Special Investigation…Rifles for big game
Big game hunting is big business and if you want to stay ahead of the game, stock the best products and be a leader in the sector you’ll need to read our essential investigation.
A Rifle is a firearm with a rifled bore - having shallow spiral grooves cut inside the barrel to impart a spin to the projectile, thus stabilizing it in flight. A rifled barrel imparts much greater accuracy to a projectile, as compared with a smoothbore barrel. The name rifle, most often applied to a weapon fired from the shoulder, may also denote a crew-served weapon such as a rifled cannon or recoilless rifle. Although field guns, pistols, and machine guns have rifled barrels, they are not normally referred to as rifles.
Rifled firearms date back to at least the 15th century. As some of the earliest had straight rather than spiral grooves, it is thought that the initial purpose may have been to receive the powder residue, or fouling, that was a problem with early firearms. Gun makers soon discovered, however, that spiral grooves made bullets spin and that spinning improved their range and accuracy. The effect increased when spherical balls were superseded by somewhat-elongated projectiles.
In early muzzle-loading rifles, ramming the bullet down the bore was difficult, as the bullet had to fit the rifling tightly. Such rifles could not be loaded as rapidly as smoothbore muskets. That problem was solved first by the use of greased patches around the projectile. It was later—and far better—addressed by the Minié ball, a projectile with a conical head and a hollow base that expanded slightly from the force of the propellant charge, thereby fitting tightly into the grooves of the rifling. Somewhat later the invention of metallic cartridges (joining explosive primer, propellant charge, and projectile in a self-contained unit) permitted the development of gastight breech-loading mechanisms. The technology was first applied in the 19th century in single-shot, revolving-cylinder, and lever-action repeating arms. Many breech-loading rifles that achieved widespread use in the early 20th century—such as the Springfield, Enfield, and Mauser—were bolt-operated military arms. Since World War II, however, the assault rifle, a light medium-range weapon with a switch allowing semi- or fully automatic fire, has become the dominant military rifle.
There are examples of the economic and conservation value of big-game hunting in several places. The Bubye Valley Conservancy in Zimbabwe has successfully managed lion and rhinoceros populations through hunting fees. In North America, the State of California estimates that the economic impact of big-game hunting in that state was $263,702,757 in 2016. Also in North America, the State of Wyoming estimates that the economic impact of big-game hunting in 2015 was $224 million. The examples of large economic impacts of big-game hunting abound, and many studies exist of the high positive effects wherever it is tried and managed well.
White rhinoceros’ numbers in Africa have increased from 100 in 1916 to more than 18,000 in 2016 due largely to the increase in private game reserves intended for hunting. Some hunts can generate fees of hundreds of thousands of dollars, which are then used directly for conservation, as was the case with rhinoceroses in Africa.
The Big Game Mecca – Africa
Big Game is for many the very essence of hunting in Africa. Big Game does not just mean big animals, but big challenges and experiences. Technically speaking by far the most popular style of hunting in Africa is actually Big Game Hunting. Even many species of antilope are actually classed as big game. However, it is first and foremost The Big Five, that we think about when the conversation turns to big game hunting.
Lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant and rhinoceros have been the great attraction for Big Game hunters travelling to Africa on safari for centuries, and they still are. While it is true that hunting for rhino is perhaps not what it once was, as today this species is highly protected and surrounded by a great deal of security, the remaining species can still be hunted in the wild African bush - with all the wonderful experiences that this brings with it. Generally speaking it is only in the areas where hunting outfitters operate that the increasing levels of poaching have been brought under control, which elsewhere have grown alarmingly, especially with regard to elephants, over recent years. This is just one of the reasons why it is actually Big Game-Hunting that is now the best tool for conserving Africa’s large mammals in their natural habitat in the wild. As just about no hunting for rhinoceros is carried out anymore, hunters now talk about the The Big Four. Hunting for The Big Four can be done with a completely clear conscience, as the hunt will help to save far more animals from poaching than will be actually taken during hunting. Classical and well-functioning Big Four-destinations are Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique and Tanzania.
Big Game - Antelopes and Rhinoceros
An animal does not need to be either absolutely huge or dangerous to be classified as “Big Game”. Even some of the most hunted and shot antelope species such as kudu, Waterbuck, Oryx, Eland, Wildebeest etc. are placed in the “Big Game” category. In particular the Eland, which can achieve a body weight of over 1000 kg, surpassing even the buffalo, can be regarded as a full-blooded big game animal. Hunting for antelopes typically takes place on hunting farms, where you can relax and enjoy life during the afternoons, when you are not out hunting. Hunters are free to choose whether they would like luxurious or more simple conditions during these hunts, but hunting farms are the perfect solution if a number of hunters are travelling together, or a hunter is travelling with his family. No less than 18,500 visiting hunters stay annually on hunting farms in South Africa alone, which says quite a lot about the popularity of these hunting farms. Together with Namibia, South Africa accounts for over 90 per cent of the big game hunting farms on the African continent. It is also in Namibia and South Africa that a very limited number of rhinoceros are made available for hunters each year.
