“Happy is the hunter with only one rifle and knows how to use it”; that’s a saying worthy of some informed consideration! Many hunters of the past have been there mostly due to economics, but not so much from the 1960’s til today. There’s also this similar proverb: “Beware the hunter with one rifle who knows how to use it!”
In addition, there are those who believe that concept works best with multiple choices of the same or similar rifles. Not sure if that implies if one is adequate then four (or more) of the same means “adequate x 4 = a “fourfold adequacy”? Anyway, most of us own more than one rifle. Why?
On a bear hunt with outfitter Norm Easto in Northeastern Ontario — myself with three others (eldest son and two friends) were “loaded for bear”, but each of us had his own idea of “adequacy”. Two of us owned more than a single rifle for big game – the fellow on my immediate right brought his .308 Win along in a BLR, plus myself. The two others owned single BG rifles: my son’s .356 Winchester on far left of the pic (my far right), and my close friend on far right of pic with his .270 Win. Mine, of course, was a favorite at the time, an 1895 Marlin in .45-70. All were capable for black bear with well placed shots, and all were loaded with handloads. We were hunting over baits in different locations, and none were more than 100 yards distant from our blinds. We rented two rooms in the Algonquin Lodge behind us. To top it off, there was an American (we were the only Canadian hunters among about a dozen others) from Upper New York State that had won a lottery prize of a free hunt at that location. He brought two lever-action rifles chambered for the same cartridge as my son’s rifle, one a Winchester identical to Brent’s (my son) and the other a Marlin. Each day he had a dilemma over which to take! And each day he would discuss it with us in trying to make up his mind!
Confusion over rifles and loads — how do WE make up our minds for particular hunts? If, like my son and my friend, they had a single choice – an advantage of owning one BG rifle! While I owned at least two other BG rifles at the time — a .338 Win Mag in a SAKO FS being one — I purposely chose an 1895 Marlin Classic with handloads for this hunt — why? That’s a very good question as I had no doubts over the abilities of the SAKO FS in .338 Win Mag for which I’d already developed several good handloads. As I’ve thought about that question a few times, both before and after choosing the .45-70, it was because I’d WANTED a .45-70 for some time and this up-coming bear hunt seemed like reason enough. By then I was a serious handloader and student of ballistics and “knew” that a .45-70 in a Marlin with “best loads” would equal or surpass the effect of the .338 at bear ranges.
Consider the following as one way of making such a choice: Kinetic energy at impact X cross-section-area of bullet X sectional density = terminal effect; or KEI x CSA x SD = TE.< My last 1895 Marlin in .45-70
As an example: my bear load was a 400gr Speer at about 1538 fps and 2100 ft-lbs at bullet impact at 100 yards, times cross-sectional area of bullet (.165 sq-in. for .458″) times sectional density of a 400gr (.272) = 94 TE. With a tougher bullet than the Speer, I’d consider that adequate for a big Brown Bear with the same shot at 100 yards!
But here’s another load that came much later:
Rifle: 1895 Marlin Classic 22″ barrel
Bullet: 470gr hardcast
SD = .320
BC = .365 (Based on Lyman’s manual)
CSA = .165 (cross-section area)
MV = 1900 fps
200 yards = 1550 fps/ 2506 ft-lbs = 132 TE (adequate for a large bison).
250 yards = 1472 fps/ 2260 ft-lbs = 119 TE
Rifle: SAKO FS in .338 Win Mag
Bullet: 250gr Nosler
MV = 2650 fps (limit for that rifle with a 20″ barrel)
200 yards = 2311 fps/ 2965 ft-lbs = 83 TE
250 yards = 2237 fps/ 2778 ft-lbs = 78 TE
In using that means I knew I’d not be far off in practical expectations. Of course there are others, such as the TKO, but the point is: We need to have some knowledge and experience as the basis for our choices.
But no matter how we do the math, the momentum from the 400gr at 100 yards was equal to the SAKO’s .338 load at 100 yards, as well as 83% larger cross-sectional area of the bullet which affects the outcome. Of course, none of us want to take a shot on a big bear at more than 200 yards or so, but the 2nd load from my Marlin using the 470gr at 1900 would have far out-classed the .338 load. The above numbers reveal something I intuitively “knew” 33 years ago! Any advantage in trajectory favors the .338 Win of course, but at 200 yards or less, a .45-70 doesn’t need “holdover” on large game.
My basis for making such decisions over what rifle and load to take for a particular hunt also includes:
<(On a moose hunt to Northern Ontario we came to this branch off the main trail that continued on to the left. That’s about 200 yards to the corner. There were moose, wolf and bear scat within thirty yards of where I took this pic.)
