…suitable for what?
In P2, I briefly described a couple of brown bear hunts on the Alaskan Peninsula, and gave a brief summary from my perspective in suggesting a large bore single-shot rifle could have been at least as effective, and perhaps more so in consideration of what I witnessed after three complete viewings of the two hour video. That’s my unchanged belief without ever having hunted brown bear.
< This rifle is a near twin to my former A-Bolt in .375 H&H SS in LH, which it replaced. It’s a .338 Win Mag re-chambered to a .340 WBY.
In the first hunt the client used what might be described as the quintessential rifle and cartridge for such an Alaskan hunt. The rifle was identical to one I’d owned several years ago in .375 H&H – a Browning A-Bolt SS in a left-hand action. The hunter’s was a slightly later version with the adjustable muzzle brake. His loads were not divulged, but if they were the 300gr Nosler Partition, 2600 fps would have been easily possible. So what I’m about to do here is make a comparison between a Browning A-Bolt in .375 H&H firing the 300gr Partitions at 2600 fps, and my current Ruger No.1H Tropical in .458 Winchester Magnum shooting a 550gr Woodleigh at 2100 fps. The distance at which the first hunter’s brown bear was shot at four times was 250 yards – with one miss. The idea is to give evidence to the notion that a single-shot BIG BORE could have been more efficient/effective to the ultimate demise of that 10-ft bear – assuming one good shot through vitals. Of course, as in the case of that hunter, bullets don’t always hit where intended on a running animal. Surely, if the first 300gr Partition had hit the shoulder it may have “dumped” the bear right there, allowing careful placement of a second or third shot as needed.
Nonetheless, my contention will be that the .458 load has at least twice the potential of the .375 load based on physics, assuming one could place that first shot into the shoulder or heart-lungs.
The physics of the loads at 250 yards:
.375 H&H = 2137 fps/3043 ft-lb/Momentum = 91.6/ CSA = .110 sq-in/ SD = .305/ TE = 87.3
(The above highlighted numbers are for comparative purposes in using the same math and method for any cartridge and bullet at impact. The momentum number is bullet weight x impact velocity / 7000 to make it manageable, and the TE number (Terminal Effect) is a slight modification of Dr Ron Berry’s work, in which I’ve simply moved the decimal to the right (multiplying by 100) and calling it TE (as previously) for simplicity’s sake.)
75 grs powder/Rifle total weight = 10 lbs (9.3 lbs for rifle and scope and .7 lbs for 9 rounds ammo @ 4 + 5 in butt stock cartridge holder. I know the clip magazine holds 3, plus 1 in the chamber. His rifle had an additional 5 or more in a cartridge holder on the butt stock.)
Recoil = 39.8 ft-lbs, less 15% from muzzle brake = 34 ft-lbs
Trajectory at 250 yds with 200 yard zero = -3.66″
********************< My current Ruger No.1H Tropical in .458 WM
.458 Win Mag = 1631 fps/3249 ft-lbs/ Momentum = 128.2/ CSA = .165 sq-in/ SD = .375/ TE = 183.4
75 grs powder/Rifle total weight = 10.65 lbs (10.3 lbs for rifle and scope, and .35 lbs for total of 5 cartridges (1 in chamber + 4 in stock holder).
Recoil = 60.9 ft-lbs, less 15% from muzzle brake = 51.75 ft-lbs
Trajectory at 250 yds with 200 yard zero = -6.28″
A subjective evaluation of this data would depend on the individual’s perspective and experience. From mine, I’d be quite sure of being capable of placing a single 550gr into the shoulder or lungs of that mobile bear, since it was broadside – or I wouldn’t shoot! Whether the hunter in the video felt confident or not, he was pressured by the outfitter to do so – NOW! It wasn’t like that was the final day of the hunt!
Secondly, I’d be certain of its sudden demise on the spot if the first bullet hit where intended! Otherwise, the effect of recoil from a single shot from the .458 would be less than the cumulative effect of several from a .375 H&H.
