Best of the West Rifle-Scope Combo Developed For Serious Long-Range Hunting
By John Geiger, SAFARI Magazine Managing Editor
Best of the West Arms, a name you might know from their Sportsman Channel TV show, makes a bolt-action rifle that is custom-shop quality with top-of-the-line components. Then they tune it with an excellent scope that has a unique pat-ented turret. Rifle, scope and cartridges are all optimized individually for your favorite load and location. They call it the Huskemaw Long Range Advantage.
Let’s cut to the chase: In our range testing, we found this system intuitive. It makes dialing to distance a cinch and ad-justing windage a breeze with the unique, patented turret. It’s accurate and printed groups in the 1/2-MOA area, was ergo-nomic and made with quality components to tight tolerances. It wasn’t light at 9 pounds, which included the 22-ounce scope. If I were sheep hunting, I might opt for a carbon-wrapped barrel to shed some weight. But the Signature is solid, rugged and shot well from various shooting postions. The base model for the Signature rifle and scope system we shot was $10,000. The scope without the rifle goes for $2,299 on their website. — John Geiger
What’s different about this system? A big part of the advantage is the scope’s turret. Atop the Signature model rifle I checked out was no ordinary scope. Best of the West rifles can handle any brand optic, but the system is intended for a Huskemaw scope in order to give the shooter an advantage in changing hunting conditions.
Most traditional hunters in the United States range in yards. So Huskemaw created a turret that has yards on it rather than mils or Minute of Angle. With yards on the turret, once you know the distance in yardage you know where to turn the turret. Once on the correct yardage, the scope has adjusted for the bullet’s drop at that distance. That’s intuitive and quick.
But Huskemaw’s turret has another feature that makes it even faster when there’s wind to account for. On the same turret, you will see a single number above the yard number you dialed to. For example, you may see a “2” above your “600” yardage number. That means, for a 10-mile-per-hour wind, move two horizontal reticle hashmarks into the wind. That second hashmark is now your point of aim. When you squeeze the trigger, you now will have compensated for the bullet’s drop as well as the wind’s effect on your bullet.
Keep in mind that the optic and the Best of the West rifle are custom-shop quality. Sheep hunters, a discerning group for sure, are Best of the West and Huskemaw’s bread and butter. You get excellent glass and erector mechanics, a fine bolt-action rifle and a unique way to combine them for quick, simple long-distance accuracy in this system. The optic on the test rifle that Best of the West loaned to SAFARI Magazine was a Huskemaw Tactical Hunter 5-20×50. The main tube is a thick 34mm. It has a parallax adjustment dial and German F2 Schott glass.
The Tactical Hunter also has a hidden feature that I think is a Godsend. It has a bubble level inside the scope so you can glance at it to make sure the scope and rifle are vertical before you take the shot. It’s a great co-witness when you are not sure you are level. This scope, without the rifle, goes for $2,299 on the Huskemaw website.
The rifle was a Best of the West Signature, which is built on a 700 action, has 12 caliber chamberings — from 6mm Creedmoor to .375 H&H — and a carbon fiber stock made by Forge Carbon. The action is CNC machined steel and the barrel is carbon-fiber wrapped or all steel, if you prefer. The test gun had a steel barrel made by Wilson Arms out of Connecticut. It was deeply fluted, which is one of the many custom options Best of the West Arm’s does in its Cody, Wyoming shop.
Gary Baughman of Best of the West told me the stocks are pre-inletted with epoxy and then CNC inletted to match the action, magazine, bottom metal and barrel. Then they are hand bedded with an aluminum bedding compound. The barrels are free-floated. The test rifle was about 9 pounds including the 22-ounce scope.
The trigger is a single-stage TriggerTech, the darling of custom-rifle manufacturers these days, and I could see why. It was set at 2 ½ pounds and was smooth and crisp, no scrape, no grit, just a clean break.
I met with Best of the West at a gun range where we could shoot to 600 yards on a windy spring day. First, I had some questions. How can Huskemaw create a turret for an individual when there are so many variables — elevation, temperature, caliber, bullet variations, among many others. Two ways, said the company’s representative.
A rifle buyer can have Best of the West build a shooting system that is matched to a specific caliber, bullet, elevation and temperature where the hunter expects to hunt. The company will use that info, create a custom turret and send the system to the buyer with specific ammo. By the way, if you expect to be using the rifle at sea level and 90 degrees but you might also hunt at 12,000 feet in 30 degrees, then just ask for a second turret that reflects those different conditions. You can easily switch your turrets, depending on where you’re shooting.
You can buy a rifle and scope in your favorite load, identify the BC and velocity, note the elevation, temperature and other info, and type it into the free TrueBC app or a plain old data sheet they’ll provide. Upload or send it to the company, and they will use that info to create a custom turret for you. A custom turret is free with every scope and rifle combo. Additional turrets cost $100 each.
The rifle comes with custom-loaded ammo from Best of the West. Remember, you chose the caliber and the model, and Best of the West will supply you with accurate ammo designed to be shot with your specific rifle. You can buy more cartridges that match your originals. You have a choice of several bullet weights in your caliber. With this test Signature, Best of the West included shop-loaded Hornady 147-grain ELD-M match bullets for the 6.5 PRC rifle. You can request specific types of bullets or, of course, use your own, but they may not be tuned as well as the pros in the Cody shop can do.
On the bench, I got behind the rifle and adjusted the diopter, parallax and magnification to my liking. I loaded three cartridges and waited for my spotter’s wind call. Then I put pressure on the trigger during my respiratory pause. The first three-shot group at 550 yards measured about 3 inches. Subsequent groups matched or marginally beat the first, which is about 1/2 MOA accuracy.
A WORD ABOUT WIND
You’re only as accurate as your ability to call the wind. Once you are looking out 500, 600 yards or more, wind swirls, dies and simply changes here and there. It’s one thing to use a Kestrel or other wind gauge to know what speed and direction, but that
While this technology does help you compensate, it’s not foolproof. You still need to practice in various conditions and learn to read the wind. Keep in mind that there may be too much wind or it’s too variable to make an ethical shot at long distance. It’s always best to get closer. But if you need to take a long poke in the right conditions, this system helps.
On the range at River Bend Gun Club in Georgia, there were flags set up every 50 yards or so between me and the target 600 yards distant. Sometimes they were pointing all in the same direction, sometimes limp and sometimes pointing every which way. My spotter would take a wind measurement near me, and then gauge the flags, grasses, and trees, before telling me his estimation of the wind value. I might range a target at 450 yards, dial the turret, and say, “I am on it.” Then I’d wait for his wind call.
“Five mph from the left,” he might say, as he checked his handheld Kestrel and looked downrange for signs of wind direction.
I’d then check my turret. On the turret above 450 was the number 1. That means at 450 yards, the turret called for a 1 hash-mark compensation for every 10 mph of wind. Since it was 5 mph, I halved the 10 mph hold. I walked my reticle over ½ hashmark to the left. That was my new point-of-aim. I was then dialed for distance and had compensated for the wind.
“Fire in the hole.” Boom.
For a hunter and guide, this team approach is natural. If you’re hunting alone, you have to call your own windage. Either way, the turret gives you a place to start, for accurate compensation for a very important variable that foils many a hunts-of-a-lifetime.
This Signature rifle with its Huskemaw scope and custom ammo might not be for you. It is made for the hunter who might not have the time or inclination to spend hours at a bench tinkering with grains and dope sheets. Best of the West has created this system with a certain person in mind: The hunter who needs an accurate, long-distance system now, to give him or her an advantage in a sport that is anything but predictable. If that sounds familiar, then this gun’s for you.