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June 27, 2007

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What Matters Most In A Dangerous Game Rifle

A two-inch rifle is no less likely to drop your lion than a one-inch rifle. If you shoot well, either will do. On the other hand, a failed extractor, a double feed, or a slipped striker can be a very serious matter indeed. Accuracy is important, but dependability is considerably more so.”—Jeff Cooper, reprinted from The Gargantuan Gunsite Gossip by permission of Gunsite Press.


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Animals large enough to want big calibers tend to be grumpy, and likely to come after you if injured. Besides that, everything the colonel said is complete and to the point: the thing has to feed, it has to shoot well enough to hit a vital, and the thing has to extract and eject reliably. The idea is that if you spent a lot of $'s to face death in the form of a grumpy animal, hopefully you spent enough care to make sure your firearm would not fail you.


Troy Stirman

What matters most in ANY firearm's effectiveness on game? The person utilizing it!

Cooper always stressed drills, knowledge and familiarity with one's weapon of choice. This is just as true of one using a slingshot as one shooting an $80,000 H&H double bore.

It won't matter how mechanically sound the instrument is - if the person using that instrument is not versed in its correct manipulation.



I agree with the Colonel. I just like guys that walk the walk. Cooper has been on how many dangerous game safaris?


Dr. Ralph

That weapon has to go BANG when one pulls the trigger period. Operator error is the usual culprit. One of my friends missed out on the biggest deer he ever saw (a 200 lb. 12 pointer according to legend) because he was using a Remington 760 and pulled the forearm toward him just a little when BIG DADDY appeared. Several of us had caught a glimpse of BIG DADDY through 100 yards of briars and branches and brush but when someone actually had a clear shot the pump action gun was too much to handle with a bad case of buck fever. Good thing he wasn't in Africa!

Clay Cooper

O’Man’does this remind me of a true story caught on video in Alaska. A Brown Bear Hunter near Katalla Alaska was stalking a Brown Bear. Unknown to him there was a Green Peace Activist sneaking in between the two of them. Just before the hunter fired, the Activist jumped out and started yelling and waving his arms. The Bear charged and the Hunter dropped the Bear within 12 feet of the Activist. Darn, I would have said my gun jammed and would have been on FOX News telling how the activist became a brownie dinner and making a killing!


Cooper has a valid point especially on the dependability factor. Modern firearms are indeed excellent, but as brought out in previous blogs: Unfinished.

Since the majority of my present big game hunting is for stuff larger than deer, My two big game rifles [a Mauser and Model 70] are as much alike as possible in dependable operation in the triggers, bolt throw, and good extraction and ejection. I have tuned the actions to eliminate drag and enhance feeding. I have developed my loads. I then practice as much as possible with my hunting loads on a facsimile hunting course.

It would seem to do anything else is going where angels fear to tread.

Black Rifle addict

A reliable firearm is a must, and a good helping of calm nerves when it comes to taking the shot helps, too!
As an old hunting friend of the family told me when I was a kid,"the gun ain't a gonna shoot itself!"

Charles Henderson

Nothing could be more frustrating that drawing down on a big black cape or a rhino, and hearing something go click. So, true, reliability is a must, backed by disciplined maintenance of the tool, and masterful knowledge of its operation, marksmanship and the skill to use the tool well. Most guys I know who hunt dangerous game fit in one of two catagories: skilled and dedicated hunters who take the game seriously, and know this stuff, not just the weapons but the nature of the beasts too; and the guys who have lots of money to spend on Rigbys, Holands, Prudys and Wilkes, but are as full of crap as a Christmas turkey. They buy the best gun names with all the fancy artwork mostly for show. Yes, they go on safari, but what a joke. They have a hundred-grand Rigby in their hands, but don't really have a clue. There's little knowledge and certainly no respect. That's why they pay the guy standing in the breach for them to do the real work, and save their sorry hides when they screw up, and in most cases keeping them from making fatal errors in judgement. Makes me chuckle. Very few in the game truly walk the walk. Most just blow hard. Is the game truly as dangerous as these bold Hollywood hunters at the resort bar tell? Truthfully, the danger is in the stalk, not the kill. You never know what green eyes might be watching. That's why God made Professional Guides. There's a lot more to hunting dangerous game than merely knowing how to shoot well with an expensive, envious and most beautiful weapon.

Gary Smith

I know the different feed and extraction of a cartridge in the Mauser type guns and the Rem. 700 . double feed and missed extraction can get you killed while hunting dangerous game. i've never had a miss feed with the Rem. but never hunted dangerous game. A lot of the proble with hunting dangerous critters is due to operator fault. something like buck fever but more dangerous. Know one man had buck fever so bad, he ejected all the rounds from a 30-30 Win. never firing the first shot.

