Why no lever-action rifle for Elephants?

Kawshik Rahman

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Tigris115
The reason why ( l personally believe that ) the under lever rifle never caught on , as a rifle for dangerous animals is because of a combination of a few reasons .
Firstly , the typical under lever rifle uses a tube type magazine under the rifle , which makes it imperative that the cartridges used , must have flat noses ( like Winchester's .30-30 cartridge ). . Otherwise , if one was using a conventional round nose or pointed nose nose munition , there would always be a chance that a sudden jolt could cause the point of one bullet striking the primer of the bullet before it ( as they are horizontally placed inside the tube type magazine ) . This essentially means that the bullets which can be used in such rifles ( with tube type magazines ) will ( on account of the shape of the bullet's nose ) lack penetration compared to conventional round nosed cartridges .
This is certainly problematic when the Shikari's intended quarry is a large , physically imposing , thick skinned and thick bones elephant .

Secondly , there are under lever rifles , with conventional box type magazines , which are capable of safely using pointed nose or round nose munitions .
This was my Nepalese gun bearer , Rishi holding such an under lever rifle , which belonged to my respected client.
Screenshot_20191002-203359_01_01_01.png

The rifle was a model 99 made by the firm , Savage and it was calibrated for the .243 Winchester cartridge. The model 99 did not utilizing a tube type magazine , but rather a rotary type magazine or a box type magazine . Therefore , in such a design of rifle , pointed nose and round nosed bullets could be used safely .
The firm , Winchester did infact design the model 1895 under lever rifle calibrated for the .405 Winchester cartridge ( using a 300 grain bullet ) . At the time , l do believe ( unless l am very mistaken ) that the .405 Winchester cartridge was the largest calibre cartridge commercially available in a repeating rifle .
The grandfather of my learned colleague and fellow forum member , Major Poton Khan , infact did manage to kill a rogue Indian elephant with three solid metal envelope cartridges from his .405 Winchester model 1895 under lever rifle . Our late friend , Mohiyuddin ( who was a forest department officer , particularly assigned to shoot rogue elephants ) had to have a great deal of knowledge about the calibres ideal for killing elephants , on account of his profession. In a manual which he wrote ( to teach novice forest department officers how to shoot rogue elephants ) , Mohiyuddin states that the .405 Winchester and the 300 grain metal envelope bullets can kill an Indian bull elephant with a side brain shot , but that the penetration was too unreliable for a brain shot taken from the frontal position ( as the front part of an elephant's skull is the thickest compared to the side parts ) . Considering how many rogue Indian elephants l have seen him dispatch , l am inclined to believe him .
This would make the .405 Winchester a very poor calibre for facing a charging elephant ( which only affords the Shikari a frontal shot to the brain )
I do wonder if a a modern brass homogeneous bullet would ensure adequate penetration for the frontal brain shot on elephants .
Another reason why the under lever rifle is shunned for dangerous animals , is because some people have a view that under lever rifles are inherently less accurate than bolt operation rifles . Exactly how true this statement is , I reality ... I cannot say.

The final reason ( according to my observations ) is that under lever rifles are typically viewed as less reliable than a conventional bolt operation rifle. There may be some grain of truth in this , because l vaguely remember Poton's grandfather experiencing a jam or two , in his Winchester model 1895 under lever rifle on some of the occasions when we used to go hunting together . That traitor to the hunting community , Kenneth Anderson also documented some instances in his book of his Winchester model 1895 under lever rifle jamming . However , this was over five decades ago , and l do believe that modern manufacturing techniques have largely eliminated any potential jamming issues in under lever rifles .
This is how l feel about under lever rifled anyway .
On a related subject , President Theodore " Teddy " Roosevelt is , was and always will be my favorite of all American Presidents. I have also read his excellent Safari book " African Game Trails " as a child and if my memory serves me correctly , he only killed a single elephant with his .405 Winchester calibre under lever rifle . I remember reading his own words in the book that he considered the .405 Winchester calibre as perfect for lions , but not thick skinned animals .
In my humble opinion , he was the perfect combination of Shikari and conservationist . He is perhaps the world's most renowned example that hunting and conservation can ( and should) go hand in hand . Unless one can read minds ( that too , of people deceased long before their birth ) it is not possible to determine what went in his mind when he established national parks . However , it is an inescapable fact that those national parks aided in conservation. I also believe in the concept " innocent until proven guilty ". Therefore , unless otherwise proven , l choose to believe that his intentions for establishing conservation were noble and not selfish . Also killing a single elephant with a .405 Winchester calibre rifle , in an era when people were saying hundreds with the service .303 bore Lee Enfield rifles , does not make someone a bad man ( l believe ) .

