The One-Gun Hunter

Writing about Lefty Page's 7mm Mashburn Magnum, with which he slew enough critters to fill a large zoo, brought up the question of whether it's OK to be a one-rifle hunter. On the one hand the concept is un-American, because if you buy only one rifle and no others you'll not be giving the firearms industry the support it needs and, by extension, I will be unable to buy the really expensive stuff that makes people angry and discontented.

Page shot whole menageries of other animals with many different rifles and cartridges because the job requires that, but the Mashburn was his go-to gun for just about everything because it was light (for its time), unchanging of zero (very rare for that time), powerful enough for just about everything, and flat-shooting enough for long range.

The truth is that a skillful hunter armed with a rifle of reasonable power can take just about anything with one gun. Grancel Fitz, who was the first man to take all of the Boone and Crockett North American big-game trophies, did it with a Griffin & Howe .30/06 with iron sights. Elgin Gates and C.J. McElroy collected breathtaking numbers of trophies, worldwide, each with a .300 Weatherby Magnum.

You could handily take everything in Africa with a .375 H&H, and I have no doubt that more than one person has done just that. In North America, the .30/06 would do, but I would not be happy using it on big bears. To those of you who would, I cite the case of Hosea Sarber, an Alaska game warden who shot battalions of brown and grizzly bears with a .30/06, but who vanished in southeast Alaska in 1952 and was never found. He may have been done in by someone who didn't like game wardens, or he may have gone head to head with a bear who did not think much of the .30/06.

My own first choice, if I had to pick one gun for North America, would be the .338. It's too much for most of what you'll encounter, but there's nothing you'll find in this hemisphere for which it's marginal. For Africa, of course, the .375 H&H is the ticket. I can't think of what might come in a decent second.

But why worry? The true solution is to go out and buy lots and lots of rifles of all different calibers. Part of the fun of this business is agonizing over which one to take. Do not deny yourself this pleasure. Part of my income depends on it.