Rifles—I carried two Kimbers to Namibia, a Caprivi for dangerous game and a Mountain Ascent for plains game.
Carrying a Caprivi in the Caprivi created a visceral experience. Sure, namesakes do the trick. But so does a rifle that sports a sewer pipe for a barrel, controlled-round feed and a winged, three-position safety. The “claw” extractor runs the length of the bolt. Thanks to it, cartridges can be chambered more slowly—and thus more quietly—in the presence of game than with a push-feed design. Standard features include AA-grade walnut and an ebony fore-end tip; front barrel band swivel stud; 1-inch Pachmayr Decelerator recoil pad; 24-inch magnum-contour barrel and match-grade chamber; express sights; adjustable trigger set at 3.5-4 pounds pull; and a magazine capacity of four rounds. My .458 Lott Caprivi weighed 8 pounds, 6 ounces as a plain Jane (not bad for a heavyweight). Chamberings include .375 H&H Mag., .416 Rem. Mag. and .458 Lott.
The Mountain Ascent is the lightest production bolt-action rifle in the free world. It comes in .308 Win. as an 84M, or in .270 Win., .280 Ack. Imp. or .30-06 as an 84L. Naked, my 84L weighed 5 pounds, 2 ounces. What makes it so light? A stainless steel, spiral-fluted bolt body, fluted barrel, fluted and hollow bolt handle and a lightweight trigger guard. A Pachmayr Decelerator butt pad and removable muzzle brake aid recoil-sensitive shooters; an included thread protector replaces the brake when it’s time to go afield. A space-age Kevlar/carbon fiber stock is covered in Gore Optifade Open Country camo. Accuracy? Pillar and glass bedding, an adjustable trigger set at 3.5-4 pounds pull, and a match-grade chamber and barrel take care of that. Every gun comes with 1-inch medium-height Talley lightweight bases and rings.
Ammo—Though my Caprivi was chambered for .458 Lott, I chose to fire .458 Win. Mag. through it, partly because the latter is easier on the shoulder but mostly for the sake of nostalgia. The .458 Win. Mag. has, after all, probably killed more sport-hunted elephants than any other cartridge ever created. I couldn’t resist shooting a classic.
When it came time to get down to business, I used Federal Premium Cape-Shok ammo loaded with 500-grain Trophy Bonded Sledgehammer Solids rated at 1950 fps. The bullets are really just lumps of solid brass, if you can call finely turned projectiles “lumps.” They’re so hard many of them look like they could be used again after recovery. Yeah, they do the job cutting through thick sections of flesh and hard bone.
Any way you cut it, feeding a dangerous-game gun is expensive. So at home on the range preparing for the hunt, a friend and I put almost 200 rounds of Fusion loads through the gun, to make sure it was “Africa ready.” For practice, a 500-grain Fusion bullet is a lot cheaper than a topnotch hunting bullet like a Sledgehammer Solid. Cheaper Than Dirt sells 20 rounds of Fusion .458 for about $94; Cabela’s sells 20 rounds of .458 Trophy Bonded Sledgehammer Solids for $160. You do the math. The Fusion load is rated at 2090 fps; the Sledgehammer load is rated at 1950 fps. A chronograph on the range suggested each rating is about 100 fps on the slow side. Both loads come from the same parent. As such, Federal loads the 500-grain Fusion and the 500-grain Sledgehammer to hit the same point of impact, so fine-tuning before step-off is minimal.
In the ’06, I fired Federal Premium Vital-Shok 180-grain Trophy Bonded Tips. I’ve used them to kill deer, elk and lots of plains game. For the record, the tip on the improved version really does improve accuracy; on the range I averaged 1-inch groups at a hundred yards.
Optics—When it came time to squeeze the trigger on my elephant, I needed only 1X to pick an aiming point, but nonetheless the scope on my Caprivi was a Weaver 1X-5X-24 mm Super Slam Dangerous Game. Standard features on Super Slam scopes include 5X magnification; fully multi-coated lenses; waterproof construction; and 1-inch tubes on all models except the one I used on the Caprivi, which had a 30 mm tube.
I mounted a Weaver Grand Slam 2X-8X-36mm riflescope on the Mountain Ascent. The unit I chose came with Weaver’s new, proprietary EBX reticle, which features three hash marks beneath the crosshair for quick work at long distance. The Grand Slams are Weaver’s flagship line of riflescopes, and they underwent a complete transformation in the last year. Besides a fresh look and new reticles, today every one of them benefits from an improved spring design in the scopes’ three-point Micro-Trac erector system. Standard features include 4X magnification; 1-inch tubes; fully multi-coated lenses with extra-hard coating on exterior surfaces; and waterproof construction.
I used a Weaver Super Slam 8.5x45 mm binocular to view game, birds, flora and people. Its open-bridge design is ergonomic, and coupled with a lightweight magnesium body the package was easy to wield during glassing sessions.