – port arms – start position; hit a 12-inch target at 500 yards in less than 20 seconds.

Shotgun: Seriously? The word shotgun and marksmanship do not belong in the same sentence. If you miss with a shotgun – a gun that throws a hoard of pellets towards your target – you are not a marksman.

One of the most important attributes of a true marksman is the discipline to not take shots you cannot make. You learn what those shots are by practicing.


A Most Affordable Scout Rifle

Patriot Scout-3

If you’re looking for an affordable platform to build a Scout Rifle on, check out the Mossberg Patriot. In 2016 Jerry Dove of Dove Custom Guns and I pioneered this concept and since then it has been a base rifle for a custom scout by Granite Mountain Tactical.

Here is another Jerry Dove rendition, this is a scout he built for my wife on a Patriot Youth – which comes with an adjustable length of pull – and with Muddy Girl camo. I’m not a fan of the camo but my wife likes it.

Patriot Scout-2

Suggested retail on this rifle is less than $ 450 but you can find them for less than $ 400. The Dove Custom scout scope mount is about $ 150 installed, and if you must have open sights, you can get them from XS Sights. My wife did not want the open sights.

Patriot Scout-1

Either way, you’re into the rifle for about $ 550 and you cannot find a better Scout Rifle for that price anywhere. Weight as shown: 7 pounds, 2 ounces.

For more on Scout Rifles, check out The Scout Rifle Study.

The Big Book of Big Game Hunting


John Barsness hunting one of his favorite places, the Missouri Breaks.


John Barsness

If you were going to write a book about big game hunting – a big book about big game hunting – how would you know what to include? If you’d hunted all over the world, for all sorts of big critters, with all sorts of rifles, you’d have the experience to author such an encyclopedia. If you were one of the most prolific writers on the subject you’d also know what to write about, partly because answering correspondence from your many readers teaches you what they want to know.

For example, did you know the “early season hunting of plains whitetails often involves mule deer tactics.” Or that “Almost anything in Africa is negotiable.” and “the biggest complaints of many PH’s are that Americans shoot too slowly, and don’t know how to shoot offhand, even when resting their rifle over shooting sticks.” I also bet you did not know that, “…some 21st century elk hunters actually choose to use smaller cartridges and cup and core bullets on elk.” or that the bonding of a bullet, “… does NOT guarantee exceptionally high weight retention, or deep penetration.”

I’ll bet that you, like many hunters who hunt on their hind legs instead of their ass, appreciate the limited heft of lightweight rifles. Some also struggle getting those rifles to shoot from the bench. Did you know that really lightweight rifles, “tend to shoot more accurately when using an even softer rest than the typical sandbag.” and that a common bath towel might just improve your groups.


Barsness working with a double rifle during a hunt in Ireland. He holds the position of Grand Poobah at the lodge of rifle loonies.

This of course is just a sampling of the tidbits you’ll find in The Big Book of Big Game Hunting. And, as is often the case with any endeavor, little things like these matter. This book deals with lots of little and big things as they relate to big game hunting, and they’re the things Barsness has found big game hunters want to know, because they’re the answers to questions he’s been answering for years.

I’ve spent time in the field with John Barsness shooting prairie dogs, black bear, and mule deer, in Montana. We’ve hunted whitetails in West Virginia and Texas, and fallow deer in Ireland. I’ve watched him masterfully work a fly rod in the Deschutes River of Oregon, and seen him just as skillfully run a rifle in New Zealand. However, I’ve spent much more time reading the words he’s written; words I trust because I know they’re based on experience as opposed to speculation.

However, Barsness is no Jack O’Connor; he’s better. Better for me because his writing style reflects the passion of a workingman who practically lives off the wild game he and his wife have taken. He’s no Townsend Whelen either, because he has much more big game hunting experience. And, Barsness is no Elmer Keith because he knows what punctuation, alliteration, and declarative sentences are.


Barsness’ latest book. Click the image to order.

I learn stuff when I read Barsness because the lessons are craftily hidden in stories that are enjoyable to read. They come across as sharp and clear as peeing on an electric fence, but with the refreshing smoothness of a gin & tonic at an African campfire. After you read The Big Book of Big Game Hunting you’ll look at big game hunting in a different way because you will know more about it. Then, you will probably order The Life of the Hunt, which is one of the five best hunting books ever written. When you do, tell John a hillbilly sent you, and he might even write an exceptionally snide comment inside the front cover.


Barsness, who has written for every major outdoor periodical, and his wife-chef Eileen Clarke, a hunter who has authored more wild game cookbooks than maybe anyone ever, operate the website Rifles and Recipes.