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In 1998 in preparing for my first trip to South Africa, the PH stated that the common failures in the bush, besides operator error which is the most common, were in order of ranking:

1. Scope failure
2. Ammunition failure
3. Rifle malfunction

He also stated rifle failures were super rare, especially in single shots, double bores, and bolt actions.

The only malfunction I have ever had is a scope failure, and that was way back when scopes were not what they are today.

What failures have you seen and how do you rank them?

Last edited by FSJeeper; 11/24/22.
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In nearly 70 years of hunting, the most common failure has been "operator failure".

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Originally Posted by oldcuss
In nearly 70 years of hunting, the most common failure has been "operator failure".
This times a thousand!
I've had scope failures at the range, rifle malfunctions at the range but never a problem in the field.
Hopefully that string of "luck" continues.

Last edited by Blacktailer; 11/24/22.

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Scopes. I've seen far more issues with scopes

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Scope bases not tight enough

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Loose Nut behind the gun. Rio7

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I made four hunts in South Africa and Namibia. The only failure was scope failure on my second trip. That was "operator Error" in that I tried to make a 340 WBY work on an ultralight Mountain rifle with a KDF style muzzlebrake. The sudden "brake" was too much for the first scope ( a Leupold 2.5x8 VXIII 10 days before leaving US), replaced it with a Zeiss 3x9 conquest. It shot fine for zeroing here, etc. Upon arrival, it made it through checking zero, then went wonky. I managed to take a Blesbuk, Impala and a zebra before it utterly failed to hold zero. I finished the Namibia hunt with a borrowed 300WM. Iron back up sights wouldn't have made much difference as Namibia required some pretty long shots, I took a few out close to 400yds, which is very far for me. Have fun though Pard!

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I haven't had a failure in the field due to rifle, ammunition or scope in 60+ years. I have failed to put a round in the chamber on occasion, kind of embarrassing to put the trigger on a coyote and just get a click, they give you a strange look before they run off. Some have been far enough away to not hear the click and I've been able to cycle the bolt and kill them. At the range I did find a loose base one time and missed a coyote due to snow in the barrel and expanding the last two inches of the barrel, cut that off and recrowned it, worked well after that.

Shotguns, that's another story, forends split, breechblock wear to the point the firing pin wouldn't reach the primer, firing pin spring that needed to be stretched before each hunt(JC Higgins bolt action 16ga).


After the first shot the rest are just noise.

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I've had a scope break. Mounts come loose. Swivel studs break. Sights come loose. Once I slipped on ice and filled the bore with so much snow, I had to hike back to camp to rectify. Had oil gel up optic adjustments and even a bolt once in sub- zero temps. Good to double check the bore for obstruction after bad weather or falls.

Some of the above can be attributed to operator error. Didn't have the internet to warn me. Had to learn on my own.

All things considered. I've been fortunate. Nothing ever completely stopped a hunt.

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scopes easily #1, broken firing pins x 2 old lever rifles - one about 120-year-old (1892) & one about 70- year-old (336), a Marlin 57 just fell apart while squirrel hunting after I put many many rounds through it, one weak (or maybe just due to 45 below zero weather) firing pin spring on an 80-year-old rifle (Springfield), one broken stock after the rifle and I tumbled down a steep hill (I carved that one from a blank - heartbroken I was), one the magazine tube holder fell off a lever rifle (Mossberg lever 30-30), One barrel failure on a Model 12 when there was an obstruction in the barrel that I didn't know about, another broken stock at wrist - poor wood layout. I'm not sure that were all the problems, but that's all I remember off-hand.

I've had enough failures that I bring a spare rifle now. Everyone in my hunting groups knows there's a spare rifle if they have an issue with their rifle/scope/ammo.


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Not seeing the barn clearly.


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Seems like "rifle malfunction" covers a whole slew of stuff that would all have a different fix.

Firing pin, magazine follower/spring, extractor, safety, to name a few.



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75 years of hunting and at this moment I only recall 2. At age 13 I received a new .22 Mossberg semi-auto as a birthday gift. The only cleaning it got was a wet Hoppies on a string down the barrel. After a few hundred rounds I shot it and it went full auto and emptied out. Crud had built up in the chamber.
I owned a Hercules grade Iver Johnson 12ga double. On a turkey hunt as my son closed it with a turkey load in both barrels, it went off. Took it to a gunsmith and found that both firing pins were broken. Have no idea how that happened nor how that caused the misfire.


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Scopes. 3 of them. 2 fogged up internally but were caught early in the hunt. 3rd spraying crazy big groups. Knew something was up when I took a lung shot at a buck and made a perfect neck shot. Got lucky.

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I've had one failure, that was fixed 3X Leupold that became a maraca during a hunt. I killed three deer that morning, but the last shot landed a few feet from where I was aiming.

Otherwise, I've hunted with others that have rifles that won't function/feed, ammo out of spec, and a variety of scope problems. However the most common issue I've witnessed is due to a failure with scope mounts/bases.


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Suck bullets simply suck.

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1970s, Weaver K-4W fogged up. Weaver mounts, removed scope and flipped up rear iron sight and kept hunting.

Had a scope go to hell about 7 years ago, 4 to 5 inch groups,confirmed by two other shooters, but that was at the range and not in the field.

Early 80s, chasing lands a little too enthusiastically. Removing a chambered round and fill a Savage 99s rotary magazine with H335 when the bullet remained in the chamber. Got the bullet out with a sharp drop on the rifle butt, but had an effective single shot till I got that magazine cleaned out. I chalk this one up to operator error in reloading.

Buddy who likes semi autos but not cleaning rifles often has a hang up of sorts out on the field.

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South Africa isn't exactly a place where I'd worry about failures. You can always aquire an a loaner rifle at a lodge. Far more worrisome are remote mountain hunts and places with river travel grit sand and the cold. The guys in rafts, canoes, sleds and sledge on the trail and those busting brush really beat things to death and their rifles more or less resemble a treated 2"x4". Mainer AK with his type of travel likely has significant expertise or experience in such matters. To him a rifle is much like an chainsaw, axe, or come-along hand winch. All tools.

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I've accused a couple buddies of having a "bad trigger actuator" on their rifle..

Scopes have let me down on hunts a couple of times so I traveled with a spare rifle. Now I hunt the farm and can walk back home for options!


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Saw a third Jam-ikka jam in the field this fall. Partially caused my friend to miss out on a bull.

Also a Ruger American 6.5 creedmoor jam.

Last edited by Ralphie; 11/24/22.
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I've had a couple of scopes give up the ghost. On one the crosshair broke, and on another the erector mechanism came adrift inside. I had a third which I lost faith in, because it wouldn't seem to hold zero, but that wasn't really a dramatic failure in the field, but rather a slow process of deciding it was no good.

Rifle failures, I've had a few over nearly 50 years of shooting. I had an extractor spring break on a sporterised Lee Enfield No 4, which meant that it was a single shot (Swiss Army knife to serve as extractor) until I was done hunting and could get a spare. I had a mainspring break on a Marlin 1893 - perhaps forgivable after a century of service. When I was very young I managed to bulge the barrel on a .30/06 - I can only surmise that a stick or something fell into it, so not really the rifle's fault - and it really buggered the rifle's accuracy. My Brno combo developed a problem with doubling - at first I thought it might have been me bumping the second trigger, but then it happened again - hitting critters with both barrels simultaneously was certainly effective.

I've had various .22s fail too, usually not too far from home as I was out rabbiting.

All mechanical devices can fail, and I guess the longer you work with them, and the older they are, the more likely it is you'll have issues.

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