Montana Rifle Company Model 1999 AVR in .375 H&H Mag.
By Jim Force
Africa beckons again. This time I intend to shoot a Cape buffalo and for that I need a large caliber dangerous game rifle.
I have fired a Winchester Model 70 in 375 H&H and found the recoil tolerable, although I would not want to shoot more than 15 rounds in any one session. I have also shot a Sako in .416 Rigby and did not much care for the amount of recoil, so could not see much reason to try shooting anything bigger.
Considerable reading, including Guns and Shooting Online, Ruark, Hibben, Boddington and many of the hunting magazines further convinced me that a rifle in .375 H&H would be an ideal choice for a Cape buffalo hunt. It is enough gun, as long as there is good bullet selection and placement.
Stock configuration was my next consideration. I have learned that my body type (6 ft. 4 in. and 225 lbs.) with long arms and a long neck favors the Monte Carlo style stock with a raised cheek piece and dropped comb. This places my eye at the proper height to view through a low mounted scope and seems to help the most with recoil. I would prefer the stock to be walnut.
With caliber and stock configuration pretty well fixed I added in one more factor: the rifle would have to be controlled round feed. I realize that while hunting Cape buffalo there will be a professional hunter standing right next to me, probably carrying a SxS big bore rifle and the chances of something going wrong are pretty slim. Never the less, Cape buffalo are dangerous game and one wants to take every precaution when hunting them. Therefore, controlled round feed in the event I have to chamber a round upside down.
Now the actual search for a dangerous game rifle. As usual, I turned to the internet. There are several excellent sites where one can peruse a large selection of firearms in the caliber desired. Given my parameters I narrowed the choices down to a new Winchester model 70 Safari, a used Wentworth/Interarms XX and the Montana Rifle Company model 1999 AVR. All three are classic Mauser style, two lug actions. I also considered getting a Ruger 77 Hawkeye and having the action and barrel installed in a laminated stock.
English or Italian bespoke firearms, or a custom-built weapon was not a consideration, as these will not likely improve my shooting. I would rather spend the money on game fees.
Checking the internet every few days I finally found a new Montana Rifle Company Model 1999 AVR in stainless steel. Beautiful looking firearm and the particular seller had free shipping. They also had lay-a-way program, so I made an initial deposit and over three months paid off the gun. When it arrived here in North Carolina I was pretty excited, for the rifle was as beautiful in my hands as it had looked in the online pictures.
The protocol that came with the rifle stated that for the first ten shots I should clean the barrel after every shot. I purchased some Remington premium ammunition with 300 grain Swift A-Frame bullets and went out to the Farm to fire those first ten rounds and follow the cleaning protocol. I did not care where the bullets landed on the target, as I had not mounted a scope yet. When finished, I put the gun up for a while.
The scope I wanted to use with the new .375 was a Leupold VX-3 with heavy reticule. It was currently mounted on my Marlin 336 .30-30 deer rifle and as it was the middle of the season I decided to wait until the season was over the take the scope off Marlin. In the mean time, I purchased a pair of Talley one-piece, low mounts to house the scope on the gun and a box of Barnes .300 grain TSX bullets, which were recommended by the PH for the buff hunt. Deer season ended on January first (I did harvest a 7 pointer with the Marlin) and I promptly removed the Leupold scope.
I try and be meticulous about attaching scopes. First, I lightly mount the scope and check for eye relief and mark with a pencil where to set in the mounts. I then carefully clean all the surfaces and screw holes and screws. Next is permanently installing the Talley low one-piece mounts using blue Loctite and let the rifle rest for at least 24 hours.
I then get everything level in two directions in my homemade mounting rig and clean all the screw holes and screws again with isopropoal alcohol before setting the scope in the mounts using the thread lock. I am very careful to tighten the mounting screws evenly and not over torqued. Everything rests again for 24 hours.
During the next month or so I went out to the farm a couple of times, where we shoot off low sticks and a camp chair to sight-in and then started practicing shooting standing off high sticks. The action on the Montana AVR action is smooth as glass and has a huge top opening to make loading very easy. The trigger is also smooth and crisp with no creep.
I fired three round groups, with the temperature somewhere between 40 and 50 degrees and had no trouble dialing-in the Leupold VX-3 until I shot two inch groups at 100 yards using the Remington ammunition. I then tried the Barnes TSX ammo and had to make some slight adjustments to hit the bullseye. The gun weighs over nine pounds with the scope and I found the recoil substantial, but manageable.
The hard part, as anyone knows who's done it, is standing and shooting off sticks in the African safari manner. After some practice and remembering to breath deep, let out my breath slowly and squeeze the trigger, I was able to get a three-shot group within the four inch circle at 100 yards. More than good enough to take a Cape buffalo. I will continue to practice until leaving in August for the Dark Continent, but have complete confidence in the rifle and my ability to shoot it. When the safari is over, I hope to report on its success in these pages.
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