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The African Battery on a Namibian Plains-Game Safari

Three rifle-scope-ammo combos that work perfect for an African plains-game safari.

The African Battery on a Namibian Plains-Game Safari
Photos by Mark Fingar

Elmer Keith made his first trip to Africa in 1958. Born on March 8, 1899, he was 58 years old with a 10-­gallon hat full of experience hunting North American big game. In the April 1958 issue of “Guns” magazine, Keith wrote “Getting Set for Safari” and described his preparation for this trip. Airfare to Nairobi at the time cost him $1,549. Adjusted for inflation, that equates to about $13,700 in today’s dollars. And rather than paying the outfitter a day rate, tips and trophy fees, Keith paid $600 for his hunting license, worth $5,308 today. His hunting license covered plains game species, two buffalo, two elephant, a leopard, lion and rhino. International hunters in that era were primarily American, including authors such as Keith, actors and magnates. For years, they had Africa to themselves.

Savage 110

On the back cover of that April ’58 issue of “Guns” is an advertisement for the then-­new Savage 110. “You’re looking at a completely new bolt action rifle that boasts many important improvements and refinements.” It goes on to read, “Gracefully proportioned, beautifully balanced, the featherweight One-­Ten is precision-­engineered for outstanding accuracy, reliability and safety. The One-­Ten is the first bolt action rifle in years to be designed and built right here in America ... You’ve really got to shoot the One-­Ten to appreciate the accuracy, convenience and safety built into it.” In 1958, a 110 chambered in .30-­’06 Springfield or .270 Winchester cost $109.75, which equals to about $970.87 today.

Savage 110
Panorama is one of five hunting destinations in Namibia for guests of Jamy Traut Hunting Safaris. It is also home to Jamy and his family. The size of the hunting area seems endless with diverse terrain including mountains, red sand dunes and Savannah grassland.

I enjoy reading old issues of gun magazines, and they continue to inspire me today. Keith’s article from that issue and ad was the catalyst for this article. Sharing the idea with three friends I’ll name “J.J”., “Jake” and “Mark,” we prepared for an economical safari and, in the spirit of that 1958 issue, elected to use three Savage Model 110 rifles exclusively and Bushnell’s new optics, as well as Federal Premium ammunition. Each of us assembled a combination at different price points. Craig Boddington gave me the recommendation of Jamy Traut Hunting Safaris (jamyhunts.com) as one of his endorsed outfitters and the only one in Namibia.

Savage 110
Namibia is also home to many unusual bird species such as the Maranou stork.

Located in southwest Africa and featuring the Namib Desert along its Atlantic Ocean coast, Namibia gained its independence in 1990. This sub-saharan country is a great destination for any hunter. Wildlife is diverse, with this being a source of mountain zebra and a significant cheetah population. Here outfitters are passionate for conservation, and it’s likely the safest African country to explore.


Savage 110
This unusual bird species is known as the social weaver, which can live with hundreds of others in giant nests that can consume a tree.

A flight from Atlanta to Windhoek, Namibia, averages about $1,700 per person. A plains-game hunt adds between $350 and $500 per day plus license and trophy fees, which range from $100 for a jackal to $9,000 for a roan. Extremes aside, most popular game animals cost between $550 and $2,500. Much of the funds earned from hunting is reinvested in protecting these animals from poachers and environmental disasters.


Savage 110
Savage 110
Jamy Traut Hunting Safaris offer a selection of more than 20 species, and hunters are only permitted to hunt mature animals. Among the most sought after plains game is elusive kudu, also known as Africa’s “grey ghost” for its tendency to disappear. Mature kudu have at least two and a half twist to their horns.

