Having established in P1 that the ideal weight of any big-bore rifle depends on the individual shooter – their temperament, general healthy condition and experience – we’ll now move on to some specifics. Temperament affects general mindset over both one’s physical condition (regardless of age) and any other personal challenges – specifically in this context of a rifle’s weight and recoil.
< As previously published: a 500g Hornady RN at 2198 fps (instrumental). Corrected to MV = 2210 fps/5454 ft-lbs. The actual average weight of those was 503 grains. I was in my mid-sixties and weighed about 200 lbs. The rifle was my #1 Ruger in .45-70 LT (long throat) The load was 75 grains of H335, Rem nickel brass and WLRM primers. COL at 3.19″. Rifle weight = 8.4 lbs with scope only. Recoil = 73 ft-lbs. It was sometime in the month of April at my bear-bait site. Temp in the 50’s F. Shot from a standing offhand position at about 15′ from the Chrony. That number was NOT an anomaly as it had been shot at the range and also recorded. At the same time and place I fired a 450g A-Frame over 75.5 grains of H335 that recorded 2305 fps (instrumental), and corrected to MV = 2317 fps/ 5364 ft-lbs. Recoil wasn’t a major concern as I’d previously fired multiple heavy loads from that rifle. It stayed with me as my favorite until 2018 when it was swapped for the #1 Ruger in .458 Win Mag. But I did use milder hunting loads in it as well, such as a 300 TSX at 2650 fps and the 350 TSX at 2470 fps, neither of which were max loads.
I’ve studied and used practical psychology, and have been aware during most of the years of Christian ministry that, regardless of the system (and there are several in use for relationships, education and employment), humans are divided into four broad types of temperament, and each of these are again separated into four each making a total of sixteen – in a general, spectrum-like sense. So there are more than just two types: Introverted and Extroverted, or Type “A” etc. So whatever our temperament type (often referred to as “personality”) it mostly determines our outlook on life – relationships, education, jobs, etc., and even degree of success in whatever might be involved in just living.
Agreed, there are other factors such as parental modelling, cultural norms, education, religious training (if any) and associations, but in the end our fundamental temperament will incline us in one direction or any other. Some are more individualistic than others – they tend to be leaders rather than followers. We say, “They have a mind of their own”. To be honest, I tend to be more of that type than just a follower. Some, of course, are stronger in that tendency than others. In the firearms industry — hunting rifles in particular — we think of names like Townsend Whelen as a strong leader with entrepreneur skills. In fact, all successful entrepreneurs must have a “daring to take risks” propensity.
So how does your basic disposition affect the weight and thus the recoil of the rifle you are comfortable with? But really, “comfortable” isn’t appropriate in this context, is it? Rather, “at ease with”, “not troubled by”, or “not distressed by” might be better ways of expressing our dealing with heavier rifles that might also have “heavier recoiling effect”.
< That was my CZ 550 in .458 Winchester Magnum. As seen in this photo it weighed about 11.5 lbs with four cartridges in the magazine. My partner (who took the photo) and I were on a moose hunt in the “Far North” of our Province of Ontario. I did a lot of walking and used the sling over my left shoulder for toting the rifle in more open areas. In tighter quarters it was in my hands with the left hand gripping the pistol grip and my right the forearm since I shoot from a left-handed position. Recoil was approximately 48 ft-lbs in firing the 350g TSX at 2700 fps. Neither the weight nor recoil were of any concern to me during the week-long hunt when we were on the move most of those hunting hours. I was in my seventies and weighed 190 – 200 lbs without clothes and boots. In this photo, all dressed for hunting and rifle, my feet, knees and legs were feeling the effect of about 225 lbs. All told, I walked several miles each day, and most of it wasn’t on trails – some through alder patches. I took breaks by resting on a bolder or deadfall, and at the end of each day’s hunt was ready for a meal and my tent.
