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An Unconventional African Hunting Rifle
Pieter Malan decided to chamber his “do-it-all” African hunting rifle in 6.5 Sherman Short Mag (6.5 SS). He selected this exotic cartridge because he wanted to shoot high BC 156 grain Berger bullets out of a true short action, something the 6.5 PRC would not allow him to do.
I can confirm his experience. I built one full-custom 6.5 PRC on a regular short action and discovered I had to seat bullets deeper, notch the feed ramp, and take other special considerations. For these reasons, medium actions are becoming more popular for 6.5 PRC.
I was especially impressed with the hard-hitting 6.5 SS. It had very mild recoil, but I also shot it with an APW Warbird with a brake which helped. It did not feel like shooting a magnum 6.5, especially given how light the rifle was. This mild recoil also kept me on target, allowing me to see my shots as they impacted.
Both Piet and I have been spoiled by PRS-style rifles with tactical optics, modular chassis and crisp two-stage triggers. It’s hard to imagine hunting with anything else. Ultimate Reloader’s Guy Miner takes an entirely opposite approach, preferring the traditional hunting rifle and .30-06. It’s important to recognize that shooting a rifle you are comfortable with is key to success. When you use a certain type of rifle all the time, like Piet and I do, there is no transition or learning curve when you vary the application. Though Piet’s rifle is not the exact same as any of my rifles, it was so similar I was very confident with it very quickly.
It’s also important to point out that the “look” of a rifle doesn’t generally change its capabilities. Piet addressed the misconception that you “can’t miss” with a precision rifle style set-up for hunting. The gun does the same thing a classic, wood-stocked rifle does. It comes down to components and the user.
While I’ve had considerable experience with MDT’s chassis, I had not personally worked with the MDT LSS until this hunt. This chassis system stands for Light Sniper System and is a more compact version of the MDT LSS-XL. The shorter fore-end looks a bit funny with extremely long barrels, so Piet opted for the LSS-XL. This also provided some extra room for a CKYE-POD and other accessories. This larger version of the LSS was still very lightweight. I carried it for four days without a sling with no issues.
Piet utilized the vertical grip on this rifle and the MDT CCS Composite Carbine Buttstock. While we didn’t have to make any stock adjustments as Piet and I are of a similar build, having the option was nice.
Piet had added an MDT ARCA rail and MDT CKYE-POD single-pull standard bipod. While South African vegetation does not normally afford hunters a chance to go prone, I had the opportunity to for my Kudu bull and took it, making the shot at my maximum comfortable range.
This CKYE-POD worked very well. Piet also mentioned that he will often take a kneeling or standing shot off his tripod, which I did 80% of the time. This is an especially helpful tool to assume a stable position above vegetation. Piet’s tripod has a tension knob to attach the ARCA rail on the rifle. We both agreed a lever would be faster and easier to use.
Piet’s 6.5 Sherman Short is built on BAT Machine’s very first Bumblebee action, serial number 0000. It is an aluminum short action with an integrated rail —lightweight and ideal for mountain hunting. The drawback to this set-up is you have to machine your chassis to fit the flat action. He then added a 1:8 26” carbon fiber barrel from International Barrels, threaded ⅝ x 24 for the Warbird. This rifle also features BAT Machine’s modular bolt, allowing for easy switches between bolt faces.
Topping off the build is a Vortex Razor HD LHT 4.5-22 x 50 FFP scope. This compact scope has an illuminated reticle, locking elevation turret and a capped windage turret. It’s incredibly important to either have locking or capped turrets while hunting so you don’t accidentally spin them and wound an animal. He mounted it in Vortex precision matched medium rings.
Piet also added his custom ballistics turret to the build, which he detailed how to make on his channel. I was initially very skeptical about these, but enjoyed using them for quick adjustments in the field. Caution: these are a guideline.
Piet and I harvested all of our animals with the Berger 6.5 mm EOL Elite Hunter 156 grain bullet.
All animals dropped either immediately or within seconds. He has used this bullet successfully on a variety of game and also in competition.
My entire African experience was incredible and a trip to remember.
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