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Author: Mike Schoby
Field test review of Weatherby's hot new predator shooting machine.
Selecting the perfect predator rifle is no easy task. I want a rifle that is accurate, but still light. I want it to be rugged enough to withstand constant abuse, but I also want it to have the good looks of a classic rifle. Finally I want a stable, consistent rifle. Weather changes often affect the point of aim of rifles, and the diverse hunting conditions a predator hunter can experience magnify this. I want a rifle that no matter when I pick it up, winter or summer, wet or dry, shoots in the same place.
I may have found the ideal gun that meets all of these requirements; the Weatherby Super Predator Master.
Weatherby guarantees this rifle to shoot 1.5" groups and according to the supplied test target, it looked as if it would do that with about an inch to spare. The first thing I noticed was the balance and overall weight - it was positively feathery! The gun felt more like a custom lightweight rifle than a traditional varmint rig. The synthetic stock mated to a short action and thin contoured barrel tipped the scales at 6 1/4 pounds.
The synthetic stock is a high-tech blend of Kevlar, fiberglass and aluminum. It has a great feel and I could not flex it at all - even the thin forearm section, where the most flex can occur on a lesser stock. A machined aluminum bedding block, set into the action section of the stock, ensures a positive, consistent platform for accurate shooting.
I decided to mount a Cabela's 6-20X Outfitter scope on this rifle. I like this power range as it works well for close range predator calling when the power is cranked down, but also has enough of a high-end that it can be used for long range prairie dog shooting. It has also been my experience that Outfitter scopes are a perfect testing platform. They have bright optics and rock solid adjustments. To mount the scope to the rifle I used the Weatherby supplied, Talley bases and rings. Quality was evident throughout. They are extremely solid and good looking.
Coyotes and Antelope Agree, the SPM is a Shooting Machine.
I took the SPM on an antelope hunt with Trophy Mountain Outfitters, in Trinidad Colorado this past season. The 153,000-acre ranch was not only covered with antelope but had more than enough coyotes for a good rifle workout. Entering the hunting area the first morning, a coyote bolted from a patch of cover and flattened out in a dead run. The lightweight rifle seemed to jump to my shoulder. The crosshairs settled in front of the running dog and the gun barked. While my sight picture was slightly disrupted by the recoil, I was still able to see the coyote do a somersault through the scope. One shot, one dead coyote - on the run no less. I was starting to really like this rifle. We continued our search for antelope and within a short while spied a young coyote which disappeared into a patch of small juniper trees. Dean Silva, owner and head guide of Trophy Mountain Outfitters said "Let's sneak around the other side of the trees. There is a big clearing he is probably going to cross and we can get a shot at him there." I followed his lead and within a few minutes was sitting with my back to a juniper tree watching the clearing. A second or two passed then a patch of brown fur emerged from the trees as the coyote came into view. I settled the crosshairs on his back and squeezed the trigger. Dirt flew over his back. "Closer than I thought." I said under my breath as I cycled the bolt. Luckily, the coyote, unaware of our position, took off, running toward us. I steadied the rifle, held on the leading shoulder and squeezed again. This time the coyote dropped like a sack of potatoes, the 85 grain Sierra Game King doing substantial damage.
During the course of the day, we looked over a dozen or so decent antelope bucks, but only saw one that was truly huge and like most trophy antelopes he eluded my efforts at a stalk. The second day I located a mature antelope that was heavy horned and looked to have around 15 inches of length. We decided to try for a stalk. After 20 minutes of crawling through juniper trees, prickly pears, cholas and sharp pointed yuccas we were within 300 yards of the herd. Peering around a small tree, we met the eyes of a single female antelope. She was snorting and staring right at our position, the rest of the spooked goats had retreated over the small rise. We lay there, pinned down by her inquisitive stare. My hope for a shot was waning rapidly when Dean said, give me your can of Copenhagen. While puzzled, I obliged. Taking the can, he cupped the shinny metal lid in his hand and held it out like a mirror towards the curious animal. She looked at the flashing light for what seemed like an eternity then took one step towards us. Then another and another.
As she approached, the head of another female crested over the rise, following her. She was locked on to the flashing disk and was headed our way. Soon the entire herd had followed her back over the hill. The last one was the buck. He was 252 yards away when I asked if I should take him. While Dean couldn't see the buck from his position, he said, "If you think you can make the shot, take him." Lying prone, I steadied the crosshairs on the point of his shoulder and squeezed the trigger. The buck dropped in his tracks, the bullet breaking the front shoulder and destroying his heart and lungs. He turned out to be 14 ½ inches, and had good mass all the way to the tips with great cutters. He was the buck I had come for.
Overall Fit and Finish
This rifle is simply impressive - there really is no better way to put it. If I set out to design the ultimate predator rifle, I would be hard pressed to incorporate a feature that Weatherby forgot. The first thing I noticed is the great balance. Too often "predator guns" have a muzzle heavy feel, due to the large-diameter bull barrel and too heavy of an overall weight. Also, many manufacturers use the wide forearm typical of a bench rifle because people associate both with accuracy. Unfortunately neither are really true (at least not in the field). A wide forearm serves two functions, it slides "on the rails" of a competitive bench rest and gives a stable place to put your hand during competitive position shooting matches while using a sling. Neither of these techniques are very applicable to predator hunting. Varmint hunting maybe, but not predator hunting. The bull barrel issue is another fallacy - yes bull barrels are often more accurate than a standard contour as they limit the amount of vibration as well as resist heating and subsequent shot walking. However, if a barrel is of good quality, they vibrate consistently and the shifting due to heat is minimal.
While the trigger is not light, it is extremely crisp and breaks with very little overtravel. I measured it with a digital Lyman trigger scale and it averaged 4 lbs., 11 ounces. I prefer a lighter trigger, but in today's litigious society most factory triggers break around five pounds. The trigger is a quality unit that can be easily adjusted by any competent gunsmith.
Initially, I viewed the Weatherby Super Predator Master, as the ultimate predator rifle, but after a season afield, my thoughts have changed. When mated with a versatile caliber such as the .243 Winchester, the Weatherby SPM is the ideal rifle for prairie dogs to mule deer and everything in between.
|Tale of The Tape|
Barreled Action: RH 24"
Weight: 6 1/4 lbs.
Overall length: 44"
Magazine Capacity: 5+1 in chamber (4+1 in chamber for .22-250 Remington)
Barrel Length/Contour: 24" #2
Rifling: Varies by caliber
Length of Pull: 13 5/8"
Drop at Comb: 3/4"
Monte Carlo: 3/8"
Drop at Heel: 1 1/8"