RIf:LES

.243 Hunting Rifles: We Find A Trio of Lefty and 'Ambi' Winners

In this battle of southpaw bolt rifles from Tikka and Savage and a lever action from Browning, we test three easy-to-shoot products.

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While many left-handed shooters have accept­ ed their fate of living in a right-handed world, the cross-dominant shooter is yet another kind of victim. Being cross dominant means the hand of great­ est dextelity is on the opposite side of the body from the dominant eye.

Are you cross dominant? Here's a test. If you are right handed, for exan1ple, make a circle by connect­ ing the tip of your right thumb to the tip of your right index finger. Hold it at arm's length and then bring it slowly to your eye so that you can see clearly through the circle. If it comes naturally to your left eye, you are cross dominant.

For the left-handed rifle shooter who is cross dominant, life behind the stock may not be as bad. Mount a right-handed rifle and shut the left eye. Arguably, it should be easier for the left-handed shooter to train the opposite trigger finger than it is for the cross dominant right-handed shooter to stretch the neck across the stock to get the dominant eye lined up with the sights. Learning to shut the left eye or blocking it out is an alternative.

In either case, both left-handed! left-eye-dominant shooters and right-handed cross-dominant shooters have a paucity of south­ paw products to choose from. In fact, we found only two left-hand bolt guns in .243, and a single .243 lever-action that ejects away from the sight line, so it's practically ambidextrous, to choose from. The bolt guns were the Tikka M595LH, 3615, and Savage Model llFL, 3419. The lever action was Brown­ ing's box-fed BLR, $649, whose de-

--,.y 2002. www.gun-tests.com

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Left-hand bolt rifles we tested included the Tikka M595LH (rear) and Savage Model1.1.FL. If money weren't an object, we'd buy the Tikka for ourselves, but we think the lower-priced Savage is a Best Buy. We also liked a lever action BLR from Browning in 243.

tachable magazine allows it to shoot spitzer bullets safely.

How We Tested

Certainly we had no complaint with the caliber. The high velocity and minimal bearing surface of the .243 cartridge makes for excep­ tional power with comfortable re­ coil. This last characteristic was important because the cross domi­ nant shooter was required to mount the rifle on the left shoulder, which in this case was naturally less muscled than the right side and not as accustomed to impact.

Our target distance was 100 yards. Test apparatus included a

Ransom lifle rest under the forends and a Protektor Bag under the buttstock. An Oehler 35P chrono­ graph measured velocity. To avoid faulty readings due to muzzle blast we moved the chronograph screens an additional 2 feet down­ range to a distance of 12 feet.

Our choice of ammunition was an 80-grain-topped cartridge from Winchester (pointed soft point number X2431) and two 100-grain rounds from Federal and Hornady. Federal calls its round the Hi-Shok soft point (243B) and Hornady's cartlidge goes by the name of BTSP Interlock Bullet number 8046. Two scopes were used, the new Weaver

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four rounds. The physical dimen­ sions and shape of the .243 ammu­ nition makes feeding from a tubu­ lar magazine such as those found on most lever-action rifles unfea­ sible. Also, since this lever action rifle was such a willing repeater, we felt it was completely in charac­ ter to make a quick mag change and continue rapid fire. This may not be necessary but we found do­ ing so was quite frankly, a blast.

Of the three rifles, the BLR is easily the fanciest looking. It fea­ tures a glossy wood stock with fancy grain and fine checkering, plus a chromed bolt and gold ser­ rated trigger. Remaining metal fin­ ish is high gloss blue. The rubber buttpad is checkered, and the sup­ plied sights include not only a fully adjustable rear assembly but also a gold bead up front. We only wished the front sight was a little more bold. Even so, we had good results plinking with the supplied sights.

We found the Browning to be very easy to index at the bench, and we did not find it necessary to stand between shots to work the lever. The action was very smooth, but we did notice that without the magazine in place the hammer would not always go to full cock, staying high enough to grind against the teeth on the bottom of the bolt. Evidently the presence of the magazine was partially support­ ing the bolt. This can be avoided by thumbing back the hammer before working the lever. The BLR does not offer an external safety lever, but due to an internal firing pin safety, the rifle will not fire unless the hammer is all the way back and the trigger is pressed. Still, the hammer can be lowered onto a loaded chamber for 4+ 1 capacity. This takes some care, and we don't recommend it, but the presence of a wide, serrated hammer tang took a lot of the worry out of doing so. For added safety, once the hammer was down we pulled the hammer back about one-third of an inch to a first click. The tang will then swivel forward and down to support the

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July 2002 • www.gun-tests.com

BROWNING BLR .243 WINCHESTER, $649 • (,'I' UI~(~O~nll~NI)i\.'I'ION: IUJY 1'1' •

40.2 in. Length

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j18.5 in. Sight Radius

I 20 in. Barrel Length

The BLR looks, feels, and shoots well beyond what most people envision a lever-action rifle being able to do.

SPECIFICATIONS

FINISH Blue
STOCK MATERIAL Wood
BUTTPAO Rubber
WEIGHT (UNLOADED wiD SCOPE) 6.751bs
CAPACiTy 4+1
ACTION TYPE Lever
MAGAZINE TYPE Box
TRIGGER PULL 5lbs.
DROP@ HEEL OJ in.
DROP@ COMB 0.7 in.
CONTACT Browning (801) 876-2771

hammer in this position without danger of contacting the firing pin. The trigger is now deactivated. To reactivate, the hammer needs to be pulled back to full cock without the finger on the trigger.

The action of the BLR locks up at the front of the case and utilizes a rotating bolt. Velocities recorded by the BLR were lower than from our bolt-action rifles, partially be­ cause the barrel was 2 inches shorter. Other factors that can af­ fect velocity are bore roughness and size of the chamber.

Shooting this gun, we averaged groups of five shots measuring 1.6 inches with all three test rounds. Heat buildup in the barrel did not seem to cause any change in accu­ racy. Since our ammunition varied in weight and composition, we would have to say that the BLR is

The high-grade lustre on the BLR's metal and wood surfaces put it a finish mark higher than the other guns, in our view.

both versatile and consistent.

Gun Tests Recommends

$ Savage Model IIFL, $419.

Best Buy. The Savage offers a very solid mount and holds up to heat and hard use. The trigger was hea­ vy, but it moved without creep or grit. The price makes it a Best Buy.

V Tikka M595, $615. Our Pick. You may have to work around the integral mount (which saves money) but its trigger is a treat. The Tikka handles with ease and grace.

V Browning BLR, $649. Buy It. This had a beautiful stock, and its accurate open sights are out of the way and allow for mounting a scope. We would also rate it a "Most Fun" buy. This is a classy le­ ver-action rifle for those who don't like lever actions. (,'I'

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