Straight Pull Safari with the Strasser RS14 Evolution

When you’re traveling halfway around the world for the hunt of a lifetime, you need to consider exactly what rifle to choose, especially when you are planning to hunt a variety of game.   I own several rifles in my personal collection, unfortunately, most are not ideal for African plains game. The antelope and other game of the South African plains we intended to hunt ranged from about 150 to 1000 pounds.

First priority, the rifle has to be reliable, a rifle failure of any type resulting in a lost opportunity that may never come again would be heartbreaking. A magazine not feeding or a trigger or action failure would be devastating.

Next, it must be capable of fast follow-up shots, if needed. Whether to protect yourself or keep from losing an animal; it has to be fast. The dangerous game of Africa makes double rifles the fastest choice, but for non-threatening game straight-pull rifles come in a strong second.

Additionally, accuracy is crucial, maybe not match-grade accuracy but at least excellent hunting use accuracy since you can’t always get as close to the wary game as you would like and many of the species are herd animals so you have multiple noses, eyes, and ears all trying to detect danger.

Finally, what cartridge does it need to be chambered in? It has to be powerful enough to take the largest animal at the maximum distance expected, but let’s not go overboard and carry a dangerous game elephant stopper if it’s not really needed.

Enlarged bolt handle and short movement needed to unlock bolt are evident here

So, what was the answer for this trip? I had made an error on my last African hunt in 2019, and taken my lever action Marlin 45-70. I mistakenly thought the hunting on that trip was going to be closer range heavier brush hunting and ended up having to take shots out to 365 yards. If it hadn’t been for the Nightforce 1-8x scope on the rifle that experience could have been a terrible failure.

Having the benefit of one hunt under my belt I intended to choose more wisely this trip. Terrain and plans change quickly in Africa so take a versatile platform that is capable for both extremes that may be encountered, brush or open plains. Hunting waterholes can always be done with a short-range gun but then you are at the mercy of waiting for the game to come to you as opposed to being out tracking it.

Several months prior to my trip, I had recently completed a review article on a Strasser RS14 Evolution rifle chambered in 6.5 PRC, and it had performed flawlessly on the range. It had also shown itself to be an amazing work of craftsmanship, precision, and accuracy.

The 6.5 PRC fit the bill as a medium-sized magnum cartridge, capable of taking the Wildebeest and Kudu with good shot placement. The smaller game would be no issue at all for the 143 grain Hornady ELD-X bullets. It would also give me great performance at distance with its sub-moa accuracy and flat trajectory.

Fitted with a Leupold Mark5HD 3.5-18x scope the rifle would be able to shoot in closer brush or out at extended distances, the illuminated reticle may also be needed if we were hunting right up to sunset or at night, which is done on some species.

This Strasser was also very fast to cycle and had an amazing trigger that contributes to its excellent accuracy and that always helps when in the field hunting. So straight to South Africa it went on my second hunt with Marupa Safaris.

First day success with the Strasser on a large Blue Wildebeest

The first morning in the Limpopo camp we divided up and were off to the fields in pairs to begin our adventure. We all knew what we wanted but you never know what you will see in Africa or when. The first thing on my list that we came upon was a good-looking group of Wildebeest.

The large Blue Wildebeest was in a small group moving away from us as we stalked in. Unfortunately, it had seen us and was facing Dolf, my Professional Hunter (PH), and I. The only shot available was straight on into the chest of the animal. We waited patiently but the group was growing nervous and was about to bolt, so Dolf gave me the green light for taking the shot from the traditional African shooting sticks.

The bull reared backwards as it absorbed all the energy of the Hornady projectile, which at the moment of the shot I was considering to be almost miniscule compared to the size of the Wildebeest in my scope.

The animal went wild like a bull coming out of the chute at a rodeo event. It made a tight circle running around as the rest of the group quartered away to our right. I had the action cycled before the trophy had moved 50 feet (wow this rifle is fast), but Dolf had me hold the second shot as he watched all the animals run and moved in for a better view.

