Sunday, March 26, 2017

Being a Generalist in an Era of Hyper-specialization

I must confess that life in the era if hyper-specializtion is wearisome.

When it comes to hunting and hunting rifles, I am a huge fan of the "general purpose" category. I have been a fan of Cooper's "Scout Rifle" concept since it's inception and have done some very good field work with it. While many look at the Scout as a very specialized rifle, in truth- it is simply one man's vision of what a general purpose rifle looks like. A rifle good for just about anything you'd want a rifle to do.

If you read the hunting writers of times past- they very much liked the idea of the general purpose rifle as well. Guys like O'Connor and Whelen would often hunt much of the world with a single rifle and cartridge and proclaim the virtues of the "one gun hunter". Much of the .30-06's storied reputation was from early 19th century hunters prowling the edges of the world and taking virtually everything with the '06 and a crude telescopic sight. Even the variable scope sight was conceived as a way to accommodate as many uses as possible into a single scope.

Creating a general purpose implement is frequently more difficult than creating something specialized around a specific purpose. Generalization creates a series of compromises and balancing those compromises requires a pretty thorough understanding of the many facets of the items use. Specialization requires deep understanding of a single facet. It's my opinion that it takes a lot more skill to make something "good" for everything than it does to make something "perfect" for one thing.

I'm good with it to a point, but we often take that into the realm of the ridiculous.

Case in point- the 6mm Creedmoor cartridge.

About a decade ago, someone developed the 6.5 Creedmoor cartridge in the interest of enhanced performance for long range shooting. They desired a cartridge that would shoot high B.C. bullets supersonic to 1000 yards, mimic the trajectory of the .300Win Magnum, and have less recoil. The 6.5CM does all of those things and riflemen have flocked to it in droves primarily spurned by the recent fad of long range hunting. Neophyte hunters are proclaiming its praises as retaining high energy and awesome long range ballistics and many are suggesting its the perfect 600 yard elk rifle.

Horse apples.

The 6.5CM as a hunting cartridge doesn't do jack squat that the .300WM didn't do in 1963 and still does today albeit with more recoil. The 6.5CM's ballistics are virtually identical to the .260 Remington  which is incidentally identical to the very old 6.5x55 Swede from the late 1800s. What the rifle marketing department did was take the 6.5CM, twist the barrel tighter so a longer, higher B.C. bullet would stabilize and sell it to people as a brand new long range death ray and scads of young hunters are gobbling the thing up. The rub is those super long and super sleek projectiles perform pretty sketchy on game animals.

In the interest of even more long range target work, they've now necked this 6.5CM to 6mm and call it the 6mm Creedmoor. The initial rationale was Precision Rifle Course competitions so the round could be fired fast at long range through an AR-10 type rifle. "Why?" seems to be sort of elusive, but there you have it. PRC mimics field shooting for game in no way whatsoever.

If the 6.5CM is the 260 Remington ballistically...then the 6CM is pretty much indistinguishable from the .243 Winchester circa 1953 although most rifles will come with a tighter twist. How this differs from a "Fast twist .243" that's been available for years somehow escapes me. I've already been contacted and asked what I think about the 6CM for long range moose hunting. Just because someone sticks a new name on the case and sticks a bullet in it that looks like something from an Area 51 test lab doesn't make it a good hunting round or even a good idea.

I'm all for a better mousetrap, but at this point we're simply rebranding ballistics we've had for three generations and that seems silly.

Meanwhile the common as dirt .30-06 with a 4x scope is seen as incapable of shooting something outside of a pen.