The Exclusive Trophies
One category of African Big Game animals, which are perhaps not so well know, are the highly exclusive species such as Bongo, Forest Elephant, Forest Buffalo, Giant Eland and Mountain Nyala. One thing they all have in common is that they live in very remote areas, and it takes a great deal of effort to get your trophy. Often it will take a number of tours before the hunt finally meets with success and when you finally do achieve your goal you will have a trophy that you can be very proud to display amongst your collection. These exclusive trophies are often found in countries that are not normally associated with Big Game hunting: Ethiopia, Uganda, Central African Republic, Cameroon, Burkina Faso and so forth.
Product in Focus
The Barrett Fieldcraft line of lightweight rifles designed to provide maximum accuracy in a package optimized for each specific caliber.
“Fieldcraft is the latest representation of our philosophy to build the highest performance rifles for every application,” says President Chris Barrett. “Even though we are known for making the world’s finest military-grade rifles, we love to hunt. Recently we introduced the Barrett Sovereign shotgun line, and now we have created the ultimate hunting rifle.”
Each Fieldcraft is designed to be as light as possible for its specific caliber to allow the rifle to be carried further and longer in the field. It features a carbon fiber stock design with a high strength-to-weight ratio and stiff construction to properly support the action and barrel, while remaining comfortable to shoot even with heavy recoiling calibers.
The trigger is tuned to be crisp and light to maximize accuracy potential. Actions are scaled for each family of chamberings. The high-precision stainless steel barrels are machined to ideal contours and lengths for the specific application and caliber. Initial Fieldcraft rifles will be available in select popular calibers and include left-hand models.
About Barrett Firearms Manufacturing
Barrett is a family-owned and operated company and the world leader in large-caliber, long-distance, precision rifle design and manufacturing. Barrett products are used by civilians, sport shooters, law enforcement agencies, the United States military and more than 73 State Department approved countries around the world. The Barrett Quality Management System (QMS) has received the prestigious ISO 9001:2015 certification for the design and manufacture of firearms, ammunition and accessories, and to provide training for those systems.
Obviously, you need to stock more than top quality, high-powered rifles to make your store into the go to place for consumers to buy their big game products. Here are some excellent additions.
Razor HD LH Light Hunter Riflescopes
Top-tier glass and precision machining in an ultra-sleek, lightweight package define the Razor HD LHTM. Simple, yet elegant, this riflescope is built to exceed expectations—no matter the person or extreme hunts they take it on.
HD optical system, XRTM Plus fully multi-coated lenses, and ArmorTek on exterior lenses combine to deliver stunning image quality. Tack-sharp resolution from edge to edge, coupled with its ultra-forgiving eyebox, serves up a sight picture nothing short of impressive. The HSR-4 BDC and G4-BDC reticles are super clean, yet highly versatile, for optimal target acquisition and pinpoint accuracy.
The Razor HD LH (Light Hunter) is a scope designed for those hunts where weight minimisation without loss of tier one optical quality is a factor to the user. It proves that hardcore hunters don’t need to be stuck with complex, heavy, feature-ridden and competition-focused tactical riflescopes in order to get the best possible optical quality for their hunt. The scope was born from listening to the requests of extreme, lightweight mountain hunters. These scopes bring it back to basics with one-inch tubes and low-capped turrets but combined with cutting edge lens technology and reticle ingenuity. These features are combined with the incredible optical performance of our highest-end Razor series of riflescopes. Everything you need to be successful in even the harshest, most remote conditions and nothing you don’t. When it comes to the hunt of a lifetime, put a Razor HD LH on your rifle.
Sellier & Bellot
6.5 Creedmoor Soft Point Ammunition
Sellier & Bellot had already been in business for 66 years when the 6.5x55 Swedish Mauser was introduced in 1891. It could be argued that this caliber, along with the 7x57 Mauser, was decades ahead of its time when it came to projectile design and overall performance. It’s ironic that what’s old is now new again with the incredible success of the 6.5 Creedmoor, which makes use of the same features that made the 6.5x55 such an effective and versatile hunting cartridge over 100 years ago.
Established outside of Prague, Czech Republic in 1825, S&B has always been at the forefront of rifle ammunition production. As the 6.5 Creedmoor became increasingly popular, S&B looked for innovative ways to offer shooters a variety of options for use on the range and in the field. Surprisingly, many of the solutions were found with the 6.5 projectiles originally developed for the 6.5x55.
Existing 140gr FMJ and Soft Point bullets that were well-proven in the 6.5x55, were offered in the 6.5 Creedmoor where its unique combination of moderate recoil, efficient case design and ease of loading resulted in an incredibly accurate and effective selection of loads. 131gr, 140gr and 156gr Soft Points are now available worldwide from S&B in 6.5 Creedmoor. While opinions may vary regarding bullet construction and design, it cannot be argued that a long-for-caliber, 6.5 Soft Point projectile moving at a moderate velocity results in a wonderfully potent hunting round capable of handling big game at reasonable ranges. The same 6.5 caliber Soft Points developed by Sellier & Bellot over a century ago are still proving to be accurate and effective in modern hunting rifles like the Fieldcraft.