I’m running a .243AI set up by Columbia River Arms (formerly Black Hole Weaponry) about a year ago. It’s a pre-chambered drop-in with a pretty tightly necked chamber set up by CRA. I’ve got it set at zero head space so between that and the Ackley Improved case there’s zero brass growth after 4-5 firings.
It’s got just a touch over 1000 rounds down the pipe and appears to be going strong. So far I’ve only had to push the bullet out .010 and add .1gn powder to keep everything tight to my original load spec. I don’t know what kind of life the pipe has left in it. I’m running 115gn 6mm DTAC bullets at 3200fps with a modest charge of very slow burning powder (RL-23). Pressures are pretty mellow but it’s, for sure, burning that powder all the way down the barrel. This is evidenced by the fact that there’s just the tiniest bit of flash in the first chamber of my brake that’s visible in low light conditions.
Corey testing out the CRA barreled Hot-Dog Gun at 900yrds.
In a more conventional barrel I’d guess I’ve have between 100 and 300 rounds more life before it’s just not match grade anymore (based on a 1200-1500rnd life expectancy) but I would also expect substantially more throat erosion than I’ve gotten to this point if that were the case. I started with uncoated 108ELD’s and quickly went to HBN (hexagonal boron nitride) coated 115DTAC’s. The rebated boat tail and pointed tip on the DTAC’s pulls the BC up to .620 which puts me up to 1mile of supersonic range. So far it’s been as far as 1500yrds and proven itself very capable.
Out of the gate I was getting 10 shot groups like those below (these are fireforming and load development groups, the first loads out of the barrel). After a little refinement they settled down to repeatable .5-.7MOA across 10 shots with single digit SD’s (5fps across over 100 rounds loaded in 3 sessions). The thing has since then been ridiculously consistent. Once I found an optic I could deal with in matches (I hated the turrets on Vortex Razor 2’s, U.S. Optics ER-25 was just too damned big, SWFA 16×42 was too much minimum magnification, etc… nitpicky stuff) in the form of the U.S. Optics SN3 3.8-22x58mm with a custom made PRS oriented reticle and 35mm main tube, I really started to have some fun with it including punishing the rifle with 10 shots strings in 90 seconds on hot days (hey, that’s the stage on the match). I wasn’t going to take it easy on this barrel.
I crossed the 1000 round mark last month at a match and I’d thought the barrel might be toasted then due to some repeated and huge misses on otherwise simple shots. Turns out it was just me. I clearly did something wrong to make those misses. I know that because I went out again this month to teach a long range precision rifle class and demonstrated most drills and techniques with my .243AI. It started out by making a .5″ 5 shot group @ 100 yards. At the end of the class it got to be time to see what I could do under some performance pressure so I got right down into the prone with my Columbia River Arms barreled Savage 10FPSR, dialed the parallax on my U.S. Optics SN3 3.8-22×58, extended the Accuracy Solutions BipodEXT, set the Accu-Tac SR-5 bipod to 45deg forward and slapped a 6″ 900 yard 5 shot group on the steel rapid fire in direction shifting 5-15mph winds while the student body looked on.
I’m using 45.6gn of powder now. It started at 45.5gn of Reloader 23 in a very tight chamber with Hornady brass. By the book one should expect to see 3000-3100fps with 44-45gn of powder in a 24-inch barrel with 100gn to 105gn bullets. I’m getting 3200fps with 115’s and only 45.6gn in a 26″ barrel. I’d expect to see 25fps or thereabouts per inch of barrel after 24″ but certainly not 50fps per inch from barrel length alone and not with a heavier longer bullet. I’m also not even remotely pushing this round. I can go another 3gn of powder before even starting to flatten primers but 3300fps only serves to damage steel targets and is technically against the rules. 3200fps is max so that’s what I’m running. I already damage quite a few targets at 3200fps anyway so I don’t need any help in that department.
Hot Dog Gun in .243AI. A Savage 10FPSR with bits from MDT, XLR, Magpul, BipodEXT, Accu-Tac, U.S. Optics, Seekins, Weaver, and JP Enterprises. Painted to look like a Dodger Dog. Go Dodgers!