While there, opportunities can occur that make certain species more lucrative. For example, when J.J., Jake, Mark and I were there, Namibia was suffering from a 2-­year drought that was killing off the grasslands. Jamy Traut, owner of Jamy Traut Hunting Safaris, carefully manages and protects the population of animals on his properties to include a number of white rhino. The two-­year drought meant that the rhinos were competing with other plains game species for food. Rhinos must eat up to 120 pounds of grass per day to sustain themselves. Considering that a female rhino will only reproduce every 2½  to 5 years and have a gestation period of up to 16 months, the investment to protect the rhino is significant — and legal hunting pays for it. By comparison, a 2-­year-­old springbok female will reproduce every 2 years with a gestation period of 4 to 6 months. During a drought, it is smarter to hunt plains game and lessen the stress on local food resources. It is also easier for wildlife conservationists like Traut to rebuild a population of plains game than lose a rhino.

Savage 110
At Panorama, hunters return each evening to their quarters, your choice of thatched roof chalets or luxury safari tents elevated on permanent foundations, just a short walk from the Trauts’ home. Panorama is less than a 3-hour drive south from the Windhoek airport.

On arrival, we were transported back in time and just as I imagined it. We slept in canvas-­sided tents over concrete floors and gathered around the Trauts’ table each evening to share experiences and anticipate the next day’s adventures. Once our rifles’ zero was confirmed at the range, worldy pressures evaporated as we set out to take in nature’s raw surroundings.

Savage 110
Full-course meals are served family style in the main dining area under a thatched roof, which also keeps a stocked bar.

Before arriving to Africa, it’s most important that you select a quality rifle, optic and cartridge appropriate for the game you intend to pursue. Then, you have practice with it. Most zeroing ranges in Africa are setup for 100 yards or 100 meters. If you expect that your shots may be farther, it is also important for you to know the drop in trajectory of your chosen cartridge. I like to shoot several hunting loads of a heavy grain weight through a rifle and pick the most accurate, which can be different with each barrel. Once I’ve got my zero, I’ll confirm a ballistic calculator’s drop by shooting three-­shot groups as far as my home range will allow.

Savage 110
On arrival, hunters settle in and head to the range to confirm zero with their rifles. Restricted to traveling with 11 pounds (or less) of ammunition in a hard-sided case, this opportunity is managed care-fully to avoid wasting ammo.

Next, I practice shooting from various positions and using different magnifications. I want to cluster shots as tightly and precisely as possible with the lowest power dialed on my scope. If you rely on too much magnification to shoot well, you may find yourself struggling to see an animal in the field and make an ethical shot.


Savage 110

What you can’t prepare for are the random encounters that make such a trip memorable. This time, we found ourselves in our Toyota Land Cruiser drag racing a pair of ostrich that sped up to 40 miles per hour, once surrounded by 30 curious giraffe and spied a white rhino mother protecting her young calf.

Savage 110

Savage 110 Storm (LH)

Savage 110
The Storm’s barrel is a matte-finish stainless steel and the left-hand action uses a two-lug push-feed bolt. Savage’s AccuFit is customizable for length of pull and comb height.

Too often, left-­handed hunters find themselves adapting to a right-­handed world. Savage has taken the time-­tested Model 110, and improved ergonomics for left-­handed shooters. Available in many calibers ranging from .22-­250 Remington to 7mm Remington Magnum, J.J. used this rifle equipped with a Bushnell Nitro 3-­12x44mm ($550) and fed it Federal’s Fusion 200-­grain bonded soft-­point. One shot before dusk was all that was needed to finish an hours-­long arduous stalk. Gemsbok is an antelope (below), the largest of the oryx genus, that thrives in arid regions such as Namibia’s Kalahari desert. Their thick hide requires a deep penetrating bullet of .270 caliber or larger.

Savage 110
The .338 Federal is a stout, powerful and heavy cartridge capable of taking down small and large species of plains game.