Gary Smith

Clay once said the M-1 and M-14 were the greatest weapons ever made, he's right, but i believe 98K Mauser, with it's feed and extraction, qulify for this honor also. Had several and really like the action. Wish i still had one I had sporterized (7mm) . Sold this one too cheap...

Dr.Ralph, Isaw buck fever work on large game, but also on small game.


Throughout most of North America the most dangerous game we are likely to encounter is a wounded black bear. With expanding populations of these animals in exurban, suburban and even urban areas the likelyhood of coming across a bear which has been injured by a car or wounded by another hunter has increased. So even the 12 gauge and .30-06 in your gun-safe need to be maintained for uttmost reliability.

Our skills need to be kept up to par as well. Practice often, as Col. Cooper drilled in; practice with full power loads.

Whether hunting dangerous game in Africa or having a chance encounter here at home the other key is being mentally prepared to act appropriately when faced with a life-threatening situation. This is far more important than what caliber you shoot. Stay alert and mentally rehearse responses to likely threats.

Dr. Ralph

Black Rifle addict, Silver Arrow, Charles Henderson all touch on the real deal... it ain't the arrow, it's the Indian. Nerves of steel that allow you to follow procedure when staring death in the face. I missed the first three bucks I ever saw because of nerves. Then I got mad at myself and every deer I saw and the change in mindset made me a killer. No more misses, just a body count from now on.

Gary Smith

Silver Arrow, I don't think a 12ga. with #7 1/2 shot would be of much help if you came across a wounded Bear. It is illegal to have Buck shot or slug while hunting upland game... What would you do in this situation?

At 72 yrs of age, I yet get buck fever now and then. I pratice a lot and my gun shoots perfect.3 shots at 200 yds that a silver dollar will cover. I Kinda get nervous if I have to watch and wait on a animal to get in shooting range or position. I much prefer a animal to just happen to appear in my range and fire automatic. that way I don;t have time to get all bent out of shape.My primary hunting guns are the 700 CDL in 30-06 and a 700 25-06. I have a custom built on a Mauser frame that shoots well, but for serious hunting the CDL 700 goes with me.I never ;;liked the claw extractor, prefer to drop on in the chamber upon reaching my hunt area.But thats why so many different firearms are made. Do believe if ws huting dangerous game, I would want a good side by side rifle and a expert marksman as my guide.Read that a sawed off shotgun dble bbl, loaded with 000 Buck is another good back up firearm at close range ( in my face).


Gary Smith
In some states you are right, here in New Hampshire I can legally carry a couple of slugs in my pocket anytime (coyotes are legal game 365 days a year here). At 'point blank' range that load of 7 1/2 s is still going to give that bear a pause enough to allow me to work the slug into the chamber of either of my pumps. I can also (and often do) carry a sidearm as well -- mine is a M 29 with which I can put six rounds into an 8" pie plate at 25 yards consistently and usually the full cylinder into that same size target at twice the range.
I must say that even if I still lived in New Jersey I would tuck a couple of slugs or buckshot loads in my pocket these days. Mindset.

I would love the chance to get all excited about game in the Rocky Mountains. But the price of a trip of near 2K miles, tags, Guide, Motel, food,rental car, plane fare prevent my going on such a trip. I don;t play the Lottery, so no chance to win that. Will just ahve to continue to wish and hunt w-tails here at home. Would like to try my 700 CDL in 06 on a nice Bull or Mulie. Hopefully I have a rich uncle out there some place. As for side arm, I would take my S&W 357 mag. Can shoot in well out to 25 yds or so. I do pratice a lot and not a bad shotter. Can put 3 l80 grs bullets in the bull's eye, that a silver dollar would cover.Not bad for a 72 yr old broken down southerner in very por health. Take care, shoot straight adn often. Gunslinger, as was the 2nd item up from this one.


Somebody said:"Anything is accurate at handshaking distance."
Problems with firearm reliability often show up with regular usage. Regular usage meant to maintain comfortable familiarity.
Here in the Cdn mtns, gunshots only mean gutpiles. Bearspray is hotsauce. My bearspray when fishing is a coachgun with SSG. The dogs watch my 6. Most dangerous, unwounded? Bison, but a Grizzly sow with cubs or a buried kill is nothing to mess with, wounded or not.

WA Mtnhunter

You are right, it is more the shooter than the gun.

Just like the old west gunfighters and lawmen, the man who can suppress panic and maintain nerves of steel in extremis is more likely to survive the fight if he can aim and fire at the target amidst the mayhem going on around him. A gunfight, a grizzly, or the excitement of a whitetail doe requires the same level of cool.

You will fight like you train, so you best train like you want to fight. Men have been known to stop and pick up brass in the middle of a fire fight because that's the way they did it at the range.

While I hope to never be in another shooting scrape, I hope I am always excited by a buck or a bull! If that rush ever goes away, it will be time to take up model cars and basket weaving.

