Learning to Shoot Big Bore

Basenji500

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In preparation for my first trip to Africa (no date set, yet). Currently, I use a 7mm Rem Mag for my hunting rifle, and plan to use that for plains game when I go. However, I also plan to hunt Cape Buffalo, so I'll need something larger. And, of course, part of the dream is that I will come into more money unexpectedly and buy a nice double rifle. I have looked at the dramatic increase in recoil over my current rifle on recoil tables, and want to learn how to shoot big bore rifles with big bore recoil without a big bore flinch.

The methods I can think of are:
a) buy the gun and start shooting! Oh, and try not to develop a flinch
b) buy the gun and use light loads to help the transition
c) find a gun range that rents out big bore rifles, from this easy list maintained on africehunting.com--start with a 375 H&H, rinse and repeat until you get to the caliber you want, and buy that rifle (heck, make it a double if you've found the suitcase full of nonconsecutive bills)

If you had to do it all again, how would you learn?
 

375Fox

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Welcome to the site

Question for you, why do you think you need more than a 375? especially if you’re only moving up from 7mm. You have a larger selection of available rifles at better prices, ammo is much cheaper and a lot of bullet choices, recoil is manageable for anyone, bullet trajectory makes it suitable for an all around rifle. Here are two good recent threads, but there are lots more on 375s.
 

Red Leg

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318AE

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Buy the gun and start shooting. A 375 with well placed bullets will do just fine. I recommend shooting from sticks, vs a bench, and stopping before you begin developing a flinch. Know when you are done for the day. I’m sure others will have additional advice, based on sound experience.
 

mdwest

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If you can handle a hot 7 rem mag, you can handle a 375 HH and not worry about a flinch... the HH has more recoil, but it’s not nearly as sharp or snappy as the 7RM in my opinion...

If cape buff is your quarry, get yourself a nice 375 in a bolt gun that operates similarly to your 7RM.. buy a couple of boxes of ammo.. and hit the range...
 

mdwest

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I just noticed you’re in DFW...

There are a bunch of AH members in the DFW area that own a wide variety of DG rifles (myself included)... if you’re wanting to give a few options a test drive before making a final decision, I’m sure someone local would be willing to help you out..

I’ve got a Win70 in 375HH and a Mauser 98 in 416 Taylor I’d be happy to let you squeeze a few rounds out of and let you see what you think (I believe you’ll find neither is really all that difficult to handle... and either will easily dispatch a Buffalo)...
 

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While some may laugh at the suggestion, do you own a 12 Ga shotgun with sights on it, i.e. a "slug" gun? If so shoot it. Shells are relatively cheap. Once you start cloverleafing groups with the shotgun, take mdwest up on his offer.
 

Professor Mawla

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The first firearm in my life which I had ever discharged , was a .22 Long Rifle . As a conscript during the war , I used a .303 British and a .50 BMG ( Browning Machine Gun ) . After that ( when I first began hunting in 1972 ) , I purchased a 12 bore but also used a .30-06 Springfield during my foreign hunts in the United States . I first fired a .458 Winchester Magnum in 1976 , and I would later end up purchasing the rifle from it’s former owner in 1977 .

I learnt to shoot my .458 Winchester Magnum relatively quickly , without any noticeable difficulties . I fired my first few shots with the rifle , by using shooting sticks for support . By wearing a heavily padded hunting vest over my shirt , I was able to greatly mitigate felt recoil . I also hold my breath when taking shots .

In the end of the day , there are no shortcuts for comfortably learning how to shoot a large bore rifle . The only solution is to practice , practice and practice .
 

Justbryan

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I am currently wanting to transition from 375 H&H to 404 Jeffery or 416 Ruger/Rigby. I originally transitioned from 300 WSM to 375 H&H which was very easy. The most noticeable recoil is on the bench. So, just sight in on the bench (use a sled if needed) then shot off of sticks or off-handed most of the time.

Don't just shoot a 375 H&H also shoot a 223 to work on groups. Then shoot a few from a big bore. Don't try to adjust to shooting a big bore in one or two sessions. Spend a year shooting a few rounds from big bore per session. Concentrate and your groups will be great. You can shoot more big bore rounds per session as the year progresses. Most people can shoot a big bore well for a few shots at a time.
 

chashardy

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I agree with the posters on 375 H&H. I started with a Mod. 70 in 375H&H and then bought a nice second hand Chapuis double in 375H&H. The felt recoil on both rifles was a bit more than my 300 winmag but manageable. As 318A says in his post above, know when you are done and stop your practice that day. I usually shot only 2 or 3 groupings on the bench. But I practiced each week for several months before heading to Africa. (be advised that ammo is more expensive)
I'm now doing the same practice routine with my 416 Rigby getting ready for a second buffalo in Limpopo, SA next year.
 

