The Bullshooter

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Professional Kangaroo Shooting Part 2

The most popular calibers I've seen used by pro shooters are 222 and 223. A few shooters use larger case calibers like 22-250 and 243, but these are relatively uncommon. You can always tell if the shooter uses anything that big, since you have to yell to hold a conversation.

Each caliber has its pluses and minuses. The 222 is relatively quiet, and does not unduly scare the wildlife. Consequently the roos are not spooked so much, resulting in closer shots. It's also an inherently accurate round. It has to be a dog of a 222 not to hold minute of angle or better. I once shot a Sako 222 that had so much rust pitting inside the barrel it looked like a lunar landscape... guess what? Still shot 1" groups at 100 yards. Most 222 barrels hold up well over 5000 shots, in some cases (using moderate loads and a relatively slow burning powder) 7-8000.
The 223 is not quite so economical to run as far as the powder charge is concerned, but it is possible to find good quality ex-military brass. The extra 30 or 40 yards in effective range can be handy in clear, open country.

The 22-250 has even greater effective range. Not so many pro shooters use this caliber. It could be argued that it's so loud that it needs the extra legs to get out there, since the kangaroos can hear it from miles away and are a little more wary. It also burns out barrels a lot quicker, between 2000 and 3000 shots.

Reloading practices are a little different in Australia. Twenty years ago and more, a company called Simplex manufactured a lightweight turret press (three and six position), designed to take 5/8" threaded dies. This system became wildly popular. Only neck sizers were made for bottle necked cases, since the turret press lacked the rigidity to full length size - although a vice type full length sizer was available (slow but effective). Die size was similar to the old Lyman tong tool dies, but I don't believe they were interchangeable. Pro shooters typically neck size cases until they start to get a little sticky to extract, then full length size.

A typical reloading bench would include a Super Simplex press and some form of standard 7/8"x14 O-frame press pretty much for the full length sizing. The Super Simplex bullet seater is marvelously direct and simple to use. Unlike the clumsy 7/8"x14 seating dies, where you have to balance the bullet on top of the case and hope it doesn't teeter to one side as the ram pushes the case way inside the die, you can hold the bullet on the case mouth all the way to the seating plug, ensuring far more reliably concentric rounds. The other neat feature of the old Super Simplex is an adjustable depth primer seater, so the need for "feel" is not required.

Powder measurement can be a little on the agricultural side. Because many of their reloading benches may be somewhere like the corner of a tractor shed, setting up a set of scales is pointless. Even a slight breeze will upset the readings. I've seen widespread use of the Lee powder scoops, and a lot of cut off cartridge cases with a handle brazed on. These are surprisingly accurate if used with a consistent technique, and of course the load should be mild enough to make it nigh on impossible to overload even with a heaped scoop.

Choice of rifle is always a good way to start an argument among pro shooters. They all have their favorite, as well as their own reasons for their selection. Tikkas are very popular due to their detachable magazine, however the earlier LSA55/65 was more prized for its all-steel construction. Plastic pieces don't last too well in the bush. Sako, although a little pricey, has a slick little action with less bolt lift than the twin lockers. There are a lot of Winchesters in use, despite the long throw of the action even for the shorter shells. In the larger calibers there are still some Parker Hale (Mauser 98 actions) in use. The Brno Fox (CZ) was a cute little rifle, again the detachable magazine was a great feature, although the double set trigger was not always appreciated. Also notable are the Zastava Mini Mauser, Howa (in various brands), Parker Hale Midland, Anschutz in 222 and the Remington 788. The Remington 700 had the disadvantage of so little bolt tolerance that a small amount of sand or grit could lock up the action. I even remember trying to fit the bolt in a brand new rifle, to find a minute piece of packing foam had stuck to the bolt head and would not permit the action to close.

In rifle scopes Tasco World Class took a lot of beating, if only for the unlimited lifetime warranty. I remember this being something of a millstone to the company at one stage, as their manufacturing base moved from Japan to Taiwan to Korea, and finally to China. I've been out of that part of the trade for a few years now, but still see the Tascos widely advertised, so I guess the quality control must have improved.