That is NOT to say that the 550gr at 2100 would be my only choice. If the range were shorter, say 150 yards max, I’d load the 550gr to about 1800 fps – which I’m currently planning to do, God willing, this spring for a black bear hunt. But there are multiple other choices, with less recoil and flatter trajectories, that would still out-perform the .375 H&H and Ruger .375, even at 250 or 400 yards… a good 400gr at 2400 for example. Recoil from my rifle would be about 40 – 41 ft-lbs and 108 TE at 250 yards – more than enough for the biggest bear that ever walked the earth! One shot and DRT! (BTW – the old 400gr X-Bullet has left the muzzle of my Ruger No.1 Tropical at a staggering 2590 fps, and 5957 ft-lbs of KE – if you believe in KE.
As concerning the potential advantage of a bolt-action repeater: They hold from 3 to 6 additional cartridges in a magazine under the bolt. Depending on the individual working the bolt, and depending on the precision of the working parts, and the cartridge in use, this might be an advantage in the case of a close quarters encounter with a dangerous game animal for saving one’s bacon – or so we’re led to believe.
That’s the sole advantage, with several assumptions – but it’s not a given, as pointed out in the preceding material. As mentioned more than enough times, I’ve witnessed too many occasions where, under stress, even “pros” have had jams – sometimes due to the rifle or ammo, and sometimes due to poor manipulation of the bolt and rifle. One such occasion was by a professional and TV personality. He is also an outfitter. Just like Craig Boddington, Harry Selby and Bob Mitchell, he was shooting a right-handed bolt-action repeater from the left side. The hunt was Cape buff. On the first shot the buff was facing him and took off like the devil was after it through thick thorn bush. No second shot for what seemed like 1/2 hour or so – of course some parts were edited to keep the video from becoming too long. When they finally caught up, it looked like the buff was still in good form and still facing him. He worked the bolt rapidly for a second shot and…!!! A JAM!!! Then the buff just stood there in the bush looking at him, I guess wondering what all the fuss was about! A jam caused by short stroking the bolt or the cartridge clearing the magazine too fast at an angle – not straight in. Finally? …not really, but he managed to get off another shot and the Cape buffalo took off again! But it was bleeding from a couple of holes… so the crew caught up again and the commander in chief gave the order to “shoot again!” Guess what? No, you won’t… there wasn’t a cartridge in the chamber! “CLICK”! Well, he did finally get another or two into the woeful beast and it fell over!
Now, you may think that’s extreme… until you find yourself in a like situation! Remember our brief discussion on different sides of the brain? The left side for rational thought and the right for emotion? Sometimes the two sides are not talking to each other! It’s alright to have emotions in the proper context, but when faced with “black death”? Well, the right side of the brain might start screaming and not able to hear the left side! That can cause a screw-up in a big hurry!
But out-of-control emotion isn’t the only cause of a repeating rifle not repeating as it is supposed to do. The more that’s demanded of any mechanical device the more the possibility of “haywire” happening! And a repeating bolt-action rifle is more complicated than a falling-block single. Experts of the bolt will deny this of course, but hear me out:
< This was my former CZ550 in .458 Win Mag on a moose hunt to the “True North” of my home province of Ontario – 1000 miles from home! It was loaded with 350gr TSX’s at 2700 fps from a full dose of RL-7 at my home range with warmer climes. After the hunt, when tested at the range at colder temps, it lost close to 100 fps! I swiftly changed powders to H4198 for a stable load and an increase of 50 fps. But the fact is that I would gladly have taken my current .458 WM in a Ruger No.1 (single-shot) if I had owned it at the time. The CZ has a 25″ barrel and the long Mauser-type action allowing a COL of 3.47″ for that load. The 24″ No.1 will easily give those results from the same amount of H4198, and is consistent regardless of ambient conditions. But the Ruger is five inches shorter without that long magazine. The CZ was fine in open surroundings – as seen here – but in tight places (alders and brush) its length became cumbersome. The possibility was there for a long shot, and either rifle could handle a 400 yard shot with ease. But in tight surroundings, I’d much prefer the shorter Ruger, and ballistics was ideal for that scenario as well. The point, again, is: I’d not feel less compatible with the single-shot Ruger than I would with the much longer CZ.
