In Section 2, the theme was “Familiarity” with the rifle of choice “for all things” we may hunt. The discussion was a general one in providing some guidelines to consider. The ballistics must be adequate but so must the rifle be handy and comfortable to carry and shoot to encourage familiarity with it. This time around, we want to briefly consider 3 additional advantages of that “one rifle for all things” for the “man with one rifle”.
A second advantage: we can try and/or use all available components if we are handloaders.
A third advantage: It will go on every hunt, therefore we will know what it can do and what we can do with it.
A fourth advantage: Its strengths and shortcomings are no mystery.
Without pretending to consider every detail of these significant advantages of choosing and using one rifle for most of our hunting adventures, I’ll share some of my rationale and experience regarding each.
In regard to trying and/or using all available handloading components: In a 7mm or .30-cal, that might become a daunting task and perhaps too costly. But still, the idea of working with any combination of bullet type and weight that might be appropriate for the game pursued, is a reasonable objective for one of the Mediums.
First of all, the bullet weights that are useful for the full gambit of game that I either hunt, or hope to, are limited. That’s both a positive and a negative depending on goals. For current usage, I only need one bullet and one load (read: velocity). But I have 2 that could basically do the same things. Both are Noslers — a 250 AB (more recent load) and a 286 Partition (my standard load). Really, with either load I could easily hunt the world. But for Cape buff, I’d use the 286 or perhaps an A-Frame 300. For elephant a 300gr solid. But “the world”, Cape buff and elephant will never happen for me. Probably not grizzly or brown bear either. Still, I already have more than enough for what I hope to do or have done.
Remember, it’s more than ballistics alone — the rifle itself is half the equation. But feeding ONE has advantages over trying to feed a dozen and learning all that we need to know about each. My wife and I have four offspring, 3 sons and one daughter. In some ways they are similar, in many ways each is an individual. We have thirteen grandchildren, and we now have 6 great-grandkids with 5 on the way!!! I don’t try to keep up, that’s my wife’s job! Think of your cabinet full of rifles as your family — how well do you really know them? For your next hunt, could you grab any one of them without spending hours (maybe weeks) in preparation?
Third, a one-rifle-man gets to take the same rifle on every hunt and therefore knows what it can do and what he can do with it.
This assumes, of course, that he is an avid big game hunter and not just a “duffer” who hangs out with “the boys” drinking beer (or something stronger) for most of the evening, gets up late starting the next day with a beer! He likes sitting in the sun in a comfy hunting “chair”, falls asleep mid-morning, takes his 4X4 back to camp for lunch, has a mid-day snooze, then decides it’s too late to go “hunting” again! Too extreme? Not really, as I’ve met the type. Thankfully, I’ve never been associated with them.
But, let’s say that you hunt alone with the same rifle using two loads; one for medium game and the other for big, large or dangerous game. You do that for time and financial constraints. Rather than spending a “bundle” on multiple rifles, you invest in multiple hunts. Does that make sense? You see, I’m sure, that collecting firearms because we “must have” out of curiosity, uncertainty over what is really needed, or desire to own the next new wonder rifle and cartridge combo, may lead to not becoming a hunter but a collector. If being a collector is the goal, then that may be legitimate but it might inhibit becoming an accomplished big-game hunter. But to become an accomplished hunter, one would need to become intimate with both the rifle and load as well as becoming an outdoors-man. Something has to be sacrificed to attain the latter. Too many sportsmen go after big game, and even dangerous, not being familiar with their rifle and load — whatever the reason.
I could suggest several, but the three main ones appear to be:
1) Not enough practice time.
2) A Macho Man Syndrome: “they” don’t need to waste time in practice since “they” have proven to themselves that any new challenge has been easily mastered.
3) Fear of the rifle.
Becoming a master of one rifle — an appropriate one — would give the knowledge and experience needed to be fully aware of its capabilities and limitations, as well as our own limitations.
I’ve spent literally thousands of hours with 1895 Marlins in .45-70. That includes experimenting with dozens of handloads, range time and hunting. I could say that over a period of about 10 years, an 1895 Marlin was MY rifle of choice. I knew what I could do with it though it was never actually used on big game beyond 100 yards. But I had no doubts that it would be capable on moose to 300 yards or more with the loads developed for it. But I needed to know its trajectory and handle its recoil without any concerns. At the time, I was also shooting a .375 H&H as well as a .338 Win Mag, and any of the loads were capable for the largest moose I might encounter. Recoil wasn’t a concern from any of them.
Intimacy with that level of recoil was a fact of life in my 50’s and 60’s. But if you are only accustomed to 20 ft-lbs of recoil, I’d not recommend moving to 2.5 – 3 times that level at age 65 – 70 before you leave for Africa for the first time. It’s due to such experiences that PH’s and North American guides recognize that most clients can’t shoot a “heavy” and should instead use their .30-06’s! A .375 H&H is highly recommended for “first timers” in hunting DG! It’s capable enough as long as the client puts in the practice time requisite for handling, aiming and hitting where intended. A .375 IS heavy, which helps immensely in learning to manage its 40+ lbs of recoil. The downside is, it IS heavy! Therefore, not the best as a one-rifle for all things unless it’s a custom or modified, or perhaps one of the Sako’s at 8 lbs starting out. Even then, when ready for action it will go over 9 lbs — perhaps not the best idea for the one-rifle man. Some recommend the .375 Ruger, but it’s really not that light-‘n-handy either at about 9+ lbs with scope and ammo.
