by Richard Mann - Wednesday, August 24, 2011
Standing inside a Cabela’s retail location it’s almost impossible for one to absorb the store’s enormity, especially when you consider there are 31 more locations across North America that exhibit similarly majestic wildlife displays and endless aisles of outdoor gear. As impressive as these stores are, Cabela’s typifies the American Dream: a mid-western husband and wife who started a mail-order company on their kitchen table. As a landmark to 50 years of being the “World’s Foremost Outfitter,” Cabela’s is offering 10 limited-edition firearms.
In 1961, Dick Cabela placed a small advertisement in “Sports Afield” magazine. It simply read, “5 hand-tied fishing flies ... FREE. 25 cents postage and handling.” The response was good, and that fall Dick and Mary Cabela decided to send out a three-page mimeographed catalog to their customers. That catalog contained the first gun Cabela’s ever offered for sale: a pellet rifle that cost a mere $9.95.
With a dedication to customer satisfaction, spurred by a love of fishing and hunting, Cabela’s has, indeed, become the world’s foremost outfitter. A single trip to any Cabela’s can completely outfit a hunting or fishing adventure anywhere on the planet. If you can’t make it to a store in person, you can order online, or you can still fill out an order form in the back of one of the company’s massive catalogs and mail it in like outdoorsmen have been doing for 50 years.
With the 10 guns in its 50th anniversary line, Cabela’s goal was to offer firearms representative of the time when the business was founded. Firearms include those with bluing as rich and deep as the eyes of a shipyard maiden and with real walnut stocks like those found on the firearms lusted after by sportsmen in the early 1960s. Working with Browning, Cooper, Ruger, Smith & Wesson and Winchester, Cabela’s has created a selection of elegant, limited-edition firearms with only a modicum of embellishment. They are undoubtedly collector firearms, but collector firearms that are more at home in the field than on display.
For nearly two months I have been handling and firing five of these firearms. In every case, either through the nostalgia evoked when opening each box, the craftsmanship admired during the examination of each firearm or the pleasure of their performance, each gun brought a smile of satisfaction that tugged on my purse strings.
A Half-Century of Success
When Dick Cabela purchased $45 worth of fishing flies and carried them back to his Chappell, Neb., home, it’s unlikely that he ever thought he would be celebrating 50 years of business by offering 10 classic firearms. His journey is one of the greatest examples of the American dream to which sportsmen and gun owners can deeply relate.
Why has Cabela’s been so successful, and why do American outdoorsmen support it so strongly? It’s simple, really. Fishermen and hunters were looking for a place to shop, a place to tell and hear stories, and a place that was as passionate about their pastime as they were. Initially, these sportsmen found that in a mail-order catalog, and now they find it on wondrous display all across our nation. People can feel at home, be with friends and be in the company of all the tools their hobby requires at any Cabela’s.
These 10 fine firearms mark high points in our firearm heritage and are here for us to celebrate our American ingenuity, right along with the Cabela’s family. And, it’s all because a young man decided he could bring good products to outdoorsmen at a good price.
Sometimes with the purchase of a new firearm, buyer’s remorse can set in. Sometimes the rifle, handgun or shotgun is not all you thought it would be, even when it is a custom, special or limited edition. One thing is for sure with all the Cabela’s Anniversary firearms—just as it is with every product Cabela’s sells—satisfaction is guaranteed. If you are not completely satisfied, simply return the merchandise and your money will be promptly refunded. Cabela’s commitment to that creed and the success it has brought is indeed something to celebrate.
Winchester Model 94, .38-55 Win.
Without question, the Winchester Model 94 is one of the most iconic hunting rifles of all time. The lever-action is an American firearm that symbolizes hunters, cowboys and the American pioneering spirit. Designed by John Browning, the Winchester Model 94 is likely the best-selling high-powered rifle in U.S. history. Cabela’s believed the 94 had to be one of the 10 anniversary firearms, and the company has done an excellent job of celebrating this American classic.
With its Grade III walnut stock, crescent buttplate, button magazine and 24-inch octagonal barrel, this rifle truly captures the spirit of the 94 Winchester. Chambered in .38-55 Win., it is suitable for medium to big game, especially when loaded with the potent +P ammunition from Buffalo Bore, which launches a 255-grain bullet at almost 2,000 fps. The rifle shoots as good as it looks, averaging just over an inch for 10, five-shot groups with two different loads. Cabela’s will offer only 750 of these rifles, and all have a tastefully small, gold Cabela’s logo on the receiver’s topstrap, as well as a handsome gold-wire wrap at the muzzle.
Winchester Model 70s
Another classic American hunting rifle is the pre-’64-style Model 70 Winchester. Though a bit more modern than the 94, the pre-’64 Model 70 has often been referred to as the “Rifleman’s Rifle.” Winchester helped Cabela’s bring this classic big-game rifle back in limited quantities. Three versions are available: the Sporter, the Super Grade Safari and the Featherweight Super Grade.
Cabela’s went to extensive lengths to ensure these rifles reflected the features that riflemen treasure. Every detail down to the Marble’s sights on the Sporter and Safari versions and the stock profiles and checkering patterns on all three are the same as you would find on an original. Even the hump on the barrel where the rear sight is mounted is even present. However, unlike original pre-’64 Model 70s, with the Anniversary models a stock screw is not teamed with this hump. Barrels on all Cabela’s Anniversary Model 70s are free-floated.
The Sporter model is chambered for the .300 Win. Mag. cartridge, which was first available in 1963. Only 750 of these splendid rifles will be offered, and they all feature Grade III walnut and a red Pachmayr Decelerator recoil pad. These rifles will shoot, too. The average for 75 shots—five consecutive, five-shot groups with three different loads—was only 1.45 inches.
