Enhancing the experience by mixing tradition with technology, the Sig Sauer BDX system gives you a new way to scope out a hunt.
How Does The Sig Sauer BDX System Operate:
- Sierra series of riflescopes to serve as the eyes of the system.
- The riflescope is fed by either a Kilo rangefinder or a Kilo range-finding binocular.
- The Sig BDX app, with its powerful ballistic calculator, is the brains of the entire system.
- Once ranged, the system feeds the scope the bullet-drop data, with the correction presented on the reticle.
For those hunters who have never experienced Africa and perhaps haven’t yet been bitten by the allure of making tracks on the Dark Continent, I suspect that there are few things more annoying than listening to someone who has been there drone on and on about how magical the experience can be. I’d guess it’s like being at an already awkward party where everyone is struggling to make small talk and someone breaks out one of those “I guess you had to be there” stories.
There was certainly a time when I, too, couldn’t have cared less about sitting on a plane for countless hours, trekking through the heat to find an animal I didn’t know the name of, all the while hauling special gear that I bought especially for the trip—gear that I might never use again. I liked my Midwestern whitetails and northern black bears, highlighted by an occasional elk hunt.
And then, I went.
But for the sake of your patience, I’m not going to get into all that emotional, ancestral and historical stuff (at least, not in this article). I am, however, going to order you to go (reread that if you have to, because I meant it) at least once in your life. You owe it to yourself to experience it, and I promise that it will all make sense when you look down at your own boot tracks in the rich, red dust. ‘Nuff said about that.
Batteries and Bushmen
In spring 2018, Sig Electro Optics launched the BDX System at the NRA Annual Meetings. This system aimed to completely revolutionize (and I don’t use that term lightly) how shooters deal with bullet drop. As an acronym for “Ballistic Data Exchange,” the BDX System is a unique partnership comprising the riflescope, rangefinder and your smartphone.
The Scope: Sig has launched, and continued to expand, the Sierra series of riflescopes to serve as the eyes of the BDX System. They’re not huge, and they’re not clunky. In fact, from the outside, it looks like nearly any other riflescope. And, if you’re the nervous type when it comes to batteries in your aiming devices, the BDX-R1 reticle is not a digital reticle: It’s an illuminated reticle.
So, if you find yourself in a hell-or-high-water situation and everything else has failed, you will have a rifle wearing a riflescope with a good, ol’ plex reticle … and you’ll have to revert to your rifleman skills to employ whatever Kentucky holdover the situation demands.
The Rangefinder: The Sierra riflescope is fed by either a Kilo rangefinder or a Kilo range-finding binocular—again, in multiple configurations of your choosing.
The Smartphone: With the Sig BDX app, your smartphone is the brains of the entire system. As on other ballistic calculators, you enter the ballistic data of your specific setup (always remember: Garbage in, garbage out). I’m not gonna lie to you: The app can be a bit tricky to navigate until you get the hang of it, but once you’ve completed and built your rifle’s profile, the in-field user experience of the BDX system is intuitive … and I’ll go so far as to say, “easy.”
It seems a bit “techy,” doesn’t it? Well, it certainly is; and, at first blush, it felt almost counterintuitive to be considering such a system for pursuit of “nostalgic” African game. I’ve read all the classics by all the top-tier riflemen who took to Africa to put their best skills against the toughest and most unique animals on the planet. While I understand all that sentiment, I bet ol’ O’Connor would’ve soaked up the technology, were it available to him all those years ago.
And here’s the thing for me: When an animal is in the crosshairs and there are a lot of factors to consider—factors that can change very quickly (such as distance, wind and an animal that can suddenly move)—I’ll take all the help I can get each and every time. And I learned very quickly that the BDX System can help clear the mental fog and eliminate cognitive errors when everything is on the line … especially in an environment that’s as unfamiliar as the vast savannas of central South Africa.
I’ve hunted countless animals across the majority of the United States and three continents, but my heart was damned near choking me as I watched the herd of gemsbok pick its way through the acacia trees. Paralleling their path, my PH, Thys (a lot of South Africans seem to have strange names!) and I slipped from shadow to shadow, waiting for the herd of 50 or more animals to stop.
It was one of the strangest sights I’ve ever seen: All gemsbok have horns; and, at a distance of 400 yards, each of the animals looked just like the one standing next to it. I can attest that target panic is real, and it’s magnified exponentially when there are more than 50 identical-looking targets.
We were searching for a mature bull, and I’m extremely thankful for the short grass in that location, because spotting the underlying appendage was the best way to differentiate the ladies from the gents.
