The managing of recoil of The Big Bores is related to several aspects of the rifle itself, not the least of which is the cartridge for which it’s chambered. Then, there are a few issues involving the hunter, such as age, physical condition (see last blog), gender, experience and psyche.
Let’s get to it:
“How Big” has reference to several items as well: Cartridge being the main one, but also rifle weight and length, double, single or repeater, scope or irons only, synthetic or wood stock, and last, but not least important, is overall costs associated with the rifle including such things as ammo. Yes, ammo. Whether handloaded or a factory product, costs will increase with the rarity of the chambering. What has that to do with recoil? Well, indirectly quite a lot. We’ll discuss that important aspect of things a bit later on, but in the meantime you can go back a few blogs and read on “Light Loads for you Big Bore”.
How Big? Well, let’s ask a few simple questions and do a little analysis. What is your purpose in acquiring a Big Bore? As previously mentioned, it’s either need or want, or both. If a trip to Africa is in your plans or dreams, then what big game will you be hunting? If it’s plains’ game only then a Medium Bore will suffice, and that holds true for any of the large game in North America as well. Any of the .338 magnums would be perfect, all the way up to the .375s. But within that group there can be great variance in recoil force, or smack!
For example, the .338 Winchester Magnum is regarded by many knowledgeable hunters of larger game such as moose, bison, big bears, lion, leopard, sable, eland, etc., about as ideal as it gets. .338″ is not big-bore but could be considered for use on the largest non-dangerous game as well as the big cats and bears, especially in the magnums. And, of course, there are other numbers like the .35 Whelen, .350 Remington Magnum and .358 Norma Magnum that will do about anything the .338s can at “normal ranges”, say, out to 400 yards. But I don’t think any sane hunter is going to attempt a 400 yard shot on any of the big cats or bears unless it’s wounded and making tracks for another country.
As previously pointed out from my personal experience, there is great variance in recoil energy within the group of .338s and .358s. Indeed, as much as the difference between 32 ft-lbs from an 8.5 lb .35 Whelen firing 250s at 2600 fps and 55 ft-lbs from an 8.8 lb .338 RUM shooting a 250gr at 3050 fps. That’s an increase of 57% over the Whelen! And that’s NOT from anemic Remington factory ammo, but from personal top handloads in each! The recoil from the RUM equals that of a .458 Win Mag firing 500s at 2150 fps! This all depends, of course, on how they are loaded and the individual rifle weights ready to go. FELT RECOIL, on the other hand, while dependent on actual recoil in ft-lbs, is determined by several factors which we’ll fully discuss later on.
In the mediums, the 9.3s are coming on strong in North America. Indeed, I’ve owned a 9.3 X 62 for just a month over two years, and it has quickly replaced any other mediums in my thinking and experience. That includes .338 magnums and all .358s, as well as the .375 H&H.
Before I made the purchase of the 9.3 x 62, I had the option of a nearly new Remington .338 RUM with stainless barrel and action, and a grey-black laminated stock. It had less than a box of ammo through it and I believe the owner decided he didn’t like it’s obvious “kick”, to put it mildly. The other option was the one I purchased: a new T3 Lite with a 22.4″ barrel and a synthetic stock, plus a clip magazine that holds 3 + 1. Cost was not a factor as the asking was about equal, though the Remington would have been about $300 more with both at MSRP. But the price on the T3 had just been reduced by $150, so that was a consideration.
I had studied the ballistics of each, including realistic handloads based on a lot of experience with .338s and .35s. I felt that the .338 RUM had a bit of an advantage in that department, especially when considering possible moose hunts in the far north of Ontario. Flatness of trajectory was a consideration, recoil was not. I’ve used a .340 Wby in that area and know the possibility of close-in shots as well as ranges on the far side of long. Yet moose are big, and when I did a ballistic profile it was quite evident that, with well built handloads, the 9.3 X 62 was plenty good enough to 400 yards. But what made the decision for me was when I handled them side-by-side… It was no contest! The T3 was so light and handy, as well as being 42.25″ long compared to the 46″ Remington, and about 2 lbs lighter, well… as I just said, it was no contest. So, the T3 went home with me.
