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GUNS Magazine January 2011 - Page 56
G IN h T NO bUT ThE T aboUT lIGhTweIGhT hUnTInG rIfleS. TRUTh John barsness he history of lightweight hunting rifles, like that of most human dieters, has had its ups and downs. Most so-called “Kentucky” rifles were very slim and relatively light, but by the time European-Americans had pushed their way west of the Mississippi, the Kentucky rifle had morphed into the shorter, heavier and stouter “Plains” rifle, exemplified by those made by the Hawken brothers in St. Louis, that 19th-century departure point for the West. The same dichotomy showed up later in the west. By the 1870s many cowboys and Indians carried relatively light lever-actions chambered for cartridges such as the .38-40 and .44-40, suitable for shooting each other and smaller big game such as pronghorn, deer and bighorn sheep. The hide hunters nearly wiped out the plains buffalo with heavy single-shots chambered for much larger rounds. In the first half of the 20th century, Eastern deer hunters also really liked light lever actions. While some Western hunters also carried Winchester and Marlin .30-30s (especially cowboys who liked the way the flat receivers fit under stirrup leather), other hunters started using bolt-actions chambered for the .30-06 and similar rounds, especially on elk. Many European hunters liked lightweight MannlicherSchoenauer carbines, some even taking them to Africa, Alaska and the Arctic—though some also owned and used a heavier rifle for bigger game, whether an inexpensive Mauser 9.3x62 or a double rifle in a big NitroExpress cartridge. Lighter actions are the secret to many modern lightweight rifles, such as this New Ultra Light Arms Model 28 in .257 Weatherby Magnum (top) and Weatherby Mark V Ultra Lightweight in .240 Weatherby Magnum. Both weigh around 6-3/4 pounds despite having 24" barrels. It used to be difficult to make a really light rifle with a nice walnut stock, but that’s no longer impossible, thanks to lighter actions. Both of these rifles feature Kimber Model 84 actions. On top is a factory .257 Roberts (7 pounds), on bottom a custom .308 Winchester built by Kilimanjaro Rifles (6-1/2 pounds). 56 WWW.GUNSMAGAZINE.COM • JANUARY 2011