Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Reviewing "Buffalo!" by Craig Boddington

I’m feeling a bit under the weather today.  I think I still have some lingering crud that I picked up at the SCI show.  Compared to what some of my friends came down with at SHOT this year, I count myself lucky.  But since I’ll be away from the blog for a few days next week while I attend some work training, I should probably get around to discussing that Boddington book to which I alluded earlier.

As I mentioned earlier, I first got interested in African hunting by reading Peter Capstick’s classic “Death in the Long Grass” when I was just a lad in short pants, as they say.  Capstick’s wild tales and colorful turns of phrase riveted my attention in the way that no non-fiction could at that point.  I tore through that book (and every other Capstick book in Dad’s library) like a starving leopard through a particularly pungent warthog bait.  I think it helped that it worried my fairly liberal reading/English teacher at the time; I felt somewhat subversive.

So Capstick whetted my appetite, and I continued to read his stuff as it came out (or, more accurately, as Dad acquired them).  When the Capstick Library editions of classic books came out, I started on them as well.  I read Man-Eaters of Tsavo and enjoyed it, though I thought the writing wasn’t quite as elegant and readable as Capstick.  I felt the same about Jim Corbett.  In fact, I tended to measure every African safari book against “Death in the Long Grass”. But eventually I ran out of Capstick to read, and he is sadly no longer able to write more.  So I branched out.  I read some Hunter, some Cooper, some Hemingway.  All had their merits.

The first time I read Boddington was a few years ago when I decided that an African safari was both within my reach and something I wanted to spend the time, effort and money to do.  On the advice of several folks, my grandmother gave me a copy of “Safari Rifles II” for Christmas that year and Iwas impressed with the honesty and pragmatism tempering his appreciation for some of the odd-ball cartridges.  He had a very real thing for the 8mm Remington Magnum and the .358 Winchester, the latter of which I had been looking at in a Browning BLR levergun to use on feral pigs. 

So fast forward to the Safari Club International show earlier this month, where I saw Boddington autographing books.  I already had a copy of Safari Rifles II, so what to get?  Despite the fact that I won’t be going after one on this trip, I chose “Buffalo!” because it seemed to be one of his favorite game species, based on what I had read previously.  I figured if a man is passionate about a thing, his writing will show it.  In that assumption, I was correct.

Boddington’s passion shows from the start, as he describes why he hunts buffalo.  The first chapter is dedicated to the reasons to hunt these big beasts, from his first encounter nearly three decades earlier to his pragmatic reasoning of cost, availability, and meat supply compared to the other members of the Big Five.  Like Capstick before him, he cites Ruark’s immortal description that the buffalo “looks at you like you owe him money”, and he says it with reverence to both the animal and the writer.  He openly expresses his admiration and cautious respect for the creatures, contrasted with the fear he feels towards lion, cow elephant and leopards.

That’s a theme to which Boddington returns time and again in this book:  his respect for the game and the rules of fair chase.  Like the great conservationists of old, he understands that there has to be a balance; that game must be protected and shepherded, and in order for that to happen, there must be a financial incentive to doing so.  Boddington is very clear that the only way for game to survive in modern Africa is through the deliberate and measured use of sport hunting to generate sufficient value from the animals to both landowners and governments.  This eye towards conservation continues in his self-imposed criteria for a ‘shootable’ bull.  Several times in the course of the book, he states that he tries to shoot bulls that are past breeding age, even if their horns are less of a trophy than the younger bulls.  I mentioned I got a signed copy; the inscription reads:  “Matt – shoot old bulls!”  That kind of commitment to ethical hunting is a far better representation of our people to the outside world than, say, Ted Nugent.

