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Well, another year's proficiency exam has passed for Zimbabwe's Professional Hunters. Don Heath, editor of African Hunter, rates the rifles and problems he saw while administering the test. To say he doesn't like American made rifles is an understatement.

While very opinionated, he does know his stuff.

Rifle Lessons learned from the Zimbabwe Professional Hunter Proficiency Exam
By Don Heath
http://www.african-hunter.com/lessons_learned.htm
 

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:D WOW!! What an excellent, informative read. Although Africa is in every hunters dreams, the reality of such an event will mostly go unfulfilled. I wonder what a PH would think of a vintage Winchester or Marlin invading his turf? Now I'm not feeling so confident of the vaunted 45-70 and 45-90 leverguns. It would be interesting indeed to take the test using an American lever action rifle.Hmmmm...
Mike
 

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A good read, too much tongue in cheek for my tastes. All he had to do was list the problems, not his personal acidic remarks. Almost sounds as if he thinks all American firearms are sub-standard. To each their own. I certainly hope that the results get posted so that year after year, the trainees don't bring the same model rifles.
 

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I noticed the same anti-american rifle attitude. You have to respect his experience but he has an abrasive way with words. He managed to attack all the brands of rifles I own.
 

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Heath is very opinionated and very brash, but I don't know of any other tests that pit so many different manufacturers products (purchased products, not specially selected by the manufacturer) in real world hunting situations and honestly report the findings. One reason Heath can do this, if I'm not mistaken, is he is sole owner and editor for African Hunter.

The conditions and situations in these tests may not be applicable where you hunt, take for instance a harsh cold weather environment full of freezing rain, snow, or temps in the minus 40-60 degree range. Maybe some that pass the muster in Africa would fail miserably in Alaska, but unfortunately, we don't have very many exact duplication of circumstantial tests here that Heath is running in Africa.

I really appreciate the reports and tests he conducts, but his frankness is a bit harsh...
 

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Nothing in that review seemed out of line to me. Just an honest assessment of what was experienced in the field. Everyone knows Weatherby performance comes at the cost of higher chamber pressures in conjunction with increased powder capacity. I try to develop my hunting loads for the .270 Wthby and .340 Wthby in the spring when it's similar in temperature to the fall/winter when the hunting takes place. Perhaps some of the Hodgdon Extreme powders will alleviate this problem and not hurt performance. I guess it doesn't bother me as much as some because I would take a M70 or a M98 over a M700 any day. I've never owned a M77, and likely never will, as the trigger on a Savage is better. I think this article is an excellent wake up for us as shooters, because you sure as heck won't hear if from the "bought an paid for" gun writers in most of the magazines we read. I also don't think it's unfair to point out that a lot of the things, not limited to guns, that are sold here are crap. There is very little of anything that is of good quality at a affordable price that is sold in the US any longer. It's either Wal-Mart or out of the price range of 80% of the population unless a professional grade tool or item is warranted for professional use. I guess I'll keep buying M70's
 

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I think the Old Boy is right on about a lot of DGR rifles! I wouldn't own a Remington to hunt D. Game, don't like push fed guns for such an event.

I am found of my model 70 Winchesters and find that with the 3 position safety on the right side, has NOT hindered me in any way shape or form while hunting. Besides the real safety is between ones ears, once I set foot into the animals living room so to speak........that safety is never thought about, the rifle remains on fire position only.
 

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Actually Heath is writing up an addendum of sorts. Several PH's have responded that a 3 position safety on the right side of a firearm (if the shooter is right handed) doesn't cause any problems. Heath is retracting his M70 saftey being on the wrong side statement. I honestly don't think my hands are big enough to operate a 3 position horizontal safety on the left side of a rifle, if the rifle has a chunky wrist to it.

I have to agree with 2bits saying the best safety is between your ears, and to be honest, I much prefer tang safeties, because that is what I got used to growing up and that is what Ruger puts on their No.1's. I'm not adverse to a 3 position safety, but I do have to think about it when I use one.
 

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alyeska338 said:
Actually Heath is writing up an addendum of sorts. Several PH's have responded that a 3 position safety on the right side of a firearm (if the shooter is right handed) doesn't cause any problems. Heath is retracting his M70 saftey being on the wrong side statement. I honestly don't think my hands are big enough to operate a 3 position horizontal safety on the left side of a rifle, if the rifle has a chunky wrist to it.

I have to agree with 2bits saying the best safety is between your ears, and to be honest, I much prefer tang safeties, because that is what I got used to growing up and that is what Ruger puts on their No.1's. I'm not adverse to a 3 position safety, but I do have to think about it when I use one.

