Most people would agree that it’s better to have a good-shooting rifle that’s also easy on the eyes, but few of us would choose to carry a rifle that looked great, but couldn’t hit the side of a barn.
Some years ago I owned an inexpensive single-shot .25-06 single-shot rifle, a $250 Harrington & Richardson Ultra Rifle. It shot well and operated cleanly, and I still consider it to be a bargain.
Though there are several more models in the line now than when I tested, the basics of the Ultra Rifle remain the same. They are break-action designs with a spring-loaded extractor/ejector. The action is released by pushing a lever on the right side of the external hammer, allowing the barrel to pivot down.
There’s basic bluing, a laminated wood stock, and 26-inch-long barrels on the long-action units. The stock featured a one-inch ventilated recoil pad, and the gun came with swivels installed. I liked the cut checkering on the fore end and the buttstock, and I thought its weight and well-proportioned buttpad made the rifle a joy to shoot.
A recent price check in these pages and in the GDTM online classifieds showed a remarkable fact—these guns still sell for around $250. Here’s more you need to know about these guns, before you buy.
Overall, this gun handles well in the field. It is well balanced and shoots well from a woods rest as well as offhand. You’d think that a single-shot would be slim and lightweight, but the thick barrel, large stock of laminated wood, and a 2.5- to 10-power 50-mm scope made the H&R gun tip the scales at 9.3 pounds. It measured 41.4 inches in OAL, but still felt like a manageable field rifle.
The trigger as I received it needed work. It broke at more than six pounds and was grainy. An affordable $75 trigger job changed that to a trigger than broke crisply at 2.8 pounds.
|The basics of the Ultra Rifle are a break-action design with a spring-loaded extractor/ejector. Push a lever on the right side of the external hammer, and the barrel pivots down.|
From the bench, I shot three-round groups with Federal Premium 115-grain Trophy Bonded loads, Federal Premium 90-grain HP Varmint loads, and Federal Classic 117-grain loads. All groups were shot at 100 yards and measured center-to-center to the nearest 0.1 inch.
The groups were fired in rapid succession before the rifle was allowed to cool to see the rifle’s reaction to barrel heating. The short version is that I didn’t see accuracy variations because of heating of the 26-inch barrel, which was 0.7 inch thick at the muzzle.
The best group with the 115-grain Trophy Bondeds was 1.6 inches. The 90-grain Varmint loads shot best groups of 1.4 inches. But the best in the test were the 117-grain soft points, which averaged 0.7-inch group sizes and a best three-shot group of 0.62 inch.
Before You Buy
My experience with the H&R Ultra Rifle is easy to express: It’s a perfectly satisfactory field tool. When you factor in price, the H&R has an unqualified edge over many other guns.
Do I think the lack of magazine capacity (that is, one shot) is a detriment? Of course. But I never lost a deer or coyote I shot with the gun, in part because I was extremely careful with the one shot I did have. The real issue with the single-shot isn’t speed of loading, I found.
It was that I had to take my head off the stock to operate the mechanism and reload, which meant I had to relocate the game in the scope. But that happened only once, and the spike I had to shoot twice was already Dead Man Running—he just didn’t know it yet.
Certainly, a repeater has an advantage, but for the money, if you need only one shot, then the Ultra Rifle is probably worth $250.
Scott Freigh’s “Before You Buy” column will appear in every other issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.