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Some of you may recall, I went to the Safari Club International convention back in February. I was looking for a good rifle to take on safari. I have been wanting a dedicated rifle for these trips that can take any game. I went back to Africa again in April/May and had a fantastic time with Superior Safaris and have become hooked on hunting buffalo. Not just any buffalo…South African Cape Buffalo. Possibly the meanest critter on earth . . .


Robert was most generous in lending me his Bighorn Armory lever gun in .500 S&W. a very adequate caliber for taking game. It performed well on plains game like my Nyala.

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My search for a rifle began years earlier when settling on a caliber. Part of my decision, admittedly, is the lore of big game hunters that have preceded me and what they used. I have also spoken with fellow hunters about what they’ve used and their reasons for their caliber choices.

My current big game rifle is a beautiful Sako bolt gun in .375 H&H and it’s fared well for me. But it’s considered a medium bore. I like big bores. So my dream gun had to be the classic African cartridge. The .470 Nitro Express. The usual load is a 500 grain pill flying at 2,150 fps.

After settling on caliber, I had to decide on the type of rifle. Single shot, bolt gun, lever gun, or double. Again, my heart yearned for the classic…a side-by-side double rifle. I looked at Krieghoff, Blaser, Heym, Merkel, Searcy, et al. I would have loved a Searcy because it’s made in the US of A, but they’re somewhat difficult to come by, and even used, command a hefty price.

So, after scrimping and saving, after neglecting and ignoring other firearms-related purchases (well, not all of them, I couldn’t pass up the Colt Python that came my way. Nor a S&W 17) I finally took delivery of my dream rifle. A Sabatti double in .470 NE.

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As a bonus with this particular “Safari” model, it comes with a second set of barrels in 20 gauge for hunting the many African bird species. The the reason that’s so great: you only have to do the paperwork on one gun to hunt both fowl and big game.

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This particular model has double triggers. The front trigger fires the right barrel, and the rear fires the left. It also has automatic select ejectors. If you only fire one barrel and break it open, it chucks only the spent brass about five feet aft. A good friend had lamented several times that he wished he’d have paid for ejectors instead of extractors, so I had that mental note in my selection process.

The engraving and wood on this rifle is stunning.

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Fit and finish is rock solid. Lock-up sounds better than my safe door closing — a pleasingly solid “thunk”. As an accurate shooting platform, the factory goes through a fairly lengthy process in regulating the barrels so that the left and right shoot as close together as possible, with a point of impact of 50 meters.

This is an exhaustive process and I would seriously not want to be the guy who shoots these rifles during the tuning process. To understand it, I recommend reading Shooting the British Double Rifle by Graeme Wright. Here’s the final result from my gun.

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And now, the sad part of this story.

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That used to be a tendon in my left shoulder. While the surgery/repair at the beginning of the month went well, I won’t be shooting any long guns for, well, months. Mostly because I can’t support the forend with my left arm. And because I don’t want to go through the recovery process again. That was pain with a capital ‘P.’

So my new Sabatti will get a thorough cleaning and occupy a special place in my man cave. It just won’t launch any lead for a while.
I may let friends shoot it in the meantime so it doesn’t get lazy and out of shape.

In the mean time, I’m dreaming of my next trip back to Africa with this beauty. While one hunt may be over, others are just beginning.

43 Responses to The Hunt is Over: Tom Finds His Double Rifle

  1. The last time I priced any ammo for these super cannons was in the 1980s while in Zimbabwe. I was told a single round would run me $65 US. I’m loathe to think what they cost now. I’ll stick with my ‘low cost’ 375 H&H at $5 a pop.

    • Looks like those Hornady loads can be had for $5-$6 a pop, according to ammoseek.com. I’m guessing you’ll blow about $20 at the range and be ready to shoot something else.

      • I used ammoseek to buy the first few boxes from Selway Armory.
        Oddly enough, unless I’m looking in the wrong places, I’ve noticed that components for reloading would cost more than loaded ammo.
        I have found a few sites where guys are casting their own and getting good results.

        • Bullets, primers, (and brass) and powder cost the same as a premium factory loaded round? That sucks.

          well, at least you will get a decent stock of once fired brass from them.

        • If you’re buying new brass you won’t save much reloading with any caliber.

          I plugged in a few other similar rounds. Looks like 416 Rem. is the bargain round with several places under $3. I’m not planning any trips to Africa, but I’ve tossed around picking up a Ruger no.1 in one of those calibers. Even though I can’t imagine firing more than 5 rounds I’m too much of a cheapskate. Parting with $100 for one box of ammo is just too much. Maybe even go with a smaller bore like .375 H&H. You can get the PPU stuff for under $2/round.

    • I also congratulate you Tom.

