“Phil, these kudu are very wary, and I don’t want to spook them. We must get up on top of that hill so we can glass a bit”, said my guide Gerhard Watts (known simply as “G”) in his thick Afrikaaner accent. The herd of kudu, with a 50” bull at the rear, were indeed close, so we did our best to use the mesquite trees to screen our movements.
Wait, mesquite trees? Yes, G and I were in Texas, actually in the exact geographical Heart of Texas, on the Champion Ranch outside of the town of Brady. We were testing some new Norma Ammunition, and I was using a rifle of a different sort, one designed by the folks at the Champion Ranch: a Champion Arms .300 Win. Mag., outfitted with a very efficient suppressor.
Champion has two ranches in Texas, one in Colorado City and the one I had the good fortune to hunt, in Brady. The Brady ranch consists of 8,000 acres in the fabled Texas Hill Country, and on that ranch, in addition to some highly impressive native whitetails, were many popular African plains game species, as well as exotic species that may not be hunted in their native environment. We were here to hunt blackbuck, a beautiful spiral-horned hailing from India, as well as to test Norma’s new TipStrike ammo, but I was very interested in the Champion Arms rifle. Joel Swan, owner of both the Champion Ranch as well as Champion Arms, filled me in on the details of the rifle.
“It’s a 700-style action, by Cross Canyon Arms of Utah, mated with a Shilen fluted barrel, all set in an excellent Game Guard camo McMillan high-comb stock. This one is set up with a suppressor.”
I noticed the Huskemaw 5-20 scope, rounding out the package, as we stepped from the huge gun vault/gear storage room at Champion to the 100-yard range outback. “We have that .300 Winchester dialed in with 190-grain Bergers, so you might have to make a slight adjustment for the TipStrike,” Swan related.
The new Norma bullet hit 1-inch high, directly above the bull, and the next two were both within ½-inch of the first, so no adjustment was necessary. The trigger of the Champion rifle broke very cleanly, and the stock fit was very nice. Using the suppressor made the rifle a bit barrel-heavy, but the noise reduction was well worth it. G collected me and my gear, and we were off in search of a blackbuck ram.
The Champion team takes their game management very seriously, and their game numbers and quality immediately reflect that. While G and I were stalking to the top of that hill, I got my first opportunity to put that Champion .300 to work. A coyote, standing in the middle of the game trail, was as surprised to see us as we were to see her. “Take it!” G insisted. Running coyotes are never easy to hit, with that bobbing motion and the way they dart side to side. The Champion came easily to shoulder, and I settled the crosshairs at the base of the coyote’s neck and broke the trigger. Though the rifle went into recoil, I could hear the bullet impact due to a lack of report at the muzzle. The Champion .300 ruined a fawn-eater's career, and the Champion crew was very happy.
My second opportunity to test this rifle came on an old, heavy horned and broomed off blackbuck ram. We had spotted the ram with a handful of ewes late in the morning, but swirling winds ruined the stalk. We returned to the area after lunch, hoping to get a glimpse of that old boy, and it paid off. “The females are just here, he shouldn’t be far away,” G noted, and he was right. He stepped out of the thick brush at about 130 yards, and one Norma TipStrike—just behind the onside shoulder—sealed the deal.
The Champion Arms rifle is obviously set up as a long-range rifle; but worked fine in two rather short yardage situations, which represented average hunting scenarios. Therein lies the rub; this rifle is fully capable of handling any and all duties, whether shooting from a rest, prone or offhand. The fluted bolt and barrel reduced a bit of weight, and the tan Cerakote weather-proofing of both rifle and scope not only resists the effects of the elements, but virtually eliminates any glare off the rifle while hunting. The Cross Canyon action is smooth, and feeding and extraction were flawless. A two-position safety, operated by the right hand thumb, a la the 700, was clean and crisp, with positive-feeling movement. The end of that Shilen barrel is threaded to accept either the suppressor I was using or a removable muzzle brake for those who prefer the reduced recoil. The McMillan high-comb stock was comfortable in the hands, and allowed for proper sight alignment, even under the stress of a quick shot at a running animal. Mt only regret is that the Champion Ranch’s 1,200-yard range was under construction during our hunt, because I really wanted to take that rifle out to that distance. The scope was set in 20 MOA Cross Canyon rings, with a scope level onboard, so I’m sure it would have handled the long range work with no issue.
Every part of this rifle’s equation had a sturdy, well thought out, and smooth feel. Having appointments very similar to the 700 platform made for a comfortable and familiar feel; there was no fumbling for the safety; the bolt handle’s length and location made for a quick reload, and the magazine and follower worked flawlessly throughout the hunt. The Champion Arms rifle and scope package sells at $6,900, but for a traveling hunter looking for a weather-proof, accurate and absolutely reliable rifle in a caliber that will handle 95 percent of the world’s game, this rifle won’t let you down.
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