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Every gun nut worth his bruised shoulder has, at some point in his shooting career, had a hankering for a big, booming elephant or buffalo killer.

When I was a kid, one of my shooting and hunting mentors, Ray Morgan, traded off his .270 Winchester for a .458 Winchester. I discovered three things about that big gun. First, it kicked hard, but it wasn’t all that bad. Second, it shot itty, bitty, tiny groups. Well, that’s not true. The groups were big because of the size of the holes in the paper, but they were clustered together tighter than his .270 ever shot. Third, shooting it was a blast.

Every time we went to the range, that .458 would come out, and we’d shoot gongs offhand, giggling and laughing the whole time. The sound a big bullet makes hitting steel plates is inspiring. People would watch in awe as the muzzle rolled up to a 45-degree angle in recoil.

Ray never went to Africa. A poor man, he eventually traded the .458 off so he could buy a different gun for his shooting. But for the couple of years he owned that rifle, he used it to shoot running jackrabbits.

Most of us will never hunt cape buffalo or elephant, but that doesn’t mean we don’t want to own a dangerous-game gun. They have plenty of practical uses … shooting dangerous kitchen appliances, for example.

OVERKILL?

He would laugh and smile at me, pointing out that hares were good practice. Then, he would add, “You never know when you’ll have to shoot an angry Ford and stop it dead, right there.”

We shot holes in engine blocks with solids at a dump in the desert to confirm that the gun could handle that task if the need ever arose. The abandoned appliances also took a beating from those big bullets.

Fast forward some 40 years, and the desire for my own big-bore gun finally got the better of my pocketbook. Gunsmith and friend Jim Gruning of Riverside, California, screwed a .416 Taylor barrel onto a Howa bolt action for me. The gun was transformed from a boring, old 7mm magnum into an elephant-killer.

If you think a small rodent could run down the bore of the rifle barrel, then you are on the right track in selecting an appropriate appliance gun. Here, R.G. Fall is struggling to keep the muzzle-heavy .416 Taylor aligned on a delinquent refrigerator seriously needing execution.

I was ecstatic and showed it off to everyone.

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“Why, in heaven’s name would you need a .416 Taylor?” A hunting buddy asked when I showed him my latest gun project. He rolled a cartridge around in his fingers.

“Appliances,” I said authoritatively, but with tongue in cheek. He and I both knew I would never go to Africa or Australia to shoot elephants or buffalo, but I remembered my days at that desert dump with Ray. “This gun will knock a charging refrigerator back onto its haunches.”

I bring the .416 out anytime someone starts talking about recoil or to ring the 200-yard gong at a local range so even deaf shooters can hear the bullet smack. I have been known to shoot ground squirrels and jackrabbits with the gun, but if the truth were told, kills with high-velocity varmint rifles are more dramatic.

The .416 Taylor is just a necked-down .458 Winchester Magnum. It has heft and feels nice in the hand … but when you pull the trigger, it doesn’t feel so nice on your shoulder.

QUALIFYING AS “BIG BORE”

How big do you have to go to have an honest-to-gosh big-bore appliance gun?

For me, the standard is simply that you’d have to have a gun big enough to be adequate for African buffalo or elephant.

I know famous hunters of the past have used everything down to a 7mm Mauser for elephants, but most hunters draw the bottom line at the .375 H&H Magnum. And most like bigger.

So, that’s what I go with—something that really doesn’t have any practical hunting use in the lower 48 states. (Not that you couldn’t use them; they will all kill jackrabbits and ground squirrels handily. I have proven that.)

Ideally, if you have lots of money, a .470 Nitro Express double rifle would be ideal. I have written a novel about a slightly deranged man who creates a traffic jam on Southern California’s Interstate 5 in downtown Los Angeles. He shoots vehicles (not people, mind you) to a standstill with a bandolier filled with .470 cartridges and a classic Wesley Richards double rifle, jumping from hood to rooftop of dead cars to stop those still charging and creating a horrific traffic jam. (He, of course, is an endearing character.)

So, I don’t think guns such as a .338 Win Mag or even an esoteric 9.3×62—both of which I have and consider legitimate

The author reacts to the .416 Taylor in full recoil after shooting a murderous toaster. That’s not a grimace; it’s a look of sheer joy. (OK. That’s a lie.)

hunting guns for elk and wild hogs—would qualify here. You need a big gun. A .375 H&H is the smallest that qualifies. A .458 Winchester or .458 Lott would be better. A .460 Weatherby will strike awe into your hunting and shooting friends and dislocate shoulders on the smaller ones.

