Bucket List Guns

I’m pretty sure at some point I’ve mentioned that when I was growing up, I read a lot of gun, hunting and outdoors magazines. I don’t remember a time going to my grandfather’s house or later, my dad’s when there wasn’t a several foot tall stack of Outdoor Life or Sports Afield or Guns & Ammo sitting around. I would grab as many as I could carry, find myself a quiet corner and read, dreaming of the adventures I would have outdoors when I got older.

One of the more prolific authors of my childhood was Jack O’Connor. He wrote many stories about hunting deer, elk, moose and all sorts of other big game with his .270 Winchesters. Being the impressionable young lad that I was, I decided that one day I would own a .270 Winchester. At some point in time, my impressionable wires got crossed. Jack often hunted with one of two custom bolt-action guns based on Model 70 Winchesters. But I had another experience that set a gun in my mind.

Many of us have close friends of the family that end up being honorable uncles. I had one such “uncle,” and he was an avid hunter and outdoorsman. His choice of bolt-action hunting rifle was a Remington 700 BDL in 7mm Remington Magnum. I remember him showing it to me in the driveway of my grandfather’s house after he had returned from another hunt. In my young mind, it was the most beautiful gun I had ever seen. I loved the graceful curves of the Monte Carlo stock cut from a finely figured piece of deep, rich walnut. I don’t know why, but I found the black tip on the fore end quite striking.

At some point after being blown away by that gun, I decided that what I wanted—what I really wanted—was a Remington 700 BDL in .270 Winchester. I’m not sure why I came to that conclusion. I’ve always been practical and somewhat frugal, so perhaps I figured by combining a favorite gun with a favorite caliber it would be like getting two for the price of one. Unsure…

But anyway, the die was cast, the lot was chosen, and one day I would have a Remington 700 BDL in .270 Winchester.

The Boy Grows Up
That was probably 40 years ago that I chose that gun. By the time high school, college, starting a career and family was all over or underway, I never did get around to buying that gun. Time passed, kids came along and there were other expenses demanding my attention. But now that the kids are mostly out of the house and I have a little more time to pursue my hobby, I’ve been on the hunt for a 700. Turns out, it’s been a challenge!

Since moving back to America almost three years ago, I’ve been to nearly every gun show in Middle Tennessee. I always check the tables and racks when I see bolt guns laid out. It’s not terribly uncommon to find 700’s—they made hundreds of thousands of them—but coming across a BDL in .270 Win has been a rarer occurrence. I’ve seen them, to be sure, but typically they are pushing four figures, or are beat to crap.

This is not to say a 700 BDL in good shape isn’t necessarily worth $1,000 or more, especially if it includes a useful scope (which many of them do). However, remember my frugality? This is a gun I really don’t need. In fact, it hasn’t been about need in a while—that ship sailed around gun 10. As much as I can imagine myself trekking over ridge lines in Montana giving chase to a big bull elk, the reality is I’m not likely to be doing much of that. I already have 4 guns I could use in Tennessee to kill deer if I ever get around to chasing Whitetails again. Thus, spending $1,000 for a gun that will be used mostly for filling a hole in my childhood heart is tough for me to rationalize. At least until I’m finally done paying for college tuition.

It Was Just Lying There
A few weeks ago, my buddy Ken and I went to the first gun show of 2018. Ordinarily, I go left when I go to a gun show, and work my way around the outside of the room, then zig-zagging up and down the aisles. I’m not sure why, except that’s how I was taught to search a room when I did search and rescue training in the fire department way back when.

Anyway, this time, for reasons unknown, we went right. At about the fourth or fifth table, I spied a whole line of various bolt-guns. I made a beeline for the table and started checking them out. A Model 70, a Model 77, a couple of Sako’s, a Savage, and, wait…what is that? A Model 700 in .270 Winchester. And the price card says $475? What is happening? I looked it over pretty well. It looked hardly used. A few nicks and scratches in the stock, but otherwise, it looked solid.

Hmmm, could this be the 700 I’ve been waiting for? I decided to keep on moving, as it was early in the show. There weren’t a lot of people there yet and it looked like there would be a good number of guns to choose from. We walked the whole show floor, Ken looking for a few guns on his list, me keeping an eye out for guns on mine.

As we rounded the last corner, he decided he wanted to go back and look at a 1911 he had seen. After some hemming and hawing, he decided to pass on it. He asked if I wanted to look again at anything, and I said, “I think I want to go back and look at that 700.” Off we went.

The owner of the gun was a bit of a character. We got to chatting about it and he suspected it was originally purchased by a guy who wanted to hunt some deer. The owner likely took it out a few times, maybe shot at a deer or two, then put it back in the closet. I asked about the bore, and he said it looked brand new. He pulled the bolt and handed it to me. Sure enough, it was as shiny as the day it left the factory in Illion.

Upon closer inspection, I discovered it was not a BDL, but an ADL. The ADL was the blind magazine version and didn’t come with the cool black fore end tip. Still, it was a pretty piece of wood. The bolt cycled like it was not even touching anything else, and the trigger was reasonably light and very crisp. The only thing missing were the filler screws where the scope bases go.

“I’ll do $450 on it if it helps.” Oh man. Now he had me. Here’s a gun I’ve wanted since I was 12, and it’s not an unreasonable price. No, it wasn’t a BDL, but remember, I’m frugal. Every BDL I’ve seen in the last three years is $700+. I had already had my eye on a new scope for Justine, and that was going to be about $350. For $800 and change, I would have this gun, and a scope to put on it once we swapped them around. I had just come into exactly $800 that wasn’t designated for anything, so it seemed like fate.

I laid a stack of $20’s on the table and walked away with my childhood dream gun. On the way out of the venue, I had two guys asking if I wanted to sell it. Not a chance.

What Did I Get Myself Into?
When I got home, I ran a serial number search and discovered the gun was made in roughly June, 1989. Funny thing about 700’s made prior to 1996; they have curved butt plates. I didn’t know that. When I took the gun to the range a few days later, I discovered that a 700 in .270 Winchester with nothing but a hard rubber butt plate has some kick to it. A lot, in fact. When I started searching for recoil pads, I discovered no one makes one for a pre-’96 700. At least one that isn’t a grind-to-fit. And that takes some tooling I don’t have. Had to settle for a slip-on pad for now.

But, now that I have a nice, soft Limbsaver on the stock, a 4-14 scope mounted up, I’m very much looking forward to getting it back out on the range to see what it can do. Of course this means there are reloading dies to buy, additional bullets to stock and probably more powder to experiment with. But, that’s the fun of being a gun addict.

The funny thing about buying one of my “bucket list guns” is that it’s only whet my appetite for wanting to get more of them. The downside is—as I was discussing with some friends at IDPA the other night—I’ve bought most of the affordable ones. Everything else is going to get pricey. Like that pre-’64 Model 70 I really want. Or the .357 Magnum revolver (haven’t yet settled on a model). Then there’s the Beretta 391. Ken keeps telling me I should just get an A400, but I really like the 391. And of course, everyone should really own a 1911 Government from Colt.

I think I’m going to need a bigger safe.

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