Browning Safari Grade 30-06

 Back in the day, this was a rifle that was one of the best quality made guns you could get. But, back in the mid 1960’s Browning was having problems getting enough kiln-dried wood to make all of the stocks they needed. Then one of their employees that were in charge of finding new stock wood found a company that was drying wood using a new process of packing the wood in salt. This process dried the wood much faster than did the kiln drying process and this company could keep up with the demand for stock wood. Browning though their problems of finding enough stock wood were over. But little did they know they were headed for more problems than they could have ever imagined. This salt curing process began in 1966 and continued until around 1971. Not all of Browning guns had salt cured stocks but a large number did.

 Not long after these salt cured stocks were in production, the problems started pouring in. The warranty and repair division of Browning was swamped with rusted guns, from Safari Grades, Olympians, Medallions, Midas, Diana grades, and everything in between. Now Browning was real good about trying to fix this problem by refinishing the metal and trying to seal the stocks or replacing both metal and stocks. With thousands of salt cured guns in the market, this task was over whelming and hurt them financially.  Even after 40 years, there is still a pile of these salt cured guns out there and if you look, you can see one or two at almost every gun show.  How do you tell if the gun you have or are considering purchasing has a slat cured stock? One old guy told me that he could taste the salt but one sure fired way is to remove the stock or fore grip from the gun and look for even the smallest amount of rust. If you see this rust, RUN, don’t walk away from this gun, as the only way to fix the rust problem is to re-stock the gun, which is probably going to cost you more than the gun will ever be worth.

Here is some more not so good news. Browning was not the only company to end up with these salt cured stocks. They can be found on some of these company’s guns, Winchester, Weatherby rifles and the old Fajen and Bishop gunstocks and probably some I do not know of.

 I am telling you about this, because, I was at an estate sale recently and what was over in the corner, just looking like a million dollars? Yep, a Browning Safari Grade in 30-06 that was actually talking to me. I tried to get away but each time I would turn my back, I could faintly hear, “Jimmie, come over here Jimmie”. I tried ignoring this gun calling me but the temptation became more than I could stand and once I put my hands on it and verified the serial number was not a salt gun, I put it on my list and when it came around, you guessed it. I just had to have it. As you will see from the picture, it is real pretty and I am a sucker for a pretty face. After the auction, I headed right for the gunroom, where I removed the metal from the stock for a quick look-see. Ah, no rust, dings, corrosion or bad places. This rifle was a close to new as one can get being used.

 Then I needed to dig deep in the safe to find a scope that was in the same time period as this fine rifle but all I could find were scopes of a newer era. Once I installed the scope, then comes the fun part, shooting it. I was pretty sure; I could find a load for this rifle that would shoot sub-moa because these rifles are supposed to be very accurate. But I really did not want to spend weeks or even months experimenting to find the perfect load and bullet, so I made one phone call to a guy I know that is a GURU on hand loads for most rifles. See, he is retired and his full time job is finding the perfect load for guns. He has people all over the country sending their guns to him and when they get them back, he has them shooting as good as possible. This is not only an art but takes many years to collect the knowledge base he has.

Using his advice, I sat down at the reload bench and loaded a few, based on his recommendation. I used his recipe (IMR 4350) 56.1 grains, case length of  2.483”, OAL of  3.295" with a 168 grain bullet. He suggested I use a Nosler AccuBond 165 grain bullet BUT I did not have any of these so I substituted a Combined Technology 168 grain as the design was very similar to his suggested bullet and I have hundreds of these.

 I sat down at the reloading table and proceeded to load some using his recipe and varying it a little in each direction. I hand loaded some with a tad more powder and some a hair less. Once this was done, I pulled a few boxes of factory loads from the safe and off to the range I headed.

Now you have heard me mention before that when trying to find the accuracy of a gun or load, it is not a contest to see how well I can shoot but how accurate the gun is with a particular load, so out came the Caldwell Lead Sled. If you like to shot different guns with different loads, this is an invaluable piece of equipment and you all should have one.

 I started with the loads that had a little less powder than the GURUS’ recommendation   and worked my up to the loads than had a little more powder. Most of these loads were sort of okay but not what I was looking for as far as accuracy. I saved his for last and with the pull of the trigger the bullet hit real close to the mark. I squeezed of a few more of this load and each hit real close to the mark.

 I then wanted to try some of the factory loads in 150, 180 and 220-grain bullets. Only one of these looked good and shot about 1.25 inch groups at 100 yards. The GURUS’ recommended hand load shot groups of right at 1 inch.

 Here is what I would do if I were going to keep this rifle and hunt with it. If I did not reload, I would shoot the Remington 180 grain PSP CoreLokt # R30065 as for the factory rounds I tested this was the most accurate. If I were to hand load a hunting bullet, I would get some AccuBonds and load this recipe and see how it shot. I would probably do as I did with my hand loads and vary the powder amounts a couple of 1/100ths in each direction and vary the seating depth a few 1/1000ths in each direction. I am pretty sure with a little effort hand loading, one could come up with a combination that would shoot real close to one hole groups in this rifle.

 As I sit here writing this article I am really torn as what to do with this rifle. This is undoubtedly one of the nicest I have ever had and it is not likely I would be able to easily replace it BUT, I usually buy one, shoot it, write and article and sell it so I can use the money to purchase another one to shoot and write about. Well, I have a few more I came shoot and write about now, but one day it will have to find another home. This is really strange that I feel this way about this rifle because just a few days ago my hunting buddy was saying he has seller’s remorse from selling a extra fine, cherry Marlin 336, he recently sold so he could buy something else. He ask me if I had ever had this problem and to date with the many guns I have sold, this is the first one that I have had second thoughts of selling. Now, would I like to have hundreds of them, YES! You just cant imagine how bad I would like to build a house that had a giant walk in safe, so I could FILL ER UP with guns. But unless the winning lottery ticket falls from the sky and in my pocket, this is just a dream.

 If you are out and about and run into a rifle like this be sure to check it out, so you do not end up with a salt cured stock gun. If you have one of these rifles that not as accurate as you would like, you now have a real good starting place for some hand loads.  

Shoot Safe, Shoot Straight. 

If all guns were treated as if they were loaded, there would be NO MORE accidental shootings.

 Jim Hammond



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