Thinking about building a 14?

By Russ Lucas

I get many requests from people wanting to know about building a 14, so I decided to write this article to explain what I have seen and heard in the 5 years that I have been making and shooting 14's.

I own two 14's at the present time, an original Winchester High Wall, which I did all the metal work on, and a contender barrel from Bullberry, which I just acquired a month before this article. The Winchester has an 8 1/2 twist stainless barrel on it and the contender has a 24" stainless 7 twist barrel. Both barrels were made by Jeff Lawrence south of me in Polson, MT.

I use my 14's to shoot gophers mostly, a huge sport here in Montana in the spring. I guess everybody is ready after being cooped up all winter to shoot anything, and the gophers are the first unfortunate things to show their heads. I won't go into graphic details here, lets just say the high wall will just annihilate them up to 125 yards, the 7 twist contender still further to 200 yards. What is really amazing is that you can see the torque of the bullet energy in whatever it hits, throwing things to the right several feet. It isn't the forward energy of the 14 that is so devastating, it's this torque imparted from the spin. I have owned three 17's in my life so far, and there is just no comparison. One of those things that just has to be seen to be believed.

Strangely, this energy and speed is short lived. I have shot the 8 1/2 twist on a 500 yard range, aiming at least 4 feet over the top of some large targets. No holes. Dead on at 100, 3 inches low at 200. (there are no targets at 3 and 400 yards on that portion of the range) Anyway, what I'm saying is that the 8 1/2 twist dies somewhere between 2 and 5 hundred yards. This was with 15 grain flat base bullets.

The 7 twist is another animal. It will stabilize 17.5 grain bullets, and I have already shot prairie dogs with it and flat based bullets at 200 yards reliably. You could hear them hit! I have not tested it with the new 7s boattails, but Blaine Eddy has it and will do a test on a controlled range he has available. *Update 5/2003: The boattails do not seem to have an accuracy gain over the flat base, at least at 100 yards. Will test them in my 7 twist when I fix the broken punch.

As far as killing power, Blaine swears by his 14/221 for hunting coyotes up to 125 yards. His is an 8 1/2 twist stainless. He calls them in, and most of his shots are under 100 yards. He says that a chest shot with them facing is instantly lethal, and they drop without taking a step. This is with the 15 grain flat base moving at nearly 4400fps. We are both thinking that the 17.5 grain boattail in the 7 twist will boost the kill range to 200 yards or slightly further. Fur hunters take note: ZERO pelt damage.

There have been two deer killed with a 14 that I know of. I do know of a man in S.C. that intentionally plans shooting a deer with his. If you do the math, the little bullet hits with the power of a 357, but still I think its a little un-ethical. (they are big on ethics here in Montana, and I guess a little rubbed off on me).

One deer was run over by a car, and the guy following just happened to have a contender chambered in a 14 in his trunk. The state police were called, but the officer didn't want to do the paperwork associated with firing a round from his revolver. So, the guy volunteers to shoot it with the 14. He said he backed up to get it's head in the scope, shot, and instantly killed it. Said the trooper was severely shocked.

The other was a spike that walked out on a private range while a 14 shooter was sighting in his new 14. He had just got it on the paper at 50 yards, when this spike walked out at 65 yards. He said that he just put the crosshairs on his neck and pulled the trigger. The deer went down with what he explained as a whiplash motion, stone dead. He said that the 17.5 grain bullet just pulverized everything in the neck, especially the vertebrae. I guess its all in the shot placement.

On the negative side, the 14's are sensitive to wind, but not as much as you would expect. I have hopes that the new boattail I'm building will buck the wind better. You cannot shoot them in the rain. Even the smallest powder charge variation will make them go crazy. One grain of powder over a normal load can pierce or ruin a primer pocket and the case. The cases are not easy to make, and are relatively expensive in my opinion. But they are available. Bullets are relatively expensive, but they are not easy to make, and are available from more than one source. You must have GREAT patience to work with a 14, because they are finicky beasts, and sometimes behave exactly opposite from what you'd expect.

So, if you're still reading and not scared off, what this all boils down to is if you want a 200 yard coyote gun, build a 7 twist 14/221 and shoot up to a 17.5 grain bullet.(maybe even a little heavier) If you want a short range squirrel/bird/gopher gun,(100 yards) build a 14 Walker Hornet or squirrel and shoot a 10, 12.5 or 14 grain bullet.

I will guarantee you two things. Once you shoot or see a 14 shot, you will want one. And you will have a lot of fun with it after you get it.