Skinner Sights’ ‘Bush Pilot’ .44 Mag. Kit Combines
Utility And Survival Essentials In One Package
By Roy Huntington
The concept is as old as the Colt Single Action Army and the Old West. In the frontier, ammo was often scarce and being able to shoot the same ammo in both your handgun and your rifle made perfect sense, so Winchester offered models in common handgun calibers. Interestingly enough, early rifles were not offered in .45 Colt since the rim of the pistol case was too small to reliably operate in a lever action.
Most rifles were chambered in .44-40, .38-40, .32-20 and even .25-20, mirroring the calibers popular in the Colt Single Actions of the era. It wasn’t until more modern times when the .45 Colt case was redesigned with a larger rim did we see lever actions (like the Winchester Model 92 repros) chambered in that popular caliber.
Today we have a wide range of options, with the powerful and popular .44 Magnum likely number one. The idea of survival handguns and rifles chambering the same cartridge still makes perfect sense. From a rifle-length barrel, most pistol-calibers deliver higher velocity and hit harder, not to mention it’s simply easier to hit accurately with a good rifle. And when chambered in .44 Magnum, loaded with the right ammo for the job, there’s essentially nothing walking the North American continent you can’t take with this
Assembled, the Bush Pilot takedown Model 92 looks just like a “regular”
rifle and is handy and fast. The .44 Magnum caliber means it is very
effective for defense or hunting. Paired with a revolver of the same
caliber (like this custom Mag-na-port S&W lightweight “Nightguard”
.44 Magnum) and a good field holster, you’d be well equipped to
handle any situation.
The Modern Concept
Skinner Sights of Montana, long known for their line-up of outstanding replacement sights for a wide variety of long guns, is owned and operated by Andy Larsson, a real “gun-guy.” Andy felt there needed to be a modern version of a classic Winchester “take-down” rifle for survival. Calling it the “Bush Pilot” (perfect to use as a survival rifle if flying rugged bush flights in Alaska, for instance), Andy also included basic survival items as part of the kit. Since his company also makes high quality sewn cases, he designed a custom case to hold the rifle and the accessories.
Andy had Chiappa, an importer of high quality Italian replica arms, create an exact replica of the Winchester takedown Model 92, using the “interrupted threads” made famous by the original. Once the magazine tube is unscrewed, the barrel and action are turned 90 degrees, allowing them to come apart. There’s no need to “unscrew” the two, simply rotate and remove. The design has proven itself over more than 100 years.
Takedown is easy. Cam the lever down, then rotate it to “unscrew”
the mag tube from the receiver. Then a simple twist of the barrel/action
and it comes apart. It takes about 15 seconds to take it apart or
assemble it. Note fiber optic front sight.
The “interrupted” threads allow removal of the barrel and action
with only a quarter-turn. Reassembly is just as fast and easy.
Lock-up is solid as a bank vault.
One of the delights of the Model 92 design is the slender, rounded
receiver. It allows easy and comfortable field carry. You could also
install swivels for a lightweight nylon sling too, if you like. The
hard chrome finish makes it weather- and sweat-resistant and able to
survive the outdoors easily. Note Skinner Sights rugged all-steel
rear aperture sight in front of Roy’s hand.
The Support Gear
Andy didn’t skimp on the accessories either. A stormproof survival kit anchors the accessory package (mylar tube tent, emergency stove, fuel tablets and storm match kit), along with paracord, an OKC RAT-7 camp knife, compass, magnesium fire starter and a small light. There’s room in the zippered and buckled kit for ammo and other accessories as you see fit.
The rifle taken-down fits neatly into the case, with the overall length being about 21″. The case is black tough-duty nylon with handles and simply looks like a case holding personal travel goods or tools — not like a “gun” case.
Taken down, the Bush Pilot is a tidy package and fits neatly into
the custom case, along with this assortment of survival tools and
accessories. There’s also room for a box or two of ammo in the case.
The “Uberti” Model 92, as imported by Chiappa, has been customized with a Skinner rear aperture sight, fiber optic front (great for old eyes!), 16.5″ barrel, walnut stock and very handsome “warm” color hard chrome finish. That finish is not only good looking but pretty much makes the rifle impervious to weather and rain. My rifle holds about eight rounds in the tube magazine, but that depends upon the exact load, and .44 Special rounds allow you to add a round or two more due to their shorter length. Mine ran fine with either .44 Magnum or .44 Special loads.
After chronographing some loads from a handgun and this rifle, I found the rifle-length barrel often added up to 500 fps velocity. For hollowpoints designed for handguns, that velocity may cause over-expansion and under-penetration, okay for deer, for instance, but not for a bear or other big beast. With hard cast 240-grain bullets, the added velocity would merely turn the handgun load into a real dinosaur killer. Perfect for boar, general hunting or defense against man or beast of any shape or size.
Accuracy was amazing. Using the standard fiber optic sight that came with the rifle, I averaged 1″ to 2″ groups at 50 yards. I think the 1 in 20″ rifling twist is part of the magic, as it helps to stabilize the heavier bullets. I also asked Andy to send me a standard black front blade sight because they are more precise to my eye. I’ll try for some 100-yard groups once I install it. I’m predicting this will go into 3″ to 4″ at 100 yards easily.
I found it really liked the Buffalo Bore 240-gr. JHP and the same company’s 255-gr. Keith SWC lead bullet load. Both would make perfect “every-day-carry” loads for this rifle, depending upon what the chore was. This turns the Bush Pilot into an easy 100- to 150-yard deer rifle. It’s light, fast to handle and easy to carry due to the rounded receiver.
Here’s a sample of 50-yard accuracy from the Bush Pilot. Find a load
yours likes and make sure you always have some on hand! Roy found 1″
to 2″ groups at 50 to be easy to manage.
Why Go This Route?
This “all in one” is a sound concept for several reasons. Having a “grab-it-and-go” kit like this gets you on the road or out of trouble fast. The handiness of the kit makes it something you’re more likely to toss into the trunk for your outing, and the fact it doesn’t scream “gun” laying on a seat makes it invisible but in plain sight.
An added benefit of a lever gun like this is it doesn’t have the same bad rap as a “black gun,” and if a police officer or game warden sees it, they tend to think, “Oh, cowboy gun” rather than, “Oh, AR15? Why do they have that out here?”
When I camped in the California desert during the 1980’s and ’90’s, I used to take one of my cut-down Winchester Model 92’s with me on walks. When stopped by the BLM police to check on us, they would not even notice it, allowing me to keep it slung while they chatted with me about what we were doing. When I had an AR with me on one trip, there was much fuss about, “Lay down the rifle and step away from it” before we could chat. The lever action was “friendly” while the AR was “bad” in their eyes. Use that advantage to keep a low profile.
This Skinner Sights set-up costs about $1,799 at full MSRP, but check Andy’s website, as he may be running a special. It’s a limited run but they seem popular, so I think Andy will be making more. While the price may seem steep at first, if you think on the fact this is a custom rifle, beautifully converted to a high-quality take-down rifle with custom sights and custom finish, all done-up with high quality accessories and an American-made custom case, suddenly the price is very fair.
It’s an elegant solution to the need for a defensive rifle/survival combo kit, and, frankly, is not only fun to shoot but a real pleasure to simply own. We can’t recommend both the concept and this iteration enough.
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