Uberti Courtney
Stalking Rifle

“An 1885 Highwall With British Flair”

The rifle performed as expected — with excellence — whether handload or factory fodder was used.

Guns are the perfect mechanism for granting us travel to times past, providing the means to walk amongst our heroes. Or, in this case, a rifle close enough in design to inspire dreams of intriguing scenarios that excite us beyond belief. Picking up this splendid shooter and holding it at arm’s length, you’ll immediately be transposed into the 19th Century, outfitted in sweat-soaked khakis and pith helmet, aiming at one of Africa’s grand mystical animals. Only special guns are capable of casting such spells!

Adolphe Uberti’s release of a proper stalking rifle, called “The Courteney,” is designed in traditional British guise to honor one of the most famous African hunters, explorers and adventurers of the early 19th Century — Frederick Courteney Selous.

Love At First Sight

When I saw the Courteney single-shot, I was mesmerized by its beauty. I wanted it — bad! Based on Winchester’s 1885 Highwall model, this single shot rifle is beautifully reproduced by Uberti, albeit in British guise.

Available in two calibers, .45-70 Government and .303 British, both issued military calibers for their respective countries at one time. Since I already owned a slew of .45-70s — my favorite caliber — I ordered one in .303 British for several reasons.

First, I wanted a rifle and caliber Frederick Courteney Selous would possibly carry, or at least look like one he would have used. Secondly, I get giddy at the thought of experimenting, researching, handloading and casting for a new cartridge. Lastly, it’s the most-used caliber in the history of the British Empire. In short, it’s the proper cartridge for igniting dreams of a 19th century British hunting wannabe in deepest, darkest Africa. All part of the perfect package, eh?

The action is based on the Winchester 1885 High Wall model — drop the lever,
load the rifle, return the lever and you’re set in half-cock, ready for the next lion charge!

Recoil Recall

Frederick Courteney Selous first stepped foot on the dark continent in the 1880s as a young 19 year old, wanting to become a famous hunter. High aspirations, indeed! While hunting with a 4-bore muzzleloader, he developed a flinch. Legend has it after a misfire on an elephant, he traded the rifle back to this gun bearer for his back-up rifle. During the excitement, the gun bearer quickly reloaded the first rifle, giving it a double charge.

While shooting at the elephant, the double-charged rifle knocked Selous off his feet, severely cutting his face in the process. Recoil was so severe it broke the rifle stock. Selous stated he developed a nasty flinch after this episode, one he fought the rest of his life.

Selous ordered a light-recoiling .256 Holland & Holland single-shot rifle with drop-block action. The .256 H&H shoots a 160-grain bullet at 2,300 FPS. As most of us are out of reach of a custom Holland & Holland single-shot rifle, you can see the attraction of A. Uberti’s “Courteney Rifle.” Chambered in .303 British, the 180-grain bullet can easily attain over 2,400 FPS in the traditional cartridge widely used by British hunters in Africa.

The receiver, lever, trigger and drop block are all brilliantly color-case-hardened.
Wood to metal fit is also excellent.

The Rifle

My attention is drawn by the brilliant color-case hardening of the action, the drop-block, under-lever and trigger. The mottled blues nostalgically remind us of days past, when heat-treating was necessary for strengthening steel and the beautiful finish was a secondary benefit.

When dropping the under-lever, the expertly checkered hammer is set to half-cock as its own form of safety. Bringing it to full cock makes it ready for firing, providing the simplest, quaintest and most positive safety mechanism design. Dropping the lever again extracts the cartridge case ¼” where it can be either pulled out or, by tipping the barrel up, will allow it to drop out. While loading, cartridges must be pushed in the final ¼” with your finger.

A Weaver-style base is secured to the barrel with four screws, allowing easy scope mounting, using Weaver or Picatinny-style rings. Uberti recommends the use of “high” rings. The base houses a traditional dovetailed, shallow “V” rear sight.

An optional base is available without Weaver style slots for those wanting to keep their “Courteney” rifle honest (scope free). The rifle has a traditional hooded and ramped front sight also secured by screws and a rounded bright brass bead sight. Sight picture is traditionally perfect.
The round 24″ barrel has six grooves with a 1:10 right-hand twist. Overall rifle length is 37.5″ and weight is 7.1 lbs. A traditional sling-swivel band, approximately 3″ from the fore-arm tip adds credibility to the British-themed rifle. Bluing is deep, dark and enthralling on barrel and sight base.

The Prince of Wales buttstock has the traditionally sexy, rounded-off curves of an authentic Victorian-era rifle, giving John Browning’s 1885 Winchester drop-block action a vintage British look. I’m sure Mr. Browning would approve wholeheartedly of these modifications.

The pistol-grip stock and fore-end are classically checkered, adding warmth and charm to the rifle while providing a positive grip. The slim forearm tapers to a contrasting African heartwood tip for a nice final touch of authenticity. The buttstock itself is large, sporting a classic red rubber buttpad with black spacer. Wood to metal fit is extremely tight, with no gaps. Finish is A-grade satin walnut and grain is straight.

Frederick “Courteney” Selous, one of Africa’s most celebrated hunters, explorers, conservationists and adventurers.

The Scavenger Hunt

Like everyone, I was suffering the great pandemic shortage of ’21 and really had to search to find ammo, components and mold. Everyone was out of everything. My .303 British components scavenger hunt fittingly included good, old fashioned leg work, combined with internet interloping.

All said and done, I managed to get two boxes of PPU 150-grain soft-point boat-tail ammo, a box of Hornady 150-grain SP Interlock bullets and 100 rounds of Federal primed brass. I already had a NOE mold for handloads. Missing the good old days of in-stock supply, it was fun being resourceful, making me appreciate what I received even more. Luckily, I was pretty well set with primers and powder.

Doing my best Selous impersonation, and lacking patience before the scope and rings arrive, I took the “Courteney” rifle to the 50-yard range. The PPU ammo easily shoots 3-shot groups into 1″ to 1.5″. Velocity is clocked at 2,723 FPS, well over the listed velocity of 2,650 FPS. The trigger broke at a measured 4 lbs. 5 oz. and was creep free and crisp.

For optics, I went with a Leupold Freedom 2-7X33 for this rifle as its size blends perfectly with the slim lines of the Courteney rifle. The scope is mounted, using Leupold rings. Groups of just over 1″ at 100 yards were the norm with the PPU factory fodder.

Using 38.0 grs of IMR 3031 under the Hornady 150-grain Interlock bullet provided just over 2,650 FPS. Accuracy was right around an inch, give or take, at 100 yards for three shots. Cast loads consisted of a NOE mold of Lyman’s #311440 and a 150-grain gas-checked slug nicknamed “The Flying Fist” as it has a clenched fist profile. Loaded over 20.0 grains of Alliant 2400, it clocks just under 2,000 FPS with 3-shot groups running under 2″ at 100 yards. It is a fun load to shoot and could easily whack a deer.

The Courteney Conclusion

Uberti’s rendition of Winchester’s 1885 high wall is a classically-finished British style hunting arm. A Trans-Continental beauty, this rifle is splendidly correct for American species of deer, elk pigs and other exotic game as well as with heavier bullets.

The “Courteney” will not look out of place next to more expensive custom long guns and only you need to know the truth, price-wise. If you’re looking to put a boost in your shooting arsenal, the Uberti “Courteney” rifle will indeed provide it without breaking the bank. Anyone yearning for a fine traditional hunting rifle with a British flair will love Uberti’s “Courteney” stalking rifle. You will too!

MSRP: $1,689

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