Rifle: Custom Brno 601
Cartridge: .284 Winchester
Scope: Swarovski Z5 3.5-18x44
For the penultimate instalment in our series on favourite rifle, cartridge and scope combinations, seasoned hunter Chris Redlich nominates a trio that have stood the test of time
Trusted Bruno blend ideal for deer
It would be fair to say my favourite deer hunting rifle has seen more than its fair share of action in recent decades ‑ that’s right, decades. Bought new by a mate’s brother in the 1970s, the Brno 601 in .243 Winchester served ‘Snow’ well as a ute gun which travelled many a bush mile and was used for all manner of feral animal control on the properties he worked. A tragic farm accident cost Snow his life and the rifle remained in the back of a gun safe for at least another 10 years.
Snow’s brother Dave knew I was a hunter and eventually offered me the rifle at a price too good to refuse. Aware of its history and my connection to the original owner brought with it a real element of sentimentality and desire to look after the gun.
After taking ownership in 2003, just two years prior to the start of my passion for deer hunting, the rifle was eagerly put to use and many a feral succumbed to the .243 before a worn barrel forced the first of several changes. Little did I know in those early days the Brno would be my go-to deer hunting rifle for years to come.
Brno 601 ‑ the rifle
The Brno rifle made in the Czech Republic is a ‘control round feed’ bolt-action of solid Mauser design. Brno actions are regarded as very strong, able to handle high pressures of heavy recoiling cartridges and more than adequate for my eventual conversion to .284 Winchester. My particular action is based on the Brno 601 model for short action cartridges. Model 600 is designated for long action cartridges such as the .270 Win and 30-06 Springfield while the 602 model rifles accommodated magnum length cartridges such as the .300 Win Mag, 375 H&H and 458 Win Mag.
Starting life as a factory .243 Win and after many years of hard use, the Brno had reached the end of its tenure but not without an impressive service record as during this time I grassed many wild pigs, foxes and feral goats with 80 and 100-grain handloads. While hunting a south-west Queensland property in 2003 I successfully bagged a feral goat which ended up at the taxidermist and eventually on our wall.
A few years later a pre-hunt sighting-in session confirmed the .243 barrel’s demise and I investigated alternatives. By then my enthusiastic passion for deer hunting was in full swing and while my trusty .303 No. 4 SMLE factory sporter had served me well, I decided to re-barrel the Brno in 7mm-08 Rem as a replacement cartridge for the .243 Win and a ‘deer rifle’ alternative to the .303.
After some serious homework I was satisfied the 7mm-08 Rem would be the perfect round for taking all manner of Australian game up to and including most deer species. Our local gunsmith was tasked with the re-barrel work and the Brno fitted with a 24^ (610mm) ‘Douglas’ stainless-steel medium profile barrel. He epoxy bedded the action to the timber stock and the stainless barrel had a non-reflective matte finish thanks to the combination of an orbital sander and lathe.
From the word go the rifle shot like ‘stink’ with factory ammo and before long I was experimenting with different projectiles and powders. The new 7mm-08 favoured 140-grain Nosler AccuBond and Ballistic Tip projectiles while further trophy success can be credited to 120-grain Barnes Tipped TSX handloads.
The timber stock was eventually replaced by a ‘Corporal Trading’ synthetic thumbhole option. I anticipated lots of hard deer hunting miles and the comfort of a thumbhole stock was money well spent. The original set trigger was replaced by a single stage and lightened to a pressure of 1.5lb and I honestly don’t know how I persisted with that set trigger for so long, as the new one’s a welcome change and probably one of the best of all my rifles.
The next few years saw the Brno in its 7mm-08 form account for more than its fair share of deer, wild dogs and ferals but I had an itch for change. Looking for a reason to tinker with the rifle again was answered by my wife’s acquisition of her own in 7mm-08 Rem which sparked a fresh idea for another Brno conversion and possibility of a new chambering.
With good advice from close mate and Australian World Champion F-class shooter Cameron McEwan, I decided to convert my Brno in 7mm-08 Rem to the little-known but powerful .284 Win. After successful day surgery with the gunsmith, the 7mm stainless steel barrel of my Brno was perfect for the conversion and Cameron gave me the knowledge and brass required to get started.
My rifle twist of one in 10^ not only suited the 7mm-08 Rem perfectly but equally the .284 Win, as essentially all I did was increase the Brno’s horsepower with the new chambering. The fatter cases of the .284 Win reduced magazine capacity to three but all rounds cycle perfectly with no modifications to the receiver.
