The Switchbarrel Saga

One gun is enough, for the man who knows how to use it.

                                    -Alan Ladd in “Shane”

It would be cool to say that some inspiration from a work of fiction, or the advise of a famous gun writer led to an interest in swtichbarrel rifles. In reality, it was my mother who told me “Either you get married and get out or just get out and take all your junk with you. We want to be respectable grandparents.” With the wife and full time parenting came a small downtown apartment.

Before I got married I had a total of 18 guns (in addition to 3 junk cars, ham radio equipment, astronomical telescopes, photographic darkroom equip…well you get the picture). Actually, it wasn’t too difficult to sell off most of the guns. Some of them I hadn’t actually gotten around to shooting, and in every case I was able to get more than I paid for them. Some were the remnants of some unfulfilled plan. (Like a 22 Hornet for woodchuck shooting when I didn’t know any farmers who would let me shoot on their land.) I was left with a .22, a few shotguns and a Savage 110 in .270 for deer hunting. I could fit them all in one single door gun safe.

At the same time, I joined a local gun club so that I could do some off season practice without the long drive out to public land. As part of the initiation into the club it is required to participate in several matches. Shooting in those matches revealed two things to me. 1) I was no where near as good a shot as I thought I was, and 2) that 270 was a poor choice for high power or benchrest shooting.

On the club bulletin board there was a Mauser 98 action for sale. Talking with the guy who was selling it I found that he also had a reamer for .308 along with headspace gages that he would be willing to let me use. The first rifle was built with a sporter weight “short chambered” barrel  from Brownells, and a Ramline synthetic stock for a fraction of the cost of a new rifle.

It easily outshot the Savage. I sold it to another club member, bought another action and short chambered Shilen match grade barrel, this time in a heavy contour. This rifle shoot relatively poorly (3” at 100 yards). (I should have been warned off by the fact that I had to buy a carbide drill bit to drill the receiver for sight bases and chase the barrel threads with a V-file to thread the barrel in all the way.. It turns out that all the various numbers and letters stamped on the receiver indicate it was made in 1944 at Dachau. Hardley a time and place conducive to careful workmanship.)

With the money already invested in the barrel I had the incentive to try and fit it onto the Savage. With help from another club member with a lathe, a lot of reading and some luck, the barrel was fitted into the Savage action. Then came some glass bedding, some trigger adjustments and a first 5 shot group into one ragged hole I ever shot.

Compared to working on the Mausers, the Savage was a dream! Barrels could be purchased pre-chambered or could be fitted on the lathe. After some additional barrel purchases I accumulated barrels for:

- Lightwiehgt sporter barrel in 308 for cast bullet plinking, and as a take down rifle.
- Heavy barrel 308 for High Power and Heavy Benchrest.
- Medium weight 6mm Remington for Hunter Benchrest.
- 22/250 Factory for Factoy Class Benchrest
- Heavy 223 (with separate bolthead) for Light Benchrest
- 7.62X39 Russian for single shot plinking with surplus ammo.
- 35 Whelen for that future dream Moose or Caribou hunt.

These are in addition to Shilen 30/06 that I still mount and sight in every year for deer hunting. (It way more accurate than the old 270 barrel I used to hunt with!)

With my one Savage I shoot more, and with greater confidence and skill that I did with the dozen of high power rifles I use to own!