Rifles Used For Indian Buffaloes (Gaur)

Kawshik Rahman

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Due to the amazing feedback and responses l have received from my respected fellow forum members about my accounts as a professional Shikari from 1962 to 1970 , l have decided to write another . A topic much requested by the forum members : Mark Hunter and Ben KK and a few other gentlemen. Today , we shall talk about the rifles typically used by foreign client hunters for hunting Indian Buffalo or Gaur. Let us begin , dear readers.
During my time , most of the beautiful English calibres had been pushed out of the picture by American calibres. The only English calibre to survive this " calibre revolution " was the venerable magnum .375 by Holland and Holland .

Beyond this , most rifles brought by client Shikaris to Darjeeling were calibrated for American cartridges. Elephant shooting had been prohibited in India since 1873 and with the exception of the odd Rogue , one could not hope to shoot these large creatures . The largest , thick skinned animal that was shot by client Shikaris in India was the Gaur or Indian Buffalo . These creatures would weigh up to weights upwards of 2000 pounds and were particularly ill tempered.
Three calibres were invariably the choices for these creatures :
On the lower end , one had the 9.3 millimeter by mauser. This wonderful little German cartridge fired a bullet with a weight of above 280 grain.
On the middle ground , one had the venerable magnum .375 by the English firm , Holland and Holland. This fime cartridge seems to have been designed by Divine Providence to accomodate the hunter who can only have one rifle to use for all creatures , big or small. It fired a bullet of a weight of 300 grain.
On the higher end , there was the magnum .458 by the American firm , Winchester. This controversial cartridge fired a bullet of 500 grain weight .
By far the most popular choice among these three ( and with sound reason ) was the magnum .375 by Holland and Holland . Rifles for this cartridge came in many varieties . Let us broadly categorize them into three categories :

First , we have bolt operation rifles . Among them , the most popular was the model 70 by Winchester . Excellent pieces of American engineering , they were . Around 80 % of all magnum .375 bore rifles brought into India were this. There were also magnum .375 bore Belgian rifles made by the firm , Browning . These were very good rifles indeed but for some reason never had the following which the Winchester firm had. The third most popular rifle in magnum .375 bore was the model 700 made by the firm , Remington. They were fine rifles and most worked without consequence. However , l have seen two which experienced misfires in this calibre . Despite this , l should think that they were good rifles of their class.

Next , we have bolt operation rifles which possessed a mauser rifle type extracting claw device.
These were fairly uncommon in our time , but not rare. My former client, Don Fernando Delgado ( grandfather of forum member , Hoss Delgado ) possessed a model 70 rifle from the firm , Winchester which was of an older vintage and had the mauser type extracting claw device. It was an excellent weapon , but it's stock looked as if it had some surgery done to it , as it was cracked and patched together using large bolts. One of my favorite clients used to own a magnum .375 bore Mauser made by that excellent English firm , John Rigby and Co. It is a weapon as magnificent as it's owner. However , the most beautiful magnum .375 bore bolt operation rifle l had ever seen was made by the French firm , Brevex . I have only seen one such rifle in my entire life which leads me to believe that they are somewhat rare , but it was a beautiful one , which l highly encourage my fellow sportsmen to purchase , should they ever come across one . The other rifles were invariably custom made pieces built by gunsmiths by using mauser mechanism .
Screenshot_20191006-203603_01_01.png

Our respected client with magnum .375 bore bolt operation rifle , built by the firm, Brevex . Also pictured is a beautiful under lever Winchester rifle of model 71 make calibrated for .348 Winchester ( co incidentally , an identical rifle is owned by my friendly fellow forum member , Shootist43 )






The third category of rifles were double barrel rifles. These were invariably built by my favorite English firms and the most memorable one was a double barrel rifle built by Westley Richards which had removable locks and two triggers. However , it had one small disadvantage. It had an automatic safety mechanism , which nearly brought our client to much grief when a wounded leopard had attempted to spring up his Elephant macchan ( much to my utter disbelief )
All three are excellent weapons and my clients did a good deal of execution with each of them. However , my personal preference lies with the bolt operation rifles with the mauser type extracting claw device , for dangerous animals .