@Major Khan , could you share some of the details about Jalaluddin Nana's Winchester model 1895 under lever rifle jamming , with these gentlemen ?
 
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Red Leg

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don't start me on the earps, bat masterson, bill cody, or hickock, let alone custer , as human beings.
more legends that veer far from the truth.
bruce.
Seriously? Do you actually read any legitimate history? Each of the individuals you have named is extremely well documented - to include the popular misconceptions created by an adoring (and sometimes extremely critical press). Custer, in particular, has been subject to reams of critical study; much of it in the seventies and eighties as flawed as the earlier conventions that led to idolatry like “Boots and Saddles.” However, I suspect more good, balanced research has been written about TR than any other twentieth century president - I wish more was was being written about FDR.

I would urge you to start by actually reading Roosevelt - and I don’t mean just Game Trails. He was one of the most prolific writers of his generation, and by far the most prolific of any president. His naval history of the War of 1812 is still considered one of the best written, and of course his history of the Spanish American War and the creation of the Rough Riders is splendid primary source material for historians to this day. Secondly, I would urge you to judge any historical figure by the standards and conditions of his time - not ours. It is the same error these ignorant snowflakes make in reviling founders like Washington and Jefferson because, for instance, they owned slaves. His hunting ethics were created by the conditions of his time - not ours. What is amazing to me is that at a time when market hunting was at its peak, he could see beyond it for a need for protected lands, limited take, and organizations like Boone and Crockett to provide public support to conservation efforts. I would assume you are aware that his six-month African odyssey was in part funded by the Smithsonian for which he was shooting specimens? Of course that would be considered horrific by the standards of most of the woke unwashed today - standards that were wholly irrelevant to any decision made by the directors of the museum at the start of the 20th century.

Historically, TR was one of the more politically polarizing figures of his day. What is interesting to me is that his political beliefs have gained greater traction and respect over time. Many on the extreme right oppose the legacy of his fiscal policies, but again, most recent, balanced research paints a very favorable picture of his legacy.

Yes, hunting ethics have changed greatly since TR’s day - most for the better. But we should remember that lions were considered dangerous vermin well into the twentieth century. Commercial ivory hunting was at its zenith after TR’s death. And I don’t know where you do your hunting, but I participate in driven hunts of one type or another every season. I grew up in an area where running deer with dogs was still an important custom. Today, I regularly shoot quail pointed by dogs and wild boar pushed by hounds. Just saying.

I keep L. P. Hartley’s quote “The past is a foreign country, they do things differently there” at my signature below for a reason. It is worth a bit of reflection.
 
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WAB

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Speaking of history, it is a stretch to lay the blame for the Dardanelles fully at Churchill’s feet. If the army had advanced overland to take out the guns as agreed, the fleet would almost certainly have forced the strait.
 

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And I may be mistaken, but I believe that that action resulted in his being removed as First Lord of the Admiralty and assuming the role of Lord of Munitions. I don’t recall that he served on the front, but again, I may have that wrong.
 

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don't start me on the earps, bat masterson, bill cody, or hickock, let alone custer , as human beings.
more legends that veer far from the truth.
bruce.

Just when you think the ignorance would stop, here it pops up again.
@Red Leg already spoke better than I.

Please educate yourself on these historical figures as you are poryraying yourself in a very poor manner.
 

Red Leg

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And I may be mistaken, but I believe that that action resulted in his being removed as First Lord of the Admiralty and assuming the role of Lord of Munitions. I don’t recall that he served on the front, but again, I may have that wrong.
Six months as a infantry battalion commander (LTC) in the trenches. Nearly killed several times.
 