IvW

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Cape Buffalo buy a 375 H&H with heavy for caliber bullets and practice and use that....you are set with a perfect combo for animals in
Africa then 375 300gr plus bullets 7 Mm 170 gr bullets you sorted...first shot placement.....you need nothing more....
 

The Engineer

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I agree the 375 H&H would be a good choice. As noted in previous responses, the big bores do not slap your face like the smaller calibers and I find the big double rifle cartridges are more of a hard push than a slap.

The above being sail, I would suggest transitioning to a large bore rifle by:

1. Select your ammo and purchase enough for sighting in and practice. Pick ammo that is procurable in case you run out. The obvious alternative is to hand load.

2. Sight in off a bench with a shot bag between the rifle and your shoulder or a lead sled with a bag of shot. After this no more shooting from the bench.

3. Shoot a few rounds off sticks each time you go to the range. Insure the rifle is well seated and pulled into your shoulder tightly. A shoulder pad can help distribute recoil. Concentrate intently on each shot hopefully to the extent you can call where the shot broke. If using a variable scope, use the lowest power setting. Do not worry about accuracy and group size initially just breaking clean shots. In my experience buffalo hunting is a close range sport (I took the one pictured at less than 25 feet.) and "minute of buffalo accuracy" is all that is required.

4. As you practice off the sticks try to work on getting on the sticks quickly, picking up the target, releasing the safety, quickly getting a shot off without jerking the trigger, cycling the action (From the shoulder if possible), and either firing a second controlled shot, or engaging the safety and removing the rifle from the sticks.. This will develop the muscle memory so you do not have to think about it when hunting. This can be augmented by dry firing off sticks Again, probably 10 rounds max at any one session.

5. At each range session shoot a fair amount of a light recoil caliber rounds off the sticks to develop stick memory and avoid a flinch. Ideally the light recoil caliber should be the same action type as the big bore so you can do the action cycling, etc.

6. After you are comfortable with the big bore rifle, set it aside and practice with a light recoil rifle as the muscle memory will carry over to the big bore rifle. For this to be effective the practice it needs to involve the same mounting technique, shot concentration, etc as with the big bore.

I do the majority of my shooting at the Arlington Sportman's Club in Mansfield. Maybe we can get together and you could shoot some of my DG rifles. However, I would caution against shooting more than one or two rounds of anything larger than the 375 H&H until you develop some recoil tolerance.
 

mark-hunter

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I always think I am recoil sensitive. On second thought, I have indications that maybe I am not.
Years ago I broke right hand wrist, and to recover with phisio therapy it took, cca 11 months.

After that, when I was shooting old mauser 98K (yugo clone m48), after 20 rounds at target, I would feel accumulated pain the right hand wrist. Sometimes a brusie on the shoulder. So this is how I got the conclusion that I am recoil sensitive.

But in the same time, I was shooting pistols, revolvers, Black powder, and 308 win rifle on the matches, long strings, without any negative sensation on the wrist.

So, then, with time I came to opposite conclusion, that maybe I am not recoil sensetive, after all, especially having in mind that mauser mil surp rifles are not with egronomic stock, and not ideal from prone shooting, while other guns I was using were true sporters with good ergonomics.

Then came the plan for first safari, rental gun. The plan was to rent 375 camp rifle.
So I went to the range. Training few months in advance.

My Self made "education" to get prepared was following:

I was shooting a lot 22lr - from all field positions and stick, for warming up. Hundreds of shots.
Then 308 win, - from all field positions including from stick, fmj ammo. dozens of shots.
Then 30-06 with stronger recoil, and generally stronger recoil then 8x57, fmj, all field positions.

Once, I was happy with results, I took the closest thing to 375 I could, and it was 9.3x62, with cheapest factory SP ammo, I could find. Nota bene, it is also semi auto, so it is not as strong in recoil, as bolt action 375. With this, I trained all field positions, including stick.

Smaller calibers used bigger number of shots for training. Bigger ones much less, for the reason of price.
With 9.3, by now I lost count, but for training purpose it was then less then 100, maybe 60 or more.
So, I though I was ready. During all this training, I never felt accumulated pain or cosequnces on the wrist.

And went for it.
During safari I used camp rifle steyr 375 for PG.
First test and zeroing, I was almost dissapointed. Recoil estimated, something between my 30-06 and my 9.3x62. Mild and soft. I could be shooting it all day long!

