« The Miraculous Triple-X? | Main | Lessons From The African Shoot, Part II »

August 22, 2007

This page has been moved to http://www.fieldandstream.com/blogs/gun-nut

If your browser doesn’t redirect you to the new location, please visit The Gun Nut at its new location: www.fieldandstream.com/blogs/gun-nut.

African Shooting Lessons

Every August, the only club that will have me as a member stages an African Shoot. We blaze away at a standing-elephant target, a rising (out of a rifle pit) buffalo, and a running (via electric cable) lion. It's all offhand, and all at 100 yards. The smallest cartridge allowed is the .375 H&H, and most people use that, but you see bigger rifles, and one intrepid competitor uses a Greener 8-bore black powder double rifle.

If you are not familiar with the 8-bore, it shoots a 1,250-grain conical bullet at about 1,500 fps, or an 860-grain round ball at 1,650 fps (he uses the round-ball load). Powder charges vary from 270 to 325 grains, depending on what the rifle is regulated for. Recoil is 140 foot-pounds, give or take a few ruptured blood vessels, or more than twice what you get from a .458.

Every year the Greener's (did I mention that it has a steel buttplate?) owner offers to let me take a couple of shots, and every time I refuse. There is a limit to what I can take, and 8-bore is far beyond it. This year, one of the .375 shooters got the chance to try it, and asked me if he should.

"Sure," I said, "it will take you into a whole new world of pain that you never dreamed of."

He fired two shots, and when we met down in the pits, he said, "You were right."

The point of all this is that everyone has their limit as far as recoil is concerned, and it's ultra-dumb to try and go beyond it. It can wreck your shooting permanently, and you can get hurt in the process as well. Most people accept their limit and don't push things. If you can't handle more than a .30/06 you'll have to forget about hunting Cape buffalo. But that leaves a lot of other game that you can take.

Fear is a good thing. Take heed of it.


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference African Shooting Lessons:


WA Mtnhunter

You are correct. A good man always knows his limitations. I think I will pass on hunting those big buffs that look at you like you owe them large sums of money, long overdue.


Good advice Mr. Petzal.

I used to shoot a 12 gauge slug gun with Winchester Partition Gold slugs. 3085 ft lbs of energy @ the muzzle just flat out beat the crap out of me and helped to give me an awful flinch.

I switched to a 20 gauge with half the ft lbs of energy @ the muzzle, the flinch disappeared (over time) and the deer still died.

Shooting the biggest, baddest thing on the planet can make you sore, recoil sensitive and in some cases cause a detached retina.

Is it worth it? Not for me.


Could the guy with the 8-bore shoot it accurately?

Dave Petzal

To Jason B: In this case, it's hard to define accurate. After the first shot, the air was so full of smoke that it was hard to see the target, so it made the second shot extremely difficult unless he waited for it to clear away. All things considered, yes, he could. The 8-bore was meant for shooting elephants at 25 yards, and he shot it at a 1/2-life-sized running lion target at 100 yards, and hit it.

Mike Diehl

At what point does a rifle cross the line from firearm to artillery? ;)

Dave Petzal

Good question. The military says that anything bigger than 15mm is a cannon. I would say that anything developing more than 100 foot-pounds of recoil is artillery and should not be shot from the shoulder.

Steve C

Perceived recoil is a funny thing. Inadventantly pulling both triggers on a Fox Model B wasn't much more than one barrel going off. Then again the recoil of a Marlin .410 bolt action made my eyes water.

Mr. Barnes believed the 585 Nyati was about the limits of human endurance (220lbs)


Might you guys be able to post a photograph of this Greener 8-bore so that we might know the image of this extreme dealer of pain? Thanks.

canadian lurker

re. Artillery vs Small Arm Ammunition
With regard to classification as hazardous materials, here is the cut-off


Ammunition consisting of a cartridge case fitted with a centre or rim fire primer and containing both a propelling charge and a solid projectile. They are designed to be fired in weapons of calibre not larger than 19.1 mm. Shotgun cartridges of any calibre are included in this description.

So the 20mm Vulcan is the smallest cannon. The field is pretty spare between 19.1 and .50/12.7mm though. Just a few exotic African caliber such as the .577, . 600 NE and the display pieces in .700NE.

Clay Cooper

The HELL! with accuracy, you don’t need to hit the critter. Just shoot past it or hit near it, the projectile beats the air and surrounding ground into submission caused by the shockwave of the passing projectile that will kill anything alongside it’s path including knocking down and clearing trees, brush and the mining industry must love these guys!!

Man, got to be sadistic to pull the lanyard on that cannon!

Can you say, INCOMING!