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Red Leg

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Speaking of history, it is a stretch to lay the blame for the Dardanelles fully at Churchill’s feet. If the army had advanced overland to take out the guns as agreed, the fleet would almost certainly have forced the strait.
I confess that I am a soldier, but had Roebuck not taken council of its fears on 18 March, the Army would never have been needed. They had the Turkish shore defenses on the ropes and would have forced the straits in another 24-48 hours. It was this naval action that Churchill had strongly supported. Had it been successful, the subsequent martyrdom at Gallipoli would never have occurred.
 

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My compliments and thanks to Red Leg for using his knowledge and his time to clarify several matters; Good Show and keep up the good work.

Personally, I have tired of trying to bring to light misinformation that many shooters and hunters have about modern lever action rifles, bullets, ammunition and powders. Things about reliability, jamming, accuracy, limitations of the tubular magazines , etc .
If there are folk that wish to judge a given rifle or cartridge, they should learn to shoot them before passing on gossip and rumors.
For the last time, in addition to other rifles,I own and shoot Winchester Model 1892, 1886, and 1895 rifles and they have all been as reliable as any other action . As for jamming, my only two jams have been because I did not properly load the .405 WCF cartridges in the my 1895 rifle. It will always jam if that is done. From experience, I can say that using a pocketknife to clear such a jam while trotting through thick brush behind a PH and after a wounded Nilgai (love to shoot and eat Nilgai) is challenging; it can be done, but that will teach the hunter to load the rimmed cartridges properly.
Nice young south Texas Nilgai bull taken for meat with Simson Suhl .405 DR:


It has also become tiresome to hear people denigrating other people or things with which they are not familiar.

Please excuse me from this thread while I go read some of the hunting books that I received as Christmas presents.
 

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Forrest Halley

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I personally don't hold it fair to judge a man from a different time period by our standards. If one starts down that rabbit hole where does he then stop?
Well said Canadian brother!
 

Major Khan

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The reason why ( l personally believe that ) the under lever rifle never caught on , as a rifle for dangerous animals is because of a combination of a few reasons .
Firstly , the typical under lever rifle uses a tube type magazine under the rifle , which makes it imperative that the cartridges used , must have flat noses ( like Winchester's .30-30 cartridge ). . Otherwise , if one was using a conventional round nose or pointed nose nose munition , there would always be a chance that a sudden jolt could cause the point of one bullet striking the primer of the bullet before it ( as they are horizontally placed inside the tube type magazine ) . This essentially means that the bullets which can be used in such rifles ( with tube type magazines ) will ( on account of the shape of the bullet's nose ) lack penetration compared to conventional round nosed cartridges .
This is certainly problematic when the Shikari's intended quarry is a large , physically imposing , thick skinned and thick bones elephant .

Secondly , there are under lever rifles , with conventional box type magazines , which are capable of safely using pointed nose or round nose munitions .
This was my Nepalese gun bearer , Rishi holding such an under lever rifle , which belonged to my respected client.
View attachment 320795
The rifle was a model 99 made by the firm , Savage and it was calibrated for the .243 Winchester cartridge. The model 99 did not utilizing a tube type magazine , but rather a rotary type magazine or a box type magazine . Therefore , in such a design of rifle , pointed nose and round nosed bullets could be used safely .
The firm , Winchester did infact design the model 1895 under lever rifle calibrated for the .405 Winchester cartridge ( using a 300 grain bullet ) . At the time , l do believe ( unless l am very mistaken ) that the .405 Winchester cartridge was the largest calibre cartridge commercially available in a repeating rifle .
The grandfather of my learned colleague and fellow forum member , Major Poton Khan , infact did manage to kill a rogue Indian elephant with three solid metal envelope cartridges from his .405 Winchester model 1895 under lever rifle . Our late friend , Mohiyuddin ( who was a forest department officer , particularly assigned to shoot rogue elephants ) had to have a great deal of knowledge about the calibres ideal for killing elephants , on account of his profession. In a manual which he wrote ( to teach novice forest department officers how to shoot rogue elephants ) , Mohiyuddin states that the .405 Winchester and the 300 grain metal envelope bullets can kill an Indian bull elephant with a side brain shot , but that the penetration was too unreliable for a brain shot taken from the frontal position ( as the front part of an elephant's skull is the thickest compared to the side parts ) . Considering how many rogue Indian elephants l have seen him dispatch , l am inclined to believe him .
This would make the .405 Winchester a very poor calibre for facing a charging elephant ( which only affords the Shikari a frontal shot to the brain )
I do wonder if a a modern brass homogeneous bullet would ensure adequate penetration for the frontal brain shot on elephants .
Another reason why the under lever rifle is shunned for dangerous animals , is because some people have a view that under lever rifles are inherently less accurate than bolt operation rifles . Exactly how true this statement is , I reality ... I cannot say.