Rifles without this feature are fine as well , as long as you do not take one factor into account : The capacity for human error. Operating such rifles in a panicked state may cause operating problems on some circumstances. If the shooter is calm , this does not happen. However , it is very difficult to remain calm as a large , 2000 pound Gaur charges towards you with ill intent. While many gentlemen are far more calm than l , l certainly would feel more confident relying not only upon my calmness , but also additional mechanical reliability.

Double barrel rifles are an excellent alternative . However , the following features are requisite for hunting buffaloes :
Firstly , it should not have muzzles longer than 26 inches in length. While longer barrels are not much of a problem in open terrain , the problem becomes evident when one is pursuing a wounded Gaur into thick vegetation ( the same also applied for a central India hunting leopard , but that is the story for another day ). If you are a shorter person , then a muzzle length of 24 inches is ideal .
Secondly , the rifle should have two triggers . While single selection triggers are perfectly fine and you are
unlikely to come across any real problems these days (especially as modern fire arms are built far better than the 1960s decade when l was guiding client hunters. ) , I feel more comfortable with two separate triggers as you have the insurance of the second shot without needing to rely upon the mechanical features of the gun.
Thirdly , the double barrel rifle must not have an automatic safety mechanism . If you are able to dispatch your Gaur with two bullets , then this is not a problem. Infact , everyone should aspire that their first shot is placed correctly , so ensure a clean , enjoyable Shikar. However , fortune does not always smile upon us and one may suddenly find the need to fire two extra shots at an enraged Gaur attempting to attack you . It is here that the drawbacks of the automatic safety mechanism become crystal clear. It activates every time a double barrel rifle is reloaded , thus costing the Shikari an additional vital second or two in a stressful situation .
A word of caution about double barrel rifles is requisite. Due to the fact that not one , but two barrels are involved , they both must be made to shoot at the same point of one's aim. Therefore , please do not think that any box of cartridges of any firm will produce the desired results in your double barrel rifle. Only the cartridges which your gun maker had calibrated the rifle for , will work produce accurate results all of the time. If you own a double barrel rifle for which the original cartridges ( for which the double barrel rifle is originally calibrated ) is no longer available , then please have a competent gun smith aid you in developing a proper loading for the cartridges which you plan to use.
If some one is unable to handle the jar of a magnum .375 bore rifle , then let him not force himself to adapt to such a weapon. It makes for poor shooting and a permanent flinching problem , in anticipation of the weapon’s recoil. Let him instead content himself with a 9.3 millimeter cartridge by mauser. My friendly young forum member , Mark Hunter tells me that these rifles are also made as auto loaders these days. However , during my career , only the bolt operation configuration rifle was present. I have heard from my young friend and forum member , Hoss Delgado that double barrel rifles in this calibre also exist , however l have not seen any in my professional career.
Rifles of this calibre were invariably European in origin and built on a mauser mechanism . They are most reliable and can certainly kill a Gaur up to 1800 pounds with ease ( assuming that your aim is correct ) , and may even be comfortably used to kill a Gaur upwards of 2000 pounds in weight , although it cannot reliably be used in a situation when one has to contend with a wounded , charging Gaur with a 100 % certainty.
If one found the magnum .375 bore calibre to be inadequate for their needs , then the magnum .458 by Winchester was available. Rifles of this calibre were available in many varieties. As with the above discussed magnum .375 bore rifles , let us broadly separate the magnum .458 Winchester rifles into three categories.