Ralph the Rifleman

You say the smallest cartridge allowed is the .375; are there any .45/70 shooters at this event?


http://www.armslocker.com/forums/index.php? I just wanted people to know I meant no harm.And I agree I shouldn't have put things like "You can be stupid like me". Hey everybody, I just wanted to say thanks for the feedback. I'm going to send this around Google to make sure that plenty of people get a chance to read. God I am so fat and ugly, I wish people would love me!I just wanted to look great and feel great.

Dave Petzal

There was at least one. Eligible rifles are supposed to develop muzzle energy of at least 4,000 foot pounds, and the .45/70 doesn't come close, but we allow a few of them in anyway. The guy who shot it didn't do well, so we didn't beat him, or set him on fire, or anything.


I got a 458 Mag as my dangerous game rifle since its the max I can handle and still make the rifle function for me under hunting situations. If I could handle a 460 Mag, or the 577 I would have one of those rifles in the battery.

Dr. Ralph

I've shot a Tropical #1 .375 H&H Mag. a lot. It is more of a big push than a hard kick. A .270 Wby. Mag will hurt you more, but as we have discussed in other blogs the weapon has a whole lot of influence on punishment delivered. About as much gun as I have shot is a twelve ga. 3 1/2" shell out of a H&R single barrel. My eyes watered but there may have been several reasons for this phenomenon...

Bernie Kuntz

Recently, I shot two shots offhand from a Merkel double rifle in .416 Rigby. It was all the recoil from a rifle that I want to handle. I own a custom-built .375 H & H ,.338 Win. Magnum, and .300 Weatherby. I would not care to shoot 40 rounds in a morning's session with any of them. But then again, none of them intimidate me. Nothing macho about me--it is just a fact.

Also a fact is that I highly prefer shooting my other rifles that range from .243 Win. to .30/06.

For most big game hunting and for most hunters I think cartridges in the .270, .280 and .30/06 class would result in better shooting and fewer wounded and lost animals.


Dave,you oughta put some #4 buck shot in that 8 bore and use it as a punt gun for coots on the Arkansas River.


You teach a good lesson: One mans kick is another mans recoil.
Some 40+ years ago I bought a 30-06 Rem. BDL that came with a metal butt plate. I reached a point, make that - I reached an age, where I simply couldn't handle the punishment it dished out and stopped shooting the gun. Not very long ago I swapped the stock butt plate for a modern recoil pad and it's now a kitten to shoot.

Galen Burgett

Heavy recoiling rifles, whether perceived or not, can do serious damage to people. Detached retinas for one thing, that will lead to permanent blindness if not treated immediately. Small ruptured blood vessels in the brain that can lead to small imperceptible, but later possibly deadly, strokes. And just the sheer pounding that a big bore gives you can cause rotator cuff problems. The heaviest recoiling rifle I have is a Lazzeroni 7.82 Warbird chambered in a Sako TRG-S and it took me two years of stupidity to finally put a muzzle brake on it and to wear a PAST magnum pad.
The recoil pulse of these small bore hyper magnums, such as the Warbird, is sharp and instantaneous with corresponding fast recoil velocities, as well as a bucket or two of foot pounds energy thrown into the mix.
The Warbird is far more vicious than my brother's .375 H&H or .416 Rigby, neither of which are meant for a day of plinking at the range.

The only problem with the muzzle brake on the Warbird is that all small life within 270 degrees in front of the muzzle and 100 yards downrange is killed almost instantenously by the shock wave from the muzzle blast. ;-)


I have had similiar experiences while "plinking" with 12 gauge slugs. While younger I caught grief from my brother after wimping out following six shots from my Ithaca 37 DSPS. I then noticed that my gun had a hard plastic but pad compared to his rubber pad. Wearing a t-shirt did not help either. Now I use a H&R Ultra Slug which weighs almost twice as much as the Ithaca 37. Wisdom comes with weight.

Clay Cooper

Dave Petzal
Eligible rifles are supposed to develop muzzle energy of at least 4,000 foot pounds, and the .45/70 doesn't come close?

Wanna bet, a 45-70 Ruger #3 you can crank it up!

Tom OB

And Sir Samuel Baker shot a 4 bore. He was a giant of a man,
superb condition & spun him around when he shot it.
Mr. Lott of .458 Lott fame shot a .577, and after the shot, declared "That's wonderful!" after he was set back by the recoil. Like Clint Eastwood said:
"A man has to know his limits"
Best Regards,


The recoil neverseemstobother meuntil acoupleofhrs after I'm done shooting

Blue Ox

Holy clankin' cajones, batman! An 8 bore with a metal buttplate? Guy must be a masochist or something. But I will admit that I am curious, and I'll try anything once, twice if I like it.

Ralph the Rifleman

Dave, thanks for not beating up the .45/70 shooter, but there are some potent loads for this old round. Buffalo Bore's loadings run between 3500-3600 Ft pounds of ME--Not bad for a factory load!
I have shot these loads out of my Marlin, and it turns "push" recoil into full blown "kick" in short order.

Our Blogs