Rifles Used For Royal Bengal Tigers

Discussion in 'Articles' started by Kawshik Rahman, Nov 7, 2019.

  1. Kawshik Rahman

    Kawshik Rahman AH Fanatic

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    Due to the immense amount of support which my dear respected forum members have shown towards my last twenty articles , l have decided that even though l had originally decided to stop after twenty articles , l will indeed write a few more. Given how dozens of my respected fellow respected forum members are highly intrigued by the majestic sport of hunting Royal Bengal tigers , l have decided that today , l will write an article about the rifles used by Shikaris to hunt Royal Bengal tigers during my career as a professional Shikari in Darjeeling , India from 1962 to 1970 . I would also like to point out to every single dear reader here that the photographs in this article are my personal possessions and mine alone . Let us begin , dear readers .


    Let us begin with a little information about the Royal Bengal tiger itself. These are some of the heaviest creatures in the feline family in existence . On average , the Royal Bengal tiger weighs 400 pounds to 500 pounds . The Indian Royal Bengal tiger shows a great propensity to become a man eater , especially if it acquires the taste of human blood or flesh . During my time , plantation workers often formed the diet of many a Royal Bengal tiger in old India . These creatures are very dangerous . How does the Royal Bengal tiger compare to the Indian leopard in terms of dangerousness ? It is a most tricky question to answer . A leopard typically can weigh up to 200 pounds in India and is extremely Swift and stealthy in it's forms of attack . Pursuing a wounded leopard into dense vegetation is as dangerous a task as it can get , and certainly one which us professional Shikaris would never look forward to ( and with good reason . It was a wounded leopard which injured my loyal tracker and caused him to lose an ear ) .


    However , the Royal Bengal tiger , on account of it's heavier weight ( the lightest Royal Bengal tiger being almost double the weight of the heaviest leopard ) can be much more tenacious of life . Take a 12 bore rifled slug projectile , for instance with a weight of one ounce . Such a munition will make short work of a leopard with a body shot . However , for a Royal Bengal tiger , a 12 bore rifled slug projectile will only give you about six inches of penetration at a distance of ten yards . That is not adequate. Hence if you are ever forced to use a 12 bore rifled slug projectile to kill a Royal Bengal tiger , it is imperative that the aim be made for the head , in the region between both eyes.
    Let us now assess the proper armaments for hunting Royal Bengal tigers . Namely some good rifles for these large beasts which were used by my clients .
    I should add here that only soft nose cartridges should be used for Royal Bengal tigers , as these animals have soft skins and the bullets need to properly expand inside them to make quick work of them .

    Let us start with the largest calibre rifle ever used by my clients to secure a Royal Bengal tiger .

    Screenshot_20191006-203448_01_01_01.png

    Happy client with Royal Bengal tiger and double barrel .458 Winchester magnum calibre rifle made by the English firm , Holland and Holland

