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This exquisitely pre­sented, late 1990s, hand-built ri­fle with in­ter­change­able bar­rels is de­signed to ex­cel in all as­pects of an African sa­fari ad­ven­ture, says Do­minic Grif­fith

RAY Ward has long been recog­nised as a re­tailer and maker of fine sport­ing guns. A hand-built ri­fle is al­ways some­thing to as­pire to, sug­gest­ing that you have ex­pe­ri­enced all the ma­jor man­u­fac­tur­ers, have taken the best ideas from each and now know ex­actly what you want and who you want to make it.

Based on an Oban­dorf Mag­num Mauser ’98, this take down, in­ter­change­able bar­relled, Ray Ward ri­fle is an el­e­gant mas­ter­piece of en­gi­neer­ing. Exquisitely en­graved by David Tal­let and beau­ti­fully pre­sented in its cus­tom hand-made leather trav­el­ling case, it rep­re­sents the height of lux­ury and prac­ti­cal­ity. It is, of course, a ri­fle de­signed prin­ci­pally for dan­ger­ous game, al­though many choose to make use of the .375 H&H for the renowned big boar of Eastern Europe. Most, how­ever, would agree that the com­bi­na­tion of

.375 H&H and .416 Rem­ming­ton, as of­fered in this ri­fle, neatly cov­ers all as­pects of an African sa­fari ad­ven­ture.

The stock and fore-ends are of well-fig­ured, pol­ished wal­nut, the stock bear­ing a rub­ber re­coil pad. The bolt, ac­tion and mag­a­zine por­tion is com­mon to ei­ther bar­rel and fea­tures a side mounted, three-stage safe­ty­catch, gold in­laid to the top sur­face with “F” for fire (for­ward), “I” for in­ter­me­di­ate (the safe un­load po­si­tion) and “S” for safe (back). There is an ad­di­tional gold in­laid “SAFE” on the side, which shows when safe and is ob­scured when in the fire po­si­tion. The mag­a­zine floor plate is gold in­laid with the words “For Big Game” with its re­spec­tive cal­i­bres of “.416 Rem” and “.375 H&H” added be­low.

The bar­rels sim­ply screw on but are en­gi­neered to fit pre­cisely to the ac­tion in just a few ro­ta­tions. An ad­di­tional side­mounted hold­ing screw, turned us­ing the pur­pose-built turn screw pro­vided, com­pletes the process in no more than a few sec­onds. The two in­ter­change­able bar­rels are in­di­vid­u­ally gold in­laid on the cham­bers with their re­spec­tive cal­i­bres and are fit­ted with bar­rel-band sling mounts. The .375 bar­rel has a flip-up fore­sight pro­tec­tor op­er­ated by a push­but­ton lock­ing de­vice. Both fore and back sights are tipped in gold for easy view. The en­tire ri­fle, with ei­ther of the two bar­rels fit­ted, and with scope at­tached, weighs 10lb 8oz or 11lb with a full mag­a­zine.

The scope is a Zeiss Con­quest DL 1.2-5x36 vari­able power with il­lu­mi­nated retic­ule. It is mounted with a quick de­tach­able H&h-type mount­ing sys­tem that drops into the rear re­cep­tor and locks into the front with a half-turn lever. The front up­per ring is gold in­laid with the two mag­num cal­i­bres, while the rear up­per ring bears the name of the maker, again gold in­laid.

The scope can be used for ei­ther bar­rel and a note in the case hand­ily ad­vises you of the re­quired ad­just­ment be­tween the two cal­i­bres, in this case no more than a few clicks of lat­eral and hor­i­zon­tal move­ment. On its low­est set­ting of 1.2 mag­ni­fi­ca­tion the cross-hairs ap­pear to run di­rectly down the cen­tre of the bar­rel, pass­ing through the blade of the fore­sight. As the mag­ni­fi­ca­tion in­creases the bar­rel is lost and ul­ti­mately be­comes no more than an in­dis­tinct blur at the six o’clock po­si­tion in the scope im­age.

The fine leather case houses a clean­ing rod, a leather ac­ces­sory pouch, a leather plaited sling and the pur­pose-made, ebony­han­dled turn screw re­ferred to.

This is not a ri­fle with which to spend an af­ter­noon on the range; the .375 gives a fair knock and the .416 can be a bit brutal when fired in the ab­sence of adrenalin. But both per­form well whether us­ing ex­press sights or the Zeiss scope. The re­spec­tive groups at 100m be­tween the two cal­i­bres, the .375 us­ing Fed­eral 270 grain Hi-shok soft point and the .416 us­ing a Fed­eral 400 grain round, were all around 2in to 3in and less. So this is a pre­ci­sion ri­fle both in build and in per­for­mance.

It is al­ways a great plea­sure to han­dle and ex­pe­ri­ence ob­jects of out­stand­ing en­gi­neer­ing and this ri­fle cer­tainly earns that ep­i­thet. As a sa­fari ri­fle it is ro­bust and re­li­able; as a col­lec­tor’s item it is rare and de­sir­able.

With a Zeiss Con­quest DL 1.2-5x36 scope; in its case (be­low left) CON­TACT DE­TAILS Late 1990s Ray Ward Mag­num Mauser .375/.416 is on com­mis­sion sale Price £20,000 From Reeves UK Ltd Gun­shop at the Royal Berk­shire Shoot­ing School, Hook End Lane,...

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