1.Physical conditions of the hunt: Central and Northern Ontario are similar to most of the northern regions of the Canadian Provinces, Eastern Canada, Northeastern U.S., Michigan and any other Northern States with relatively natural landscapes and geology. Of course, Southern Ontario is where most of the nearly 15 million people live. That leaves the central and northern regions quite natural and free of densely populated areas, and were most fauna thrive. The geology includes multiple lakes and rivers, streams, bogs and swamps, high ridges and valleys, mixed forest and most any other undeveloped region where wildlife makes their living. Our big game includes moose, elk, black bears and white-tailed deer. Wolf and coyote are also targets of opportunity, though the wolf is very secretive. Beaver and other fur bearers are trapped, and abundant fish are caught in the thousands of lakes. And let’s not forget the birds: ducks, geese, grouse and crows; and small game: rabbits, fox, skunk, groundhogs, etc. And yes… we have wild hogs! Then no one admits the presence of cougar… but they’re here and off limits for hunting should you run into one?! Ontario is a veritable Paradise for the outdoorsman! It borders on three of the Great Lakes and five of the United States of America. It’s southern border not only includes the waters of the Great Lakes but also the St Laurence River that flows past Quebec and into the Atlantic Ocean. And to the far north Hudson Bay and James Bay grace its shores. In land mass, Ontario is smaller than Alaska but the same size as Texas and Montana combined — which are the second and fourth largest States of the USA. Montana is also a hunter’s Paradise with its mountains and sparse population of about 1 million. If I could live in the States, that’s where I’d go. Texas has about twice the population of Ontario, being somewhat crowded with only 2/3 its size. Alaska is 1.63 times the area of Ontario but most of that is uninhabited or uninhabitable with a population of less than a million.
The point being that within an hour from home I can enjoy wildernesses, since we live in Central Ontario and I’ve often hunted Northern Ontario. Each year I’ve purchased small game licences, wolf/coyote tags, and BG licences for deer, moose and bear! Why would I want to go elsewhere? And why not try various cartridges, rifles and shotguns? Unfortunately, we’re not able to purchase handguns for hunting, but I would if I could! So variety is part of the pleasure of not only investigating various habitats but also in trying different weapons for the hunt. And then? Discovering the full aptitudes of one rifle today is a near-limitless challenge considering all possibilities!
So the idea of a hunter with one rifle today has far greater possibilities than a hunter of the 1950’s with one factory load … There are more choices and better bullets than ever for that One-Rifle-Man, whatever that One Rifle might be!
A .300 magnum (not one of the “super” magnums that burns out barrels) is regarded by many so-called experts as a good candidate for “a-one-rifle-do-anything for all hunting” in North America, and much of the world — and I’d agree! The .300 “Super-Magnum” of the pre-WW2 was the H&H out of Britain. A 180gr was advertised as leaving the muzzle of a 26″ barrel at 2880 fps/3315 ft-lbs. (Yeah, I know others give a number exceeding 3000 fps but that was much later.). To give an example of what is being conveyed in this piece… today’s ammo (factory and especially handloads) is significantly better than a couple of generations ago. For illustration purposes, the .30-06 with good handloads is fully capable of duplicating the original ballistics of the .300 H&H! At the time, the .30-06 was shooting a 172gr at less than 2700 fps! While I’d choose (and have) the .300 Win Mag or Weatherby over the famed .30-06, even with today’s ballistics, I don’t think any knowledgeable handloader could legitimately claim that a 24″ .30-06, with today’s top handloads would be insufficient for anything in North America — given an able hunter/shooter! And that would be my minimum for any North American game under specific conditions. Ergo: a one-rifle sportsman who knows and understands handloaded ballistics is not poorly armed with an accurate .30-06 Springfield. But he should be aware that at whatever extreme range his .30-06 could be effective on large game, a properly loaded .300 Win Mag can do at 150 yards farther. Or, another way of stating it is that at whatever that extreme range for a .30-06 might be, a hit from a .300 Win at the same range would have the same effect of a .30-06 at 150 yards closer. For example: The .300 Win will fire the same 200gr at 300 fps faster at the muzzle that a .30-06, other matters equal. 300 fps is the loss of speed from a 200gr Partition from the muzzle to 150 yards, meaning that at 150 yards the 200gr Partition will equal the velocity of the same bullet from a .30-06 at the muzzle.
