Rifle Lessons Learned from the Zimbabwe Professional Hunter Proficiency Exam

neckdeep

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If you are right handed, go to DSC and find a custom to handle with a left side safety, you will understand that Don is right then!!
 

Nevada Mike

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If you are right handed, go to DSC and find a custom to handle with a left side safety, you will understand that Don is right then!!
I don't wish to be argumentative, and certainly Don Heath knows more than I about the requirements of a DG rifle, I learned early on that, on high powered rifles, the thumb should not be held over the top of the grip. Learned this as a boy learning to shoot in high power matches.

I shoot left handed but the principle is the same. While it is quite possible to have an opposite hand wing safety installed on most CRF rifles, I think that it would not work for those of us who are accustomed to the safety being on the same side as the bolt. Releasing the safety is a reflex action and a delay might be incurred while fumbling with an unfamiliar safety arrangement.
 

Milan

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Hmmmm...interesting discussion. I have been contemplating putting a LH safety on my Win M70 to try and all that before reading this. I find that on rifles with traditional, swept back grip I simply automatically wrap my thumb around the grip. I think the thumb "off" the grip (only resting on top side of it) is more of a match shooting thing and especially with vertical grips (as on target/tactical stocks) in order to prevent torqueing the grip and inadvertently canting the rifle and/or affect the follow-through.

Either way, familiarity and muscle memory with whatever safety you use is key. I suffered from having new to me CZ 550 with safety opposite to ZKK rifles I was used to for couple decades. I thought after years of not owning a ZKK I would simply adapt to the new. Besides I always have different rifles with different safeties. Yet in a heat of the hunt (and this was simple plains game hunt), I pushed safety forward as I got on the sticks and got ready to shoot. The animal went behind a bush and stayed for a while. After few minutes that seemed like eternity, with me still on the sticks, the PH and I started discussing whether to move or wait when the animal appeared, moving from the current position to another bush, giving us a small window. PH whispers: "Shoot.". Instinctively, just before setting the trigger, I pulled on the safety to "make sure it's off". I still remember my surprise when it moved. "But whatever", I thought, "on to the shot"...set trigger, squeeze....click! Surprise. PH again: "Shoot." Set trigger again, click! PH is looking back at me wondering what's taking so long, animal almost at the next bush. I rack the bolt, thinking chamber was empty. Live round is ejected, new one fed in. This time PH is like "WTF? Shoot!!!". I decide to just squeeze the trigger to speed things up, nothing. Note even click. That's when I realize safety is on middle position. Push safety forward, PH is now really upset "What the hell are you doing?!", I aim again, squeeze, bang! Animal goes down but the shot was not perfect, animal falls behind the second bush. We question the shot. It takes minutes to get up all dazed but alive still, yet we have no shot until he is much farther up the hill. Take another shot, see bullet deflect off a branch and dust off many feet to the side of the animal. Now get really nervous. Experience "hunter shakes" for first time in my life. Not liking this hunt at all. Animal moving beyond 400m, borrow friend's 7mm mag and nail it in the hip to stop it from cresting the hill. Animal crests the hill. We hike up and find it on the ground, 30 m over the crest, thanks to that last shot. Finish it off with a heart shot.

That's when I realized I needed way more trigger time with that rifle to burn the new safety lever motions to my memory. I also decided I would not use set triggers while hunting (I did once since but am moving away from them as cool as they are) and started thinking about simple 2 position safeties that don't let you open the bolt when on safe, etc...

Regardless, the safety was not really the problem, but familiarity with it under pressure was. And in my case I started relaxed but pressure mounted eventually and gradually and the set trigger added to the complexity and confusion.

My problem is having too many different rifles with different style safeties and triggers, hence one of my other posts on trying to dwindle down the collection and/or trying to figure out what I like most and/or convert the safeties to similar. When hunting at home or at matches, I do not use safety much, round under the bolt or not in the gun, and when in position and ready to shoot, I rack one in. I gotta find one way of doing things. The problem is I'm more of a gun nut that also hunts rather than a hunter who happens to be a gun nut.
 

IvW

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I would find it rather interesting to see someone shoot my 500 Jeff with 570gr bullets @ 2350-2400 fps with this thumb on the side grip...I am not going to try...
 

Milan

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Would like to try the "opposite" safety but I think on most rifles with the Winchester style one, the receiver would have to be modified in the rear to clear it or at least to make it easily operable. Still I remember some old European rifles having button style sliding safety on the left side of the grip, near your thumb, Brno 21/22 models had a little wing safety also on the left side of the bolt shroud, Anshutz sliding trigger safety can be run on either side I think, etc. So, I'm sure the idea is not new. It's probably the execution of them that did not make them popular or simply nt many people thinking about it that much and running whatever the manufacturer does and if others have the same, then it must be correct. In the end, I think it's what you are used to and like anything else, when shooting a lot you start find ways to optimize things for your conditions and may find the "factory" setup not optimal for your purpose.
 

Brandon.Gleason

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If you are right handed, go to DSC and find a custom to handle with a left side safety, you will understand that Don is right then!!
Definitely a concept I've thought of once or twice walking through tight quarters on hunts with a rifle. I've a sporterized Mauser 98 .257 Roberts which has a wing safety on it to the left of the scope that I always found very handy to disengage.

That being said, I've converted all of my bolt guns to Win-70 style flag safeties (two CZ's, a Ruger, and a Rem 700) to keep a consistent muscle memory set.
 

Longwalker

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We all have opinions about what is “best” based on our own experience. And our own opinion is usually better for us than someone else’s if it is based on Enough practical, applied experience.

I shoot a wide variety of shotguns and rifles. Wing shooting, targets, stationary and running game, close and farther away. What type of safety I use is irrelevant for most of my hunting. But for dangerous game I choose a double rifle. And tang safety. After many thousands of shots taken quickly and instinctively with a shotgun, that muscle memory and instinctive fast aim and swing is automatic and unconscious for me.

Even though a very experienced rifle target shooter is using the “wrong” grip on a dangerous game rifle by placing their thumb along side rather than over the grip, it may be the best grip for that particular person. New habits tend to fall apart under stress.

But is never too late to consider forming better long term habits if the will is strong enough or the reward big enough.
 
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