First , you had bolt operation rifles . The vast majority of these were model 70 rifles made by the American firm , Winchester . These were excellent weapons , but l have seen more than one jam in the field , if it was not kept very clean. These comprised about 70 % of all the magnum .458 Winchester calibre rifles , brought into India. Then, there were High Power model rifles made by the firm , Browning from Belgium or the United States of America . These were also very good rifles. However , l have experienced a problem with one magnum .458 Winchester calibre rifle made by Browning which must be told : Rifles with unremovable magazine system have a trap door with a hatch on the underside of the gun ( in front of the trigger guard ) . In 1968 , a client had fired one at a Gaur and for some reason , the hatch of the trap door had sprung open , dropping the unfortunate client’s remaining cartridges to the ground. This almost cost our poor client his life and will be the subject of a future article. I would think ( though , l may be mistaken ) that this was caused by the recoil of the cartridge which was a reloaded cartridge and the owner of the rifle ( with most respect to him as an excellent person ) had an unhealthy fondness for cartridges loaded with excessively fast velocities. There were also rifles made by the firm , Birmingham Small Arms . While they were accurate fire arms , they did not weigh much over six pounds , which led to an unhealthy amount of recoil ( despite the fact that they had a recoil management mechanism built into the stock , as told to me proudly by one owner ) . There was also the Sauer model rifle made by the classic American company , Colt. They came with a removable magazine like that of a service.303 bore Lee Enfield rifle. I was reading an excellent article on these forums today ,about culling of African elephants and l should think that a rifle like this with a removable magazine would be excellent for dispatching large herds of animals . After , you expend one magazine of cartridges, you merely remove it , and load in one more.

Second , you had bolt operation rifles which possessed a mauser type extracting claw. For the magnum .458 Winchester calibre rifles this type of rifle was interestingly very rare. They were invariably custom built rifles made using mauser mechanism . Even though , he was not my client , a client of my fellow Shikari , Clayton Quiah did bring a magnum .458 Winchester calibre bolt operation rifle built by the firm Birmingham Small Arms which did have a mauser type extracting claw device . The client used this rifle loaded with 500 grain metal envelope bullets from the firm , Hornady in Uttar Pradesh to kill an Indian water buffalo . I had seen this rifle when it was brought to Sundar Raj Shikar and l suspect that it was of an earlier vintage ( this information was kindly confirmed me by Hoss Delgado)
Screenshot_20191013-052701_01.png

Clayton with water buffalo shot by his client , in Uttar Pradesh. The rifle was a Birmingham Small Arms bolt operation rifle calibrated for magnum .458 Winchester which had a mauser type extracting claw device.




In the third category , we have double barrel rifles in the calibre magnum.458 Winchester . To be fair , in my entire career as a professional Shikari , l have only seen one such rifle in this calibre. It was built by that splendid English firm , Holland and Holland . And what a rifle it was . It was a gem. It had two triggers , no automatic safety mechanism and a barrel of 26 inches in length. My client certainly had good taste. Using 500 grain Winchester metal envelope bullets and 510 grain Winchester soft head bullets , he made short work of a 2000 pound Gaur with two bullets .
Screenshot_20191006-203431_01_01.png

I still do not know which is more beautiful : The magnificent 2000 pound Gaur trophy or my client's beautiful magnum .458 Winchester Double barrelled rifle built by Holland and Holland.

My friend and Shikar partner , the late Karim Chowdhury was very skeptical about the magnum .458 Winchester cartridge. He rationalized that if a magnum .375 bore cartridge uses a 300 grain bullet and has a charge of powder which fills a 76 millimeter cartridge case , then a magnum .458 Winchester bore cartridge with a 500 grain bullet should have at least a cartridge case of similar size , if not larger to accommodate a correspondingly large charge of powder . However , l do not wish to jump to conclusions , as there is definitely more about fire arms and cartridges than what meets the naked eye .




