June 19, 2006
The Guns I Own: the Dakota Model 76 African
By David E. Petzal and Phil Bourjaily
Whenever I go to the SHOT Show, I try to sneak by the Dakota Arms booth without looking at the guns or making eye contact, because I know I have as much self control around Dakota rifles as the average Senator does around a lobbyist with an open checkbook. I mean, you see some stuff ...
Anyway, about 5 years ago, there was a rifle there that had been built for a customer who could not pay for it, and so it was up for grabs. It was a Model 76 African, which is the standard Dakota Model 76 in a heavy caliber and with all the bells and whistles. It was a .450 Dakota, which is ballistically identical to the .458 Lott--500 grains of bullet at 2,400 fps out of a 23-inch barrel.
This particular rifle had one of the most spectacular stocks I’d ever seen--fiddleback Bastogne walnut with figure running from butt to muzzle. (Bastogne walnut is a hybrid--claro walnut crossed with English, and it produces some very showy blanks.) The rifle had a dropped magazine, giving it a 5-shot capacity, mercury recoil reducers in the stock, and Dakota’s own muzzle brake, which you need. It had express sights and a Leupold Vari-X III 1.5X-5X scope in Talley detachable rings.
Well, what the hell. I figured if I ever went chasing after Cape buffalo again this was the ideal rifle, so I resigned myself to living on cat food in my retirement and bought it. So far, it has not killed a buffalo, but there is always tomorrow, and in the meanwhile it’s fun to just admire it or take it to the range and frighten people with its godless blast and inhuman recoil.