Category Archives: Hunting

.275 Rigby Ruger Hawkeye RSI Stainless: Single Malt for Twenty Bucks

 

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.275 Rigby Ruger Hawkeye RSI Stainless: Single Malt for Twenty Bucks

Bless you Ruger, for continuing to make a real rifle. Even in light of the current Ruger “American” and the ARs, a precious trickle of proper sporting rifles continues out of what Bill Ruger Sr built. This comment is spurned whilst holding a spectacular wood and stainless steel .275 Rigby marked M77 Hawkeye. All the good guns are slowly being sent to old age assisted living, like the No.1 and its ever decreasing production, and then ultimately dying like the Gold Label to make way for cheap plastic handguns and hunting rifles, and $600 assault rifle shaped .22s. Ruger is one of the few companies to continuing to produce a classy rifle one can afford and wouldn’t be embarrassed to pass to their grandkids, in the Model 77 and Ruger No.1 lines. As for the “American” and tactijunk if it allows for a financially healthy company that can still churn out works of blue collar American industrial art like this, I’m all for it, if it replaces it, I’ll bemoan truly the end of an era and what has become of American manufacturing. A rifle like this is a still hot investment cast stanchion holding what’s good in the sporting arms world from tipping into the abyss. It’s a relief to hold one and know such a thing still exists.

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 This gun, this gun is something utterly and magnificently special. There are guns worth fifty times this sweetheart’s value I know I’ll reach past for years for it. Almost nothing in my safe is safe from sale as I’m but a temporary custodian of items that last far longer than I, and yet this one I sincerely doubt will hit the block anytime soon. In fact for years I’ve been trying to buy one from a fellow, who never could be enticed into selling; I understand why. It’s the near perfect bolt action in the near perfect chambering. There’s too much farmer in its blood to set foot on The East India Club grounds, and instead oozes sincerity like old money from the deep south that grew up with belt-beat respect. This rifle is America in a nutshell, an agglomeration and appropriation of the world’s best ideas at an everyman price. It’s chambered in a revolutionary German chambering in a revolutionary German action annexed by the British and rebranded the .275 Rigby, stocked in an Anglo-American straight combed take on a fabled style most associated with Mannlicher of Austria. Then the Americans made it stainless and put it together at a price that’s hard to wrap your head around where the profit is hidden. I even appreciate the large Ruger crest on the floorplate, normally I have a distaste for such flourishes, though Ruger’s earned the right to plant the flag on that ground, here.

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 This example in .275 Rigby / 7×57 weighs barely over six pounds which is startling for a walnut full stocked rifle with an action this strong and steel bottom metal, balances wonderfully between the hands, and points like the worn out BB gun in your hands as a kid. In short, it feels like I’ve owned and known this rifle forever. For fourteen hundred Canadian bucks that’s utterly priceless, don’t ask me where to find another, I don’t know. It should be noted thanks is due to Lipseys I believe for this particular variation seeing the light of day, I owned the RSI in Mark II guise and blued steel as a .308 ten years ago, and even then dreamed of making my own stainless RSI through mix and matching then current Ruger products. These days, I only allow a half dozen chamberings through the door including shotguns and handgun, and thankfully the 7×57, or as the British and this particular Ruger have taken ownership of it the .275 is one of them. Being a product of the Empire myself the .275 Rigby designation suits my tastes like entry level single malt. And that’s exactly what this rifle is, I tend to have more fun with a layman’s single malt as I get to enjoy more of it, and this beauty is no different. It’s fun and class you can afford to drag up a British Columbian mountain that provides 85% of the experience of spending ten times as much. In the end I think I prefer that accounting.

Double Rainforest Grizzly Hunt On The Wild Coast Part I

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After a long stretch of writer’s block I had to find my voice again, and what a way and setting to do so a double Grizzly Bear hunt is, at least in my mind’s eye. No question the bottom of a bottle of Aberlour, a pipe, and some successive good strong West Coast IPAs have helped open the literary taps. Alright… so Apex predators and megafauna, the beautiful monsters I discuss in detail in previous writing, define their habitat and an entire place for me. A Wilderness isn’t Wild without its apex predators intact, as truly what are the Wilds without having to look over your shoulder when a twig cracks, or staring out past the campfire at night considering pitch-black sounds? We had a wonderful night doing just that on the last Grizzly hunt, in the thick of the bears and dead salmon, but more on that later. How does one find inspiration in an empty, predator and beast-less landscape? That is what renders a place alive! It’s the bitter tang that makes a lime worth eating, without it there’s only pulp with a mild pleasing flavour… that’s a dead place, experience, and taste. People talk passion for hunting, for things… my life’s passion is experiencing the World as it was when once truly Wild, when we weren’t yet top dog, even if the sensation and experience is fleeting thanks to our modern conveniences. As we sat on a log jamb in the midst of the salmon run and the densest grizzly population anywhere, assistant guide Greg, an extremely experienced hunter and in particular bear hunter, said to me with a content curl of the lip line in the low subtle voice of a hunter on stand, “What we are doing is ancient.”

Killing the (unseasonable) Heat of The Day with Client Jim IMG_1144

At first I missed his meaning so he quietly explained, and I’ll continue with the thought and extrapolate from where his explanation brought me. Sitting in the glow of the end of day and enveloped in the sounds of water and splashes of a salmon churning it, saturated with the pungent scent of an ancient rainforest and rotting fish, we awaited the anticipated movements of our quarry acting on our millennia old instincts. One feels more alive than in any moment except for right before the kill at a time like this, the brain’s switchboard overwhelmed with subtle sensory stimuli, despite when to an outsider’s eye you are apparently doing nothing. There is an introspective clarity and extreme awareness in that time, a consciousness guided by instinct that reaches an all-consuming vortex of focus at the pivotal moments when game is spotted. Honestly, what other activity, when the aim is to do and move as little as possible, can have you so on edge, so alive? Think you could answer even a basic question if interrupted from that focus after hours or days on stand, and your prey has just walked out? Almost your entire mind is on the task, the hunt, the prey. This is what I believe hunters love and why we can speak of passion and love for the hunt, and why some can rightly refer to the hunt as almost a drug. It alters your mental process, focusing every single sense on one task, bringing about extreme patience and clarity, and yet also causing almost all conscious thought to temporarily disappear at the pivotal moment in a torrent of instinct. When else in life is your entire consciousness focused explosively on the crack of a twig or a splash larger than a fish, sensory information that would be ignored in a city park? That’s living, that’s hunting.

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On this hunt, our quarry was the Apex predator whose massive clawed feet were patterned in the river sand, the tracks crossing my own from the previous evening when we had to pull out right as the light was prime, in order to navigate the treacherous river safely. Not tonight however… we were all in, staying in the Grizzlies’ home surrounded by literally hundreds of tracks and hundreds of thousands of salmon. Suspended in our senses’ spell with the predator’s patience bred into every human even if they’ve forgotten it, we were awaiting that one opportunity, that perfect moment, to take our turn as Apex predator. That is what Greg described in that warm, beautiful moment as the light reddened; “This is ancient.”. It is a feeling that must be lived to be known yet nearly every hunter will have known it many times, a contentment and sense of purpose and challenge that really goes beyond explanation. Sincerely I wish there was a name for that… Many exist to describe love, fate, luck, fortune… kismet which needs no definition, merak… a sense of oneness with the universe derived from the simplest pleasures, and perhaps after the shot Aay’han, a bittersweet, perfect moment of joy and mourning. My love for those moments cannot possibly be mine alone, nor unnamed though less and less experience it in modern times. Perhaps one day I’ll have to figure my own name for it or discover the correct one, as certainly many a perfect word exists in languages around the world. Perhaps however with the way our world is going many of those words are being washed away by time and progress, so that I’ll never hear them.  And really… when a feeling’s this good, it’s almost better when it doesn’t have a name, isn’t it?

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While the Polar Bear takes the prize as North America’s greatest Apex predator, it would have its paws full in a fight with a Grizzly Bear, and the temperament of Grizzlies is something entirely unto itself. Grizzlies, much to my admiration are far too bold for their own good, to the point of the habit becoming self-destructive.  It’s a habit shared by many things I respect, including many people. This temperament is why their numbers have plummeted anywhere they come in frequent contact with humans. They also fight each other incessantly, and I haven’t hunted a Grizzly boar yet that didn’t have battle scars, often severe. The bear in spring had a large open gash, fresh from that very day on his side down to the ribs. One of this fall’s bears, the beholder of a small body and massive Boone & Crockett All Time head, was heavily scarred and had one ear barely attached. It’s a hard knock life being a Grizzly, they’re straight out of another era and closely related to extinct Pleistocene Ursines, and act as if they belong back in the Pleistocene. There is no tougher creature than the Grizzly bear in its range and the trouble is, he knows it. If you’re on his fish, he’ll get you off them, if he wants in your cabin even foot thick logs aren’t going to stop him. If he likes your camp, he’ll walk through it like a small town deputy with a point to prove, break everything, then unapologetically wander off. This spring I had a massive Grizzly boar lock eyes with me as he swam directly past at eight yards, got out of the river and stared at our group, before deciding we weren’t interesting and casually headed off. They own their kingdoms, you are a guest there, I treat them and their habitat with that respect and savour the experience. A night keeping a fire stoked, gun in your lap, with fresh meat nearby in a small valley with a hundred Grizzlies is something every man should enjoy before he dies. I’ve been blessed to spend many nights that way, and each and every one of them still gives me a charge as if I’d just landed my bike off a home made ramp on sharp gravel when I was ten.

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Now hunting the Great Bears must be easy then, right, with them being so bold, so plentiful where I hunt? While it is really rather straightforward in methods and just like hunting any other predator without bait or calling, it is not easy and we’ll get to that. The basics are you find a food source, you take your best guess at the routes to and from it and prove them with tracks and sign, and then you take your turn as predator and… wait. That part may sound dull but it takes us back to paragraph One. The patience required taps into the instinct and feeling I couldn’t name earlier, good sign makes the patience far easier to come by, and the wait a lot more interesting. Returning from a scout walk to check a suspected grizzly trail, I brought back a tuft of Grizzly hair for the client and pictures of one of the largest sets of tracks in the valley, a front pad wider than my Tyto knife. My heart was sky high, this place would produce, and we all knew it. Sure enough within two days it did, twice. The feeling is pure elation, an endorphin wave of a reward hard wired into the simplest parts of our brains from our evolution as an apex predator. I realize many an anti-hunter would love to seize upon an outfitter referring to the simplest parts of the mind being elated with the hunt. The reality however is those simplest instincts and parts of the mind are timeless for the same reason we can still taste sweet and sour, even though industrial food production has removed the need. Those parts are hard wired, real, all consuming when their synapses light up somewhere deep in the pitch black of the skull, just as they did sometime around 5,000,000 years ago when the first spear was thrust and even earlier with the first stone was hurled at game.

Client Russ from Spring, We’ll Get To This One in Part II RussMorganGrizz1

Now a good food source, that’s a tricky thing to pinpoint on the North Coast, and for the opposite reason as usual in hunting; there is a lot of food. Our first river, I stubbornly stuck to for a week of scouting, as I had a damaged boat with split welds and cracks from a Western ocean voyage in heavily laden, and she was one good wave from doing a sardine can impression with us as the key. This is not an old boat, in fact it has $50,000 into it with repairs and the initial build, and this is only its fourth hunt in this role, conditions and duty are just that severe on the North Coast and this trip in would only class as moderate compared to the truly bad ones. Anyhow, in our first river Greg climbed the mountain sides early on while I searched for tracks and paths in the river, Greg returned with good info on ancient berry trails that were heavily used, and Grizzly crap everywhere. Well, maybe they were on berries… there were still berries hanging and the salmon run was dead in this river, with only the odd rotten Pink swimming confused circles like Saturday morning on skid row. Just the same, the tracks were encouraging, one set in particular extremely good, a good Grizzly has a front pad greater than 7 ½” and these exceeded that. And a fresh wash of the bars in one of the flash six foot river rises the next morning showed the large boar’s hours old tracks, who had predictably funneled through the river at a terrain pinch Greg spotted. We had barely missed him another day as well, with tracks clearly showing he’d stood on a log to listen to the boat approach from downriver, and then with a casual unhurried gait entered the bush and disappeared. I would sincerely like to lay eyes on that bear, and next Grizzly hunt will likely give this challenging river the good hard shake it deserves if nothing else to satisfy my curiousity.