The new and already-dying .375 Ruger might be a gun you could pick up for a song. If you could find a .416 Rigby, that would be cool, and it might even be easier to find than a .416 Ruger or .416 Remington. And, of course, any of the classic double cartridges would be wonderful. Ruger made a run of No. 1 single shots in .404 Jeffrey a few years ago, and Hornady still loads ammo. You get what we’re after here.

I’m sorry, but anything that will run through an AR platform doesn’t qualify. It has to be big, but a semiauto mitigates recoil, so it’s cheating. The .50 BMG and its class of rounds also don’t make the list, because it’s just to big to carry for hunting.

My requirement is also that it can’t have porting to reduce recoil. We are shooting these guns to feel the recoil, experience the boom and muzzle rise of a big bore, and see the dust cloud rise from where the bullet strikes Mother Earth.

I went with the .416 Taylor, because it’s as odd as my desire to own a boomer. The wildcat round is merely a .458 Winchester necked down to shoot .416-inch-diameter bullets. With hot loads, it will match the classic .416 Rigby’s ballistics without needing to go to the bigger bolt action required for that old round. It will hurl a 400-grain bullet at more than 2,300 fps, and my standard appliance load is a 350-grain bullet at 2,550 fps.

OK; I admit that it’s on the bottom end of the boomer list, but after torching off 10 or so of my reloads, you would agree it meets the criteria.

Every gun nut worth his bruised shoulder has, at some point in his shooting career, had a hankering for a big, booming elephant or buffalo killer.

NOTES ON RECOIL

I have a confession to make: My .416 Taylor weighs 15 pounds.

When the gun was first being planned, gunsmith Jim Gruning suggested that an average-weight hunting rifle might kick a little.

I did the math. A little? In a gun that weighed the same as my brother-in-law’s 9-pound .308 Winchester, the .416 would have more than three times the recoil of the .308. As a result, we left the .416 barrel long and heavy.

The laminated wood stock we used was also pretty heavy. I was happy with the finished gun at 15 pounds, knowing it would help absorb some of the jolt.

The first time I shot it was to fireform some brass. After three shots in fairly quick succession, I grinned at a hunting partner who was at the range with me.

“It’s not that b-b-ba-ad,” I said.

“You realize you just stuttered, right?” He smirked, refusing to shoot the gun.

Most big bores are incredibly accurate— that is, if you can squeeze off three shots without flinching. This 1¼-inch group was shot with the author’s .416 Taylor. It would have been a three-shot cloverleaf, but the author’s anticipation of the recoil for that last shot didn’t do the group any good.

I’m not great at math and probably even less great after shooting big guns a lot over the years and jolting around my few functioning brain cells. Yet, math can be illustrative.

You can download the formula for computing “free recoil” (go to the SAAMI [Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers Institute] website: www.saami.org). I don’t know who came up with that term, but recoil is never “free.” You pay for it one way or the other—scope cuts over the eye, nosebleed, deep bruises, permanent flinch, mild concussion… the list goes on and on.

For example, my .416 Taylor, when loaded with 350-grain bullets at 2,550 fps, has about 32 pounds of recoil in my 15-pound rifle. If the gun weighed a more-normal 11 pounds, it would have around 43 pounds of recoil. It would have 53 pounds of backward wallop in a 9-pound rifle.

By way of comparison, a basic 9-pound .308 shooting a 168-grain bullet at 2,700 fps has about 15 pounds of recoil, while a .223 shooting a 55-grain bullet at 3,100 fps—also from a 9-pound gun—has just a little more than 3 pounds of recoil. My belches have more recoil than that.

I own a 9-pound .338 Winchester Magnum that is less pleasant to shoot than my 15-pound .416 Taylor. With standard 250-grain bullets at 2,700 fps, that .338 has nearly 36 pounds of recoil. But on appliances, the .338 is a firecracker, compared to my .416 stick of dynamite.

Appliance guns usually have big bullets.
These .416 slugs—a 350-grain Speer (top) and 400-grain cast bullet (bottom)—dwarf an entire .223 Remington cartridge (middle).

Some guns are just painful. I will never forget the time I was at a friend’s ranch in Montana, along with several other gun fanatics. My buddy had traded for a .460 Weatherby that had

been built as a true lightweight safari rifle. The gun weighed just a tick more than 8 pounds with a scope. The basic factory Weatherby .460 will weigh 9½ to 10 pounds. Add to that another 1½ pounds or more with a scope and heavy, steel mounts. So, figure 11 to 12 pounds total weight. Even at that weight, the recoil is fearsome (in my book). No one in their right mind would shoot an 8-pound .460 Weatherby with full power loads.