Typically as I wear out a barrel I’ll see it shoot fine, fine, fine, start to open up, plateau, fine at plateau, open up more, open up more, open up more and it’s all downhill from there. After the plateau if it doesn’t quickly plateau again it’s getting there and it’s time to start planning my next pipe. I’ve already started planning my next pipe, a 6XC to match an identical one we’ll put on Coach’s gun. Nonetheless, this barrel is still good. Question is, for how long?

I know from prior experience that I get a little longer barrel life from the polygonal rifling that CRA uses. I’ve not burned out enough to get a useful statistical value for how much longer but I can speculate. Right now, given the throat wear and grouping we’re getting on Coach’s existing 6XC; which is at 1500 rounds so far, and the expected life of that Shilen barrel being around 2200-2300 rounds, I’m estimating; and trying to be extremely conservative in that estimation, that I’ll make it to 1800 rounds or further before this pipe is really done for match work.

The difference between .243Win (right) and .243AI (left) is shoulder angle, body taper, performance, case life and barrel life. The loaded round has a 108gn ELD-M in it and 39.5gn of RL-23 for fireforming.

That’s almost 40% longer barrel life than I initially anticipated, if it gets there. We knew that the HBN coating on the bullets would help barrel life so I’m confident it’ll get to 1500. We knew the CRA polygonal rifling means no sharp edges for the burning powder plasma to ablate would help too. We knew the Ackley shoulder angle would keep the flame vertex inside the case neck and that that would help too.

It’s just with all those things helping, we have no idea where this train is going to stop. If I go on throat erosion alone, calculating how far until the boat tail is up inside the case neck, then I’m looking at almost 3000 rounds of barrel life. That’d be 230% of anticipated barrel life and I just don’t see that as being realistic given the amount of powder being burned and the rapidity with which I shoot in matches. I’ll get that barrel pretty hot sometimes.

Shooting stage 6 at my monthly match with Hot Dog Gun in its current form. Targets are on the opposite hillside from 300-700yrds away.

I get higher velocities than one might expect from less powder than one might expect. I get longer barrel life than one would expect. I get amazingly accurate and consistent performance than one might expect (especially for a drop-in pre-fit). The thing turned out sub-MOA groups with fire forming loads. It did not like 55gn varmint bullets at all though. No surprise on an 8 twist. The chamber on it is very tight. It’s meant for someone who’s willing to turn necks if necessary (my inside neck diameter on a fired case is .2435). Thankfully I don’t have to neck turn. Lucky me, everything just fits perfectly. When I ordered it I specified that I would not be put off by a possible requirement to neck turn brass if that were what their reamer would require.

Much of this situation was and is by design. When I initially decided I wanted a fast 6mm I found what my options were and then picked a chamber that would maximize performance, brass life and throat life. I picked a powder that would give maximum velocities without pressures being tall or a lot of flash. I picked projectiles that had very high BC’s and would be routinely available in boxes of 500 (including a primary and backup bullet). I set up a load that performs identically with both bullets and shoots to the same point of aim, just in case I’m unable to re-up on one I can use my backup supply of the other.  I bought all of the brass, powder and primers I expected to ever use in this barrel ahead of time (8lbs of powder, looks like I might need another 8lbs). Everything about the gun except the optic I’d settle on was decided before the barrel even arrived. Best of all, the barrel was set up to CRA’s rigorous standards which means it was done perfectly and it was under $400.

Hot Dog Gun before it was even painted. Getting some early long range testing done. Both Vortex Razor 2’s are now replaced with U.S. Optics glass. I just like USO. What can I say, they work for me.

So why am I building a 6XC now? Well Coach and I shoot together. It’s best if we have one set of ballistics DOPE and shoot the exact same load through identical chambers. It’s actually best if we share a gun but I like mine and he likes his. We find that when we can use drop and wind corrections from each other that we win more matches. Duh. If I run a stage and miss 2 of 7 shots on wind, I can tell him what the adjustments would have been and what the wind was for those misses then he can adjust accordingly and pick up those points and vice versa.

