From the rear-view mirror of an eighty-six year old – who’s still hunting and making handloads for rifles, and six decades of hunting experiences with over forty years in the handloading game (from .22 Hornet to the mighty .458 Win Mag) what would I keep as a three-rifle battery for all global hunting, including “dangerous game”?
The three rifles, not including a .22LR or 12ga shotgun which would be in addition to the three center fire rifles, would all be multi-purpose. That is, they would be capable of taking two classes of game in suitable contexts. So there would be some overlapping.
I’d want one of the three to be a bolt-action repeater with specific purposes. And at least one of the remaining two would be a single-shot. The one remaining could be either a repeater or a single-shot.
The three classes of game, including DG, is generally sorted as small, medium and large. However, within that broad spectrum there are several sub-classes and multiple physical conditions that must be accounted for in any planned hunt. So if we do much hunting of a variety of game in various regions, while one rifle could possibly satisfy, I’d choose three from those I’ve experience with to better suite any given game and physical location.
The FIRST: for small game, including varmints, to medium game, including wolf and WT deer.
CZ 455 in .22 LR
Though I’ve owned a number of .22LRs, and still own a couple (a Remington semi and a CZ bolt), I’d not purposely take them hunting for anything more than woodchucks, rabbits and fox – and maybe the occasional grouse. But they would not be my first choice for a variety of hunting conditions. Coyote, wolf and WT deer – a deer license is costly and includes the specifics of sex, and might go to 400 lbs in this area that requires much more than a .22LR has to offer.
So that also excludes for me the .223 Rem – of which I’ve owned a couple. And I’ve passed by the .243 Win in favor of .25s, .26s and .28s (7mm).
I was very impressed with my M70 in .25-06, so that would be my first choice of a center-fire rifle to fully meet the demands and expectations for taking, for example, a possible 150 lb wolf to 400 yards, and any whitetail to ~400 lbs. While a bolt rifle like my former M70 would be an excellent choice, so would a Ruger #1. It would get one load of a 120gr Partition at 3175 fps for coyote, wolf and WT deer.
However, in a mixed bag that might include black bear – which is often my situation in a fall hunt – I’d go with my second rifle as a bear can come in any size and I might need to stop it in it’s tracks as I’d be on the ground in a wolf or deer hunt and not in a stand. Even though a .25-06 shooting a 120gr NP from a tree stand with careful placement, is adequate for most any bear at a bait setup, yet that’s not the same thing as any bear under all conditions! My deer hunting and wolf hunts are in very mixed terrain that might involve shooting across the end of a lake or marsh. While a .25-06 has killed many bears, yet it still would not be my first choice under all conditions.
The SECOND: a rifle for medium to large game – including some DG, as in any size bear under all conditions, would be a bolt-action repeater of a medium-bore (.338 – .375) caliber in a magnum cartridge, or equivalent.
Since many of my blogs have been dedicated to this theme, I’ll spare as much repetition as possible while still giving a rational for my choice. Most of you who read my articles are already aware that I’ve chosen the 9.3 x 62 Mauser to fit that bill. It has replaced all other mediums, including: .338 magnums, .35 Whelens and .375 H&H’s. Why?
Because it can do what any of those three can, or could do! And that’s been proven too many times for well over a century in Africa – including elephant and Cape buffalo – as well as on other continents – for any realistic argument against it to have a sound footing! It’s main shortcoming is lack of awareness in North America, but that’s been changing for the past decade or so. It can, and has done anything the contemporary .375 H&H has accomplished. And that knowledge has come from renowned African PH’s as well as a famed Alaskan Master Guide for Brown Bear, Phil Shoemaker.
My experience is much more limited to three black bears, and ballistics at the muzzle that just about equal most results from the .375 H&H or .375 Ruger, using optimum handloads.
There is nothing in the world I couldn’t hunt with it. Some say it’s not legal for the DG of Africa, yet there are actually a number of countries where the historic 9.3 x 62 is legal for DG, including elephant, lion and buffalo (there are different sub-species in some countries):
Namibia (5400 joules = 3982 ft-lbs) minimum for DG. With handloads the 9.3 x 62 is more than able.
