1. Lightness and handiness.
2. Efficient killing power.
3. Soundness and reliability of mechanism.
4. Possibility of getting ammunition in the country shot in.
I here refer to what is called an all-round weapon, and I may say that I am a believer in such a rifle for the simple reason that if a large bore is taken it is seldom at hand when most needed. Therefore, let the small bore be sufficiently powerful to deal with any game from elephant down to duiker.
Having tried the following high-velocity rifles on game, .450, .400, .375, .360, .350, .318, 7.9mm. (.311), .303, .275, and .256, I think nothing heavier than the .318 is needed, and I have done my best work with a 7.9mm. Mauser made by a well known London firm. This rifle is stronger than the .303, and although its velocity and striking energy are not so great as the .318, I found that the latter did not kill game a bit better. The .350 old pattern, not " Magnum," is a very fine weapon with its 310 grains old-type bullet, but I found it slightly heavier to carry than the 7.9mm., so prefer the latter, which will kill any game in Africa.
It is often in error called 8mm., and this bore is usually found in the Mannlicher form of magazine.
Let me describe my 7.9mm. It has the well known Mauser bolt magazine, with non-automatic safety catch, the barrel is 24m. long, and I got it made detachable. It has three sights for 100, 200, and 300 yards, and a very small ivory bead front sight. Both back and front sights are screwed down. It weighs, with four cartridges in the magazine and one in the breech, 7¼lb. With it I have killed elephant, rhino, hippo, buffalo, eland, most of the Central African antelopes, and other game, such as zebra, warthog, pig, etc.
It is so light and handy that I can carry it during a whole day's shooting in rough country, so I am always ready for what turns up.
Some sportsmen prefer double rifles, but no practical hunter uses them, and I think a second barrel a needless encumbrance to carry ; and, considering that magazine rifles are so quick, there is no necessity to waste money in buying an expensive double, as a really reliable weapon of this kind cannot be purchased for much less than £50, and many makers charge a good deal more for their best double hammerless ejectors. Single falling block rifles are beautifully balanced weapons, but I never saw a falling block that ejected the fired case well, so I think the magazine action by far the best.
In magazine bolt rifles there are several varieties, such as the Mauser, ordinary Mannlicher for clips, Mannlicher-Schonauer for chargers or hand loading, and the Lee-Metford or Lee-Enfield.
Having tried all these, I prefer the Mauser, although the Mannlicher-Schonauer has a beautiful, nice-working action.
Before I got the 7.9mm. Mauser mentioned, I did good work with a .303 Lee-Enfield; but this is not nearly such a good action as the Mauser, and the powder in the .303 cartridges, I found, damaged the chamber and barrel of the rifle much more than does the powder in 7.9mm. cartridges.
Personally I do not believe in bores less than the .303, and I found with the ordinary .256 Mannlicher and the .275 (7mm.) Mauser that one had to shoot most carefully if wounded game was not to be lost.
The new " Magnums " .256 and .275, with light sharp-pointed bullets, I put on a par with the much advertised .280 Ross rifle. These may be very satisfactory on small or medium sized animals, such as red-deer and some of the lesser antelopes ; but they are not safe to use on heavy or dangerous game, especially with solid projectiles, as these do not maintain their true direction after hitting hard round bones, and they zigzag all over the place. A man naturally wishes his bullet to carry true and penetrate efficiently. The great maxim of a good killing rifle is that the bullet should be arranged to penetrate almost through the body of the animal struck, and come to rest on the opposite side. Then the beast sustains the full energy and killing power of the bullet.
It is natural that with a rifle giving a velocity of 3000ft. sec. efficient penetration is more difficult to arrange, as the great velocity is very apt to shatter the bullet and make it lose itself in small splinters. This doubtless produces great shock in the bodies of small or medium sized animals, but it is not good enough for the larger species, which have more tenacity of life, with their larger bones, flesh, and muscle.
Many men with large experience of ordinary game recommend the .280 and similar rifles, but I never heard a man with practical experience of the largest of African game praise these rifles. By largest game I mean elephant, rhino, buffalo, and eland.
A friend of mine who purchased a .280 a few years ago told me he would much prefer a .303 with its heavier bullet.
If the young sportsman chooses a .280, .275, or .256 Magnum, he had better get a second rifle shooting heavy blunt bullets as a standby, but then it will often not be handy; whereas if he had a .350, .318, or 7.9mm. in his hand all he has to do is to change the cartridge if a solid is necessary for use on an elephant or rhino.
Buffalo are easily killed with a hollow point or slit bullet, but let the slits be short. A "Dum-dum" form of bullet, that is one which has a very small amount of lead showing at the point, is a most excellent projectile for buffaloes or elands, and it will easily kill an elephant or rhino with the body shot.
Never have an automatic safety catch on a rifle. These are not fitted to magazines, but on falling blocks and hammerless doubles they are usually fitted, so it is best to get them altered to non-automatic, which, I believe, it is easy to do.
An automatic catch flies back to safety when the breech is opened, and a non-automatic stays as it is until altered by the thumb.
In hilly ground a sling is useful, so the rifle ought to have an eye fixed to the barrel and stock for fixing the sling to.