We have been looking at rifles the wrong way. Early rifles were heavy and therefore, since they were first, they became the standard. As craftsmen got smarter and methods and materials changed, rifles became lighter. About 30 years ago a savvy hunter from West Virginia woke up one morning with the realization that rifles were not supposed to be heavy. He then proceeded to change the world.
Today we toss around the term “light rifle” as though it is a specialized thing when in truth it is the ideal thing.
“Let’s walk up that mountain, shoot a deer and carry him out.”
“Good idea Bob. We’ll need a rifle. How about this one?”
It’s a long way up the mountain Bill, and that rifle is heavy. You carry it.”
Why would a hunter want to carry more weight than is necessary? Well, some will argue that a rifle needs weight in order for you to be able to shoot it well. This is a widely misunderstood notion. Holding something with weight off the ground is in no way comfortable or conducive to holding still. And, if we want to hit something with a rifle we have to hold it still. Weight is a crutch for rifles that are not built correctly.
Balance, not weight is the key to making a rifle that is easy to shoot with precision. Early muzzleloading rifles did not balance properly. They were muzzle heavy. This made them slow to get on target but with the weight forward the sights seemed to hang on target once placed there. This led shooters to believe weight was necessary.
Lighter weight carbines were butt heavy. They handled very well and a hunter could snap them to his shoulder very swiftly and then miss a target just as fast. This was because there was no weight on the muzzle end to steady – balance – the shot.
The ideal rifle would be weightless and balance exactly between the two hands that held it. It would handle like a dream; partly because that’s what it would be and partly because Earth’s gravity has a way of inhibiting movement. (The absence of weight circumvents gravity.) Doubts I’m sure exist so conduct a simple experiment. Pretend you have a rifle in your hands. Now, look out across the yard and find your neighbor’s pet; the one that pees and poops in your yard all the time. Go through the motions of shouldering your imaginary rifle and shooting Rover or Kitty.
Wow! Did that not feel extraordinary? Your speed was blinding, the balance was fantastic, and you could have held that weightless rifle on target for a very, very long time. (Of course you had to hold it until the neighbors were not watching. You can’t shoot their pet – even pretend shoot – while they are looking. That would be uncivilized.) Now, put two pounds in your left hand and four pounds in your right and duplicate the exercise.
OK. So that sucked. Gravity and our disdain for our two hands to do different things at the same time should make my point very clear. There is no such thing as light rifles, all rifles are too heavy, and most rifles are badly unbalanced. If you want to shoot your best you need the lightest rifle you can find, that exhibits perfect balance. If you do not know where to find such a creation, I know a guy.