The book continues on with discussion on the various subspecies of African buffalo, from the well-known Cape buff to the smaller forest buffalo of Western Africa.  The bulk of the book, however, consists of some very pragmatic advice regarding tracking, stalking, estimating horn size, shot placement, guns/cartridges/bullets (this chapter is basically a re-hash of part of “Safari Rifles II”, which is fine because this is a perfectly valid subject), and what happens when things go sideways.  There is a lot of experience at work here, and yet Boddington remains humble and defers to both his PH’s and his trackers.  One bit of advice struck home:  make a set of shooting sticks and practice with them.  A bit of research shows that Home Depot sells bamboo poles for very little money; three poles and some old bicycle inner tube can make a very useable set of shooting sticks.  Given my lackluster performance on the sticks at the last safari match (the plains game stage was by far my weakest, and the only one where I shot from shooting sticks).  Perhaps this could be a subject for a later post...

The book wraps up with a reasonably in-depth treatise on the other game buffalo of the world, focusing on the various types of water buffalo found in India, Asia and Australia.  He then moves into a fitting coda:  recounting the ‘perfect’ Cape buffalo hunt.

All in all, I found “Buffalo!” to be an enjoyable and satisfying read.  I don’t think Boddington is the same level of wordsmith as Ruark or Capstick, but his advice is very down-to-earth and pragmatic without sacrificing an obvious passion for the animal and the hunt.  He’s certainly got far more experience than Ruark (at least, Ruark at the time of “Horn of the Hunter”), and he is far less likely to sensationalize and embellish than Capstick.  I intend to look into more of Boddington’s work, and I think he’ll have a place in my library for some time to come.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Ruminations on Taxidermy and Hunting Ethics

I had a plan for my next post.  I was going to review Craig Boddington's “Buffalo!” book, or talk about the reasons I dropped hundreds of dollars on custom-fitted Russell safari boots, or describe the safari rifle match that the Phoenix Rod & Gun Club puts on twice a year.  Then one of the members of Pistol-Forum.com linked to my blog there today.  They’re a good bunch of people over there, and the signal-to-noise ratio tends to be far better than on a lot of internet forums, so of course some discussion happened.  And the subject quickly turned to taxidermy, honey badgers, and the character of Stanley from Action Figure Therapy (very NSFW, but I find them utterly hilarious). 

In all seriousness, though, I'm somewhat torn on the subject of taxidermy. To me, ethical hunting comes in one of three forms: meat, dangerous game, and pest control. I'll eat the antelope I'll shoot in Africa, and going up against a lion or elephant or buffalo on its home turf at least gives the critter a fighting chance. The badger is none of these, nor do I think he falls under pest control (although I know at least two hunters who found honey badgers raiding the skinning shed and making off with their trophies). There's also my belief that, as a living creature, it deserves a certain level of respect. I would have no issue displaying a completely fake statue of Stanley the Honey Badger, with cigarette, AKM and upraised middle finger, but I think there's something inherently disrespectful about taking a living badger, shooting it, and making it into a joke display piece. Ergo, while I may crack a joke or two about having a real Stanley, I can't see myself actually going through with it.

I've never been a big taxidermy fan in general. I've never mounted any of my whitetails. I have eaten them all and used their antlers for projects, or given them to friends who use them to make knife hilts and coat buttons, and I see that as keeping parts of the animal from going to waste. That said, I can see the value in taxidermy as a reminder of a significant and meaningful event. To see the animal, especially rendered in a realistic pose, is to flash back to the warm memory of the hunt itself, and perhaps recapture some little flash of the adrenaline and majesty. In that sense, when the taxidermy is a tribute to the animal and the chase, rather than a trophy hanging on the wall to brag about one's own prowess, I can honestly appreciate it.  I certainly don't begrudge people who have their prey immortalized in such a manner.

I do plan to have what I shoot on my safari properly taxidermied.  I’d love to have a zebra rug, for instance.  Unless I shoot something that belongs in the SCI record book or takes an inordinate amount of effort and luck to shoot, I will likely do European skull mounts for most of what I take.  I’d rather spend my limited budget on trophy fees than taxidermy.  I also want to have most of the hides tanned for making into gloves, boots, jackets, and if I find something suitably thick-skinned, perhaps a holster, knife sheath, mag pouch, rifle sling, etc.  It’s all part of making the most out of what I take as a hunter. 