Let us now go to the choice of bullets that were used for Gaur. In our time , the standard practice was as follows :
For a bolt operation rifle , all the cartridges loaded into the magazine would have metal envelope bullets , but the cartridge placed on the top would be a soft head bullet ( in the case of magnum .375 bore rifles , this was invariably a Winchester silver tip ) .
For double barrel rifles , the barrel to be discharged first , was loaded with a soft head bullet and the second barrel was loaded with a metal envelope bullet.
As professional Shikaris , our duty was to get the client in a position where he could shoot the bison from the side . The objective was for the client's soft nose bullet to pierce two lungs of the Gaur . With the bullet expanding properly inside the creature's lungs , it would go a short distance coughing copious amounts of blood , before dropping dead . A bison struck this way , seldom thinks of charging .
If the first bullet proved to be inadequate and the Gaur turned to face the shooter , then the shooter would use a metal envelope bullet to aim at the creature's heart which is at the base of it's chest tucked between it's fore legs . However , it must be remembered that a Gaur struck in the heart by a metal envelope bullet , may not cease to be a threat for anything up to 17 minutes. One other word of caution must be spoke . While an elephant with a broken fore leg will not be able to move , on account of it's great weight , a Gaur with a broken fore leg , may escape and is still very much a threat to the Shikaris.
Today , such antiquated practices are best restricted to history books , as there are excellent bullets with controlled rates of expansion which help to bridge the gap between soft head bullet and metal envelope bullets . A correctly placed shot with such a bullet at the creature's heart region or lung region will safely bring you your Gaur.
I would like to conclude today's article by saying that l do not consider myself an authority on this subject. With so many more modern calibres in existence today , the fire arms and cartridges of my time have most certainly been superseded and with good reason. I have merely given an account of the calibres used for Gaur during my time.
I hope that my dear readers will enjoy this article and l apologize for being a little irregular lately , as my beloved niece has sustained some injuries and l needed to tend to her at the hospital.
 
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Ridgewalker

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Very enjoyable article! Again thanks Kawshik for the information.
 

Aaron Nietfeld

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Another great write up Kawshik!

Which animals are tougher, gaur, or water buffalo?
 

Kawshik Rahman

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Another great write up Kawshik!

Which animals are tougher, gaur, or water buffalo?
Aaron Netfield
Thank you so much for your kind words. I cannot tell a lie . I have only killed Gaur and guided clients for Gaurs since water buffalo was not present in Darjeeling ( where l used to work as Professional Shikari ) . Clayton and Karim would guide clients in other parts of India as well , and they shot water buffaloes . I can give you information based on what they have told me , but it cannot be first hand information .
 

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Thanks for sharing!

Hope all is well with your niece sir
 

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It is a true pleasure to read your stories. I hope you will consider writing a book about your hunting experiences.
 

Wyatt Smith

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Thanks Mr. Rahman for the great write up. It seems the 375 is as popular now as it was then. And a claw extractor is always a nice touch.
Best wishes for your niece.
 

Kawshik Rahman

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W
Thanks Mr. Rahman for the great write up. It seems the 375 is as popular now as it was then. And a claw extractor is always a nice touch.
Best wishes for your niece.
Wyatt Smith
Thank you so much for your kind words. I am pleased to know that something from five decades ago is still popular today. Perhaps some things never do age and do withstand the test of time.
 

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I would like to conclude today's article by saying that l do not consider myself an authority on this subject. With so many more modern calibres in existence today , the fire arms and cartridges of my time have most certainly been superseded and with good reason.
Dear mr Rahman,

Thank you again for this excellent and informative article.

However, it is true that there are many new calibers in existance today, but good old calibers do not loose their function.
Majority of new calibers are designed by specific rifle makers, in order to have their ammuniton sold together with their rifles.
So today there will be a family of various modern 375 calibers, and family of for example of 416 calibers, all of them good, but none of them revolutionary, and all with similar performance.

In my humble opinion, the reason for development of new medium big bore calibers is more commercial, then practical. In my opinon, many of modern ones will fade and dissapear in the future as there is no really need for all of them, with identical purpose.

On the other hand, evergreens like 375 H&H will never fade. So, basically you described the calibers which are very usable today and will be usable in the future.

Most of newly made calibers come from American continent. Europe sticks more to tradition, and they seam to be less commercially oriented, or at least having less competiton or demand on old continent. Majority of modern safari clients, come from American continent, thus the reason for new trends.
 