During the hunt I enjoyed handling this rifle. And during hunt, recoil wise, it was almost the same feeling as using my 30-06. Nothing more, nothing less. Probaly it is also subjective... but bottom line for this, is do not trust too much various recoil tables. A lot depends on the rifle, barrel lenght, ergonomics, stock, but pad. Dont forget also, muzzle brakes (unliked on safari, but realistic option as well)
 

Alaska Luke

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I'd recommend you check shooterscalculator.com. They have an online tool for calculating recoil. It's a good way to compare. A heavy 375 with lighter loads isn't bad as you'd think. When my 375 Ruger weighed over 10 pounds I doubt the recoil was much worse then a 300 Win Mag. Heavier bullets and lighter rifles add recoil. So keep the rifle heavy with the lightest bullets available

Other tips would be...

1. Make sure the scope has adequate eye relief.

2. Look at the stock design. My Savage 338 felt worse then my Ruger 375 Alaskan. The difference was the stock I believe (thick fore end, thick butt, straighter comb).

3. Get the feel of the rifle from a lead sled but without all the weights added on. It will tame the recoil a bit but there will still be enough jump to get a feel for the rifle.

4. Don't shoot when you get tired. You'll just waste ammo.

5. Nothing wrong with handloading a bit light and working your way up.
 

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While some may laugh at the suggestion, do you own a 12 Ga shotgun with sights on it, i.e. a "slug" gun? If so shoot it. Shells are relatively cheap. Once you start cloverleafing groups with the shotgun, take mdwest up on his offer.
I would second this...if you can comfortably shoot 12ga slugs for groups you can handle the 375 for sure. My 870 has a lightweight stock on it coming in total around 6 1/2 lbs. With 3 1/2 inch magnum turkey loads it can be rather rough to handle...but if you can take poundings from those or the slugs then the large bore won’t be bad to transfer to...as many have already said the sharpness of the recoil is much less.
 

nksmfamjp

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Do you reload? If so, 458 Lott has a lot of power levels from 350gr lighter loads through 400 gr all the way to 500gr solids at 2200fps. You can just work your way up the recoil tree.
 

M McDindi

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Mostly just climbing on to what others have mentioned. Whatever big bore you settle on, and IF you reload just start with the lightest weight bullets at the lowest published velocities and gradually work your way up in powder and bullet weights.

One other tip for shooting from seated bench is to sit up higher/straighter in the chair and don't "lay" on the rifle. This will allow the recoil to move you backwards easier instead of driving back into you.

Last one would be to make sure you've got the butt pulled tight into your shoulder so the recoil can't get "a running start". Keeping it tight helps you "become one with the gun" so to speak.

As others have said, DON'T shoot until your tired or sore - just STOP and save the ammo for the next trip. You're not only building up tolerance to the recoil but also building confidence in the rifle and your shooting skills with it.

I followed these same points getting my wife shooting. Besides her "own" battery of various 308's and 30/06, she has a 45-70 Marlin, 45-70 Mauser, 375 Ruger Alaskan and a Whitworth 458WM. Shoots all from the bench and has also pulled the trigger 3x on a fullhouse 500 Jeff (standing) and wanted more.

5'4" and 130lbs, taken multile dozens of head of PG upto Mountain Zebra with them all except the 458...so far. She is a "keeper".
 

Newboomer

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As others have mentioned, if you can handle a 12 guage with buck or slugs, you can handle a 375HH. If you have doubts, start with light loads and work up to your chosen heavier load.

When I booked my first safari I had not shot anything heavier than a 12 guage or 30-06. Figuring I needed something a little more potent I went to a gunshop and talked to a salesman who had been to Africa half a dozen times. He uses a 416 RM but they had none in stock. Next best thing, and in stock, a Win 70 375HH. I took a chance and bought it with a box of Federal 275gr softs.

Off to the range for a trial run. A little apprehensive for the first round. Good solid push, no sharp jab. OK, not so bad. Shot a few more offhand, I had no sticks or anything, and began to feel it. Called it a day and went to my gunsmith to have the stock shortened and a good Decelerator pad installed.

Next range session I had sticks and a Past Recoil Shield. Much better. The gun fit me and the sticks and pad made shooting factory 275 and 300gr no problem. I was ready for Africa and my 375HH proved itself with several pg. That one is my favorite and my go to for anything and everything. You can't beat perfection.
 

Tra3

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When you start, I wouldn’t spend many shots sighting in. Just get it close in 3-5 total shots. Then shoot from the sticks.
a long bench session sighting in a new heavier recoiling rifle is not fun. You can always find tune over the next range sessions. And you won’t feel obligated to finish a sighting in session to perfection.
Gongs are way more fun to shoot with a bigger rifle.
 

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