(Dangerous Game Rifles Part 1): The .375 and .416 Ruger African

Updated: Jun 27, 2021

What are the clever and non-clever design theories and features for a DG bolt rifle action?

Endless and useless discussions take place around forums and camp fires and campfire forums about so called "controlled feed" vs. "push feed" actions. While the feeding of the cartridge is of some concern, the rapid controlled extraction of the spent case or a live round is of greater concern to the dangerous game hunter. The big claw on Mauser type actions is for a strong grip for positive extraction of the fired case or of a live round.

Equally important: dangerous game cartridges have considerably more recoil than your standard 30-06 or 7x64 Brenneke, and this is where the first time buyer should focus his interest: How do the interfacing surfaces of the action and the stock manage the snappy recoil impulse of a .375 H&H or .375 Ruger without cracking?

Here is a quote from a desperate post in a well known Africa hunting forum - only one of quite a number about the wooden stocked .375 Ruger African cracking its pistol grip behind the tang:

"Unfortunately I am 10 days out from my hunt in Zim and just cracked the rifle stock on my Ruger MKII Hawkeye .375 African (wood stock) right behind the safety tang and extending into my palm grip.

I am in need of urgent repairs (or maybe I should say replacement) and was looking at the Hogue stocks from Cabelas. They list that the full length bedding blocks fit the long action such as the 30-06 but will it work for the .375 african barrel? Is the .375 a bigger barrel than the standard LA? Also, if the barrel does fit do the hogues drop in nicely or do they need to be custom fitted and trimmed around the trigger tang and safety tang?

Has anybody had this happen to them and does Ruger back this sort of problem for the wood stock? Only problem with Ruger is I dont have time to send the gun to them.

Any help would be greatly appreciated!!!"

This issue with the Hawkeye African to crack its stock was (is) commonplace and a look at the well made Ruger M77 action shows some interesting design differences compared to other actions that were dedicated to dangerous game hunting. Immediately it needs to be said that the fact that the M77 action being machined from a cast - and not a proper steel billet has nothing to do with this problem.

Look objectively a little closer at that circled area, compared to a pre-64 Winchester M70:

Immediately evident is that the Ruger has about 50% less vertical length to the recoil lug than the Winchester, and also the lug is not the full width of the receiver. That means the bearing area against the wood is already only about 40% of that of the Winchester. That means the horisontal pressure impulse per square mm onto the wood from the same recoil impulse is more than doubled. The die for recoil damage to the wood is cast right here. The Ruger wood at the tang needs to withstand more than double the recoil impulse force per square millimeter than the Winchester as shown in the bottom photo.

That means that the inevitable, eventual compression of the wood at the main lug is increased by the repeated hammering it receives from the recoil lug. Added to this the nett backwards movement of the action in the stock when the angled main scew is repeatedly torqued to its design figure is increased. This will inrease the preloaded force that the tang has into the pistol grip interface, and the tang now becomes the main recoil impact absorbing point into the wood.

As the wood behind the recoil lug is slowly but increasingly more compressed the action is further and further pulled to the rear by the angled screw in order to achieve the same tightening torque value, which increases the preloaded force by the tang onto the the pistol grip wood. That is exactly where it cracks.

Here is a M77 .223 that cracked in the same position. This means that recoil alone is not so much the issue: the rearward pull by the angled scew in itself compresses the wood against which the recoil lug is pulled. Hard recoil only adds to the problem.

This is a .22-250 that cracked in the same manner:

(can not load the image, shall try again later)

So, how does one prevent the wood from being compressed by the rearward pull of the small recoil lug in order to prevent the tang from pressing too hard into the pistol grip? The obvious answer is to reinforce the wood with glass or epoxy where the main recoil lug presses against it.

Ruger will never do this because that will be an acknowledgement that the angled main screw was a poorly conceived idea - so they opted to install another support by the tested principle of a cross bolt. The outside diameter of the screw head visually instills confidence. Appearances impress... (if the slot in the scew could just be set nicely horisontal..)

That modification did nothing to prevent the .375s to crack the pistol grip. Why? Here is the cross bolt used by Ruger. The image was forwarded to me by site member Tom, with his opinion. It set my mind working:

This bare screw fits inside the round hole through the stock which acts as an added recoil bearing surface . Consider the actual little radial surface on that bolt which is presented against the wood. It is virually useless to prevent movement of the action into the wood. The acting "lug" surface is way too small. No wonder the .375s kept on cracking up.

Here is the cross bar used on all European and locally built Mauser type actions:

The large flat surface of the Mauser cross bar is presented against the wood. Effective surface prevention of getting impressed into the wood as opposed to the final arc of the radius of the Ruger cross "bolt" is immediately evident.

So, Ruger doubled the small effectiveness of the cross-bolt-acting-as-a-lug screw by installing a second small diameter cross bolt (OMG... the alignment of those screw slots!)

What a stunningly beautiful rifle. Problem is - it is the same rifle that cracked its pistol grip 10 days before the owner was to leave for Africa.

Ruger immediately without question replaces any stock cracked in the .375 at no cost to the owner. One can not help but wonder how many owners immediately put their cracked and then newly re-stocked .375 Rugers up for sale?

I would thoroughly glass reinforce the wood at every single interface between action and wood where there is rearward recoil application on the .375 Ruger African.

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