Wildcatting: Classic Pig Basher!
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- Last updated: 04/02/2017
With wild boar hunting becoming ever more popular in this country, with it seems a growing populations spreading steadily across the UK as well as the pure continental boar drives, the classic double rifles used by the European hunters are having a revival of interest of late too.
This also applies to cartridges they shoot. The 9.3x74R is an old timer compared to many modern calibres, but is still capable of good performance today, especially with modern propellants and bullets. The 9.3x74R is a calibre that harks back to the start of the 1900s and was a new version of the original 9.3x72R but using smokeless powder and not that black burning malarkey! The R stands for rimmed, as it was originally made for multiple barrel rifles, with the rim controlling both headspace and ejection.
It is definitely the domain of the double or single rifle designs, due to its large rimmed case and other than many European guns only Valmet/Tikka (and Ruger’s No1 for a short period) are chambered for it, that I have used. It’s one of those cartridges that is often over looked but provides good ballistics and is actually mild-mannered to shoot. It produces lower pressures, 49300 psi, than the semi rimmed 9.3x62 or 9.3x 64 cases but these are better suited to bolt action rifles anyway. If you want a traditional classic round for an all round African plains game safari, the 9.3x74R is more than capable.
It’s a long case at 2.941” and a cartridge overall length (COL) of 3.721”. It has a very slow, long tapered case, unlike the 9.3x72R and has a suitably long neck to support the big fat 9.3mm or 0.366” bullets.
Most barrels will be 24” but some are shorter on double rifles for boar use, regardless of dimensions a 1 in 14” rifling twist rate is a standard form to stabilise bullets up to 320-grains.
Water capacity of the case is 83-grains with 67-grains useable when the bullet is seated and it has a preference for medium burn rate powders such as Vit N135 to N140 or RL15 and Varget. Although I had some good results with RL19 too!
Bullet choice is really hovering around the 285-grains weight; however, weights from 193 like the JFP S&B to the 320-grain Woodleigh RNSP are also available. These big slow-moving, relatively, high sectional density projectiles penetrate deep and deliver a lot of kinetic energy inside the chest cavity and to the vitals with little meat damage. Great for boar or woodland stags alike.
Doubles are a perfect match for the big rimmed case and as such afford a reliable and heavy hitting combination. I have used a set of 9.3x74R barrels on a Tikka 512 double over and under rifle, which also doubles as a shotgun and combination shotgun/rifle dependent on which barrel combination you use.
I also really like the Fabarm Asper, another over and under double instead of the traditional side by side configuration. Fabarm from Italy are famous for their full range of shotguns and now offer a dedicated double express rifle.
This new Asper double rifle looks similar to Fabarm’s Axis shotgun and there is a fixed barrel configuration with express sighting system, twin independent ejectors and three choices of finish. The Prestige is the premium model with superbly figured walnut stocks, deep engraving with a silver nitrate finish and comes complete with a leather case. The other two models have identical metal working with a Titanium finished action and less ornate engraving. The differences are in the wood finish, the oiled version as it suggests has a nice traditional oiled finish to the walnut stock. Whilst the Triwood uses a wood stock but is over-laid with synthetic high figured pattern wood ‘transfer’.
Barrels are chambered in a choice of: 30-06, .30R Blaser, 8x57JRS and 9.3x74R and all are of mono-bloc construction with each tube being 21.75” long. They are joined from the muzzle and back towards the chamber end by an 11” rib and rifles are factory-regulated to shoot to a given point of aim at a set distance. However, and unlike some other doubles, there’s no method for the shooter to re-regulate other than changing the impact point that both barrels shoot via the open sights.
The fore sight has a contrasting red coloured fibre optic bead with the ability to adjust its height and therefore elevation via a stepped Allen key. The rear U-notch is windage-adjustable, so it’s possible to adjust the point of aim to sit between the two points of impact.
MAK offers a scope mount option too that simply attaches to the receiver via twin locating clamps and a quick release lever, a bit like a Blaser. It’s available in either Weaver-type rail or standard 1” or 30mm ring sets you can opt for a low powered scope for boar or a fast handling red dot sight as you wish (see tables).
The Asper had been regulated at the factory with RWS 9.3x74R Universal 19 gram (293-grain) bullets. I could only get RWS 18.5g or 285-grain factory ammo and Norma 285 grain Alaska soft points. This weight is pretty standard for the 9.3mm or 0.366”, as its girth needs a reasonable weight to give a decent length and profile with enough bearing surface to shoot and stabilise correctly.
Norma also make a lighter load of 232-grain using the Vulcan bullet that has a velocity of 2560 fps for 3377 ft/lbs energy; whereas Norma offer alternative bullet types to the 285- grain weight with additional Oryx or Plastic tip designs, dependent on game needed to be tackled. Sellier & Bellot also have a good 285-grain load with a soft point design, having a muzzle velocity of 2290 fps and 3324 ft/lbs energy.
With the 21.75” tubes, the Norma 285-grain bullets shot 2205 fps for 3078 ft/lbs energy. The RWS 285-grain load shot at 2221 fps for 3123 ft/lbs, so a 75-100 fps drop from factory quoted due to the shorter barrels. As the 285-grain bullets are the norm, I started with a load of 62-grains RL19 with the 286-grain (they had to be different) Hornady bullet! But best accuracy came with the top load of 65-grains of the same powder, 2312 fps and 3396 ft/lbs energyvery useful. The Speer 270-grainer sped along at 2357fps and generated 3336 ft/ lbs, another good performer. Although the Nosler was the fastest and lightest at 2409 fps from a 250-grain Ballistic Tip, the Asper did not like this weight. This Asper was regulated for the heavier bullets and so lighter loads would be better in say a single shot rifle like the old Ruger No1.
The best way to shoot a double rifle is not really off a bench, unless you put your hand under the forend, as you need to let it ride in the shoulder for best accuracy. I shot the Asper off some three-legged shooting sticks at 50 yards with the open sights provided to allow the rifle to ‘ride’ with the recoil. Felt recoil was quite manageable for such a light rifle and came straight back rather than leaping up into your cheek. In fact my wife could easily shoot this gun!
The best groups came from the Hornady 286-grain bullets and the RL19 top load with two shots from both barrels grouping into 1.25”, very good for me and open sights. Least accurate were the lighter makes, this Asper likes pills in the 270-286-grain range, so the Nosler 250-grain Ballistic Tip’s, usually a good shooter, only managed two shots from both barrels an inch apart and then two inches between the top and bottom tubes.
Double rifles are not for everyone and big calibres too have a particular niche but the Fabarm Asper is a trim and nice handling, close quarters gun. I was impressed in the perceived lack of recoil and the accuracy with the right loads, i.e. the heavier 286-grain Hornadys in particular, shot very well. It’s an old fashioned, long looking case, (rather like me!) but when push comes to shove, it still performs admirably, although bullet choice and weights are a bit limited.
Fabarm Asper: A Braithwaites 0161 485 1199
Norma and RWS: RUAG 01579 362319
Reloading dies: www.ch4d.com Reloading Supplies
Reloading components: Norman Clark 01788 579651
Quickload Ballistics program: JMS Arms 07771 962121 www.quickload.co.uk
Hornady, Reloader powder, dies: Edgar Brothers 01625 613177