Building a youth hunting rifle – Browning X-Bolt Micro Hunter .308
For several years the venerable .243 has been used quite successfully for a youth hunting rifle, and as an adult, I have taken numerous deer and hogs with one.
My oldest son is 13 and has been using my old 1959 Sako that has been cut down to the proper length of pull. He has killed a few deer and hogs with it..
I have thought about running a .308 with reduced loads, basically at 30/30 levels for a while.
With the .243 I am running 85g Barnes with a velocity of 3180 FPS, they flat out work of course. Are they needed for deer? No, standard softpoints work fine, but I like the idea of a stouter bullet should he have to shoot a hog at close distance and he gets into the shoulder (though I train him for the behind the ear shot). But as anyone who has hunted hogs can atttest to, they don’t stand still and if they stop forward as you squeeze the trigger it’s easy to get into the shoulder. A Barnes will punch through but a standard bullet may blow up and not penetrate to the vitals.
Downside to Barnes? Pricey
So, what about a compact .308 with a light load, a 125-150g bullet at 30/30 levels? Because it’s going slower they will hold together and reach the vitals.
Bill Wilson has been testing the new 30AR and has killed about 50 hogs with the 150g Accubond at 2300 FPS out of an 11″ SBR, even into the shoulder at close range
Another reason for writing this article is that good youth guns are hard to come by. Some are just a full size gun with a cut down stock (like my son’s Sako) and they weigh the same as an adult rifle. We all know that kids aren’t as strong as adults and it’s hard for them to manage the gun well. Downside to a really light gun is increased recoil. Hence having a carefully crafted load that is not punishing.
Remington makes the 125g Managed Recoil load in .308 that is running about 2500 FPS and has good feedback. I plan to get some of those as well as work on some of my own loads.
Now, for the rifle itself: That was pretty easy really, Browning X bolt Micro Hunter in .308, 20″ barrel.
These rifles are known to have expectional accuracy, have a reduced length of pull stock and a good recoil pad. They are a trim little gun similar to the old Remington Model 7.
I have been researching load data and will be experimenting with the following bullets:
Nosler 150 Accubond
Hornady 150g SST
Barnes 130g TTSX
I have read about a guy running the 130TTSX from 25-2600 FPS and having great luck on deer on hogs
My goals are 23-2400 FPS with the 150s and 25-2600 with the 130s
Either should be good to go out to say 150 yards
It will be interesting to get my 13 year old son’s take on percieved recoil between the above loads and the 243 with an 85g TSX at 3180 FPS.
One thing I find interesting is that while looking over my dad’s old reloading manuals, I was shooting a 243 with an 85g Sierra at about 3200 FPS…
I never thought about recoil, bullet construction, distance, etc. If there was a deer or hog in sight it was dead! if it looked “really far” I might raise up a tad and squeeze the trigger. Never lost one. Of course, I was handed a gun that had been glass bedded and free floated, a trigger job, Leupold scope and carefully worked up handloads.
The benefit of confidence in one’s gun can not be understated.
For youth/reduced loads Hodgdon recommends a starting charge of 38g of H4895 with a 130g bullet. I didn’t have any but did have Rl10X which has published loads in a few manuals with the same starting charge of 38 . Since they are both very close on the burn rate chart, and after talking with Alliant powders, Sierra, Speer and Barnes I decided to go ahead and start with that load with the Barnes 130g TTSX.
It should be around 2600 FPS with a 20″ barrel which is my target FPS.
I also loaded up some 150g Hornady SST and Nosler Accubonds with a charge of 36g, that should put me in the 2400 FPS range.
Tomorrow I will shoot all three rounds while doing a little break in on the barrel. Anxious to see that the recoil and group sizes are like.
Took it out and shot it and didn’t really feel any recoil difference between a slightly hotter 130g and 150g with 2g less powder. Both felt very moderate in recoil, think it would be fine for a kid.
Groups averaged right at an inch at 100 yards, not bad for a new barrel and new unproven loads. In .308s, there are a few pet loads that if you are at or very close to them they tend to shoot very good in almost all .308s, I didn’t shoot any of those with this gun.
Thinking I am going to stick with the 130g Barnes TTSX as the bullet for the gun for hunting.
My start load was 38g of RL10x, I worked up some more at 37.5, 38, 38.5, 39, 39.5 and 40. Will get back out to the range tomorrow for more group testing. If I settle on a load I will check it over the weekend over a chrono and see how close I am to my goal of around 2600FPS. The 6.8 shooting a 110g TTSX at 2600FPS is deadly on deer and hogs out to 250 yards, no reason this would be any different.
Running a Vortex Viper 2-7. Interesting to note that the mounts from Browning are indeed Talley alloys, very nice mounts, clean, strong and light.
Got to test my load over a chrono:
nice, 150 FPS over my targeted goal and it feels about like a 243 shooting it.
I ran the numbers and I am good out to 300 yards with a 200 yard zero
.7″ high at 50
2″ high at 100
9 down at 300, still going 2200 FPS which is 200 over the minimum opening speed of the Barnes 130 TTSX
Went out to the lease for a hunt, wanting my 13 year old to take a deer or hog with it, unfortunately, he ended up being sick and missing out.
Everyone that checked the gun out at the lease really, really liked it. “This is a perfect grab and go gun” commented one guy. My dad was like “it’s very light, points and handles nice, I want one!”
Me and my 6 year old son hunted a few days and I got to test it on a 160lb boar on Sunday morning. About 75 yards out, aiming for the neck and it took a step right as I sqeeezed the trigger and it went down hard, DRT. Upon inspection it hit the front of the shoulder, took out the heart and exit the neck far side (it was quartering away).
Textbook perfect performance and why I love Barnes bullets. That shot may have been fine with a high stepping .243 SP or it may have blown up on impact which may have resulted in a tracking job, lost pig, or, DRT…. who knows. What I do know, is that I have absolute faith in the Barnes TTSX.
The Browning X-Bolt Micro Hunter with a well chosen .308 handload is an outstanding youth hunting rifle.