My JC Higgins Rifle Build
by Matt Ednie
It began with a JC Higgins Model 50 in 30-06, which had been purchased new from Sears by my father in 1956. This was a few years before I was born and he paid a little less than $100. He and I put the old girl to good use back in Hawaii shooting feral pigs, goats, and sheep; and in fact I killed my first pig with this rifle. This project is special to me for a handful of reasons. First, it is important because of my Dad’s and my shared history with the gun. Next, because the stock blank was cut from koa, a tree which is native to my home state, and it came from a tree harvested in an area where I used to hunt years ago. Next, a valued friend of 30 years built the stock, assembled the rifle, and worked up the loads. Fourth, because throughout the building process I was fortunate enough to have been able to correspond or talk with; and even meet some fellow AR members along the way; a couple of whom performed work on this rifle. Finally, and most importantly, this project is special to me because my daughter and I took the rifle out on its first hunt after its rebuild. She made the first shot on a beautiful buck antelope and killed it cleanly. Later that afternoon I was able to take my buck at 400 yards the same way. We made some great memories that day!
I’ve enjoyed looking over many customs in these pages and was inspired to create one for myself. Mike McCabe (zlr) cleaned up the Higgins action; cut, threaded, chambered and installed a new barrel in 260 Remington, and worked his magic to get the Higgins to feed the shorter cartridge. Paul Kossman (ramrod340) babysat my koa stock blank for a bit while my friend and stock guy worked some things out. Paul also took the time to share thoughts & ideas with me at length. Dave Wesbrook called me and was very generous with his time as well. Shane Thompson got the nod to duplicate my koa stock from a pattern painstakingly crafted by my good friend, who used my original stock as a starting point. I opted to use Shane’s 1:1 duplication process, which was nothing short of phenomenal! Final stock shaping & fitting was done here in Jackson; and my metalwork was caustic blued just over the hill from here in Victor, Idaho. Mike & Shane spent a lot of time helping me to understand the ins and outs of what I was hoping to accomplish and I feel like I’ve made some good friends along the way… Thank you all!
Here’s a list of the parts used for my project.
• Benchmark Barrel: CM, 1:8, Lilja #4, finished at 24 inches with a recessed crown.
• Scope Bases: Warne Maxima 2 piece steel. M831 Rear & M902 Front, both with .860 spacing.
• Zeiss Conquest 3 x 9 scope.
• Burris Zee 1 Inch Rings
• Trigger: Timney Mauser Sportsman M98 FN #101.
• Red Butt Pad: Ordered from Connecticut Shotgun Manufacturing Company/Galazan. 1/2 inch total thickness.
• Jerry Fisher Steel Grip Cap & Talley European Steel Sling Swivel Base Set purchased from Midway.
• Initial Hunting Load For This Rifle:
42.5 grains IMR 4350
140 Grain Hornady Amax
Max Length Case Head to Ogive – 2.770
.010 Off Lands or Case Head to Ogive – 2.760
I hope you enjoy the pictures almost as much as I did watching it come together; and of course hunting with it.
A few magazine ads describing Sears’ latest rifle offering in the late 50s.
A few pretty rough pictures of the Higgins as it looked when carried in Hawaii!
Koa stock blank & me… It begins!
A few teasers that Shane sent me.
Work in progress by my long-time friend and stock maker!
Here we go…
Things I might have done differently…
The first thing I might’ve done would have been to give the 6.5 x 55 or 6.5 x 06 a little more consideration. While this gun was coming together a couple of friends and I built a, “black plastic rifle with a spotting scope mounted on top”, chambered in 260 Remington. I was so hot to trot for that chambering, that I had to have one NOW! That particular rifle shoots nice little half inch groups at 200 yards.
The only other thing I might have done was to save up for a little longer and have the sling swivel bases, bottom metal, bolt shroud and scope rings color case hardened. I really wanted to hunt this rifle THIS season and I just didn’t have the money for those touches.
Some things I would like to pass, just because!
The little thingamajig attached to my trigger allows me to activate the trigger a lot like I used to before my accident. A dear friend of mine, who is no longer with us, designed and built this adaptive trigger to fit on almost any firearm.
The shooting table, attached to my chair, is in its 3rd or 4th incarnation right now, but it’s solid enough that, under the right conditions, I feel confident squeezing off a shot at 400 yards and beyond.
Why am I mentioning these things you ask? I fell off a dirt bike almost 23 years ago and broke my neck. My accident left me paralyzed from the chest down with limited use of my hands and fingers. Hunting & shooting had claimed every free moment of my life up to the time of my wreck and I wasn’t about to let that change. There are ways to adapt almost any piece of equipment so as to allow folks with disabilities or other infirmities to do whatever they want; and the adaptations don’t need to cost a lot of money. Creativity is the key. The other reason I’m sitting up here on my soap box is to talk about Craig Hospital in Englewood, Colorado. I went there after my accident for 6 months of rehab. That place rocks & their Therapeutic Recreation Department can get anybody doing anything they want with a little or a lot of problem-solving. I’m only one guy who, with a lot of support, is able to continue doing what I love. I’d be happy to share what I know with anybody who is interested. While I’m not associated with Craig in any way, I cannot recommend them highly enough. If you have a friend or loved one that suffers a spinal cord injury or traumatic brain injury, GET THEM OUT of your local hospital to a place that specializes in helping folks maximize their lives after a traumatic injury. Okay, I’m done now.