Really Big Game Rifles, Recoil and Handloading

Perhaps there is no more accomplished rifle in the world for big game than the venerable 30-06 Springfield. It has accounted for game kills of every species in North America and most of Africa. There are many rounds that are based on that cartridge case, particularly the .270 Winchester that even surpassed it in popularity due to writers and hunters such as Jack O’connor in the 1960’s. But the rifle hunting population was eager for more choices and out of that desire came an explosion of stepped up choices to contain the word Magnum in it. The word “magnum” has been used wildly over the years as a got-to-buy-it sales pitch, and it worked.

But after the second or third outing at the “bench” the shooter was no longer looking longingly at his or her rifle with the same adoring eyes. These Magnums often got left in the closet for rifles and calibers such as the 30-06 and smaller calibers like the .257 Roberts, 243 Winchester and the ever popular .308 Winchester and did not punish the shooter. And today they remain popular for many but I like to explore. It is important to remember that when hunting in the field your upright body absorbs the recoil in a more push like motion from really big game calibers.

When rifle manufacturers got the message that Magnum was no longer bringing in the buyers, it is perhaps that companies like Pachmayer® and Limbsaver SVL® were introducing Recoil Pads that could cut the recoil in half of these big Game rifles making them feel like a .308 or a .243.

I went on Safari in South Africa with a Ruger® M77 .338 Winchester Magnum and placed a Pachmayer “Decelerator” on my rifle and found that I could shoot it offhand in my T-shirt with no recoil issues. Nice! The recoil felt more like a push than a punch. With that said, Remington introduced Ultra Magnums and gained another notch in popularity for a time. Ruger introduced the .375 Ruger cartridge and rifle several years back in their M77 .375 African (wood stock) and the M77 .375 Alaskan with a synthetic stock. The cartridge was a proprietary collaboration of Hornady and Sturm Ruger that was unbelted and would fit in a standard action. Innovative! The .375 Ruger M77 was well receive by Big Game Hunters treking to Alaska for Brown Bear or Yukon Moose or to Africa for everything under the sun. With a state of the art recoil pad such as Pachmayer or the Limbsaver, shooting this powerful cartridge was very tolerable.

No longer is the wise shooter getting whacked by a Magnum.

In my ebook African Safari -Rifle and Bow and Arrow, I test the .338 Winchester Magnum, the .375 Ruger, and the 416 Rigby and provide charts and recoil comparisons as well as discuss downrange energy with Leupold Scopes and Nosler Ammo such as the AccuBond.

In the book  I demonstrate graphically that recoil reduction that today’s magnums have been largely tamed with proper recoil protection.

So go ahead and grab that big bore and with proper recoil you can shoot it with supreme accuracy. And handloading your cartridge can make it shoot even better.

Here is a brand new .375 Ruger and target with three shots fired with a Leupold VX-3 scope It was at 50 yards that we tried this firing a 300 grain dangerous game Monolithic Solid that would kill an Elephant with a Brain shot.

See the target below.

The three shot group was about 1/2 inch.

With 260 grain AccuBond shown above left this rifle shoots 1/2 inch groups at 100 yards.

In a 600 yard test at Nashua Fish and Game I shot 600 yards with my best groups at 3 1/8 inches vertically while shooting in a prone position with sandbag rests. The bullets were arriving at the target with 1500 foot pounds of energy and the con trail was visible by my spotter.  As a reloader I can choose to load this rifle down to equal my muzzle loader. With the reduced load I killed a 200 lb red deer at 50 yards. A heart shot.


Never felt the kick!  Really big game rifles can be tamed with proper recoil pads and by hand loading your cartridge. Good Hunting and Shooting. Ed ©


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About Ed Hale

I am an avid hunter with rifle and Bow and have been hunting for more than 50 years. I have taken big game such as whitetail deer, red deer, elk, Moose and African Plains game such as Kudu, Gemsbok, Springbok, Blesbok, and Impala and wrote an ebook entitled African Safari -Rifle and Bow and Arrow on how to prepare for a first safari. Ed is a serious cartridge reloader and ballistics student. He has earned two degrees in science and has written hundreds of outdoor article on hunting with both bow and rifle.