So, I’ve got 2 new barrels on the way from CRA, 27″ 6mm 8-twist unprofiled blanks which we’ll have a local gunsmith chamber, thread and profile for us in 6XC with a .267 neck (CRA doesn’t have a 6XC reamer or I’d have them do it). We’ll set them up for zero head space to minimize brass growth and then we’ll use my new ExactShooting.com Custom Collection sizing die to perfectly set the head space and neck tension of our reloaded ammo. We’ll be as close to shooting the same rifle as two guys can possibly get. If you want faster velocities, longer barrel life and one heck of an accurate barrel, you could do a lot worse than to drop Columbia River Arms a line.

.243AI Dimensions

6XC Dimensions

I had the opportunity to run a group of former U.S. Marines through my long range precision rifle training class recently. It was nice having a lance corporal, a corporal and a sergeant who all happened to serve together. Chain of command was built in and there was lots of Marines insulting other Marines and dirty jokes.

We started with the basics of form and position building and went through weapon verification and troubleshooting on day one. After about 6 hours of non-stop fast paced work we had all the ballistics data needed to craft very accurate drop tables and had all the guns zero’d properly and scope turrets slipped to zero. On a 100yrd line little issues are going to be easiest to solve and there were a few. Sometimes you just need someone of known ability to drive the gun.

After a day of building blast fatigue (no suppressors in California means loud days) we retired to a barbecue dinner and a few barley pops while we got to know each other and swapped lies. At the same time I put some effort into additional lessons on ballistics, input data gathering and why certain things are important to get very precise while other things really aren’t.

On day two things got intense and we ran drill after drill after drill. These drills are meant to expose students to all of the ways that they can induce their own failure and are meant to be extremely difficult. If you’re not missing, you’re not training. You’re just rehearsing. Drills varied in number of shots fired, timed vs. untimed, single target, multiple target and so on out to 500m.

We covered wind reading for quite some time as that’s the real art in of long range precision shooting. You can take a newbie and they can hit easily when there’s no wind but add a little wind and some complicating topography and things suddenly get extremely challenging again. The lessons on wind effect and terrain effects on wind seemed to be exceptionally valuable and many really good questions were asked. Some of those questions were answered with the truth of the matter, send one and correct. Many though seemed to be pretty enlightening. Thankfully my home range provides ample opportunity for the wind to really screw you up and it’s very challenging to estimate wind very well in that kind of a jumbled topographic environment until you’ve had this exact kind of training.

Once I had sufficiently burned them down and had their heads fully swimming, with so much information coming at you it’s hard to absorb it all, it was time to build them back up and implement at properly long range what we’d learned on the intermediate distance range.

We ran up to the long range course and went through quite a number of drills from team drills to ranging exercises, bracketing exercises and so on. By the end of the day everyone was being pretty predictably accurate and we eventually retired to the camp for another fine meal and some high quality banter.

Day 3 came and because of the very small class size I was able to finish the course on the first 2 days so we were able to get some good old fashioned trigger time from 100-900. Once the heat of the day came on, so did the bugs and the lads had a 20 hour drive home so we elected to call it a weekend at that point and head on home. Coach and I stayed around to clean up the range and dirty up some guns we never get to shoot. I got my 10/22 ready for an upcoming .22LR match and even got to dirty up the new barrel on my EDC pistol.

One of the lads took the opportunity to use my spare BipodExt. When fully extended the bipod was a full foot in front of the muzzle of his AR-10. Eventually the shooter decided that since the BipodExt is somewhat expensive and so would not be entering his kit anytime very soon, that he’d remove it and shoot with just the bipod mounted directly to the rifle. It’s that big a difference that he didn’t want the training to be tainted by having such a good cheat. 

On day 3 I broke out the Hot Dog Gun and let the lads take a whack with it. It runs very high ballistic coefficient bullets at immensely fast speeds so the drop is very minimal. So minimal that they got to see the difference in the bullet trace vividly against 6.5CM and .308Win loads. Spotting bullet trace is something that’s easiest through a spotting scope but when I was shooting my rifle I could actually see it in the rifle scope when I zoomed out a little bit. It’s a flat shooter for sure and makes shooting under 500m kind of boring. They were surprised at the extremely low recoil as well. From my point of view, all that speed and power without being a hard kicker is totally worth the barrel life sacrificed.

