Don't let the handsome appearance and exquisite craftsmanship of this exceptional double rifle fool you. It hurls a 500-grain projectile from its barrel at more than 2,000 fps with muzzle energy exceeding 5,000 ft.-lbs., and there is no creature on any continent that it is incapable of taking down. Cabela's has commissioned Chapuis Armes, renowned for making double-barreled firearms with looks exceeded only by performance, to create a special limited edition production run of this amazing rifle featuring the unparalleled engraving artistry of Dessin Ivan Thierry around the trigger area, receiver and pistol grip. The fore stock and grip display meticulous hand checkering, and the wood is luxurious hand-rubbed walnut. Barrel length is approximately 23-1/4" and the rifle weighs 10-1/4 lbs. The fit, finish and craftsmanship are superb, but how does it shoot?
Big-bore double rifles are not intended for precise marksmanship at longer ranges. They're engineered to take down large, nasty game animals at relatively close range. Most double-rifle owners are very content with guns that will shoot groups into a 3" circle at 50 yards, and a 7" group at 100 yards with open sights is very acceptable. The Cabela's Safari Express .470NE raises the bar for big-bore accuracy standards. The company guarantees their double rifles will shoot into a 2" circle or better at 50 yards with the supplied open sights. As you can see from the three-shot group fired at a target 100 yards away (pictured) off Cabela's bipod shooting sticks, our Chapuis .470 is capable of shooting three shots into a 3" target with open sights at 100 yards. In other words, the gun used shot with accuracy twice that guaranteed by Chapuis. Having established that the Cabela's Safari Express .470NE is aesthetically pleasing and accurate, the next logical question is, "How does it perform on game?"
To find out, I took the rifle along on a traditional horseback bison hunt at the Mickelson Ranch
located between Faith and Mud Butte in western South Dakota. Jim Rothstein of Tall Grass Buffalo Products
and a promoter for the Dakota Territory Bison Growers Association put me in touch with the Mickelsons. With adult bulls capable of exceeding 1 ton and standing more than 6-ft. high at the shoulder, the bison is the largest North American game animal. Most bison hunts are conducted on private ranches, and the Mickelsons manage their herd to keep the animals on their 23-square mile ranch as wild as possible with minimal human/animal interaction. My hunt was a traditional Western horseback hunt, which meant we rode to within sight of the herd, secured the horses out of sight behind a rise, and then stalked, crept and crawled into position, relying on our Cabela's Outfitter Camo™ pattern to hide us from the 180 sets of eyes scanning the horizon for threats.
My guide, Travis Mickelson, had a formidable task. Though Federal 500-grain Trophy Bonded Bear Claw bullets launched from the Cabela's Safari Express .470NE will drop less than 8" below the sight plane at 200 yards, and the rifle comes equipped with open sights that have flip-up graduated leaves from 50-200 yards in 50-yard increments, I told him I was comfortable only with a shot inside 120 yards. Bison have formidable eyesight and a good sense of smell. In the open rolling terrain of western South Dakota, closing the distance to that range was challenging. On our first stalk, the herd winded us and ran about 300 yards east of our exposed position atop a small knoll. The camo did its job, and even though the bison suspected humans were in the vicinity, the herd abruptly stopped and then demonstrated a weakness bison have. They are curious creatures. They knew roughly where we were, but their eyes couldn't determine what we were and they all began to approach our position for a better look. Travis pointed out a 2-1/2-year-old bull he wanted harvested that was closing on our position. He ranged the animal at 85 yards as I prepared my Mossback Shooting Tripod for the shot and leveled the .470 at the approaching bull. With the animal in my sights, I waited for it to turn from its head-on approach and expose the vitals. It did so at 45 yards and I squeezed the trigger.
Bison are tough animals. Travis explained to me before the hunt that the average number of shots it takes a hunter to down a bison on his ranch is three from a .30-caliber modern centerfire. He's seen bison shot through one lung travel up to three miles before collapsing. The 500-grain bullet from the Cabela's Safari Express .470NE went into the near side of the bull a foot behind its right shoulder and slightly high. Our skinner, waiting behind a ridge a mile away later said he heard the "thwack!" of the bullet impact. The bison's nearside lung exploded as the force of impact lifted its front hooves about 6 inches off the ground and bent the animal into a banana shape. Inside, the bullet broke into three pieces. One went vertically into the bull's spine and the other two demolished the upper rear lobe of its offside lung. All of this transpired in a split second after which the partially airborne bison turned in the air and collapsed onto its right side without moving an inch from where it stood. The awesome takedown power of the Cabela's Safari Express .470NE impressed everyone at the ranch and television viewers will have the chance to see the hunt on an upcoming edition of "Cabela's Outfitter Journal" TV show. The largest game animal in North America was felled by a single blow and, in my mind, evoked memories of Scandinavian lore and the hammer of Thor. If your hunting plans include going after moose, bison or brown bear in North America, or any of the Big 5 in Africa, the Cabela's Safari Express .470NE would be a superb choice for engaging any large or dangerous game animals.
To learn more about the Cabela's Safari Express .470NE by Chapuis Armes visit the Cabela's Gun Library or click here