    The largest calibre ever used by any of my clients to ever secure a Royal Bengal tiger was the .458 Winchester Magnum . These came with a metal envelope bullet of 500 grain weight and a soft nose bullet of 510 grain weight .
    Rifles for this cartridge came in three configurations at the time.
    First , there was the standard bolt operation rifle . Here , the vast majority of rifles in this category were the venerable model 70 from the American firm , Winchester . These were excellent rifles off-the-rack and very , very accurate. However , l must also point out anything negative about them , as a matter of honesty . I have seen two examples which had problems with extraction ( admittedly a good and thorough cleaning in the Shikar camp rectified both of their problems and made them most excellent serviceable weapons again ) . Then , there were bolt operation rifles of this calibre made by Birmingham Small Arms . These were excellent weapons . However , with a weight of little above six pounds , they certainly had a most unpleasant recoil .
    As any seasoned shooter or Shikari will know , fire arms which do not have adequate weight to mitigate recoil , do not lend themselves to accurate or comfortable shooting. Then , there was the Hi Power model of rifle from the American firm , Browning . These rifles are accurate , very well balanced and very beautiful . However , there were a few things about these rifles which l did not like . Firstly , the wooden stocks for these rifles were treated in salt ( for whatever reason , l cannot pretend to know. But l believe that the terminology was Salted Wood ) . This caused a plethora of rusting problems on the metal parts of these rifles and l have also seen three examples with cracked stocks ( although , l am not certain that l can attribute this to the Salted Wood )
    There was another problem which l had observed in one of these .458 Winchester magnum calibre Hi- Power rifles from the firm , Browning . As every fire arm owner will know , rifles with unremovable box magazines have hatch type trap door on the under side of the rifle . I remember a client who had brought such a rifle on a Shikar . When he fired a shot , the trap door on the hatch swung open and the remaining cartridges had dropped at his feet . Imagine going to face a very angry Royal Bengal tiger with a .458 Winchester magnum calibre rifle , firing a shot and realizing that your remaining cartridges are gone , while that wounded Royal Bengal tiger is still alive , very angry and very much a threat . It is certainly very disconcerting . To be fair , however , the respected client in question was using cartridges which were not loaded by the manufacturer , but rather cartridges reloaded by himself to very high velocities . I attribute the reason why the hatch swung open to be due to the extra recoil generated by that first reloaded cartridge ( although , l will happily stand corrected if any of my more knowledgeable forum members think otherwise ). There was also the model 700 bolt operation rifle from the American firm , Remington.
    These were generally good rifles , but again , l have seen two examples which had problems in the field extracting the spent cartridge case . Perhaps , the most interesting rifle in this category , was the Sauer model from Colt . It had a removable magazine . What a marvelous little innovation !
    Of course , for the purposes of Shikar , you will usually not be feeling inadequate with four cartridges . However , in Africa , where l have read that large herds of troublesome elephants need to be culled at times , l should think that such a rifle with a removable magazine , has a significant advantage. With a quantity of extra magazines ( which have been loaded beforehand ) and a person behind the shooter , to keep re filling the empty magazines with cartridges , l think that one could keep up a good rate of fire and down large groups of elephants in a reasonably quick period of time .

    The next category of rifles in the calibre .458 Winchester magnum were bolt operation rifles with the mauser type extracting claw device . Now , admittedly these were fairly uncommon in our time . One particular rifle , which l had seen , was a bolt operation rifle made by the English firm , Birmingham Small Arms and it was of a much earlier vintage than the examples without the mauser type extracting claw device ( which l personally always felt was a step down in quality on the part of Birmingham Small Arms and always wondered why they would remove the mauser type extracting claw device on models of later vintage ) . It was a very good , reliable rifle . However , it was a little too light on account of the recoil generated by the .458 Winchester magnum cartridge.
    However , the vast majority of the .458 Winchester magnum rifles of this class were custom pieces , built on military surplus mauser mechanisms . These were of varying quality . Some were flawlessly reliable , but others were very problematic ( l am speaking politely ) . They gave endless extracting problems . I am by no means , a gun smith , nor do l pretend to be . However , l think l will be forgiven for saying that building a reliable rifle for dangerous animals is more than merely changing the barrel on any military surplus mauser mechanism and fitting it to a stock. The work done to get cartridges to feed into the rifle correctly , must be of surgical precision.

    The final category of rifles in this calibre was the classic double barrel rifle . To be fair , in my entire life , l have only seen one double barrel rifle calibrated for .458 Winchester magnum calibre . But what a rifle that was ! It was a beautiful double barrel piece built by that legendary British firm , Holland and Holland . It had all of my favorite qualities in a double barrel rifle , built for dangerous animals : Barrels no larger than 26 inches , two triggers and no automatic safety mechanism . My client who had brought this magnificent rifle , not only dispatched a 486 pound Weight Royal Bengal tiger with this grand rifle , but also secured a 2000 pound male Gaur with this rifle . It was flawless in every imaginable way .

