“Using a Comfortable Gun”

by David Gaston


A famous author of African hunting stories once wrote, “Use Enough Gun”. This was a profound and accurate statement.

After ten trips with PH Melville du Plessis and his “Antelope for Africa” staff, I have come to several conclusions which were aided by forty years of small arms experience.

I suggest you use a “comfortable gun”. This gun would be of adequate caliber which fits like a glove.

When preparing for Africa you must be familiar with your rifle. Practice at the shooting range is a necessity. Many ranges will not allow shooters to practice in off-hand or kneeling positions. To compensate for this, you should spend as much time as possible in your local hunting fields. It is important to practice (with unloaded rifle) from the standing and kneeling positions. For safety, you need to learn muzzle discipline, as many of us do much of our hunting from a deer stand with very little actual carrying of the rifle.

Practice with the unloaded gun until you have a “comfortable gun”. This will give you confidence and agility with your rifle which nothing else will provide.

When the question of calibers for Africa comes up everyone has a favorite. My favorite is the largest caliber with which you are comfortable.

If antelope up to Kudu size is in your future then a 7 m/m, .280, 30-06, .300 mag or something similar would be a good choice. I recommend no bullet weights less than 175 grain. Try to avoid the ultra high velocity cartridges with light bullets. Most of your shots will be less than 175 yards and many less than 100 yards.

Most Professional Hunters will suggest you use ammo with premium bullets, such as Barnes X, Swift a Frame, Nosler Partition, Trophy Bonded and a few others. These are proven performers.

I am in my den looking at a recovered .375 caliber, 300 grain Barnes X bullet. This perfect mushroom was under the skin, on the opposite side of a blue wildebeest. This bullet’s recovered weight is 299 grains. This is performance which cannot be matched by ordinary bullets.

African animals tend to be stronger and tougher to kill than similar American game of the same weight. I believe this is due to thousands of years of predatory distillation. Only the strongest survive to reproduce.

When selecting your bullet weight try one or two levels heavier than you would use for American game of the same weight.

If you are planning to hunt dangerous game or any large antelope such as Eland then consider a .375 H&H as minimum.

African hunting requires a good riflescope. Your rifle will be receiving rough treatment during air travel and it will be bounced around a lot during hunting, while in the back of the hunting vehicle. My observation is that Leupold riflescopes are held in the highest regard by professional hunters, especially the Vari-X III models in 1.5 x 5 and 2.5 x 8. There are more expensive scopes but few, which are better.

When you contact Melville be very specific about your plans and dreams. The more information he has the better he can make those dreams come true.

While you are there notice the small African things: the wonderful sounds, small wildlife, birds and even the aroma of the bush. Should you do this, you will have a good and successful hunt with that “comfortable gun”.

To see David Gaston's hunting photos, click hereTo contact David regarding  his article "Using Enough Gun" or his hunting safaris with outfitter and PH Melville du Plessis of Antelope for Africa Safaris, email David.  

David attended the S.A. National Professional Hunting School in August 2003.  Click here to read what he has to say about his experience.

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