.338 and ALL----You took the words right out of my mouth sir!
As a young boy and so on while growing up hunting, one sort of gets used to the shotguns and rifles he or she comes in contact with over the years. Most of them had what is known as a simple "Slide Tang" safety.

When I got old enough to hunt with a model 70 Winchester made in the early 50's. I soon came to realize that the difference was more than just cosmetic in looks. The difference caused me to miss a chance at a very large whitetail buck that season.

Pulling the trigger for at least a couple of minutes , it seemed like a very long time though. I realized some time later in my quest, that the safety was still on safe position. Being used to the Tang of Old and not being as familiar as I should have been with my weapon, cost me the the opportunity of a lifetime buck.

I decided that I was never again going to be bothered with pushing a button below, or sliding my thumb on a tang etc. Keep em ALL the same Guys and Gals! Now that's why all my hunting guns for the most part have the same stock and fit, same safety etc. My 270 is just like my .375H&H, only a tad heavier.
 

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Like all you gentlemen, I've read the report. I'm also a subscriber to that magazine.
Lets understand where this guy is coming from. These were not the BS "tests" in the newstand rags -as was pointed out. These were observations during the testing of Professional Hunters in Zimbabwe. These are the guys that pick up the slack after somebody muffs a shot. We Americans; because of work, family obligations, and the thousand of other things that infringe upon our time, just don't shoot. So our of the shelf rifles work for us. You guys remember pre 64 Winchesters (70's) commanding such a premium, because of the claw extractor. Before they saw the light and reintoduced the "pre 64 action". The Remington (as well as Savage) is a wonderful, accurate rifle - but not the rifle for dangerous game FOR PROFESSIONAL HUNTERS - for the client who is backed up by the PH incase the brown stuff hits the fan - yes the Remington is wonderful. The PH is there for our safety, and they are -by and large- super terrific guys, but they go into the bush to finnish off stuff that got away. There rifles are evaluated on a different standard. Does anybody remember the old Browning bolt actions? These were made by FN in Belgium. Those were gems. Look at the old stuff. We pay large bucks for those old Browning Safaris, Winchersters, and other Mauser rifles that were put together by craftsmen - not accountants and lawyers. Lets face it the stuff that comes off the shelf needs an overhaul before it even gets to the range. Most all need new triggers. They need to be bedded. The stocks are not designd for large calibers. Even the Ruger M-77, and I'm refering to their top end gun, needs help. How many have hefted the rifle? The stock is great for most Americans because it (the rifle) is shot at the range. The gun weighs way to much and that forearm belong on a varmint rifle. For most Americans, I agree that the article seems cutting. But it's not. I have hunted dangerous game in Africa and I used a Blaser rifle in .416 Remington. It worked fine and the rifle does not have a claw extractor. What the rifle does have is ease in transport. One case - much smaller then the average Gun Guard box. And it fits into a duffle bag (if the airline baggage thieves don't know it's there then they can't steel it). The case carries two barrels that interchange into the same receiver. I also increased the versatility of my .416 barrel by using Blaser QD scope mounts.
Now I do not walk in the bush after game eight months out of the year. I'm a city guy who's of the "four wheels beats two heals" mind set. BUT my PH, on my elephant hunt, does walk in the bush all the time (in fact is a PH in other African countries). He carried a Browning (FN Mauser action) in .458 without a scope. His rifle weighed about seven pounds. For fun he could shoot grouse on the wing with the .458, and I never seen him miss. A PH does not baby his gun like the American. No stock wax, really worn bluing, scratches, dings, and alot of other abuse that makes some people shake their heads in disbelief. His rifle has to work flawlessly. No high gloss stock, push feed action, or cosmetic nonsense. When it comes to dangerous game rifles there are certain non-negotable standards. Another thing that we Americans don't realize is that due to high import tarrifs, your PH might only have one rifle. We have ALOT.
 

