Rifle for your first safari- My personal experience

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I just returned from Botswana, where I hunted with two friends. One had lived and hunted in Africa for 9 years, but two of us had never hunted there before and we had a long discussion about rifles.

As a person who has to work for a living, I had to make a decision on whether to get a rifle for my first trip, or use my 30-06. I was told by several people that it would be fine, and I could borrow a heavier gun for eland. It was not the best time to buy a rifle given the trip costs, but I got some very specific advice from my experienced friend. He told me:

"Thousand of hunters have carried light rifles to Africa and have harvested thousands of animals successfully. They work. But, look at the context. Much of the writing about success with lighter calibers occurred during the 1950's and 1960's. Those guys were often on 30 day safaris, and could afford to wait for the right shot. We are going for 7 days, and we do not have that luxury. Your only chance at your animal may come under difficult conditions. And, if you do not put the animal down, you may lose a day or even two days tracking. And you rarely read about the ones that got away and were never found, or were found as a carcass that had been wrecked as a trophy by predators. If you are on the last day of your hunt and an eland is quartering away from you at 100 yards you will wish you had something more substantial."

We innocents thought this was good advice, and both of us picked up Mauser M12 extremes, and we both chose 9.3 x 62's and 286 grain bullets. We discovered that having identical rifles gave us the advantage of using the same ammunition, so if there were loss or theft issues we could back each other up. This was almost needed because one bag was looted in transit but they were not looking for something other than ammunition.

Go figure, out of the six animals I harvested, three of them were difficult technical shots. Afterward, my PH told me that he only allowed me to shoot because I was shooting a heavier caliber (impala and eland in heavy brush, a cull wildebeest at long range). A nice wildebeest and Gemsbok in the open went down quickly, and I attribute that to the heavier bullet. But the real advantage came when we were hunting kudu. We had one quick chance at a beautiful kudu bull of the configuration we were looking for, but at 90 yards I pulled the trigger instead of squeezing and sent the bullet into the neck base rather than the quartering chest shot I was trying for. He was down for good in 30 yards, but I think that a lighter caliber would have resulted in a flesh wound and a long day of tracking.

The real advantage of a heavier caliber for the first timer is something that you may not want to admit, and that is that when you get on the sticks your hands will be so sweaty that you can't hold the rifle, your mouth will feel like it is filled with cotton, you will be breathing hard, and shaking with adrenaline. You will be fighting the instinct to aim as if that animal is a whitetail deer. I am sure this does not apply to you, but all of it applied to me. There, if you are a bit off the heavier bullet can buy you a bit of forgiveness. I went above the midline twice ( OK not THAT far, but above it) and came out alright. Again, likely because I had a heavier caliber.

Having sung the praises of the 9.3, I did shoot it a lot before the trip, practiced on sticks, and had a factory recoil pad installed before I picked up the rifle. I was surprised at how comfortable it was to shoot but that only came with practice. The 8 consecutive Saturdays at the range prior to the trip may have had something to do with it, and likely had a lot to do with it. But, I was able to take advantage of three difficult shots when they came, and I tagged out early enough in the week to hunt small game. Just some observations from my first trip and limited experience, but I thought it was a discussion worth sharing.

And if you think I have hunting prowess, I went 0 for 3 on jackals.
 

CAustin

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I just returned from Botswana, where I hunted with two friends. One had lived and hunted in Africa for 9 years, but two of us had never hunted there before and we had a long discussion about rifles.

As a person who has to work for a living, I had to make a decision on whether to get a rifle for my first trip, or use my 30-06. I was told by several people that it would be fine, and I could borrow a heavier gun for eland. It was not the best time to buy a rifle given the trip costs, but I got some very specific advice from my experienced friend. He told me:

"Thousand of hunters have carried light rifles to Africa and have harvested thousands of animals successfully. They work. But, look at the context. Much of the writing about success with lighter calibers occurred during the 1950's and 1960's. Those guys were often on 30 day safaris, and could afford to wait for the right shot. We are going for 7 days, and we do not have that luxury. Your only chance at your animal may come under difficult conditions. And, if you do not put the animal down, you may lose a day or even two days tracking. And you rarely read about the ones that got away and were never found, or were found as a carcass that had been wrecked as a trophy by predators. If you are on the last day of your hunt and an eland is quartering away from you at 100 yards you will wish you had something more substantial."

We innocents thought this was good advice, and both of us picked up Mauser M12 extremes, and we both chose 9.3 x 62's and 286 grain bullets. We discovered that having identical rifles gave us the advantage of using the same ammunition, so if there were loss or theft issues we could back each other up. This was almost needed because one bag was looted in transit but they were not looking for something other than ammunition.

