The 7mmSSAI on a South African Safari.
To say that that the 7mm-08AI is the ideal rifle to take on an African hunt, would be like stating that only blondes are ideal women, we know that is not so. Nevertheless, for me this rifle and cartridge has worked nearly flawless on six Plaines animals.
The standard 139 gr Hornady Interlocked flat base bullet was used on five of six animals. A Remington 175 gr Semi Point toke the Impala. We were hunting for Kudu in the bush and I had only the 175 gr bullets with me, when a 180 yard shot at an Impala presented itself on our way to camp. Since the 175 gr shot 4.5" low at 50 yrds and the scope set 2" high at 100 yrds for the 139 gr bullet, I had to hold quite a bit above his head on a frontal shot. A perfect shot in the neck dropped the Impala in its tracks.
This worked out well for two different bullets without changing the sight setting. Below are the two hand loads I used in Africa for the Weatherby Vanguard 7mmSSAI Rifle. The barrel is a 23" cut rifling SS Smith. Burris 3-9 Posi Lock Scope with Electro Dot and Burris Rings on Weaver bases.
139 gr Hornady Interlocked, Moly coated.
47.0 gr. Varget/ CCI 250 mag.primer/ Win 7x57 cases/ MV 2973 Av./ 10 shot spread 26 ft/ 5 shot group 5/8" at 100 yrds/ O.A.L. 2.870/ Reduced load is designed for possible hot weather.
175 gr Rem. Semi Point, Moly coated.
46.5 gr. Accurate XMR 4350. / Rem 9 1/2 Primer. / Rem 7mm-08 cases/ MV 2575. / 3-shot group 1/4" at 50 yrds/ O.A.L. 2.882 / More work is required with this bullet at longer ranges.
I had planned to use these bullets at close range only. At the time of load development it came as a surprise that these 175 gr bullets grouped unbelievable tight in the 1-11" twist this rifle has. MV is 2575 and the point of impact is dead center but 4.5 " low at 50 m. This of course is of no consequence when shooting at a big animal like a Kudu at under 100 yards. As it was, I killed the Kudo with the 139 gr bullet at about 150 yards. Except for the Kudu all animals were one shot kills. The Kudu needed two shots. He was standing facing me behind a thorn bush. Only his head was visible and brushes right up to his chin. I aimed for his nose and completely demolished his lower jaw and the bullet glanced off missing the vertebra or else the nose was not in line with the vertebra. He takes off running away; second shot running away on an angle finished him with a perfect lung shot. The bullet entered in front of his left hind leg penetrated the stomach, liver and lungs and stopped under the forward end of the right shoulder.
The recovered bullet had perfectly mushroomed and retained 78 grains or 56%, with the lower part of the jacket firmly in place, after penetrating nearly 30". How much more can you ask of a bullet. Over the years I have used the Hornady Spire Point bullets in a variety of calibers and in many weights. I have only praise for them. Not only that there are very few if any big game hunting bullets that are more accurate. The new interlocked bullet by Hornady is really something to crow about.
Here is what I hunted. The last three are big like a cow elk 750- 800Lbs. The Springbok is the size of a small Whitetail or a big fawn. The other two are like a normal deer. I had planned on Black Wildebeest but did not like the looks of him. He looks like a small Buffalo and scruffy. The horns are not to my liking. All shots were 180 yrds and under. All animals have better than average horns, and are very nice to look at.
Springbok = Antidorcas marsupiales (Neck shot @ 100 yrds)
Blesbok= Damaliscus dorcas phillipsi (Lung shot at 125 yrds)
Impala = Aepyceros melampus (Neck shot at 180 yrds)
Gemsbok = Orix gazella (Lung shot at 175 yrds)
Red Hartebeest = Alcelaphus buselaphus (Neck shot at 125 yrds)
Kudu = Tracelaphus strepsiceros. (Lower Jaw and lung shot at 150 yrds)
I also had a chance to shoot two Steenboks that were offered to me as a gratis token. These miniature animals are simply too small and beautiful to kill and I gracefully declined the offer. They were until recently protected by Royalty. The Springbok is the only one I had trouble with. I missed on three different tries because of the high grass the bullets never got there. Most of the time only the head was visible. Horns are small and easy enough demolished with a head shot.
Once I over estimated the distance and shot over the top of him, thinking he was over 300 yards. They are so small and look as if they are a lot farther away then they really are out in the wide open veldt. Springboks are very fast and cover a lot of ground in short order. Springbok is a favorite African game animal and incredible good eating.
Would I take this rifle to Africa again, you bet I would. The 7x64, the 270 Winchester and the 30-06 are very popular in Africa and my 7mmSSAI rifle is in that class. I also came across two wild cat cartridges that are favorites with the PH's. A 7x65 and a 308x65, both use a 270 Winchester case with the front end either being 308 Winchester or 7mm-08. In both cases the neck is shortened and the shoulder moved forward by fire forming ala Gibbs. The advantage of these two wild cats are the use of standard 308 or 7mm-08 loading dies and claimed magnum performance with less powder.
The fire forming in the Musgrave Mauser action takes place by holding the case back with the large Mauser extractor, using powder and filler only. Works fine, I saw it done. Cases are then neck sized and fired with full loads using African #365 Powder in liberal quantities.
The African Reloader is very conscious of powder economy due to its high price. The medium magnums are not too well talked about. Magnums seem to start and stop with the 375 H&H from what I have heard and seen. This rifle does not need any enhancements or fancy introductions. Since I thought shooting the Kudu with a 375H&H I was asks to shoot a 375H&H Musgrave Mauser at a 100yrds range. I fired at a 4" spinning steel disk and spun it once out of one try. Sort of cured me trying it again. Nevertheless a very super accurate rifle and very suitable for its intended use. Being a big believer in bullet placement, my choice for the real big stuff would be a 375H&H Musgrave Mauser.
If I have occasion to use the 7mm 175 gr bullet again I would sight it in dead on at 150 yrds. The bullet would only be 2.6" low at 200 and 7" low at 250 yrds. Shots in wooded areas are rare at 250 yards. With 1811 ft/lbs. of energy at 250 yrds no Hereford size animal will stand up to it. Any 7mm big game rifle can use that setting. African expert hunters use the 175 bullet in the 7x64 at no more than MV2650. At that speed the bullet is not likely to come apart. In the Bush Veldt shooting is mostly under 250 and more like 50 yrds. High velocity is not desired in the Bush Veldt. Well I am just singing an old song, since thousands of the biggest big game animals have been taken in Africa and with the venerable 7x57 Mauser.
Since this a hand loading page I have omitted all other details regarding place, cost, and accommodation, camping, sightseeing and the PH,s (Professional Hunters) which I can very much recommend. My personal feeling is that I enjoyed a great African experience.
Deon and Bhudu the PH,s with the Red Hartebeest and Tracker.
Here is an E-mail from my Professional Hunter. Quote:
Hello my friend,
Glad you made it back in one piece and with everything intact. I had a look at the web page, and I see one glaring omission, but you cannot rectify it without blowing your own horn... BULLET PLACEMENT!! That's the problem with being good where no-one can see you- who's going to tell the tale?
Seeing a craftsman in action with any tools, but especially a rifle is always a good experience. What tickles me though, the bullet did its job, no problem with that. BUT, if the shots were not as well placed- would a bigger/better bullet not be more advisable for an average shooter? Difficult one!!! I did enjoy the article though.
Your friend Deon
(Authors note: Well I guess I will hear about the bigger/better some more? Bigger, yes by all means 375H&H, and that perhaps would mean better. No? Thank you for blowing my horn.)
Fred the Re-Loader