In the end, I suppose I agree with Jose Ortega Y Gasset, as he stated in his “Meditations on Hunting”: 

“One does not hunt in order to kill; on the contrary, one kills in order to have hunted. If one were to present the sportsman with the death of the animal as a gift he would refuse it. What he is after is having to win it, to conquer the surly brute through his own effort and skill with all the extras that this carries with it: the immersion in the countryside, the healthfulness of the exercise, the distraction from his job.”

 I'd love to hear some feedback on the subject of taxidermy, and what it means to other hunters.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Those Reloading Blues

I'm fairly new at reloading, having done only straight-wall pistol cartridges with mild loads on a single-stage press so far.  I bought the press so I could afford to shoot my .44 Magnum, and I figured it would also work well for loading hunting and precision rifle ammo.  This past weekend, I needed to go tinker with the roll crimp for my .38 Special recipe, and I figured what the heck, now that I've fired a few boxes of the Prvi factory ammo, I'll use the empty cases and dial in an initial batch of 9.3x62mm as well.

One thing I've discovered about reloading is that the ammo drought has extended to reloading components as well.  I've got cases and projectiles, and was able to scrounge up 1000 WLRM primers, but powder is hard to find, especially locally.  That's important, because when working up a load, I don't want to buy 8 lbs of a powder I might not end up using, and the combined hazmat and shipping fees are more than most 1lbs cans of powder cost.  At those prices, I might as well just buy factory ammo.  So after striking out on more common powders like Varget and RL15, and reading some various forum posts about people using it for the 9.3, I was rather happy when I found a single pound of Ramshot Big Game in a local store and forked over my money.

Now, as I mentioned, I'm new at reloading, and I don't consider myself anywhere near the level of experience to start going off into the weeds on load recipes.  As I gain more experience, I might start doing some experimentation, but for now I stick to the book religiously, including component selection, measurements, etc.  So imagine my surprise when I can't find any published data that uses Big Game in the 9.3 (Hornady lists TAC, and Barnes doesn't list any Ramshot powders for this cartridge), and only a few mentions of using Big Game specifically with Prvi cases and bullets (note:  I don't plan to take Prvi bullets to Africa, but I do intend to use them for familiarization shooting, learning the initial ins and outs of reloading bottleneck rifle cartridges, and likely some whitetail hunting without breaking the bank on premium bullets.  For the actual safari, I will be loading up the tried-and-true Barnes TTSX and either Barnes or Hornady solids.)  My 'economy load' for practice and familiarization won't pan out if I can't find load data for it.  So, off to the internet I go.  And lo and behold, I found www.realguns.com had some data for Big Game with Prvi bullets.  Awesome.

And so after I set up the RCBS neck sizing die and resize/measure the first sacrificial case, it's time to dial in the seating die.  I'm hopeful that I can get everything zeroed in and start loading my initial batch.  And before I seat a round, I take a look at the printout of the load data and I notice a little asterisk next to the COL data for the Prvi bullets.  The data for this particular load has a COL of 3.305", 0.014" longer than the maximum COL in every factory book I've read (3.291"), and 0.030" longer than the COL of my factory Prvi ammo (3.275"). Spider sense... tingling.  At this point, I put the dies away and go back to Google.  Eventually I found someone using that particular recipe in a Ruger African with no issues, though he did back down the rather heavy powder charge and used non-magnum WLR primers.  So, I emailed the Ramshot people to ask if they had any recipes for Big Game with Prvi bullets, but they don't. 

So, for any of you more experienced reloaders out there, what would you suggest?  Pick the data for a similar bullet, seat to normal COL, and start with a lower charge and work up?  Keep looking for data for the exact components that I have?

