The Upside Of DOWNSIZING

In steep country, ounces count. Most hunters are over-scoped and…

In steep country, ounces count. Most hunters are over-scoped and pack too much glass. As a general rule, a scope should comprise no more than 15 percent of the rifle weight.

It weighs as much as an apple. No bulkier than a goose call, it huddles close to the quarter-rib on my Ruger carbine. The compact 4×20 Burris Timberline seems to me an ideal sight for just about any shot I might take at a deer inside 300 yards. Longer pokes distress me.

Not that we don’t have rifles and cartridges capable of hitting far. I’ve banged away at steel gongs at up to a mile. But most big game is killed close enough for precise hits with a 4X scope. Both deer I shot with that Ruger last year fell at around 200 yards.

Oddly enough, most hunting rifles these days wear powerful glass that’s also heavy. As puzzling, big scopes are often paired with fluted barrels and hollow, polymer stocks. Picture an NFL linebacker on Ono’s bicycle. Moving ounces from your rifle to its scope makes as much sense as putting a chest freezer on a coffee table. The proper place for mass is low—in a photograph, a sports car, a golf club. Most of a rifle’s mass should lie between your hands, not perched above the bore line.

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Whatever your final choice is for binoculars, make sure that you shop around for an adequate strap system.

Hewing to this logic, you have a couple of choices: get a heavier rifle or a lighter scope. Shooting from a bench, you’ll find more rifle mass pleasing. It absorbs recoil, and it resists the tremors induced by your pulse and muscle twitches. Afield, mass does the same things, but you must also carry your rifle. If it becomes such a burden as to prevent you from going where the game is, you might as well tote an anvil.

Yes, hunting rifles can be too light. Like racing bikes and supermodels.

Weight Games

Where I hunt, some hills are steep enough to keep your hands on rock most of the time. But even in gentler terrain, a rifle that carries easily brings you more shooting. You stay fresh longer, search more places. When you do get a shot, the featherweight rifle won’t settle as quickly as one with more mass, and it may not corral succeeding shots as tightly. But a sling or a bipod, a backpack or some other improvised rest can help steady it (and you) for the shot. And if you’ve taken care placing the first bullet, warm-barrel accuracy is of no consequence.

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