Go figure, out of the six animals I harvested, three of them were difficult technical shots. Afterward, my PH told me that he only allowed me to shoot because I was shooting a heavier caliber (impala and eland in heavy brush, a cull wildebeest at long range). A nice wildebeest and Gemsbok in the open went down quickly, and I attribute that to the heavier bullet. But the real advantage came when we were hunting kudu. We had one quick chance at a beautiful kudu bull of the configuration we were looking for, but at 90 yards I pulled the trigger instead of squeezing and sent the bullet into the neck base rather than the quartering chest shot I was trying for. He was down for good in 30 yards, but I think that a lighter caliber would have resulted in a flesh wound and a long day of tracking.

The real advantage of a heavier caliber for the first timer is something that you may not want to admit, and that is that when you get on the sticks your hands will be so sweaty that you can't hold the rifle, your mouth will feel like it is filled with cotton, you will be breathing hard, and shaking with adrenaline. You will be fighting the instinct to aim as if that animal is a whitetail deer. I am sure this does not apply to you, but all of it applied to me. There, if you are a bit off the heavier bullet can buy you a bit of forgiveness. I went above the midline twice ( OK not THAT far, but above it) and came out alright. Again, likely because I had a heavier caliber.

Having sung the praises of the 9.3, I did shoot it a lot before the trip, practiced on sticks, and had a factory recoil pad installed before I picked up the rifle. I was surprised at how comfortable it was to shoot but that only came with practice. The 8 consecutive Saturdays at the range prior to the trip may have had something to do with it, and likely had a lot to do with it. But, I was able to take advantage of three difficult shots when they came, and I tagged out early enough in the week to hunt small game. Just some observations from my first trip and limited experience, but I thought it was a discussion worth sharing.

And if you think I have hunting prowess, I went 0 for 3 on jackals.

0-3 on those darn Jackals.....are you kidding. Now make your plans and get back over there and shoot one of those things. :sneaky::sneaky:(y) Good excuse for a return trip right??
 
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Hogpatrol

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Good post. You practiced. You knew your capabilities and shot accordingly.
 

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I love these candid posts. They are incredibly helpful. Thanks
 

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I just returned from Botswana, where I hunted with two friends. One had lived and hunted in Africa for 9 years, but two of us had never hunted there before and we had a long discussion about rifles.

As a person who has to work for a living, I had to make a decision on whether to get a rifle for my first trip, or use my 30-06. I was told by several people that it would be fine, and I could borrow a heavier gun for eland. It was not the best time to buy a rifle given the trip costs, but I got some very specific advice from my experienced friend. He told me:

"Thousand of hunters have carried light rifles to Africa and have harvested thousands of animals successfully. They work. But, look at the context. Much of the writing about success with lighter calibers occurred during the 1950's and 1960's. Those guys were often on 30 day safaris, and could afford to wait for the right shot. We are going for 7 days, and we do not have that luxury. Your only chance at your animal may come under difficult conditions. And, if you do not put the animal down, you may lose a day or even two days tracking. And you rarely read about the ones that got away and were never found, or were found as a carcass that had been wrecked as a trophy by predators. If you are on the last day of your hunt and an eland is quartering away from you at 100 yards you will wish you had something more substantial."

We innocents thought this was good advice, and both of us picked up Mauser M12 extremes, and we both chose 9.3 x 62's and 286 grain bullets. We discovered that having identical rifles gave us the advantage of using the same ammunition, so if there were loss or theft issues we could back each other up. This was almost needed because one bag was looted in transit but they were not looking for something other than ammunition.

Go figure, out of the six animals I harvested, three of them were difficult technical shots. Afterward, my PH told me that he only allowed me to shoot because I was shooting a heavier caliber (impala and eland in heavy brush, a cull wildebeest at long range). A nice wildebeest and Gemsbok in the open went down quickly, and I attribute that to the heavier bullet. But the real advantage came when we were hunting kudu. We had one quick chance at a beautiful kudu bull of the configuration we were looking for, but at 90 yards I pulled the trigger instead of squeezing and sent the bullet into the neck base rather than the quartering chest shot I was trying for. He was down for good in 30 yards, but I think that a lighter caliber would have resulted in a flesh wound and a long day of tracking.

The real advantage of a heavier caliber for the first timer is something that you may not want to admit, and that is that when you get on the sticks your hands will be so sweaty that you can't hold the rifle, your mouth will feel like it is filled with cotton, you will be breathing hard, and shaking with adrenaline. You will be fighting the instinct to aim as if that animal is a whitetail deer. I am sure this does not apply to you, but all of it applied to me. There, if you are a bit off the heavier bullet can buy you a bit of forgiveness. I went above the midline twice ( OK not THAT far, but above it) and came out alright. Again, likely because I had a heavier caliber.

