Caveat Emptor

A couple of people wrote to me over the weekend following last Friday’s post about hunting buffalo, and more specifically about the venerable .375 H&H Magnum cartridge.

I’m going to be about as blunt as I can when it comes to talking about the .375 H&H.  It is, as mentioned earlier, a cartridge designed to kill dangerous game — “dangerous” being roughly defined as “if you don’t kill it, the animal is going to do its best to kill you instead.”

This is not the time to worry about the cost of the ammo, especially as the typical African buff- or Kodiak bear hunt will only see at best a handful of cartridges fired.  Cost is irrelevant compared to having the best stuff you can have, because it’s your life you’re entrusting to it.

And not to put too fine a point on it, but if you’ve just dropped several grand on your outfitter’s fees and (well) over $10,000 on your double .375 H&H rifle, an ammo cost of $100 per box of 20 is even less than a rounding error.  (Remember, a box of twenty should last you two trips, if you do your job.)

However:  this does not mean you shouldn’t be wise to the price of the stuff, either.  Here’s an example, using the much-respected Federal Cape-Shok 300gr solids.  From Graf & Sons (not the cheapest of ammo vendors out there, because of their vast offerings across many cartridge types and sizes), we see this:

Now at first glance that’s an eye-watering amount to spend, but it’s not quite as eye-watering as this:

Now we all know that CTD isn’t anything like cheaper than dirt, the rapacious scumbags, but even so… that’s a hefty premium.

If you wanted to save money in order to practice before setting out (always a good thing when you’re going to be entrusting your life to a single bullet), you can actually do so relatively cheaply with soft-pointed ammo such as this:

Note that the bullet weight (300gr) is the same, so you should get more or less the same grouping as the solids — but always test it.)

Now you know.

Challenge Accepted

I have a confession to make.  While I’ve hunted animals all over the world, the only one I’ve stayed away from (because cowardice) is the South African Cape buffalo.  Other reasons:  if you wound them, they will probably come after you — I believe that it’s the animal which has caused more professional hunters’ deaths than any other, and if I recall correctly, by a large margin.

Here’s a sample pic:

As the late Peter Capstick (who wasn’t killed by a buff) once said:  “They look at you like you owe them money”, but while I would defer to his judgement in everything else, in this case he’s severely understated the case.  Maybe that’s how they look at you when they’re in a good mood, but they’re so seldom in a good mood, who would know?  Their look is not so much a glare as a challenge.  In the above pic, which shows an old bull, please note that his bad mood may have been caused by the lions which left the scars on his back, and while they’ve healed, he hasn’t forgotten about it.

Small wonder that lions will almost always try for buffalo calves, because even when a cow gets into the picture to protect her calf, she won’t follow up the attack once the lions have given up on the calf and slouched off to find an old wildebeest or some other alternative.  However, this is not the case with buffalo bulls, who will not quit until they’ve disemboweled a lion or two and stomped on the remains with their broad hooves.  Lest anyone think I’m exaggerating, allow me to recount the tale of what happened to Doc Russia and Mr. Free Market on their last buffalo hunt.  (As a point of interest, both men were using rifles chambered in .375 H&H, which is the absolute minimum.)

Mr. FM had bagged his buff the day before in a fairly short hunt, and now it was Doc’s turn.  His luck was not as good as Mr. FM’s, and it took him a while to find a decent target.  Eventually, the guide spotted a pair of young bulls grazing together, and Doc decided to take one, which he did.

To everyone’s astonishment, the other bull didn’t disappear off into the wilderness;  oh no, he sauntered about a hundred-odd yards away, turned and watched his buddy die.

The dead buff was loaded up into the truck and back they all went to the hunting camp.  I say “all”, because the surviving buff followed them all the way back to the camp. Clearly, he had mischief on his mind, and had the camp not been a large one, everyone involved might well have become the targets of his revenge.

What’s even more interesting was that they weren’t aware that he’d followed them — until the next day when they went out and saw his tracks leading from the death scene all the way back along the side of the road — but not on it — and they had no clue that he was there.  (Despite their enormous size, Cape buffalo move through the bush like shadows.)

I told you all that so I could tell you this.  The above pic is part of this article, which talks about the optimal cartridges for dangerous game.

You’ve probably heard it before, but it bears repeating here: cape buffalo are really, really big and really, really tough [and really, really mean — K].  As a point of reference, a big bull can weigh twice as much as a mature bull elk.
Buffalo have thick hides, dense muscles, and heavy bones that are known for defeating lightly constructed bullets. Since buffalo are often encountered at close range and in thick cover, the margin for error is very small and more than a few hunters have lost their lives (or spent time in a hospital) as a result of poor bullet performance.

Go ahead and read the rest of the article:  it’s a good one.  And even if you never hunt Cape buff, just tip your hat to the guys who have, and will in the future.  There is no bigger (and potentially more-dangerous hunt) than this one.