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Now as the client’s arrival loomed, it was becoming obvious I was going to have to return to the river than had produced two other Grizzlies in the past twelve months for clients, and Greg was keen on the move. I was hesitant, we had a new, and good river with consistent track travel, but food was limited, and my boat damaged. Greg has good instincts, and the plan was if we didn’t find strong fresh sign in the current river, we’d make the trip, gently for the sake of the silicone and firewood wedged together bow, to the other river and upstream, a trip of 45 minutes or so from camp. Now that other river does not come without its challenges… it’s large, vicious, and braided into multiple channels with lots of hard corners, shallow bars, fast water, and skinny channels. It also changes every rainstorm, with fresh log jambs and all new channels… and the bad ones can kill you. Fortunately, we didn’t need to venture any more than 10% of the way up I had to in previous hunts thanks to a wrong turn that proved fortuitous. In the split second you have to choose channels, I chose the lesser of two flows by accident, which quickly split into even smaller flows until the rocks were all too visible in the glacial melt water and in the shallowest portions no more than eighteen inches or less deep. Can’t stop here… dropping the stern and the jet drives into the first pool deep enough to allow it, we took stock of our position, realizing we were on a wonderful sight plane with views in all directions for hundreds of yards. You have no idea how rare that is on the North Coast until you’ve hunted here, this is a rare thing, and not to be wasted. I’ll also never see it again as the river changes monthly in the wet season, and I’ve already received word from fishing guides a large flood the week after we left changed it all again already. That’s another write up however, the real monsters, the rivers…

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We tied our damaged and holding boat to a perfect log with a deep hole behind it, on a nice little bar a hundred yards long centrally situated in the open area. Immediately upon getting off the boat, we had tracks aplenty. Grizzlies left, right, and center… cubs and sow, small boar or barren sow, big boar… BIG boar…  Yes, I should have come back here immediately. Little use in sitting here amongst the bears though unless ready to shoot, I had until this point viewed this river as the backup, with the contentment of knowing it would produce having taken two Grizzlies there in the earlier part of the hunting year (September to September to elaborate for non-hunters, our new year starts a tad earlier than convention). This first day we had to pull out, to return to camp at the much safer other river. Camping in the river we were hunting then is extremely challenging, I hesitate to say dangerous, but realistically it is. The level can climb six feet or worse in hours, sweeping everything and moving the logs of dead 800 year old trees with ease as much as twenty feet above the normal flow level… and fall sees by far the worst of the flooding and rainfall. Imagine trying to escape down a treacherous torrent of log jambs… in the dark, with two hundred foot long logs coming down the river with you as the jambs break up. I think I’d rather hug a tree and say goodbye to the boat. For now, assistant guide Greg’s self-proclaimed weather luck, which I was begrudgingly forced to become a believer in, was holding. Unseasonably beautiful weather reigned, and this brought about the red glow from the beginning of the article. During the day Jim and Greg were treated to the sight of Mountain Goats and an utterly massive Black Bear feeding on the high slopes above the river, described by Greg as looking like a truck, and he knows black bears having hunted and / or guided several hundred of them. Always nice to know a place is alive.

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The moment Jim’s Grizzly was spotted I was on the wrong end of the sand bar, and while trying to watch 360 degrees, a rare challenge in this environment that often narrows views to 45 degrees or less, I saw a large headed boar crossing the river maybe four hundred yards downstream. To my great relief he started making his way towards us, coming up on a shore that was two hundred yards distant when perpendicular to our bar… Would he make it that far up without turning into the bush? The head on this bear was disproportionately large, and at the distant first sighting made him appear massive as his head was so prominently visible. He had the head of a 9oolb bear and the body of a 5oo, and I told the client this was a top 50% boar, but not a top 10%. Turns out, his head was so big I was wrong, and on the body I almost over estimated him. That mix of proportions doesn’t happen much. Slowly, the bear picked his way along the shore, stopping to eat a salmon and giving a tough quartering away shot at 220ish yards in the edge of the alders where I agonized over whether I should have Jim shoot. It was an entirely makeable shot, soured by slight cover and a fast flowing river to his rear he could be lost in, and green hell in front that he was more likely to take to if the shot wasn’t anchoring. Those who think it sounds adventurous to follow up a wounded Grizzly Bear in the ten foot visibility and almost impossible movement of the Cold Jungle haven’t done it. I place no machismo or badges on that, it’s an experience best avoided and there’s nothing pleasant about following flecks of quickly rain washing blood on devils club and alder, that’s the profanity inducing ether of life’s less pleasing sides that makes one grow old before their time.

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We watched him eat for likely fifteen minutes, when he eased into the trees. Every dark shape at that point becomes a bear ever so briefly, as you hope for another opportunity. Remember that hyper focus I discussed? Well it’s in overdrive right now. Then, just as your excitement considers waning down one level… the hushed call “Bear…”. The boar had reappeared 200 yards distant, and started pouncing for salmon in a small side channel just yards from the main flow. Jim lined up, and rested on the roots of a rainforest giant, sitting more than ten feet above the ground cradled in its roots and trunk. We cautioned him to wait for the shot he was comfortable with, and to take the shoulder, I wanted that bear anchored to avoid a late light follow up in the cold jungle. Lets just say I missed my double rifle right then, having left my Merkel .375 H&H at home, the veteran of several Grizzly hunts, in favour of a cheap and handy Mossberg 590A1 14” stoked with 3” slugs as I wanted a gun I didn’t have to care for. That benefit diminished in importance as I considered the possibility of a follow up cross-river. There was however a contenting piece of information at hand… Jim could shoot, a former competitive shooter in the military, and he had been a mountain goat hunting client of mine last fall. 200 yards for Jim, and he’ll blush at my stating this, is nothing as it ought to be for any seasoned hunter, I had watched him put a full box of 20 rounds expediently into 6” last year while we tested rifles at the range pre-hunt. He seemed to think that was mediocre, though from a guide’s eye for field position shooting with a .300, that’s a dream come true.

Client Jim Set Up At The Moment of The Shot

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True to form, Jim’s Sako 85 Bavarian .300 lit up and as I heard its crack I watched the bear turn at the shot, two more perfect shots followed rapidly and the bear went down not a couple yards from the first hit. In the next write up I’ll share some thoughts on Grizzly rifles and loads, but that’s overly academic for my present mood. Anyhow, water mist blew off the dark hair on the bear with each hit, showing their perfect placement. It was done, there was no suffering for the old battle scarred boar, and we had an Apex predator solidly down across river on day 2 ½; the average for the last three Grizzlies. Hand shakes, a cheers of preserved chocolate milks (long story), and we loaded the boat to start a long night skinning in the icy water. Then as we set out downstream to round from our channel to the bears, another Grizzly popped out! Holding an LEH resident tag I carry and reserve for an exceptional bear, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to take a Grizzly that looked like a barrel as it crossed a channel two hundred yards downstream. Greg took the controls on the boat by instinct and Jim handed me his rifle, we beached on a small bar which I ran to the end of to fire from sitting. The first shot hit home, one more was added for insurance and the bear did its death run… into the deep flow. Back to the boat and downstream, this was the beginning of a proper Western experience and the most interesting retrieve I’ve suffered thus far. Quickly the boat caught up to the barely buoyant boar, one spot of dark brown hair alerting me to the bulk under the glacial water’s surface, and I put the boat on it and we ended up running it over. Doing circles and making a plan on the fly when tying a paw proved impossible, we started shunting it to shore with the boat. The trouble is, we could get a little push in, and it would slide under the boat again. Over and over we turned circles around the bear shunting it in to shore, and finally Jim gauged to water to be shallow enough to jump into and seize a paw.

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We had… them! Two Grizzly bears in thirty minutes. How many times in life do you get to enjoy that experience? With no small effort the utterly round Grizzly was rolled onto the nearby bar, safely above the water, and we set off to retrieve Jim’s bear. Approaching his bear, Jim felt the emotions he had calmly avoided at the shot, he had a beautiful, scarred up and massive headed rainforest grizzly down, with the longest claws I’ve seen on a bear here. Night quickly set and the lights came out as we skinned, which is a respectable amount of work with a Grizzly. Wrapping up, we had to make our journey back to camp, and remembering a tight corner and skinny channel at a log jamb, I didn’t like the idea of a night run once we had the boat fired up. One moment of comedic relief was delivered in 6’4, 270lb Greg attempting to fit into a “Universal” life jacket, muttering this is only to help find the body… A picture of that moment has become a favourite of mine to share with mutual acquaintances. Upon moving on the water instead I opted to head upstream and meet a bar I’d walked the day before the was upstream from ours, if memory served it was only a few hundred yards from camp. I made for the bar, and gratefully didn’t ground the boat in the process, bringing it up to the bar. With Greg and Jim holding the boat, I headed in the direction of camp, finding an easy ford back. We tied the boat to the best alder we could find on the bar, with the utter total extent of our available rope, and made the ford to camp, where we decided on shifts to keep the skin safe and stoke a large fire. Greg suggested he’d rise at 03:30, and I took the first shift and built a large fire to send a message to the local Grizzlies. Grizzlies will set upon a kill of their own, or anything, within no time, and in a salmon run a different flavor is something they seem especially interested in. Throughout the night Greg and I walked to the end of our bar and shone lights on the boat, and felt very alive. Well, I speak for myself, Greg having slept first may have had a different take on rising though I doubt it, as he saw two more Grizzlies at daybreak.

Check back for Fall 2015 and Spring 2016 Grizzly hunting thoughts and other fun… in Spring we had the massive Grizzly below swim past at eight yards and get out of the river downstream.

Greg Wrapping Up The Next Morning

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Suggestions On Mountain Rifles & Their Chamberings

Kevin's Billy

Client from Oklahoma & his billy taken with arguably the flattest mainstream round; the .300 RUM. 

Suggestions on Mountain Rifles & Their Chamberings

Often now I am finding myself asked by clients for my thoughts on rifles for upcoming hunts with us, and I figured why not do a write up I can share the link for instead of copying and pasting sections of emails. Bears will be dealt with in just two of the nearly dozen paragraphs, and after that it is all mountain rifle and cartridge considerations. There are two considerations to a rifle, what is coming out the muzzle, and what is behind it directing that muzzle; the shooter. While there are superior chamberings on the muzzle end, ideally a .300 to .375 magnum class for Grizzly / Brown bears, these are not always comfortable for the more important quantity; the shooters. My biggest concern is a hunter buying a new, magnum rifle for their hunt, and finding themselves borderline uncomfortable with it. So if it is a coastal Grizzly / Brown Bear hunt I will merely encourage whatever rifle you are most comfortable and confident with. Killing a bear is the client’s job, stopping one in the extreme minority of scenarios that may occur is the guide’s, though you are not misguided for being interested in the subject! In such a scenario you are absolutely encouraged to shoot and we will talk this over before heading out, I am simply saying do not plan your whole hunt around a charge by packing a .416. A .30-06 and a .338 Win Mag are nearly nearly equal in my estimation with a good bullet and shooter who is comfortable with his rifle. I would encourage the use of your every season elk or deer rifle long before a new .375, as while the .375 is slightly more effective, both kill bears just as dead and setting off with a new rifle and cartridge is one more opportunity for Murphy’s Law to pay our hunt a visit.

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So this part can be wrapped up quickly, pick a rifle you like and want to make memories with, do not mind getting soaked, select a reasonably but not excessively heavy for caliber bullet for example .270 150gr, 7mm 160gr, .30 180 or 200gr, .338 200gr and up and have at it. If I had to offer a “best” it is likely the .300 or .338 Winchester Mag, however it is far less important that you have the best rifle than the rifle you shoot best… though in the past I have argued otherwise until blue in the face! With time opinions mellow. There are two of us, shots are short and almost never over 100 yards, and even the biggest bears are not that hard to kill. Were you hunting them alone, I may have slightly different suggestions, as only on a follow up are you at all likely to have any need for a medium bore. If you want to bring two rifles I won’t fault that decision either, in fact its quite common, your every season standard hunting rifle to make the kill, and a medium bore for the unlikely follow up, a rifle that you don’t mind leaving in camp. The more guns the merrier anyhow. In summary bears are soft creatures compared to African dangerous game standards and most big guns are overkill for them, and I will have a .375 beside your rifle. Of course if you feel better with a .375 too, the more the merrier and I am glad to see it in camp! Just be sure you shoot it as well as your standard deer rifle, try and shoot a box a week or so in the lead up to the hunt. So that settles that, on bears.

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How about in the mountains, chasing Mountain Goat? Well, that is a whole different ball game, and here I have lots to say. Many select their mountain rifle with Grizzlies in mind too from a purely defensive standpoint, and I would heavily caution against this if it means adding recoil uncomfortable to the shooter and more importantly, weight. The first consideration on recoil of course does not apply to many seasoned hunters, however the latter applies to every human, even professional sherpas. My last Mountain Goat client of the season was completely adept with his .300, and proved not only excellent company but an excellent marksman. In our pre-departure sight in check on the range he put twenty rounds of .300 Mag into a ragged four inch hole at 200 yards while I fiddled with sighting in a sample rifle I was sent… and he felt sheepish about the shooting! I told him he was a dream come true, unpleasant awkwardness followed for a brief moment before clarification, and away we went to the floatplane. By day two his Sako Bavarian .300 did however prove a might heavy. Jim is coming back next year for bear, and for that his .300 will be splendid. I will be your biggest fan if you can shoot and carry a .300 in the mountains, but I expect this of no man, it is extremely hard to carry a single extra pound by the end of a long day let alone three pounds for a typical .300 over a Kimber .270. And the .270 does the trick, believe me.

