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A writer's preview from Weatherby.

In late June, Weatherby convened its Second Annual Writers' Seminar. This time we gathered at the Tidewater Inn in Easton Md., with a side trip to the Chesapeake Gun Club for a round of sporting clays.

We were shown a number of interesting new prototype rifles and shotguns, along with being given the opportunity to shoot them to our heart's content.

One of the guns to get an enthusiastic "thumbs up" was a proposed new line of Weatherby rifles based on a lengthened version of the Varmintmaster action. As most of you know, the Varmintmaster was designed around the .224 Weatherby Magnum and, other than the fairly recent addition of the .22-250, the only cartridge for which it's been chambered. Saleswise the Varmintmaster has always occupied Weatherby's basement, but the potential is there; all it needs is a little length.

Compared to its big brother Mark V, the six-lug Varmintmaster action is slender indeed and very light in weight, thus making it a good basis for a line of nonmagnum rifles that could handle anything from .25-06 to .35 Whelen.

The prototype we saw and had a chance to shoot was a heavy barreled varminter in .22-250 set into an all-black laminated stock. Very sexy, and it shot well, too.

Another gun that attracted a lot of interest was a Mark V Magnum with a fluted, stainless steel barrel and a black fiberglass stock by Pacific Research.

Both the aforementioned guns may well find themselves in the Weatherby line in 94. Indeed, that's one of the reasons why this seminar was held - to get the collective opinion of the firearms press about the proposed new products.

Intelligent marketing decisions are usually based on input from a variety of sources, each of whom has different criteria: There's engineering, production, reps, dealers, advertising people, consumers, and the press, to name some. No one source is more important than the other, which doesn't make the ultimate decisions any easier. Manufacturers have all these people pulling at them from different directions, and the opinions of gun writers just may be the most difficult of all to assess.

In any case, they are there for the asking, yet I am constantly amazed at how few manufacturers take advantage of that fact via the seminar. Apparently, with this latest gathering being Weatherby's second, Ed Weatherby is convinced of the value of such gatherings - there's another scheduled next year. Remington's been doing it for 30 years and their products have consistently demonstrated that they usually know what the public wants.

Schmidt & Bender Restructures

It's not often that you hear of an offshore company changing its importer because they're selling too much product, but that seems to be exactly why the renowned German riflescope maker, Schmidt & Bender, decided to part company with Leica Camera.

Along with Dunn's, the prestigious mail order house, Leica had been a codistributor for S&B since 1987. Since January, however, Dietrich Apel, a nationally known custom gunmaker, has taken over the managerial duties of Schmidt & Bender, Inc., a newly-formed, wholly-owned subsidiary of the German parent company based in Meriden, N.H., and now handles the exclusive importation/distribution here in the States.

According to S&B's Hans Bender, his company did not have the capacity to produce enough scopes to satisfy the marketing plans of Leica, and because he had no immediate plans to enlarge his company or its production capability, the change was made.

Schmidt & Bender, Inc. is in the process of building a small network of stocking dealers, but they will also sell one scope at a time on an individual basis to dealers and gunsmiths. Scopes are now serviced at the same Meriden, N.H. facility. If a scope must be returned to the factory, Dietrich tells me the average is four to six weeks, which is very good service indeed. In the meantime, if the customer needs a scope, he's given a free loaner.

For those unfamiliar with the S & B name, the company is located near Wetzlar, a famed optical center of Germany, where they make a comprehensive line of Euro-style rifescopes. By that I mean the fixed powers are based on 26mm body tubes and the variables on 30mm tubes. Also, the reticle appears to thicken as a variable's power is increased. I say "appears" because in reality the reticle subtension remains exactly the same relative to the target throughout the power range. Our reticles, on the other hand, actually get thinner as the magnification is cranked up. It's simply a matter of placing the reticle behind the zoom system rather than in front of it.

Make no mistake, Schmidt & Bender scopes are very, very good. They are also expensive. If you're looking for a prestige line of riflescopes, you might look into the possiblity of stocking Schmidt & Bender products in your store, or at least making them available to your hunting and safari customers.

Winchester's Italian Slow-Down

When U. S. Repeating Arms showed the new Marocchi-made successor to the old Winchester Model 101 over/under to the trade at January's SHOT Show, the response was very positive. Designated the 1001 (pronounced ten-o-one), the gun was shown in field and sporting clays versions, both featuring back-bored barrels for recoil reduction and denser patterns, and longer-than-normal interchangeable choke tubes.

Anyway, as of July the first batch of guns had yet to be delivered, much to USRAC's disappointment. It seems some last minute changes were requested based on dealer and rep input gathered at the Show, so that's contributing to the delay. Also, work stoppages at the Italian government proof house (which is housed right in the factory itself), has further delayed things.

That comes as no surprise to me; I've yet to tour an Italian gun factory when one department or another wasn't staging some kind of a slow-down or strike. The whole factory doesn't shut down mind you, just one department at a time. The net result is about the same in any case.

Upon seeing a headline in one of the trade journals suggesting that Marocchi and USRAC were ready to come to blows over the 1001, I called Becky Costello who handles press relations, to see if there was any truth in it. According to her, other than a little frustration on both sides because obviously they want the same thing - Marocchi to ship, USRAC to receive - that's the extent of the problem. I hope that's all there is to it, for it would be a shame for such a promising relationship to get off on the wrong foot.
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Title Annotation:prototype rifles and shotguns from Weatherby Inc.
Author:Sundra, Jon R.
Publication:Shooting Industry
Date:Sep 1, 1993
Previous Article:Cashing in on the 3-D phenomenon.
Next Article:Handgun optic review.

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