Zimbabwe (5300 joules min for DG.) Minimum cal. = 9.2mm
My 9.3 x 62 in a Tikka T3 has produced 4300 ft-lbs (5830 joules) from the 320gr Woodleigh and 4427 ft-lbs (6003 joules) from the 286gr Partitions.
Having a very slick bolt-action repeater with a match grade 22.44″ barrel, it’s a go-anywhere, do-anything rifle from coyote to….?
The THIRD rifle is no surprise to anyone who is a reader of these pieces: It could be either a bolt-action repeater OR a single-shot. I’ve owned a couple as bolt-action repeaters and three as single-shots. They could shoot .458-cal bullets from 250gr all the way to 600gr!
The first was a Ruger M77 bolt-action repeater in .458 Win Mag.
The second was a single-shot Ruger #1 in .45-70.
The third was a CZ550 in .458 Win Mag.
The fourth was a single-shot Ruger #1 in .45-70 with a long throat (LT).
The fifth is my current Ruger No.1H in .458 Winchester Magnum.
All of that covers a history going back for over thirty years. Mixed in with that are several other .45-70s, some with lever-actions and others with single-shot break-actions.
It should be obvious that I’m very impressed with .458-cal rifles AND their projectiles!
That fourth single-shot Ruger with the long throat (LT) was something I had done by my gunsmith so that longer-heavier bullets could be fired at meaningful velocities. That succeeded admirably! In fact, so much so that ballistics from the heaviest bullets (450gr and 500gr) from the 22″ barrel were equal to those from a .458 Win Mag with a 22″ barrel.
I would still have that rifle if I were still sixty! But it only weighed 8.4 lbs with a scope, one in the chamber and four in a stock cartridge holder. Recoil was getting up around 80 ft-lbs with the heaviest loads! So considering eye surgery on my one good eye and arthritis in my hands and shoulders, it got traded for a 2 lb heavier Ruger No.1H in .458 Win Mag. If wanted, ballistics are, on average, about 150 fps faster than in the Ruger #1, .45-70 LT. In truth, however, I’m slowing things down rather than speeding them up. All together, with the heavier rifle (10.65 lbs ready to hunt) and reduced loads, it’s quite pleasant to shoot!
That’s current history, but all things considered and reviewed, I’d still choose the three I’ve nominated, if they’d been available thirty-five years ago… Let’s see, hmmm… I’m cogitatin’… that would make me the age of when we moved to this part of the world!
Yet going back in history with my current experience and knowledge, a .25-06, a .35 Whelen (almost a 9.3 x 62) and that first Ruger M77 in .458 Winchester Magnum would have covered all bases – wanting nothing, needing nothing more!
Afterthoughts… There was a debate in my mind between the .25-06 and the 7-08, which were both favorites. I’ve chosen the .25-06 in this classification that would make a trio of a .25, a .35 and a .45. Interesting…. The 9.3 is .36 caliber, and if I were to replace the vacancy of the .25-06 today, it would likely be with a 7-08 Rem. The .25-06 is rare today, and very costly compared to a 7-08. The 9.3 x 62 is a half-step up on the .35 Whelen which it has replaced – and I’ve never looked back!
So, after a lifetime of using rifles, the ballistics of a .25-06 (or 7-08), a 9.3 x 62 (or .35 Whelen), and a .458 Win is what I’d choose today, hunting anywhere under all conditions, for small, medium and large game.