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Ideal mountain cartridges lean very much to the youthful side of cartridge development, youthful stretching as far back as 1923 in the case of the nearly perfect mountain cartridge; the .270 Winchester. So there is your mountain cartridge holotype: fast, light for caliber bullets available in light rifles, with reasonable ballistic coefficients. I would honestly rather see a client with a six pound all up .243 they can shoot lights out with than a nine pound all up .338 that they can still shoot lights out with. Sure, I will not argue a .300 or .338 does not anchor a Mountain Goat better with a shoulder shot, they do, and if you can carry and shoot your .300 like you can a .243 or .270 I will be your first and biggest proponent! Magnums I am an admitted fan of on account of their trajectory, and trajectory along with light weight is really what mountain rifles are all about… However there lies a significant challenge in finding such a combination that is comfortable to carry and shoot. Muzzle brakes get a pass from me in the mountains, as I will gladly put up with more noise for the 1% of the hunt that shots are fired to have a shooter more comfortable with their lightweight and lively rifles.

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Many will presume before they are on the rocks that they can manage with their favourite rifle, it “only” weighs a coupe pounds more than some Kimber or other they are not a fan of. Well, a few pounds can honestly be the difference between getting to a Billy and not. Take this as a kind suggestion of preparing physically for the hunt as well! Too often hunters select cartridges and rifles they like and justify them as being “Good for anything in North America”, well the truth is most are not. A nine pound all up .300 is about as poor as it gets for mountain hunting, even if it excels at mountain shooting. Ninety nine one-hundredths of the battle is getting to the animal, not shooting it, and if your thirty year old guide who climbs mountains for part of his living, and down with an animal on his back, does not want to carry an eight or nine pound rig you should probably heed the consideration. Given the boring old .270 is available in Kimbers as light as the Mountain Ascent at barely over 5lbs, does not kick the snot out of you, and reaches 500 yards as flat as the .300 with plenty of power to kill a Mountain Goat, I will admit concern when I see a large braked rifle coupled with an equally large scope show up at the airport. The .300 Ultra I am alluding to worked like a hot dame for the shooting aspects but absolutely thrashes a fellow in the hunting component.

 

Prime Mountain Rifles

  • Under seven pounds scoped, if it can be six, all the better.
  • A cartridge that can be zeroed at 300 yards without rising more than 3 1/2” at its apogee, which occurs at about 175 yards for essentially all cartridges with a 300 yard zero. Regardless if you subscribe to the 300 yard zero or not this is a useful trajectory benchmark.
  • Synthetic stock to prevent POI walk as the wood stock swells.
  • Stainless steel, at least for where we work, as wet can be an understatement.
  • Excellent models are available from Kimber, Forbes, the old Remington 700 Ti, the Browning Titanium offerings, and the new Sako Carbon Light amongst others.
  • Scoped with a 2-7, 2.5-8 or 3-9X class scope, preferably a Leupold or scope of similar quality as it is likely to be beat around and will need to maintain zero. Resist the urge to go big (and heavy) on optics, they’re just not needed even for reachy shots. Nothing wrong with a fixed 6X either, light, and functional. Good rings, with as few parts as possible, the closer to one piece for rings / bases the better, Talleys are very good example.

 Kimber Mountain Ascent Weight

The Kimber Mountain Ascent, pictured in .308 Winchester though also available in .270 & .280AI for a slight increase in weight, at 5 1/4lbs for the .270 including full length barrel and muzzle brake.

Examples of +3 1/2” or less to 300 yard cartridges, and correspondingly no lower than 3 1/2” out to 350 yards, when used with light for caliber and sturdy bullets are: .264 Winchester Mag, .270 Winchester (110gr only) & WSM, 7mm Remington Mag, STW, & WSM, .300 Winchester Mag & WSM, any Weatherby although recoil in light rifles limits it pretty well to the .240, .257, .270, and 7mm, and any Ultra. Trajectory takes on critical importance in the rocks, as you should fully expect your shot may be 400 yards. If you are capable at 500, even better, however this is as far as we would consider shooting, and the goal is to get you inside 300. It is an entirely different ballgame than deer, bear, and moose hunting, often with zero cover available between you and the animal, gusty winds and rapidly changing weather, and physical exhaustion. Anything you can do to make your work easier as the hunter is a benefit, and choosing a cartridge that makes the shooting simpler, requiring nothing but a dead on hold all the way to 350 yards, goes a long way in this regard. Even more important is a rifle of the absolute bare minimum weight, as if you cannot physically make the fourth stalk after three failed ones, what good is the most accurate rifle to you? Shaving a couple pounds makes a world of difference in a sport where we buy $15 titanium sporks to shave an ounce.

Also do not get too focused on trying find a ½” grouping rifle, ALL modern off the shelf rifles perform well enough for the purpose of mountain hunting, whether they shoot ½” groups or 1 ½” is of little consequence in the real world. My personal favourite rifles for the mountains are Kimbers, simply on account of the value offered and the fact that they are true lightweights, not simply lighter weight. In fact Kimber’s all steel models weigh less than competitors’ titanium receiver options, with the lightest Kimbers scaling in the high 4lbs range before optics for short actions. I have shot the Mountain Ascent to 500 yards and it works absolutely perfectly, with no trouble hitting the center portions of 2 MOA plates cold bore from field positions. If you have an excellent range finder, you can get away with a poorer trajectory, but I would not encourage it and would ask why? Mountain Goats may surprise you how poorly they reflect a range finder with their deep hair, and the terrain around them can be little better on the North Coast, the angles bouncing the laser’s reflection away, or absorbing it in heather and scrub. This is where the thought free, point and shoot 350 yard point blank range can be indispensible. Presently I am putting a 32″ barrelled .25 together to attempt a rifle with a 400 yard point blank range for my own use, but I digress.

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The chart below demonstrates the difference between a pair of excellent standard cartridges, the .260 Remington with a 120gr, reasonably high ballistic coefficient Nosler Accubond, and the .308 Winchester with the Swift Scirocco 150gr, against a pack of excellent mountain cartridges all zeroed at 300 yards. You will see a far higher climb for the .308 and even the light bullet .260 load, approaching 6” above bore in the case of the .308, versus the much flatter pack of speedier rounds that are almost all identical. The spread for instance between the flattest cartridge listed, the .270 WSM, and the cartridge with the greatest drop of the “Mountain Pack” the .270 Winchester, is a mere inch and a half… at 500 yards. In other words the flattest loads at 110 grains or up for the .257 Weatherby, .270 Winchester, .270 WSM, 7mm Remington Mag or WSM, and .300 WSM (or Win Mag for that matter) all fall within 1 ½” of the same elevation nearly half a kilometer out. Above all else, this is in my eyes a ringing endorsement of the boring old .270 Winchester, as of the group it kicks and barks the least, yet runs with the flattest of them. Admittedly, the .257 Weatherby could sling an 80gr TTSX at 3,800fps, but this bullet is getting light for my tastes on Mountain Goat, though I certainly would not tell you that you are wrong for choosing it. It will kick the crud out of a .308, 7-08, or .260 in use on the rocks.

All rounds are plotted with factory loads, attempting to strike a balance to select the flattest somewhat readily available loading. Loads are listed below, starting with the top line (flattest, .270 WSM) on the chart to bottom (flaccid-est, .308 Win), as the small text is a bit hard to deduce. The top five are all within an inch and a half of each other all the way to 500 yards, so in other words, equal, and all arrive with 1,200 foot-lbs of energy or better at 500, the cutoff. The .260 120gr is 8 1/2″ below the leader, and the .308 just shy of a foot below at 500. As an aside, a handy example of quick range compensation with the .270 110gr load, is the point of a Leupold 3-9x’s duplex reticle hits dead on at about 450 yards when you’re zeroed at 300. You will need to test your rifle’s setup to determine what works, I would suggest only doing it at full stop magnification to avoid errors, the magnification settings just are not accurate enough to attempt to calibrate hold over points with. So with this example and a 300 yard zero, you are point and shoot to 350 yards, never higher or lower than 3 1/2″ or the length of a playing card, and the point of your duplex reticle is 450. 400 yards falls two thirds of the way down from the crosshairs to the duplex point. If you decide that 450 is your limit, right there you are set without a single scope adjustment required. That is the benefit of a mountain cartridge, and load.

1) .270 WSM Fed 110gr TTSX BC .377 @ 3510fps
2) .257 Wby Nos 110gr Accubond BC .418 @ 3409fps
3) .300 WSM Fed 130gr TTSX BC .357 @ 3510fps
4) 7mm Rem Mag Fed 110gr TTSX BC .350 @3511fps
5) .270 Win Fed 110gr TTSX BC .377 @ 3410fps
6) .260 Rem 120gr Ballistic Tip BC .417 @ 2958fps
7) .308 Win Rem 150gr Scirrocco BC .435 @ 2827fps

 

Mountain Cartridges Ballistic Chart

Now the above considerations on trajectory and holdovers all really tie in to one thing; shoot the heck out of your rifle, experiment, and find out what works for you. More important than all the musings and pontifications above be sure you are comfortable and confident with your rifle, as mountain hunting demands you have a higher degree of familiarity and ability with your rifle than any other form of hunting. There are a lot of strikes against you in the mountains and that is why we seek out the challenge, everything is further away, the rifles and optics have to be lighter, the game can flee to inaccessible places when wounded, the weather and opportunity can turn in and instant, and on top of this the shooter will be tired. We are really trying to force together a group of factors that do not normally get along, and the only way to do that is through practice. My suggestions above are just that, suggestions, and many would prefer a more conventional 200 yard zero and dialing in elevation, or reticle holdover points such as the Boone & Crockett reticle. The only reason I avoid this is in both cases it requires thinking, with the “flat pack” of five cartridges I listed above that make the tightly packaged rainbow on the chart, zero thought is needed 0-350 yards, and only a quick holdover contemplation to 350-450.

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An excellent 500 yard shot with a .300 Winchester Magnum took this very good billy.

Other systems may work better for you, my thoughts are not the only way and in fact are likely not even the best way, as it is not a highly popular method; it does however work. Experiment with your rifle to find out your own version to get to 450-500 yards without drop charts and turrets and I believe you will find it extremely helpful as well. One species in particular you will find you bag more than before- Wolves! They never hang around long and are often encountered at long ranges, briefly. Being +/- 3 1/2″ is tight enough to cleanly take a Wolf, so simply hold centre of shoulder and squeeze, then we are skinning. Finally, if I were pressed to pick the cartridge clients arrived with, it would be the .270 Winchester. People generally shoot this class of cartridge better than they do a magnum, the rifles weigh as little as just over five pounds, and the trajectory with the 110gr load available in factory ammunition from Federal is as flat as utterly anything. It hits a perfect intersection of terminal performance, ballistics, recoil, rifle size and weight, and ammunition availability. Gilchrist, who literally wrote the book on Mountain Goat hunting, also settled on it as his choice. I have heard others of extreme experience recently call the .270 WSM the best mountain sheep and goat cartridge, and I would have trouble putting together an argument against it.  Good Hunting, and see you soon!

-Angus

angus@wildcoastoutfitters.com

www.wildcoastoutfitters.ca

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The ATRS Modern Hunter: Made in Canada & As Good As That Sounds

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Rick at Alberta Tactical Rifle Services was kind enough to send one of his Modern Hunters over, the idea was I’d bring it on a Mountain Goat hunt I was guiding and get some pictures of the rifle with game beyond the basic. Sadly that wasn’t possible as the client fell very ill and had to be helicoptered out, rather nixing plans to use the rifle on mountain game, this didn’t however detract from my experience with the rifle. I’m a hunting nut, and of course a firearms nut, I dabble in everything from rare antiques and double rifles to, well, modern rifles. Somewhere in the history of sporting arms it very suddenly became distasteful to embrace improvements, I feel this had more to do with legislation and societal pressures creeping into our sport than actually arriving at any sort of a technology plateau. Turn of the century, and on for fifty years through WWI and WWII era and a bit more, there was no distinction made between a sporting rifle and a cutting edge military arm; all that mattered was function and quality. One must remember the great white hunters of Africa and India, such as Bell and Corbett went afield with what were the contemporary equivalents of today’s AR-10/15s… actually no… their Mauser based firearms were more advanced at the time than the sixty year old AR family is today. Westley Richards, Holland & Holland, Rigby and the other greats all tailored the most advanced military designs of the time to the sportsman’s purposes. I owned until recently a semi-auto C96 “Broomhandle” dating from 1896, an extremely advanced arm for the time naturally, as wild as a caseless ammunition HK… and they were marketed and customized by Westley Richards and others for well heeled gentlemen, including Winston Churchill who used his in Africa.

