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Elegant rifles are delightful -- finely blued steel, richly figured wood, a touch of engraving, impeccable craftsmanship -- but sticker shock and my budget-minding wife normally keep my more extravagant tastes in check. Every time I tend to go down that slippery slope, I force myself to take 10 deep breaths, get a good night's sleep, and rationalize myself out of another unforgettable collectible.

Well, you know, a huntin' gun should be field tough, able to take a lot of extreme weather, not rust and certainly not lose its zero. It should be affordable, too. Frankly, with the $500-plus price tags most popular brands carry these days, I worry about the financial ability of many aspiring young hunters to buy their first big game rifle. That's why the appearance of the new Raptor is cause for celebration.

At a distance, the Raptor looks like a svelte, synthetic stocked, stainless steel rifle that's ready to go. Its suggested retail price of $249 looks like a typographical error when you're talking about a new .243 Win., .25-06 Rem., .270 Win, or .30-'06.

The Vision Of A Hawk

For at least three years, I have tracked this evolving rifle and its promoter, Halter Cunningham, a world-class falconer and very successful businessman in his own right. Cunningham had a vision -- he wanted to make and market a high-power rifle with a suggested price tag of $249, and now here it is. The design and production process at Raptor Arms that made it possible is rather intriguing.

The secret to the Raptor is a combination of sound design, maximum use of unpolished investment castings and molded parts, and minimum hand labor.

The receiver is cast from 416 stainless steel. Its contours follow those of the Remington 700 so that any scope mount base that fits the Remington will also fit the Raptor. The action incorporates an integral recoil lug and an anti-bind, guide rib along the right action rail that engages a slot in the right locking lug. It's needed, too, since neither the receiver nor bolt castings are polished.

Yes, it looks a little rough around the edges, but as I shot and worked with the Raptor, the areas of initial friction slicked up. If one were even slightly handy, those areas of friction could be easily polished and stoned to a very smooth, working finish.

The bolt body is cast from stainless steel, and it carries its casting marks proudly, as do the bolt handle and bolt shroud. The bolt is fitted with a Sakolike extractor and spring-loaded pin ejector.

A great deal of attention was given to the gas handling characteristics of the bolt and receiver. There are four large gas ports cast into the bottom of the bolt that, in the event of a pressure excursion, would deflect gas into the magazine well when the bolt is locked. To block any gas escaping along the left locking lug raceway, the bolt shroud incorporates a flange that seals off that possibility while the front receiver ring is vented on the left side.

The breeching is similar to that of a Remington; the cartridge case fits into a counterbore in the head of the bolt, and the head of the bolt is positioned inside a counterbore in the end of the barrel. The receiver is hardened to 38-40 Rockwell and the bolt to 48 Rockwell. It's a tough action.

The trigger assembly incorporates a side safety that blocks the trigger and permits the rifle to be unloaded with the safety on. The adjustable trigger as issued by the factory was set up at a very usable 3 1/2 lbs. with a wee bit of creep. Frankly, at a time when we see major factories setting up their triggers at 6 lbs. and 7 lbs., the Raptor trigger was a refreshing surprise and certainly added to the accuracy the rifle displayed on the range.

Taking Wing

The black, synthetic stock of the Raptor is molded from a fiberglass-reinforced polymer. Its lines are classic with a Monte Carlo cheekpiece and checkering panels cast into the forearm and pistol grip. Although the basic Raptor model comes without iron sights, the comb line is set at a level that would make shooting from open sights very comfortable. If you're a stock crawler and shooting a scope, you might find the comb slightly low.

The fit of the stock to the barreled action is excellent. The light contour 22" barrel -- either chrome-moly or stainless -- is not free floated, but it shot very, very well. Raptor Arms fits each stock with detachable sling swivel bases and a ventilated recoil pad. Length-of-pull measures 13".

The bottom metal is interesting. "Metal" did I say? The complete trigger guard and floorplate assembly consists of a single piece of black polymer that is surprisingly flexible once it's removed from the stock. Once it is removed, out pops the four-round magazine box, stamped follower and U-shaped follower spring.

The subdued, stainless-looking finish on all the metal parts is a baked-on powder coat fittingly called "Taloncote." It's rust resistant, durable and visually, very pleasing.

A Lot Of Gun For The Money

The burning question in my own mind was, "How would this $249 rifle shoot?" Lest you think the .30-'06 rifle I received was hand picked by Raptor Arms, I can assure you it was not In fact, the first thing I did upon receiving it was to clean out metal shavings left in the action at the factory.

Mounting the rifle with an old Lyman 4x scope, I headed to the range with a match handload consisting of 45.9 grains of IMR-4064 and a 168 gr. Sierra Matching bullet to establish a baseline level of accuracy plus Speer's 165 gr. Grand Slam and Federal's Premium 180 gr. Nosler Partition loadings.

At 100 yards, the first three shots with the match load grouped into 1 1/4". The Raptor could shoot! And it continued to shoot grouping the Speer and Federal loads into three-shot, 1 1/2" groups. Plus the Raptor fed, fired, extracted and ejected like a reliable hunting rifle should.

Weighing 6 1/2 lbs., the basic $249 Raptor is now available in calibers .243 Win., .25-06 Rem., .270 Win., and .30'06. A slightly more expensive model called the "Peregrine," featuring a checkered hardwood stock and open sights, is also available on special order.

Based in Shelton, Connecticut, Raptor Arms has taken wing, giving entry level hunters and shooters an accurate, durable big game rifle at a good old fashioned Yankee price.
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Article Details
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Author:Bodinson, Holt
Publication:Guns Magazine
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 1999
Next Article:STEYR M9.

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