A Boone and Crocket buck was a mere 200 yards away. In a heartbeat it would be over and the trophy buck he longed for would be his. He felt the trigger break, but a slight hesitation and an "audible click" interrupted the customary rifle’s report.
The adult adjectives flowed freely and a fumbled cycling of the bolt prevented a second round from being chambered before the buck sprang from his bed and vanished in the timber.
Sound familiar? You bet it does! Every year, hundreds of hunters take to the field unprepared for the task at hand, having spent hundreds if not thousands of dollars on a dream hunt, only to have it end in failure. Are you going to be the next member to join this growing fraternity?
In over 30 years of hunting around the world, I’ve been quite fortunate to have never experienced a rifle failure. I’ve had modest scope failures (fogging), but it didn’t result in a missed or wounded animal.
Can a hunter have 30 years of good luck? Or, is there a method, a way of eliminating mechanical failures when we go afield in pursuit of big game?
Let’s take a look at what foiled our unlucky hunter. The slight hesitation and “audible click” was a failure to fire, resulting from none other than poor rifle maintenance. No doubt, a sticky or gummed up firing pin and spring was responsible for our trophy buck living another day.
Firing Pin Assemblies
These simple mechanisms can cause a majority of our problems. Firing pin protrusion should be a minimum of .050 to a maximum .065 protrusion from the bolt face. The pin tip should be hemispherical in shape. The firing pin body and spring should be free of grease and oil. Eliminate the WD-40 and 3 in 1 oil from your cleaning supplies. These two magnets for dust and dirt have been responsible for countless failures in the field. In their stead, try a dry film lubricant. I prefer a dry molybdenum disulfide spray. It will never become sticky or gum up under harsh conditions.
Many do-it-your-selfers spray oils and magic love potions into their trigger groups in a feeble attempt to reduce those horrendous factory trigger pulls and to offer some resistance to rust. Keep in mind rusty trigger parts (sears and triggers) are few and far between. These parts are usually machined from high carbon or tool steels and heat-treated to a Rockwell of 60 plus on the “C” scale. Due to this hardness, rust is not really a concern warranting oiling the trigger mechanism. Often times the sear and trigger are plated or hard chromed to slicken sear surfaces. This plating also inhibits corrosion.
Under NO circumstances should one attempt to oil or grease the trigger for improved performance. Oils and greases simply attract dirt and dust and over time will ultimately result in a mechanical failure that seems directly proportionate to the size and quality of the horned trophy hunted.
The Remington 700 and Browning A-Bolt type triggers are what we call enclosed trigger mechanisms. If not maintained, they account for many mechanical failures in the field. The Model 98 and Winchester Model 70, on the other hand, are what we refer to as an exposed trigger group. The Mauser design has been field tested under the worst possible conditions, wind, rain, sleet, snow and freezing Eastern Front conditions have little effect on this proven design. While these triggers may not be as light and crisp as the 700 series of triggers, they are less prone to problems if you are slack in your maintenance regimen.
Cleaning and Maintenance
With the advent of stainless steel rifles and hypnotic Madison Avenue advertising, we have brainwashed the “Stainless Generation” into believing that a maintenance free rifle has finally arrived, liberating them from the tiresome cleaning chores of the past. Nothing could be further from the truth! Every rifle, regardless of its metallurgical make-up, needs to be given a little TLC from time to time. This involves removing the barreled action from the stock, cleaning the barrel, and lubing the cocking cam and locking lugs. All of the above mentioned details can be accomplished by anyone who can screw a nut on a bolt. Believe it or not, barrel cleaning is quite a detailed procedure and we will save it for a future article. Let’s remain focused on the action, bolt and trigger for now.