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Browing's 81 BLR .308.

If it were possible to ignore the impressive military credentials of the .308 Winchester (7.62mm NATO for the metrically inclined), it would still be easy to appreciate it as a sporting round, pure and simple--without qualifications. The old, half-apologetic traditionalist chestnit, "It's almost as good as the old '06," just doesn't apply anymore. Why? Well, the .308, or more specifically, the case of the .308, has already spawned a pretty impressive array of offspring. The .243 and newer 7mm-08 can pretty much stand on their own two feet as open country loads, and the .358 Winchester is a superlative short-to-medium range brush cartridge.

The other overpowering argument in the .308's favor as a sporting round is a lot closer to the bone. At the risk of sounding oversimplistic, it has given high intensity, medium-to-long range capability to self-loading rifles, short-action bolt guns, and yes, lever actions.

So what? Didn't the .250-3000 and .300 Savage fill a similar niche with the Savage Model 99 around the early part of the century? Yeah. True. But the .308 offers higher velocity in the 150-grain bullet range than the .300 Savage, plus a far wider range of bullet weight choices than either the .250 or .300. This, plus the fact that it is the secondary U.S. service round (back to the military credential, I guess), would seem to make an airtight case for the .308.

Of all the current sporting rifles chambered for the .308--and there are a boatload of 'em--one of the latest and slickest has got to be the Browning Lever Action (BLR). The BLR isn't exactly all that new, having been around for a few years. In 1981, the company decided to do a bit of what is described as "human engineering"--revising the BLR to make it more compatible with the human anatomy. The differences in the 81 as opposed to the earlier model are: a flat-sided receiver as compared to the flared one of the pre-81, and a flush fitting, four-shot detachable box magazine. These two improvements aren't merely cosmetic. They make the rifle a lot easier to grasp (you don't have to wrap your fingers around the protruding magazine of the old model), and a bit trimmer in the receiver area. While these changes won't make the BLR function or shoot any better, they will make it easier to lug around. Looks better too. Speaking of looks, the BLR is a very attractive rifle. The wood and blueing are excellent (although the finish on the stock is a bit too glossy for a hunting instrument, at least to my mind), and the checkering on the grip and fore-end are nicely executed. The BLR has a white line recoil pad and a gold plated trigger.

In writing up a field test of any lever action, it's usually customary to include a condescending qualification concerning accuracy--something to do with two-piece stocks and an action that didn't evolve from Mauser's immortal '98. To hear some people tell it, all bolt guns are automatically minute-of-angle, and the best accuracy any other action type can hope for is minute-of-chest cavity.

Our test gun gave us a pleasant surprise when using 150-grain Federal ammo--it delivered 100 yard benchrest groups averaging around 1-1/2 inches. The best three-shot group was around the magical one-inch mark! Our sighting arrangement was a 4X Zeiss scope with Redfield mounts. While putting a Zeiss scope on a lever gun might seem as gauche as ordering cognac with a Gatorade chaser (Zeiss makes a fantastic scope), that 1-inch group did plenty to justify the arrangement. Neither the scope nor the rifle embarrassed the other.

Offhand shooting with BLR was a joy. Its trim, 20-inch barrel, 7-pound weight, and straight-grip stock configuration make it a dream to handle. The super short lever throw makes for fast followup shots--should they be necessary. In short, the rifle lines up fast, very fast. It would be tough to think of a better deer rifle.

"Deer rifle" can be a pretty vague term, like "duck gun" or "bird dog." By using it to describe the BLR, we don't mean a strictly close cover whitetail gun--the traditional setting for the lever actions. Although the .308 BLR would be an excellent choice for that type of hunting, to pigeon-hole it into that category would be unnecessarily restrictive--and unfair. The BLR/.308 combo is perfectly capable of long shots in open country on whitetails, mulies or what have you. When you consider the qualities of the rifle itself, plus the wide range of bullet weights and styles available for the .308 you'll see that it's an exceptionally versatile solution to the majority of North American hunting situations.

The BLR was very comfortable to shoot. Functioning and cycling were excellent. The trigger pull was a bit over 4-1/2 pounds with some creep, but was fairly easy to manage after we found out when and where it was going to break.

The BLR, like most modern lever action designs, centrally mounted scopes. The external hammer posed no cocking problem, even with the scope. That hammer, by the way, can be an advantage in quietly cocking the rifle in a stand situation or in any other setup where you're fortunate enough to enjoy the unusual luxury of deliberation.

The BLR in .308 represents an efficient blend of a uniquely American action with one of America's favorite bore diameters. It should become a permanent fixture in the American hunting scene.
COPYRIGHT 1985 InterMedia Outdoors, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1985 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Miller, Payton
Publication:Guns & Ammo
Date:Jul 1, 1985
Words:911
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