.500 Jefferey

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Paraphrasing the great John Taylor to conclude, the .500 Jeffery ‘is immensely powerful, yet very easy and pleasant to shoot’. 

My first taste of a ‘big calibre’ dappled at the fringes as my 19-year-old self absorbed the unapologetic recoil of a .375 H&H for the first time. Though it is undoubtedly a versatile and acclaimed calibre, it cannot truly be classed as a ‘stopper’. To venture into the romantic realms of the truly big African calibres requires a shoulder of steel and an unflinching steadiness in the face of inevitable recoiling punishment. Here, I present to you the iconic .500 Jeffery.

Spawning from German origin, the .500 Jeffery started life as the 12.7×70. Designed by Richard Schuller, it was first commercially advertised in 1923 as the ‘Schuller Model Jumbo Rifle in the Schuller calibre .500’. Describing the calibre in British nomenclature instead of the normal German metric system was unusual, and is possibly what caught the attention of W J Jeffery around 1927. That year it launched as the .500 Jeffery, joining the already established line of Jeffery’s cartridges. In subsequent years this gave many people the impression that this legendary calibre had been the brainchild of Jeffery. This was not so.

An interesting quirk in the design resulted from Schuller building his first rifles on standard Mauser 98 actions, using the large volume of surplus military rifles available. To fit the smaller bolt face, the case design had to be altered, re-batting the rim. This was seen by a number of notable African hunters, including Tony Sanchez Arino, as a considerable compromise.

In fact, there was a serious reason for the misgivings towards this change. Owing to the undersized rim, the bolt face would occasionally slip over the case when trying to chamber a round from the staggered column magazine of the K98. The result of this was inevitably a jam, as the bolt face cut a groove down the side of the round. Schuller solved this problem with an extended single column mag, but sacrificed the controlled feed with further chamber modifications, according to Tony Sanchez Arino.

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Pulling the calibre apart exposes ballistics most UK hunters will struggle to fathom. Packing a 570-grain Woodleigh soft point, the modest 2,200fps MV smacks home a staggering 5,050ft/lb at 100 yards. The trajectory is also surprisingly manageable, dropping only 2.4in at 150 yards for a 100-yard zero. It will fall to -7.1in at 200 yards, but it’s important to remember the situations and species being hunted with this goliath of the calibre world. It’s not intended for rolling over dik dik at 250 yards. For the professional hunter with a client, the .500 will doubtless be launched at around 20-30 feet, considerably closer if Murphy is on watch. It is unquestionably a stopping calibre, and is the kind of companion you want to be wielding if you’re in the sticky stuff. It’s just up to the hunter not to miss.

For the amateur dangerous game hunter, this will be too much gun. Lighter, more comfortable calibres will likely be more accurate and useful. You will be comforted, however, to have a back-up .500 Jeffery in your corner just in case. Paraphrasing the great John Taylor to conclude, the .500 Jeffery ‘is immensely powerful, yet very easy and pleasant to shoot’. Coming from the godfather of African calibres, the endorsement says all that’s needed.  BP

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