This elegant rifle is based on a classic Parker Hale Lightweight but with new parts, says Bruce Potts
Price as reviewed: £675
When is a Parker Hale Lightweight not a Parker Hale Lightweight? When it’s a Norman Clark Gunsmiths Stalker rifle. When Parker Hale ceased trading in 2000, Norman Clark Gunsmiths in Rugby bought the remaining stock, and now supplies the spares for most of the models in its range. Norman even has Bill Smallwood, a former Parker Hale gunsmith of some 20 years’ experience, working for him.
It soon occurred to Norman to craft together new Parker Hale parts to form a semi-custom stalking rifle with the best parts from the Parker Hale range. To this end, Norman hand-beds the action into the stock with a synthetic compound that ensures a perfect union between metal and wood. The result is a good-looking, great-shooting and affordable stalking rifle.
This model was distinctly based on the Lightweight rifle Parker Hale produced, but has a different action, bolt and floorplate. The action is actually a factory-engraved model from its M81 African range with nice scroll engraving, all superbly blued, as you would expect.
The actions that Parker Hale used were all Mauser-based and made for it by Santa Barbara in Spain, with the thumb groove in the left-side wall removed, the rounded action top-drilled and tapped for scope use, and the safety repositioned on the right instead of on the bolt shroud. This modern design can incorporate cartridges from .22-250 to .458 Winchester magnum. But all use the duallocking lugs of the bolt up front and an extra safety lug at the rear, which engages as the bolt is closed.
The non-rotating extractor along the full length of the bolt is typically Mauser and ensures a positive feed and extraction of a cartridge, one of Mauser’s big selling points. Added to this are twin gas ports in case of a pierced primer and an enclosed bolt shroud to the rear with a swept-back bolt handle. On the Lightweight, it would have the knob drilled to reduce weight; here it is from a 1200 model and all is highly polished.
The whole action is well blued to a high polish, with this model sporting a one-piece Tasco (made in Australia, so a Hillver scope mount) and 1in rings.
The Lightweight had an alloy floorplate on the magazine, but again Norman had fitted a fully blued steel model, which I prefer. This rifle came in 6mm Remington, an often forgotten calibre because of the popular .243 Winchester, but the 6mm Rem is a better cartridge. The magazine holds four rounds.
The trigger, again Santa Barbara-made, is good. It is a single-stage unit, which can be adjusted for weight and over-travel in one adjustment. This rifle had a 1200 model trigger that comes plated in 22ct gold. The side-mounted safety has a three-way locking system: forward to fire; midpoint locks the trigger but the bolt operates; and fully rear, in which both bolt and trigger are locked.
Lovely trim profile
The barrel has a lovely profile correct to a Lightweight model, with a length of 22in keeping the rifle trim for improved handling. Parker Hale used the hammer-forged manufacturing process, which resulted in precise rifling around the rifling button from the high-tensile-strength steel.
The stock is particularly nice. The Lightweight version is svelte, with a classic small, red recoil pad, elegant raised cheekpiece and lovely, thin foreend finishing in a Schnabel tip. It looks great and handles beautifully. Finished in oil or polyurethane, the walnut used is of high quality, featuring some striking grain. You have a classic rifle from new parts for £675 — a bargain.
What to look for when buying an NCG Stalker
Barrel: Try a 6mm Rem instead of a .243 Win; it is very good ballistically
Action: You cannot get more classic than a Mauser action, and the Parker Hale, with its
better trigger and safety, is good
Features: Ask Norman Clark (tel 01788 579651) for your own specification
Prices: This model is £675 but that’s good value for an old classic