by Philip Massaro - Wednesday, February 17, 2016
When you take the plunge to hunt those game animals that warrant a true dangerous game cartridge, you need to choose a rifle that is utterly reliable, and can deliver the goods no matter what the situation may present. Simply put, it needs to cycle the ammunition flawlessly, stand up to the hottest hot and the coldest cold, and it must go bang every time. Legendary Arms Works Big Five rifle fits that bill just perfectly.
In a market that is flooded with bolt-action designs—which include some time proven classics—it can be very difficult to produce a rifle that is different from the rest in anything other than a cosmetic fashion, yet Legendary Arms Works has done just that. Featuring the Ed Brown Model 704 action married to a very well designed Mark Bansner synthetic stock, the Big Five is indeed a horse of a different color. I’ve had the pleasure to use many different safari-style rifles, and the LAW Big Five is a winner.
The Model 704 is a controlled round feed design, yet doesn’t feature the traditional Mauser-claw, keeping the weight down a bit and allowing the bolt throw to feel a bit smoother—none of that bind that can be associated with the Mauser-style action—without the concerns that push feed rifles can generate when hunting dangerous game. The magazine holds three cartridges, and you can easily put one up the pipe; sometimes one extra shot is very comforting when hunting dangerous game of any sort. A three-position wing safety, along the lines of the Winchester Model 70, gives the shooter the ability to safely unload the rifle without being in the ‘fire’ position. A hinged floorplate will easily empty the magazine, with the floorplate release being located at the front bottom of the generously sized trigger guard. The bolt release is a spring loaded lever on the left rear side of the receiver. The bolt of the Big Five rifle is easily disassembled for cleaning; simply put the safety in the middle position, remove the bolt, pull back on the small tab at the rear of the bolt and a half turn clockwise will disassemble the bolt, so you can clean and lubricate the spring and firing pin. A sound action, all told.
The 23” heavy-contour barrel balances very well, and features a bold front sight with hood, and a quality ERA rear sight, fully adjustable for windage and elevation. The Big Five rifle features an efficient muzzle brake that cuts down the perceived recoil to .30-’06 levels, making it a breeze for shooters who are recoil sensitive to use a cartridge as large as the .375 H&H. I’m not a fan of muzzle brakes—too many years of rock-n-roll and loud rifles have given me tinnitus—but it’s no problem; the muzzle brake is easily removed and Legendary supplies a cap so you can use the rifle sans brake. Very good design here; the machining is done properly. To finish off the barrel features, a classy barrel band swivel stud adorns the barrel for the classic ‘safari’ look. Oh, did I mention that all the metal on the rifle, yes, even the firing pin, is coated in a graphite black Cerakote that giggles at inclement weather? That stuff is even impervious to “Acid-hands Massaro”; I can wear the bluing off a rifle in a single safari, but Cerakote is ‘me-proof.’
The Bansner stock features aluminum bedding blocks, and a geometry that makes shooting the big dangerous game calibers a pleasure. The graceful pistol grip is made properly, so you’ll never have that middle-finger-knuckle-split; if it’s happened to you, you won’t forget it anytime soon. The hand laid fiberglass stock is finished in a tri-color brown finish; no worries about weather of any sort, be it epic downpours while hunting grizzlies or the scorching heat of the African plains, and there’s no worries about a reflective gloss finish giving your position away. The Pachmeyer Decelerator recoil pad takes what little sting there is after the muzzle brake does its job, and gives a good grip on your shoulder when the rifle comes up.
The properly tuned Timney trigger breaks cleanly, and allows shots to be placed accurately in the field as well as from the bench. Smart move by the folks at Legendary to include a Timney as standard-issue.
The .375 Holland & Holland Magnum has long been revered as a big-game workhorse; I personally consider it to be the most useful cartridge ever invented. Bullets range from 200 grains up to 350 grains, and the trajectories for some of the more aerodynamic middle weights rival the .30-’06. For the traveling hunter who wants one gun to take anything on earth, it’s very difficult to argue with the .375 H&H as a choice of cartridge. Our Big Five rifle shoots many different bullet weights very well, with some loads giving 3/4MOA results. If in pursuit of dangerous game, I like the 270 and 300-grain bullets (the 300-grain Swift A-Frame is an especially good all-around choice), and for lighter game, like African plains game, elk or moose, handloaded Cutting Edge Bullets 230-grain Raptors gave excellent accuracy.
For a scope to match the versatility of the Big Five rifle, I settled in the Weaver Grand Slam 2-8x36mm scope. Were the rifle chambered to one of the other option that Legendary offers—.416 Remington Magnum and .458 Lott—I’d consider it a bit too much magnification, but with a very versatile cartridge like the .375 H&H, I like the option of a bit more on the top end for distant shots. The Big Five rifle comes equipped with Talley bases, and once I set the Grand Slam in a set of Talley rings, things went smoothly at the bench. I was sighted in quickly, and with a magnification range of 2x to 8x, I can handle just about any hunting situation conceivable.
The Legendary Arms Works Big Five isn’t a rust-blued, burled walnut affair with a hand-rubbed finish. What it is, is a no-nonsense, well designed, logical choice for the international hunter who wants a gun that will give a lifetime of service.
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