Fieldsports Channel: How to Cycle a Bolt-Action When a Cape Buffalo Is Trying to Murder You

    I am not someone who has ever had the opportunity to travel to Africa to tackle the Big Five* most dangerous and difficult animals to hunt on the continent (and arguably the planet), and fully admit my novice status in this area. Karamojo Bell I am not.

    *For those who do not know, the Big Five are the: Cape buffalo, African lion, African elephant, African leopard, and either the black or white rhinoceros (considered together as one of the Big Five).

    So, instead of listening to me, I direct you to two people who truly do know what they’re doing. In the video below, recorded and published by the excellent Fieldsports Channel, Southern African Wildlife College trainer Pieter Nel and course manager Dr. Kevin Robertson explain the somewhat counter-intuitive best way to cycle a big game rifle when staring down a potentially deadly animal attack:

    While it might seem like the best way to quickly down a dangerous animal that didn’t oblige you with the first shot would be “Mad Minute” style speed shooting from the shoulder, Mr. Nel and Dr. Robertson explain why this isn’t the most reliable method. The first reason this isn’t ideal has to do with the special nature of big game bolt action rifles: Unlike most hunting rifles used in other continents (which are populated primarily by smaller game), big game African rifles are typically magnum-length bolt actions, usually of the Mauser pattern or similar. These rifles have a much longer bolt stroke than normal, which means there is a much higher chance of short-stroking the action when cycled with the butt firmly in the shoulder. With a Mauser-style fixed extractor, if the rifle’s bolt is not retracted swiftly and fully to the rear, then the spent case will not clear the bolt face and will remain within the grasp of the extractor claw. If the bolt is then cycled close, this causes a sort of doublefeed with the spent case and the fresh round.

    The second reason Mr. Nel and Dr. Robertson give is situational awareness: With the rifle in your shoulder and the bolt cycling in front of your face, there is a great deal of material in front of your eyes occluding your vision and potentially distracting you. This reduces your ability to track a game animal, and potentially could add critical seconds between the last and the next shot.

    Instead of cycling from the shoulder, Nel and Robertson suggest cycling the rifle from a lowered position, which adds power to the rearward stroke of the bolt (and therefore reliability to ejection), and clears the shooter’s vision, allowing them to better track the animal.

    Nathaniel F

    Nathaniel is a history enthusiast and firearms hobbyist whose primary interest lies in military small arms technological developments beginning with the smokeless powder era. He can be reached via email at [email protected]