We (meaning Dolf with me following) tracked the Wildebeest about a hundred and fifty yards and it was already laying down. The big bull got up as we approached presenting a quartering shot and I put a final round through the heart and lungs to complete the morning’s hunt. I had the first trophy on my list and the Strasser/ Leupold / Hornady combo had made it easy, though not without a little adrenaline right after the shot.

Strasser heading out on another morning hunt

Our hunting packages with Marupa Safaris all began as the basic package of three animals – a Wildebeest, an Impala, and Warthog, and then we all added animals from there. I and one other were on the hunt for a trophy Kudu, while the rest added Nyala.

I loaned the Strasser to several other hunters who hadn’t brought their own rifles to let them check it out and share in the success of the Strasser. All who handled it, cycled it, or took game with it were impressed with super smooth action and amazing trigger.

The hunter below took this large Warthog from about 200 yards as it was leaving a waterhole we were approaching. That old tusker looked like he had fought his way out of a few scrapes in his lifetime.

Big Warthog taken by the 6.5 PRC Strasser

Every day and night in South Africa brought new experiences, challenges, and breathed new life into the group of hunters. We hunted by day, and told the others about our day around the fire each night. No TV, no worries about the internet, the news or the rest of the world, just reawakening one’s soul with friends in this majestic, ancient land.

Sunsets in the hunting camp of Africa seem to be mean more than in the hustle and bustle of life

A fantastic Impala was the next thing Dolf found for the Strasser and I, though getting close to one of these while it’s in a group is almost impossible, so the Strasser would have to shoot just a little further.

The group was out in open terrain with broken brush, a few trees, and some termite mounds allowing us some cover as we tried to stalk in. The horns on the one we were after were long and they don’t get that way from ignoring danger.

They couldn’t see us when we were moving behind the cover but they knew we were there and kept moving further away. We moved to intercept and finally caught the largest Impala clear of the brush so I could take a shot.

 Taking a quick rest on the sticks I held the Leupold’s crosshair .2 mil for the range and pressed back into the 3 lb. Strasser trigger.  Two hundred yards away the Impala dropped in its tracks. The Impala had presented a better shot than the Wildebeest and was much smaller so not a problem for the rifle, cartridge, or scope. But the biggest challenge was yet to come, finding a big Kudu and making that shot.

Author dropped this Impala on the open ground of Limpopo province South Africa

The Kudu would be the true test of my Strasser choice and shooting ability. A larger Kudu can be up to 1000 pounds and you never know how far away it will be or what type of shot you will be presented with. I was starting to wish I had brought a larger caliber after watching Wildebeest bolt and run.

With the Strasser’s quick change barrel system it wouldn’t have taken but a minute to change the gun to a 300 Win Mag or similar larger bore cartridge, providing I could have gotten a barrel in time for the trip.

The last thing on earth I wanted to do was to hit a trophy Kudu and see it vanish into the African bush never to be found except by leopards and vultures. No problem, I got this, it’s all about shot placement and I have excellent equipment.

Beautiful coat and huge neck of Kudu taken with Strasser RS14 Evolution

The Land Cruiser dropped us off, and Dolf and I quietly walked into an area to try to find a trophy Kudu. While driving the property we had seen several mature Kudu but none outstanding, the big ones tend to be alone and harder to find.

We walked, stalked, waited, glassed the terrain, stalked up on waterholes, all to no avail. Then later in the day as evening was approaching Dolf saw a lone Kudu heading our way. A thorough glassing with the bino’s confirmed it had a nice set of horns, but it would have to get closer to see just how good it was.

We moved downwind and off to the side of the anticipated path and waited. As it got closer Dolf confirmed it was a shooter and for me to be ready. As it got within 100 yards I could see parts of it coming through the brush, it was definitely a trophy worth taking.

We had chosen our spot pretty well as far as wind and distance, it would have little chance to smell us or see us until it hit a break in the brush where I could take the shot. But we were closer to the Kudu’s path than I would have liked, and I was afraid it would see us.

