FOCUS ON Namibia - Krieghoff

krieghoff

FOCUS ON Namibia - Krieghoff

FOCUS ON Namibia

Volume 17 • Issue 3 Hunting the great continent of Africa

Spring 2012


Rifles in Africa

Afield with the Semprio By

Krieghoff’s novel in-line repeater goes hunting in Namibia.

A

new operating system for a hunting

rifle doesn’t come along often.

We’ve been pumping, sliding,

levering or bolting cartridges into our

guns, or letting some sort of self-loading

machinery do it for us, for so long now—

more than a century—that the movements

are almost genetically ingrained.

So when Dieter Krieghoff showed me

his company’s new Semprio rifle, with

its unique push-pull action, I could

barely operate it. But once the motion

becomes familiar, the Semprio turns out

to be a fast and beautifully balanced gun.

The engineering and creativity behind

it impressed me, but clearly it needed

to be taken outside. And what better

“outside” for a hunting rifle than the game

fields of Africa? Specifically, Namibia,

and Rooikraal, the plains-game paradise

Krieghoff’s Semprio is a fast and well-balanced rifle that

disassembles into two sections almost instantly for easier transport.

The lightweight Aimpoint red-dot sight suits it perfectly.

that Joof and Marina Lamprecht began

creating more than 30 years ago.

By swapping barrels and bits, the

Semprio can fire 15 cartridges ranging

from .223 Remington through .375 Ruger.

I chose .300 Winchester Magnum, an

outstanding plains-game caliber, especially

with a 220-grain bullet. Caught up in the

spirit of innovation, I replaced the Hubblesized

telescope that came on the rifle with

a lightweight, battery-powered Aimpoint

red-dot sight. I then packed everything into

a battered aluminum case and turned the

German rifle over to German Lufthansa for

the flight to a former German colony.

I wasn’t there to hunt trophies. I was

shooting culls—spindly hartebeest, onehorned

oryx, elderly eland cows—for the

larder. (I have some fine trophies, but a

small house. Each time I proudly show off

Silvio Calabi

the latest gleaming skulls and horns, my

wife says, “Oh, sweetie, that’s beautiful.

That would look really good in the

basement.”) The point was to put rounds

down the Semprio, and not at paper

targets, because what seems a fine idea on

the bench or the show floor doesn’t always

translate to the field.

As a .300, the Semprio weighs just 6

pounds 12 ounces. The mass is nicely

distributed, and a hand wraps naturally

around the forend and barrel, so the rifle

carries comfortably. This turned out to be

important.

I prefer walking to driving; I love to

chase eland; and aging, barren cows that

normally have to be shooed off the track

mysteriously vanished the moment I

racked a magazine into the rifle. Johnny,

my tracker, likes to hike too. But he is half

africanhuntinggazette.com 127


a head shorter than I am and he can cover

ground in a deep crouch about as fast as

I can walk upright. Then he drops to a

crawl on the final approach.

For a full-sized rifle, the Semprio rides

well, slung across my back. Cycling the

action for a follow-up shot can be done

in any position, and cartridges don’t

fall out en route to the chamber. The

magazine holds three, and you can stuff a

fourth round up the spout; but if this isn’t

enough, swapping in a spare magazine is

easy, even while tangled up in shrubbery.

(It’s not true that every bush in Namibia

has thorns – just the ones we used for

cover.)

“It is a pump-action, but

instead of a fixed barrel and

a bolt that slides back and

forth with the forend... the

Semprio’s bolt is fixed and

it is the barrel that slides,

forward and then back, with

the forend.”

If a patch of blue-gray hide appeared

behind the red dot, the job was nearly

done. The Semprio trigger can be “set”—

to reduce the let-off to a few ounces—by

pressing it forward till it clicks, but out of

the box it’s adjusted to 2 3 /4 pounds and

crisp as a fresh potato chip. Johnny and I

and the Semprio kept Rooikraal’s skinners

busy. And I had to have my boots resoled

when I got home.

Joof and Marina’s son, PH Jofie

Lamprecht, likes to walk too. I first

hunted with him when he was just out of

diapers. Today he hunts an extraordinary

concession: 135 square miles on Namibia’s

Waterberg Plateau. Not only is it

sequestered somewhat spookily atop sheer,

upthrust stone walls, it is also stiff with

Cape buffalo, sable, eland, roan, leopard,

and more free-ranging rhino, white and

black, than anywhere else in Africa. With

its dinosaur tracks in that red, fine-grained

country rock, they call it Jurassic Park.

Jofie wanted to run me around up there,

which took no coaxing at all. He also

offered me the best eland bull we could

find. We knew this would take a lot of

tracking, and indeed we spent from sunup

to past noon one day, going hard on the

heels of a group of four bachelors. At times

we were close enough to hear their knees

click. Two of them were freshmen, but the

other two were senior wall-hangers. When

we caught up with them the fourth time,

one of the old boys made a mistake and

stuck his head out of the foliage at about

100 yards.

He went down, but I made a mistake

with the Semprio—I short-stroked it

and wound up with an empty chamber.

A second shot wasn’t needed, and I knew

instantly what I’d done—nothing came

out of the ejection port. Operator error.

Practice would make perfect. Working

the Semprio action also requires lifting

the rifle out of the shooting sticks. Oddly

enough, I’ve watched bolt-action shooters

lift their rifles out of the sticks too, to

reload, even though they don’t need to.

Our other trophy was an old, black bull

giraffe, an animal I’d only ever hunted

before with a camera. Finding a heart

the size of a bushel basket is not difficult

with a precise weapon like the Semprio,

but a .30-caliber hole doesn’t have an

immediate impact in the boiler room of

a 2 1 /2-ton, 19-foot beast. Jofie knocked

him down with a solid from his .416 so

we didn’t have a half-mile chase. I thought

of Karamojo Bell killing giraffes, to feed

his crew, at up to 500 yards with his .275s

and .303s and .318s – open-sighted, too.

