Too Bad Jim Zumbo Didn’t Wait a Couple of Weeks

This will hopefully be my last post for a while on the Zumbo incident, but it is such a striking coincidence, I have to comment.

I’m a subscriber to the bi-monthly magazine Handloader. My April, 2007 issue arrived in today’s mail. Knowing the publishing industry slightly, I’m aware that everything in this magazine was written, edited, prepped and typeset at least a month ago, if not far longer. Starting on page 62 of this issue the author, well-known gunwriter Mike Venturino, examines light .223 caliber bullets in the context of varmint hunting. What’s the gun pictured on the two-page spread? A Rock River A4 varmint rifle.

From the article:

When I quit varmint shooting about 1981, combining the words varmint and autoloader in the same sentence would have been a contradiction. Everybody then knew there was no way a “black rifle” could be accurate enough to hit tiny little ground squirrels at distances of 200 to 300 yards. With what was available then it probably would have been difficult to even mount a suitable varmint scope on a “black rifle.” I honestly don’t remember, because I didn’t pay much attention to autoloaders then – and still don’t for the most part. Maybe that will change some.

Anyway, on hand now is a Rock River A4 Varmint, which is that company’s adaptation of the basic AR type of autoloading rifle known the world over as either AR-15, or in its selective fire military version as the M-16. However, the A4 Varmint is a long way from a military-style rifle. First, instead of the distinctive carrying handle of an AR-15, it comes with a rail atop the receiver that can be fitted with Weaver-type scope mounts. The A4 Varmint can be had with barels 16, 18, 20 and 24 inches long with rifles weighing from 7.9 to 9.7 pounts at each end of the spectrum. These barrels taper from 1.05 inches under the aluminum tube handguard to .920 inch ahead of the gas block. They are stainless steel, air gauged and made by Wilson, all with one-in-8-inch twist rates, except that an option can be a one-in-12-inch twist in the 24-inch barrel only. The trigger is a standard military two-stage type, but when the actual pull begins, this one released at 3 pounds.

The A4 Varmint sent to me by Rock River came with a 20 inch barrel, atop which was soon mounted a Leupold 10x scope. The catalog states that Rock River guarantees accuracy of .75 minute of angle at 100 yards. My thought was “An autoloading .223 outshooting most bolt-action .223s? We’ll see about that.” The facts turned out to be that this A4 Varmint often will group under .75 inch for five shots at 100 yards.

The article goes on for several pages discussing different bullets, powders, and loads (it is a magazine dedicated to handloaders after all), and compares the A4 to a Savage Model 11F bolt-action, but the piece concludes:

Also gained from this project is some deep respect for the accuracy potential of a modern-day autoloading rifle. Twenty-five years back when I gave up varmint shooting, I honestly never thought they could be viable long-range varminters. They are, although I still don’t like the way they spread my empty brass hither and yon. Last year in Oregon there were often opportunities for quick repeat shots, since the ground squirrels often clustered together. This coming spring with the Rock River A4 Varmint rifle, I’ll find out if indeed a fast second shot is an asset.

Looks like Venturino was “living in a vacuum” as well. But at least he didn’t let the vacuum reside between his ears when he sat down in front of his word processor.

And too bad Jim Zumbo didn’t get a chance to read Venturino’s article before he went after coyote in Wyoming. He might have taken an AR, and saved himself a boatload of grief.

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