“Beware the man with only one rifle; he probably knows how to use it” is a famous saying, the author of which I cannot recall off the top of my head. No doubt many of you know its creator. But there’s no need to inform me as I’m already aware of the principle. And I believe it, with some qualifications of course.
During last year’s deer season, I was sitting in the woods in a familiar spot hoping for a deer to come by. Instead, a local hunter came by. He was howling like a hound dog with the intent of stirring up some action for himself or his nearby partner. I knew they were handy but they didn’t know I was “there”. But the point of this tail is about the rifle being toted by the fake hound: it was a very well worn 94 Winchester in either .32 or .30-30. Sans scope, and bluing having long since departed from this world, it was still a marvel of slickness and handiness. And the owner was indeed a real hunter. He was as familiar with that rifle as with his favourite hammer… in fact it WAS his hammer… sort of. He approached me after I waved at him so he’d know someone else was on the same turf. I sort of knew him, we had a friendly exchange and then he moved on. And oh… by the way, he’d already taken a couple of deer with that rifle during the first week of the season. You see, he was hunting with a small local group and he’d already spoiled some of their tags… er, used them! Yes, indeed, he was the epitome of that famous sayin’. And many world-famous hunters have proven it to be more-or-less true as well.
While the .30-30 has been very popular in its hay-day, among deer hunters in particular, it is not in my opinion the best cartridge in a slick rifle for any game at any time, anywhere. And obviously that is also the view held by the vast majority who hunt several species of big game on a fairly regular basis. So, perhaps a majority of serious hunters own more than one rifle. But I’m not referring to those owners whose rifles are “toys”, but primarily to those who are firstly hunters who use rifles as tools in actual hunts for game animals and the occasional expedition for varmints.
Even so, I wan’t to indulge your imagination by claiming that all I need for hunting anything, anywhere, is one rifle for game animals, small, medium or large, as well as the occasional “varmint”. Of course, most could also be taken with a big-bore handgun, 12-gauge, 50-cal. BP or 75 lb bow! But I write about big-bore rifles… mostly. However, these days Mediums fascinate me more to be truthful about it. That’s because there are more of ’em to pick and choose from. And some of the Big Bores don’t interest me at all — or very much as I think they are too limited in a practical sense — that is anything over .458″. Well, maybe a .50-cal something or other would merit some attention — especially the .500 S&W single-shot.
Dr. Don Heath D.Sc. in wildlife biology, a full-time PH in Zimbabwe, as well as a staff member with NORMA, has written an in-depth article on such a rifle and cartridge for NORMA. The rifle cartridge was 9.3 X 62 Mauser. ( http://www.norma-usa.com/…/188-cartridge-of-the-month-9.3×62-mauser )
Here is a photo of him shooting a big bull elephant in defence of clients on a photographic tour. The elephant was shot at “seven paces” and in falling it collided with him breaking his arm. The firearm was one of his favorites, a Mauser chambered for the famous 9.3 X 62. The deed was done in having his rifle loaded with a solid up the spout. (Photo credit NORMA)
There are quite a few good rifle cartridges in the medium class, but less than a handful that qualify for all of the African Big Five. The 9.3 X 62 is one that does in several African countries. That is to say, it is recognized as adequate for anything in Africa, and if so, then for anything anywhere else that walks our planet. And that recognition isn’t based on theory but in actually putting down for keeps the meanest and biggest that Africa can throw at it; thousands of times when the right bullet has been used and placed expertly.
It’s interesting to read the comments on the various forums of those who have never used one. But the consensus of several African PH experts is usually the same, if they’ve had much experience with the 9.3 X 62. In Ganyana’s (Don Heath’s) evaluation, he sees it’s only limitation as being a follow-up on a wounded bull elephant in thick brush; but then, he also places the same restriction on the famed .375 H&H. In his experience, whatever the .375 H&H is capable of, so is the 9.3 X 62. There is no distinction between them in his eyes and experience, as long as the best bullets are used in each.