    Let us take a step down , dear readers in terms of calibre ? We have the beautiful .375 Holland and Holland magnum . A student of mine , in Bangladesh Shooting Federation owning a rifle in this calibre , recently made a very witty comment about the .375 Holland and Holland magnum cartridge which l shall quote here , “ You could fill an entire book listing the things a .375 Holland and Holland magnum can do , and you cannot even fill a single line of a page , listing the things that it cannot do “ . I am very much inclined to agree with the young man . With a bullet weight of 300 grains , a .375 Holland and Holland magnum is the gold standard of rifle calibres and l dare say , will remain so , long after any trendy calibre of today goes out of fashion ( as so many have and continue to do ) . I have already , in my previous articles spoken about my love for this magnificent cartridge.
    Just like the .458 Winchester magnum , discussed above , visiting sportsmen in India used to bring three categories of rifles in this calibre for Shikar in India .
    The first was bolt operation rifles ( without the mauser type extracting claw device ) . The most popular among these , was the venerable model 70 rifle from Winchester. Then, there was the model 700 rifle from Remington. Then , there was the Hi Power model rifle from Browning. I have never personally seen a Sauer model from Colt in .375 bore , but l have read on the internet that they do exist .
    My opinions on these rifles match exactly those of their counterparts in .458 Winchester magnum calibre and so l will not be monotonous and repetitive.

    The second category of rifles in this calibre were the bolt operation rifles which had the mauser type extracting claw device . There were less common than the ordinary bolt operation rifles in this calibre , but were by no means rare. My favorite client , an English gentleman used to own a beautiful mauser built bespoke for him by that classic English firm , John Rigby and Co , for the .375 Holland and Holland magnum cartridge. In three Shikar seasons , he took three beautiful Royal Bengal tigers with it and it had never let him down ( one of which , was a man eater ) . However , perhaps the finest rifle of this category was brought by a client of Middle Eastern descent . It was a custom piece built on a French Brevex mechanism .
    Screenshot_20191006-203603_01_01.png
    Our dear respected client with his two rifles : A model 71 under lever rifle by Winchester in .348 calibre and a .375 Holland and Holland magnum bespoke rifle , built on a Brevex mechanism .


    I still consider the Brevex mechanism rifles to be the cream of the crop , for repeater rifles to be built for large game calibres. Unfortunately , l had only seen that one Brevex mechanism rifle in my entire life , leading me to believe that they are rare among fire arms owners today. That Brevex mechanism rifle dispatched two Royal Bengal tigers in one day .
    Screenshot_20191008-231524_01_01.png
    Our respected client had killed two of the three dead Royal Bengal tigers in this photograph by using his .375 Holland and Holland magnum Brevex mechanism bolt operation rifle.

    The third category of rifles available in the .375 Holland and Holland magnum cartridge , was the traditional double barrel rifle . I should add a personal note here , which many of my fellow respected forum members might find a little childish . As a child , the biggest reason l wanted to become a professional Shikari was because l was an admirer of the English actor , Stewart Granger and his excellent Shikar films , " King Solomon's mines " , " Last Safari " and my personal favorite " Harry Black and the tiger " .
    I wanted to be just like him .

    If any of you would like to see a film about Shikar set in the days of old India , please watch " Harry Black and the tiger " . Stewart Granger uses a magnificent double barrel rifle calibrated for .375 Holland and Holland magnum in the film to dispatch the man eater . I had watched that film in 1960 and it left an impact on me , undescribable by mere words . Two years later , l would begin my career as a professional Shikari .
    But enough of fiction , let us continue.
    A client of mine had that lovely English firm , Westley Richards build him a beautiful double barrel rifle with removable locks , double triggers and 24 inch long muzzles , calibrated for the .375 Holland and Holland magnum cartridge . It was an almost flawless weapon , but it nearly brought him to much grief , because it had an automatic safety mechanism which had reactivated while he was putting in two extra cartridges into the breech of the rifle . Make no mistake , dear readers . A double barrel rifle for dangerous animals should never have an automatic safety mechanism .