I spoke too soon re: technical difficulties

So, despite all the settings fixed to enable commenting... people still can't comment.  Time to delve into the wonders of Tech Support (or just ask some other bloggers what's going on ).  Stand by, and in the meantime, enjoy the content.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Ounces are pounds

Like a lot of people, I tend to believe in the old adage "Better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it."  I'm always on the lookout for new gear that will let me do more, or stuff that's just interesting.  I'm always forgetting something on every trip, and I tend to compensate by incorporating redundancy in my equipment.  Maybe it's my IT background, but I am firm believer in the notion that "Two is one, and one is none."

That can get one into trouble when dealing with a lot of physical activity.  As a boy, up through my early 20s, I was an avid hiker and camper.  I grew up tromping around the hills of northern West Virginia, both alone and with friends and family.  At first I carried everything but the kitchen sink, finding an excuse for anything if I had room in my monstrous expedition pack, but hiking up and down those endless hills taught me rather quickly that less is often more.  By the time I was 16 or 17, my warm-weather overnight kit consisted of a bolo knife, an old rubberized Army poncho and liner with some pre-cut lengths of paracord for a shelter, a first-aid kit, some MREs and a canteen or two.  I'd eat local plants and occasionally animals if it was the appropriate hunting season, and purify water by boiling it in my canteen cup.  I was young, and agile, and glad to be unencumbered.

Life has its ways of intervening, and I don't get out camping much anymore, much to my dismay.  I've come to like my creature comforts, even when camping.  But I still remember how on a long hike, every ounce felt like a pound by the end of the day.  Considering a proper safari consists of a whole lot of walking, I'm taking a hard, hard look at what I really and truly 'need' outside of base camp.  What I carry, and how I carry it, will become critical.

So first thing's first:  a belt.  I carry a decent amount of stuff on my belt on a daily basis.  Thus, I need a solid, stiff, and durable belt that adjusts to the situation as necessary.  For about 15 years, I've been using belts from The Wilderness.  Their original Instructor Belt is a classic for a reason, but with weight an issue, I opt for the polymer-buckle "Frequent Flyer" model.  With the 5-stitch reinforcement, I've found it plenty stiff for holding up my pistol and accessories all day.  I also like that the nylon and polymer construction is unaffected by rain, snow, sweat or other environmental conditions like leather.  There are a lot of good belts on the market today, but I've not yet had any reason to switch.

Now, what to carry on that belt?  For daily use, I generally have a Leatherman Wave, a SureFire G2 flashlight (though I've upgraded it to a higher-end head and bulb assembly), and my pistol and spare magazine.  When hunting, I add a belt knife for field-dressing game and a spare ammo carrier for my rifle or revolver.  I don't anticipate taking a pistol to Africa (the laws are a bit Byzantine in that regard, from what I'm told), and the safari company will have skinners that are far better at their trade than I could ever hope to be, so I won't likely bring a belt knife (though I'll still have a folding knife, because a blade is useful). 

I've been experimenting with a belt-mounted ammo carrier.  Initially I bought a Rifle Ammo Pouch from Triad Tactical, because I liked some of the features.  I figured I could keep rifle data and hunting licenses in the see-through flaps, and ten rounds each of .30-'06 and 9.3x62mm.  I have no complaints about the quality of this piece of gear, but I just found it to be a bit more than I wanted to carry on a long hunt.  I think it's a great piece of kit for carrying additional ammo on a backpack, or for laying out when you're in a hide or other stationary spot, but it's bulky on my belt and not all that quick to access when it's all folded up and buckled shut.

I also had a Twin Loader from The Wilderness, and I like it quite a bit positioned around 2:00 for a quick reload of the magazine.  But that only holds two extra rounds, and I want a few more.  At a recent safari rifle match, I noticed many competitors with simple, flap-closed cartridge carriers that held four or five rounds.  While attending the Safari Club International convention earlier this month, I happened across several similar items.  I found one from Westley Richards that suited me, and bought it for a reasonable price (they were liquidating some old stock due to a logo change).  I think when combined with the Twin Loader, it'll give me sufficient ammunition on my person for most situations.  