The final reason ( according to my observations ) is that under lever rifles are typically viewed as less reliable than a conventional bolt operation rifle. There may be some grain of truth in this , because l vaguely remember Poton's grandfather experiencing a jam or two , in his Winchester model 1895 under lever rifle on some of the occasions when we used to go hunting together . That traitor to the hunting community , Kenneth Anderson also documented some instances in his book of his Winchester model 1895 under lever rifle jamming . However , this was over five decades ago , and l do believe that modern manufacturing techniques have largely eliminated any potential jamming issues in under lever rifles .
This is how l feel about under lever rifled anyway .
On a related subject , President Theodore " Teddy " Roosevelt is , was and always will be my favorite of all American Presidents. I have also read his excellent Safari book " African Game Trails " as a child and if my memory serves me correctly , he only killed a single elephant with his .405 Winchester calibre under lever rifle . I remember reading his own words in the book that he considered the .405 Winchester calibre as perfect for lions , but not thick skinned animals .
In my humble opinion , he was the perfect combination of Shikari and conservationist . He is perhaps the world's most renowned example that hunting and conservation can ( and should) go hand in hand . Unless one can read minds ( that too , of people deceased long before their birth ) it is not possible to determine what went in his mind when he established national parks . However , it is an inescapable fact that those national parks aided in conservation. I also believe in the concept " innocent until proven guilty ". Therefore , unless otherwise proven , l choose to believe that his intentions for establishing conservation were noble and not selfish . Also killing a single elephant with a .405 Winchester calibre rifle , in an era when people were saying hundreds with the service .303 bore Lee Enfield rifles , does not make someone a bad man ( l believe ) .

@Major Khan , could you share some of the details about Jalaluddin Nana's Winchester model 1895 under lever rifle jamming , with these gentlemen ?

It is my pleasure , Kawshik . The gun would jam if you did certain things :
1) Even though the gun held 5 cartridges ( 4 in the magazine and 1 up the spout ) , it would jam if you loaded the gun with all 5 cartridges and operated the lever too fast . So , my grandfather loaded the gun with 4 cartridges and operated the lever slowly.
2) If you fired some of the cartridges in the magazine and then tried to re fill the partially empty magazine , then the gun would be more likely to experience a jam.
3) since the cartridges were rimmed , you had to be very careful when loading them in to the gun , or else you may experience a jam .

He , infact did experience a jam during the incident when we had to kill those 2 royal Bengal tigers together near Uttarakhand. However , it must be borne in mind that the rifle was 1 of the old pattern Model 1895 lever rifles . I have reason to believe that the new Model 1895 lever rifles made by Miroku ( as owned by @crs ) no longer have these jamming problems .
Regarding accuracy , l never saw my grandfather take a shot with it above 150 yards and up to that range, it was indeed quite accurate .
You are also 100 % correct that the 300 grain solid metal covered bullets originally made by ICI Kynoch would work for a side brain shot on an elephant , but could not reliably work for a frontal brain shot . This is because the elephant skull is thin at the sides and thick in the front . The elephant skull is honey combed with pockets of fluid .
However , Crs showed me a method how 1 can modify their Model 1895 lever rifle in .405 Winchester , to accept 400 grain bullets ( originally meant for the .450/400 Nitro Express ) . Such a bullet , traveling at reasonable velocities could probably work for the frontal brain shot on an elephant .
 