Still pics are cool and all but video is cooler. BigC laying it down. A nicer, more considerate guy you will not find.

Then comes BigD. Turns out we have friends in common already. That’s cool.

I had to land for a four hour layover in Dubai during my recent flights to and from South Africa. On the way to SA as soon as we landed I went to the Duty Free which actually is the entire airport area near the boarding gates in Dubai Airport now. I needed cigarettes. Wasn’t going to buy them in California at 8 dollars a pack and I was told they were 2-3 dollars a pack in SA. I didn’t figure they’d have any of the rather rare smokes I like though so I checked around the Duty Free and found cartons of Djarum Black for $13.26US and immediately bought a carton and headed to the nearest smoking lounge.

After I’d finished my first smoke another guy, middle eastern looking, walked in and sat at the next seat over around the same ashtray as me. We exchanged greetings and queries of where you going, where you from and such. The were are you coming from question for both of us had the same answer, San Francisco Bay Area. Our destinations couldn’t be much different. He was going to Afghanistan and I to South Africa.

Whiskeys of Scotland in airport of Dubai. My budget almost vomited. There are $30,000 bottles in that case.

Turns out the guy worked with our boys in brown over there during the war’s heyday and had moved at the first opportunity to California where he loves the climate and culture and clean & safe everywhere sort of feeling. The last remnants of his family, I gather, are in Afghanistan taking care of the last of their property holdings.

We chatted for a long while about religion, politics, war and sports and found that despite our mutual distaste for each other’s system of beliefs that we were perfectly happy to be in each other’s company and to talk, entertain and educate each other. After a while both of us were hungry and we retired to the nearest place where one can get shawarma. Having never really had an authentic regional copy I asked if I should get the sandwich or Arabic version (a wrap lightly grilled). He suggested the Arabic version and so we ordered. The food place had nice seating but didn’t serve alcohol so we both had what they called tea though it was doped with sweetened condensed milk and cardamom so heavily that it really resembled the taste of horchata more than tea. I was unused to the flavors but tried to enjoy them without a preconception. The tea worked to soothe and really broke the shawarma flavor up. The shawarma was, according to my companion, terrible if edible. I thought it would be spicier but was otherwise getting the distinct sensation that a Greek had introduced them to the gyro but called it shawarma so they wouldn’t get offended at it not being a local delicacy.

Arabic style shawarma. Broiled thin sliced meat, flatbread, salad, wrapped & grilled.

In the end we ate till just before my boarding time and then I ran full out to my gate to make my flight. My companion, whose name is Ghani, turned out to live not 20 minutes from my house so we traded contact info and agreed that we’d try to find a decent shawarma and continue our conversation upon our respective returns to the States.

In almost every way, the pair is incompatible. Opposites in so many ways. The salve for that problem though was to simply leave aside distaste and to engage in open and honest conversation where we didn’t bog down in the rote definitions of words. We defined the words with contentious possible meanings ourselves and left the “well that’s not what I call that” over to one side. It really made the conversation entertaining and educational.

If countries, religions, political movements and most of all groups of people could accomplish what we did there would be no international conflicts and fewer conflicts within individual nations. Live and let live gets you only so far. Sometimes you really need to deliberately set aside distrust or dislike and simply coexist.

Hi Ghani! Be safe in your travels and let me know when you’re back in the States. This time the dinner is on me.

