Tag Archives: 264wm

Break Neck Speed: head-shots and hunting antelope


I’ve spent many years trying to get the most out of my kit, one of the ways I’ve tried to do it, is by sticking to basics. And by basics, I mean the stuff that dreams are made of; fast, and flat-shooting shoulder artillery that would make guys like Weatherby and Lazzeroni covetous…
But seriously, those who really know me, know that is both nonsense, and not representative of my perspective. I have a very white bread interpretation when it comes to cartridge selection, that is; use what (1) works best (2) the longest life (3) for the cheapest amount possible. The only time I venture beyond this moderate and some would say mundane recipe, is when the speed is worth the cheese. This years Wyoming Pronghorn hunt would bring just such excitement.

Hunting Pronghorn Antelope

Many of you may remember the Winchester Model 70 that I had rebuilt for my father some years ago, chambered in a cartridge some say was born before its time, the 264Winchester Magnum. While the 264 breaks away from my conservative tendencies, my father had always wanted it, and it was chambered thus.
Dad was the only one with a tag this year, the game and fish seem to see fit with just teasing the rest of us, and playing with our money for six months before they give it back. Dad isn’t as big a fan of eating antelope as my young and foolish dog, but I have been known to cook the stink out of even the fowlest duck, so I convinced him to put in. So between all the other things we had planned this fall, a trip with my two brothers, my Father, and I was planned.
One of the benefits of hunting antelope in Wyoming is apparent to anyone who has done it, the beautiful badlands harbor so many of these animals it is at times astonishing how they can smell so bad…(ok last joke). Dad had a doe tag, so it immediately threw out having to judge horn size and length. All we had to do, was find a good doe.

At times you can sneak up on an antelope, with surprising ease. Other times, it seems like if you open the truck door in the same county, they will bolt for ten miles, or at least to the unit boundaries. On this day, it seemed there was a healthy mix of both types. We spent the morning putting a spectacular stalk on a small herd, it worked exactly as I had planned, except for the antelope. After sneaking across a shallow canyon with a bed of Wyoming’s gray moon dirt and dry yellow grass, we crested over a small drop off. There we sat, waiting for our prey to come up the draw before us. The always present winds were blowing in our favor, concealing our scent, much like the shadow that was cast over us. As we sat there waiting, Dad lay his old Model 70 down, pointing into the draw where I had suspected our small herd was headed. Almost perfectly on time, we spotted a nice buck making his way up, and right behind him, was a doe. Unfortunately, the rest of the does had broken off, and gone elsewhere. And the doe we were looking at seemed quite small. Already somewhat disconcerted with having to shoot a doe, Dad was not going to shoot a little one. So we let her walk.

After a couple more tries, we found a better quarry to pursue. We spotted a small herd hiding out in a little valley below a steep drop off from a stony plateau. With the wind blowing straight up the hill, it was a good spot for a sneak. All four of us made our way to the top of the plateau, and hunkered like savages as we hustled towards the point we had anticipated to give us the best shot. The wind was getting out of hand, but I couldn’t help but think that it was helping conceal us.
We peeked over the edge of the drop off, and spotted ears and eyes. My heart stopped as it looked as though they were looking right at us, so I froze. The one buck in the group began pestering the ladies, chasing them around in circles, I knew then that we were safe, with him distracting them. Now on our bellies, we crawled closer and closer to the edge, gently pushing the rifle over it. Dad and I were next to each other, him on the rifle, and me running a camera. The wind kept howling, and the antelope were still playing around, making a shot somewhat difficult. They kept standing in a group, so we had to wait until one of the does had stepped out, exposing herself. After a few moments, the suspense was driving me crazy. It seemed like every time they moved, they were going to run from us, the mere hundred and fifty yards between us made them feel dangerously close to discovering us.

The head-shot

Finally, after a minute or two, one of the does stepped out to a safe distance from the others. I knew I didn’t even have to say anything, I could almost feel Dad’s trigger press. It was in that moment, that the 264 Winchester brought out the speed, break neck speed. The howl of the wind was suddenly put to shame by the hiss of the suppressed 264, and the 140 grain match burner was there directly. The impact was spectacular, if the impact of the bullet didn’t snap her neck, her recoiling head surely did. She hit the ground as a spray of blood erupted from her throat. The other antelope fled, as her lifeless body settled on the dry and dusty ground.