So when did we suddenly eschew military designs, even if they had merits, in favour of “classic choices”? I figure in the 60s and 70s when the ARs were becoming mainstream and commonly recognized arms of political aggression. The counter culture movement and villainization of the black rifle occurred through the Vietnam War and the civil protests, with these viewpoints trickling into even the most stalwart of the old school; plaid-clad hunters. Suddenly, showing up for a hunt with an AR-10 became inconceivable, branding its owner as a Rambo wannabe, or a range warrior out of place in the field. This is of course, absurd. There are a host of reasons why modern rifles make fantastic field guns, and the criticisms and prejudice look even more ridiculous beside a Browning BAR, Benelli, Remington, or any other hunting autoloader- even a semi-auto goose gun. A semi-auto dressed in wood is somehow more acceptable than the more functional synthetic, again ridiculously. For some time we seem to have lost the rational sense that a gun is a gun, and how it is dressed means little in the field, and in fact modern designs offer many merits in accessory availability, magazines, trigger groups, you name it. No more looking for a single set of bases for your sporting rifle when anything picatinny will work, offering thousands of different mounts and configurations.

Modularity, and being able to alter your rifle to the task are huge components of the modern design. Everything from grips, to hand guards, to optics and sights, to the entire barrel is easily and rapidly interchangeable on a modern rifle. Accuracy and reliability are generally exceptional, as the most modern techniques, concepts, and designs determined through decades of evolution are employed in manufacture. Now how about the clincher, when even my beloved Model 70 is made in Portugal, the Modern Hunter I’m dancing around in this introduction is made here. By Canadians, for Canadians, in the face of ever tightening restrictions. The ATRS Modern Hunter is the flag in the ground at the foot of our firearms hill- for the politicians to take our Winchesters they first have to attack the Modern Hunter, a point I’ve borrowed from a fellow named Clark. We all owe Rick and the ATRS crew a debt for manning that position, Rick didn’t need to build this rifle, he has a strong business based on bolt action long range precision rifles. As a smart business man he took a gamble, a gamble on future regulations and I know without asking him he also did it for the firearms community on principle. He, as the rest of us, was aware the regulations in place are absurd, unfair, and aren’t saving anyone or anything, unfairly keeping the Canadian firearms and hunting community in the past.

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Well, Rick made a statement through his company’s machining and technical expertise, and I can tell you it is a hell of a statement. This won’t be a technical review of the Modern Hunter, those already exist, and well done to boot ( http://calibremag.ca/home/2014/11/atrs-modern-hunter-non-restricted-black-rifle-goodness/ ). Instead I’ll lean on what I do and my understanding of firearms; hunting and field use. I’m an outfitter and guide on the North Coast of British Columbia, with a business based on coastal Grizzly Bear and Mountain Goat hunting. For this purpose I ordered a Ruger Gunsite Scout as a weatherproof knockabout rifle with a detachable magazine. The detachable magazine is an important tool for me, and the lack thereof my main misgiving with my “conventional” choices of double rifles and custom bolt actions. Reason being, as per our regulations in BC a magazine may not be loaded inside a firearm in any means of motorized conveyance, for me that is a light jet boat on the coastal rivers. Very frustrating when scouting for instance and hitting numerous sites a day, unloading a conventional bolt action and reloading every time you go in and out of the boat sand bar to sand bar. You may do better than I but I fumble and drop many a cartridge in the sand or river. A detachable box magazine clicking into place soon as you stand on the sand is a small pleasure I’m becoming extremely fond of.

Now it occurred to me, the ATRS Modern Hunter shared an awful lot with the little Ruger Scout. Both are available in .308, both are weatherproof, both use box magazines, however one shrinks to a smaller size than even my 16″ Ruger with the stock collapsed, for the penalty of a couple extra pounds of weight. As much as I appreciate the three position wing safety of my Rugers, Kimbers, and Winchesters there is no substitute for the modern, thumb activated switch / selector above the grip. It is as intuitive as a safety / selector gets, and there’s a reason essentially every modern design has used the design and placement. Now combine the aforementioned modularity of modern rifles… don’t like the grip shape? Change it. Want iron sights? Put them on the rail in 30 seconds. Need magazines? Shop a half dozen manufacturers. No matter what your heart believes about walnut and checkering, these are superb packages for field use… work guns, and as accurate as an off the shelf bolt action now thanks to ATRS and their Modern Hunter. Before the hunt I hit the range to sight in the package ATRS had sent, the rifle had a boresighted Nightforce on top. I was cautioned to only use match, FMJ, or robust polymer tipped ammunition and I halfway heeded the advice.

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The only ammunition available locally was Winchester Deer Season XP 150 grain, a large tipped fairly new round at least to me, and Power Max bonded 150gr hollow points, a fairly open / large hollow point. I fired sixty rounds total, all flawless in function, and startlingly accurate, and to my surprise the tips and hollow points fed to the chamber with extremely little deformation (I play with a lot of match M14s and Garands that chew such bullets). The picture of the two rounds on their boxes is of rounds cycled through the action aggressively to determine how much damage they receive- nearly none. I fired off the hard case with the butt unsupported, and rather hastily as I was sighting in the rifle right before jumping on the Beaver floatplane for the lift to our alpine lakes. Still I managed 1″ 3 shot groups at 100 with little trouble and a warm barrel, the rifle liking the Power Max 150 grain best. On bags, and with a cool barrel and more time, I would expect the rifle to half that for 3 shot groups- this is the most accurate semi-auto I’ve ever fired, hands down. Nothing else has even been close. Being direct impingement, there are little to no gas system vibrations affecting the barrel. Some call direct impingement old school and dirty; I have to vehemently disagree. For accuracy, it is still be best system devised, the light tube transferring the bare minimum vibrations to the barrel, and the fully free floated barrel inside the encompassing handguards the system is typically mated with further ensures the barrel is left to do its work without outside interference. Compare that to the torquing, levering slam of a piston system and it is easy to see, at least in my eyes, why this is the most accurate semi I’ve had the pleasure of operating.

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So, you have an agglomeration of superior ergonomics, modularity, and quality all made right here in Canada, and Non-Restricted. This is as real a hunting rifle as any Remington or Winchester, and it is as accurate to boot. And it stands as the very important sentry at the front line of our concern for the future of firearms here in Canada. It’s not if I’ll buy one from Rick, but when, and I suspect that should be fairly soon. Features and controls I should quickly run over, I haven’t gone in to depth as the other reviews have, and well everything is perfect. There is a left side, non-reciprocating charging handle that folds away, it will accept a gazillion AR system hand guards and rails, grips, stocks. It’s a rather simple affair to customize yours and be sure no other is like it. Ambi bolt release, with a button either side, conventional AR type selector perfectly placed, AR style mag release again perfectly placed. The receiver mating system ATRS devised, of a simple cross pin and a longitudinal centering pin at the rear of the receiver is ingenious. No slop, and recoil actual tightens the receiver mating as it pushes back on the tight fitting longitudinal pin. ATRS is offering carbon wrapped barrels to keep weight down, and while this model didn’t feature it, weight was perfectly in keeping with standard hunting rifles. No… I did not have my scale in the field, but again the other reviews will have this covered. In my safe’s future is a pencil or carbon barrel Modern Hunter I suspect, and I would urge you to put one in yours. They are available in the majority of the .308 case family, tailor it to your purposes from gophers to Moose. It’s an excellent rifle well worth its price of approximately $3,500 and up depending on options, and being modular and modern you can always outfit your base model with standard off the shelf accessories for a long term evolution plan.

Would I recommend this to a friend? A resounding yes.

The Holland & Holland Royal Double Rifle: A Love Letter To A Lost World

Royal Overview

What you own never matters, it is what you do that means something. For the moment, my possession of what is the finest firearm I’ll ever handle, or have the privilege of using means as much as the digital space this article occupies. That doesn’t mean however that I cannot share my impressions on courting the finest lady in the firearms world, at least that I’ll ever be able to know. I try to avoid brands… I despise anything written on my shirts unless they pay me to wear it, I’m attracted to the niche aspects of the world as I like to consider myself different than the mainstream even if my perspective is flawed, and I try to avoid being married to anyone’s conceptions. My favourite guns by this reasoning are customs, often that I have stocked and finished myself, an agglomeration of fine work and components from a multitude of sources to reach my own personal vision for the gun. It says something perhaps that my second favourite rifle has one piece remaining with which it left the factory, the receiver.

At 100 Yards Offhand, the Royal is Serviceable with Ancient Kynoch Ammunition- When the Ammunition Fires. 

Royal and Target

One place it is difficult to be such a customophile is my favourite type of rifle; the double. Don’t get me wrong I’m stocking a Greener right now, and working on a custom set of .470 barrels on a virgin monoblock for it, however with the value of these guns a lot less tear down and rebuild occurs. Not to mention the complications of regulation and soldering barrels and ribs together. Therefore, there is one tart and tempting niche interest in which I find my heart enslaved to brands; Jeffery, Rigby, Purdey, Gibbs, Westley Richards, Bland, GreenerHolland & Holland. Granted the very realm and reign of these names is the custom, or better put by the time we ascend to this level of craftsmanship, bespoke rifle. Just not for me, I cannot afford it. Perhaps that is fortunate as well, for while little has changed at some of those makers in methods, much has changed in ownership, location, and above all the country in which they are produced is not the same it once was.

Kynoch Ammo 375 Flanged

Hefting an English Best from the heyday of Great Britain means something to me. Naturally, I continue to have the utmost respect for the United Kingdom, however not just Great Britain has changed, the World has. When I hoist this Royal to my shoulder, I am wielding an arm made to the absolute highest standards, by rudimentary machines and largely by hand, constructed to hunt the richest expanses of Megafauna the rifle hunter has, and ever will know. The gun was made for, and in many ways of, a Lost World. No, it does not fit me perfectly with a length of pull that while respectable I find too short, its barrels are longer than I would specify, and… well that’s about it. A rather short and fortunate list of dirty laundry, seeing it typed out there. A few features glint in my favour and are exceedingly rare, most notably a single trigger. I greatly appreciate this feature for its elegance and effortless use, by popular conception it is largely criticized for Dangerous Game rifles; yet I appreciate it more daily despite having used double triggers on Dangerous Game in the recent past.

A Blast From the Past: A Breech Full of Vintage Kynoch

Breech full of Kynoch

The gold escutcheon plate on my rifle remains bare and free of initials… I’m not sure why one would hesitate to lay claim in carved gold to such a fair maiden. Who knows, perhaps, like me, they too were hesitant with the investment required to court her? Did they too consider all the adventures that could be funded by her parting, only to abscond with a lesser rifle in pursuit of heady and effluvious experiences afield in that richest of hunters’ Lost Worlds? My particular Royal was made in 1910, literally at the height of the Great White Hunter’s Africa, when herds that hunters today cannot imagine beat the red soil. Yet more Beasts of the Old World stood in India, a hunter’s paradise lost today, which much to many the modern hunter’s surprise hosted arguably even greater diversity in many ways than Africa. Indian Lions, Leopards, Tigers, Rhinoceros, Elephants, Antelope and Deer too, coexisting alongside Himalayan Bears, a close relative of the Grizzly and Brown Bear, and many other exotic and nearly unimaginable beasts wound into a coarse fabric of blood, grass, jungle and thornbrush none will experience again. For these last fleeting moments of millennia unchanged… horn, hoof, tooth, claw and tusk reigned over the many parts of the World, not man. Barely more than the present day population of China inhabited the entire globe. Corbett was just beginning his work hunting man-eaters who killed hundreds, Bell wasn’t even halfway into his exploits. It was scantly more than a century ago, time through which this Royal has travelled unharmed, and yet you or I will never see the likes of that Lost World again. Though we can hold a piece of it…

Rembrandt’s Lion Resting, ca. 1652

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Originally a .375 2 ½” Nitro Express, she was rechambered to .375 Flanged Nitro Magnum, reproofed, and fitted with scope mounts by Holland & Holland later in her life, the .375 Magnums we know today not arriving for two more years after her forging, filing, fitting, and firing. Within a drafty building her engraving was tapped out methodically in logarithmic spirals under soiled light by hand over benches seemingly far too crude and dirty to host such master crafting, her chopper lump forged barrels heated in a forge that shared much with its iron age ancestors, and the marrow of ancient hardwoods hewn at first crudely, and then delicately to shape for her field clothes. No… this is the rifle for me, for it was birthed in a World that still contained a Menagerie of Monsters in all their glory and beauty. Processes of fabrication were more difficult, time less valuable, and expectations far higher… That is where my rifle comes from, and while not tangible I sense its character, wonder at its secrets, and am humbled by the portal to my own Lost World in the spiral of its rifled bores. Even if it’s an inch too short… she’s my pick, and hell, preference.