It was the word of Dr. Don Heath that convinced me to give it a try.
The evolution of my personal experience with a Tikka T3 in 9.3 X 62 has been recorded in several previous blogs dating back to May 2011. Its advantages over other Mediums have been amply justified, I believe. That is NOT to say that it surpasses ALL others of its class in all categories, but simply that it has SOME advantages over the others depending on various criteria. If “push comes to shove”, when each is loaded to max in bullet weight and psi, the .375 Ruger and H&H will have an edge in KE and momentum, but that depends entirely on how each is loaded by particular handloaders. That is, the bullets and powders that are selected, and at what psi and barrel length. There are too many variables involved to be pontifical. But still, the consensus of Drs Don Heath and Kevin Robertson is that their effects on the big game of Africa is indistinguishable.
So, from that point, I’ll share my perspective from 2011 to the present over the next few weeks.
I’ve previously written on the advantages of a single rifle for all big game hunting. Since it’s not my intent to simply re-state the same material in different terms, I’ll present several perspectives. The most common one, of course, is to answer the question: Why use just one rifle when there are so many excellent rifles and cartridges available today… wouldn’t that perspective give a much greater satisfaction to the hunter that would enhance and broaden the overall hunting experience than a more narrow view of using only one? Probably true — that perspective, and I’ve done that. There is much to commend it, but there are some disadvantages as well.
The advantages of owning several that do the same things are four, as I see it:
1) You gain some additional knowledge and experience (particularly good for gunwriters).
2) It’s perhaps less boring.
3) There’s more to talk (brag) about.
4) You’d have some practical basis for choosing the one best suited for your style and purposes. Yes, and I’ve done that too. That’s how I’ve settled on the 9.3 X 62 as my go-to rifle for many big-game hunts these days. But this newcomer will never replace my affection and appreciation for my Ruger No.1 in .45-70 IMP. That one has been with me longer than any rifle I’ve ever owned, and has merited its place. They each have advantages the other could never replace. So, the theme could actually be, “Beware the man with two big game rifles; he probably knows how to use them”.
On the other hand, the advantages of owning and using just one (plus a 12-gauge and a .22 RF) are these:
2) We can try and/or use all available components if we handload.
3) It will go on every hunt, therefore we know what it will do and what we can do with it.
4) Its strengths and shortcomings are no mystery.
5) We aim, shoot and hit better with confidence.
6) All of that becomes as natural as driving the same car or truck to work at the same place and back again for the past ten years.
7) We can make the necessary fine-tuning that brings the best from rifle and loads that they are capable of delivering.
Five rifles that all have basically the same ballistic capabilities will not allow us the luxury in time or finances to achieve all seven of the above priorities or criteria. Some evidence that supports that statement is witnessed to by the fact that out of five or six rifles that could accomplish the same things, one becomes a favorite. It sees more action than the others combined. It has earned its “keep” and while others may be traded, sold or exchanged for another that “will do the same basic stuff”, the “chosen one” remains like a faithful dog.
I’ll examine each of these seven positives over the next few weeks.
In the meantime, the following target shot about a month ago will provide an example of how dedication to extracting the best from a rifle will give both confidence in it and satisfaction from the effort expended. From such experiences a certain rifle may become too priceless to be regarded as “just another” among six, or sixty-six.
The rifle that shot that 3/4″ group at 100 yards was MY Tikka T3 Lite in 9.3 X 62. The bullet was the 250gr Nosler AccuBond at an average corrected MV of 2760 fps. The powder was RL-17 ignited by a WLRM primer. PSI was in the neighbourhood of 64,000. That rifle isn’t going anywhere, except hunting, anytime soon.
Nothing remarkable about shooting 3/4″ groups from handloads? Yeah, very true if you’re not 79 and 1/2 years with arthritis in both shoulders and one wrist from a rifle that’s making over 4000 ft-lbs and 45 – 50 ft-lbs of recoil… very true, that!
‘Till the next…