It’s quite evident that those who contribute most of what appears on “BIG BORE” forums are “at ease with” shooting big-bore rifles all the way up to… what? For some they stop at the .375 H&H, referring to it as a “Big Bore”. For a handful, they have tried things like a .600 NE or .460 Weatherby which take you up around 100 ft-lbs of “kick”! And a half-handful beyond that still! I’m not among them, though when a bit younger I was tempted to have my CZ 550 in .458 Win re-chambered to .460 Wea. Mag. But I decided, after some sane reflection, that wouldn’t be a brilliant idea all matters considered! I was in my seventies, and what possibly could a .460 Wea. do that a .458 Win couldn’t? My temperament made that decision for me!
So why did you choose a BIG BORE? Or, why did you give up on one? Only you can answer that, but I think it might be of value for you to know why you did one thing or another.
Sometimes it’s a matter of economics, or it might be purely a practical matter – you simply don’t need one. But then, to be purely practical, how many rifles do we have in our safes, cabinets or closets that essentially do the same things? That’s “want” not “need”. So, let’s not kid ourselves by lying to ourselves (or spouses) that we “need” that extra .30-06! Or that “ultra-lightweight” .270! Instead of having a couple dozen that do the same thing as deer rifles, why not venture into a BIG BORE? Too heavy, some say?
Let’s keep in mind some details regarding a rifle’s weight and associated recoil effect: And I’ll start with an experience I had at a range many years ago. I was shooting a variety of handloads in my SAKO FS (20″) in .338 Win Mag. Recoil was up around 37 to 40 ft-lbs, and they were shot over my Chrony to record MV. A nearby fellow shooter was firing handloads from his short-barrelled (20″ or less), light-weight .300 Win Mag and asked if I’d fire one shot over my Chrony to check MV. Those were 180g. To put this in some perspective, My SAKO FS was not a “lightweight” at nearly 9 lbs ready to shoot with a 3 – 9 x 40mm scope. He didn’t know the exact weight of his rifle when it was handed to me, but with a synthetic stock and no longer than my SAKO, it felt like a “flyweight” of perhaps 6.5 lbs. I fired the single shot that recorded 3050 fps ( corrected to MV = 3058 fps), and it was the loudest and nastiest rifle I’d EVER fired to that point in time! Light and handy? Sure… but VERY impractical! I had earmuffs on and it was still very loud! I can hardly imagine what the “BANG” would be like in hunting “close quarters” (The excuse for such a “creation”!) . And the perceived recoil was far worse than my SAKO FS in .338 Win Mag!
And some calculations: The recoil from my .338 was, as stated, about 37 to 40 ft-lbs, depending on the actual weight bullet and load fired that day. That particular .300 Win Mag shooting a 180g at 3058 fps would have been about 43 ft-lbs, but it seemed worse than that because the speed of recoil was much faster than my .338 and little of that weight was at the muzzle end that allowed “muzzle jump”! So, he saved about 2 lbs in carried weight but increased recoil by 10 ft-lbs plus a noise-level increase of about 50%! Otherwise, with a “normal” weight .300 Win. Mag. of around 8.5 lbs ready, and a barrel of 24 – 26 inches, he’d not likely notice the recoil, and the noise level would have been more-or-less “normal”.
Several years ago I had a very good friend (a retired intermediate school principal) who hunted big game with me, and we often visited “gun shops” together. He loved pretty wood, and spied a short-barrelled bolt-action in 7mm Rem Mag and “fell in love” with it. I think it was a SAKO, but not absolutely sure of that. In any case, after debating and arguing, I finally persuaded him that it would be a VERY LOUD 7-08 Remington in ballistics!
Whatever the brand, gun companies cater to the whims of shooters, without conscience! That’s why lightweight rifles can be found everywhere in the market place, whether custom built or mass produced. So a generation of shooters/hunters tend towards lighter-handier rifles, either with less effective ballistics or more recoil – or both! As it concerns true Big Bores though, the trend is to call anything over a 7mm a “big-bore”. And it appears that’s conditioned by the recoil and noise factor of rifles like that lightweight .300 Win Mag mentioned above or the “want” of my friend for a too-short and light 7mm Rem Mag!
