With this as our basic philosophy, let's see what a factory-model .30-06 needs before it can be most effective in the field.
First of all it needs good sights, which are more important than the make of the rifle. To my mind, there is no question that a telescope sight of not over 4-power—mine is a 2¾X Hensoldt—is better for all big-game hunting than any iron sights. However, the make of the scope means much less than getting the best reticle in it. I wanted a reticle that would be equally good for short, fast shots in the bad light of a deer forest and for precise, long-range prone shooting in the high mountains. And since nobody can place his shots accurately at much over 300 yards without a very close idea of the exact distance, I want my scope reticle to tell me the range.
Long ago I found the only reticle I've ever seen that met all of these needs. It shows a single, horizontal hair to prevent canting the rifle. The vertical mark is a conspicuous post which tapers sharply, just above the hair, to a flat top that covers exactly three inches at 100 yards—or six inches at 200, nine inches at 300, etc. This to me is a vital requirement, for while these "three-minute-of-angle" posts are hard to get, the more common ones that cover four inches per 100 yards are too wide.
How does this type of reticle tell you the range? All you need to know is a few key measurements of the kind of game you may find. The head of a trophy-size pronghorn antelope, seen in profile, is 12 inches long from nose tip to ear base. If the three-minute fiat top of the post just covers this, the pronghorn is 400 yards away, and if it covers three-quarters of this head length, a 300-yard hold will do the business.
Why is the post better than the popular cross-hair reticles? Most shots at big game are taken in bad light, and often in heavy cover. For those hurried shots at short range, I've found that the cross hairs, with or without a center dot, are just too hard for me to see, whereas the prominent post catches my eye instantly.
We should, however, be prepared for the one emergency when a scope sight is not only useless but may be dangerous. This comes when game—dangerous game, especially—is met at such close quarters that a scope shows only a circle of hide that may not be a vital spot. We should also be ready for sudden developments which may put a scope out of business. For instance, a huge snowflake once settled on my front scope lens at the critical moment. Another time, in the arctic when the temperature was 45 below zero, my breath hit the back lens and instantly condensed and froze, making the lens opaque. In both these cases I scored with my supplementary iron sights, and now I wouldn't dream of going afield with a scope mounted in a way that made the instant use of iron sights impossible.
With my Griffin & Howe there is just enough room under the scope tube for a Lyman 48 rear sight, with an aperture cup only 5/16ths of an inch in diameter. This was installed with a front sight that is correspondingly low, so that the line of aim is as close to the barrel as it can be when zeroed for 200 yards. The front sight, by the way, serves two purposes. It is a flat-topped blade, a bit over 3/32nds of an inch wide, which catches the eye quickly for fast shooting. But I had a 1/32nd of an inch vertical gold stripe inlaid in the exact center of its face. At long range the stripe alone is used for fine holding, and it cannot shoot away from the light because it has no sides for the light to hit.
I know that it is now the fashion to mount scope sights so low that iron sights cannot be used unless the scope is taken off. Moreover, factory rifles are turned out with standard stocks for use with iron sights only, or with high-comb stocks for use with the low-mounted scopes. Neither of these is satisfactory for a scope and iron sight combination, which is currently condemned by most gun authorities.
I've been told by these men that it is impossible to design a really good stock for both sights on the same rifle—and I don't believe a word of it. If the comb of the stock is high enough to let you look naturally through the scope, the trouble ceases to exist.
Griffin & Howe designed my stock for me, and when Seymour Griffin handed me the finished job I shut my eyes until I got my face down into the steadiest place on the cheek piece of the comb. When I opened them I found myself looking comfortably through my scope sight in any shooting position. How much extra height must be added to the comb when the scope is correctly mounted over iron sights? Surprisingly little. If my scope tube were lowered only 7/16ths of an inch, it would be in actual contact with the barrel—which nobody would recommend. In an emergency I simply lower my chin, and my head pivots on my cheekbone against the stock until I can look through the iron sights with no loss of steadiness. That is the feature which some gun experts have missed when they looked my rifle over. It is also why, after 30 years, my honeymoon with this rifle is still going strong.