The Nearly-Perfect Safari Rifle
There’s no such thing as ‘perfect’, so ‘nearly-perfect’ is about as good as a man can hope for. On safari one year, I got to thinking about what a rifle would have to be to make me really happy – well, it would have to be ‘nearly-perfect’ – attractive, all the right features and accurate.
At the time, a pre-64 Winchester Model 70 in 375 H&H was my choice; and it certainly is a classic. But, I wanted a rifle that looked better, felt better and shot better; and didn’t think that was too much to hope for.
There wasn’t much thinking about which caliber was nearly-perfect, the 375 H&H is so tried and proven that it would be an up-hill battle to argue against it; and besides, it was already my favorite caliber for Africa. Choosing the best action didn’t take much thought either. In my opinion, the action of a man’s dangerous game rifle should be one he is intimately familiar with – most of the guns in my rifle vault have a Remington 700 action. The only functional changes we made to the action were the addition of a three-position safety, welding on a new bolt handle that was longer with a larger and rounder bolt knob, and replacing the trigger with one that is crisp, consistent and adjusted to my preferred weight of pull. A Shilen #4 contour barrel gave us the desired weight and balance, and express sights – in conjunction with QD scope mounts – provide flexibility of sighting options if necessary. We rust blued everything, of course.
In my opinion, a serious rifle stock should be made of English walnut, because it’s naturally stronger than black or claro walnut; and to make it nearly-perfect, we installed an all-thread rod down through the grip for additional strength and a hardened steel rod in the forend channel to prevent warping. Glass bedding and pillar bedding are two other hidden features that help keep this wood stock really stable in all weather conditions. Of course, it has an oil finish and checkering we cut entirely by hand.
Since we had a filming studio, it made sense to film the entire project to preserve the idea and all the processes. You can find the videos on the MidwayUSA website or YouTube. For me, this is a Nearly-Perfect Safari Rifle, and it was a lot of fun to build it.