Royal Sideplate Engraving

At the dusk of all this waxing-poetic, I must now allow the prose to wane into uncomfortable reality. I have fired my Royal, using period “For Holland’s Double Barrelled Rifles” Kynoch, the first to open the sealed box of ancient and seemingly perfectly preserved ammunition. For me, that beats uncorking the finest of wines, for while I appreciate wine I find the same effect in a fifteen dollar bottle as one who’s price makes me squirm in my worn leather chair. I must admit in this paragraph’s just found sensibility, that it appears the same applies to ammunition. Well accustomed to my preferred diet of handloads, and despite owning a large stash of new .375 Flanged Magnum brass and dies, I went against better judgement and opened and fired my lone box of Kynoch from the Old World. Well, two out of three times… one round failed to fire despite three strikes. The Old World really is gone afterall it seems. Two rounds have survived, and if I can deem it ethical, one may find its way into a coastal Grizzly / Brown Bear this fall, the cartridges literally resting atop the letter of authorization from the government as a pensive paperweight. Perhaps, then too, I will find the Old World truly lost, in the suitability of the firearm for the conditions and all the efforts required to preserve her, the unreliability of the ammunition, the slight misfit of her stock… And I won’t care. For I know what lies in my hands, and together, while I can afford her, we will experience the last scraps of the Lost World together; the intangible boiled down broth, a serum of another Time and World that truly does make experiences sweeter. Even when they go click instead of bang.

And you’re right, this article wasn’t really about a rifle…

The Offending Dud Kynoch Round

Dud Kynoch Round 2

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Old Books, New Surprises… A Time Capsule Mystery By Way Of Jim Corbett

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 I’m a sucker for old editions of hunting, exploration, and adventure classics, and having torn through WDM Bell I’m revisiting Jim Corbett with Man-Eaters of Kumaon, this find coming to me for $10. Corbett doesn’t receive half the credit he deserves and is likely my favourite classic non-fiction writer, his genre so focused to what he actually knows, his prose distinctly English and well organized, and his story telling curtly modest. He was, a man of the Empire. I could go on about his writing and books all night, I write this however to bring up an odd surprise that literally fell in my lap on board a plane this evening.

I purchased the book online from a bookseller with no information on its source, and I had suspected it was unread as I began it. The dust jacket shows its nearly three-quarters of a century worth of wear, however not a page is torn, worn, creased, or crimped. Soon after beginning to read the book, I found that I was wrong in my assessment. As I turned to page 33, I had to chuckle as a small time capsule fell into my lap. A ticket from the Philadelphia subway, stamped Tuesday, July 23rd no year (July 23rd, 1946 was a Tuesday, the year of print for the book I have, could be a later year though it seems likely), some apparently Polish postage stamps, and most curious a photo of a young man with a distinct widow’s peak and strong gaze in an industrial setting, I presume a ship or similar installation with outdoor light available.

I’d like to see what can be gleaned from this items, as my curiosity is too aggravated to let it be. Did the young man serve in the war? Was he a Polish immigrant to the US? To whom did the book belong, and where did it go? There are no notes, names, stamps, or marks anywhere I can find, neither on the books or the items. This is a real stretch, how far can it be taken? Likely we’re already here, but I wouldn’t sleep if we didn’t try. I’d like to find out who the young man with the gaze that cuts through time is… wouldn’t you? I feel quite lucky to have fallen upon a story within a story.

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Why Hunt? An Honest Reintroduction To Our Oldest Pursuit

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 An approximately 8,000 year old basalt biface fragment unearthed on an archaeology dig I took part in, 2007 British Columbia interior. 

Preface

This is an article I’ve been meaning to write for years, I have always been afraid of it however. This regards my passion, and many misunderstandings of it, and the risk that I go off the proverbial deep end and put my readers to sleep is high. I’ve done it so many times in personal conversation that I suppose the risk is worth taking. Perhaps ten percent of you will make it to the end of this, and I promise you that you will have learned something. I also hope, agree or disagree, you will find something in it worth discussing. Maybe, just maybe one or two of you might even rediscover something in yourself, not through my words but through your own thoughts that hopefully a handful of words can ignite… or reignite, from a depth and personal history you may not realize exists in you.

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Now one cannot presume to introduce another to hunting, for all of us have a lineage in hunting millions of years deep, that many have only just recently lost touch with. Hunting is in fact the basis of our success as a species, and fueled the biological development of our highly active brains. Who played hide and seek as a child, feeling the thrill of finding your quarry in the bushes? Or the excitement of tippy-toeing up on a sibling and spooking them? Those are hunting honed instincts, just as a cat instinctively chases a toy, we have play-hunted without knowing it since before our memories took hold. Why are our eyes on the front of our head, like cats and wolves, and not to the sides like horses and deer? We are predators, purpose built to focus our attention in one direction on our quarry, rather than the constant full circle scene surveying arrangement of prey animals like the deer. Now I’ll do my best to share hunting with those unfamiliar in the light it really should be seen in, not what is often portrayed in the media, many times by hunting’s own highest profile want-to-be celebrities who often do more harm than good. Just as there are drivers I’d rather not see on the road, so too there are hunters I’d rather not see in the field, or on the TV. Neither means we ought to stop driving, or hunting.

To be clear, I have the upmost respect for vegetarians and vegans that live their beliefs, the beautiful thing about our advanced societies is many live in a world of freedom and choice. I can understand that some find any death completely distasteful; though I must remind them kindly there is not a human alive who does not owe their very existence to hunting. Furthermore, everything dies, and contrary to Disney, those endings in nature do not arrive on a bed of lilies in old age. Now back to the point, we’ve evolved, to be sure and I’ll address this point as it is the most common counter argument to hunting, that being perhaps it is no longer necessary. I ask you to visit a commercial farm, where your meat, shoes, belts, eggs, cheese, milk, cotton, or even your vegetables comes from, and rationalize if this is truly a better way. If you wear runners and Lulu Lemon, visit an oil refinery. Introduced, non-native species are cultivated on land cleared of forests and their natural species in highly industrialized, rather brutal conditions to produce animal and plant food products just as an assembly line produces cars. This is somehow being touted as morally superior to hunting and hunters. I find it sad, and if I had less concern and more humour I might find it amusing, when I’m criticized for being in the hunting industry from the keyboard of computer produced with rare earth metals, mined by environmentally catastrophic methods in central Africa destroying wildlife. To make matters worse, the hate mail originates from inside the walls of a structure fabricated of the sawn carcasses of forests, on a computer powered by coal or dams, and on land stolen from wildlife; indeed all our cities at one time belonged long before people to wildlife.  How many animals have our urban areas, farms, mining, logging, airline travel, cars, vineyards, coffee plantations, and energy generation killed?

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 The number is innumerable, exponentially greater than all hunting combined. And that is ok. I am a realist. I recognize I appreciate a home, and the sacrifices required to have one, even if all I truly deserve is a tent. We cannot possibly hope to feed everyone today from hunting and gathering, with the current population and consumption rates. I have a good job flying helicopters, that supports my passion of hunting, and that too I can rationalize in its trade offs. I water a garden of largely non-native flowers that I don’t truly need, eat farmed as well as natural food, doing my best to support local products and reduce transport, and that too is ok. This set of comfortable human conditions is also where the trouble starts for hunting, we are veiled, completely shut out from the realities of what our lifestyles mean for the world and wildlife. When you eat a burger, you are purposefully sheltered as much as possible from the realities of how it was made. Who would order if cigarette package style warning labels with slaughterhouse and feedlot photos graced our menus? This disconnect is tragic, and one of the most admirable traits I find in hunters is this disconnect doesn’t exist. They’ve seen where food comes from, how it is made, and the sacrifices. They’ve witnessed and better yet become part of the cycle of harvest and production right from its most humble, natural roots. This is a point I’d like to take an opportunity to extend an appreciative thanks to a group I never thought I could find a common ground amongst; hipsters and “Greenies”.

Kitlope Rainforest

It seems one of the fastest growing segments today of hunters is young, educated urbanites, who have come to realize it is morally preferable to remove a mature animal from a natural setting, given proper consideration to conservation and sustainable quotas, than to consume protein from an industrial farm. Soon I’ll explain how properly targeted hunting actually improves a species’ health and viability, a concept that seems far fetched until it is explained. Those of us who grew up around commercial farming have seen the darker side of the protein source debate first hand, as well. Since this reenvisioning of hunting is already occurring, admittedly to my grateful surprise, why bother to write this article? Well there is an awful lot left to explain, as I see nearly daily in the comments I reject on my website and youtube videos suggesting everything from gutting my family to more polite shock that hunting is even permitted in places like Africa. African wildlife is under pressure, right? I just mentioned it in reference to the rare earth metals mines earlier in this very article myself. Yes. Hunting them therefore must be asinine then, no? Wrong. One of the best things happening for wildlife in Africa today is hunting. Before you brush me off as a biased, industry owned snake all I ask is you finish the article, you won’t regret it and will likely find yourself surprised. The reasoning is simple, the results proven and undeniable, and the considerations will turn everything you thought you knew on its head. I promise.

Gold Label and 4 Pheasants PROPER colour

Take the White Rhinoceros, as is occurring again, a flare up in poaching is threatening a species that nearly recovered. Here is also an opportunity to examine poaching versus hunting, two very different considerations. Poaching is the straight, wasteful killing of an animal, without due consideration to conservation, selective harvest for mature males, or seasons to balance and regulate pressure. Hunting has actually greatly increased the numbers of White Rhino, by creating a value in maintaining private land outside the parks for the White Rhinoceros and other species instead of simply replacing it with cattle ranches, as has happened in much of Africa. The value of Rhino to hunters has undeniably created an interest in sustainability, to prevent the industry collapsing in the future, and the meat is literally scraped to the last ounce by the local populations who need protein more than any others. The meat is being provided, as with cattle, however the land and endemic species are being preserved in their natural state unlike the cattle ranch, and the Rhino is far more valuable than cattle with six-figure range hunt fees. Ultimately the hunting of this rare species is providing habitat, an interest and motivation to maintain healthy populations, and excellent financial benefits to regions that may otherwise turn to uncontrolled poaching for horn and tusk with no sustainability or future except a dust-blown cattle ranch.

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Below is a photo of a dividing line between two areas of South Africa, in the Kalahari. The greener side on the right is a natural game inhabited hunting area; the dreaded “canned” or fenced hunt so vilified in the media, and sadly even amongst hunters through lack of understanding. The beaten down area on the left is the alternative, a cattle ranch. The local populations need to make a living and it WILL be one or the other as no other industry is possible here. Most morally would support the cattle ranch as a wholesome activity and use of land, and deplore the fenced hunting area, despite being larger than nearly any area unfenced hunters in North America will frequent on a hunt at typically tens of thousands of acres and beyond. The Whitetail hunters watching farmer’s fields and brush rows who oppose “high fence hunting” need to realize it is typically more free than the farmed areas they hunt, and more wild to boot. The fences are there largely to protect the great investment of effort the animals inside represent, and more than anything protect the natural species inside from the outside, rather than assist the hunters inside. Would you be the one to legislate destroying all the natural species behind the fences of the hunting area, and prescribing that somehow the ranch that wipes them out and replaces them with non-native cattle is superior? I implore you to remember everything dies, and it’s not an ugly thing to support such an area full of a wealth of natural species just because they are hunted. The cattle die too, and with them ALL of the natural fauna and much of the flora.

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Now to further explore sustainable harvest, as we know in humans the females are the better part of the species; and as long as my wife doesn’t read this I’ll admit this is true. In most species, the harvest of mature males is not a loss to the breeding capacity as one male can and does breed multiple females. Removing a dominant male can actually improve herd health and has been scientifically proven to do so, by introducing new breeding genetics as younger males breed for the first time, having been held off by the mature males who often are the only ones to mate. In what is to humans ancient history, when herds grew without bounds and unlimited resources, this was a natural population limiter that today can do more harm than good. In some species, males can even over mature and hold off the next generation of males for a long time after they’ve become impotent or it’s near equivalent by breeding less actively themselves. On the other side of the coin, the limited habitat and truncated areas caused by human activity can for other species cause them to outbreed their resources in area, water, and food. This is when the harvest of females and young can be well advised, as occurs in many species when a population decrease is desired such as during the Chronic Wasting Disease epidemic in Canadian and American deer populations. These balances are maintained, researched and funded by hunters fees.