After over an hour, the herd stopped, and we slipped under the shade of an acacia tree. With more than four dozen tails swatting flies and the majority of the 100-plus eyeballs scanning for danger, I waited for a bull to separate from the herd, turn broadside, have no other gemsbok standing behind it in the event of a pass-through shot … and then stand there long enough for me to send a bullet. It felt like playing poker, and the only way I could win the round was to sit and wait for a royal flush to be dealt.
“On the left!” whispered Thys, screaming under his breath to make sure I understood just how urgent the situation was. “That’s a mature bull. Take him quick.”
I shouldered the rifle in time to watch the little, yellow dot in the reticle dance up and down the vertical post and settle a bit below the horizontal crosshair (You know—when you go to the county fair and wait for a funnel cake? Now, think about the lights-on-the-top-of-the-funnel-cake truck. It’s kind of like that).
Through the rangefinder, Thys made the call. “Three hundred and 9 yards.”
“Confir … ” Boom!
At the shot, the entire herd hit the gas and leaned on the accelerator. I recovered from the recoil with the hope of seeing a large, gray mass lying in the short grass.
Not so much.
As the herd continued to move, one of the animals slowly began to fall behind and eventually peel off from the rest. It was obvious that the 165-grain bullet from the .300 Win. Mag. had hit hard, and a quick left turn by the animal revealed a hit indicating a perfect hold of elevation. However, I had pulled the shot back too far: Because hindsight is always 20/20, I would’ve abandoned the seated position and gone with a kneeling stance and the sticks. I had the time, and although that might go against conventional thought, I know myself, and I know I’m more steady that way.
Motivated by the overwhelming desire to make this mess end as quickly as possible, we laced up and stormed after the gemsbok. Trying to pick my steps to avoid a face-plant, I just about leveled Thys when he abruptly stopped.
“He’s there; below the one lone tree on the far right.”
I instinctively tossed the rifle on the shooting sticks and shouldered it—again, just in time to see the light run the scale of the vertical post and settle just below the horizontal crosshair.
“Two hundred and 87 yards.”
Breathing heavily, I channeled my frustration from the first shot and delivered the second to the exact millimeter of my intention.
As the final day of the hunt neared, I told myself I would be OK with going home without a kudu. I honestly believed that, although I knew it would certainly take some time, and that 15-hour jet ride back to the States was going to be a long one. But as the sun worked toward the final horizon of the hunt, my legs were weighing as heavily as my heart.
Working down the two-track, I reflected on the week as I tried to go step for step with Thys. The pedometer on my smartphone had already logged more than 40 miles, and I wanted a free-range kudu something fierce … even if I couldn’t admit that to myself at the time.
Over the course of those 40 miles, I had developed a bad habit of bumping into Thys when he stopped to glass, most often because I was looking off in some direction in search of a kudu that he hadn’t seen. But when it happened this time, it was because I was staring at my shoes, wrongfully beginning to pout before the hunt was over.
Although he’s just a little fella, I bounced off Thys, only to look up and see him—like a bird dog holding a point that could only be broken by a flush—locked onto something ahead.
“There’s a cow right there in those trees,” he whispered. “And there’s a bull with her, but I can’t see how big he … ”
Without finishing his sentence or taking his eyes off the pair, he whipped up the shooting sticks, and I set the rifle in the yoke in one fluid motion.
“That’s a good bull. Make the shot before he breaks,” Thy advised.
At fewer than 100 yards, Thys didn’t bother to range. I couldn’t see the entire kudu bull, but I could see enough. I found the dot in the center of the crosshairs, found the tiny, little shadow made by the shoulder’s rear crease, and I broke the silence.
As I cycled the rifle, Thys called me off a follow-up shot. He could see what I quickly saw once I again found the running bull in the scope: blood trickling from a little hole as the result of a perfectly placed bullet. And it was a mere few yards before that bullet had completed its mission and anchored the bull.
As strange as it sounds, Jack O’Connor was the first person I thought of when I rested that rifle on the side of the bull and reached down in admiration. At that moment, it hit me that I was the first human to ever touch that bull—and that I had trekked across Africa’s best vistas to experience it.
As we headed back to camp, I brushed the dust off my rifle and thought about all those footsteps I had stirred up to relocate those dust particles onto the lens of my riflescope. It’s a dumb thing to think about, but that’s where my mind went at the time.
I’d always understood all those words O’Connor had written, but for the first time, I felt them.
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The article originally appeared in the 2019 Long Range issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.