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mjs said:
Like all you gentlemen, I've read the report. I'm also a subscriber to that magazine.
Lets understand where this guy is coming from. These were not the BS "tests" in the newstand rags -as was pointed out. These were observations during the testing of Professional Hunters in Zimbabwe. These are the guys that pick up the slack after somebody muffs a shot. We Americans; because of work, family obligations, and the thousand of other things that infringe upon our time, just don't shoot. So our of the shelf rifles work for us. You guys remember pre 64 Winchesters (70's) commanding such a premium, because of the claw extractor. Before they saw the light and reintoduced the "pre 64 action". The Remington (as well as Savage) is a wonderful, accurate rifle - but not the rifle for dangerous game FOR PROFESSIONAL HUNTERS - for the client who is backed up by the PH incase the brown stuff hits the fan - yes the Remington is wonderful. The PH is there for our safety, and they are -by and large- super terrific guys, but they go into the bush to finnish off stuff that got away. There rifles are evaluated on a different standard. Does anybody remember the old Browning bolt actions? These were made by FN in Belgium. Those were gems. Look at the old stuff. We pay large bucks for those old Browning Safaris, Winchersters, and other Mauser rifles that were put together by craftsmen - not accountants and lawyers. Lets face it the stuff that comes off the shelf needs an overhaul before it even gets to the range. Most all need new triggers. They need to be bedded. The stocks are not designd for large calibers. Even the Ruger M-77, and I'm refering to their top end gun, needs help. How many have hefted the rifle? The stock is great for most Americans because it (the rifle) is shot at the range. The gun weighs way to much and that forearm belong on a varmint rifle. For most Americans, I agree that the article seems cutting. But it's not. I have hunted dangerous game in Africa and I used a Blaser rifle in .416 Remington. It worked fine and the rifle does not have a claw extractor. What the rifle does have is ease in transport. One case - much smaller then the average Gun Guard box. And it fits into a duffle bag (if the airline baggage thieves don't know it's there then they can't steel it). The case carries two barrels that interchange into the same receiver. I also increased the versatility of my .416 barrel by using Blaser QD scope mounts.
Now I do not walk in the bush after game eight months out of the year. I'm a city guy who's of the "four wheels beats two heals" mind set. BUT my PH, on my elephant hunt, does walk in the bush all the time (in fact is a PH in other African countries). He carried a Browning (FN Mauser action) in .458 without a scope. His rifle weighed about seven pounds. For fun he could shoot grouse on the wing with the .458, and I never seen him miss. A PH does not baby his gun like the American. No stock wax, really worn bluing, scratches, dings, and alot of other abuse that makes some people shake their heads in disbelief. His rifle has to work flawlessly. No high gloss stock, push feed action, or cosmetic nonsense. When it comes to dangerous game rifles there are certain non-negotable standards. Another thing that we Americans don't realize is that due to high import tarrifs, your PH might only have one rifle. We have ALOT.
I am curious to know if that .416 Blaser of yours is a semi auto or a bolt action? I have seen a couple of the semi auto's malfunction is why I asked.

The Belgium Brownings of years gone by, where great dangerous game rifles. I bought two in the early 60's, a 300 Winchesterr magnum and a 458 Winchester magnum. Sold the .458 a couple of years later to someone going to Alaska.
 

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The Blaser is a bolt action of sorts. It's a straight pull bolt action, like the old Lee Navy's. It takes a little getting used to because we are used to "working" a bolt. It's actually quite fast once you get the hang of it.
I've not had a feeding problem because, when the bolt is pulled back, the charged magazine positions a cartridge in dirct line with the bore. When I first used this gun, I was on a Mule deer hunt in new Mexico. It was impressive. When I brought it to Africa, it impressed the PH.
 

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Excellent article. Good information.
I have not hunted Africa, but have an opinion on the topic of the article.
As someone mentioned, there are "Non-negotiable standards" regarding dangerous game rifles. This man was tough on many guns, but not unfairly so. If anyone was unhappy by their favorites coming out poorly, they should consider the consequences of failure in the African bush. And perhaps re-think their choices. Actually I'm surprised the writer was as civil about the matter as he was. A firearm that would tend to get someone killed because of poor design or performance is truly worse than useless, it instills false confidence in it's user.

As "Hunters" we have different standards than someone that puts themself, and more to the point, others, in harms way. To fail in the performance of one's job as a PH means death or permanent injury to self or to the client. To have a rifle that is not up to the job in this situation is foolish at best, and criminal at worst. "World Class Performance" takes it's full meaning here, the best in the world. "Almost as good as" isn't good enough.

Few of us will ever be in a situation where the continuation of our life hinges on ABSOLUTELY FLAWLESS performanec of a rifle or ammunition. If we have an occasional hangup in feed or ejection, a bad cartridge or one that fails to eject, a gun that is slow to reload, maybe we miss a once in a lifetime shot at an elk, we get upset, or we just shrug our shoulders and go on, philosophizing "the gun has other attributes" etc. It simply doesn't affect us the same way.

Alaska can be a dangerous place in regard to animals, but even Alaska doesn't have the number of species that can take exception to your continuing living and the capability to do something about it. Nevertheless, all I've heard about bear guides is they tend to be fairly conservative in rifle selection as well.

This man wrote about an issue that is very serious. I don't feel he was unfair or off base in any way. Opinionated? Yes, but opinions defined by experience.

Too bad we don't have more gun writers equally straightforward.

Someone pointed out that certain rifles were probably fine for "hunters" even if not up to the job for a profesional. My personal inclination is to have a rifle that is the best I can get. I have sold many that over time failed in some way or didn't live up to expectations. I hunt alone much of the time, and spend a fair amount of time through the year camping and roaming the mountains where the grizzlies live. I don't like guns that don't work 100%. Col. Whelen(?) said "only accurate rifles are interesting". If not completely reliable, accuracy means little.