Red hat courtesy of spending OODLES of money with RedHat back in 2003.
Danie Joubert is a well known gunsmith and knife maker in South Africa. While I was there a mutual friend introduced us and we got to chat for a while. Turns out that Danie (pronounced Donnie) had whittled out a little gift for me in anticipation of our meeting. I don’t know why other than the extreme hospitality that seems endemic among the hunting/shooting community there.
Kydex scabbard and G10 grips. Not sure what exact kind of steel but it holds an edge well so far.
Danie usually crafts field grade to exhibition grade safari rifles and custom target/tactical rifles. At least one King of a country has a rifle in Danie’s safe waiting for delivery. Safari rifles are stuff that has to work just right every time or someone probably dies. In Africa, as you might have heard, everything bites. There are even a couple species of antelope that are notorious for attacking & killing hunters after being shot if they’re not put down hard right there. All the critters in Africa are tough. Tougher than American critters in my experience. I’ve never shot a deer in the chest and it take another step (well, with one exception but that was more opening the chest up than penetrating it, long story). I shot 2 springbuck in the heart and they both ran a little ways before dropping. The eland I shot and hit in the heart and both lungs walked 2km. The impala I liquefied the chest cavity of dropped but tried to get up for a solid minute.
It’s seen a little use but not much. Just enough to wear some finish down.
Anyway, Danie and I had a good couple hours long chat about rifle construction and how people use custom rifles there and at the end of the visit he walks in with this amazingly nicely made fixed blade and presents it to me. I was admittedly a bit floored by that. Then he says, “This is a working knife, so you have to use it. If you need to change a tire and you don’t have any other tools, this knife will do just fine.” So far it’s only been in the necks of a few critters (hey, you gotta put blood on it right) and cleaning the dirt from under my fingernails. I do now carry it in my backpack daily and on my hip when I’m in a place where a knife on my hip isn’t illegal.
Full tang goodness.

While I was in South Africa a few weeks ago I managed to pick up a new sizing die that’s made there. I actually got to meet the man behind the magic through an introduction by a mutual friend. I got to see and use the die I was extremely impressed. So impressed I had to have one. They have a standard (though still super precise) die for SAAMI/CIP chambers and a “Custom Collection” version for those of us with more persnickety requirements. I got the custom collection version made to my specs while I was in country. I also got to have a nice chat with Jaco, the man behind the magic, and have a nice long chat with him about how the things were made and some general chit chat. Turns out, the level of precision they craft these with apparently required a ton of effort just in building testing instruments so they could measure sufficiently precisely to hold their amazingly tight tolerances.
The box is nicely jointed and finished wood.
Inside everything is set in custom cut foam. Given the precision, cost and purpose, you’ll want to keep things orderly and clean and not bumping into each other.
All of the little bits from the die kit.
All the mechanical stops are in the die itself so it’s a little different to use than I’m used to but dramatically different. It does mean the die can move from press to press without readjustment of the die. One tiny bit of note, it’s not a standard 7/8″ die body. It’s a 1″-14TPI body so a different press bushing is on order for my RCBS Rockchucker and I’m having a local machine shop cut one of my Dillon tool heads for it.
The benefits for me are setting of neck tension & head spacing very precisely. It came with 5 neck bushings at .0005″ increments so I can now get consistent tension between lots of brass. Normally I neck size only until I have to bump the shoulder back but that causes issues with rounds that decides they won’t chamber without a lot of force to close the bolt. Slows me down in a match and breaks my concentration. There are click adjustments on the die for the shoulder bump which I’ve seen and measured to be extremely accurate. Want to knock the shoulder back .0015, 3 clicks. It works just that easily.
The cost is fairly high (retail is almost $600 shipped to the USA) but real precision costs real money. If I can’t magically be a better shot, I can pay to take a little more slop out of my ammo.
It’s a little different in how it works to other dies I’ve used in one nifty respect, the body sizing and shoulder bump happens first without touching the neck, then the neck sizing operation happens as its own part of the stroke and neck sizing depth is controlled by virtue of a shim pack that adjusts it in .0020″ increments.
They have a seating die coming out too which I’ve already asked for a copy of. I have a couple buddies using one of these already and they’re reporting very good things. As soon as my press bushing and tool head are done I’ll be doing a vigorous bit of comparison testing against my existing redding dies both in group sizes and dimensional consistency.

 

Danie Joubert is a somewhat legendary gunsmith and knife maker in South Africa. While I was there a mutual friend introduced us and we got to chat for a while. Turns out that Danie (pronounced Donnie) had whittled out a little gift for me in anticipation of our meeting. I don’t know why other than the extreme hospitality that seems endemic among the hunting/shooting community there.