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Thanks for the report of your experiences. I am much less experienced than you and many others with rifles. But from everything I have read on this site and from other sources, your experience tracks the same as most here on Africa Hunting. I can tell from your properly organized writing that you are a good teacher. I grew up hunting almost exclusively small game with shotguns . Later when whitetail deer became huntable in my area we would use rifled slugs—the most common being the “slugger” model by Remington. It is only much later I started using rifles—my first being a Model 700 Remington in .270 caliber. I chose this caliber because the famous American author Jack O’Conner liked it and wrote about it for many years in the magazine “Outdoor Life”. Thanks again for you article.
 

Kawshik Rahman

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Dear mr Rahman,

Thank you again for this excellent and informative article.

However, it is true that there are many new calibers in existance today, but good old calibers do not loose their function.
Majority of new calibers are designed by specific rifle makers, in order to have their ammuniton sold together with their rifles.
So today there will be a family of various modern 375 calibers, and family of for example of 416 calibers, all of them good, but none of them revolutionary, and all with similar performance.

In my humble opinion, the reason for development of new medium big bore calibers is more commercial, then practical. In my opinon, many of modern ones will fade and dissapear in the future as there is no really need for all of them, with identical purpose.

On the other hand, evergreens like 375 H&H will never fade. So, basically you described the calibers which are very usable today and will be usable in the future.

Most of newly made calibers come from American continent. Europe sticks more to tradition, and they seam to be less commercially oriented, or at least having less competiton or demand on old continent. Majority of modern safari clients, come from American continent, thus the reason for new trends.
Mark Hunter
Thank you so much for your kind words.
I am a massive admirer of the magnum .375 by Holland and Holland. In my opinion , for a magazine rifle of this calibre , the Brevex rifle is unrivalled.
If someone prefers double barrel rifles , then a double barrel rifle of magnum .375 bore with 26 inch muzzles , two triggers and no automatic safety mechanism would be my choice. It is a British calibre which survived the British colonial era and went head strong into the American Safari era and is just as popular today with the reintroduction of English calibre's again .
 

Kawshik Rahman

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Thanks for the report of your experiences. I am much less experienced than you and many others with rifles. But from everything I have read on this site and from other sources, your experience tracks the same as most here on Africa Hunting. I can tell from your properly organized writing that you are a good teacher. I grew up hunting almost exclusively small game with shotguns . Later when whitetail deer became huntable in my area we would use rifled slugs—the most common being the “slugger” model by Remington. It is only much later I started using rifles—my first being a Model 700 Remington in .270 caliber. I chose this caliber because the famous American author Jack O’Conner liked it and wrote about it for many years in the magazine “Outdoor Life”. Thanks again for you article.
Gesch
Thank you so much for your kind words and support. I grew up using shot-gun too and the very first rifle l ever used , was my service Kolashnikov fully automatic rifle in 7.62 millimeter cartridge with pointed metal envelope ammunition during the War of Independence. The first sporting rifle l ever purchased was a .22 Long Rifle calibre Belgian auto loader. The model 700 from Remington is an excellent and accurate rifle. Our snipers in DGFI have eight such rifles in their inventory , calibrated for 7.62 millimeter cartridge .
 

Kawshik Rahman

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Thanks for the report of your experiences. I am much less experienced than you and many others with rifles. But from everything I have read on this site and from other sources, your experience tracks the same as most here on Africa Hunting. I can tell from your properly organized writing that you are a good teacher. I grew up hunting almost exclusively small game with shotguns . Later when whitetail deer became huntable in my area we would use rifled slugs—the most common being the “slugger” model by Remington. It is only much later I started using rifles—my first being a Model 700 Remington in .270 caliber. I chose this caliber because the famous American author Jack O’Conner liked it and wrote about it for many years in the magazine “Outdoor Life”. Thanks again for you article.
Gesch
Thank you so much for your kind words and support. I grew up using shot-gun too and the very first rifle l ever used , was my service Kolashnikov fully automatic rifle in 7.62 millimeter cartridge with pointed metal envelope ammunition during the War of Independence. The first sporting rifle l ever purchased was a .22 Long Rifle calibre Belgian auto loader. The model 700 from Remington is an excellent and accurate rifle. Our snipers in DGFI have eight such rifles in their inventory , calibrated for 7.62 millimeter cartridge .
 

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