I have to imagine riflemen of yesteryear would not know what to do with all of the options Western hunters have to choose from today. No longer are we picking different grades of walnut and quality of in-letting–rather we’re spending more time choosing tripod mounts, COAL, and match vs. hunting ammo than we are picking a name for our firstborn child.

Grandpa’s rifle has a place for nostalgia’s sake, but today’s standard off-the-shelf modern rifle is far more advanced: lightweight, accurate, and sporting a recoil brake.  Spanning the breadth of cartridges, this type of rifle comprises the standard 201-level rifle build that helped me and my friends take a few dozen animals these past four years.

As my skills have evolved, so has the need for my do-all Western rifle. Nowadays, I put the needs of clients, friends, and family on a pedestal when they shoot my rifle. Low recoil, easy to shoot, and fine to pack around the mountains are the basic needs for my 301-level rifle.

Semi-Custom Tikka Build

To achieve this, I upgraded my factory Tikka T3x Lite to the most shooter-friendly all-around rifle with a suppressor, upgraded stock, and a user-friendly riflescope for mid-range hunting. This maximizes my personal ability to shoot and gives my hunting clients a rifle they can use with confidence.

Caliber Choice

Looking back on my hunting career thus far, I have had many more rifle shots on deer, pronghorn, and bears than elk or other large-bodied western game (I do not see any moose or bison in my short-term future). And it’s not even close. I have shot one Bull elk with a rifle while stacking up 30 other, smaller species.

My tendency towards medium-to-smaller game, coupled with the general trend of hunters showing elite effectiveness of smaller rounds on large game, made me confident in going with the 6.5 PRC with this build.

In contrast, when shooting my last caliber (300 WSM), I consistently had a hard time spotting my impacts, and when I did have a friend behind the spotter, usually the rifle boom from my brake made them jump just as bad as my recoil.

The 6.5 PRC achieves the performance and inherent accuracy that I am looking for while still maintaining plenty of velocities downrange. It is an effective rifle for most Western big game species at reasonable mid-range distances.

Pure Precision Altitude Stock

A good all-around and long-range hunting stock, the Pure Precision Altitude Rifle Stock puts the shooter’s hand in the proper position without even thinking about it. Add in the high cheek comb that makes sight pictures easy to find, and you will have a recipe for an easy-to-use rifle stock that is super forgiving for the shooter.

In bigger calibers, it’s worth noting that folks do not like how much these rifles jump. You can expect a little more muzzle jump than some other stocks in the 300 calibers, 7 Rem Mag, Short Mags, etc. However, I chose the 6.5 PRC for its shootability, plus I will always have a brake or Banish Backcountry suppressor on the end.

This rifle will always have a suppressor or the included Hells Canyon Armory BackCountry brake (seen here) on it to reduce recoil.
This rifle will always have a suppressor or the included Hells Canyon Armory BackCountry brake (seen here) on it to reduce recoil.

After taking it to the range and shooting in various positions, I do not have issues watching impacts. Keep in mind that I do not maximize the power of my rifle scope for all shots and ensure there is plenty of optical forgiveness on each shot.

Silencer Central Banish Backcountry

At 5.5” long, the Banish Backcountry is a lightweight mountain hunter’s suppressor. I used it on a 300 short magnum for a season and felt the great benefits of the recoil reduction and hearing safety. When you put it on these milder calibers, it really makes the whole shooting experience super fun and easy.

Not only does it make it a fun gun for me, the owner, to spend a lot of time behind, but I will be able to put any guided client, friend, or family member behind it and know they will be able to shoot it well. The ability to communicate with my shooting partner cannot be overstated, as I have had issues discussing shots when both of us have ear protection in, and when I have not had hearing protection in, follow-up shots leave my ear ringing as I talk to my hunter while needing hands on the optics.

Hells Canyon Armory Barrel & Additions

Mike at HCA does a great job with his custom carbon fiber barrels. They have a parallel weave, making them stronger and more rigid than other designs. He uses lower resin content so heat dissipates better and sources barrel liners from Benchmark Barrels, making one high-quality smoke pole. For this cartridge, and because this rifle has a suppressor on the end, we went with a 20” barrel.

Mike also Cerakoted the rifle, one because it looks great, but two as an extra layer of protection against the elements. We added an overbuilt bolt knob from HCA to make grabbing the bolt throw quick and easy. You can cycle the action so fast, it probably is illegal in California.

I’m not going to lie, I love the way fluting looks on this rifle. It has minor benefits in weight reduction and allows for debris to clear if it’s in the action instead of getting stuck. Importantly, this fluting is still butter smooth–you cannot feel the fluting as you run the action, unlike the ones you get off the shelf that are done with less precision.