Assuming that all parts of a bolt-action repeater are precise and work together as near perfection requires, and in the hands of an expert bolt-action shooter who’s not under the pressure of a life or death situation (like shooting at paper targets), they are indeed faster than any equally qualified single-shot shooter. But how often in the field is that called for? 50% of the time? Hardly! Perhaps 10%? Not in my experience, or of the many I’ve hunted with. So, let’s say I go to Africa to primarily hunt a Cape buff? Should I choose a bolt repeating rifle in an appropriate caliber over an equally appropriate caliber in a “single-shot”, if I were as competent with one as the other? You’d have a tough time convincing me to favor one over the other.
< That’s a big brute, and by its stance and look I’d favor a 550gr Woodleigh Weldcore at 2100 fps, low between neck and shoulder, over a 300gr anything at 2600 fps. To match the Woodleigh in momentum alone, it would have to speed from the muzzle at 3850 fps!
IF… I chose a bolt rifle over a single-shot, I’d want that bolt rifle to be trued and polished and gone over by a master gunsmith. There are too many sharp metal corners, springs and angles to assume my life would be safe just in buying the “best” – whatever that means – bolt rifle going from the nearest emporium! I’ve never had an issue with a Ruger single-shot, and I’ve owned several, but I have with a number of new bolt-actions and lever-actions. Have you ever had the floor plate of your big-bore, big-game bolt repeater dump the load? I have! At a critical moment on a bear hunt! The recoil of a big-bore rifle can be very hard on sensitive parts… like stocks, springs and floor plates!
But the fastest action is a semi or full auto. I’ve owned a couple big-game semis – a BAR in 7 Rem Mag and a Rem 7400 in .35 Whelen. Interestingly, the Whelen was used on a couple of bears and either a second shot wasn’t possible or not needed. Apart from snipers, militaries around the world have opted out of bolt-action repeaters. Too bulky and slow.
Then there’s that bolt handle – not really convenient in a scabbard or even a gun case. And we must be careful about the scope we mount that it doesn’t interfere with the bolt’s operation.
And the operation of the whole mechanical device: IN theory one is supposed to operate it from the shoulder in loading a cartridge or two, three, etc, but in principle most operate it by taking it down from the shoulder! In such scenarios, an expert with a single shot can load (not “could load”) another as fast. Not everyone is a Phil Shoemaker or Bob Fritz, both experts and champions with bolt-action rifles – in fact very few are!
How can I load a second shot for my BIG BORE single-shot in 5 seconds being ready to shoot again? (Yeah, I know the “experts” can do a bolt gun in 2.5 sec.)
I shoot from my left side, so just reverse to the right side for right-handers:< That was my bolt CZ in .458
Unless you are a speed reader, it will take much longer to read this than to do it!
muzzle goes up
hit the lever with the back of my left (trigger) hand
lower muzzle end of rifle by right hand holding where I would in shooting
pick cartridge from holder near my left hand without looking (keeping eyes on game)
drop cartridge into breech by feel with “thunk” (keeping eyes on game)
raise lever with left hand (keeping eyes on game)
raise rifle with right hand
repetition optional (rarely) – but practice reduces time for a precise second shot.
The breech block on the Farquharson, Ruger falling block type action, is perhaps the strongest of any type action. Nothing to wear out or fall apart!
And I much prefer the tang safety to ANY wing-type.
Now in defence of bolt-actions: I’ve owned more than any other type.< That was my .340 WBY, and I weighed 190 lbs and the moose about 6x that.
And I’ve handloaded one and all.
Til the next… all in a single and final blog on this theme: “Why I liked my M77 Ruger (bolt action repeater) in .458 Winchester Magnum”… followed by “Outfitters and single-shots”… and that will be followed by “Why I like my Ruger No.1H Tropical in .458 more than my former M77 Ruger in .458” – though I’d still like to have one like it today.