Since all their shooting is done in the hours of darkness, light gathering is of utmost importance to pro shooters. A surprising number of them used high quality and even higher priced European scopes with a 56mm objective. The 8x56 Kahles was so bright you could almost use it without a spotlight under a full moon. Pecars were popular, and I even saw an occasional Zeiss. Some were so old they had friction screws for adjustments, and were not image-moving (the crosshairs actually moved, so you may be shooting in the bottom corner of the image). But we had a very good instrument repair company in Brisbane who would strip these old scopes completely and clean up the optics to give them a new lease of life.

Lightforce probably owes its existence today to the success of its 100w spotlight system. Originally called Nightforce, they were a remarkably bright light in a very lightweight plastic housing. I remember the sales rep had a set performance where he would throw one of their spotlights along the length of the shop floor as he walked in to prove how tough and durable it was. It was also cheap enough to replace if it got smashed by driving too close under a tree.

But the best light available (and I heard at the time possibly the second best hand held spotlight in the world) was the Nighteater. Made by an eccentric Victorian farmer in his spare time, these had a distinctive orange housing. They would darn near start fires (and would easily melt the vinyl of your car seat if you put it face down too quickly). Smarter pro shooters know the value of a strong beam. If it had one disadvantage, it was that you could easily spot roos that were way past the range of your rifle.

Professional kangaroo shooters have a tough life. To make a good go of it they have to work ridiculously long hours while staying alert. To goof off mentally could result in serious damage to his vehicle, or get him lost with little chance of ever being found - unless cell phone coverage has improved about a million percent. There's also the chance of being wounded by a kangaroo that is still alive... a buck can rip you open from throat to navel if he grabs you with his fore arms and rakes you with his hind legs. One old shooter I knew always carried a stick and a tire lever when he went out to pick up carcasses. If the roo bounded upright he could poke the stick in front of him to give it something to grab with its paws, then conk it on the head with the tire lever. He said he learned this from a scary prior engagement.


  • At 23/4/06 6:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Only in Australia could you find a "rodent" big enough to be lethal to a human.

  • At 26/4/06 6:07 PM, Blogger Z said…

    I liked the 22-250 - a bit loud, but it could really reach out for woodchuck. Mine was a Ruger No. 1V with a 10X Unertl in the old Posa mounts. A bit heavy to carry, but just the thing on a bipod under a big shade tree.

  • At 2/7/09 4:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    ihave been shooting roos since i was ten years old with my dad of course until i was old enough to get licence after wearing out about a dozen slug guns as a young bush boy and endless hours of watching my dad shoot 60 to 70 roos every night weather permiting in the 80s when there were big numbers of roos around i learnt somthing and that something u can not buy at a gun shop that is the art of shooting.when i first started to shoot i would do a number of things wrong first i would lift my head as i fired and he would watch me do it and tell me after that i had to keep my head down and watch the roo fall 2nd thing as i was a keen slug gun kid and worn a few out well the springs anyway i would jerk the trigger and 9 out of 10 would miss there r 2 things i learnt as a teenager from my dear old dad that have made me a very good marksmen.i had it drumed into me me from when i was old enough to understand that if u want a centrefire rifle to shoot roos pigs foxes or what ever chose carefully as he did and chose .sako. and pecar scopes and kahles scopes and madco triggers and timney triggers and all his sakos r heavy barells 222improved.and u know what.i rekon that out of all the calibre the 222 is by far the most acurate and there is not a better light to shoot roos in scrub country then a 150 watt sealed beam in a powerbeam light it has that flood beam affect and the roos like that sort of light from my 20 years of shooting them i have tryed diffrent lights and all ways went back to my 150sb with german made scopes they draw enough light in to see perfectly so i have been taught and by the way my best night shooting .by my always is 128 roos in 8hours that was petfood in the middle of summer as the nights r short due to daylight saving with a 20 kg average old cruiser new they were on there they were shot on irigation country easy to get at.


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