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If you want to augment your hunting rifle collection, now is a good time to invest.

Because of civil unrest and anxiety over coronavirus, people are buying a lot of military-style semi-automatic rifles and tactical handguns. The market is a lot more diverse than the stereotypical image, with buyers spanning the entire social and political spectrum.

Go to any store and you'll see multiple lines in the tactical section. The hunting section is empty. Nobody is buying classic bolt-action rifles with attractive walnut stocks and deeply blued metal. From my observations over the past few weeks, there are some outstanding deals to be had on lightly used, often unfired trade-ins in this, my preferred genre.

"Unfired" is misleading. On various firearms-related sites that I visit, people often post photos mostly of vintage shotguns that stay in safes because their owners believe that shooting them will diminish their value. Every firearm fires three rounds before it leaves the factory to check for safety and function. There's no such thing as an unfired firearm unless you built it from scratch. They might be unfired by a consumer, but if a consumer keeps it clean and preserves the bore's integrity, nobody would know.

Wear and damage diminish a firearm's value. If you can maintain its appearance close to 100% of factory original condition, it will retain its value and even appreciate. This revelation has liberated me to enjoy my firearms more fully by using them for their intended purpose.

During a recent visit to a shop in Central Arkansas, I made my customary stop at the used rack. Shining like a lighthouse beacon was a pristine Weatherby Vanguard with one of the most beautifully figured walnut stocks I have ever seen on a factory rifle. It appeared to be unfired by a consumer.

This really surprised me because the Vanguard is Weatherby's economy line, a dramatic step down in all respects from Weatherby's vaunted Mk.V line of which my favorite is the incomparably beautiful Lazermark. I had a chance to get a flawless Lazermark chambered in 7mm Weatherby Magnum wearing a high-end Leupold scope at a pawnshop last year, and I've been kicking myself for letting it get away.

Most Vanguards are chambered for popular working man cartridges; 30-06, 270 Winchester, 243 Winchester, 7mm Remington Magnum, etc. To my astonishment, this work of art was chambered in 6.5x300, the 300 Weatherby Magnum case necked down for a 6.5mm (.264-inch) bullet. It is the fastest of the 6.5mm cartridges, including the 26 Nosler, and it looks like a Saturn V rocket with a tiny capsule perched on top. It's about 300 feet per second faster at the muzzle than the fine but unloved 264 Winchester Magnum. My beloved 6.5x55 Swede and its twin sister, the 6.5 Creedmoor, don't even run on the same racetrack.

This rifle was priced to move, and it was more than reasonable for the fastest thing in its class. Where would I ever use such a thing? The 6.5x300 is designed for shooting at 500 yards and beyond. I would feel and look foolish bringing a gun like that into the piney woods where I usually hunt. There is one place where I hunt one or two days every year that allows a 350-yard shot, but only if I am impatient. Deer usually come to within 120 yards and often within 100 yards. I have shot only two deer at ranges of 300 yards, both with my Swede, so there is no deficiency at that range for the 6.5x300 to correct.

Of course, the speed limit on the Interstate is 70 mph. Would I rather drive 70 mph in a Chevy Sonic or a Shelby Cobra? The difference is that you burn 87 octane regular in the Sonic. The Cobra runs on expensive 91 octane premium. I wandered over to the ammunition shelves. A box of 20 cartridges for the 6.5x300 costs $85 plus tax. A box of 6.5 Creedmoor cartridges can be had for as low as about $22, and you can custom reload them when you're done. Weatherby ammo is already hot. You don't gain anything reloading Weatherby brass except maybe better bullets.

I had to sleep on it.

Two days later, the Vanguard had gone home with another man, thank goodness.

That would have been a good one to add to the collection, a rare example of a very small run of guns that is no longer produced. At least it purged the ghost of the pawn shop Mk.V.

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