Big-game hunters can be notoriously hard to please, but the 97 Outfitter’s performance was matched only by Dakota Arms’ exemplary customer service and craftsmanship. Fit, finish, and feel are all top of the line

To call it entry-level or inexpensive would be misleading. I suspect there’s an entry-level Jaguar and an inexpensive cottage in Jackson Hole, relatively speaking, but like high-end automobiles and real estate, the best rifles don’t show up in the Nickel Ads.

I had to request my Outfitter from the source. Richard Spruill, like the other people who answer the phone at Dakota Arms, gave me the usual courtesy: “When do you want it?” Then “Would you like it scoped and zeroed?” Lest you think this special treatment for a gun scribe wheedling a short-term loan for a review, I must tell you that zeroing is a routine service at Dakota—and it’s free, even with the least costly rifles in the stable.

Wayne found Dakota’s Outfitter nicely balanced and manageable in recoil—easy to shoot.

The .30-06 arrived promptly. If, like me, you’ve seen enough rifles to be numbed by the preponderance of mediocrity, you might expect a synthetic-stocked bolt gun from South Dakota to mimic the lot. I actually expected more. “We try not to build mediocre guns,” Don Allen told me 30 years ago.


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Big-game hunters can be notoriously hard to please, but the 97 Outfitter's performance was…