I was slowly stalking along the edge of a rolling South Dakota meadow and spotted a good set of whitetail deer antlers seemingly floating along the skyline directly ahead. A wide rack with eight or more tall, grey tines rose from the yellow, autumn grass only forty yards away. As I stood near a large Ponderosa pine tree to my left, I could see the mature rutting buck was about to step behind a smaller pine only thirty yards away. When he stepped behind the tree, I raised my J.P. Sauer & Sohn Model 3000 drilling to my shoulder, slipped a tang-mounted barrel selector forward, and then pushed the Greener safety down. As the Bavarian, triple-fluted cheek piece snuggled against my face and the sharply pointed post reticle of the 8X Zeiss scope settled low on the buck’s right shoulder, I pushed the front trigger forward to set the four-ounce let-off. At the shot, I expected to see the buck drop. Incredulously, I saw the buck suddenly turn to my left, continue his walking pace, and disappear behind the large pine. He was packing his right leg! “Oh, no,” I thought. “Don’t tell me I broke his leg!”
I pushed the top lever right, broke open the action, removed the spent cartridge from the extractor below the twin, loaded 16 gauge 2 ¾ inch chambers, and inserted a fresh 7x65mm Rimmed handload. After snapping the action closed, I walked forward a few steps and saw my 4X5 buck laying twenty yards away. He was dead.
I signed and validated my tag, performed the ancient, Germanic Waidmannsheil ritual, then conducted my Native American Thanksgiving ceremony. Following lots of picture taking, I dressed the deer. The 154-grain Hornady SST bullet had taken the top of his heart out–no broken bones.
Having lived in Wyoming for more than 38 years, I’ve killed lots of elk, usually two cows each fall. My wife, Carol, and I love the meat. But this was the first deer I’ve taken in more than 25 years. This was really cool because I shot him with a traditional, hand-built European firearm, a real work of art, a model that has been fabricated since 1878.
Like millions of American boys who grew up in the 1940s and ‘50s, I was engrossed with learning as much as I could about guns. But living in a family of very modest means, it would take lots of paper route and part-time job salaries to save up enough to finally acquire inexpensive, used firearms to hunt small game, birds and eventually deer. I devoured Outdoor Life, Sports Afield and Field & Stream. Larry Kohler, Ted Trueblood, Jack O’Connor, Elmer Keith, Warren Page, John Jobson and the like were my heroes. At age 16, I bought my first Stoeger’s Shooters Bible – “The World’s Greatest Gun Book” – the 1958 49th edition. I still have it. On page 44, I admired the Sauer Model 3000 drilling – “The World-Over Top Seller of Them All, The Perfect All-Purpose Game Gun.” The price was $490. It could have been $4.9 million as far as I was concerned!
Like most everybody else, I used up the next fifty years with getting married, raising a family and making a living. With lots of shooting, reloading and hunting thrown in, there was little time left to think about German drillings.
In 1973, we sold our farm, livestock and saddle shop. We packed up our belongings, the four boys ages 3 to 12, two horses and a dog into a station wagon, two-horse trailer and U-Haul truck and moved to Wyoming. To make a living, we bought Caribou Resort, 24 miles west of Buffalo, Wyoming, and started a big-game outfitting business.
After several years, we developed a solid reputation and traveled quite a bit conducting hunting and horse-packing seminars at sport shows and conventions. Rolf Barbian from Wadern, Germany, who had been applying for a Wyoming sheep license with us for 17 years, drew the tag in 2008. After he killed his old, broomed monarch with us, I asked if he would consider hosting Carol and me on a tour of Germany.
Rolf introduced us to many of his long-time hunting buddies during our month-long European vacation. I admired many expensive European guns owned by Rolf and his friends, lots of drillings with hand-made German claw mounts and rail scopes. I still never gave a thought to buying one–too rich for my blood. On our return to Wadern, Rolf took us to visit his friends, Jurgen and Gerda Hensel in Rothenburg, Germany. We spent a most enjoyable hour exploring the Hensel’s combination gun shop, hunting museum and gift shop. As we were leaving, I glanced into the shop window and saw a used J.P. Sauer & Sohn Model 3000 drilling with an 8X Zeiss scope in claw mounts.
I exclaimed to Rolf, “That gun looks really worth the money!” He replied, “Arrre you kidding? The scope alone is worrrrth morrre than the asking prrrice. Also, you won’t have to pay the $500 value added tax which is included in the asking prrrice.” You know the rest–I bought the gun.
My next priority was to obtain ammo. I soon discovered that 16-gauge shotshells and slugs were not as easy to purchase as they were formerly, nor were 7x65R cartridges readily available. I was able to order a variety of 16-gauge ammunition and 7x65R dies from Midway, and found loaded Norma 7x65R ammo. I also found 7x65R brass from a custom ammo shop. I had everything else I needed for handloading except for bullets. The 2007 Hornady reloading manual gave me lots of 7x65R loading data and I selected .284-inch diameter, 154-grain SST bullets with a ballistic coefficient of 0.530.
