The Ultimate Firearms Destination for the Gun Lifestyle

A Classic Rifle, Back From the Dead

THE DEER HUNTER  

Despite growing up in England, Michael Cimino’s The Deer Hunter was one of those movies seared into my teenage subconscious. While the Vietnamese jungle provided a backdrop for the movie’s most famous scenes, it was the earlier story, set in rustbelt Pennsylvania that I remember most. War movies you can find anywhere. Films that capture the relationships between working-class men, the kind who toil, sweat, raise families, fight, drink, and die for their country when called upon, are somewhat of a rare commodity, especially now.

These days, Hollywood prefers anyone possessing a Y chromosome to shower twice daily and be sensitive to the emotional needs of their womenfolk, who, naturally, are smarter, wittier, and better decision makers. Manufacturing jobs are immensely popular with politicians and screenwriters, so long as their own offspring don’t have to work them. Back then, even though the director’s upper west side, metrocentric leanings were fairly obvious, admiration for a life that was fast disappearing still shone through.

Remember the rifles toted by De Niro, Walken, and Savage? I do. Back then, blued steel and walnut were the order of the day; scopes weren’t to be trusted much, and .30-06 was about the minimum caliber that could be counted on to anchor 150-pound animals with a cup and core bullet. Or so contemporary campfire lore would have you believe. Now that the sons and widows of those actors’ real-life contemporaries are dumping old-school rifles in estate sales and online auctions, guns that are supremely capable of punching a tag are available for a song. You might have to put in a little work to get them presentable or to make them your own. But doesn’t that just add to the half century of stories they can already tell? Here’s one of them.

foremost 6600 rifle

Tired, neglected, and sent south for disposal from an Alaska State Police evidence room after being seized in an investigation, the rifle you see here was consigned to an auction 3,000 miles from its previous life. For the princely sum of 180 bucks, plus buyer’s premium and sales tax, it was unceremoniously tossed uncased into the trunk for the trip home. Like its new owner, it’s an unpolished immigrant, cobbled together from bits of the Old World — one that made a trip to the land of the free.

The brand of Foremost and their model 6600 doesn’t quite spring to mind in the same way that Remington 700 or Winchester Model 70 does when someone mentions the words “hunting rifle,” part of the attraction held by the old dog. Back in the ’60s and ’70s, bastions of the U.S. retail scene imported rifles by the thousands for sale in their department stores. Defunct and slowly dying household names like Montgomery Ward, Western Field, and Sears all carried their own brands of bolt guns, many of which wound up under a Christmas tree to the delight of fathers everywhere. This one was sold by JCPenney, around 1971.

Scuffed metal, crappy checkering and a bolt crusty with oxidized oil were taken care of with a thorough overhaul.

Scuffed metal, crappy checkering and a bolt crusty with oxidized oil were taken care of with a thorough overhaul.

It started life in Spain, emerging from the state arsenal at Santa Barbara as a completed Mauser 98 action. It was sent, in the white, to the long-established English firm of Parker-Hale. There, it was mated to one of their barrels, blued, set into a walnut stock, and shipped across the Atlantic. It carries Birmingham proof marks, indicating that it’s safe to fire .30-06 cartridges, loaded to a pressure of up to 18 tons per square inch. Were it to carry the maker’s own brand, it’d be labeled as one of their 1200 models.

Problems
The most obvious defect was also the one easiest to remedy, well within the skillset of a semi-competent DIYer. After years of hard labor, its stock was beat to hell and back. The finish originally selected to protect wood from water had failed long ago, peeling like a bad sunburn while dings and gouges decorated the cheekpiece like dueling scars. As it came from the factory, it was an unimpressive piece of hardwood but had straight grain through the wrist, probably why it resisted 45 years of hard labor and indifferent maintenance. Its hand-checkering looked as if done by an apprentice, or someone who just didn’t give a damn, as the lines were shallow, uneven, and ran into the panels’ borders, while its semi-beavertail fore-end screamed early ’70s fashion like bell-bottoms and nylon shirts.

30-06 foremost 6600

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