Danie usually crafts field grade to exhibition grade safari rifles and custom target/tactical rifles. At least one King of a country has a rifle in Danie’s safe waiting for delivery. Safari rifles are stuff that has to work just right every time or someone probably dies. In Africa, as you might have heard, everything bites. There are even a couple species of antelope that are notorious for attacking & killing hunters after being shot if they’re not put down hard right there. All the critters in Africa are tough. Tougher than American critters in my experience. I’ve never shot a deer in the chest and it take another step (well, with one exception but that was more opening the chest up than penetrating it, long story). I shot 2 springbuck in the heart and they both ran a little ways before dropping. The eland I shot and hit in the heart and both lungs walked 2km. The impala I liquefied the chest cavity of dropped but tried to get up for a solid minute.

Anyway, Danie and I had a good couple hours long chat about rifle construction and how people use custom rifles there and at the end of the visit he walks in with this amazingly nicely made fixed blade and presents it to me. I was admittedly a bit floored by that. Then he says, “This is a working knife, so you have to use it. If you need to change a tire and you don’t have any other tools, this knife will do just fine.” So far it’s only been in the necks of a few critters (hey, you gotta put blood on it right) and cleaning the dirt from under my fingernails. I do now carry it in my backpack daily and on my hip when I’m in a place where a knife on my hip isn’t illegal.

Pics time. Kydex scabbard and G10 grips. Not sure what exact kind of steel but he did mention it’s a tool steel.
[IMG]

It’s seen a little use but not much. Just enough to wear some finish down.[IMG]

Full tang goodness.[IMG]

Red hat courtesy of spending OODLES of money with RedHat back in 2003.[IMG]

My recent trip to South Africa was partly to do a couple hunts and partly to see what the long range precision rifle scene there was all about and how it could be well served. What products and services were available, what are needed and what just won’t play there. They have their own competitive rifle sports that are very like some of ours but different enough to have special needs. They also have a budding long range precision scene in the more common American influenced sports like F-Class.

Along the way I met a huge number of people: Gunsmiths, Knifemakers, Suppressor Makers, Farmers, Competitive Shooters, Guides, Importers, Exporters, Collectors, Legendary Hunters & Soldiers and 3 of the toughest, most well behaved polite & intelligent teenagers it’s possible to raise in this world.

I took some time to teach a few basic ballistics classes for some friends and we even got down to doing some long range live fire work complete with challenging drills and tests of both bravado and ability. Shots under 500m were there but we focused on shots over 500m and I have to tell you, these guys in South Africa are not fooling around. They’re motivated, well educated and not afraid to spend money if it’s going to return results.

I learned not only what biltong is but how to make it and why it throws jerky straight into a cocked hat. I saw fully 15 species of antelope, along with warthogs, ostrich, cape buffalo, and more. I got to experience what it’s like to be an ethnic super-minority and a chance to learn a little Afrikaans.

Afrikaans is a lot like Dutch but to the ear it sounds like there’s a lot of Hebrew or Arabic language influence with some of the sounds. I found it greatly difficult to understand spoken Afrikaans with my hearing loss eliminating vast wadges of the audio inputs and lip reading it is right out, much like Hebrew and Arabic. I did manage to toss a bit of surprise around when I picked up a book about wildlife which was written in Afrikaans and I started translating it to English on the fly, out loud.

For those that don’t know, modern English decends from Old English with tons of Norse, Latin and French tossed in. This is why English seems to lack a coherent set of rules… there’s nothing but exceptions to the rules it might otherwise have because all the languages it’s based on have different rules. Old English itself is largely descended from Dutch, or a Dutch relative and a surprising number of the words they use are pronounced identically (cheese, bread, meat, beer, blue, etc…) but are spelled in a way that would make Chaucer giggle. Once you figure out how they use vowels and some odd uses of the letter “g” though translating the language to English is almost unnecessary as it’s so much the same as English and the rest you can get from context pretty well. For someone that truly sucks at languages, this was a nice experience.

If you’re thinking of a trip remember that you don’t have to know a lick of Afrikaans to get along. Everyone there, EVERYONE, speaks English pretty fluently if with various accents and sets of commonly used phraseology. All the signs are in English. The retail infrastructure is quite a lot like a mix of European and American. It lacks the number of big box stores and has oodles of smaller more specialized shops (though big box stores are there).

It’s almost like visiting San Diego in a lot of ways, especially in the visual appearance of the landscape. Apart from the racial makeup (who is in the minority) you’d have trouble figuring out you’re not in a city in the American southwest somewhere, other than all the cars are diesel powered and they drive on the other side of the road.

