Field & Stream Online Editors
Field & Stream Online Editors

Last year, robert johnson, a friend of mine and a curmudgeon of fantastic attainment, killed his 28th species of North American big game. This means he has taken every beast that Boone and Crockett recognizes as a big-game animal. Johnson persisted in his quest for over 40 years, finishing when he was well in his 70s, a testimony to his grit, determination, and perseverance. It is also a testament to one rifle. My friend did it all with a Remington Model 700 in 7mm Remington Magnum and borrowed a .340 Weatherby only for the big bears.

Johnson doesn’t have a hell of a gun collection; he doesn’t have a gun collection at all. But he is a hell of a hunter, and he knows his rifle, and that’s what gets the game.

Back in the early 1970s when I shot a lot of registered trap, I competed against the same people weekend after weekend, and we all played “trap gun du jour,” constantly swapping, buying, and selling in search of that magic firearm that would get us into the AA class.

The guy who did get into AA and who whipped everybody’s butt shot one gun, a Remington Model 870 pump. No Perazzis for him-the 870 went bang every time he pulled the trigger, and that was all he needed. In the world of big-game hunting, the one-gun approach is not at all unusual. Grancel Fitz, who took every animal on the B&C; list in the 1930s and 1940s, did it with an iron-sighted .30/06. Warren Page, our great former shooting editor, hunted his way to a Weatherby Award (given annually to hunters with stellar international-hunting r¿¿sum¿¿s) with a 7mm Mashburn Magnum that slew 475 head of big game on five continents. C.J. McElroy, who founded Safari Club International, did all his hunting with a .300 Weatherby Magnum. I saw his trophy room, which had more animals in it than Noah’s ark, and his .300, which was so battered it scarcely resembled a rifle.

I believe that people have been brainwashed into thinking that there are divinely ordained limits as to what beasts you can slay with which cartridges. It’s not so. Modern bullets make most of those limitations moot. They are what is known in technobabble as force multipliers, and they enable you to use a .30/06 (for example) where you would have had to use a .338 years ago.

I would not pick a .243 to take the whole Boone and Crockett list. Expecting a 100-grain bullet to drive through the bone and hide and muscle of a 1,000-pound moose or a 700-pound elk is stretching things.

If you’re interested in being a one-rifle hunter, I’d consider anything from a .270 up to a .338. The .270 will be on the small side for some game, and the .338 will overgun you most of the time, but neither will let you down. These don’t catch your fancy? Think about the 7×57, .280, .270 WSM, 7mm Remington and Weatherby Magnums, .308, .30/06, and .300 Winchester and Weatherby Magnums. If you can handle the recoil, the .340 Weatherby is a brutally effective round that can handle anything at any range.

Inanimate objects bring us luck, we believe, and so we carry rabbits’ feet and four-leaf clovers in our search for the edge. If you are repeatedly successful with a particular rifle, you begin to look upon it as Death Its Own Self, and you begin to feel that the rifle (and therefore you) can’t miss. Such faith is worth any number of feet per second or grains of bullet weight or foot-pounds of muzzle energy. A friend of mine worships an Ultra Light Arms .280 that he has carried for years and done very well with. He goes into raptures about the rifle, and when he left it next to a heater a couple of years ago and melted its stock, we had to keep all sharp objects away from him for several days.

Never mind that he is both a good shot and lucky. That rifle is pure magic. Why on earth would he need another gun?