      Regarding the shoulder injury and not shooting this gun:

      Can you at least shoot some light 20 guage birdshot/target loads with it?

      It breaks my heart to have a gun that I haven’t shot. Maybe you could shoot it with your off hand shoulder.

      • I’m right handed, so shooting likely wouldn’t be the issue. I just can’t lift my left arm up in front of me very well yet. Physical torture, I mean therapy twice a week is helping a lot.
        I don’t think the jarring motion of anything above a .22 from a bench would feel good right now, so no shooting at all for a while.

        • I feel for you. I injured my right wrist a couple weeks ago, and cant shoot any carry weapon. I bought a cheap left hand IWB holster, so I can learn how to draw and shoot with my left hand.
          Might come in handy someday.
          Love the double!

  2. If I had that rifle I would reload some very,very, VERY mild rounds with the lightest projectile I could find and then I’d hunt deer with it. I would be sure to work into every hunting conversation I could.

    Then I’d be know as the guy that hunts whitetails with a .470 Nitro Express.

    • You should NB that when you have large cases like that and you want to load them very lightly, you need to keep the powder pushed back against the primer. Use something like cotton.

      There have been several rifles ruined by ka-booms that happen as a result of large cases loaded with very light (ie, load densities under 65%) loads and lots of air space left in the case.

      • I was just wondering the same thing, I know that if you dont fully seat the bullet on your black powder rifle you have pipebomb, not a rifle.

      • It is a bit trepidating that several of the popular 5.7×28 loads are 55-60% usable capacity loads. I have often wondered about shooting straight down with them. It is good to hear you say that the problem is more for large cases….

  3. That’s a beautiful gun, bud! Look me up if your travels ever take you to Brea, CA, and my prayers that your recovery will be swift and complete.

    I’d almost be afraid to take one of those beauties into the brush and woods, but I think I could get over it.

  4. Tom, my shoulders hurt just reading this post. First my right shoulder as I was contemplating the recoil, then my left shoulder when I saw that picture of your tendon. So now I’m walking around like John McCain. Oh, well. Maybe it will improve my empathy.

  5. Took me 2 years to be able to shoot a rifle again after surgery to repair a torn tendon in my off-hand shoulder. I hope you don’t have such a long recovery. Best wishes for a speed return to action.

  6. “A good friend had lamented several times that he wished he’d have paid for ejectors instead of extractors, so I had that mental note in my selection process.”

    Good idea. You can always hold your hand behind the breech and catch the ejected rounds when you have time to stow the spent brass, but you can’t make an extractor gun eject the spent brass out of your way when your prey has decided to kill you.

    • You can also disable the ejectors in any double gun or O/U gun by either pulling the cocking rods out of the action, or by pulling the sears in the forearm.

      Given the disparity in value between ejector and extractor guns in the used market, I’d always go for ejectors and then deal with disabling the ejector if I don’t want my brass/hulls thrown. Look at the value of any of the American SxS guns with and without ejectors. A Parker VHE in good to VG condition is worth substantially more than a Parker VH in comparable condition, for example.

  7. I read this articles and I want to go hunting in Africa more and more every time. Beautiful gun, hope the shoulder gets better soon.
    Happy hunting.

  8. Tom, that’s a lovely gun. I’m glad you also obtained a set of 20 gauge barrels. It might not be foolish to obtain a set of .375 H&H barrels, as well. Your ligaments and tendons are growing weaker by the year.

    There are a host of reasons to leave the big-bore big game cartridges to your PH. (My general surgeon is a BG hunter.) The most compelling from my point of view involves the risk of retina damage, separation. My .375 Model 70 shooting 300 grain standard velocity solids is no worse (maybe “less worse”) than firing 1 3/8 oz slugs from an 870 shotgun. I’ve only gone up to .458 Lott once, and that in a borrowed gun. That was very uncomfortable.

    Given the sectional density and penetration you can achieve with your .375 loaded with 350 grain bullets, killing cape buffalo shouldn’t be a problem….if your shoulders and eyes become too old for .470 Nitro Express.

    • I’ve shot the .470 many times and find the recoil quite manageable. I’ve read about vision issues from hard recoiling rifles and know what to look for. (No pun intended).
      My torn tendon was from a stupid fall with an outstretched arm in a very awkward position. I should have just rolled with it.

  9. That’s a Nice Gun.

    You’re not the first guy who has had your type of shoulder injury. There have also been detached corneas and neck injuries from hard recoiling rifles.

    Personally, I start to say “no mas” after about 40 ft-lbs of KE.

    • “Just don’t kill Cecel the anthropomorphic African big game animal.”

