A first time hunter to Africa will have often have selected his rifle by walking into a gun shop in his hometown and told the man the shop he needs a rifle for African hunting. He’ll probably walk out with a rifle that may or may not be the ideal calibre and/or finish but it may well be the rifle that gives the shop owner (who could well have never been on an African hunting safari) the highest profit margin.
First, let’s look at the basics…
- Africa is mostly bright sunny, dry and hot. This means that a gloss finished rifle is a step in the wrong direction. Any rifle that gleams is the wrong rifle for an African hunting safari. You need to try to buy something that has a matt or parkerised finish on the metalwork and telescopic sight and either a dullish, oiled finish wood stock or if you prefer a synthetic (but still non-reflective) stock.
- Long barrels can also be a drawback in Africa. This is due to the fact that you will spend a fair amount of time carrying it on your shoulder, and a long barrel sticks up higher and reflects more than a short barrel. One way to get over this is to get into the habit of carrying a long barrelled rifle in the muzzle down position. It’s also a good idea to put a piece of insulating tape over the end of the barrel to keep the dust out. Shorter barrels sig sauer 9mm ammo also make for faster target acquisition and pointability.
Hunting rifles that are legal in Africa fall into 4 basic categories….
There’s the single shot actions such as the famous “falling block”. These can be discounted straight away as being far from ideal by dint of their being too slow to reload.
Then comes the underlever actions, the bolt actions (including the straight pull bolts such as Blaser make) and then the famous double rifles made by such distinguished companies as Holland & Holland and Westley Richards in the UK and Heym in Germany.
Any of these action types are ideal for Africa. Although most underlever rifles rarely come in suitable calibres for most dangerous game species and should therefore be discounted for dangerous game hunting with the exception perhaps of the big cats.
- The bolt action rifles are by far the most popular choice of hunters worldwide. Probably one of the most popular and reliable types of bolt action rifles are the Mauser controlled feed variants. We use these actions in.404 Jeffery on our company loaner rifles. Don’t feel that push feed rifles should be ruled out though, my own Dangerous Game rifle is a push feed action made by Sabi Rifles in South Africa. It’s a bit battered nowadays, but it’s never let me down, shoots as straight as a die and I love it dearly. The straight pull bolt rifles are an excellent choice (especially) for left-handed shooters as left and right-handed bolts can often be used in the same rifle. Removable magazines are an arguable point. Personally I don’t like them much at all, as they can fall out if not correctly located and some hunters (especially in moments of excitement) drop them from time to time. This means that they end up covered in dust and then have to brushed off before they can be replaced in the rifle……Murphy’s law decrees that this will always happen at the worst possible moment!
- Double rifles, although a little on the heavy side are a pleasure to own and use and more often than not, a great investment to boot!. Having said that they are considerably more expensive than a bolt action rifle and in my opinion somewhat restricting in their use due to their design. Doubles really only come into their own when hunting Dangerous Game at close range as they do, without a doubt, allow for a faster second shot than any other action type. The drawback of these rifles is that they need a lot of practice before you can shoot them really well. From my personal experience, at least 50% of hunting clients who use double rifles can’t shoot them as accurately as they should be able to or as accurately as they think they can. Some modern doubles now have a cocking lever instead of the more traditional safety catch. I personally don’t like these at all as in my opinion, the very point of having a double is speed of use. The cocking lever removes some of that speed. It’s fairly rare to see a double rifle fitted with a scope but personally, I think it’s a great idea to fit a low power scope with QD mounts. It makes the rifle a lot more versatile and often helps dramatically with the essential placement of that first shot.