 Cooper, I, and Pheasant PROPER Colour

Now for a polarizing species close to home the Grizzly Bear, which I hunt along with Mountain Goats as an outfitter on the North Coast of British Columbia and will be guiding hunts for this fall. Mature, and over mature males will quite brutally kill those cute bear cubs as a natural population control, not the picture that most envision. There is nothing wrong with this, just as there is nothing wrong with hunting those mature males, nature is simply far more harsh than most understand. Removing these males can actually increase the numbers of bears, this isn’t industry propaganda but well understood science used by biologists with the BC government to maintain the health of the population. Building an industry that works in conjunction with government and proper management to selectively harvest mature individuals can not only benefit the species, it creates an industry developing strong economic benefit off what… an intact ecosystem and nature. Hunting areas like mine are vehemently opposed to oil tankers, mines, unsustainable logging and habitat degradation and go to court to oppose it. You’ve just been introduced without knowing it to the oft attacked “trophy hunting”, which is in reality one of the greenest industries on earth. “Trophy hunting”, should more appropriately likely be referred to as hyper-selective hunting, as the hunters are after mature males, the exact animals that when selected can work to maintain the vitality and health of the species. Just because you find death distasteful, as all of us do, does not mean hunting should stop. The “natural death” is far more severe for the mature males than being hunted, and I’ve seen it. Typically, an old bear with rotten teeth will starve to death and the birds will start picking holes in his side before he’s even truly gone. The run up to it can last months, and is a terrible thing to see. Again, this is Mother Nature, a beautifully harsh Master, and again there is nothing wrong with that; just as there is nothing wrong with or unnatural about hunting. In fact compared to most of our modern pursuits, including us sitting in front of these screens, it is exceedingly natural.

Grizzly Kitlope

Back to poaching, and what was called hunting in such times as the late 19th and early 20th centuries before an understanding of conservation was studied and developed that set the stage for much of the negative light hunting today receives. That era of unchecked, unmanaged harvest was pure and simple poaching. Often viewed romantically, and I risk offending some here but I’m forced to be honest, massive shooting expeditions in the “heyday” of African hunting were as we know today unsustainable, and unknowingly at the time shared much with the uncontrolled poaching we see today. Teddy Roosevelt, one of the icons of modern conservation participated in just such a shooting expedition for the Smithsonian, so let me clarify. They didn’t know any differently, the resource appeared infinite, troubles and friction between locals and wildlife were rife, and several of these men swung completely after their experiences to become some of the most ardent conservationists the world has known, Mr. Roosevelt included though he began well before his Safaris. He spearheaded the modern selective harvest that brought many species back from historic lows. From the National Parks Service, After he became President in 1901, Roosevelt used his authority to protect wildlife and public lands by creating the U.S. Forest Service and establishing 51 Federal Bird Reservations, 4 National Game Preserves, 150 National Forests, 5 National Parks”, and he ultimately protected 230,000,000 acres of public lands to become known as the Conservationist President. Another, far less known name, one of whom’s books sits beside me is Jim Corbett. Mr. Corbett cut his teeth as a hunter of man-eaters in India, and an honest one called on in times of crisis by the government, not the type that miraculously came home with the story. Ultimately, he too turned ardent conservationist with what he witnessed, instrumental in forming the 520 square kilometer Jim Corbett National Park in India to protect the Bengal Tiger.

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It is these ethos modern hunters largely do, and should follow, not TV celebrities hawking camo Under Armour. I know for myself hunting is my absolute passion, and it having been talked disparagingly of in my family it often felt like a dirty interest for many years. Once old enough to thoroughly research its ins and outs, I was able to make up my own mind, and decide how it related to my own life. Since I was a boy, an undeniable urge to hunt and fish has resided within me, absolute instinct. I positively love the wilds, the animals especially the large and iconic ones, and I would be crushed to see them gone as they are in so many urban settings and a surrounding large swath… oddly where most of my most severe critics reside. My love for the wilds is entwined with my desire to be part of them, and hunting is as natural a part as can be rationalized. One must remember as alluded to earlier, there are no happy endings in nature, Mother Nature is a stern, unforgiving entity that yields no compassion, following one simple and noble rule; Everything Becomes Something Else. The bear cub killed by the large male feeds other bears, eagles, wolves, and a slough of smaller species down to the insects. The salmon pulled from the stream feed first the bears, and then the birds, and then the giant trees as fertilizer. The hunter feeds his family, and the locals with his meat, the guts and refuse going back into the natural system. We can be part of this system, and intelligently so as to actually see benefits from maintaining the wilds. Hunters and fishermen in the field, and outfitters and guides doing business are one of the strongest arguments for preserving unprotected government land from industrial use and development. The hunter is Mother Nature’s ally, not her adversary as so often portrayed. I thank you for your attention in reading.

-Angus Morrison

Wild Coast Outfitters

angus@wildcoastoutfitters.com

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Ruger’s Forgotten Gold Label: Everything Its Name Suggests

Gold Label and 4 Pheasants PROPER colour

One of the few guns I own essentially immune from sale to fund a hunt, yet also one in particular I have some of the least history with, is my Ruger Gold Label shotgun. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve flown all over the world packing a Gold Label, just not my current one. The Gold Label is a side by side, round action game gun chambered in 12 gauge 3”, made in perfect keeping with the style of English upland guns. Bill Ruger Sr was a patron of British arms of the field, and paid homage to his passion through the design and production of the Ruger No.1 Farquharsen-style falling block, and the Safari Magnum and Express made in the style of the great British sporting magazine rifles, and last but I believe most the Gold Label.

#2505′s First Bird, and First Shot, my Wife Captured it With a Photo.

Cooper, I, and Pheasant PROPER Colour

The Gold Label was produced for only two years from 2004 thru 2006, rumour has it that is was sold at a loss as a flagship product, and its almost immediate cut from production seems to confirm that. Producing a quality, well fit, balanced, and light double is far harder than one might suppose. Mr. Ruger also attempted to introduce an affordable double rifle, and this didn’t make it a fraction as far as the Gold Label. While a double is a simple design to the casual observer, it actually requires tighter tolerances and more than fitting than just about any other firearm mechanism, and when regulating is factored in more time than any other; at least to do it well. The Gold Label was done well.

Weighing barely six pounds thanks to ultra thin, hammer forged barrels and a roughly 20 gauge or even smaller round action frame size, the svelte Gold Label shipped with either a straight English style stock, or an American style pistol grip, both stocks feature a splinter fore end that is so un-Ruger it’s startling. There is nothing beefy about this gun, everything is svelte, extremely light, and elegant. Now this does not mean it isn’t strong, for strong it is more so than most by good measure. Where many competing double shotguns, especially of this weight class, are hewn with 2 ¾” chambers and designed for upland loads of lead shot, the Gold Label was purpose built from the get go to be a quality shotgun of no limitations.

A Penny On The Frame To Illustrate Just How Svelte It Is.

Gold Label with Penny

Steel shot, Magnum, 3”, buckshot, slugs… all fine with the Gold Label, while it may not feel like a Ruger it is stout like one. The ultra thin stainless chokes add an extra amount of versatility without swelling the muzzles into hideous bell bottoms, as well. They are the most low profile chokes I’ve enjoyed using, and they work very well. The guns come out of the box smooth, and this is my second to break in. There is no grit and no hang ups, the selector for the single selective trigger is crisp, and as is the fashion the safety is automatic. These controls are combined into the one switch on the tang as is also the usual fashion. Some like double triggers, and I own quite a few doubles, I’m blessed to have even just added a Holland & Holland Royal to the stable and it too wears a single selective trigger, they are just my preference. I can’t argue against double triggers either mind you and also appreciate their merits, however the Gold Label’s setup is perfection for me.

Gold Label Action Broken Open

Now I mentioned that this is not a gun I have a particularly impressive amount of history with, the hunt depicted here, well it was my first one with it. My first shot with it, brought down a Pheasant on a lovely, easy descending downslope shot that our beagle flushed from tall grass, see the second photo in this article, my wife kindly captured the moment. A fitting occasion for its first time outdoors, the interior British Columbia pheasant hunt let me put the Gold Label through its paces again after having been off the trigger of it for a couple years. I had another Gold Label, a first year gun number #830, which I sold to a doctor on the prairies quite involved in wingshooting. I had acquired a second year gun, number #2505, that year simply because I like the gun so much and couldn’t resist when one surfaced as they so rarely do. Well the realities of far too frequent returns to Africa and fuelling my true passion, hunting, attacked the duplicates in my collection first naturally. Deciding to part with the fired one rather than the unfired, as they command the same price, I let go number #830, with whom I had travelled quite extensively.

#830 with Francolin, One of My Favourite Game Birds
Francolin and Gold Label

#830 was good to me, and bagged dozens of Francolin, Sand Grouse, and my favourite, Guinea Fowl, in Africa. One of those “ready” guns you can pick up along with ammunition and just hit the field, and connect with, even if out of practice #830 was an old friend. Feeling an irrational pang of remorse on selling it I contacted the good Doctor and he happily agreed to exchange guns for my unfired #2505 when he returned from his winter home. Well time passed on and spring came and I simply neglected to get in touch with him, mellowing on my sentimentality the whole while and deciding that #2505 was as good as #830, heck even the wood’s figure now caught my eye perhaps a bit more than my old flame’s. It would be around a couple years before I hauled out a Gold Label again due to young sons, and the employ of loaner guns on hunts. Then this fall I decided it was time to christen #2505, and my son’s Winchester 9410 for that matter.

#830 Working in South-Central Africa

Gold Label and I With Guinea Fowl

The joy of any round action is in the carrying, and we walked aplenty on these Pheasants for they were quite content to sit put. The dog had to get within range of nearly taking the bird itself before they would flush, and a lack of breeze didn’t help Cooper either. All the more enjoyable the hunting, then. The longer, and more challenging the better, and a crisp, still fall day in the interior of British Columbia with my son is one of those days I’m happy to see stretch on. Every time a bird was flushed, well the excitement exploded as you had become quite content and pleased strolling the meadows, then “OH YES! This is why we’re here!” and in those moments a properly balanced game gun will reign supreme. When you are unaware and a cock pops from the stalks of straw coloured grass, bounding from that pool of wonderful damp earthy scent at your feet and you’re given that shot of adrenaline to kick you into action, you react and take down the bird without actively considering the gun. Put a 7 1/2lb, stiff, sodden gun in its place and you will immediately know the pleasure a svelte game gun without a sharp corner on its body offers.

Gold Label and Guinea Fowl

Don’t take me as a snob, I beg, for I just used an ancient 870 and even more well worn Browning automatic loaner on Doves and Ducks in Mexico, and frankly flat out loved every minute. Hunting is great, hunting with great tools, well that just adds to an already wonderful recipe. It’s a lot like relations with the fairer sex really, really, but I think we can all use our imaginations on the variations in partner’s attributes available there and keep this article in the green. Suffice to say sometimes with beauty comes pleasure. Well, the Gold Label is a true beauty in fit, finish, appearance, and application. She is a millionaire heiress of a beauty on a blacksmith’s budget, an arrangement that like all good things couldn’t last. I implore you that if you get the chance to own one, take it.

The Gold Label With Friends in the Dark ContinentGold Label on Chest in Tent

Now, as a bit of a sour finish and touch of reality, there are a few shortcomings that arrive with being the first of the breed, and offered at a price one can afford. One, the wood fit while better than even a $6,000+ Sauer I owned and reviewed recently, still is not perfect. Wood is proud of the metal slightly, as is normal today, though it is very tight for a production gun, especially for a double that retailed at $2,000 in 2004. The only dark trait and nasty habit she has in my opinion, and believe me every beauty has them from Italian cars to beautiful women, is that if the action is not opened completely will fail to re-cock one barrel from time to time. Well lets be honest quite often really, it caught me a few times on the second barrel on my first hunt with it. Then I realized that opening the action until you felt the stop remedied the situation completely, and I have not experienced it since. This irksome trait of hers aside, and surely it would have been fixed had there been a Gold Label Mark II, she’s perfect; or close enough you’ll believe she is when you hold her. Oh… and her bottom ribs are seldom found lying 100% flat, more like 90% on both of mine. That’s her beauty spot. Good hunting and thanks for reading folks, if you get a crack at a Gold Label, take it.

 

 

Beautiful Nightmares and The Stopping Rifles

Beautiful Nightmares

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There Are Hunting Rifles, and Then There Are Stopping Rifles – Part I. 

All Photos By The Morrisons, less the Rembrandt, please do not use without permission. 

Thanks to Stirling and Doug for filling out the rifle selection in this article, and making it possible. Thanks to Big Matt for offering a nearly 300lb human brick wall of a recoil absorber as a test medium.

Note: With good fortune I will be using Stopping Rifles this winter on Rhinoceros, and with more luck Elephant, and will report back on further and much more fleshed out thoughts after. So far my experience with them is limited, though I’ve used the .375 aplenty on toothy, horned, and clawed creatures. So I hope I can adequately relay some of the emotions and sensations.

 

Facing the Music

I’ve left a good deal of work unfinished, or perhaps better said I opened a subject, and have completely failed to reasonably conclude it. In my last article, “Fauna and Weaponry of Another Age: The Tools and Range of The Megafauna Hunter”, I quite sheepishly crab walked out of an important section of the subject of Tools. That is to say, I stopped at .375, throwing sideways compliments further, but rested at my preferred chambering of .375 as the most reasonable choice. The time has come to face the music.