Heath was right about most bolt rifle safeties being slow and awkward to use. The sliding tang safety seems the fastest. Am looking into having my FN Mauser converted to this type. Expensive work, but if it saves the day just once, what's it worth?
 

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Good article! Hope the gun manufacturers will take note - Most of the deficiencies Don Heath described can be remedied.
 

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"Dangerous Game"

It takes a **** of a lot of money to get a better rifle than a CZ 550 Magnum. They are perfect (set trigger, safety, stock design), but they are better than a factory M70 any day for stuff that can get you.

The new American Magnum, with a laminate stock sounds about perfect. I am going to change out the safety, and trigger, and glass bed the thing, and remove the forward sling stud on mine when it comes in. Probably put a low powered Schmidt and Bender scope (they are cheaper than Swarovski here in Spain) and hunt my Wisent and Yak this fall with it.
 

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Welcome to the forum, and please consider telling us more about the hunting you do in Spain or elsewhere.
 

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Agree!

I think there is a lot to agree with about his article. I am not fond of the new M70 rifles, the quality sucks. Remington M700 safeties are tiny, Ruger M77 MKII African models have really small bolts, and everything else is crap. For my hide, I would rather spend $3000-5000 on a good reasonably used custom mauser rifle than risk death or a beat with a $850 dollar production night mare.
 

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Excellent article... The moral of the story is that few if any rifles are perfect out of the box. The crucial thing is that YOUR RIFLE has been thoroughly field-tested in every way before you go into the bush with it after ornery critters. Whether or not it has this or that feature may be a subject of discussion, but if it feeds/fires/ejects EVERY TIME WITHOUT FAIL then you'll have no troubles.

Train with your DG rifle regularly in all field positions and with a fully loaded magazine at all times - practice your snapshots, multiple quick shots, etc. Take it deer hunting, plink coyotes with it throughout the year, etc and make it so familiar it's a part of you. Then when the chips are down you'll react and fire without any conscious thought at all and those shots will go right where you're looking.

Nearly any quality bolt gun can be made into a fine DG rifle with some effort and fine-tuning. It's the folks that assume that just because they spent $2000-3000 on a rifle that it will automatically be a reliable tool that get smacked down by their PH when they arrive in country and have the floor plate fall open upon firing. This can only happen if you haven't prepared ahead of time.

His style may be a bit harsh, but he's talking from extensive real-world experience and that's preferable to theory and talk.
 

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Bigfoot said:
I noticed the same anti-american rifle attitude. You have to respect his experience but he has an abrasive way with words. He managed to attack all the brands of rifles I own.
Well Hot **** - You shou;d sell those rifles off real soon - to me at half price.

Just kidding you, Bigfoot. Rifles used in Africa live a hard life and most African PHs are NOT gun looneys like most of us good old USofA boys.


I've seen once beautiful, pre-64 Winchester .458 magnums that were issued to "game scouts" that literally could not have the bolt closed due to the crap and crud that had accumulated. STocks were split, barrels almost b;locked, and THESE are the guys supposed to take care of shooting a buffalo of of your back? Not really, the PH will tale care of that little problem, but these were the guys that WERE supposed to kill crop raiders and people eating nasties. In my humble opinion there had never been even a single day when their rifles actually would function.

I found a few rifles listed that I own, and I have done enough work on curing the ills of these rifles that I'd bet - and have bet - my life on each and every one. A good man knows his rifle, has tested what it will do when the doo-doo hits the rotary impeller, can shoot the bloody thing well enough to hit a soccer ball at fifty yards every time, and cares for the rifle. Do this and you will never have any of trhe prob;lems those poor trainees had.

Terry
 

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?choice of rifles for dangerous game

Windriver80 said:
I think there is a lot to agree with about his article. I am not fond of the new M70 rifles, the quality sucks. Remington M700 safeties are tiny, Ruger M77 MKII African models have really small bolts, and everything else is crap. For my hide, I would rather spend $3000-5000 on a good reasonably used custom mauser rifle than risk death or a beat with a $850 dollar production night mare.
Most everyone agrees that Mr. Heath is well qualified, and has many valid pointswhich relate to the PH's needs of knowingwith absolute certainty that the rifle will perform . OK. He doesn't like American manufacturer's offerings. OK.
Maybe I just missed it,but.......what rifle is recommended? What advice could a learner use from Mr. Heath's years of experience and knowledge to purchase a rifle which could be modified and how what modifications would be recommended? As it stands now, the recommendation would be to stay home if you have one of the many weapons panned by this article. Is that the point?
 
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