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As I replaced the rifle on the rack, a figure came striding from the production area to the showroom. A smiling, sandy-haired fellow extended a hand in my direction. "I'm Jeff. Nice to meet you."
For the next several hours, I followed Jeff on an intimate tour of his family gun-making operation, from the production area and the showroom to the rifle range. Along the way, my appreciation for the challenges of producing a superb rifle at a reasonable price heightened considerably.
In the shop area, two gunsmiths fitted parts on an action while another prepared a barrel. Gesturing at the workmanship, Jeff described the frustrations of being a small manufacturing operation dependent on outside sources for parts.
"We've gone through dozens of vendors over the years," he explained. "Custom guns are expected to function flawlessly. It comes down to finding sources for parts with very exacting tolerances, something that's tough to do. Even from good sources we might have to scrap 30 percent of our parts to get the kind of tolerances we demand."
Price fluctuations also dramatically affect Jeff's business. Some small parts he purchased for less than a dollar a few years ago now cost $15. In the near future, he hopes to acquire the equipment to produce most of the necessary rifle components on-site.
Until then, outside sources might influence the production of Montana Rifles. What they won't affect is the innovation in the firearms themselves. The company produces a series of Classic rifles, sporting traditional blued barrels and premium walnut stocks. For hunters who take their pursuits to the 10,000-foot ridges of the Absaroka Range, scour the punishing coulees of the Missouri Breaks or brave November snowstorms in the Yaak Valley, the company's High Country rifles hold the greatest appeal.
First and foremost, mobile hunters demand a lightweight rifle. However, reducing a rifle's weight often produces accuracy problems, since much of the weight is shaved by shortening and constricting barrel diameter. Montana Rifle's High Country models provide a solution, with rifles that weigh less than 6.5 pounds, yet come with one of the strongest accuracy guarantees in the business. Each rifle is range-tested with basic factory ammunition and guaranteed to shoot one "minute of angle" (MOA) groups with standard ammunition. In layman's terms, this simply means the rifle will consistently hit a 1-inch bull's-eye at 100 yards if properly sighted—accuracy that exceeds the expectations of the most demanding hunters.
High Country rifles are also completely composed of stainless steel parts, making them much more impervious to the elements than rifles with blued barrels and non-stainless parts.
Montana Rifle has stepped up durability in other creative ways, as well. High Country rifles boast nifty synthetic stocks capable of withstanding extreme fluctuations in temperature and moisture exposure without a whimper. On certain High Country models, the rifles also featured a powdered Teflon coating on the entire barrel and action, which provides additional weather protection and eliminates the glare associated with most stainless steel rifles.