There are of course larger, and arguably better choices… for the man who can handle them; I was not sure if I qualified frankly. These options are not for the faint of heart, and I don’t mean to discuss your .375 H&H alternatives, that is anything medium bore including the .404 but perhaps not the .416, but rather those very narrow purpose, true monster guns that throw accelerated bolts of metal weighing 500 grains or more at speeds considered respectable amongst men’s rifles. These are your .458 Magnums, your .470 and .500 Nitro Expresses, your .500 Jeffery and .505 Gibbs, upward to the .577 and .600 Nitro Expresses in the extreme.

Now take your average first dangerous game hunt in Africa, the hunter most often pursuing Cape Buffalo armed with a .375. Almost universally, the rifle performs admirably and results in a clean kill- just as it did in my very own first dangerous game hunt. The hunter goes home with great memories, and the lingering, almost guilty internal question of whether dangerous game is really all that dangerous? And do monster rifles sporting bores of .45 and up, charged with a hundred and more grains of powder truthfully have a logical place in hunting, or are they mere adventure and bravado expressed in brass tubular form?

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Or Perhaps they are bygones and hangovers of unsound theory from an era of ballistics past, since overtaken by our better bullet construction, far more consistent and higher performance propellants, and higher velocities? You’ll never find the answer on the internet, nor of course by that reason can I hope to answer it here. The answer lay in the exceptional and rare circumstances when things go very, very wrong in adventurous circumstances. Like many of curious motivations, I still seek those circumstances, and the one time I was truly charged I was not holding anything near the right tool for the job. All I gained was a story of how fast an incredibly awake man can put a tree between him and a beast, while trying to cover ground in sloppy boots. That’s another story and one I’m not fond of.

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Now few will ever see, or experience the realm and purpose of these great guns, that being when the noise starts and I don’t mean gunfire. It is when a sudden rush of cracking twigs and swishing brush explodes out of the jesse, alders, willows or scrub… this I have experienced without the triumphant ending of standing over the beast, barrel(s) smoking. So please note that while the following depictions of the moments are in earnest, they are without true knowledge of the fantastic culmination. Like a soldier who sought combat his whole career and was knocked out tripping over a root as his comrades rushed to the fire, my story is one I actually prefer not to tell. There is nothing dishonourable in it, I assure you, and nothing remarkable either other than being caught completely off guard and fully realizing through a surge of adrenaline that was “it” and I wasn’t ready.

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It is an awkwardly uncomfortable realization, and some may know what I mean. You can spend a lifetime, which I have not yet, as a travelling hunter sticking your nose where it shouldn’t be and getting away with it, often with no indications “it” was even close. Even the few Professional Hunters I can now call friends say the same, you become so blasé about the game and the risks you almost cease to believe they are fully real. Then your reality is turned on its head in an instant and you realise you do not enjoy the control of your surroundings you presumed you did. For those equipped and prepared for that moment, this can end in the greatest moment of their hunting careers. For others, such as myself thus far, you gain nothing but a reckoning and uncomfortable subject to ponder those strange nights at 23:45 in your armchair.

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Now for those that have been there or wish to through the same unsound reasoning a deluded few share, the Elephant’s trumpet, the thumping of hooves, the guttural warning rumble of a Lion that shreds and tears into a frenzied launch of furious movement is a drug. We crave it even though most never experience it physically, for all who share the dysfunction experience it those late, cold quiet nights with a neglected and warming drink hanging in hand. You know that moment when one can feel their eyes dilate, the rush of coolness as if hit by an icy blast when covered in sweat despite standing in thirty-five above. You see when there are but moments before a deadly, and hell-bent creature sets horn, hoof, tooth, or tusk into thee there is no such thing as enough firepower- in either imagination or real life.

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Every boy inside every man has to be able to dream with me here and picture the situation in a far-flung corner of a very wild place. In this nightmare of a wonderful dream you would upgrade to the largest possible weapon the split second before the trigger is pulled when your adversary breaks cover for you, if possible. I’ve been blessed to be in that situation several times, without the darkly beautiful finale. Recoil suddenly does not matter, muzzle blast is forgotten, sighting is instinctive when the reflex of fight is triggered… Indeed the heady stuff of beautifully dark dreams. It is in these special minority of events an entirely different class of rifles comes into its scarce limelight, whether that limelight is real to you or merely appreciated. These tools of enormous power require far more practice and resolve to wield effectively than standard hunting arms, more money and hassles to feed, and overall a dedication to the wild and curious side of life. These instruments are the ultimate physical expression of dangerous game’s most pivotal and defining moments; the Stopping Rifles.

.30-06, .375 H&H, .450 Rigby, .47o Nitro, and .505 Gibbs

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The Rifles

Now these chunks of wooden and steeled reality that underpin some Misadventurers’ dreams are one of the few things we can all actually hold, handle, sweat upon and use from those beautiful nightmares. This is why hundreds of Elephant rifles are sold for every Elephant hunted, and that isn’t a shameful concept, it’s a wonderful illustration of the fire of imagination and curiousity alive and well. Now on to reality, and numbers. Arguably the .416s could be included in this cadre and I agree, though conventionally a stopping rifle begins at .45 and up, very much outside the typical power range of the conventional hunting rifles. I actually view the .416 Rigby as slightly superior to the .458 Winchester, but I’ve met so many Professional Hunters who use the .458 Winchester I cannot in my relative ignorance deny its well informed following, nor can I deny its 20th century Elephant history.

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Therefore the base of the range is outlined by the .416 Rigby and .458 Winchester Magnum, moderate and pleasant cartridges among this bunch, and the chain of stopping cartridges is anchored by the .577 Nitro in standard usage, and .600 Nitro, .585 Nyati, and the like amongst drunkards, writers, and the brave. This review and article will focus on the standard spectrum of Stopping Rifles, and those which I myself have found in the field in particular. They also happen to be those which I can source, though I managed to procure .577 ammunition for the future, and have a .577 double rifle slowly coming together on the workbench, so expect more on this later. Amongst PH’s rifles I have personally walked alongside in the field in Africa, though there are many more passing introductions with interesting rifles in camp, the following are the handful I’ve seen at work for days at a time.

 

Professional’s Stopping Rifles Encountered in the Field in Africa,

 

.375 H&H Model 70 Controlled Round Feed Stainless (“Pre-64” / Classic style).

This is a notable rifle and stopped a Cape Buffalo charge at spitting distance in 2010 in Zimbabwe for the PH. The closest call by far of his career, he normally carries a .458 Lott but grabbed the .375 that day for whatever reason.

 

.458 Lott converted Model 70 Controlled Round Feed (“Pre-64” / Classic style).

Veteran rifle of many Cape Buffalo hunts and follow ups in Zimbabwe, it escorted me and my .375 on my first Dangerous Game hunt.

 

.458 Winchester Magnum Zastava Mauser, customized (new stock, sights, tweaks).

The owner and PH said he would not do this again, but would rather buy a higher-grade rifle that is ready to work. Nonetheless this rifle has followed up and given mercy to many head of stray game and has worked in Zambia as I understand it on Lion and others.

 

.458 Winchester Magnum FN Mauser.

Veteran rifle of many Kalahari Lion hunts and held against charges, mock and real.

 

.470 Nitro Express Double Rifle, custom South African maker.

Notable rifle, shot a Lion off a fellow PH in the Kalahari in 2013. As a side note Boddington also hunted Lion with these gentlemen alongside this rifle recently.

 

Rifles in Hand

For this article, I procured the following, with very appreciative thanks noted to the owners of the two kindly loaned gems. My scale was unavailable, and I don’t want to guess, so weights will have to be updated in later. Note the balance points, what seems a slight shift in balance point yields an enormous difference in how the rifles feels, as a rule across the range below the closer to the butt it balanced, the better it felt and faster it snapped to a target, and transitioned target to target.

 

Merkel 140 AE .375 H&H Double Rifle. Automatic selective ejection, 24” barrels, overall length 40 1/8”, balance point at 18 1/8” from butt, the fastest rifle for two rounds in this test.

Merkel 140 AE .470 Nitro Express Double Rifle. Automatic selective ejection, overall length 40 1/8”, 24” barrels, balance point 18 ½” from butt, the second fastest by only a smidge though delivering much more payload, and deepest penetrating rifle in the test. Doug’s rifle, generously loaned.

Ruger RSM .375 H&H Controlled Round Feed. 4+1 cartridge capacity, overall length 43 ¾”, 23” barrel, balance point 21 3/8” from butt, likely the fastest bolt action in the test, but not by much.

Ruger RSM .505 Gibbs Controlled Round Feed. 2+1 cartridge capacity, overall length 43 ¾”, 23” barrel, balance point 21 1/2” from butt, lovely rifle of surprisingly reasonable shooting characteristics, and barely slower than the .375. Most powerful rifle in the test. Stirling’s rifle, generously loaned.

Empire / GMA .450 Rigby Magnum Mauser. 4+1 cartridge capacity, overall length 41 ½”, 20 ½” barrel, balance point 19 ¾” from butt. The second most powerful, and my least favourite rifle of the test, it jammed on a blunt nosed solid once on me, which you can note in the video, and I do not trust it.

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Now, I delved into relatively in depth reasoning for my preference for double rifles on Dangerous Game in the previous article, “Fauna and Weaponry of Another Age: The Tools and Range of The Megafauna Hunter”, so I’ll avoid turning that ground again. I will say and refresh that I am an iron sights hunter, and it is all I’ve hunted big game with on my own rifles, ever. There is something wonderful about irons, and how vividly you’re in the moment, how well they work up close, which are my favourite ranges, and the challenge in using them far. I love carrying them with their lack of protrusions, durability and resistance to losing zero in rough handling, and the rapidity of putting them to work on a target.

Therefore I will exhibit a preference for rifles with good irons, and you may note that here. So there are my two biases; irons and doubles, you can likely throw out my opinions on bolt actions now that you know if these are your preference, as I can neither argue nor agree with you effectively. I figure by sharing that up front perhaps you’ll be able to better glean what you wish from my thoughts on the guns. Now I like to think I use a bolt action effectively as well, and have done so a fair bit in Africa and home in Northern Canada as these were the second type of rifle I was introduced to, following my grandfather’s Winchester lever gun, and my most hunted action type. Here is a relative comparison of the two styles at dangerous game ranges on wooden blocks which I am tipping.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=whONoc09xF0

 

Part IIWhat It’s Like to Unleash a Monster

If you’re anything like me, you’ll approach a .505 Gibbs like you would a neighbour’s senile Rottweiler. It’s probably not going to hurt you but it’s big, it has a reputation, and few want to dance with it. There is a bit of panache in that, a true Monster Rifle, the tool one fetches to slay the biggest, nastiest beasts on the planet in the worst situations imaginable. This class of gun is designed to bark when things have gone wrong for the client, and often enough by that point, for the Professional Hunter too even if it’s only ensuring a wounded animal isn’t lost. That big half-inch range hole is the period at the end of a very adventurous story, at least that is it’s purpose, one needs to properly wield it to allow that period to grace the tail end of a happy ending. Without getting mythical, for these are only guns, let me describe my introduction to the .505 Gibbs. Please bear with me the path winds a bit.

While the boy that hunted past the creek on his farm still inextinguishably dwells inside me, today the creek has turned into the Atlantic and my favoured hunting fields lay in Africa, though British Columbia, Canada, with its Grizzlies, Sheep, Goats, Wolves, Cougar, Lynx, Moose, Elk, and Wood Bison is my home and cannot be ignored. Yes, I left out too many of British Columbia’s species, but I could do a whole lifetime of articles on hunting just here and must curtail myself to remain on point. One thing certainly changed in that first trip to Africa, and all those that follow, as compared to my adventures in the back meadows at the farm. As a matter of fact, a glimmer of the adventure, as strange as this will sound, was lost chasing dangerous game amongst the thorns of the Dark Continent.

You see, the big difference in the meadows past the creek was that I was king. Master of my domain, feared by even the fearsome Coyote, recognized immediately by the Crows, and avoided like the plague by the Deer. Perhaps most importantly, the hunting brought me solitude, I figured things out on my own, and that was the most empowering feeling a boy can enjoy. I was blessed to grow up that way, in a place just safe enough to let me disappear into the woods a whole day, and just wild enough to give me plenty to chase. The arms back then were smaller, first a slingshot, then a Crossman .177, and finally a Cooey .22. When I was burning nitrocellulose in that Cooey I thought I had the hammer of Thor in my hands, that fascination has grown slightly out of control as you’ll see.