    As l have mentioned before in many of my previous articles , the .375 Holland and Holland magnum was the legally approved minimum calibre for shooting Royal Bengal tigers in most states of India , during the days of Shikar . However , to my knowledge , at least two states did not have this minimum calibre requirement : One was Darjeeling , where l was based , as a professional Shikari and the other was Kuch Bihar . There may have been more States where this minimum calibre law did not exist , however it is unethical for me to comment on things of which l have no personal experience and am not certain.

    Moving on , legality aside , let us step down one more notch in terms of calibre . In Darjeeling , many European clients used to bring the 9.3 millimeter mauser cartridge calibre rifles for shooting Royal Bengal tigers . With a bullet weight of say , 286 grains ( if l recall correctly ) , l can personally attest that a man could easily and comfortably take his Royal Bengal tiger with such a cartridge.
    Screenshot_20191018-001102_01_01_01.png
    Pleased European client and his dear wife madame with their hard earned Royal Bengal tiger trophy . The rifle is a 9.3 millimeter mauser bolt operation rifle with the requisite mauser type extracting claw device .

    During our time , only one category of rifles existed in this calibre . They were mauser type bolt operation rifles with mauser type extracting claw device of German make . These were some of the most beautiful continental rifles in existence . Accurate , well balanced , dead reliable and not a bad recoil to it .
    I can safely say that while l am biased towards the .375 Holland and Holland magnum cartridge ( being a product of the English colonial period ) , there is very little which the .375 bore can do which the 9.3 millimeter mauser cartridge cannot do .
    ( Unless , you are shooting a Gaur weighing above 1800 pounds live weight , in which case the 14 grain heavier bullet of the .375 Holland and Holland magnum has a decided advantage . But this article speaks only of hunting Royal Bengal tigers )

    received_551989612237068.jpeg
    My final man eating Royal Bengal tiger killed in 1969 using two SG cartridges in my 12 bore Ishapore Arms Factory side by side shot-gun . Nevertheless , it is foolishness to try to use a shot-gun loaded with shot of any size for these beasts . A shot-gun loaded with slug projectiles should only be used for shooting them in the head .



    Royal Bengal tigers have been shot with smaller calibres than these , with success . My clients have all used the .338 by Winchester , the .300 magnum by Winchester and even the very mundane .30-06 cartridge ( using 220 grain soft head cartridges , of course ) to make short work of the largest Royal Bengal tigers . However , these gentlemen were exceptionally cool customers who were able to place their shots with surgical precision on the Royal Bengal tiger . No one ( to my knowledge ) ever stopped a charging Royal Bengal tiger with a rifle calibre smaller than the 9.3 millimeter mauser cartridge .
    ( If any of my dear readers would like me to expound on the topic of smaller calibre rifles being used for Royal Bengal tigers , please do not hesitate to ask . )
    Thus , based on the cartridge calibres which were brought by client Shikaris to India for shooting Royal Bengal tigers during my career as a professional Shikari from 1962 to 1970 , l would recommend any of the following :
    .458 Winchester magnum
    .375 Holland and Holland magnum
    9.3 millimeter mauser

    Were l to choose , my personal favorite here is ( predictably ) the .375 Holland and Holland magnum cartridge .
    For a repeater rifle , this would be built on a Brevex mechanism and have telescopic sight .
    For a double barrel rifle , any good firm which could make me one with 26 inch muzzles , two triggers and no automatic safety mechanism would fit my needs perfectly
    Such a rifle would ideally weigh eight to nine pounds .
    For shooting Royal Bengal tigers with this rifle , l would opt to have my rifle(s) calibrated to use the old Winchester silver tip cartridge , of which l have a soft spot even now
    ( Although , l knowledge humbly that modern munitions with better rates of expansion have justifiably pushed the modest Winchester silver tip of my time into obsolescence ) .