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let me add a little on lever actions, I own 23 lever actions, from 1873,s to 0ne 1895 in 30-40 krag and have been reloading since 1958 for them and other rifles-shotguns and hunting with them for over 60 years. the lever actions require several important things to load for them for trouble free work. over all lenth of the loaded shell, most require a flat nose or blunt bullet, full lenth resizing of fired cases, a good crimp to keep the bullet from telescoping back into the case in the magazine, reasonable pressure to assure extraction of the fired cases, there is less force to aid extraction in lever actions. a good bolt with controlled feed-extraction is close to prefect as when you open the bolt the first part is applying maximim force to start withdrawing the fired case. I,m sure some one else add to the list that I may have forgotten. one of the fights in out west was a detatchment of army soldiers out cutting wood when they were attacked by several hundred american indians, amoung the soldiers(armed with single shot rifles were several civilians armed with new 1860-1866 lever action .44 rim fire rifles, they drove the attackers off inflicking death to quite a lot of them while not loseing many soldiers. the Indians thinking the soldiers were armed with the single shot rifles had a group of brave s rush in to draw their fire and after the first volley the rest of the Indians rushed in before the soldiers could reload and kill them, but to their surprise a blistering fire greeted them from the lever actions and after taking heavy lossed they rode off.
 

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I certainly wouldn't press you to change your approach. We all have a way of judging the world that makes the most sense. I just think that in the past, personal standards really were different. When Churchill really screwed up over the Dardanelles, he not only resigned (something ministers did until quite recently), but he enlisted for the front in Western Europe, and served there. And as far as the rest of it goes, I covered some of it above. But just for instance, there is a distinction between shooting and hunting. In shooting the bags can be enormous and drives are common. It was just how it was.

To my beliefs Winston Churchill personified a good leader, he was one of the first world leaders to recognize Hitler as a threat in a time when the rest of the world was preoccupied with the communist threat Stalin posed.

The fact that he resigned and voluntarily went to the front during the First World War shows the character of the man. And like others have said if not for his admire suffering a medical incident he could well of won the day. It is also my understanding he was made the scape goat by a political party he shunned years earlier.
 

bruce moulds

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google battle of plevna to see how 44 cal levers were the assault rifles of their day in the hands of the turks.
bruce.
 

leslie hetrick

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not Winchesters, but spencer rifles(union calvery 400 dismounted, one in four holding horses) played a big part at gettysberg durning our civil war. by stopping the southern calvery(about 1000 men) from flanking the union cannons durning pickets charge, letting the union cannons on the high ground desimate the charging southern men.
 

crs

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:sneaky:Lever action rifles are also ambidextrous !
 
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Skinnersblade

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Lever action rifles are also ambidextrous !

Although I too am a fan there is an exception to that rule. The early model 1893 and 1899 savage safety is very tricky to disengage while shouldered to the left shoulder. The later models had a tang safety unfortunately the quality seems to of dramatically decreased around the same time.
There were a half dozen of them in the family and I'm left handed so I've had a fair bit of experience with them.
 

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I think it’s not the functionality of lever actions or politics that was in question.
More why did they never catch on as an Elephant gun?
There are not a lot of suitable chamberings and maybe not a lot of commercial offerings in for popular elephant gun chamberings.
 

Wyatt Smith

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We’re there a lot of American elephant hunters back in the lever action days? Maybe a lack of American hunters caused a lack of American lever action rifles. I know that some Americans sport hunted Africa like Hemingway did but they could afford English rifles. I’m guessing there were not many American ivory hunters, if any, who would use an economy grade rifle
 
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I can just imagine the size and weight of a fully capable lever gun to handle full pressure loads of a 375 HH, 416, Rigby, 458 Lott, 470 NE or 500 NE. It would have to be designed from scratch, be oversized in every part of the basic design and not simply a chop job to shoehorn a larger cartridge into a current sized lever action no matter if a Win 95 or Win 86/71 or Marlin 95- that has already been done and continues even now. Plus shooting one of them with anywhere near a fully capable cartridge would not be my idea of tolerable- with the excessive drop in the butt of most lever gun stocks. That doesn't even take into account the relatively weak extraction capability of lever guns (a basic mechanical fact) compared to the basic CRF bolt gun for serious DG use. The other answer seems obvious- yes they already exist if you want to shoot souped up 45-70s or 405s at elephants and call them top elephant cartridges. After all, seems the definition of elephant gun or elephant cartridge is any gun or cartridge someone wants to call an "elephant gun" or "elephant cartridge". And all they have to do is go out and shoot a (fill in the blank animal) to absolutely, without a doubt, beyond debate, prove the point- I guess? :)
 

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