Q & A With the Colonel - Lefty Game Rifles
Q: As you I’m a lefty, I’m thinking of purchasing a dangerous game rifle.I shoot a model 70 375 H&H well, but you know what it takes to do the reach over and jack the bolt. So I was thinking of a lever action, specifically, a bighorn armory 500 S&W, a 45-70, or a 475 turnbull any other suggestions?
A: Thanks! I “reached over” on right-hand bolt guns for years. Still can and still do (because most test guns are right-handed). However, we lefties are at risk with right-handed bolts because, in case of a catastrophic failure (case head rupture, barrel obstruction, etc.) the gases are vented out the right side, directly into the right side of our faces. It would be the same if a right-handed person used a left-handed action (although this is obviously unusual!). So, purely as a matter of safety, not convenience, it’s better for lefties to use left-hand actions. The problem is: With bolt actions, you almost have to make a complete shift, otherwise you wind up with some right-hand and one or two left-hand bolt guns. I made this switch after major burglaries in the early 80s (living in LA!), so, test guns aside, all the bolt-action I own are left-handed. Donna is also left-handed, which helps a lot! This solution certainly doesn’t work for all.
However, true ambidextrous actions are rare. A side-eject lever action .45-70 is certainly an answer, and fully adequate for buffalo with modern loads. However, the (rarely encountered) safety issue is still there with side-eject lever guns (like the Marlin). Mind you, I use them and love them…but in purest terms, top-eject lever guns like the 1886 Winchester, in .475 Turnbull or .45-70, are the primary repeating options. Falling block single-shots like the Ruger Number One are another answer. I have shot a lot of buffalo with Ruger single-shots, just did in Mozambique. However, hunting dangerous game with a single-shot has problems: Repeat shots, which are often needed, are slow. Plus, the single-shot is either fully loaded or completely unloaded.
So, regrettably, there are very few “easy” answers for dangerous game rifles for lefties!
Thanks, hope these thoughts help!