No, the title is NOT suggesting that a single-shot rifle is BETTER THAN a repeating magazine rifle for ALL types of hunting. What it has reference to is that a single-shot rifle has some mechanical and practical advantages over a repeating rifle for certain applications or types of hunting. It also imposes some mental constraints.
I have considerable experience with three types of single-shot rifles, including two types in Big Bores. The third type was a single-shot bolt-action in .22 LR that I owned as a teen-ager that had accounted for a number of sea gulls and a few varmints like skunks. Even though there are some bolt-action high-powered rifles in single-shots, those will not be discussed in what follows as I have no experience with them, nor will that particular .22 LR as it has little bearing on discussions of rifles appropriate for big game hunting. I say “little bearing”, as mentioned I’ve no experience using a bolt-action rifle in a single-shot while hunting big game, though a single-shot .22 LR could become a teaching tool for that purpose. Young Canadians in Cadet military training start with full-size, single-shot, bolt-action military rifles chambered for the .22 LR!
Rather, this will concern the two types of singles in Big Bores that have provided many hunting seasons of pleasure in hunting big game, including deer, moose and bear. While I’ve owned both types in smaller bores, they will only be mentioned in passing. They were an H&R break-action in .22 Hornet and a 7mm Remington Magnum in a Ruger No.1 falling-block action. Neither qualify as “Big Bores”, though there is a story behind each.
My longest and most enduring experience and appreciation of single-shot rifles began with a Ruger No.1 in .45-70. Despite prejudices from a certain few who consider the .45-70 inadequate or questionable as meeting particular criteria in qualifying as a true Big Bore, I will dispel with that point of view at the outset.
Whatever standards others may suggest, or dogmatically claim, my criteria for a rifle cartridge to qualify as a true Big Bore is a minimum of .40-caliber and 4000 ft-lbs at the muzzle. Obviously, since these blogs are mainly promoting and recognizing handloads as the basis of any criteria, then it logically follows that ANY cartridge — ancient or modern — that can safely obtain these minimal ballistics will qualify. That is why the .45-70 is not only introduced into this theme, but is the basis of it. From a number of Marlins, I have quite easily reached 4000 ft-lbs of muzzle energy from both 400 and 405-grain projectiles. And from NEF (New England Firearms) and H&R (Harrington and Richardson) break-actions, that goal is easier still. But the Ruger No.1 in .45-70 is in a class of its own… 4000 ft-lbs is easily surpassed.
So, as stated in so many words, this is not about which rifle (including cartridge) is best for hunting LDG (Large Dangerous Game), but, rather the advantages of a single-shot rifle, in particular a LB (Large Bore). The point is really two points: 1) A single-shot rifle has advantages not found in repeating rifles — IF you handload your own ammunition; and, 2) A large-bore rifle (or handgun – to help establish this point in particular) has advantages not found in small-bore rifles (or, smaller-bore). And, that’s not to ignore the fact that a) A repeating rifle has advantages over a single-shot for particular types of hunting, and b) A smaller-bore may have advantages over a Large-Bore for particular purposes — they all have advantages, depending on personal criteria and types of hunting.
In single-shot, center-fire rifles that qualify as Big Bores, I’ve owned four. All were chambered for the .45-70 cartridge. Two were in the Ruger No.1 falling-block action design, and two in the break-action format: An NEF and an H&R from the same manufacturer, though with some external differences. As mentioned in my reloading manual on the .45-70, and in several blogs, the second Ruger, which was entirely new-in-box, was slightly modified shortly after ownership by having a world-class gunsmith lengthen the throat by .30-inch to allow the long-seating of bullets by .25″, granting more usable powder space, especially for the longer and heavier bullets. When loaded to 60,000+ PSI, an additional 200 fps increase for most bullets is possible. In other words, without repeating myself too many times — I hope — my favorite rifle is the Ruger No.1 in .45-70 Improved, which equals a .458 Winchester Magnum in ballistics, especially with the heavier/heaviest bullets. I’ll say more about that later — how that is possible — which enters the picture of some advantages of single-shot rifles.
Here is a list of potential advantages that will be discussed in the following articles:
1) Lighter weight.
2) More compact/handier.
3) Particularly suited to handloads.
4) Arguably stronger.
5) Less complicated action — less to go wrong — fewer parts.
6) Teaches discipline on the first shot — which is critical.
7) Easily and cheaply modified.
8) Can accommodate any cartridge design or caliber at equal cost.
9) Retains value over the long haul (Few bargains on used Rugers or Brownings).
These nine points, plus any additional, will be fairly evaluated over the next few weeks. These are not etched in granite — where there are good points to be made, there may be counter-points. I recognize that as I’m the kind that can argue against my own arguments! I do that as a natural process before I put anything to paper — or the Net! But, in regard to these, on balance and from considerable experience with singles, bolts, levers and semis, I’m convinced they are valid.
‘Till the next…