Weishuhn on Hunting, Single-Shot Rifles

“Single shot rifle is really a misnomer! Hunting with a single-shot doesn’t mean you can only shoot one time. Just like any other hunting rifle action, it simply means making the first shot count, which is what we should do no matter how fast a second shot can be fired or how many rounds you have as backup in your magazine or cartridge belt or pocket or backpack.” I was responding to a question from someone in the back of the audience while giving a presentation on hunting, pursuing animals from whitetails to Cape buffalo.

“I shot my first Cape buffalo with a .416 Rigby single-shot, using Hornady ammo.” I continued. “But in split second I had removed the spent case and replaced it with a fresh round, this after a lot of practice. Months before going I shot my single-shot a lot. I also taught myself to quickly reload, and eventually reduced reloading time so I could do it as quickly as someone could cycle the bolt on a bolt action. I did it automatically, rather than think about what I was doing. Reloading the single-shot simply became second nature, muscle memory if you will.” I continued to tell the crowd that with dedication and practice anyone could do the same.

I wrote an article about my single-shot Cape buffalo hunt for SPORTS AFIELD. One of the “letters to the editor” essentially called me an idiot for using a single-shot on dangerous game. I guess he forgot how many buffalo, elephant and other dangerous game had been taken back when explorers and hunters only had single-shot rifles and especially muzzleloaders, which took considerably longer to reload than breech loading rifles. In doing some research I learned my “accuser” had never shot anything larger than a couple of whitetail does.

Why would someone want to shoot a single-shot at dangerous game, or for that matter any game animal? With me I love the challenge of hunting with such a firearm. I grew up shooting single-shot .22s and single-shot shotguns. I learned to make the first shot count. I learned not to pull the trigger unless I was certain I could make a killing shot.

I have often stated I am a “long range shooter”, but not a “long range hunter”. I love shooting at paper and steel at extremely long ranges. But when it comes to hunting I want to get as close to the animal as possible before pulling the trigger… that to me is “real hunting”. Shooting at critters a long way away, is just that shooting!

For the past many years I have been a huge fan of the Ruger Number 1. I am fortunate to have hunted with numerous different calibers in this single-shot and proud to say I own several, although not nearly as many as I would like to! That said hopefully there are numerous Number 1 still in my future.

I love the sleek lines of the Ruger Number 1, many of which have very attractive wood. I like blued steel and wood guns, although I use many Ruger bolt actions that are stainless and stocked with synthetics.

When it comes to Ruger Number 1s, I love the older rounds such as the .275 Rigby, .300 H&H Mag, .405 Winchester and .450/400 NE 3”. With these I’ve taken a variety of game both in North America and Africa.

This immediate past hunting season I used my .275 Rigby primarily on whitetail deer shooting Hornady’s 140-grain SP ammo. With it I took, with one shot, some impressive whitetails at distances out to about 120 yards. I also used it on wild hogs including one that bottomed-out a 300-pound scale. This is a rifle I am seriously thinking of taking to Africa this coming year to hunt sable and other plains game. I might even use it hunting leopard. Hopefully during the next month I’ll be able to get some of Hornady’s ELD-X bullets and work up a load that would do well on leopard. The late John Wootters, long one the finest outdoor writers in the world and one of my mentors and heroes, used a Ruger Number 1 in .45-70 for his leopard.

Why the Number 1 on leopard? In most all instances when hunting leopard, I am told the shooter almost never gets more than one shot before the leopard is gone, so the normal quick follow-up shot is non-existent. But what of accuracy? My Ruger Number 1s, all will shoot with Hornady ammo 1-inch or less (mostly all less) groups at 100 yards. So, they are more than sufficiently accurate.

And as I have mentioned I dearly love the looks of Ruger Number 1s!

A couple of years ago I “borrowed” a .450-400 NE 3” Number 1 from Lee Newton, a truly serious collector of Ruger Number 1 rifles, and to me the world’s greatest authority on them. The “borrowed” rifle loaded with Hornady’s 400-grain DGX (expandable) and DGS (solid) at 75 yards essentially put any shots I fired from a good solid rest into the same hole. Shooting from “sticks” I tended to shoot one-inch or less groups. During a hunt in Namibia, I used the Number 1 to shoot an impala at 75 yards. Having done so, I then moved on to hunting hippo. Several days into the hunt, we stalked to within less than twelve yards of a huge bull hippo on land. I shot him below and behind the ear, having spent considerable time looking at anatomy charts. The ancient and huge bull simply fell to the ground. No sooner had he started to fall straight down, I reloaded and shot him a second time and then again a third time.

Once the hippo was down, one of the trackers who had stayed with the boat walked up and asked to inspect my rifle. I proudly handed it to him. He looked it over carefully as if to see if he could find a bolt or other mechanism where by I quickly reloaded. Not finding any such, he asked my PH in his native dialect, how I had shot three shots so quickly. He was convinced there was no way anyone could shoot a single-shot so rapidly! I simply smiled.

Years ago when I worked as a wildlife biologist taking care of numerous ranches where we specialized in whitetail deer hunting, and where I often served as a guide, I used to love seeing hunters arrive in camp with a single-shot rifle. Experience told me they tended to shoot more accurately than those who came to hunt with other rifle actions. I was never wrong. Those who hunted with a single-shots, precisely placed bullets into the deer’s vital with their first shot. The other things I judged hunters by, beyond what rifle action they hunted with was the length of the knife at there side. The longer the blade a hunter carried, the less hunting experience he or she had. The shorter the blade of the knife, the more experience they had!

When it comes to hunting rifles, of course I use bolt action rifles quite often and I do like them. But, I do not own any semi-auto rifles, other than two Ruger 10-22s. Way back in my gun safe there are four lever actions, one belonged to my father and another was owned by my father-in-law. Both those are Winchester Model 94s, one in .30 WCF and the other a .30-30 Win (both the exact same round). I also own a couple of Marlin lever actions, one a .45-70 and the other a .444 Marlin. These latter two are from my days as the Hunting Editor for Shooting Times. If ever I retire, and I have no plans of doing so, I will go to hunting with Ruger Number 1s exclusively.

I’m currently planning hunts our 2018 show season for “DSC’s Trailing the Hunter’s Moon”, which appears on Sportsman Channel. I’m also planning the different Ruger rifles Blake and I be using. I would love to hear from you as to whether or not you think I should do several hunts with Ruger Number 1’s. What do you think?

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