Q: I've just started hunting coyotes and am shooting a Winchester Model 670 chambered in .243 Win. with 100-grain Winchester Super X ammo. What's your opinion of my setup, and would there be any advantage in switching to 80-grain loads? I want to make sure I'm getting proper penetration.
-Brian Meade/Liberty, MO
A: Brian, your rig is similar to my favorite fur-taker, a Winchester Featherweight Model 70 in .243 Win. While I assume you're shooting a 100-grain bullet because of its versatility, for coyotes you should make the move to a lighter bullet for two reasons: flatter trajectory and less fur damage. By the way, fur value has increased significantly during the past couple of years. At the February 2006 Fur Harvesters Auction, coyotes brought an average price of $28.08, and the top dogs went for $84. On a coyote hunt in Colorado in the winter of '06, I used Winchester's Mighty Mouse 55-grain Ballistic Silvertip and was pleased with its performance, both from an accuracy standpoint and for it's inherent fur-friendly nature. This screaming little bullet leaves the barrel at 3,910 fps and provides the flat trajectory I like from my varmint guns. The Ballistic Silvertip is designed for explosive expansion and fragmentation, expending its energy inside the body cavity. In most cases you'll have only a small entrance hole and no exit wound.-Gordy Krahn
Choke Tube Confusion
Q: I was sea duck hunting with a guide this past fall and using steel shot. I was told early on that it's not wise to shoot steel through a full choke because it doesn't conform to the barrel like lead does. I was also told that steel throws a tighter pattern than lead. I've read that to use steel you must open your choke. For example, I use a modified barrel when I shoot steel. I thought this was so I would achieve a full choke pattern with steel. My guide told me the opposite: that if I use a modified choke, steel will shoot a skeet pattern or a more open pattern. Can you please clarify this issue for me?
-Truman Curtis/Norwalk, CT
A: Speaking in general terms, steel tends to pattern more tightly from the same choke than equivalent lead loads until you reach the improved modified constriction and tighter. The primary reason for not using full choke for steel or other non-toxics that are harder than lead is to help avoid damage to the barrel. Forcing these very hard projectiles (especially large pellet sizes) through a tight choke constriction will indeed cause "blown" patterns, but the potential consequence to the barrel is far more severe.
Your question seems to present a misrepresentation of the order of choke constrictions. From most open to tightest they are: cylinder, skeet, improved cylinder, modified, improved modified, full, extra-full and super-full. Again this is speaking in general terms because different gun and choke manufacturers have different constriction specifications matched to those names.
For your situation, I'd set up three patterning targets at two ranges- say 25 and 40 yards. At the firing line have a box of your preferred loads and three different choke tubes for your gun- skeet, improved cylinder and modified. Fire one shot with each choke into the center of a pattern target at those ranges. Shoot like you will in the field, not from a rest. Visually compare the patterns, looking for the most pellets inside the 30-inch circle and even distribution of the pellets across the quadrants of the circle. Before the season, stock up on that load by the case, put the "best" choke in the barrel and then forget about it- other than checking the tube for tightness each time you take the gun from the case! -Bill Miller
Double Duty Cartridge
Q: I'm considering buying a new Thompson/ Center Pro Hunter. I plan to outfit it with a .50 caliber blackpowder and 12 gauge shotgun barrel. I run into a problem, however, with choosing a rifle cartridge. I'll be hunting deer in Nebraska and elk in Colorado. What's your recommendation for a one-shot cartridge?
-Joe Paulsen/ Lincoln, NE
A: Joe, you've made an excellent decision for a multi-purpose hunting rig. The Pro Hunter is an amazing rifle/shotgun/muzzleloader- not often do you get one system that does so well in each configuration. The Pro Hunter excels in the muzzleloader mode- there's nothing on the market that approaches its simplicity and reliability. You'll particularly appreciate the new recoil absorbing stock- it just plain works.
As for the deer/elk rifle barrel- when you say the word "elk" I immediately think of .30 caliber and up for cartridge selection. Although some of the hot 7mm magnums are used successfully on elk, I prefer heavier, well-constructed bullets for these tough animals. My first choice would be a .300 Win. Mag. barrel. I'd shoot bonded 150- or 165-grain bullets for deer and then a bonded or partitioned 180- to 200-grain bullet for elk. Alternates would be the .30-06 with 200- or 220-grain bullets for elk, 165-grain for deer if you prefer less recoil. If you want a bit more power consider the .338 Win. Mag. with 210- or 225-grain bullets for elk and 180-grain bullets for deer.