Yet, there we were, out at the range my friend had built adjacent to his barn. The range had what he called three “charging buffalo” gongs that were set up at 50, 35 and 20 yards, stair-stepping toward the firing line. The game we had been playing while shooting with a .375 H&H was simple: Load three rounds in the bolt gun, and then shoot the three gongs as fast as possible, farthest to closest, from the offhand position. We used a stopwatch. If accomplishing this task took more than 10 seconds, or you missed a gong, you could consider yourself “dead” from the “charging buffalo.”

The lightweight .460 Weatherby was there, and ammunition was on the table. One of our friends picked up the .460, loaded three rounds, one in the chamber, and stepped up to the line.

No, really: The .416 Taylor cartridge is that big. There is no illusion here caused by a wide-angle lens. And yes, the author’s brother-in-law and long-time friend, R.G. Fann, both have enormous hands.

Someone started the stopwatch when he snapped the rifle up to his shoulder. The gun roared once, staggering the shooter backward two steps, the muzzle rising to nearly a 90-degree angle, and the farthest buffalo gong swung backward sharply.

There was no effort to cycle another round. The shooter simply rolled his shoulder a couple of times (presumably to make sure it was still in its socket) and then looked at the rifle for a long time. The stopwatch kept whirring away. Finally, the gun’s owner—my buddy—stepped up to the shooter.

“You’re dead!” he said. “The buffalo has been dancing on your body and tossing you on his horns.”

“I made a choice,” the shooter said, not looking up from the rifle. “Death by buffalo or from shooting this damned gun again. I chose the buffalo.”

If you can fit the tip of your pinky finger into the bore of the rifle, it’s usually a good sign the gun will kick the stuffing out of you and earn you an honorary membership in the Gun Loons Hall of Fame.

We all shot the .460 at the “charging buffalo” that day, but the rest of us did it with light, cast bullet loads that kicked about like a .308.

You will want to shoot your boomer all the time once you have one. And you will keep some full-power loads on hand to occasionally torch off. Most of the time, however, you will shoot light loads to tame the recoil and save money (and to stop the possibility of a nosebleed and reduce flinching).

But whatever you decide to buy or put together, a big-bore boomer will earn you a spot in the Gun Loon’s Honorary Hall of Fame.

“I made a choice,” the shooter said, not looking up from the rifle. “death by buffalo or from shooting this damned gun again. I chose the buffalo.”

DISSECTING THE .416 TAYLOR

The .416 Taylor is a wildcat cartridge that has been around nearly as long as its parent round, the .458 Winchester, which was introduced in 1956. It was even rumored to have been considered as a factory cartridge by Winchester.

According to John Wootters, the .416 was developed by Bob Chatfield-Taylor in the late 1960s or early 1970s for African hunting. I decided it would be fine for shooting dangerous appliances in this century.

My rifle was built by Jim Gruning, a Riverside, California, gunsmith who now specializes in custom tactical rifles and accessories—mostly for military and law enforcement. It was made up on a standard long-action Howa 1500 with a magnum bolt face, and it wears a 27-inch Walther barrel that has very little taper at the muzzle.

This is author Matthews’ “appliance gun”—a 15-pound .416 Taylor made up on a Howa 1500 action. Lifting this brute provides a good workout over the course of a shooting session.

The gun will shoot 1-inch groups at 100 yards with full-power loads—that is, if I don’t start flinching. Most of my reduced loads with cast bullets shoot around 2 inches at that distance.

The .416 Taylor is still a wildcat cartridge (sort of), but you can get factory-loaded ammunition from Norma and a number of smaller custom loaders; and brass is available from Norma, Quality Cartridge and Jamison. It can also be made—and much more cheaply—by necking down the .458 Winchester or necking up the .338 Winchester to .416.

I use Hornady Custom Grade New Dimension dies, and the tapered expander will accomplish either mission in one pass. Unfortunately, these dies have been discontinued. Dies are still available from RCBS, including one with a tapered expander, and Lee makes runs of .416 Taylor Pacesetter dies from time to time. In addition, many mail-order sources have them in stock.

I shoot mostly 350-grain bullets—either Barnes Tipped Triple Shocks, Speer Mag Tips or cast lead bullets with gas checks. Cast lead bullets are available from Montana Bullet Works and Western Bullet Company (as well as some others). There is a wide range of jacketed .416 slugs available from makers around the world in both solid and expanding configurations, and they range in weight from 340 to 450 grains.


 

Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the July 2017 print issue of Gun World Magazine.