Upon close inspection, the devastating power of the 264 on the antelope was very impressive. She had bled out, leaving a bright red puddle conflicting with bleak and color free landscape. We cleaned her up, and got her on ice, and began gathering our stuff up to head home. We may have taken a few shots at some over inquisitive prairie dogs, because it’s Wyoming.

Standardization of common cartridges surely has its place for economic minded shooters. But every now and then, a bright and contrasting prospect brings a little spice into life, and today it was head-stamped Super Speed.

Rebuilding a Hunter

Originally published October 2012

The Rifle

In the year 1960, the Winchester Repeating Arms company was busy building guns. Of the many firearms they manufactured that year, one was a Model 70 Westerner in .264 Winchester Magnum. As luck would have it, a short time later, after returning from Korea, my maternal Grandfather purchased the rifle. Of the many guns Grandpa owned through his years, he always spoke fondly of his old .264 “manglem”.

My Grandfather in Korea

Grandpa had promised the rifle to my father many years ago, and as anyone would, Dad looked forward to owning such a fine piece of equipment. What my Grandpa couldn’t have known, is how that same rifle would bring the family together in the Utah mountains more than 50 years later.
Dad was a dedicated father and hunter, as far back as I can remember, I have the fondest memories of Dad bringing home deer. And as I grew up, he would take me on as many adventures as life would allow. These trips into the Utah wilderness helped shape my love of the outdoors, and have become a source of deep appreciation and joy for my son and daughter, as well as our whole family.

My Father, myself, and my son the morning he shot his first buck

The .264WM is a hot rod for sure, and Grandpa loved to shoot it. This combination was unhealthy for a cartridge with an appetite for barrels. So as you can imagine, after all these years, the throat had been thoroughly eroded, and the barrel was no good. The rifle sat in Grandpa’s gun safe for years, collecting dust.

The Hunter

My Dad lives with diabetes and has so since he was a child, as time has passed, his illness has taken its toll on his body. And the last decade or so, his health has limited his ability to hunt as he would like. And unfortunately he is not getting any younger.
In December 2010, Dad found himself on the kidney transplant waiting list. His energy was gone, and his kidney failure was showing more and more in his everyday life. We watched painfully as he seemed to get worse and worse. The man I had always looked up to was dying slowly before my eyes. So when I was approached with the possibility of donating a kidney, I literally leapt at the chance.

Risking one’s own life to save a loved one is an easy decision to make, but when the time comes to follow through such a choice, I can tell you it is scary.
Luckily, I was a match, and was able to donate one of my kidneys to my father. It was my first encounter with a surgeon, and my opinion of surgeons remains the same after the fact, that is to say, I don’t look forward to their company.

A long and very painful recovery on my part was aided by the brightened eyes, and happy face of my father. Who seemed to be recovering faster than I. After a few hiccups, Dad seemed to be on the road back to health.
After ten months of healing for the both of us, Dad came along with the rest of the family on the hunts (elk,deer). Unfortunately we had a bad hunting year and didn’t have much to show for it. And as life would play out, almost a year to the day after Dad and I hobbled out of surgery, Grandpa passed away. Dad inherited the .264 Winchester not long after.
Several months later, Dad and I looked into the old Winchester. It wasn’t a good prognosis, the many years of packing around the mountains and riding in a horse scabbard had left the old rifle looking pretty haggard. And it didn’t get any better on the inside, the bore was scorched, and no amount of cleaning or lapping was going to make this gun shoot.

Somewhat frustrated and depressed about the project he’d waited to have all those years, Dad kind-of gave up on it.
I asked him if I could play with it for a while to see if I could get it to shoot. I wasted no time, and had a  Douglas  barrel blank  shipped out. A 5A contour eight-and-a-half twist, 6.5 barrel was just what the timeless Winchester needed. I had a friend cut it at 24 inches, and had the muzzle threaded and a fine brake installed. While he worked on that, I went to town on the old piece of walnut that had lost most of it’s finish.