So that takes care of blades, tools, light and ammo.  Next time, I'll talk about one of the most important things you can carry with you into the wild:  water.

Technical difficulties resolved!

Well, apparently my amateurness has shown.  I wasn't aware I had to explicitly enable comments on the blog.  Ergo, I have now enabled comments on the blog.  Please make a note if anything's not functioning properly, and I'll see what I can do to remedy it.

In the meantime, I'm working on a few ideas for posts.  I'd like to touch on things as divergent as footgear, books, reloading and optics.  I'll bounce things around in my head for a bit and see what rattles loose.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Calibers Pt. II

As promised, here's the next installment of caliber selection for my safari.  As mentioned earlier, I'm not going to be hunting any of the Big Five, so I won't need any of the .400-caliber or larger rounds.  But I do plan to at least try for a kudu and/or eland, and that's pushing the capability of even the best bullets in a .30-'06 or .308 Winchester.  So what should I use for a 'medium' safari rifle?

The gold standard is the classic .375 Holland & Holland Magnum.  It's the standard for good reason:  it's got manageable recoil, a reasonably flat trajectory, great bullet selection, and enough power to take on just about anything on the continent under reasonable conditions.  I wouldn't want to stop a charging elephant with one, but that's not my concern.  If by some stroke of Murphy I'm charged by an elephant, well, my PH will have a .460 Weatherby in his Johnny Benchian hands.  It's also readily available in Africa if your ammo somehow doesn't make the rendezvous.

But is the .375 truly the best choice for me, even amongst calibers with historical appeal?  Let's look at some of the downsides.  First of all, there's the cost.  I'm not a rich man by any stretch, and safaris are getting more expensive every day.  I would rather buy a more economical (note:  not necessarily 'cheap') rifle and save my money for trophy fees and practice ammo.  And one of the major fixed costs of the .375 H&H is the fact that it requires a magnum action.  That adds $300 or so to the cost of the rifle, easily.  That may not be a whole lot in terms of trophy fees, but it's a fair amount of reloading components that I could use to become more proficient with the weapon.  And while .375 H&H ammo is cheap compared to the truly big bores, it's still not exactly low-cost for training.

Despite all this, until recently I saw no truly better alternative, and resigned myself to saving up my pennies to buy a .375 H&H.  And then I heard about Otto Bock's creation:  the 9.3x62mm.  On paper, it doesn't look like much, appearing to be the Continental equivalent of a .35 Whelen.  It pushes a .366-caliber 286gr slug at a rather sedate 2350 fps (or 2250fps for some loads), compared to the .375's 300gr projectile @ 2650 or so.  So again, on paper, the .375 wins hands down.  But the 9.3 had a sterling reputation in the early decades of the 20th Century.  In fact, the .375 was created by Holland & Holland to supplant it, and there had to be a reason for this.  Several African nations require a minimum of .375 to hunt dangerous game, and several of those nations have an exception to allow the 9.3x62mm.  The commonly heard phrase is "It kills out of proportion to its size and recoil."  It just seems to have that magic formula of sectional density, good bullet construction and moderate velocity that lets it penetrate deeper than you'd expect from such a relatively mild cartridge.  And it just so happens that the 9.3x62mm fits into standard-length actions, with the same magazine capacity as a .30-'06. 

