A deer hunter in the Southeast US doesn’t need a double rifle but I got one anyways. Why a double rifle, then? I always hated hunting birds, usually ducks, in the morning with any one of three favorite Browning doubles then having to climb a tree in the evening with a stupid, albeit Browning, bolt rifle. So I found a Browning Supposed Express in .30-06 already rigged with a Leupold 1.5x-5x scope and sling attachments. I bought it long-distance from only a few low-resolution photos on the internet.
It arrived and was stunningly better than I could have hoped for, very close to mint condition. Now, the only thing left to the imagination was how the gun would shoot especially how the barrels shoot relative to one another.
I have always shot 150 grain Remington Core-lokt PSPs because my Browning bolt loves them. Incidentally my dad and my son both shoot Browning A-bolts that love the same Remington bullets. So I carried them to the range along with the Express. This first trip was frustrating. I really think the gun was unfired since it left the factory in 1981. Bullets were behaving badly and walking in all directions on the paper leaving no consistent message on how to get the gun sighted in. I’m a new believer in barrel break-in because they did start cooperating on the last few volleys but they told both good and bad news. The good news was that windage wise the under barrels shoots about an inch to the left of the over barrel. I suspected this from my time with a laser bore site but it’s easily manageable – maybe even better than I could have hoped. If I sight in the middle I’d be off a half inch with ether barrel. I don’t shoot much over 100 yards at deer so I’m pretty happy with that. The bad news was that the over barrel was shooting about 3½” to 4” higher than the under barrel at 100 yards. That’s not what I wanted to see.
I was a little dejected and beat up from 20 rounds of .30-06 so I drove home with my tail tucked and allowed myself some time to think and recover from the recoil.
Maybe it was just the inexpensive (ie, cheap) bullets so I got a box of premium 150 grain cartridges and a box of premium 180 grains, almost as an afterthought, then headed back to the range. The premium 150s validated what the cheaper Remingtons were telling me…ugh. Then I put a 180 in the upper barrel and a Remington 150 in the under barrel. Wow. With the heavier round in the upper barrel, I shot the grouping on the left with an under barrel bullet touching an over bullet and an over bullet in the 1 inch bull’s eye. Mind you this is 100 yards with a 5x scope. This thing may just work.
I tweaked the scope a few clicks to the right and up then went back one more time just to validate with a cold, clean rifle that my sighting was good. I shot the group on the right. I also ran a ballistics program with the two disparate loads and got another good surprise, according to the calculations, these two bullets stay in lock-step out to 400 yards, not that I would ever even begin to try a shot that far. One of the advantages of a double shotgun is the choice of two different load/choke combinations so I guess the same goes for a double rifle shooting two different rounds. I don’t like that I have to keep track of the different cartridges but the green plastic tips on the 180 grain Noslers and a little bit of work with a Sharpie marker will make that easier. The benefit is that I’ve got the choice of either a 180 grain or a 150 grain bullet for a first shot and a quick and accurate second shot if needed. If I ever need to take a long shot, putting a 150 grain in the upper barrel will give me a point-of-aim shot at 250 yards. I'd never risk a deer at that distance but we have some coyotes and a beaver that needs killing so I might get to these this thing out at 250 if I'm lucky.
My fears that I might be buying what amounts to an expensive single shot seem to have been unfounded...