In February 1951 Elmer Keith reported

on a prototype “reverse” pumpgun, a

two-shot, tubular-magazine shotgun

from Norway, in the American Rifleman.

He found it handy, easy to disassemble,

Rifles in Africa

and quick as “chain lightning.” That gun

evidently disappeared long ago, so we can

say today’s Semprio is a new approach.

It is a pump-action, but instead of a

fixed barrel and a bolt that slides back and

forth with the forend—like almost every

other trombone since the Spencer and

the Colt Lightning—the Semprio’s bolt is

fixed and it is the barrel that slides, forward

and then back, with the forend. Krieghoff

calls this an “ergonomically optimized”

motion: Recoil stretches out the leading

arm, and then chambering a fresh round

requires pulling the barrel, and the entire

rifle, back into your shoulder. It makes

sense, especially for aimed fire, as opposed

to instinctive fire with a shotgun. Once

you’ve re-programmed your movements,

you can empty a magazine very quickly

and accurately.

But it’s so opaque, at first. Hand a

Semprio rifle to an experienced shooter

and watch him struggle with it. We can’t

even figure out how to open it, much less

load or cock it. Once you know how, it’s

simple. That odd rod protruding from the

breech is the key—Krieghoff’s Combi-

Cocker. Turn it to 2 o’clock and push it in

with your thumb. This unlocks the rifle,

so you can slide the barrel and forend

forward to open the action and reveal the

magazine. (Or, undo a latch and the rifle

slides apart into two sections.) Pull the

barrel back again, and watch the bolt strip

PH Jofie Lamprecht (R) invited Calabi to hunt eland on his Waterberg Plateau concession.

Although the bull went down with the shot from his .300 Winchester Magnum, Calabi

had short-stroked it and wound up with an empty chamber. “Operator error. Practice

would make perfect.”

africanhuntinggazette.com 129


The Semprio magazine, nicely set off by a

fresh leopard track, holds three rounds of

.300 Winchester Magnum. With one more

in the chamber, this is ample firepower for

Namibia’s plains game.

a round from the magazine and hold it for

the chamber to swallow.

The rifle locks up at the end of the

travel. Now turn the Combi-Cocking

rod to the vertical and push it with

your thumb again, this time against the

resistance of the mainspring. When it

clicks into a detent, the rifle is cocked and

ready to fire. No safety catch.

If you fire, just pump the barrel and

forend back and forth—that is, forth

and back—and keep shooting. There’s no

need to re-cock manually each time.

If you don’t shoot, de-cock the action by

releasing the Combi rod from its detent

with your thumb. Now it’s 100% safe,

even with a round in the chamber. The

rod acts as a foolproof and visible safety

catch, like an exposed hammer. Push it in

again, a matter of a second, when it’s time

to shoot.

A lot of English-speakers mispronounce

Semprio as “semi-pro.” The name is a

contraction of Semper Paratus, “always

ready” (the US Coast Guard motto). The

fail-safe ability to carry the rifle safely

with a round up the spout, uncocked but

always ready, without having to rely on a

safety catch, is significant.

Given its features, speed and handling,

my guess is that the Semprio shines

brightest on driven game, pouring

accurate, fast fire from a Hochsitz onto a

group of wild boar flitting through the

brush 75 yards away. If you’d like more

information, Krieghoff has posted an

excellent guide to this unique rifle at its

Web site: www.krieghoff.com

Silvio Calabi is a co-author of the 2010

book, “Hemingway’s Guns.” He lives on

the coast of Maine and travels to Southern

Africa whenever he can.

THE AIMPOINT SIGHT.

With record rainfall in early 2011, the

Namibian bush was thicker than usual

and shooting ranges closer than usual;

as well, an 18-ounce scope grossly overbalances

the handy Semprio. So I put one

of Aimpoint’s 8-ounce Hunter red-dot

sights (the H30L model) on it. Relatively

light, quick, rugged, easy to adjust, and

the battery is claimed to last 50,000

hours—more than five years!

The “+” switch atop the tube lights up

a red LED dot in the center of the large

field of view. Eye relief isn’t critical; put

the dot on the target and fire. For shooting

at longer range, the Hunter-model dot

covers just two minutes of angle, or two

inches at 100 yards—half as much as

Aimpoint’s military and police red-dots.

In addition, 12 degrees of intensity are

available at the push of a button. I found

that in the Namibian sun, amping up the

dot was counterproductive, as this makes

the dot not just brighter but larger too—

covering up more of the animal.

Despite looking like a scope, this 9 1 /4inch

tube offers no magnification. None.

(My trackers couldn’t grasp this. I let them

look through it to see why I turned down

long shots.) The good news is that this

makes shooting quickly, with both eyes

open and no change in focus, natural

and easy. The bad news is that beyond

about 120 yards, even just 2X would

have made killing game in tall grass a lot

easier. I wound up crawling when others

might have just dialed up their scopes and

banged away. Stalking is the essence of

hunting, though, and I like the old adage

about getting “as close as you can, and

then 10 yards closer.”

Tough and waterproof, the Aimpoint

shrugged off three weeks of dust, rain,

recoil, and off-road driving. Long,

deliberate shots were challenging for me;

closer, fast shooting was effortless. It neatly

suits the Semprio rifle, and in America’s

and Europe’s forests, the combination

should work brilliantly on everything

from whitetail deer to driven boar.

Rifles in Africa

africanhuntinggazette.com 131

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