NOT end of story: not only is the 9.3 X 62 the equal of a .338 WM, but it beats my former .340 Wby in momentum when each are/were loaded with their best! That is, it hits harder at all ranges using the 286 Nosler Partition vs. the 250gr Nosler Partition from my 26″ .340 Wby at 3000 fps MV!! And the recoil energy is about the same in each, and my shoulder tells me it is so as well. That’s 52 ft-lbs from the T3 and 54 ft-lbs from the .340 Wby. The T3 is slightly faster in recoil, but a lighter rifle, so it kind of equals out. I put close to 1000 rounds through the .340 and got quite used to its “kick”, so that when the time came to squeeze the trigger on something big, the last thing on my mind was its recoil! I don’t remember it!
My 9.3 has a 17% advantage in bullet frontal area over a .338-caliber, plus 14% weight advantage in a 286gr vs. a 250gr. Of course the trajectory is not quite as “flat” as the lighter 250 bullet from a RUM or Wby. But it shoots plenty flat enough to 500 yds for game the size of bison, moose, zebra or eland.
In other words, I’m convinced that the right choice was made 25 months ago and I’ve been very pleased that all expectations have exceeded my fondest wishes. Of course, as mentioned in recent blogs, it isn’t necessary to always go full throttle! I have mild loads for my 9.3 that tames recoil and will get the job done on smaller game and at closer ranges. That’s the great advantage of developing your own handloads.
Then there are other 9.3s: 9.3 X 64 Brenneke and 9.3 X 66 Sako. (I’ll not bring the 9.3 X 57 into this discussion as it is more or less similar to the good .358 Winchester.)
The 9.3 X 64 Brenneke is in the same ball park as the .375 H&H, which is to say that its distance from the 9.3 X 62 is about the same as that of the .375 H&H, and that isn’t very much. I’ve written on that comparison (9.3 X 62 vs. the .375 H&H) in the past giving actual numbers showing that the .375 H&H has a slight upper-hand starting out but the 9.3 X 62 soon catches up and surpasses it at around the 300 yd. mark. That’s comparing the 286 Nos. Part. at 2550 fps with the 300 Nos. Part. at about the same muzzle speed. So, the 9.3 Brenneke is slightly better than the 9.3 X 62, but not greatly. Depending on weight of rifles, and how they are loaded, recoil from each should be similar. As demonstrated in the previous blog, the recoil from my M70 in .375 H&H was actually less than my last year’s bear load from the 9.3 by 15% due to the M70 being about 2 lbs heavier! So it’s a trade-off isn’t it. A heavier rifle will kick less, all else being equal. It has been pointed out, however, that we carry more than we shoot, so it IS a trade-off.
The other 9.3 X 66 (.370 Sako Magnum) is relatively new and has a few (very few) followers. At the very most, it MAY have a 50 to 100 fps advantage, depending on what components are used, and depending on the personality of the handloader. Some are conservative, some are not. I’m with the “NOT” bunch! So, I entertain no doubts whatsoever that my loads are equal to the best of the 9.3s. And, in some cases they surpass the “best” by the conservative “bunch”. Yet, they are safe! In MY rifle, the way that I load it, and with what components, there are NIL signs of excessive pressure.
So, at this advanced stage of my life, and knowing WHAT I know, I have no need for duplication of any ballistic possibilities from .338s, .358s, 9.3s or .375s. I have all that I want or need in a 9.3 X 62… for anything. That includes current plans as well as any hope-to hunts sometime in the future.
So too, you should decide what you want or need, or want AND need… .366 is plenty for me, though I still LIKE my .45-70 in a #1 Ruger (Improved). I still LIKE true Big Bores, but I don’t NEED them for any present or future plans.
Yet, as revealed in my former blogs, I’ve never needed them, but I moved into them over time as I was both fascinated by them and found that they actually gave better results than “standard” calibers.