Controlled-round feeding has long been the hallmark of the Winchester pre-’64 Model 70, and this is especially appreciated and demanded while hunting dangerous game in Africa. The Super Grade Safari Anniversary Model 70 is designed just for that purpose. Chambered for the potent .458 Win. Mag., this rifle is modeled after Winchester’s 1961 Trade Gun. Its Grade III walnut stock, ebony fore-end tip and flip-over express style rear sight culminate in a rifle ready for the Dark Continent. Only 400 will be offered.
Connoisseurs of fine sporting rifles recognize the connection between the Winchester Model 70 and the .270 Win. cartridge. Since 1925 hunters have trusted the .270 Win. for big game all over the globe, and with a supporter such as Jack O’Connor, the .270 Win. was destined for greatness. Cabela’s put the .270 Win. in its Model 70 Featherweight Super Grade rifle and did the cartridge justice. With Grade V walnut and rich bluing, this rifle will make the heart of a true rifleman skip a beat. This is a chance to own a legendary rifle for a legendary cartridge, from a legendary outfitter. Only 500 are available.
All of the Winchester Model 70 Anniversary rifles come in a box that is a reproduction of originals from the ’60s along with a period-correct hang-tag and owner’s manual. Each rifle is also tastefully garnished with a small, gold Cabela’s logo on the floorplate. Fit and finish show attention to detail, as does the smooth operation of all moving parts.
Rugers 10/22, No. 1, And Single-Six
Like Cabela’s, Sturm, Ruger & Co. is another American success story. Ruger has been a long-term partner with Cabela’s, and to celebrate this partnership and Cabela’s 50th anniversary three of the 10 Cabela’s Anniversary firearms are from Ruger. Two represent the underlying theme of both companies: a great product for a great price.
One is a Ruger Single-Six. This compact, single-action revolver helped put Ruger on the map, and it has become one of the most popular plinking and hunting handguns ever manufactured. The 5.5-inch-barreled version comes in a retro-style box with a special logo, has a special serial number, a gold Cabela’s logo on the backstrap and is fitted with the old-style, Ruger medallion stocks. Just as I did in my youth, my 11-year-old son found this revolver captivating.
The 10/22 is the other great value and is the least expensive of all the anniversary guns Cabela’s is offering. It’s also the firearm I consider the best buy. It’s fitted with a beautiful Circassian-walnut stock with a Schnabel fore-end. Only 750 of these rimfires will be offered and, at less than $400, they are a steal.
These two iconic Ruger rimfires could not be ignored by Cabela’s, but neither could the other rifle that established Ruger as a premier American firearms manufacturer. The Ruger No.1 proved that modern American riflemen still appreciate the single-shot rifle. Only 500 of these No. 1s will be offered, and all will be chambered for the classic .300 H&H Mag. cartridge. Each rifle features a high-grade walnut stock with an Alexander Henry fore-end, a deeply blued barrel and receiver, and a tasteful, gold Cabela’s logo on the bottom of the receiver.
Smith & Wesson Model 29, .44 Mag.
Cabela’s did not forget handgunners when selecting the anniversary guns. One of the most legendary modern handguns of all time is the S&W Model 29. Not only has it become a popular hunting handgun, it is sort of the de facto chariot of the .44 Mag. cartridge. Cabela’s is offering a limited run of the 6.5-inch-barreled, four-screw version of this revolver. Each comes with a gold Cabela’s logo, target style grips, a red-ramp front sight, a white inlay rear sight and a presentation box.
Browning Citori 12 Gauge
No collection of firearms that represent a time in American history would be complete if it lacked a shotgun, and Cabela’s selected a premier and respected shotgun for this celebration. On clay ranges and in the upland fields few shotguns are as renowned as the Browning Citori. Cabela’s 50th Anniversary Citori features an English straight-grip stock, ultra-light alloy receiver with silver nitride finish and high-relief engraving. The stock and fore-end are high-gloss American walnut and each shotgun comes with improved cylinder, modified and full Invector-Plus choke tubes. Only 200 of these exceptional shotguns will be made—and the best part is that you get Grade 7 wood at Grade 1 prices.
Cooper Custom Classic .22 Long Rifle
Of all the guns and cartridges that American shooters trust and depend on, there is none like the .22 Long Rife. During America’s history, hardware stores, mom-and-pop grocery stores and retail outlets like Cabela’s have sold millions of .22 rifles and untold boxes of .22 ammunition. So popular is America’s least-expensive-to-own and least-expensive-to-shoot firearm that many have a deep desire to own an outstanding example.
Working with custom rifle builder Cooper of Montana, Cabela’s has created an exquisite bolt-action .22 rifle. This rimfire is the most expensive rifle of all the rifles in the 50th Anniversary collection, and only 100 will be made. In a way this and the other .22 rifle—the Ruger 10/22, which is the least expensive of the Cabela’s Anniversary guns—embodies Cabela’s customer base and the American sportsman because no matter what walk of life you are from, and no matter how thick your wallet, all sportsmen need and should have a .22 rifle.
The Cooper Custom Classic .22 Long Rifle has a stock crafted of hand-selected, high-grade AAA walnut with a Neider-style butt-plate and an ebony fore-end tip. This is a splendidly crafted rifle that, in Cooper fashion, performs on target as well as it pleases the eye. It is a fitting way to celebrate Cabela’s 50th Anniversary and to honor the cartridge and firearm with which so many of Cabela’s customers have a common bond: the .22 Long Rifle.
E-mail your comments/questions about this site to:
For questions/comments about American Rifleman magazine, please e-mail:
You can contact the NRA via phone at: NRA Member Programs
To advertise on American Rifleman, visit nramediakit.com for more information