Letter Re: Multi-Caliber Firearms

Hugh,

I was wondering what were your thoughts on rifles capable of shooting multiple calibers? Examples are the Sig Sauer SIG556xi and Colt MARC 901. I can see the utility of pistols having this capability, but I was wondering if you thought the extra investment would be worth it for rifles?

HJL responds: I haven’t tried any of the new offerings on the market, but the Thompson Contender has long been a staple of my collection. I have both the original frame and an Encore frame with a barrel for each caliber for which I reload. I use it as the platform for working up loads, because I can attach strain gauges to the barrel much easier than to nearly any other firearm (especially those of the semi-automatic variety). It is also an excellent platform for accuracy and for calibers that you want to try but don’t want to invest heavily in until you know for sure. I’m not sure I could do without it at this point. While it does not serve on a front-line status for home defense or hunting, it certainly is an integral part of my system.

That being said, I’m not sure that I would want a multi-caliber firearm that served as a primary weapon. While I have no direct experience in either of the platforms that you mention, I have long held the philosophy that when ultimate reliability is demanded, single function is a requirement. I’ve heard the arguments about being able to shoot your ammo as well as that of your enemy, but it’s probably easier to pick up his weapon to use as well, and proper planing negates that need altogether. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, and I am currently admiring the Detonics Defense STX, though I haven’t pulled the trigger on one yet.

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