With current new rifles and powders, plus new-premium bullets, and psi equal to so-called “magnums” – in equal length barrels – older cartridges such as the 9.3 x 62 and .35 Whelen can easily attain “magnum” status of well over 4000 ft-lbs at the muzzle! Someone from Alaska has recently reported +2800 fps from a 250gr in his .35 Whelen. It was a book load for the .350 Rem Mag using a near max load of CFE223. However, the barrel length of his rifle was 26″. Personally, if I chose the .35 Whelen it would likely have a 22″ tube, making about 100 fps short of 2800. But 2700 fps is realistic today, at safe psi, from a 22″, .35 Whelen using CFE223 or 2000MR. Then there are heavier bullets in .358″ – all the way to a 310gr! Likewise, my 9.3 x 62 at 64,000 psi (same as a .338 Win Mag) can easily make 4200 to 4400 ft-lbs from bullets of 250gr to 320gr. But it’s the one in the middle (286gr NP) that can make just over 4400 ft-lbs (2643 fps avg corrected to MV). All from a relatively new powder: RL-17.
The 250gr AB is my second choice, and it can make 2761 fps (average corrected to MV) from my 22.44″ barrel, but I’ve settled on about 2700 fps. The 320 can do 2464 fps, yet I’ve chosen 2425 fps/ 4178 ft-lbs as my accuracy load.
And what more could be said of the wonderful .458 Winchester Magnum? I really can’t add much to what I’ve written over the last year or so in these blogs – but go to 24hr campfire, “Express rifles and Big Bores Only” section, and select “The Great .458 Winchester Magnum, why everyone should own at least one”, and there you’ll find encyclopedic information not found anywhere else! Hey! What could 6000 ft-lbs from a 600gr do for ya?!
And still… it’s unbelievable that there are a few who think themselves “experts”, and write “articles” in magazine “rags”, who are really quite ignorant of the facts going all the way back to 1956! Or they are very prejudiced in favoring the .458 Lott over the .458 Win.
I say it’s “unbelievable” that today such drivel could still be spouted by those who make their living as “professional writers”! They are either very lazy or idiots! Or both! They deserve a big fat “F” on their homework! They should have known – without excuses – that the earliest tests of both Winchester factory 500gr loads and independent handloads, done by an independent lab (White’s) as reported in a LYMAN Reloading Handbook (the 2nd one from Lyman that I owned), revealed that not only were the claimed ballistics (in a 24″ barrel”) by Winchester fully met, but were EXCEEDED at less than 60, 000 psi! (The Lott is granted 62,500 PSI by SAAMI !) Yet the Win Mag is it’s equal or even better depending on how each is loaded, barrel lengths and psi! (I’ve written ALL that in my .458 Winchester Magnum manual back in 2008!)
I KNEW, from my experiences in handloading two Rugers No.1 in .45-70, that since the first (unmodified in any way) with it 22″ barrel could make over 2000 fps from the 500gr Hornady RN, at a tested safe psi, then surely a .458 Win Mag with the same length barrel could make 2200 fps from the same bullet within safe psi! And when my 2nd Ruger #1 in .45-70 with an improved throat could make 2200 fps from safe handloads of that 500gr, then surely my CZ550 in .458 Win could do 2300 fps from its 25″ barrel without undue stress, using several appropriate propellants! And not only did it accomplish that, but so will the Ruger No.1H in .458 with a 24″ barrel do the same… and a bit more!
A .25-06 (or 7-08) can make about 2700 ft-lbs from the muzzle firing a 120gr at 3200 fps. A 9.3 x 62 can make 4300 ft-lbs from a 320gr at 2460 fps from my rifle. And the .458 Win can make 5900 ft-lbs from a 500gr at 2305 fps. Those are top loads from those rifles firing those weight bullets.
< Recorded at 15 feet from the muzzle of my Ruger No.1H (24″ barrel with Mag-Na-Porting), firing the 500gr Hornady RN over 81 grains of H4895, COL @ 3.56″, WLRM primers, Win cases and 54*F/+12*C.
It’s intriguing to me that there’s exactly an increase of 1600 ft-lbs from the 25-06 to the 9.3 x 62, and another 1600 ft-lbs from the 9.3 x 62 to the .458 Win Mag. To me, that gives a balanced selection and meaningful versatility in a “THREE RIFLES for All Hunting” battery.
Til the next…