Also, for your first time especially if you’re an American: DO NOT RENT A CAR TO DRIVE THERE. You really need a primer trip where you get driven around first so you can see how the locals actually drive or you most definitely will find yourself in a surprising situation or two and may piss someone right off by trying to be safe instead of polite. If you’ve driven in India you’re probably not going to be surprised as much but otherwise, take the first one with a local driving you around.

PICTURE TIME!

Knife made for me by Danie Joubert.

My Eland.

.308 150gn Sierra Game Kings working springbok innards.

Draining blood and guts from my eland.

One of the two toughest little girls I’ve ever met.

My eland on the ground.

Tracking my eland as it walks off to die.

Rough country doesn’t mean you can’t prone out properly.

Filling my guide in on where the eland went to die.

Getting our stalk on.

Africa is as austere a place as it is beautiful.

The tall thin trees are actually aloe’s. 3m tall aloe. Just wow. Never knew they grew into trees!

Authentic South African Boer recipes. In Afrikaans of course.

A braai of livers, hearts and sausages. OMG that was good.

My springboks getting their cool down on.

That’s a happy hunter.

With a poker face carved in stone.

My trophy springbok.

My first springbok.

Egyptian geese.

Wildebeest

Bontebok

A landscape that says, “You’re totally alone here. Don’t get injured.”

Outline for a little classroom ballistics session.

It wasn’t a formal class, actually greatly condensed. Still, we wanted everything to look nice.

Sakkie and his bride. A more amazing pair of honest, hard working, kind and generous people I have not met. Only James Yeager comes close (if you haven’t met James, you don’t know him).

It’s winter in Africa. And quite cold and windy.

Landowner warthog trophy.

Landowner bushbuck & caracal trophies.

A caracal trophy.

Kudu trophies.

My impala ram.

My impala ewe.

The buckey (what South Africans call a pickup truck)

Jacques confirming zero.

Black giraffe not 100m from our accommodations.

Ostrich

Johannesburg, SA suburbs. They name restaurants very strangely there.

Teaching ballistics eventually leads to a range session.

Dubai looks cool from the air.

Russia looks greener than I ever imagined it.

Teaching a little ballistics to a few friends.

Cruising through acacia trees on dirt roads. Like being a kid again.

These guys are great people, great shots and great students.

A landscape you just can’t find anymore. Empty of apparent human activity.

I just got back from South Africa and thought it might be nice if my followers got to see some highlights before I get into the weeds with longer articles on smaller subjects.

