You guys know I’m a rifle enthusiast, you know I can’t pass on an interesting experience, and you know I’m basically a cheap son of a gun (I almost said something else, but I caught myself). So the other day when I was in the local gunshop, I was surprised and intrigued to see a consignment rifle go on the rack at a ridiculously low price. It was a 50-year-old Savage 340 bolt action rifle in .222 Remington (complete with a period-correct telescopic sight) for only $180.
Folks, this is a rifle that probably sold new for around $35 or $40, but like I said, that was 50 years ago. These days, any kind of a shooter for $180 is a steal. I was immediately attracted to the Savage by the price and the thought that it might make for a nice gunstock refinishing project. What really got my attention, though, was the cartridge for which it was chambered: The .222 Remington.
I’ve never owned a gun chambered in .222 Remington. It’s a cartridge that has a cult following, as it one of those special numbers known to be inherently accurate. It’s very similar to the .223 Remington (the 5.56 NATO round), but the .222 is a little bit shorter with a longer case neck. It’s proportions are reported to be ideal for phenomenal accuracy. Like I said, I’ve never had a .222, but for $180, I could afford to find out if the stories were true.
Okay, on to Step 2 of this saga, and that’s the reloading aspect. Accuracy can be greatly enhanced by reloading. You know, that’s the deal where you save the fired brass, resize it in a reloading press, punch out the old primer, insert a new primer, load a precisely-controlled amount of new gunpowder, and seat a new bullet. Oilà…a new round. The deal with reloading is that you can experiment with different powders, different powder weights, different primers, different brass manufacturers, different bullet makers, different bullet weights, different bullet seating depths, and more. The concept is that you can tune the ammunition to precisely match a rifle’s preferences and achieve improved accuracy. I’ve been reloading ammo for close to 50 years and I’m here to tell you it works.
Now, back to that Savage rifle. I waited my obligatory 10 days (the Peoples Republik of Kalifornia’s “kooling off” period) and in the Governor’s eyes I had cooled sufficiently. I picked up my new-to-me, 50-year-old Savage last week and loaded several different ammo recipes to see how the old 340 would work. In a word, it was awesome…
You can see that different loads do indeed result in different accuracy levels. This is encouraging stuff, and what makes it even more promising is it shows the results of just one reloading session. The load that printed a 0.538-inch group is clearly pointing toward what the Savage likes, and my next set of loads will refine that combination. Good stuff and great fun, and all with a rifle that only cost $180!