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Fun with shoulder-busters.

How do you make your big-bore dangerous-game gun more fun to shoot? Practice loads, that's how.

SHOOTING A HEAVY DANGEROUS-GAME RIFLE IS not pleasant, and no recoil pad or muzzle brake can make it so. That's the major reason virtually every hunter going to Africa to hunt the big ones arrives without having practiced nearly enough with his heavy rifle. There are so many stories about hunters arriving with big guns they've never even fired that I could fill this whole magazine. My purpose, however, is not to belabor the point, but to look for a solution.

If a rifle is fun to shoot, you take it out and shoot it. Shoot it a lot, and you come to know it pretty well. The question is, then, how do you make one of these brutal beasts fun to shoot?

The answer is practice loads. This is nothing new, but it's still a point worth making--and worth going over yet again. I should add that, to the best of my knowledge, no commercial practice loads exist for cartridges like the .458 Lott or .500 Nitro Express--at least none that are affordable or that are genuine light loads (no small thing!).

Take the .458 Lott as an example. You want a 350- to 500-grain lead bullet and a muzzle velocity of about 1,500 fps. Cast bullets are relatively inexpensive, so you can shoot a lot. At such low velocity, properly lubed, they leave no lead fouling to speak of. Without question, the best powder for the purpose is Accurate 5744. You don't even need loading data because the company provides a formula for calculating a proper charge based on the capacity of the case you are using. So if you own a rifle chambered for an obscure round like the .475 No. 2 Nitro Express (Jeffery), worry not: An empty case and a powder scale are all you need to arrive at a load.

One Fun Routine

In 20041 went to Tanzania to hunt Cape buffalo for the purposes of bullet testing. Two rifles went with me: a .458 Lott and a .500 NE double. For months, I loaded practice ammunition, went to a private range twice a week, and shot 40 to 50 rounds every trip.

There was a 200-yard target at the end of a partly manmade ravine, with high dirt walls and brush and trees growing right to the edge on both sides. After scattering clay targets on the dirt slopes at random, some high, some low, sometimes in pairs, I would circle out to the side, stalking the ravine through the brush by a different route each time. When I neared the edge and caught sight of a clay on the far bank, I had to shoot it immediately, exactly as I stood or crouched--no changing position or using a rest.

I would then retreat, take a different path, and find another clay. The dirt banks gave the added advantage of showing instantly where my bullet had gone.

After shooting 20 to 30 practice loads with each rifle, I wrapped up the session with full-power game loads: four rounds for the double, a full magazine for the bolt action.

The .458 Lott had a detachable scope, so I would shoot with the scope, take it off quickly, shoot some more without it, then put it back on. The rifles were kept sighted-in for the serious loads, and the clays were close enough that sighting hardly mattered anyway. The purpose here is familiarity with your rifle: loading, shooting, opening, closing, moving, more shooting.

Built using a little imagination, such a setup provides hunting scenarios worthy of an IPSC course. Granted, not everyone has access to an appropriate piece of ground, but using lead bullets at low velocities, most good shooting ranges today have facilities with steel plates or dirt banks that can be made to work pretty well.

The point is to load the right ammunition and then challenge yourself. It will be fun. Guaranteed. 01

The United Republic of Tanzania

Tanzania is bordered by Kenya and Uganda to the north; Rwanda, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west; and Zambia, Malawi, and Mozambique to the south.

A big-bore dangerous-game rifle chambered for a shoulder-busting round like the .450 Ackley can be made more fun to shoot by using practice loads put together with cast bullets and Accurate 5744 powder.
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Author:Wieland, Terry
Publication:Shooting Times
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2016
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