Is great to hear other seasoned hunters get excited at game. I too suppose that when we don;t, its time to stop hunting.I will never forget my first Deer hunt with a borrowed dble bbl 12 ga, I can at my age now recall it as if yesterday and that was 50 odd years ago. I get excited when I see game period, even if have a tag for that animal or not. But do believe, that a Bull Elk gets to me in a instant. Recall my first Elk Hunt as well, what a rush that was. I now look at him on my Den wall daily and thank the good lord for allowing me the opportunity to have been so successful. Most hunters today do not pratice enough to shoot tin cans. Prior to hunting season (about 3 months before) I begin to pratice and continue almost daily till season arrives. I know where my firearm will hit if I do my part. With these light wt firearms of today (mine wt around 9-10 lbs) I don;t see how they can shoot period. Many of the firearms I hunt with, all shoot different ammo, no 2 pattern alike with same Ammo. I suppose I spoiled them to quality ammo when I first bought.Also, I pratice and zero my hunting firearms for 200 yds , dead on. I don;t buy this l or 2" high at 100 yds to be dead on at 200. I want to know where that bullet gonna hit at 200 yds. I killd a Elk with a neck shot when he was surrounded by 30 or so cows, but his head was way above the cows and I knew where my bullet was gonna go. I had a solid rest and took my time to place the cross-wires on his neck, just below his ear. He fell in his tracts. Thats what I like, as unable to tract wounded game. Good hunting. The old GunslingerPS; A handgun is always in my shoulder harness what-ever I hunt or where.Smetimes its a short bbl shotgun, other times its a 45 or 44 mag, all depends where and what I;m hunting. Plus, I love and pratice the Buddy system. (We always have 2 way radios)Never to far away from my partner, be it my wife or etc.

Trae Berryhill

I think you should be a good shot but also be smart.if your gonna hunt deer dont use a 22. make sure you have something thats able to cleanly take out what you shoot.but not blow it to unusable bits.so try not to just wound your animals,dont make them suffer.

My large game hunting is with a Rem 700 in 30-06, and for small w-tails or Lopes, its a Rem 700 in 25-06. However, I have a friend who hunts deer with a 22 mag, scoped. He shoots between the eye and ear at close range. He is successful as his freezers are all full when season is over. My trips west cost too much not to be a great shooter. All i ask for is a reasonable shot at a range I can handle and hit the vitals of the animal hunting. Last year, 2 shots 2 kills at in excess of 325 yds per the rangefinder. Too many Sunday hunters today, buy a scoped (bore sighted) combo rifle and a box of ammo and head to the woods. You know where the first shot is going, at least 8-12 " off target. If you want to make a guide, outfitter pissed of, tell him you just bought the gun and it's bore sighted dead on at 100 yds. Chances he will leave your Butt in camp, or make you pratice with the influence of the camp cook. you may get lucky and get a 25 yd shot and kill a animal buy pure chance. Pratice as much as possible and make a killing shot. If you care for the animal, make his death as easy on him as possible. Shoot that gun untill you know where the bullet will go even with your eyes closed. Sure pratice ammo cost, but not nearly as much as a trip west, then miss your only chance for a animal you saved thousands to make this dream hunt. I just hope I live to go west once more for Mulies and Elk. The Old gunslinger from the south land.

barry pearl


Use enough gun to kill the game you hunting. No reason to use a smalle caliber than needed just to prove a point. All I want to prove is I did my homework and a animal presented himself for a vital one shot kill. Never thought you could use too much gun hunting large animals. A dead animal is just that DEAD and he never knew what caliber you used. I hate to cripple a animal and he suffes till tracted down and finished off. Make it quick and easy on the animal. Then you can brag about your one shot kills to your un-happy companions who failed to see, or even worse, missed their shot.I always take 2 firearms with me wherever I hunt. One of two different calibers. Depending on what I hunt and kill first depends on 2nd gun I take out. But if hunting 2 different animals at same time, I take the larger caliber as never know which animal may cross your scope wires. Pratice, and then pratice again. Once that gun shoots as you like, leave it be, do not clean the bbl till season is over. If and when I go west, my rifles are never cleaned from time I start praticing here till I return and the season here ends.With good AMmo, no residue builds up and once you get over the fouling shots, your gun is set for your range that you prefer. Me, its 200 yds.I always put a piece of elec. tape over muzzle to keep junk from falling down bbl.It will not interfer with your shot. Gunslinger PS; I do wipe and oil my outside of teh guns, especially if encounter rain-snow, and I want to remove the finger prints from the metal to prevent the salt in your body from rusting the metal. Firearms are tools of my trade on a hunt, and we should treat them such.

Trae B.

DO NOT MAKE ANIMALS SUFFER.if you can help it thats all there is to it.

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