Another explanation for the on-paper performance gap is that the .375 has benefited from years of handloading experience and development, something the mostly-forgotten 9.3mm lacked until relatively recently.  In the last 10 years or so, there has been a resurgence of interest in the 9.3x62mm (and its near-twin for double rifles, the 9.3x74mmR), and the major makers (including Barnes, Hornady, Speer and Swift, as well as European makers like Norma, Prvi Partizan and Lapua) have started producing premium bullets and testing out new powders to bring out the cartridge's potential.  Factory ammo (and reloading manuals) keep the velocity low for much the same reason as they do with the .45-70:  there are plenty of older rifles that can't handle the pressures of a modern high-performance cartridge.  Several companies chambered older-model (pre-98) Mauser actions in 9.3x62, and these don't have the strength or the safety features of the later guns.  In a modern action with modern powders, you can push things a little further.

I heard about the 9.3x62 from my father, who was turned on to the cartridge by Bill Wilson of Wilson Combat fame.  Bill's been hunting in Africa for decades, and learned of the cartridge from some friends there.  He's become a big fan, so much so that he wrote the introduction for the 9.3x62mm section in the Barnes reloading manual.  My father fired Bill's rifle and fell in love with the manageable recoil, higher magazine capacity, faster follow-up shots, and smooth feeding.  He loved it so much, he took a 9.3 of his own to Africa for his latest safari, taking everything from Steinbok to Cape buffalo with it using Hornady DGS solids and 286gr Barnes TTSX .

Only a few years ago, your options for a factory rifle in this caliber, available in the US, were pretty much limited to CZ and Sako (the Scandinavians apparently love this cartridge for hunting moose and bear).  The CZ is fairly reasonable in price, and the Sako isn't particularly bad, but still hovering around the $1000 mark.  The CZ also wasn't available in an 'African' pattern.  And then came Ruger. Ruger created their own .375 Ruger cartridge to duplicate .375 H&H ballistics in a standard-length action, but it came at the expense of magazine capacity due to the fatter cartridge casing required to hold all that powder.  So when Ruger offered their Hawkeye African rifle in 9.3x62mm with a 4+1 capacity, both Dad and I jumped on it.  And a good thing we did; Ruger discontinued the rifle in that chambering within a year or two.  Perhaps they wanted to boost sales of their proprietary .375 and .416 cartridges, I don't know.  But whatever the reason, we were lucky enough to get a pair.  I immediately ordered a set of Warne quick-detach rings, an SWFA 1-6x optic, and some Prvi Partizan 285gr softpoints for practice fodder/donor cases.  Once I got everything set up, it was off to the range to zero.

And that... is another story.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Today's subject: calibers.

I'm a gun guy.  I love guns.  I love shooting guns.  I love reading about guns.  I memorize gun facts like Ken Jennings on Jeopardy.  Thus, it may come as a shocker that I'm doing the first real post about *gasp* calibers.

There are a ton of classic calibers for African hunting.  Theodore Roosevelt took a .30-'03 (yes, you read that right) and a .405 Winchester, among others.  The .375 H&H Magnum has a well deserved reputation as an all-around African cartridge, capable of (if not exactly perfect for) taking any critter on the continent (and, probably, the land surface of the Earth).  The big Nitro Express double rifle cartridges have a cachet all their own, and have been making a big comeback after decades of decline.

Choosing a caliber for your African safari is a matter of logic in many ways:  what game do I plan to hunt?  In what kind of terrain will I be hunting?  What kind of rifle (double, bolt action, single shot, lever action) do I use?  Do I even use a rifle, or do I use a handgun (revolver, single-shot)?  Is the cartridge readily available in gun shops or stores, or is it a handloading-only proposition?  These questions will narrow down your choices.

But safaris aren't exclusively practical.  There's definitely something to be said for the cachet of history.  For me, a big part of the excitement of going on safari is walking in places where giants have walked previously, and I hear the call of the old calibers strongly.  So how does one balance the two?

First thing's first:  game and terrain.  I plan to hunt in South Africa along the Limpopo river, where there is moderate to heavy thornbush.  Most shots will be 100 yards or less, and a 200 yard shot is about the longest I can reasonably expect.  So I don't need a super-flat-shooting wunderpatron.  That's good, because those new supercartridges tend to be hard-kicking, barrel-eating, wallet-raping bastards.  Whatever I pick can have reasonable velocities and good versatility.