Africa is weird. You find the strangest places there. And the strangest things. And the strangest things in the strangest places. And the strangest people in the strangest places doing the strangest things to the strangest other things.
Take this for example. Not the movie I would have named a coffee shop after but to each their own. Still, it’s a really neat coffee shop inside. We elected to look at the sign but not stay or visit directly as parking long enough to properly patronize the business would have meant leaving the buckeys (what they call pickups) unattended for whole minutes with our stuff inside, which is not a recommended behavior.
My first springbok. Very nicely curving horns. 240m in 20mph winds with gusts quite a bit higher. I waited for the wind to peak and held on the nose. It ran 20 feet and piled up. Right through the lower bit of the heart with a 150gn Game King from a suppressed .308. Bullet performed nicely with minimal meat damage, decent penetration and good expansion. I took another springbok about an hour later with even a nicer rack yet and the dark stripe was much closer to black. That one was at just over 100m in the same wind. The SGK opened up much more vigorously at the closer range but didn’t ruin any meat to speak of. Another heart hit on the second one but smack in the middle of it instead of at the base leaving very little heart to eat from that one. We ate the livers & heart that night and ate some neck that was braised into pulled springbuck rolls that looked like meat filled cannoli (and which were amazing).
I got a ewe and a ram impala as well. The ram I’m told is a trophy grade example despite the fact we were meat hunting. Great spread, great length and big bases. This guy took a .300wsm stoked with TMK’s to the lower back. The bullet came apart in the chest and liquefied the pumping and gas transfer stations within. It hit the ground where it stood, wobbled side to side and pretended to be alive but was clearly very much done in one. We put a cut on the neck to be sure and no blood came out. The ewe impala was my first African game harvest. This ram was my 2nd. Both taken from the back of a buckey in driving wind and very surprisingly cold weather. Africa gets cold too. Whodathunkit.
The smaller game hunts were really exciting but from the back of a buckey, as an American where such things are generally verbotten, it was a little weird feeling. Almost like shopping while doing a drive by shooting. Still very exciting but so different to what I’m used to I almost didn’t know how to feel about it. That was not to be the case for my big hunt.
For the big hunt, we were looking for kudu, eland, blue wildebeest or whatever walked onto the scene and we found examples of them all around the countryside. Oryx and blesbok and nyala were also around and I want to do at least one of those next year. After scouting some areas rich with oryx and blesbok, kudu, eland and wildebeest we decided on a hunting area and route to do a good ol’ walk-n-stalk. Hunting the hard way. About 3 hours into the walking (Where my friend who owns the place got his new nickname of Klipspringer Van Kudu. Man that guy can run up a mountainside!), we ran into a large herd of cow & immature bull kudu 200yrds+ away on the next hill with their satellite dish sized ears scanning their perimeter and managed to not have them bust us. A red hartebeest was not so easy to fool and it bounced well before coming into shooting range. We were able to get within rock throwing distance of a klipspringer which was super cool.
Then we got word from the other side of the property where there were oodles of zebra standing vigil that 3 eland bulls may just be heading our way so we posted up and waited while watching a variety of other species mill around. What do you know… a very little while later 1 super big trophy bull and 2 smaller but still impressive eatin’ size bulls wander in a half mile away. We wanted to save the big guy for now as he was the boss breeder and had another good year in him being dominant and with good genetics before it would be right to cull it out. I picked one of the lesser guys to fill some freezer space and we got within 50 yards stalking in before nature spoiled the shot and I came off the trigger rather than maybe wound one at a distance where a charging animal would be hard to stop.
I waited another few minutes and it moved to 100yrds away and gave a nice shot presentation. I put one in the monster’s chest from a .338WM with 225gn SST’s and boy, it noticed. Then it and its 2 friends calmly walked about 2km down to a wadi where the friends mosey’d off eventually leaving the hit one behind. I watched it like a hawk till we thought it would certainly go no further and we hiked down to it. As soon as we got the blood trail at the edge of the wadi it bolted out the other side and Klipspringer Van Kudu put another shot on it which while it only opened up the back leg a bit, it did put the big eland’s e-brake firmly into the on position. It made it another 150 yards down to another wadi and holed up under a tree. We stalked close enough to guarantee a downing shot and I put the .338 over my buddies shoulder and put the final hit on the bull eland. It pulled a spun-n-run which didn’t go far at all, just a few steps really, and piled up doornail dead.
Once we ran over to it we took a knife to the neck to start the blood draining and then I was sure that I’d hit the vitals hard as not a drop of blood came out of the neck’s blood vessels. When we got it back to the farm and took the feathers off we noticed the thing had no blood really outside its chest cavity at all as the first shot clipped the top of the heart and punched both lungs. So, when the 2nd 225gn SST hit the chest it hydraulic’d the blood filled space hard and the thing took 3 steps in surprise and gave it up. Minus head/guts/feet it scale weighed 276kg (which if I’m doing my math right is ~700lbs) meaning a live weight of ~900-1000lbs. When we opened it up for processing it poured literally gallons of blood from the chest cavity. We ate the liver braii’d nicely as liver patties with onion and herbs (a tradition in my family and my guide’s family) along with some of the heart and then finished up with a tenderlion grilled whole and to perfection and sliced at the table. The meat was fork tender with zero elaborate prep. Open flame, salt & pepper and bango, epic chow.
Some perspective and soda about the size of this beastie.
Heads are being done European mounts. Skin from the best springbuck is being made to hide and the skin of the eland tanned to leather.
While in country I managed to pick up the most singularly amazing knife I’ve ever owned made by knifemaker and gunsmith Danie Joubert as well as a new kind of sizing die which I promise will 100% change the game of precision rifle reloading forever.
Lots more pics and juicy details in the video. Enjoy!
-meccastreisand