The tale of the ‘phoenix’ rifle, part two

Gerald Scott - Contributing columnist


Gerald Scott

Contributing columnist


By the end of part one of this tale (see May 7-8, 2016, edition of the Sedalia Democrat) I had taken a vintage–but pristine–barreled action from a .243 Remington Model 788, swapped the original trigger for a Timney Match Grade trigger (, fiberglass bedded the action into a Boyd stock ( and topped the result with a Hawke Optics ( Endurance 30 scope with a mil dot reticule. I then promised to “take my creation out into the real world and see what happens.”

But before we tackle that subject, I like it noted that, the fact that dreaming and scheming about firearms is inherently fun notwithstanding, in my opinion, the only practical reason to reinvent the wheel by creating a custom rifle is to get exactly what you want.

That’s why I defied the trend toward lightweight rifles when I built Phoenix, which, by the way, is one of only two rifles I’ve ever given names. Fully loaded and equipped with a sling, it tips the scales at a hair under 10 pounds. Ridiculously heavy for a .243, you say? One of the basic laws of physics states that an object at rest tends to remain at rest until acted upon by an outside force. In the real world, a heavy rifle is easier to hold steady than a light one, because a greater outside force is required to overcome its inertia.

The first time I took a seat at the bench, snuggled Phoenix’s stock into my shoulder and touched the trigger, I discovered that felt recoil was essentially zero–certainly little, if any more than that of a .22 rimfire. Admittedly, the .243’s recoil is inherently light, but a near-zero push back is a huge advantage in situations like, but not limited to shooting off of one’s opposite shoulder–a skill that can come in very handy, especially for hunters who use tree stands.

Although as noted, Phoenix’s reduced recoil is partially a factor of the its weight, I give most of the credit to the design of its stock. If my dreams come true, and I get to hunt in Africa, you can bet the .375 H&H or .416 Rigby I’ll be carrying will sport a Boyd stock.

As I expected, that first round was several inches from the X-ring, when it punched through the target, which was positioned 100 yards downrange. After putting the rifle in a gun vise with the scope’s crosshairs set exactly on the center of the bulls eye and locking it down tight, I adjusted the crosshairs until they bisected the bullet hole. This brought the scope’s view and the bullet’s impact point into good–but far from perfect–alignment.

If deference to the high cost of ammunition these days, I then fired a three-shot group, spacing the shots about three minutes apart. The group’s half-inch spread was more than satisfactory, but its center was almost an inch left of perfect. I adjusted the scope 4 clicks to the right and fired another group. Bingo!

Since I was the only one on the range and, therefore, could do so safely, I moved in front of the bench and fired a three-shot group from a sitting position using bipod shooting sticks. A quarter completely covered it. I don’t do “happy dances,” but if I did, I would have.

Phoenix’s “most equal among equals” component is the Hawke Optics scope. One of my goals was to be able to stretch the long range capability of the .243 to its outer limits, and the Endurance 30 I chose opens that door wide. Not only is it a 2.5x-10x variable, but, unlike every other scope I’ve ever tried, I can easily get a crystal clear, full field sight picture at any power setting.

The Endurance 30’s mil dot reticule is also designed to let shooters reach out and touch something. In addition to the dot, which is set to be dead on at the sight-in distance, the top of the lower vertical crosshair, two short horizontal crosshairs and the top of thick portion of the

vertical crosshair provide reference points for longer ranges.

None of that would be worth much, had not the good folks at Hawke Optics included trajectory computation graphs for all of the company’s reticules on their website. By using it, I was able to determine–at least in theory–that the trajectory of the 95 grain Fusion bullet I’m using for all of my testing would cross the scope’s auxiliary sighting points at 222 yards, 330 yards, 430 yards and 524 yards respectively. Actual shooting proved the first two yardage markers to be virtually dead on, the third to be about 6 inches low and the fourth about 10 inches low. I can deal with that.

Before I go, you should know that it only takes a .243 bullet .8 second to travel 524 yards. It’s still clipping along at over 1800 feet per second and packing 725 foot pounds of energy. Think about that the next time you’re tempted to pull a trigger without knowing where the bullet you’ve launched will land.

Gerald Scott can be reached at [email protected]

Sedalia Democrat

Gerald Scott can be reached at [email protected]

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