There’s no proving ground like an African plains-game camp to take the measure of a new hunting cartridge, and with seven hunters pursuing four or five animals apiece, ours was a fast-track to meaningful observation. From Day One to the final afternoon, game rolled into our old-style tent camp at Crusader Safaris (crusadersafaris.com) in South Africa. Owner Andrew Pringle and his crew have loads of experience working with Hornady and other U.S. firms, and not by accident. Their lands and style of pursuit cater to visitors who want genuine fair-chase African game without high fences. After two trips there, I wholeheartedly recommend these folks.
My hunt proceeded so well, in fact, that it didn’t look like I would get to see what the 7 mm PRC could do at even moderate range. Shot distances on the first two animals (zebra and bushbuck) averaged about 120 yards, and multiple encounters with nyala were practically spitting distance in brush so impenetrable, that I passed on the shots. Some partners purposely sought out opportunities pushing a quarter mile and beyond, and in all but one instance, made good on their chances. By week’s end, our group had accounted for 30-some head of game, ranging from relative small fry like warthogs and impala to kudu and zebra topping 600 lbs. Hunting strictly with the ELD-X load, there were no glitches at all, unless you count a few inconsequential core-jacket separations dug out of cleanly killed critters.
None of my previous Africa hunts required so much sweaty brush-busting over steep hills where heavy forest occasionally gave way to grassland. In such a spot, we finally located a big nyala bull trailing two cows in the open. They were nearly 800 yards away, surely within the PRC’s terminal reach, but not a shot I’m prepared to take. After slashing that distance in half, I sat, settled my rifle onto the sticks, dialed the correct range on the Leupold’s turret, and then was pleased and relieved to drop the 450-lb. antelope.
Mostly we were shooting Mossberg Patriot Predators (mossberg.com), the first production rifle chambered for 7 mm PRC. Purely a utilitarian sporter, it pairs a molded synthetic stock with a 24" fluted barrel that’s threaded at the muzzle. Added features include a stainless bolt with spiral fluting and a factory-installed Picatinny rail. For me, the 6-lb., 8-oz., package balanced well in field positions and cycled the PRC’s stubby brass with zero hitches. Mossberg’s proprietary Lightning Bolt Action blade-in-safety trigger is user-adjustable, but came set at the low end of its range at 2 lbs., 2 ozs. You feel it engage, but then there’s no compression, grittiness or overtravel—just what I want for big game. Ideally, I’d like the barrel to be a bit stouter, but came away convinced it would never cost a hit, providing I shot straight. Priced around $600, it appears to be the least expensive of the initial wave of rifles in 7 mm PRC. Comparatively, it delivers great value.
Leupold (leupold.com) co-hosted the safari and duly sent each participant out with a full set of optics. My VX6-HD 3-18X 50 mm riflescope proved to be a technical marvel armored in good-old Leupold toughness. Its Custom Dial System reticle/turret, calibrated specifically to our loads, was so intuitively marked, it would be nearly impossible to misuse it. Zero on “1” (for example), and then dial through the 25-yard witness marks to your shot distance, up to a whopping 1,500 yards. If things are happening fast, you can alternately default to descending compensating crosshairs, so long as you know their respective zeroes. There’s never a need to “hold over the back,” nor to carry along a paired device to confirm the math. And I would be remiss not to mention the internal level, which, via the illuminated reticle, tells you when the rifle is properly aligned, a feature that is super helpful when mounting the scope and helpful again when shouldering your gun. Likewise, we used Leupold’s RX-2800 TBR/W rangefinder and BX-5 Santiam HD 10X 50 mm binocular, both of which proved to be utterly brilliant.
Clearly few game animals worldwide will be too much for the 7 mm PRC. As is often said about lesser cartridges, this one is suited for all North American big game, save the larger bears. Some may even think that’s too arbitrary if a good controlled-expansion bullet is involved, but the north-country bear outfitters I know don’t want clients showing up with a 7 mm, no matter how new and improved. A fairer question would be: Will the 7 mm PRC do a better job on elk than the 6.5 mm PRC? Just like hunters asked about the 6.5 mm PRC’s edge over 6.5 mm Creedmoor. Again I’d say “yes,” though less emphatically this time around.