Having sung the praises of the 9.3, I did shoot it a lot before the trip, practiced on sticks, and had a factory recoil pad installed before I picked up the rifle. I was surprised at how comfortable it was to shoot but that only came with practice. The 8 consecutive Saturdays at the range prior to the trip may have had something to do with it, and likely had a lot to do with it. But, I was able to take advantage of three difficult shots when they came, and I tagged out early enough in the week to hunt small game. Just some observations from my first trip and limited experience, but I thought it was a discussion worth sharing.

And if you think I have hunting prowess, I went 0 for 3 on jackals.

This is both a great post & wonderfully practical advice.

Regards
Russ
 
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Alexandro Faria

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Awesome post! Hence why I'm a strong believer that you can never be over gunned. I had someone make the point that over penetration can be an issue, especially when shooting in herds, but I would never shoot something with another animal standing behind it. Old habits die hard, I guess. That being said, I doubt that there's much a 240 gr fired from a .30-06 would battle with in bushveld.
 

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The key to the heavier caliber as you said, is in the practice.
Congratulations and thank you for posting.
 

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HOO—RAY, someone who actually does not thinks all they need to hunt the world is a short action/light caliber because more kicks too much and costs too much to practice and they dont have time anyway.
 

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Excellent first post! I took a 300 Win Mag my first trip which worked, but since then my 375 H&H has been my gun for Africa.
Jackal are also my nemesis! I have hit some, but not yet recovered them. Always in heavy cover where they escaped. I’ll be trying again in 2019...never give up!
 

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Congratulations on your hunt, it sounds like you had a good time.
I used the same logic for my first hunt as well, and it worked out for me too. CZ 550 chambered in 9.3x62, Norma Oryx 286 grain bullets. I found the 9.3 to "push" more like a 12 gauge, instead of the slap or kick of some of the other calibers available.
I can attest to the jackal as well, 2 for 3 myself, they are pretty twitchy.
 

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Excellent first post! I took a 300 Win Mag my first trip which worked, but since then my 375 H&H has been my gun for Africa.
Jackal are also my nemesis! I have hit some, but not yet recovered them. Always in heavy cover where they escaped. I’ll be trying again in 2019...never give up!

Hello Ridgewalker,
I’ve been a Gun nut all my life and a 375 H&H is one of my favorites. I’ve generally used 300 and 270 grain Barnes TSX in my 375’s. I’ve found however, light skinned animals are hard to kill with that set up. That’s probably your problem with the jackels. I’ve lost lots of coyotes, javelins etc using the 375. I’ve shot many with a 223, 22-250, 270 and even my 300’s and have found them much more effective on the small game. I assume the 375 is just penciling right through with no expansion using the heavy TSX?
 

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Hello Ridgewalker,
I’ve lost lots of coyotes, javelins etc using the 375. I’ve shot many with a 223, 22-250, 270 and even my 300’s and have found them much more effective on the small game. I assume the 375 is just penciling right through with no expansion using the heavy TSX?
That may very well be my problem. My first trip with the 375 was primarily for Cape buffalo, but then I went to bushbuck, bushpig and smaller night critters. I used the 300gr TSX for these, then Hornady 300DGS for the smaller animals. It worked fine on duiker, but as I said, I never recovered a jackal.
This May I used 250 TTSX and it worked well on the croc, sable, Black Wildebeest, Eland, and caracal, but just OK on the warthog and again lost every jackal I shot at.
I’ll probably start carrying two guns to Africa, the 375 H&H and either a 223 or 243, or maybe a 12ga shotgun!
 

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I just returned from Botswana, where I hunted with two friends. One had lived and hunted in Africa for 9 years, but two of us had never hunted there before and we had a long discussion about rifles.

As a person who has to work for a living, I had to make a decision on whether to get a rifle for my first trip, or use my 30-06. I was told by several people that it would be fine, and I could borrow a heavier gun for eland. It was not the best time to buy a rifle given the trip costs, but I got some very specific advice from my experienced friend. He told me:

"Thousand of hunters have carried light rifles to Africa and have harvested thousands of animals successfully. They work. But, look at the context. Much of the writing about success with lighter calibers occurred during the 1950's and 1960's. Those guys were often on 30 day safaris, and could afford to wait for the right shot. We are going for 7 days, and we do not have that luxury. Your only chance at your animal may come under difficult conditions. And, if you do not put the animal down, you may lose a day or even two days tracking. And you rarely read about the ones that got away and were never found, or were found as a carcass that had been wrecked as a trophy by predators. If you are on the last day of your hunt and an eland is quartering away from you at 100 yards you will wish you had something more substantial."

We innocents thought this was good advice, and both of us picked up Mauser M12 extremes, and we both chose 9.3 x 62's and 286 grain bullets. We discovered that having identical rifles gave us the advantage of using the same ammunition, so if there were loss or theft issues we could back each other up. This was almost needed because one bag was looted in transit but they were not looking for something other than ammunition.