    I hope that my dear readers have enjoyed this article . I have also recently learnt to use the American designation for cartridges .
    What l used to refer to , as the .3006 is actually called .30-06 . What l used to call the magnum .375 by Holland and Holland is actually the .375 Holland and Holland magnum . What l used to call the magnum .458 by Winchester is actually called the .458 Winchester Magnum . Thank you so much to Hoss Delgado , Mark Hunter , Shootist43 and Wyatt Smith for teaching me these terminology . I am most grateful and understand now .
    What cartridge would my dear readers prefer , were they given the privilege to hunt one of these great cats ? Would they choose something from the aforementioned cartridges listed by me , or is there an excellent modern equivalent which l am not aware of ?
    I am back to writing articles on these forums again , due to the support many of my dear respected forum members have shown and another will be posted here after a few days .
     
    Last edited: Nov 7, 2019

  2. Hoss Delgado

    Hoss Delgado AH Fanatic

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    Good to see ya back on AH posting new stuff again , Mr. Rahman :) . Please don't stop writing :D
    BTW , dad took his Bengal tiger with an '06 Enfield 1917 in '69 . He used FMJ army surplus armor piercing rounds and took it with one clean head shot :) . The spitzer bullets were 168 grainers .
     

  3. Kawshik Rahman

    Kawshik Rahman AH Fanatic

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    Hoss Delgado
    Thank you so much for your kind words and support. You truly have a good heart .
    Fernando used to bring Manuel to his Shikars , although l only guided Manuel once . Karim was Manuel's regular guide.
    Yes , Manuel was very fond of .30-06 calibre armaments . Even though , he was a very skilled shooter ( and probably still is ) , those pointed tip bullets also had a high propensity to deflect when hitting heavy bones of beasts .
    Military surplus metal envelope pointed tip munitions are not created for penetrating animal bones in a straight line . Their place is in the battle field and not the Shikar field .
    For Royal Bengal tigers , soft head bullets should always be used .
     
    Last edited: Nov 7, 2019

  4. Bullhunter

    Bullhunter AH Veteran

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    Here is an HH double also.
    And as you wrote - and you can see it here cleary-: Make sure, that the barrels are not longer als 26.

    [​IMG]
     

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  5. Kawshik Rahman

    Kawshik Rahman AH Fanatic

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    Bull Hunter
    What calibre is this rifle ? It is most interesting .
     
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  6. Bullhunter

    Bullhunter AH Veteran

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    As far as I know - from an britisch proof-house witch I visited in the last year (and from an gentleman, witch is the - or one of them - gun-masters of the queens-palace).
    This was an brand-new double, at that time.
    For an britsch lord, then for an prince. He bring it to old India.
    And it has the caliber .450 black powder.
     
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  7. Wyatt Smith

    Wyatt Smith AH Enthusiast

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    Glad to see a new article Mr. Rahman. If I were to go out for Tiger today I would take my Winchester model 70 375 H&H mag.
     
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  8. Brent in Az

    Brent in Az AH ENABLER SILVER SUPPORTER AH Legend

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    Hunting stories from India are fascinating. Are there still maneaters that need to be hunted?
     
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  9. mark-hunter

    mark-hunter AH Fanatic

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    Dear mr Rahman
    Thank you for reconsidering your decision to stop writing articles, and I am very glad, just like many others on this forum, that you remain active poster and writer.

    This article I have really enjoyed, and appreciate very much.
    Pls continue in a same way!
     
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  10. mark-hunter

    mark-hunter AH Fanatic

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    Apparently, yes!
    But, not available for foreigners to hunt legally in India.
    I already asked!

    Even when legally hunted, entire tiger (or other animal) body parts will be burned to ashes, to prevent selling to black market.
    (Official) Hunter is NOT allowed to keep anything.

    Dear mr, @Kawshik Rahman
    What is the situation with royal Bengal tigers in Bangladesh, and man eating royal Bengal tigers in Bangladesh?
    Can they be hunted? If yes, who can hunt? Foreigners allowed?
     
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  11. Pondoro

    Pondoro AH Fanatic

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    Mr. Rahman...always a pleasure to read Your articles….you demonstrate a lot of knowledge here and I salute Your Choices of rifles and calibres….me I would skip the .458Win. in a double rifle but for the period you worked they where quite common due to the demise of Kynoch ammunition for the classic British cartridges...quite a few Holland&Holland double rifles have later been converted to .450NE..