I still think that a one-rifle-man should choose and outfit something not heavier than 8.5 lbs loaded, ready for action, no more than 42″ OL and producing +/- 4000 ft-lbs at the muzzle in a medium cartridge. For myself, I’d choose at least a medium and probably a .458 WM with a 22″ tube, a light 2 – 7X scope, weighing less than 9 lbs for the multiple reasons I’ve suggested in several blogs. I once owned a rifle like that in a Ruger M77 and didn’t fully appreciate what I had.
And body weight is not the issue. Because someone weighs 200+ lbs and is 6’+ is no guarantee he will not develop a flinch if he “jumps” from something developing 20 – 22 ft-lbs of recoil to a Medium or Big Bore that will develop 2 or 3 times that amount without working for a year or two with such a rifle, developing confidence and expertise. And by a year or two, I don’t mean 3 or 4 times each year! I mean once per week for at least 8 months! That’s 30 – 35 trips to the range shooting at least 10 rounds per trip, and 20 rounds as the upper limit. That’s between 300 and 500 rounds from that rifle! Too much? Hardly! If the shooter in question has NOT been shooting at that level, he needs to “cram for the exam”! But for another hunter who has considerable experience at 40 to 60 ft-lbs of recoil, he can get by with 100 to 150 rounds from his “heavy” before going to Africa or Alaska because intimacy with his Big Bore or Medium has already been developed.
Another problem is that men (and women) who are busy developing their business or career, raising a family, buying a home, etc., rarely have the time or money to invest in a serious African or Alaskan hunt. For the majority, that usually happens in their 60’s or even 70’s! Not the best time in life, from a physical view, to anticipate enjoying a rifle that scares you or beats you up! Especially, is that true if there are nagging or chronic problems with joints and muscles. But this argues on behalf of “one-rifle-for-all-things” again. In what way? It’s already been stated or argued that to choose a rifle for current hunting as well as for any future plans makes sense. It may kill deer “deader than dead” while being perfect for the biggest bear, a 2500 lb bison or 800 lb elk. I don’t think that spending one’s hunting life chasing small deer with a .22-250 or .243 is exactly the preparation called for in becoming a dedicated big-game hunter, not to say anything of Africa at age 70!
The fourth advantage: When we become intimate with a rifle, as in a marriage relationship, we know it’s strengths and limitations. That is most likely to happen with one rifle than with the many. In reference to my 1895 Marlins again, I didn’t own them all at the same time; ownership was spread over a period of 23 years in which I was never without one. The first had the micro rifling and the others Ballard rifling. The 3rd was a Guide Gun with an 18.5″ barrel plus porting. I went back to the Classic with a 22″ after about a year because the short tube and porting would blow your ears off! I didn’t need that. I also owned several other .45-70s during that era and got to know both their strengths and weaknesses.
The 1895 Marlin has several strengths, of course, and is still a very popular rifle. It, along with the Ruger No.1 in .45-70 became the basis of my manual on the .45-70, entitled “SUPREME LOADS for the .45-70″. There was a period of a couple of decades where interest was very high. I would say it is still quite high but hunters and shooters are generally now more aware of its strengths and weaknesses — at least they believe themselves to be and that greatly influences a niche market for a manual, so I don’t do it any more except under special conditions.
Anyway, I shot a couple of black bears using two of those rifles with two distinct loads in two locations at identical ranges. The first was with my first 1895 with the micro-groove rifling and a 400gr Speer at 1865 fps at 100 yards. Impact was a bit over 1500 fps just behind the right shoulder. The big boar (still my largest) went 10 yards and that was it. I gave him another for insurance that wasn’t needed. Some time later, the other was shot with an 1895 with the Ballard rifling employing a 405gr Remington at 2110 fps. Impact was over 1800 fps at 100 yards and the medium bear never moved from its tracks. The bear was angling away, so it was a quartering away shot that hit behind the short ribs on the left side and made exit behind the right (offside) shoulder. The Remington bullet was never found being somewhat tougher than the Speer. The first Speer (400gr) came out with the guts and was lost in the darkness. The insurance paid bullet was retrieved in the offside armpit in skinning. It retained 90% of it’s initial weight.
The 1895 Marlin has taken every big and dangerous game animal in the world, and not from “trick|” shooting either! A 400gr at 2000 fps has the momentum of a 200gr at 4000 fps! Think about that! A 465gr at 1900 fps has the same momentum as a .378 WBY firing a 300gr! Think about that!
And all that from a “cheap” Marlin, and that’s not to speak of the Ruger No.1 in .45-70 that will fire a 500gr as fast as the Marlin can shoot a 400. As concerns my Improved version, you can add 200 fps to the 500gr. So, yes, I’d have to say, without arrogance, that I know some things about .45-70 when loaded to their strengths in a modern rifle (the 1895 from 1972 to present, the single-shot NEF and the #1 Rugers and #3). But to hear some people tell it, the .45-70 has had its day — it’s now too old and feeble for moderns!
There is a fellow on at least two of the Internet forums who hunts everything with a Sharps in .45-70. And he has taken big game with it to 600 yards without a scope! And that includes several African trips in which he brought ONLY ONE RIFLE! You guess which one!
“BEWARE THE MAN WITH ONLY ONE RIFLE — HE PROBABLY KNOWS HOW TO USE IT”!
'Till the next…