Savage 110 Storm (LH) Specs


  • Type: Bolt action, left hand
  • Cartridge: .338 Federal
  • Capacity: 4+1 rds.
  • Barrel: 22 in., button rifled, 1:10-in. twist
  • Weight: 7 lbs, 2 oz.
  • Overall Length: 42 in.
  • Finish: Matte stainless steel
  • Stock: Savage AccuStock; gray, synthetic; adj. comb height, adj. length of pull
  • Trigger: Savage AccuTrigger; 2 lbs., 8 oz. to 6 lbs. (adj.)
  • Sights: None
  • MSRP: $865
  • Manufacturer: Savage Arms, 413-642-4260, savagearms.com

Savage 110 Long Range Hunter

Savage 110
The AccuFit stock secures the action three dimensionally along its length. All 110 models benefit from the AccuTrigger, 2½ to 6 lbs., adjustable. This model features an adjustable muzzlebrake that reduces felt recoil.

The 110 Long Range Hunter expands on the 110’s reputation for accuracy by incorporating the new AccuFit system that let’s hunters personalize the AccuStock’s fitment. The 26-­inch barrel is complete with an adjustable muzzlebrake that further tames felt recoil. Combined with the user-­adjustable AccuTrigger, this model 110 can be set up ideally for you. These adjustable features come together to promote precision and consistency. Jake used this rifle equipped with a Bushnell Nitro 4-­16x44 and loaded with Federal Premium’s new 200-­grain Terminal Ascent for .300 Winchester Magnum to take a magnificent red hartebeest with one shot from 360 yards.

Savage 110
Terminal Ascent is bonded and features a slipstream polymer tip. Expansion starts 200 fps lower than comparable bullets.

Savage 110 Long Range Hunter Specs

  • Type: Bolt action
  • Cartridge: .300 Win. Mag.
  • Capacity: 4+1 rds.
  • Barrel: 26 in., button rifled; 1:10-in. twist
  • Weight: 8 lbs., 1 oz.
  • Overall Length: 47.25 in.
  • Finish: Matte black (carbon steel)
  • Stock: Savage AccuFit; gray, synthetic, adj. comb height, adj. length of pull
  • Trigger: Savage AccuTrigger; 2 lbs., 8 oz. to 6 lbs. (adj.)
  • Sights: None
  • MSRP: $1,119
  • Manufacturer: Savage Arms, 413-642-4260, savagearms.com

Savage 110 High Country

Savage 110
The 110 High Country features TrueTimber Strata synthetic stock with over-mold surfaces. The stainless steel bolt and barrel are spiral fluted and PVD coated, and the muzzle is threaded and capped with a thread protector.

The pinnacle of Savage 110 models is the 110 High Country. Besides the camouflage AccuStock with internal chassis and customizable AccuFit combs and length-­of-­pull spacers, the stock provides overmolded gripping surfaces for comfort and control. The coyote brown-­colored PVD coating compliments the TrueTimber Strata while supplying a low-­friction barrier of protection. Underneath the PVD treatment, the barreled action is made of stainless steel for the ultimate combination against corrosion. The author mounted Bushnell’s top-­of-­the-­line Forge 2.5-15x50mm in Terrain color with a Deploy MOA reticle for short- or long-range precision.

Savage 110
For the ultimate in performance, the author called upon Federal’s Custom Shop to load his 140-grain Nosler AccuBond.

Savage 110 High Country Specs

  • Type: Bolt action
  • Cartridge: 6.5 Creedmoor
  • Capacity: 4+1 rds.
  • Barrel: 22 in., button rifled; 1:8-in. twist, spiral fluted
  • Weight: 8 lbs., 1 oz.
  • Overall Length: 42.375 in. to 43.375 in.
  • Finish: Coyote Brown PVD
  • Stock: Savage AccuFit AccuStock; TrueTimber Strata camo., synthetic; adj. comb height, adj. length of pull
  • Trigger: Savage AccuTrigger; 2 lbs., 8 oz. to 6 lbs. (adj.)
  • Sights: None
  • MSRP: $1,129
  • Manufacturer: Savage Arms, 413-642-4260, savagearms.com
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