The two centerfire rifle cartridges that I’ve owned more rifles for than any others are the .45-70 and .300 Win Mag… ten in .45-70 and eight in the .300 Win Mag (then there were 2 other .300s, a Norma and a Weatherby). If push came to shove to chose one over the other today, there’s one .45-70 that I’ve owned longer than any centerfire rifle I’ve ever owned, that being my Ruger No.1 in .45-70 LT. And that speaks volumes for those who don’t want to read all that it could tell.< Identical to the .458 Win Mag on the header, except for a 22″ lighter barrel chambered in .45-70. But it was capable of pushing a 500gr at 2210 fps/ 5422 ft-lbs at the muzzle using H335, due to its long throat (LT) permitting long bullets to be seated long. As pictured, it weighed 8 lbs.
2. Size, disposition and location of the animal: All of that has already been implied, but lets consider potential specifics of what I’ll refer to as CASE A vs. CASE B. These are simulations which are also credible:
CASE A: a bull Woods Bison will be hunted in Northern Alberta on a private ranch. My permit allows a bull up to 2000 lbs. The ranch is in the foothills of the Rockies where elevation could be up to 3500 ft. I’ve been informed that shooting ranges will likely be somewhere between 50 and 350 yards/meters. In my gun cabinet I have the following rifles chambered for big game in .308 Winchester, .338 Win Mag, .375 H&H and a 9.3 x 62. So I’d have to consider the possibility of a shot to 350 yards even though the averages would suggest a closer range. The .308 Winchester would be ruled out without a second thought. That would leave three: the .338 Win Mag, .375 H&H and 9.3 x 62. I’d need to know the handloaded ballistics of each to 350 yards which would be quite simple using an external ballistics program… but what bullet? Nosler makes Partitions for each, and for really big, tough game I’d tend to choose the Partitions over the AccuBonds, having more experience with them.
Having done the ballistic profile charts on all three, I’d choose the heaviest for each: the 250gr for the .338 Win, the 286gr for the 9.3 x 62 and the 300gr for the .375 H&H. I also know what each of those rifles would be capable of in terminal energy at 350 yards when started at 2800 fps from the250gr in the .338 Win; 2650 fps from the 300gr in the .375, and 2630 from the 286gr in the 9.3 x 62. In addition, trajectory, recoil and TE would inform me in the decision making process. Then, of course, accuracy from the individual rifles would enter somewhere into the final choice. Since all three would be capable from an objective standpoint, then subjective likes and dislikes (if any) often has more influence than we might like to admit! The weights of the individual rifles would have an influence on both felt recoil and other aspects of comfort. So would the shape of the stocks. Another matter might be: Do I want to try something I’m more familiar with or something different?
All those matters are factors that enter the picture and in the end help us in the choices we make if we have three rifles that are as capable as the three in CASE A. It turns out that at 350 yards from a ballistics standpoint you’d might want to pick straws as any real life advantages of one over the other would depend more on bullet placement than anything else. The results are: 2554 ft-lbs/ 72 TE for the .338 Win; 2604 ft-lbs/ 83 TE for the 9.3 x 62; and 2558 ft-lbs/ 86 TE for the .375 H&H. The .338 might come a little short on 2000 lbs, but the other two make the cut at the extreme range. At 300 yards the .338 Win is in the ball park if not playing on first base. But as the sayin’ goes: ” You can always get closer”, sometimes, but not all the time or 350 yard shots wouldn’t have been mentioned as “up to”.
<That’s about 400 yards to the far corner, and a 94 km drive plus a 10 minute walk from my home. Within a radius of a few kilometres, I’ve hunted moose, deer, coyote, wolf and bear.
CASE B: We might want to use something “traditional” in taking a bison — after all that seems more appropriate. But conditions are the same as well as the terms, except the rifle is distinctly different: It’s a single-shot Ruger in .458 Win Mag firing a 475gr Lyman cast at 15 BHN from their mould #457671 at .460″, over 40.5 grains of A-5744, @ 1623 fps/ 2778 ft-lbs, and has a BC of .477. Let’s have a look at that at 350 yards. Yes, I know, it would have a rainbow trajectory, but’s it’s very doable!
MV = 1623 fps/ 2778 ft-lbs
350 yards = 1255fps/ 1662 ft-lbs/ 87 TE. Good enough for a 2000 lb Bison at 350 yards. And slightly better than either the 9.3 x 62 or .375 H&H in momentum and bullet cross-sectional area. That’s why it has a better TE number. Recoil = 23 ft-lbs, and with the MAG-na-ports on my rifle = 19.5 ft-lbs. Hey… Think I might give that a try with my 470gr cast bullets when I get some Accurate 5744!
Those are some real-life examples of how I think and act as an adventurer, hunter, handloader and investigator of what works and why. Did you really think I’d rather retire to enjoy Shuffle Board in Florida?
Til the next…