I plan to hunt plains game, from the tiny Steinbok up to the kudu and possibly eland, but mostly things like gemsbok, warthog, impala and wildebeest.  Most of these are deer-sized, so I can use a deer rifle.  The bigger critters like eland, kudu and wildebeest (and possibly zebra) might call for a bigger gun with a bit more oomph. So, I'm looking at taking two rifles.  I want a 'light' (what most hunters in the US would generally term a 'medium' rifle, or full-power deer rifle) and a 'medium' (which most hunters in the US would term an 'elephant gun', even though I'll not shoot any elephants or even buffalo on this first trip).  There are a lot of modern, high-performance cartridges in both categories, but let's start with the 'light' rifle.

The first cartridge I looked at was the 7x57mm Mauser.  It's got a long history of use in Africa, it's got decent bullet selection, and it can be had in light and handy rifles.  But to my mind, it's a bit light for most of the larger plains game, and I want something that I can use in a pinch on most anything I see (within reason).  Plus, it's hard to find in an inexpensive, US-made rifle.  So, that's out for now.

The next cartridge I looked at was the .318 Westley Richards.  This is a classic cartridge, but one I don't see very often anymore.  Turns out almost nobody makes it.  Westley Richards will build you a new bolt-gun in this caliber, but you'll pay out the nose for it.  So that's out too, along with the .300 H&H Magnum for the same reasons.

The more I looked, the more I saw similar issues with just about every 'light' cartridge with any significant historical cachet.  And then it hit me:  there is one classic American hunting cartridge that has a long history of use in Africa:  the venerable .30-'06 Springfield.  It's always been a versatile, excellent cartridge with decent trajectory and a plethora of bullet options, but with the newer powders and advanced bullet designs, it's become even better.  For what I need, I figure a passel of 168gr Barnes TTSX handloads will do nicely.  I've used this bullet in my .308 for whitetail, and it's incredible.  It blows my old 150gr Nosler BTs out of the water.  The BTs would occasionally fail to expand when they hit bone, and didn't do well in the brushy country where I hunt back in West Virginia.  The Barnes bullet is just amazing.  It blows through bone, tissue, and hide like it wasn't there.  It's the perfect bullet for deep penetration with good expansion.

So that's settled, now what rifle?  There are a ton of .30-'06 rifles on the market, it's just about the universal deer caliber and every maker produces one.  I'd like a bolt-action, because of the intrinsic strength and accuracy of the design, and my familiarity with it from years of deer hunting.  But do I go for a Remington?  Winchester?  Ruger?  CZ?  Custom?  I've already got a Ruger bolt-action in a larger caliber (which I'll touch on in the next segment), and I've used a Remington Model 7 in .308 for years on whitetail.  This is something I'm still trying to decide, and I may not choose for some time.  But in any event, I've got a set of reloading dies so that I can start working up loads as soon as I get a rifle.  And if worst comes to worst, I'll take that little Model 7 and I'm sure it'll do just fine.

So for as long as I can remember, I've wanted to hunt in Africa.  I cut my teeth reading Peter Capstick books in grade school (much to the unease of some of my more Disney-loving teachers), and as I got older, the desire only intensified.  I'm fortunate now that my job gives me a month-long sabbatical every five years, and I've committed to using that first month off to finally realize my dream.

This blog is a kind of notebook for me, a way to keep track of all the little things required to follow in the footsteps of giants like Capstick, Ruark, Hunter, Bell, Johnson, Roosevelt, Selous and Pretorius.  I'll have technical details (rifles, optics, ammo, equipment, etc) as well as 'soft' content (photos, ideas, literature, etc).  This is new for me, but hopefully I can convey some of my enthusiasm and excitement as the time ticks down to my first safari.