After the Sauer and ammo were in hand, I was finally ready to see what my new drilling and ammo could do at my range right here at home. I tried inserting the first 7x65R round in the drilling’s chamber and the gun wouldn’t close! I called a neighbor, Butch Post, a real McCoy, long-time gun nut, ballistician and expert hand loader who confirmed my suspicions. My 7x65R case necks were too thick; the cartridge cases had been resized from 9.4x74R Norma brass. Butch pulled the bullets and dumped the powder from my 50 rounds, turned each neck to specs, then we put them back together. Problem solved.
After firing the first round, I noticed the primer showed slight cratering. Regardless of powder load, from 45 grains up to 52.9, as hot as I went, slight cratering was evident. Butch’s blade micrometer showed no pressure expansion signs on the heads of the cases, and no primers were blown, so he believed pressure was okay. But in the thousands of rounds I had reloaded in more than 50 years, I’d never seen this. I did learn that with 52.5 grains of IMR 4350, Winchester large rifle primers, and the Hornady 154-grain SST bullets, my best 3-shot groups at 100 yards from a cold barrel, was an astonishing one-quarter of an inch, center to center! Butch’s chronograph showed the loads traveled at 2,935 feet per second. I quit trying to improve the loads.
I also found the two shotgun barrels centered their patterns at 40 yards with the same scope setting I was using for the rifle barrel. The right half-choke barrel proved adequate for turkeys out to 35 yards, while the left full choke barrel was good to 40 yards. I used Remington 2 ¾-inch shells with 1 1/8 ounces of No. 6s.
Both Rolf and Dr. Valerius Geist, professor emeritus of Environmental Science at the University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, recommended that I use only Brenneke slugs in my drilling. Dr. Geist has been a good friend for more than 25 years. He killed a nice 6 x 6 bull elk with us in 2006 and has extensive experience hunting with drillings. Drillings have the shotgun barrels regulated at 35 meters, the rifle barrel at 100 meters. At 40 and 100 yards, I fired Brenneke slugs as well as Foster-type slugs loaded by Remington and Federal. Remington loads with 4/5-ounce hollow-point slugs shot closer to point of aim at both distances than did Federal and Brenneke loads, but all hit low. The right barrel printed all loads left, the left barrel shot all loads right. I was absolutely tickled with birdshot and rifle accuracy and point of aim impact with the same Zeiss scope setting with the loads I settled on. The repeatability of the claw mounts is awesome after scores of scope removals and reattachments.
The 1 ½-inch distance of the scope height over the rifle barrel worried me concerning mid-range trajectory. I worried for nothing. Rifle groups were 3 inches high at 100 yards, the same at 200, and 5 inches low at 320 yards.
While working up these pet loads, I tried various bullet seating depths. Best accuracy and velocities were obtained by seating the bullets to the cannelure using no crimp. I thought if I could seat the bullets to almost touch the rifling lands, I’d get the best accuracy. No way. Butch measured by chamber length and learned the freebore is .555 inch–so much for my long-held opinion about optimum bullet seating depth. There’s always a lot to learn in the shooting game.
After receiving my new drilling, and with the pressures and time constraints of running a business behind me, I decided to learn all I could about these fascinating firearms. With the thirteenth edition of The Blue Book of Gun Values in hand, I was able to fax the Sauer factory in Germany to inquire as to when my drilling had been built. The very next day, I received a reply from Sauer informing me that my drilling had been built on February 13, 1967. Next, I joined the German Gun Collectors Association (G.G.C.A.) and purchased a copy of the Norbert Klup’s book, The Drilling. After acquiring all the back issues of the G.G.C.A. publications, I had lots to read.
When spring arrived, I was able to bag a number of mature gobblers in several states with my new drilling. I was having a blast! Come fall, the drilling accounted for chukar, partridge, and elk in Wyoming, three whitetails, lots of pheasants, several squirrels, and four more gobblers in South Dakota.
When spring turkey season arrived in central Florida in late March 2011, my drilling and I were there for opening day. Following that successful hunt, I bagged two North Carolina gobblers and a coyote with my drilling. The Sauer and I accounted for a buck antelope in September, then a bull moose in October, both taken in Wyoming, as well as several blue and ruffed grouse and Hungarian partridge. In November, my drilling accounted for several more whitetails and big Merriam gobblers in South Dakota.
Having hunted big and small game for more than fifty years with conventional firearms, I lost interest in pursuing deer, antelope and small game. Elk and birds had been my focus for a long time. With my drilling, however, I’ve become excited again about hunting all kinds of critters. When hunting horseback, I’d been accustomed to bailing off my horse, jerking my rifle out of the scabbard, then working the bolt to chamber a round. It didn’t take long to be ready to shoot. With my drilling, however, after dismounting and removing the gun from the scabbard, I have to open the action to load, close the action, select the proper barrel selector and work the safety. A second rifle shot requires much more effort than merely cycling a bolt. All of this has added an exciting new dimension to my time afield, and hunting with a genuine, hand-made work of art is really special!– Ron Dube