Update:  Mr. Free Market sent me a pic of his buff:

His rifle is a Blaser S2 double in .375 H&H, the scope is a Swarovski Z6i 1-6×24.  Nothing but the best for His Lordship… and yes, it was a one-shot kill.

Bird Time

Because Mr. Free Market is a Foul Evil BastardTM, he decided to send me a few scenic pics from his current sooper-seekrit location in Scottishland.  Here’s the general milieu (note the complete absence of freezing rain, for the first time ever in this event I’m told):

(Note that Mr. FM is not wearing a face condom, despite Scottish law.)

Then it’s off to the “boxes”:


Note the careful arranging of reloads in pairs, ready for the old Load & Slaughter routine in his Beretta O/U (gawd help us, but the man has such terrible taste in shotguns).

The group shot down several hundred grouse and partridge, but here’s a pic of one brace, taken by Mr. FM with a single barrel.

When I say “taken”, I mean “shot”, of course, not clubbed out of the sky with his shotgun (which would be poor form, of course).

I am so jealous I could spit.


Mr. Free Market writes to inform me that he’s off to the North for a spot of bird shooting [jealous], and has laid in an adequate supply of the necessary, to whit:

Off-camera:  the case of Scotch.

Remember:  there’s no danger of Chinkvirus infection at a driven bird shoot, seeing as the shooters are spaced thirty-odd yards apart.

It’s the after-shoot activities that should give cause for concern… just not to me nor, it appears, to Mr. FM and his shooting buddies.

Luxury Deep-Woods Gun (Part 1)

I have often spoken of the need for a decent deep-woods gun — preferably carbine-length barrel, with a hard-hitting cartridge that could take care of any game likely to be found inside a hundred yards.  (From memory, the average distance for game taken in Pennsylvania forests is about a hundred feet.)

Of course, we all know what fits this bill:  the venerable lever-action rifle chambered in something like .30-30 (.30 WCF), which has always done the job with distinction and will no doubt continue to do so for the rest of time as we know it.  Here’s a Marlin 336 as seen at Collectors:

Or if we were to go upscale, so to speak, then there’s always the gorgeous Cimarron 1894 carbine:

Now as all my Loyal Readers know well, I am not one who tinkers lightly with tradition, so as a rule I would just say, “That’s that” and move on to other topics.

Not today.

You see, there’s another kind of deep-woods hunting, this time as practiced by Germans, Austrians and the like for as long as anyone can remember.  And they didn’t use lever rifles, but bolt-action carbines chambered in their equivalent of our .30-30, the 7x57mm Mauser cartridge, which they found quite adequate for hunting in the forests of Western- and Central Europe (which are as dark and deep as any forests to be found in the U.S., as anyone who has seen them will attest).

And as all my Loyal Readers also know, I have a deep, abiding love for the old Kraut cartridge, having taken many, many impala, springbok and even kudu back in the day with its long, thin and deep-penetrating bullet.  (Also one eland, but we can talk about that another time.)  Here’s a comparison between the 7x75mm and the well-known .308 Win:

In my case therefore, were I looking for a deep-woods rifle, I would not be limited to a Marlin, Henry, Uberti or Winchester, oh no not me.  That would be too easy.

I would also be considering a bolt-action carbine in 7x57mm (just to make my life even more complicated than it should be).

So… with all that background, imagine my surprise, as I was meandering along the electronic highways and (mostly) byways of Ye Internettes, when I stumbled into that evil place known as Steve Barnett Fine Guns, and found this:

Have mercy.  A Mannlicher-style full stock encasing an old Mauser?  Be still, my beating wallet.

And beat it would;  for this paragon of musketry costs over six thousand dollars, in that it was built by master gunsmith and stockmaker, the late Dale Goens.

In Part 2 next week, I’ll be talking about this situation in detail.


For reasons known only to our Immigration bureaucrats (don’t ask), I was not able to join Mr. Free Market, Doc Russia and Combat Controller for the annual deer slaughter stalk in the Cairngorms this year (for my experiences two years ago, see here and here).  I was feeling somewhat peeved about it all, until Mr. FM sent me this pic:

I should point out that the temperature for the town nearby is given as 33°F for the daytime high, and about 5 degrees lower tonight.  I should also point out that this is a complete lie, as the temperature up in the hills  — where all the hunting takes place — is probably ten degrees colder than that, and that’s before  the 20mph wind kicks in.  I think the term is “witch’s tit cold”.

Suddenly, I’m not feeling as peeved as I was.  Tonight’s forecast low of 30°F here in Plano seems quite balmy by comparison, especially as I’ll be sitting indoors with a brandy & ginger ale in hand, and not freezing my nuts off in the Angus Glens.

Cheers, guys…