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  • Writer's pictureAlec McColm

Backcountry Carbines

Image - L to R, Ruger 270 22" (for scale), Ruger Lite 7mm08 20", Weatherby Weatherguard 243 20", Remington Model 7 308 18".

Backcountry Carbines The concept and popularity of backcountry or alpine rifles is well established these days. Fine rifles, lighter weight pack ability, dependable and weather resistive. Modern materials also enables lighter builds that still retain longer range capabilities, especially with magnum calibers, with longer barrels and brakes, stiffer assemblies, awesome optics, to get best use of those ample magnum powder loads; But the rifle I have gravitated to, is a bit of a take off from the modern backcountry rifle, that I refer to as a backcountry carbine. It might be more of a step from the scout rifle concept, based on the slightly shorter barrel. And we are talking about a highcountry or backcountry deer rifle here. A hunting game and pursuit that is manageable for me on foot. Probably not ideal for elk hunting or defense from larger bear. The shorter barrel I feel is key to this type. A little less weight, good balanced feel, nice for off hand shots that might present quickly. Could be a good bush gun as well. Easy packing, less protruding, whether over shoulder on sling, on the back pack, in a boat, or a saddle scabbard. Now with the shorter barrel I think you want to accept a little less powder capacity in the brass. I feel for a standard long action, such as 270 and 30-06, you want all of a 22" barrel length to get their designed velocity. 24" for magnums. So for a little shorter 20" length, for me, that means a shorter or medium action calibre. A bullet that can get much of its ballistic potential out of a 20" barrel. So that points to rounds like 243, 7mm08, 308. I think minimal length for this concept is 18", or you start to lose too much of the desired ballistics performance. But you do have to accept that you are losing or giving up a bit for the shorter action/barrel weight and handiness. Let's say a loss of 50 fps velocity per inch, off the more common 22" barrel length for non magnum calibres. So these backcountry carbines that I'm talking about are not meant as longer range shooters, ie not built for shots over 400 yds in my opinion. But neither am I as a hunter for that matter. I've never tried a shot much over 400, and I dont think I'm going to start pressing into that field now. Though I certainly understand that equipment today and many hunters, with modern technology and good old practice, have developed the skills and comfort to do so effectively. No, these backcountry carbines are really meant for 300 yd and below type shots. So probably not a rocky mountain big horn sheep gun either, where you need to be able to fire from higher long distance points, outcroppings, or ridge tops, across the drainage, etc. But certainly good for deer in my western Canada foothills, parklands, coulees and prairies, for your average hunter. Also good for most farm or forest country deer hunting across the rest of North America. I have a 243 Weatherby Weatherguard carbine (20") and a 7mm08 Ruger Lite stainless (also 20") that fit the mold. The Ruger RSI or CZ full stock rifles fall nicely into this category as well. For defensive purposes, an open sighted or low magnification variable on a higher calibre is handy as well in this shorter configuration. On remote country canoe trips I have an older open sight Remington Model 7 in 308 (18") I like to take. Not that it's a great defensive calibre. For that I'd probably be better off with the 12 gauge in 20". But I like the little rem 7's packability. A better rifle example for larger bear defensive purpose would be the Ruger Guide or Alaskan guns, 20" barrels, in a variety of common heavier calibres. Though be prepared for a fair bit of muzzle blast when you have lots of powder and a shorter barrel to burn it in. Also Ruger used to make the Guide and Alaskan in efficient 300 rcm or 338 rcm calibers, which you'd now need to reload I expect. But someday I think I'd like to see how I could fit one of those options into the gun case too. So that's what I call a backcountry carbine. Theres lots of them out there, as they are great to take, when you are a little further out in the field. Alec McColm Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

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