Time is right for a proper sight-in session
It is not too soon to sight in for elk season, I advised my North Carolina-based son, Andy, prior to a recent visit.
He and I plan to join his brother, my second son Aaron, a Coloradoan, for a hunt in the mountains in October. But I asked Andy to bring his “new” .270 with him to a visit at home so we could sight in the rifle, which he plans to use in the hunt. That way we could troubleshoot any issues ahead of time.
I had seen the piece before, a beautifully finished early 1980s Remington 700. He had inherited the rifle, which had been a “safe queen” for likely 35 years. Though mostly pristine, those years took a toll. He had turned the rifle over to Dad for a going-over.
Initially, I couldn’t open the bolt it was so stiff and gummed up with aged, congealed grease and oil. I pulled off the original (lovely) walnut stock, gave the action a bath in gun cleaner spray, and finally managed to open the bolt. It woud cycle but it would not cock. The firing pin and spring were so gummed up the internal parts were “frozen.” Successive spray solvent baths and draining of gunk eventually freed to bolt so that it would function again, mostly. The rifle fired and empty cases ejected properly now. I finished the cleanup and sent it back with my son.
When Andy came back home with the rifle, it sported a new Remington Mossy Oak synthetic stock – to lighten the rig, he said – and a fine old Bushnell Trophy 4200 1.5-6X scope. The latter was a big improvement over the cheap 3-9X that came with the outfit. (It always amazes me how shooters will spend $700 or $1,000 for a rifle and mount a cheap junk scope on it, then wonder why the crosshairs fail at the moment of truth or the optics will not hold zero.).
Well, pardon such preliminary explaining, but therein lies a lesson: During sight-in, the bolt got cranky again, refusing to reliably cock when cycled. We managed to work it, with a dummy round, sufficiently, so that Andy was able to reliably sight in and zero out to 200 yards, our western standard. But after all my prior cleanup work, and installing a fine Timney trigger to replace the original Remington trigger, the bolt still was not reliable. This was not what you want on a rifle you would depend on when a bull elk is in range!
Back home, I pulled the bolt and when to work again with spray cleaner, draining and spraying for an afternoon. After all the goop I already had removed weeks before, there still was enough remnant oil or grease to gum up the works enough to make the cycling unreliable. (Too much is worse than not enough when it comes to lubricant.)
At last the bolt cocked and cycled flawlessly, as it should. I very judiciously applied minimal high-tech lube in the right places. Now the functions just fine after scores of cocking cycles. Andy will be good to go, confident, come October.
So, as you can see, now is the time to do the troubleshooting, not up in the mountains or other backcountry the night before the season. Know that you rifle is properly zeroed, the scope rings and mounts and stock screws properly tightened, Know that it cycles reliably. Don’t wait.
Note: On our range session we also check-sighted a synthetic-restocked 1948-built Remington 721 .30/06 (we still have the original stock and hardware), a fine Ruger No. 1 .30/06, and a 1953-vintage Savage 99 .300 Savage. All performed just fine, tight groups, and are ready for elk. A .300 Savage, elk? Uh, that may be another story. But the rifles are ready. Now. No excuses.