Go figure, out of the six animals I harvested, three of them were difficult technical shots. Afterward, my PH told me that he only allowed me to shoot because I was shooting a heavier caliber (impala and eland in heavy brush, a cull wildebeest at long range). A nice wildebeest and Gemsbok in the open went down quickly, and I attribute that to the heavier bullet. But the real advantage came when we were hunting kudu. We had one quick chance at a beautiful kudu bull of the configuration we were looking for, but at 90 yards I pulled the trigger instead of squeezing and sent the bullet into the neck base rather than the quartering chest shot I was trying for. He was down for good in 30 yards, but I think that a lighter caliber would have resulted in a flesh wound and a long day of tracking.

The real advantage of a heavier caliber for the first timer is something that you may not want to admit, and that is that when you get on the sticks your hands will be so sweaty that you can't hold the rifle, your mouth will feel like it is filled with cotton, you will be breathing hard, and shaking with adrenaline. You will be fighting the instinct to aim as if that animal is a whitetail deer. I am sure this does not apply to you, but all of it applied to me. There, if you are a bit off the heavier bullet can buy you a bit of forgiveness. I went above the midline twice ( OK not THAT far, but above it) and came out alright. Again, likely because I had a heavier caliber.

Having sung the praises of the 9.3, I did shoot it a lot before the trip, practiced on sticks, and had a factory recoil pad installed before I picked up the rifle. I was surprised at how comfortable it was to shoot but that only came with practice. The 8 consecutive Saturdays at the range prior to the trip may have had something to do with it, and likely had a lot to do with it. But, I was able to take advantage of three difficult shots when they came, and I tagged out early enough in the week to hunt small game. Just some observations from my first trip and limited experience, but I thought it was a discussion worth sharing.

And if you think I have hunting prowess, I went 0 for 3 on jackals.

Congrats on your first trip to Africa, it's an awesome experience. The 9.3 is great for Eland but imo is not needed for other game outside DG. I think it's great you practiced but a 30.06 smokes those other animals and the bullet choice might be more important. The issue imo is that most people DO NOT shoot them as accurately and the 9.3 is not ideal for NA hunters. But all that said, the main reason I would never get this caliber or recommend to working class NA hunters going to Africa is that if you ever hunt Buff or DG, most countries have a .375 minimum. So, now you are stuck without a gun for that and still have to lug around a big 9.3 for plains game. I would much rather have a .300 or 7MM and then a .375 or preferably a .416. If you ever hunt Buff or larger game I would recommend a .416. People will tell you different but they put the hurt on Buff and the like way more, that is just fact.
 
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Art Lambart II

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Great advice for using a mid bore rifle. I prefer the American equivalent to the 9.3x62 the 35 Whelen, IMO it's the perfect mid-bore rifle. I've used 4 different calibers to hunt Africa, the 270, 30-06, 300WM and the 35 Whelen, all four rounds worked and put animals in the salt but every PH I've hunted with preferred the 35 Whelen over the other three rounds. Given the choice I'll take a mid-bore rifle for PG every time.
 

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That may very well be my problem. My first trip with the 375 was primarily for Cape buffalo, but then I went to bushbuck, bushpig and smaller night critters. I used the 300gr TSX for these, then Hornady 300DGS for the smaller animals. It worked fine on duiker, but as I said, I never recovered a jackal.
This May I used 250 TTSX and it worked well on the croc, sable, Black Wildebeest, Eland, and caracal, but just OK on the warthog and again lost every jackal I shot at.
I’ll probably start carrying two guns to Africa, the 375 H&H and either a 223 or 243, or maybe a 12ga shotgun!

I always take a .17 Fireball but the .223 would be a perfect second rifle. Good shot placement up to blesbok size, DRT and good for the tiny ones.
 

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Congrats on a great safari! I took a .375 on my first safari a couple of weeks ago but only because buffalo was the main target. Had I not been after a buff I would have taken my 9,3x62. The older and more experienced I get the more I like the medium bores and or heavy for caliber bullets.
 

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I think part of your problem is too heavy a bullet for the lighter game. I use Barnes 160g TSX in 7mm mag for PG ( wildebeast, impala, zebra, waterbuck, nyala, gemsbok, springbok) and all were 1 shot kills. A good shoulder shot takes a leg out and tears up the vitals so they go down for the count.

On the other hand, I used my 375HH on buf with Barnes 350g TSX for a very lucky 1 shot kill. I switched to Barnes 235TSX for PG (sable, hartebeest and springbok). 1 shot kills but a little heavy for that. Kicked up the dust on the other side with a shoulder shot and destroyed the vitals.

When I go back next year, I'll take both. I want to get an eland and am undecided as to which round. 375HH, no problem. 7mm, maybe a little light. I don't want to take a chance on losing an animal or wasting my time tracking one down. I could get by with just the 375 like I did last year, but if something breaks, I want a backup.
 

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