.284 Win ‑ the cartridge
In 1963, the year Holden released the EH sedan, Winchester unveiled the .284 Win as a short action competitor to Remington’s .280 based on the long action 30-06 case. Winchester designed the .284 Win cartridge for chambering in their Mod 88 lever and Mod 100 self-loading rifles. Commercially the .284 Win didn’t find favour and languished for years then into obscurity as an odd cartridge. Target shooters can take credit for more recently giving the .284 Win a new lease of life as they discovered its superb accuracy and long-range attributes.
In 1999 Swedish firm Norma released its 6.5-284 cartridge for ultra long-range shooting and, gaining instant popularity, it obtained commercial status and from there helped breathe impetus into its parent .284 Win case. After my own success with the .284 Win it astounds me this short fat cartridge doesn’t have a larger following as a commercial hunting round.
It has so much going for it including expanded boiler room with a rebated case head based on the .308 Win diameter and a short action cartridge capable of higher velocities than the long actioned .280 Rem or venerable .270 Win. The .284 Win could be mildly regarded as an ‘original Short Magnum’ but far more economical than its modern counterparts.
I tread lightly referring to the .284 Win as a Short Magnum though, and after blowing a fair amount of wind up its tailpipe it does have limitations. It’s important to remember that for hunting, the .284 Win is designed as a short-action cartridge and works beautifully loaded with lighter calibre projectiles from 120 to 150-grains.
With overall length of 73mm, my rifle in .284 Win would be handicapped loaded with any projectiles heavier than 150-grain as powder space within the case would be sacrificed, reducing velocity, not to mention my twist rate insufficiently stabilising longer bullets. In this situation, long-action cartridges such as the 280 Rem and 7mm Rem Mag are a more sensible choice for heavier bullets of 160 and 175-grains. It’s easy to get tied up with statistics but my experience and testing proved that pound-for-pound and velocity the .284 Win edges the others with 140 and 150-grain bullets, burning less powder.
As far as I know the only form of commercial brass for handloading the .284 Win is by easily expanding 6.5/284 Norma case necks. I bought Lapua brass for the job and they’ve stood up to numerous handloads, retaining almost original case dimensions thanks to its sharp 35-degree shoulders. My two favourite loads are the 140-grain Nosler AccuBond and 150-grain Ballistic Tips both powered by the extremely popular ADI AR2209 powder. The 140s burning 55 grains reach about 3100fps and the 150s smoking 54 grains 3000fps, printing virtually identical on paper.
Both are extremely accurate with repeated ‘out of the safe’ three-shot groups under ½ MOA and more recently a one-off three-shot group with 150-grain Ballistic Tips to support this article printed 1.5^ (.461 MOA) at 300m. Without a Ballistic Turret to dial up it’s vital you understand the fall of shot at various ranges and with this kind of accuracy at 300m, a deer won’t stand a chance. The consistency of the .284 Win allows me the confidence to take that difficult shot at a once-in-a-lifetime trophy.
Swarovski Z5 3.5-18x44 ‑ the scope
A good rifle isn’t complete without a sound glass and fitting a new Swarovski Optik scope to the Czech action completed the European look with the sleek dimensions of the Z5 matching the custom Brno’s length. Swarovski’s Z5 riflescopes are based on a one-inch tube made from aerospace-grade aluminium finished with a durable non-reflective satin black coating.
The Z5 and Z3’s one-inch tube is popular with American hunters and was designed to compete with their locally-made scopes by offering Swarovski ware in a slimline package and is now equally popular with Australian hunters. The Z5 mounted to my Brno has 3.5x to 18x magnification and the 44mm objective lens delivers superb resolution in all light conditions. The duplex reticle is perfect for rapid target acquisition and the bonus of parallax adjustment gives a clear picture at all distances. My only regret with the Z5 is not buying one with a Ballistic Turret after reviewing BT-equipped Swarovski scopes. Z5s have a BT option which are a great addition to any hunter looking to customise their riflescope with cartridges to shoot accurately at long ranges with only a few clicks of the dial.
Over the past eight years the Z5 has endured some tough hunts and has the scars to prove it yet despite the knocks still provides faultless accuracy and shot-for-shot consistency at all ranges. The Z5 3.5-18x44 is the perfect configuration for the .284 Win and I have the success to back that claim.
I’ve no doubt I made the right choice of rifle modifications to suit my passion for deer hunting. All hunters should strive for that important one-shot kill and to this day not a single deer I’ve taken has required any follow-up. From its humble beginnings as a .243 ute gun to almost unrecognisable current status as .284 deer rifle the virtually untouched receiver and bolt are the only reminder of its past.
The Brno has been a test rifle for many ammo and scope reviews due to its proven reliability and hitting power and I’d challenge anyone with a .243 or .308 due for a re-barrel to consider the .284 Win as powerful alternative - you won’t be disappointed. I have other deer rifles but regard my Brno in .284 Win and Swarovski Z5 scope as the ideal balance for the ultimate deer rifle.