By Craig Brown
Several years ago a friend purchased a very nice rifle for his son.
A stainless steel Ruger heavy barrel model in 25.06. The stock was a beautiful laminated wood type. A good scope and rings were added.
Ruger mounts were built in and not needed. I was asked to put the scope on and sight the rifle in.
A 25.06 can be picky about what ammo it shoots best.
Hornady ammo was picked by the father. Rarely does Hornady shoot poorly and in this case it produced groups of about one inch at 100 yards. Very good deer accuracy but the 25-06 was designed to shoot varmints and game out west to 400 plus yards. I rated this rifle and ammo combo to be more than adequate as a 300 yard deal.
Most people have no business shooting beyond 200 yards anyway. The farther did not buy his son the very fine rifle combo because he wanted to spoil his son but rather he believed the son had earned the right to have such a weapon.
The son was taught by the father how to shoot and properly care for the rifle. The son had already learned proper gun safety from the father and his willingness to learn and apply these safety rules likely helped him in getting this rifle. The father also held a belief that one good rifle is all that a good hunter needed anyway and if a rifle is to last it should be of good quality.
The rifle was a bolt action repeater, meaning that the bolt had to be cycled after each shot to chamber a loaded round. I have long believed that Bolt, Lever and pump actions are the best for beginners and experienced hunter alike.
The reasoning is you have to think before you fire the next round.
Far too many accidents happen with semi-auto firearms in the hands of beginners or non-frequent shooters.
Sometime later the father requested I come by his office that he needed my help in a matter.
When I arrived at his office he presented me with the 25-06 with a cleaning rod stuck in it. The stock was shattered. He wanted me to try to get the rod out.
When I enquired how this happened he stated his son had taken a cleaning rod designed for his 7mm magnum and got it stuck.
To the eye the barrel of a 25-06 is .257 in diameter and a 7mm is .284. More than one experienced gun owner has grabbed the wrong size cleaning rod and placed it in a barrel.
At first the person thinks the cleaning rag has stuck and applies a little force but in most cases he realizes the mistake and slowly backs it out sometimes requiring much effort. But sometimes the person goes a little too far and the cleaning rod will neither go forward or backward.
This brings us to the shattered stock. No one claimed the deed and all took the 5th about who took the gun and put it in a vice and then proceed to use a sledge hammer in an attempt to drive the cleaning rod out. After two days of trying I realized I was not going to get the rod out with my meager tools. The gun was taken to three machine shops with all stating that they would get the rod out the last shop being a heavy industrial type. All failed in the attempt.
At this point I realized the cleaning rod had become part of the barrel. The gun was shipped to the Ruger factory where a new barrel was put on. While the barreled action was away my friend asked if the stock could be put back together. I said anything can be put back together but not as it was originally.
I asked why would he want me to try as the stock was in several big pieces and a zillion small pieces. The father said I love my son and he is at this point my favorite hunting partner but he must be taught a lesson. I said okay but it was going to look like something out of a cheap horror movie. He replied back as long as it works. I worked on the gun several nights taking my time hopping my friend would change his mind and order a new stock. He kept after me and after a ton of bonding agents more brass pins and screws than I can remember the ugly monstrosity was ready. The barreled action was reattached and the scope put on. The gun was taken to the range for testing. I expected the worst as a bad stock can severely hurt accuracy. I fired a test group at one hundred yards and at first glance I thought only one bullet had hit the target but after further inspection I realized that all three bullets had created one ragged hole. The gun was sighted in to shoot just a little high at 100 yards putting the gun dead on out to 200 yards and no hold over to 250 yards which was at that time the limit of the young hunters abilities. I delivered the gun to the family home a few weeks before hunting season. The young hunter’s eyes got real big as he saw the ugly rifle. When I showed the target with the guns incredible accuracy the father was pleased and told his son that if he missed a deer it was his fault and not the rifle. Because the father loved the son he knew he had to punish him for being careless with a firearm. Because the son loved the father he accepted the punishment as just.
I pleaded with the father to tell no one that the stock was put together by me and he advised he was going to get a new one to replace this one next year. I did not dawn on me at the time but the stock was actually a perfect fit for the rifle resulting in match grade accuracy.
As horrible looking as it was the stock was stronger that it was before the incident took place. My friend and his son had a great hunting season. As the next season approached he purchased a rifle for his other son but for some reason did not replace the stock on the 25-06.
The father and sons added another great season of hunting that year.
A great hunting season does not reflect a lot of kills but rather the quality time that a father gets to spend with his children afield.
Somehow the rifle became a minor legend and the son did not want the stock replaced. Wherever the young man saw me he would greet me with a big smile and tell me how things were going.
He would always mention his mother and father as well as his brother and sister that were still at home.
The son not only excelled in the outdoors but was a very talented football player. Sometimes when I am covering a game I can still see him on the field on certain rival games. If he only gave 100% he felt he was cheating his teammates and disappointing his family. He was a team leader on and off the field.
For reasons not known to mortal man this fine young man was called home to Heaven at a way to early age. His mother, father and family were deeply hurt as well as all that knew him. You did not have to know this young man very long to know he was special and he quickly became your friend. Perhaps one of the greatest gifts that God gave us was our ability to remember and never forget.
As long as we can remember this young man will never leave us. An object that the loved one possessed can bring us fond memories of the loved even the ugliest gun in the world. I do not know if the gun is still in the possession of the family but if it is, the father may choose to let a grandchild have it after explaining that it once belonged to the finest young man that ever hunted with a rifle.
Perhaps the rifle will be handed down 100 years from now and the story about the great young man that first owned it and when asked about the ugly stock the story will tell of the wandering hobo that did the job for a few cans of potted meat, a can of Sterno and a Red Rock Cola and was never seen or heard from again.
By Craig Brown