      Thank God Cecil is dead…

      #zebralivesmatter

      )

  10. Look all you buttercups suck it up and put your big boy panties on!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Any thing under 40 caber is a damn cap gun!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    375 HH is the smallest dangerous game cartage you can use in most countries that allow
    you to hunt the big mean and ugly animals that can hurt you!

    To the man who thinks the 416 rem is a bargain you have lost you mind, that get the $20 a round
    very quickly.

    The average powder load is 70 to 90 grains every time you shoot

    The bullets can cost cost up to around $5 a shot alone like a barns solid

    The primers are mags only not a bargain

    Somewhere between 5 and 10 loading the brass does funny things and gives up the ghost and dies.
    and that is the cheapest to find, but its still the belted mag cases

    How that bargain going for you

    20 rounds in range time can easily cost you $100

    You dont own a big bore rifle it owns you its like a curse

    You walk through shows looking for bargains most of time you dont

    That big bore rifle is a passion that will cost more than anything else you own
    mine has been there for 20 yrs and that cost more all the time.

    You will always be on the look out for bigger its curse,

    YOU NEED TO SHOOT OFTEN

    IF YOU CAN NOT SHOOT 20 ROUND WELL EVERY TIME YOU GO TO THE
    RANGE WITH A BIG BORE DANGEROUS RIFFLE THEN YOU NEED TO NOT OWN IT!

    YOU ARE NOT DOING THAT GUN JUSTICE

    I ALSO SHOOT MINE ON THE NRA RIFLE MARKSMAN COURSE EVERY YEAR!

    TRY THAT IF YOU CANT THEN SALE THE GUN AND LET SOMEONE ELSE ENJOY IT

    DONT GO HUNT DANGEROUS GAME IF YOU CANT START TO FINISH THE NRA
    COURSE!

    AND THE IS NOTHING TO COMPARE TO HUNTING BUT IT WILL BEAT THE HELL OUT
    OF YOU AND GET A REAL IMPRESSION ON YOU WHEN YOU PRONE FIRE A RIFLE
    WITH UPWARDS OF 90 LBS OF RECOIL FROM DANGEROUS GAME RIFLE

    Good luck

    Im not a buttercup

    What I know

        • Not really

          I’m just tougher than you are

          Most of dangerous game rifles felt recoil is harder on your
          shoulder than any 50 bmg ever made!

          A 50 bmg is built with comps.to reduce recoil

          Most if not all big bore rifles have no recoil reduction system built into them,
          that is an after thought, and comps can cause night and dust blinding issues
          when fired so they are not looked upon well

          The mercury recoil reducer are not legal in some countries and can have
          some issues to flying with them

          There is not much left to back down the recoil, pussy pads

          Every time you a shoot a big gore rifle you have be able to take the recoil,
          you have to be able to absorb upwards to 60 to 110 lbs of recoil pressure
          & upwards of at least 3,000 to 9,000 lbs of muzzle energy.

          The average muzzle is around 5,000 lbs.

          Your shoulder can only handle so much pressure them it breaks,
          at that point the upper limits a shoulder can take is 110 to 150 lbs
          pressure then it can give out and or breaks.

          Every time you fire a big bore rifle you get banged up, pretty hard
          busted bleeding fingers, bloody noises are the norm.

          When you shoot a big bore rifle one mistake can & will send
          you to a hospital the biggest mistakes i see is scope eye,
          getting your head to close to scope and
          getting a black eye when your fire the gun.

          The most pain full mistake is when you dont get the big bore
          rifle seated properly against your shoulder before you fire it,
          then you end up with broken parts, that take a long time
          to recover from like the photos on here.

          The really sad part is that the man that owns that
          Beautiful rifle will probably never be able to shoot
          that or any other big bore rifle again, that one hell
          of a mistake to make.

          He may never even be able to shoot anything more
          than a 22 the rest of his life.

          I had a friend with 458 win mag that had to stop shooting
          because his big bore rifle kept knocking lose the pacemaker
          leads he had gong to his heart too many times & damn near
          killed him.

          The last 2 years of his life he never allowed again to shoot his
          custom built 1917 Eddystone Enfield that was converted
          to 458 win mag in the early seventies.

          He and I used to shoot at least 20 rounds of 458 win mag
          and 416 rem each a month weather permitting for the last
          20 years.

          He and I started a African American Gun Club that required
          every member to have at least 375 HH to join.

          I am still part of that club.

          I understand recoil I shoot 375 HH, 416 rem, 416 rigby, 458 win and
          45-120 sharps for fun.

          A DANGEROUS GAME RIFLE is a passion but it
          also a curse.

  11. Beautiful rifle Tom. I’ll happily shoot it for you to keep it in shape 🙂

    More importantly, good luck on the recovery as well. My dad just had his torn to hell rotator cuff repaired and his bicep tacked back on. 7 months or so to go for him.

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