I used Mike’s first run of aftermarket billet magazines, but these brand-new tikka aluminum magazines seem to have fine-tuned the original with a better spring system. They fit factory DBM bottom metals and are designed to allow up to 3.410″ COAL (Cartridge Overall Length) with the WSM/SAUM, 7PRC, and 6.5 PRC cases. With real three-plus-one capacity, they have “shoulder stops” machined into the internal magazine dimensions, preventing the bullet tips from getting beaten up upon recoil.

An aftermarket magazine is a great addition for those wanting to hand load to get the most out of their COAL.
An aftermarket magazine is a great addition for those wanting to hand load to get the most out of their COAL.

Lastly, Mike at Hells Canyon Armory sent his new BackCountry Muzzle Brake with the rifle. That way, if I want to visit my friends in Hawaii and shoot goats and mouflon, or loan my rifle to a fellow guide for their client to use, I can do so without any issues with the law. The self-timing nut makes swapping it out easy. In my side-by-side comparisons, the brake seemed to reduce felt-recoil by another 25-30% compared to the suppressor.

Salmon River Solutions Arca + Pic Rail

The Arca + pic rail enables someone to have a single rail to run a bipod and a tripod off the same attachment. Granted, it would be better for some tripod attachments to be mounted at the balance point in front of the magazine, I opted for this design on the fore-end here to support a picatinny bipod mount, as well. It’s ideal for steep uphill and downhill shots where the tripod with rear support (like the loop of a trekking pole or frame of a backpack) can support the back end of the rifle.

Mounting your rifle on a tripod in flatter prairie terrain is especially helpful for getting over sagebrush, which happens a lot in my home state of Wyoming. However, keep in mind the fore-end mount on the rifle will not be as sturdy as putting the arca rail closer to the balance point. Plan your stalks and shots accordingly, and practice before attempting afield.

The Magpul bipod is another piece of equipment I have used on my rifle for a few years now. It’s not the lightest, but also not the heaviest, and has good adjustability in the legs. It’s been a great option for my prone field shooting, and therefore I just carried it over from the old rifle set up to this one.

Maven RS1.2 Scope

A new iteration of the old faithful RS.1. The Maven RS1.2 is an all-around scope that can reach out a long way while also having the utility, power range, and light enough weight to perform in a lot of conditions. I am a big fan of the low end being 2.5 instead of something higher because, at the end of the day, I do like getting close when needed and try to route critters out of the aspens at close range. However, the 15-power upper end gives shooters some real magnification when they need it.

The field evaluation and drop test done on the scope speak for itself in the durability department.

Zeroing the rifle, setting the zero-stop, and getting it ringing steel past 600 yards was straightforward. I have not done much for shooting at deep distances much further, and it’s clear the scope has all a shooter wants or needs for what I am doing.

Again, you can find a much more in-depth breakdown of the field evaluation done by Form here.

Unknown Munitions Scope Rings + Bubble Level

The Unknown Munitions Tikka scope rings are overbuilt – just as a hard hunter should want them. The aluminum hardware is nitrided to avoid unsightly rust after field use and wider than the normal scope mounts you might be accustomed to in order to keep your scope as snug as a bug and on target.

The bubble level addition is important for mountain shots where you can expect to be canted. This bubble level in a place where shooters can glance down while behind the gun and verify their level before acquiring the target and touching one-off. This is especially important when reaching the outer edge of my abilities.

How Does It Shoot?

I answered the most important question of “how does it shoot” at the range at the edge of town (I actually returned the next chance I could because it was so enjoyable.) I often made excuses in the past for why I did not like to spend time plinking with other rifles of mine. Fortunately, I no longer have the urge to make those excuses–it is an extremely pleasant rifle to shoot. I have the Silencer Central Banish Backcountry suppressor on this rifle. It takes what little felt recoil the 6.5 PRC had and tames it even more.

This 301-level build maintains maneuverability with the suppressor because of the 20” barrel. With factory-loaded Barnes 127 LRXs, the chronograph averaged 2898 across seven shots. These rounds may be too inconsistent for some long-range dedicated hunters, but that is not the camp I am operating in. While I will fine-tune this setup in the future, I am happy to be hunting and learning the rifle with this ammunition for now.

Additionally, even with all of the little pieces and accessories included that add weight, this rifle build came in right at 10 pounds. Knowing how often I did not shoot my lighter rifle well in the heat of the moment, it feels that the 10-pound rifle is a better all-around weight for someone who is not hardcore dedicated to the craft of shooting rifles, like myself and future clients.

This 301 Rifle Build has one black bear to its name so far and hopefully another by this Spring’s end.
This 301 Rifle Build has one black bear to its name so far and hopefully another by this Spring’s end.

As of last week, it had one black bear under its belt. I can report that it has passed the first test on the proving ground for this 301 rifle build so far. I am excited to keep the Rokslide community up to date with its ongoing field performance report.

Comment or ask Jaden questions here.