Rifles for a South African Safari
I'm headed to South Africa next spring for my first plains game hunt with a friend of mine who is new to hunting. We'll be hunting for kudu, impala, warthog, blesbok, reedbuck, and zebra. My friend's current rifle is a .270 Ruger M77 Hawkeye and he's trying to decide what to do for his second rifle. He's strongly considering either the Ruger Compact Magnum in .300 RCM or the Ruger African in .375 Ruger. Do you have any experience with either of these cartridges?
My primary rifle is a 9.3x62mm and I can either go lighter with a Ruger No. 1 in 6.5x55 Swede or heavier with a custom Ruger No. 1 in .500/416 NE for my second rifle. What do you recommend? We're putting in the range time before we go and we've started shooting from sticks as well. Is there anything else we should be doing to prepare?
I have long realized that having more than one rifle on a safari can be a real pain, simply because the wrong one is usually carried for the shot which presents itself. I much prefer my clients to carry only one rifle, one which is suitable for all the species on offer.
Regarding your friend, his .270 with 130s or 150s will be suitable for warthog, blesbok, reedbuck, and kudu, but in my opinion this cartridge/caliber/bullet combination is too small/light for zebra. So my recommendation for your friend would be to bring one suitably scoped .30-caliber rifle.
For the species he will be hunting, he will not need a .375, even though it will work well for all the species he intends to hunt. I have some experience with the .375 Ruger; it is wonderfully effective, but at a price. Any rifle capable of sending 300-grainers downrange in excess of 2,600 fps will naturally recoil substantially, and this the .375 Ruger does, believe me, in 7.75 pound rifles. Since your friend is new to hunting, I suggest something milder recoiling.
I am a bit wary of the .300 RCM because it is still relatively unknown out here in Southern Africa and your friend will have a hard time finding replacement ammo for it should his go missing. The good old .30-06 Springfield has a wonderful African reputation--I see no point in choosing something else. Good 180-grainers would be a good choice. If the shooting distances will be under 200, I really like 220-grainers.
If your primary rifle is a 9.3x62mm you are indeed well-armed for your hunt. I am a great fan of this mild-mannered cartridge --it is one of the few that work a lot better than the math says it should.
My earlier sentiments apply to you as well. If I were you I would only bring your 'nine-three.' Should there be a problem with your ammo going missing, you will easily find replacement ammo in South Africa. So good is the nine-three that you can safely use 250-grainers for all the species you intend to hunt.
Your 6.5x55 mm Swede is in my opinion too light for kudu and zebra, and you will not need the power of your .500/.416 for the species on your bag list.
It is my experience that most shooting opportunities in Africa are lost because clients take too long to get set up for the shot. There is usually a 3- to 4-second window in which to make the shot so you need to be well practiced in getting set up on the sticks quickly, finding your target in the scope, orienting yourself to the way the animal is standing and then squeezing off a well-aimed shot into the 'vital triangle' area.
All this can be practiced in your living room. Dry-firing at animal targets will help you immensely.
Once your rifles are sighted in, never shoot them from the bench again. Instead you need to practice from all the natural field shooting position, particularly the sticks. A bit of professional shooting instruction will also prepare you for your hunt. I believe this to be money well spent and you will arrive in Africa confident in your shooting ability and far better prepared for what lies ahead.