The 2021-2022 hunting season was the best in my life so far, and very possibly the best I’ll ever have. I got a lot of my “firsts” and a few of my “bests” over that trip around the sun. Those experiences were made all the better because, for the vast majority of those hunts, I did them with the M48 Nosler Custom Handgun in 7mm-08.
I detailed the Model 48 in my previous review. Everything I thought about it then has only been confirmed and amplified over the last year over 4 states, 3 countries, and 2 continents.
My first “hunt” with the pistol was my annual prairie dog shoot in Wyoming and Nebraska. It was an absolute ball. My guide had never seen anything like the M48. He nailed a prairie dog at about 250 yards on his very first shot. This was shooting mostly suppressed, off the Darkside Dashboard, and using a 120gr Nosler Ballistic Tip. Even from its shorter 15″ barrel, that’s a whole lot of bullet for not much of a critter. Still, the gun was proven. It could hit small targets from far away. And it was a heck of a lot of fun.
Just a few weeks later I was after an entirely different animal, the black bear. Hiking up and down the mountains of Idaho, I was once again reminded of how much more comfortable it was to hunt with a pistol. For most of that hunt, the gun was stored in my backpack. Once in the pines and aspens, it was a heck of a lot easier to move around that way than it would have been with a long gun slung or in my hands.
That bear hunt proved the extreme versatility of the long-range pistol platform. I had sat down with the pistol on a tripod, expecting a bear to show up 70 to 150 yards away across a little valley where some berry bushes looked ripe for the plucking. Instead, a shadow materialized into a bear, seated, curious nose to the air, not 10 yards away from me. I turned quickly and pushed out the M48 like a traditional pistol, firing a 140gr Nosler Accubond into the bear’s heart. It laid down 16 yards from where I was sitting.
That summer I took the M48 to southern Africa. I had the very good fortune of getting some regular work in South Africa and Botswana and was able to get a few hunts in during my off time. The loadout for these hunts included the same 140gr Accubond I used on the bear. The pistol proved just as potent on warthogs, impala, and blessbuck.
Back home in Texas, the platform showed its first significant shortcoming. No rails and no easy way to mount a night vision optic meant that it wasn’t the right tool for night-time wild hog hunts. I tried a few different ways of getting around the problem, but none of them really worked. When I could get a pig in the early morning or later evening hours, the M48 worked perfectly, but once the sun went down, I switched back to a suppressed AR with its mounted night vision optic.
When the fall came back around, I took the suppressed M48 Whitetail Deer hunting, with great effect. I was never doubtful about the typical 100-yard shot on our little Hill Country Whitetails, but I was impressed and pleased when a doe dropped in her tracks at just over 300 yards when hit with that 120gr Ballistic Tip. I was surprised to find that the round exited and wasn’t recovered.
Not long after that, I went out with Frio County Hunts and used the M48 to hammer a bully of a javelina at just over a hundred yards. He had run off a doe from a feeder, but she didn’t run far enough. She hung around until my second round found her, and then she didn’t run at all.
By that time I was pretty familiar with its advantages and shortcoming.
The advantages were simple. The pistol is compact, lightweight, versatile and powerful enough for smaller plains game in Africa as well as most of North America’s game species.
The disadvantage isn’t range and it isn’t lethality. Anything that a 24″ barreled 7×57 Mauser can kill, the M48 Nosler Custom Handgun in 7mm-08 Remington can kill just as dead.
The fact that it’s a single shot turned out to not be much of a disadvantage either. At least not for me.
With practice, it takes not quite two seconds to load a second round in the pistol and get back in the glass. I’m faster with a bolt action rifle, but not much. That said, when it comes to firing, reloading and firing again while keeping my eye in the glass on a fast moving game animal, I’m just not very quick with it in the first place. If I can’t take the animal with the first shot from a bolt gun I’m not likely to have a second. A man has to know his limitations.
No, the pistol’s disadvantage is the speed of that first shot. Unless the animal is quite close, under 50 yards, I was just never able to get the gun up and on it fast enough to take snapshots.
To keep your eye inside a long eye relief scope with a full field of view means the gun needs to be fairly still, and that’s hard to do with a pistol. If you have a full minute to set up, a competent marksman will be able to hit a six-inch target at 200 yards all day long with the M48.
Give me 30 seconds to do the same with any quality bolt action rifle and I can do that. But with this pistol, it’s unlikely I’ll get it done in time. It’s just not fast to set up, so planning the approach and ambush is more important than ever.
My final hunts with the M48 this spring would push the limits of my comfort zone with the platform.
Going after Nyala in the Umkomaas Valley in the height of Summer means fast shots in ultra dense brush on moving game. Again and again I missed the opportunity of a good bull due to not being able to get the gun up and on target in time.
I’d rather be lucky than good, and maybe this gun is a charm. We were on my last full day of hunting, driving back to camp when an absolute stud came running by, only to slam on the brakes and hide behind a small tree. Throwing the pistol on top of my bag and shooting off the hood, that 140gr Accubond proved the tree was a little too small. The bullet snuck by the bark, through the Nyala’s heart and both lungs, and then broke his shoulder on the way out.
I still wanted a Cape Bushbuck, but given the incredibly thick underbrush, one would have to come out and attack us to have any prayer of even seeing one. Given that this was not unheard of, we gave them that chance by waking up early the next day and wandering a bit before I headed to the airport.
No Bushbuck showed, but we spotted a zebra I had a particular vendetta against, which is a whole other story. That story ended when he circled behind me. This time, at just under 40 yards, I punched out and fired as I did with the bear almost a full year before. The stallion slid to the ground in the most beautiful and delicious heap ever.
I finally came home and shot some more pigs with the pistol.
This is still the most fun gun I’ve shot in a long time. I was intrigued and nostalgic when I found it, but after spending a year hunting with this pistol, I’m downright smitten.
I’m sure I’ll be using some different shooting irons over the next few years. Heck, I’ve already got a few scheduled. But know this; every time I pick up one of those guns, I’ll be pining for this one.