Petzal: Stabbed in the Back By Your Gun?

Yesterday, the club that tolerates my presence held its annual African Shoot which is limited to rifles of .375 H&H and bigger. The shoot stresses rapid fire and rapid reloading with a reasonable degree of accuracy. Most of the rifles there were bolt-actions, with one Ruger Number One and half a dozen doubles including a black-powder 8-bore. The most popular caliber was .375 H&H, and there were some .416s and .470s.

What interested me was that, of the 16 or so bolt rifles present, probably 6 or 7 did not cycle. They jammed, or cartridges flew out, or their owners could not feed them correctly. Under the circumstances it cost the shooters points. In real life it could have gotten them killed.

I may have told this story before, but it bears repeating. In 1992 I hunted in Zimbabwe with a very capable young PH named Doug Reynolds. After I had shot everything I was supposed to, we visited some of his colleagues in their camps, and I noticed that just about every one used a particular American make of .458 as a backup gun. I asked Douglas how come, and he said:

"The Americans buy these guns, single-load them off a bench rest to sight them in, and bring them over here without having cycled a single magazine through them. Then, when it's for real the guns jam and the PH has to save their lives. When they leave, they tell the PH, 'Here, you keep this g**damn thing; it nearly got me killed.' The PH takes it to the gunsmith in Bulawayo who fixes it, and he's got a free rifle."

One final note. The guy who owns the 8-bore, whose name is Peter, had his rifle double on him. I figure he caught 532 foot-pounds of recoil, which is 9 times what you get from a .458. But then, Peter picked up his beast again and put five shots right about where they should be, in a group you could cover with both hands. Now that is guts.