    Also very interesting to see that the 9,3x62 was used for tiger....an excellent and underrated cartridge (as the sister 9,3x64..). The 9,3x64 is as good as the .375H&H..

    BTW, the 9,3x62 is quite popular for moose hunting in Scandinavia...in fact it is considered THE cartridge for this..
     
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  12. Kawshik Rahman

    Kawshik Rahman AH Fanatic

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    Thank you so much for your kind words and support. Might l say that your choices are very sound .
     

  13. Kawshik Rahman

    Kawshik Rahman AH Fanatic

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    Oh , yes. Man eaters will never truly disappear from South East Asia , l believe.
     
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  14. Kawshik Rahman

    Kawshik Rahman AH Fanatic

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    You have been my supportive friend from the very beginning. Yes , I will continue .
     

  15. Kawshik Rahman

    Kawshik Rahman AH Fanatic

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    There is the occasional man eater in Bangladesh in the Sundarban forests .
    Usually they are hunted by the forest department , or by volunteer shooters from BSF.
    Regarding foreigners , the general rule is that they cannot . However , there have been one or two exceptions to this rule over the years.
     

  16. Kawshik Rahman

    Kawshik Rahman AH Fanatic

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    Thank you so much for your kind words and support. My dearly deceased Shikar partner and friend , Karim Chowdhury , much like your self was an outspoken critic of the .458 Winchester Magnum . His logic was this : If the .375 Holland and Holland magnum cartridge uses a 76 millimeter cartridge case full of powder to propell a 300 grain bullet , then a .458 Winchester magnum using a 500 grain bullet should at least have a cartridge case length , at least as long , if not longer than the .375 Holland and Holland magnum , to accommodate a correspondingly larger charge of powder . I do not know how sound his logic was , but he was far more intelligent than l , especially about fire arms .
    Regarding the 9.3 millimeter mauser cartridge , l am afraid l cannot say if it was a 9.3 × 62 , 9.3 × 64 or 9.3 × 74. I sadly never paid attention to that one crucial detail . I do know however that the munition weight was exactly 286 grains . Please forgive me .
     

  17. larry4831

    larry4831 AH Enthusiast

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    Great article! Also,I love that movie”Harry Black and the tiger”
     
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  18. Bullhunter

    Bullhunter AH Veteran

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    Correctly, sir.


    It can be each of that three (or even some other of the 9,3 famely).
    But it should be the 9,3 x 62 for 99%.
    (Exspecialy from your decribing it as a "bolt action" and a "mauser")
     
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  19. Foxi

    Foxi AH Elite

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    That is the point.There was no other manufacturer of Big Game ammunition for these double rifles .
    In the 60's it was quite popular in Germany and Austria to build double rifles (over and under system) in this "safe" caliber, as there were sometimes difficulties with the powder that clumped and did not burn completely . But the time is long gone and I claim that none of us has ever shot a cartridge like this.
    I have this Ferlach double rifle in the often reviled .458 Win Mag. like and do in the year about 150 -200 shots with it on the range at " running boar" mostly.Never had the problem to remove the empty cartridge,never.
    Only the CCI 250 primers are not optimal for this weapon.
    I take now RWS primers 5341 and everything is good. A few short data and then I disappear again:
    .450 Nitro Express 480 gn bullet-2150 feet per second
    .450 No. 2 -500gn bullet-2150 feet per second
    .470 NE 500gn bullet -2150 feet per second
    .458 Win mag 480- 500gn bullets-2150 feet per second.

    The two .450s and the .470 are praised like Mother Theresa and the .458 is said to be bad ?
    A nonsense, isn't it ?

    Foxi
    loving the .458 :)
     
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  20. Kawshik Rahman

    Kawshik Rahman AH Fanatic

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    Thank you so much for your kind words. It is an excellent film and relatively accurate about how Royal Bengal tigers were hunted during our time . I fell in love with Mr. Granger's .375 Holland and Holland magnum double barrel rifle in that film. It is tragic that he does not reunite with the heroine at the end of the film , however .
     
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