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The Big Boomers: by Bill McLeod

01/12/2022 10:48 AM | Bob McMillan (Administrator)

There is no doubt, shooting elephant guns is a real blast. I found I was really apprehensive when I was about to turn one loose. You didn’t quite know how fierce the recoil would be. The first time I recall being shocked at recoil was my first shot with a 44 magnum S & W revolver. The muzzle shot up and clonked the rolled up roller door. I didn’t see what I hit. When I got my own 44 revolvers and learned how to shoot them, I found them easily manageable.

My first run with a true elephant rifle was with Maurice’s 416 Rigby Ruger. Ruger had gone all out to produce a first class rifle for heavy game. Shooting from the standing position rocked me back considerably but I was able to focus on the sights and achieve good hits. We were shooting at a rabbit hole on the opposite bank. The impact of the bullets was very impressive, great fountains of dirt.

My next run was with a Ruger 458. This was a plain grade rifle, an altogether different one from Maurice’s and of much lower quality. Again shooting offhand I managed to fire six well aimed shots until the seventh when I was a good foot away from the target when I turned it loose. It double fed on my next attempt to reload it so I called it quits.

 The next horrible recoiling rifle I recall shooting was a break action single shot 45-70. It had a number of small ring bulges up the barrel no doubt caused by oil. The recoil was brutal in the light weight rifle. It hurt. It didn’t shoot well either. 

I fired a single barrel 12 gauge shotgun with a 45-70 insert barrel. Once. Awful.

I recall shooting another single barrel shotgun that some enthusiast had sawn the barrel and stock off to make it into a Mafia type “lupara” gun. That thing tried to flip completely out of my hands and finished up pointing backwards. 

Many  years ago I was hunting bulls and felt the need of a 458. Chris said he had just sold one. I recently got the chance to shoot that rifle. It was a rebarreled rig with a roll over Parker Hale stock. Horrible to shoot. I’m pleased it was unavailable when I needed one. 

Then I had to evaluate a rebarreled Mauser in 416 Taylor. A friend had made it up as a whale killing rig and the district manager wanted to know if the department should use it on whales. The rifle shot well and was manageable by an experienced shooter but presented too many issues for my liking. I recommended the department not buy it. 

Then I had a go with a real big boomer. Normie and his mate had built up a 50 BMG single shot bolt gun for whale shooting. We were taking turns at firing it. My turn, I fired it just as Woody came up beside me. It was like Mount Ruapehu erupting. Just this huge event. But it didn’t hurt. The muzzle brake worked well. So well it literally blew Woody back off the mound. 

I was with Simon when he was demonstrating Federal ammunition to an assembly of gun shop people. He asked if I would shoot the 416 at the gel block so that at least we would get a hit. Duly impressed everyone with the power of the rifle. I then supervised anyone who wanted a go with the rifle. Most accepted advice on how to handle the big gun. One bloke was showing off to his mates so I left him to it. The recoil made him drop the gun, lucky I caught it because Simon had borrowed the gun. Sixteen of the seventeen shots fired were in a palm sized group at 25 metres.

My own heavy game rifles are much milder. A couple of 375 H&H Sakos which I find awesome, a 9.3x62 Sako which I’ve used on deer and a 35 Whelen Remington which I’ve used on a variety of game. I haven’t fired my 416 Rigby Sako yet, don’t intend to. I’ve found out a few things when shooting these big guns. They recoil, no doubt about it, it’s going to happen. Don’t try to prevent it. Give your body a chance to give with the kick but maintain control of the rifle. I like to roll my shoulder back and forward while preparing for a shot and check my foot position to allow some weight to come back. Then concentrate on the sight picture and practice good trigger control. If you are worried about recoil in any of your rifles go and get a 458. You will soon be begging to have your own rifle back. With a good technique you can get pretty good with a big boomer.

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