Now Africa, granted a much wilder set of meadows replete with the beasts I dreamed existed past the big boulder by the spring in the back meadow. Every step of the way in Africa until you become a repeat customer, and if you’re lucky friend, you’ll be guided and assisted. Let’s take Buffalo as mentioned early in the article. You’ll be expected to be a proficient marksman, with an appropriately powerful rifle typically a .375 H&H, and if you have a sense of class a .404 Jeffery, or for the properly competent or over-confident a .458 and up. You will not however be expected to carry larger than medium bore unless it’s a curiousity of yours, or you’re an experienced hand and choose to do so in sound judgment, in which case it is of course welcome. That case is unfortunately rare and PH’s loathe nothing more I assure you than an ill-practiced and impeccably armed man of means with a rifle he’s more afraid of than the Buffalo. It makes their job interesting, and just like in my profession, interesting is to be avoided at all costs. Except for just enough perhaps to flesh out a couple good stories, but that’s another matter.

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So, rather content with the client-PH relationship, or better said I’ve accepted it and appreciate what the PH does, I came to view my extremely lethal .375 as near ideal. Recoil is extremely manageable to most any experienced shooter, it can kill absolutely anything, ammunition is as available as clean water and sometimes more so, and the rifles are affordable and of manageable weight. A man can own one in stainless, single shot, double rifle, push feed and controlled feed, plastic stocks, junk wood or Claro, of European, Japanese, American, or even African manufacture… It is the small block Chevy of the African hunting world, and I assure you it came to be there upon its merits. So why leave such a lovely agglomeration of the middle ground, the best all rounder I’ve ever shouldered? It all changed when a fellow named Cam and I started talking about arranging an Elephant hunt in the still very much raw and wild jungles of West Africa. There was going to be a difference here, in an exchange we’re trading the services of my day job flying helicopters and I’ll be doing this hunt on my own; the kid on the farm is back in the pasture. Cameroun, or Anglicized Cameroon, is the last place to my knowledge Chasse Libre is possible on Elephant, that is self-guided hunting.

This changed everything. No longer was I to be guided by a consummate professional, I would be chasing the most dangerous animal I’m ever likely to hunt, and doing it on my own in some of the most challenging conditions to hunt such a creature. The Elephants I’m chasing are also likely the most dangerous in Africa, responding to pressure with extreme aggression and then melting into jungle thick enough at ten yards they are gone. I am also booked to hunt Rhinoceros this winter, a creature that along with Elephant truly stretches the .375 if anything can, as these two living-Pleistocene creatures barely belong in this age. Suddenly greater than .375 started to seem sensible, and I was blessed quickly be in touch with hunting associates who could help. Stirling was incredibly kind and generously loaned a .505 Gibbs RSM of his, a light as far as .505’s go, slim conversion that points wonderfully. A kindred adventurous soul, he happily agreed to the possibility of it going overseas for Rhinoceros. I took the ferry with my son to Vancouver Island, and met with him and his family to pick up the rifle. He’s a lucky man, with a beautiful rifle and more beautiful family, living in one of the most beautiful places in Canada. Thanks again, your generosity is appreciated and won’t be forgotten.

Now, on to a subject I addressed in the Megafauna article recently, that of the power required to physically kill Megafauna, in this case Elephant and Rhinoceros in particular. Truth be told, as anyone who knows anything about Bell is informed, it can be done handily with a .275 Rigby, .303 British, .318 Westley Richards, or even .256 Mannlicher. Bell however both lived in a different era, one of unpressured Elephants in enormous herds with many opportunities from which he could select, and he was a literal surgeon of Elephants whose experience none will ever be able to match; most especially so I. Even Bell, if you read his work, was on shaky footing for a good while early in his career, taking vitals shots and not the famous brain shot that now holds his name, with many a long follow up. I very much recognize I am on no better footing than that early Bell, for he had significant experience on big game having hunted wild meat for camps in Northern Canada, very close to my home range oddly enough, prior to his African ventures.

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Also I have no illusions about the conditions I’ll be facing these Elephants in, thick jungle, Bell’s least favourite conditions for Elephant hunting. Finally, Bell wrote of dropping successive bulls one after another in open areas, while the others looked on confused and unaware of the danger. Times have changed. The Elephants of today respond viciously to pressure, especially in the forests of West Africa, and present far more fleeting and inferior shot opportunities. Under these new considerations, and given more than a century of various experiences relayed through the writings and verbal knowledge of hundreds of well versed minds on the subject of rifles for Megafauna, it is an absolute conclusion to me that bigger is better, if you can handle it. Heavy cartridges are just more reliable killers in my experience, especially from inopportune angles. Hunting dangerous game, especially Elephants in jungle, has about as much in common with hunting Whitetails and the classical shot placement possibilities most of us grow up with as fishing does to swimming, and as such you’ll likely see me hunting with a .470.

 

The Beasts at Work

Until very recently, I had thought the dark things above .375 beyond me, that changed in a heartbeat when I caught myself wholly interested in how a penetration target stack below reacted to the .375, .450 Rigby, .470 Nitro, and .505 Gibbs respectively. When we were surprised by the .505’s results, I immediately reshot the stack to confirm, and much to my surprise caught myself shooting and holding both eyes open through the recoil keen to see how the stack was reacting. This is key in shooting big rifles; do not shoot them merely to experience the recoil. This is why so many poor souls at the range handed a .458 Lott find it so vicious, I’ve been in that position myself in the past. Give your big rifle a purpose, focus on it, and you won’t even notice the recoil, it’s just as you never remember the noise or recoil of a rifle when hunting; your mind is elsewhere and focused on more important matters. I had a bit of an epiphany, I had just fired a rifle I was afraid of days earlier, as casually as I’d shoot my .375. That is to say I shouldered it, leaned in, and shot my target without considering what I was doing.

 

The penetration I found, two rounds each to confirm the figure into a stack of 3” thick spruce planks was,

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Both .505 Bullets are Visible Stopped in the Same Plank, so Results were Consistent.IMG_9844

6 Planks, 18” of Spruce – .375 H&H 300gr Trophy Bonded Bear Claw factory Federal ammunition, sorry no solids, this was what I had on hand on the short notice in which we did the shoot.  This bullet is a premium Cape Buffalo class bullet that is essentially a monometal core and base, with a nose of bonded lead to an extra heavy jacket, ideal Cape Buffalo, and Lion ammunition.

12 Planks, 36” of Spruce -  .505 Gibbs, Superior Ammuntion factory ammunition firing a 535gr monometal flat nose copper solid.

15 planks, 45” of Spruce – .450 Rigby, Superior Ammunition factory ammunition firing a 500gr monometal brass RN-FP (flat meplat, radiused nose edge) Woodleigh solid.

16 planks, 48” of Spruce – .470 Nitro Express, 500gr Woodleigh RN solids handloaded over 95grs of H4350. This is 5 grains below the load of 100grs I used later as these penetration testing rounds were the first two rounds loaded and fired, and I never penetration tested the 100gr loads. So even at base performance, or at the equivalent of a slightly downrange depleted velocity level, the .470 was the best penetrator. I was impressed.

 

A Layman’s Take on Recoil

 None of these are unmanageable, or even borderline, much as I’d like to be able to claim I’m on a different level of shooters. To my astonishment, right up to the somewhat light for cartridge .505 all are completely manageable, and actually even pleasant to use. Likely the rudest rifle of the bunch is the .450, you cannot deny it climbs as the video shows, though it still is no mythic beast of a rifle, but merely a solid kicker and nothing other wordly. I was actually concerned some might assume the rifles are downloaded, I assure you they are not, as they were so unremarkable to shoot, and even to shoot fast at that. I received respective “That’s it??” comments as each was fired by my shooting partner, braced to block the opening of a small portal to hell from going the wrong direction in the world. Like my friend, I like to lean in to a rifle and “take it”, stop the recoil dead and get on with hitting the target again. Associates who shot the rifles, though not big Matt, often performed a comfortable rolling reception of the recoil that ended quite muzzle(s) high. Whatever suits you go with it, we all shot the rifles well, though if you want to work fast do not be afraid to get right behind any of these rifles and take control of them, even the .505.

The .505 in Full Recoil, This is a Freeze Frame of the Highest Point of the Climb

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I suppose I was most surprised that there was no muzzles swinging thirty degrees off target pointed skyward, no loss of situational awareness or stunning of the shooter, or for that matter really no blaze of Nitro Expressed glory. Just hearty recoil, a rifle that hits what you aim at, and is well… pretty much a non-event. This immediately changed my take on stopping rifles, and I will now employ them with a .470 and .577 planned to enter the battery. I did hot rod the .450 Rigby to .460 Weatherby specs, as it is for all intents and purposes the same cartridge but beltless and without a radius shoulder, and is quite downloaded in factory spec. It was quite stiff, not at all uncontrollable, but you know you’re shooting a big gun, and this rendered the muzzle over the horizon situation I was looking for, as my .450 is quite light to boot. I still can’t make a show of even that recoil, as it still isn’t half what I anticipated. So all I can suggest is if you’re an old hand at .375 H&H, not only will I recommend the stopping rifles to you, I can tell you that you are unlikely to be impressed; by the recoil that is. As a last point, don’t shoot any of these rifles just to experience the recoil, aim at something and focus on hitting it. Too many shooters are put off guns that put out actual recoil (a .30-06 doesn’t, for instance, in this realm) due to shooting it only to see what it feels like. Do that, and you’ll feel it, so instead aim at something and shoot for a target, think about cycling the action or changing triggers, and it’s no different than anything else if your stance is right.

The video is below again, incase you want to view it with these points in mind. Do note the rocking of the camera towards the ground, it was fixed upon my helmet rigidly not some floppy mount, I wore my helicopter flight helmet so it was literally glued to my cranium. So that is my head getting left behind by my body in recoil, and I don’t have an easily moved set of shoulders with regards to rifles, so it takes some getting used to and I risk perhaps downplaying the recoil a bit in the paragraph above. The sentiments I’ve shared I have to recognize come from expecting the quaint portal to hell I mentioned, and being taken aback when all I found in my hands was a manageable rifle. The video certainly removes all the sensations and the watertight camera muffles the shots to near nil, making it all appear quite mild. There is the odd jarring sensation of getting punched in the head from the .450 and .505, that sour sensation anyone who spent too much time around bars as a young guy knows all too well. It is modest and fades quickly enough, and I only encountered it in the speed shoots and snap shots where set up wasn’t absolutely ideal. Again, focus on hitting targets and not the rifle and you really only think about the sensation when you’re finished and have lowered the gun.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=whONoc09xF0

 

My favourite gun of the shoot was hands down the .470 Nitro Merkel 140AE double, and there are some things I must admit. I’ve practiced for quite some time with my own .375 H&H Merkel 140AE, and this undoubtedly influences my proficiency with it. It was literally twice as fast as the bolt guns, even the .375 RSM which of all the guns I have by far the most trigger time on, and it felt like magic, the kind of gun you forget is a gun and see simply as a hitting instrument. Just as when you instinctively snatch a swatter and take a swipe at a fly, the swatter isn’t there it’s an extension of you, the .470 (and unpictured .375 double for that matter) feel like that. See the kill snap shot at the end on my Lion in the Lion point of view video taken without forethought or planning unlike the first shot from the sticks; your computer mouse is less of a point and click interface than a good double. Yes, they are short on ammunition capacity, and I’m a quick shooter but a homely reloader, as you can see in the same Lion video for an illustration. So, you bolt fellows have my ear, and I can’t argue, this is just my preference and it’s all on feel. The odd hang up with the bolts certainly cements that opinion, as with the .450 in the video, full on jam with a blunt nosed solid.

Unfortunately I’ve had several jams of good guns for various reasons, the doubles have yet to cause me more grief than one failure to eject a Kalahari sanded case, though it still extracted fine. This was on video too, in the Gemsbok point of view hunting video, note my reload while running. I didn’t notice until back in camp and reviewing the video, but I had to pluck the case from the sandy chamber. The .505 was wonderful, and a fair bit of work on the bolt handle and in managing the recoil and swing of the rifle; everything about this gun is big. It pulls its weight however, delivering big hits with respectable speed, but it is not the wand the doubles are. You can feel how big those cartridges are through the bolt handle, the sound of one exiting the chamber as captured in the video is the most poetic relation of what this gun is like to work I can think of. The .375 is what it is, as always the benchmark in both double and bolt. Does what you expect, no frills, no drama, no excitement really either.

With that, thank you for listening. I’m having some serious frustrations with my hunts this winter, my Rhino CITES permit is not yet issued, and it bumped back my Elephant hunt as the two have to be back to back to fit in with work at home.  I may be delayed in sharing the on Megafauna effects and videos, so please bear with me. In the meantime, a Holland & Holland Royal .375 Flanged is landing on my bench to help quell my frustrations, check back for a review, detailed pictures, and shooter’s point of view video wielding arguably the finest rifle in the world. Certainly the finest I’ll ever use. Muzzles skyward- even if they don’t quite make it there, and hopefully the next correspondence is again from Africa and everything comes together for me on the hunts.