By Brent Phillips
“Dude, are you going to shoot? What are you doing? Just take the shot.”
“Let me check my dope… Alright, shooter ready.” I look down to ensure the high angle shot from a quick seated position isn’t going to end with my big toe turning into a nub.
The sound of the suppressed shot echoes across the valley in the cold mountain air. Perfect silence settles back in. I couldn’t see the impact due to the hasty shooting position necessary—we had very little time on a moving target in some of the gnarliest foreign terrain this planet has to offer. After a few moments of listening for any movement, we grabbed our rifles and our packs and quietly left the area by moving back up the finger we had come down on- we stopped on an impassable section since we didn’t bring any ropes.
The bitter chill of the early morning air was enough to make any man’s bones ache and hands stiff and clumsy. But for us, this was nothing new. We had been here, in a variation of this exact situation, hundreds—if not thousands—of times. For us it was simple: another red-eye hike with a gun that maybe ended with a shot being taken. And what made it so simple was that we had taken all the guesswork out of what could have been a complicated shooting equation. We each knew our rifle. We knew what it was capable of. Every piece of data for shooting out to its maximum effective range was recorded. More than that, memorized.
I carried a .308 AR10.
I was a man with one rifle.
Fast forward to another hunt of a different kind in the southwest and I’ve got a rifle in my lap bouncing down an old dusty fire road. This gun is the one I’ll have when I’ve got nothing else to sell off to make rent. For me, it’s a bare-bones .308 Winchester Model 70 my father gifted me.
My Model 70 is nothing special to the average eye: it’s an off the shelf newer pre-64 reproduction with the external extractor and MOA style trigger. When it was purchased it came with a plastic stock and the cheapest Leupold Rifleman optic available. That said, it’s one of the few firearms I own and probably the only one I’ll never sell.
In its current form it has an uncheckered Model 70 Featherweight stock. When I ordered the stock, I missed the fact that it was contoured for a Featherweight profile barrel which meant I spent a few hours sanding the stock to fit the action and barrel. I’ve also fitted a nicer but still affordable Leupold VX-5HD.
Why does this matter? Well, the Model 70 is the gun I’ve killed the most game with and it’s the gun I had when a friend offered me a last minute cow-elk tag. The Model 70 along with a pile of .308 ammo was sitting in my safe, so along for the ride it went.
My Model 70 has bounced along on damn near every North American hunt I’ve ever been on—even if only as a backup gun. It’s taken everything from North Carolina whitetail to hogs in Texas to Elk in the west. If it had notches on the stock for each kill it would have whittled into a pistol before I was out of my 20’s.
In a world where things and not experiences often garner our admiration and attention, I’ve grown a tremendous distaste for the flavor-of-the-day in rifles, vehicles, or clothing. For me, it’s about grabbing the things that have proven their worth over years of use and shown their reliability. With a rifle, it’s about grabbing the one you know the best. The one you’ve memorized.
Just make sure it’s always ready to go.
There’s some value in becoming the man with one rifle.