In short- the perfect time for a writing project.
In looking back over the analytics and correspondence, many folks were interested in my last multi-part project on the .30-06 and several more have expressed a lot of interest in "budget" rifles like the Ruger American and Savage Youth Combo that I've reviewed over the last couple of years. Such writing is always fun even if it does take me a little while to finish it. I must admit, I've never been particularly impressed with the way most gun magazines test rifles. For one, they get a gun from a vendor- it may be cherry picked for accuracy or it may be a random selection from a bin, no one knows. Second, they always take the gun and shoot it with a variety of loads or even tailored handloads until they get something that shoots a "sub MOA" group. Third, rarely are any problems reported on the rifle and if they are, it's minimized.
The bottom line is that gun tests in magazines and blogs very rarely match the way rifles are used in the real world. For instance, I saw a test reporting "outstanding accuracy!" on a budget gun by shooting $85 a box ammunition through a bench clamp. While the test is valid, it ignores the fact most folks shooting $300 rifles are never going to spend $85.00 on a box of ammo or ever shoot the rifle from such a device. With that in mind, what I'm proposing is to do something a little more real world and in order to keep myself on the intellectual straight and narrow, we have to devise some rules.
So here they are:
1. Budget Rifle- must be a rifle marketed toward the entry market. For instance, the Ruger American, the Savage Axis, The Savage 11, The Remington 783, The Winchester XPR and the like. We will be somewhat limited on the variety based on what we can scrounge up for test. This is largely driven by Rule #2. An MSRP of approximately $500 for a bare rifle will be the cut off point. There is some discretion on this point driven by the local market being somewhat higher than the Lower 48 and some makers having grossly inflated MSRPs (I'm looking at you Ruger) over what you typically find them for at retail.
2. Test Rifle- must be a privately owned rifle acquired through normal retail channels. None of these rifles will be acquired from a distributor or manufacturer. These are all the personal property of someone, some of them are mine, some of them belong to friends of mine borrowed for the testing. In short, these are a representative sample of what commonly hits the marketplace.
3. Ammunition- we will select 2 varieties of hunting ammunition per cartridge out of the readily available box store stock sticking to major makers' lower priced offerings. Federal "Blue Box", Remington Core Lokt , Winchester Power Point and similar. No match ammo or "Premium" makers will be involved in the test. Real world buyers of these rifles don't buy 12 boxes hunting for optimum loads and they don't spend double the cost of the rifle on a few boxes of shells.
4. Shooting- the rifles will be fired for three shot groups, 3 times by two shooters...or 18 rounds per ammunition type at 100yds. The shooting will occur over an improvised rest, consisting of a folding table, chair, and a backpack (the way guys with $300 rifles do it!). No ransom rest or bull bags. Results will be reported in a table with no "Do-overs", "Mulligans" or "Called Flyers". The 12 groups will be averaged and reported as the definitive "Accuracy" of the rifle. I fully realize that we could squeeze a bit more accuracy out of them by using a concrete bench and bull bags but here's the reason- the same two guys are going to shoot every rifle- which statistically levels the field and the nearest concrete shooting bench is a hundred miles away.
5. The "Good, Bad, Ugly" Report- the rifle will receive a score on objective criteria such as "Feeds from magazine" as well as some subjective criteria such as "Fit and Finish". I'm still thinking about the best way to this but it will likely look like a value added analysis ( I may be overthinking this a little). It's hard to score rifles on things like stock fit and balance and so forth so we'll try to steer clear of elements without a firm metric. We'll report such things as a "Notes" entry.
There's the criteria and at this point, I'll invite readers to suggest edits to the rules. I'm very much open to suggestions on this but I need to nail it down before the shooting starts. So please make your suggestion in the comments of via email.