Dad continued to keep up on his regimen of healthy living, with a healthy balance of trips to the gun club mixed in. He had his stability under pretty good control by this point, and as I had done for the last two years, I put him in for the Utah hunts we would go on that year.

My Dad was of the old school, not a trophy hunter exactly, but not the kind of guy who would shoot little bucks. He liked to let them get bigger, although I never knew what ‘big enough’ was.

My brothers and I hunt the same mountain Dad did, and Grandpa did, and Great Grandpa did, but times have changed and its not as easy to find those big deer anymore. But we knew they were there, and that’s all the motivation a guy needs.


Though old school is one way to describe my Father, he also has a thing for high performance and advanced technology. So I decided to improve on Winchester’s original design. The old walnut needed a modern touch, so I started carving. A more vertical pistol grip was needed, the stock was shortened, and a soft recoil pad replaced the original butt plate. A beaver tail-ish front end was added to the stock, and the channel was opened up to receive the new, heavier barrel.

All this plus a glass bedding job, texturing of the grip areas, and some Duracoat in a desert camo pattern brought this relic into a more modern age. I topped it off with one of Dad’s scopes mounted in some  Weaver  Tactical rings, added a bi-pod, and off to the range I went with a handful of different test loads.


My goal for this gun was to be a deer and elk hammer on anything inside half a mile, and to do so, I needed to shoot high BC bullets at .264WM speeds. I tried both the Berger140 VLD and the Barnes 140 Match burner. Both gave good results at 3100fps, but the Barnes a little better, and the price point was a plus. So I loaded up a couple boxes of what shot best (easily sub MOA) .

On the first trip into the field, using a chart I’d calculated, I made easy first round hits at 500 and 850 yards. I knew I had a winner in my hands, and couldn’t wait to hand it back to Dad, who had no idea what had transpired since he turned it over to me. A man of reserved speech, his reaction was priceless. Wide eyes and smiles and he kept repeating all day: “what a sharp looking rifle!”

Since the original overhaul, Dad’s .264 has had several optics upgrades, better optics help older eyes. Dad used the rifle to take his first mature bull at 500 yards, you can read that amazing story here

Return to the Hunt

As the deer hunt started that cold October morning, I had very high hopes. We had spotted several bucks in our little canyon last night, and here it was just moments before shooting light. Dad had worked his way down a ridge line with us, and we sat atop some large rocks, overlooking a spectacular view of the high Rockies.
The deer were moving, and we spotted several, but none of them had impressed me as a shooter for Dad. And they didn’t give us a shot anyway, so we kept glassing.
After several shots were heard nearby, and hunters moving about, my hopes were waning. But fate had plans for us that morning.
As the light crept over the top of the mountain peaks, my brother suddenly spotted a deer right below us. The steep angle of the mountain made it feel as though were directly above him. I looked through my rangefinder and all I saw was the antlers, at 264 yards it was surely the biggest deer we’d seen that morning. Dad quickly moved into a position on the rock’s edge, and steadied his new rifle over his pack. We all stood there, silently waiting for the shot.

I watched through my spotter as the sharp crack of the rifle went off, the intense silence broken by the sound of the bullet ripping through the cold and thin mountain air. As we all watched in suspense, the bullet struck the deer just behind the left shoulder and exited behind the right. The downward force knocked the deer right to the ground, and with punctured lungs, his life ended right there on the brushy hillside.


Overcome with excitement and joy for what had been a long time coming, we exchanged high fives and shoulder punches. I knew the stars had to align for my dream to come true that day, but I’d had been feeling our luck building as the pieces fell into place. It was the first deer Dad had killed in 21 years, it may not have been the biggest deer, but for us it was the most memorable. Sharing the excitement with three generations of family that morning, we will never forget that rebuilt hunter and his rebuilt gun.

We’ll be putting in for this year’s hunt soon.

Dad with his two oldest grandsons