The Rifle If there’s a rifle perfectly suited for driven big game anywhere, it’s Merkel’s Helix RX rifle. This true straight-pull bolt-action from the noted German firm is an engineering marvel. Its hammer-forged barrel fits any Helix receiver, so by simply swapping the barrel and bolt head you can change calibers—all while delivering MOA accuracy. I took the gun apart, reassembled it and found that it was still perfectly zeroed.
But what makes it perfect for running game is its bolt linkage system. A 3-inch straight pull rearward on its butter knife handle unlocks the bolt and cams it 6 inches rearward. It is remarkably faster than traditional bolt-actions, and because the bolt handle never moves farther back than the rifle’s wrist, a shooter needn’t lift his face off the stock. So the shooter’s eye always remains in line with the sights. Plus, the rearward-only movement doesn’t disrupt the swing laterally as do traditional bolt-actions. A 3-pound trigger and a tang safety that cocks the gun as it’s slid forward means the rifle can be kept loaded but incapable of firing until the safety is moved forward—ideally during the mount. It’s expensive starting at $3,295 but worth every mark.
The Optic I placed Aimpoint’s new Micro H-2 red-dot optic on the Merkel because it’s a superior sighting system for running game. Sure, open sights are adequate, but with the H-2 shooters needn’t worry about alignment of the rear and front sights. Simply put the glowing red dot on the target and pull the trigger. I believe non-magnified optics are superior to magnified units for running game at less than 100 yards because they allow the shooter to keep both eyes open. This doubles the field of view, and keeps consistent, equally magnified data flowing to the brain. The H-2’s advantage over traditional scopes is that it’s small and light at 4.8 ounces, so it will not alter the balance of your rifle like a scope. It’s recoil-proof, waterproof and its battery lasts five years, so turn it on and forget about it for the duration of the hunt. $780 w/mount.
The Ammunition Norma Ammunition was founded in 1902 in Oslo, Norway, and later moved to Sweden, so it’s only proper that I used it for my European hunt. Today the company produces 30 million rounds per year, the newest of which is its TipStrike bullet for hunters. The TipStrike is a lead-core, copper-jacketed bullet fitted with a polymer tip that initiates rapid expansion. Nothing new there, but it is unique in its mechanical jacket locks that keep the core and jacket intact at the base for wonderful weight retention as the frontal portion of the bullet expands dramatically. I found the bullet to be supremely accurate with great penetration, all while stopping nearly all boars we killed mere feet from where they were shot.
The Hearing Protection One conundrum hunters face during driven hunts is how to protect their hearing while also being able to hear the hounds, commands and charging boars. Peltor has the perfect solution in its TEP 100, one of the niftiest products I’ve seen in years. It’s an in-the-ear electronic plug that amplifies soft sounds while protecting against dangerously loud noises. But what is coolest about it is that the user needn’t constantly fumble with expensive little hearing aid batteries. Its carrying case, powered by two AA batteries, is its charger. Simply place the units in the watertight case after a hunt and they’ll emerge charged for the next. Every hunter and shooter needs this product. $360.