Of course, the deal is in marketing what hunters/shooters “think” they want! But the “thinking” part has little to do with it — it’s mostly an emotional response as with my friend who wanted that short-barrelled 7 Rem Mag because of it’s looks — which would have ultimately been left in the closet after one session at the range or a hunting trip where he squeezed the trigger without muffs on! I had a similar creation in the short-n-handy Marlin Guide Gun in .45-70 with the infamous ports! It went “down-the-road” about ten months later! That thing would “blow your ears off” without muffs. But the short 18.5″ barrel with the multiple round “ports” was a most unwanted contraption! Thankfully, Marlin ditched the ports in it’s next run.
< The Ruger #1 in 450-400 NE looks identical to mine in .458 Win Mag.
The reality of it all comes home in the choice of a true BIG BORE: .40 cal to about .500. Ruger had produced a #1 in 450-400 NE a few years back, and Hornady made brass, bullets and loaded ammo for it. It is said to be mild in recoil but effective on large and dangerous game. And that’s not just theory, it has been effective in that department for many decades. In a video of a British hunter, he used the #1 Ruger and Hornady factory ammo on a Newfoundland black bear. It worked well for that hunt, but that same ammo is claimed sufficient for Cape Buff in good hands. The 400g Hornady DGX or DGS at about 2150 fps/4105 ft-lbs… that’s about the starting point for a true BIG BORE and factory ammo. And recoil? Around 48 ft-lbs max, if we accept the 2150 fps for Hornady’s 400g in their manual, and 9.5 lbs for the Ruger #1. If you add some weight to that in additional ammo in a stock holder and a scope, then the “kick” could be reduced to around 40 ft-lbs; at a relatively slow speed of recoil. Of course, loads don’t always need to be maximum, ’cause a Big Bore firing a heavy, well-constructed (read: “appropriate”) bullet will kill anything from rabbits to bison with an impact of not more than 1000 fps. That could be a hardcast lead bullet of around 400g from a .40-cal or a 450g to 550g from a .458-cal departing the muzzle around 1300 to1400 fps. Recoil from a 9. 5 lb to 10.5 lb rifle? Very modest, indeed… 16 ft-lbs from a 9.5 lb rifle shooting a 450g at 1350 fps from a relatively light .458 Win Mag such as the M77 Ruger that I owned as my first, with scope and some ammo.
MV= 1350 fps
50 = 1280 fps
100= 1217 fps
150= 1162 fps
200= 1113 fps
250= 1072 fps (That’s adequate for up to a 1 ton bison when hit broadside through lungs far enough forward to take out some major arteries. Yes, it’s been done multiple times!)
Ambient conditions: 1200 ft, 59*F and 62% RH. BC = .350
So, what about mindset and physical status? And experience? These will greatly influence our thinking on the acceptable weight and recoil of any big-bore rifle.
Then again, I sometimes make loads that more or less simulate a lever-action .45-70 or even a front-loader, black powder big-bore rifle. Those extra two pounds? I’m “at ease” with that.
More comin’ – next time: Being “at ease” with a rifle’s weight and recoil – what is that? To quote an Alaskan resident who has by times used a single big-bore rifle for all hunting, including many deer, and in self-protection:
“Trick is don’t flinch. I know easier said than done much of the time. The secret is to shoot the 458 a LOT. Not just going outside and blazing away till a box of ammo is gone and a guy wants nothing to do with the rifle.
“It also helps if the only rifle a guy owns is a 458 Winchester and he’s broke and actually needs to get meat. Plus it helps if on occasion a guy has to shoot for his life. That puts a little recoil into perspective.”
“Cold Trigger Finger” (CTF) has been a heavy machine operator related to mining in Alaska. In P3 I’ll make some observations based on CTF’s Alaskan experience, where he still lives, works and hunts. CTF is his “handle” on the 24hr campfire forum. The quote is from the “Express Rifles and Big Bores Only” section, and “The great .458 Winchester Magnum” thread.