It looked like a monster slowly ambling through the brush as we remained motionless waiting. Then its nose and eyes passed the brushy cover into the opening, then its neck, then its shoulder, I just needed a few more inches for the shot.

I just knew it was going to see us, I swear 2 ½ feet of this massive beautiful animal with immense horns were past the brush and it still wasn’t far enough for the shot yet. Then it was and I broke a clean offhand shot with the Strasser from 45 yards away.

Authors 55 inch Kudu trophy, Kudu was also delicious for dinner, nothing goes to waste in Africa

I never would have believed something that big could move so fast but it was crashing through brush and small trees trying to escape what was happening. Dolf listened as I cycled another round into the chamber. A few seconds later, Dolf said “It’s down.”

We collected our gear and walked in the direction it had run. Dolf found it about 50 yards into the brush. It was already dead, no need for a follow up shot. The Hornady bullet had found its mark, and I had my trophy Kudu.

It was after dark before help arrived with the Land Cruiser to carry us and the animal back to camp. Dolf joked about hearing leopards or hyenas, but I told him I still had bullets and was ready to fight to keep this one.

Amazing view from the lake and breath taking from the top as well

The rest of the trip was much more relaxed after I had my trophy Kudu. I think I saw one that was bigger when we were hunting on the following days, but it was gone like a ghost with the passing of the Land Cruiser, again it had been all alone at the edge of very thick cover.

We also toured the 3rd largest canyon in the world, relaxing on the beautiful lake at the bottom. So pretty you want to swim but don’t because it isn’t allowed, partly due to the crocodiles and hippos that reside there, and also to preserve the area.

Young spotted hyenas at Kruger National Park, that park is truly still wild

The slick, super-fast action of the Strasser was only needed the one time on the tough old Wildebeest, but it was always ready for the second shot. It cycled so smoothly and almost instinctively while I was hunting.

The accuracy was never even in question, the Strasser put every round exactly where it needed to be on the range and on the animals we hunted. The Leupold was a great choice for the gun and hunting conditions, the low power worked perfectly for the close-range Kudu as evening was approaching and the higher powers allowed me to choose the view on the more distant animals.

The Hornady 6.5 PRC proved more than capable for the 1000-pound Kudu and tough old Wildebeest. The Strasser’s crisp, clean trigger made breaking good shots a breeze. The Strasser with all its features and quick caliber change capability makes an excellent choice when hunting a variety of game. I think two barrels would be all anyone ever needed, though who ever stops at what they need instead of what they want?

The Strasser RS14 Evolution performed flawlessly during our safari and left nothing else to be desired of a hunting rifle. Slick function, reliable feeding, easy carrying, flat shooting and deadly accurate, absolutely perfect. The quick change barrel features make it an even more versatile shooting platform for all game.

For more information, visit Strasser USA

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Strasser’s large ejection ports support right- and left-handed configurations

About the author: Jeff Cramblit is a world-class competitive shooter having won medals at both the 2012 IPSC World Shotgun Championship in Hungary and more recently the 2017 IPSC World Rifle Championship in Russia. He is passionate about shooting sports and the outdoors. He has followed that passion for over 30 years, hunting and competing in practical pistol, 3gun, precision rifle and sporting clays matches. Jeff is intimately familiar with the shooting industry – competitor, instructor, RO, range master, match director. Among his training credits include NRA Instructor, AR-15 armorer, FBI Rifle Instructor, and Officer Low Light Survival Instructor. As a sponsored shooter, Jeff has represented notable industry names such as: Benelli, 5.11 Tactical, Bushnell, Blackhawk, DoubleStar, and Hornady. He has been featured on several of Outdoor Channel’s Shooting Gallery episodes and on a Downrange TV series. Jeff’s current endeavors cover a broad spectrum and he can be found anywhere from local matches helping and encouraging new shooters as they develop their own love of the sport, to the dove field with his friends, a charity sporting clays shoot, backpack hunting public land in Montana, or the winners podium of a major championship.

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