One last chirp - for what it's worth. Modern firearm ballistics have exceeded bullet construction technology. Just an observation but may of the comments above are owners with calibers I have never been fond of for Africa due to time wasted looking for wounded animals - many with good shot placement.
In broad terms I divide calibers into "varmit" and "hunting". Varmit calibers are generally high speed flat shooting like 22-250, 220 Swift, 25-06, 6.5-06 etc. Great for shooting over a bench with big scopes and blowing prarie dogs to kingdom come at over 3000ft/sec. But they were never designed for hunting larger game with ANY bullet.
Most clients are amazed at how tough African game is - and I'm not talking big five. Hunting calibers are all, to me, mininum .30 with the exception of .222 and .223 which have taken thousands of springbuck. .243 will do the job too, but often destroying a lot of meat and sometimes the cape. 7mm mags, and even O'Conner's famous .270 have failed us here often. Same goes for 338mags - just not necessary. I can't explain why, but in general, here are my feelings - based on experience, when choosing a rifle for Africa.
Don't get carried away with ballistics charts and hot loads or super magnums.
Plains game - your PH should get you within 150m of your target and never allow a client to try a shot at over 200m. That's his job. Many shots will be 50-100m.
1) Minimum .30 cal. - 308, 30-06, or a 300mag - except Weatherby. Even these calibers can fail with hot loads, light bullets etc. So I suggest 165gr and 180gr for the mags.
2) Ballistics - If a 7X57 was so successful in Africa then a 7mm Rem mag must be better - right? Wrong. If we all agree that any shot resulting in a "through & through" or that disintegrates in impact with bone is a disaster resulting in may wounded and often lost animals. Speed does not kill. A good kill usually results from at least 50% bullet mass retention and no exit. Speed and energy are meaningless if they are absorbed. Here is the catch - factory ammo usually works just fine. No fancy bullet technology - just that they are loaded at the "recommended" speed for the above calibers. For those of us who hand load, superior heads will usually provide better results - if, and only if, you stick to the recommended speed. The most important factor is find a speed which gives you the best grouping and accuracy for the heads you want to use.
3) Optics - Off topic but "Keep it simple". Most Americans and Europeans have little experience at judging distance over open ground - especially when the target size varies from a Duiker to an Eland. Like bullet speed, 14X is not better than 4X - unless you want to see your own heartbeat. Vari-powers often confuse the shooter and there often isn't time to adjust and fiddle.
So, before you start looking for the "perfect bullet", think about this. It's not the bullet that is responsible for a successful hunt. It is your shooting skill, shot placement, and a caliber proven to do the job. There is no perfect bullet, perfect rifle or perfect hunter. You can have a great Safari with a 30-06, factory 165 or 180gr ammo, and a decent 4X scope. Use a rifle you are comfortable and confident with, use a bullet which is a good weight, find a speed thst gives a good grouping at 100m - and most importantly, like golf, go to the range and practice regularly. And, remember, once you are competent and confident at the range, when you get the opportunity for that trophy of a lifetime, you will probably be out of breath, shaking, and nervous so you cannot have doubts in the back of your mind about your equipment. Even at my age, I can feel my heart pounding when I look at a trophy Kudu bull through the scope. I've seen too many experienced hunters arrive in Africa arrive here with a brand new Weatherby and a huge scope - because of something they read - but their experience was only hunting deer with a 30-30. They usually finished the hunt with my old Mod 70 06 - and factory ammo.
As for big game hunting - then 375H&H with good factory ammo 270-300g is next - that's all you need. Technology is great, but most of our best hunting calibers are nearly a century old and, in my mind, nothing has ever replaced them. John "Pondoro" Taylor's African Rifles and Cartridges (1948) is still relevant today and often "slower is better". Bullets fail due to excessive speed more often than design.
Ok Al, I'm not a retired African Professional Hunter, but I've DIY hunted the American West for over 45 years and have taken most of the animals that we have here, and I have enjoyed 4 trips to your continent and have taken 40 animals there. I basically agree with everything you've written EXCEPT your comment about a Weatherby!!!
Originally Posted by AlSpaeth
After 40 years of dreaming about one, about 4 years ago, I finally bought a .300 Weatherby Vanguard and I customized it into one of my favorite rifles. I custom stocked it in Fancy Claro walnut, topped it with a 4-12x Leupold , and made a few other modifications to tame recoil and to enhance accuracy. It's an accurate and beautiful rifle that I love to shoot, and that I'm proud to show it off.
For hunting my .300 Weatherby likes Barnes 168 gr and 180 gr TSX bullets (at 3290 fps and 3160 fps), and it REALLY likes 168 gr TTSX bullets (at 3250 fps). For practice, it likes Hornady 178 gr AMax and 168 gr BTHP bullets. It will also shoot 166 gr cast lead bullets into 2 moa at 100 yds which allows very inexpensive and light kicking practice shooting. For smaller critters where I want minimum pelt damage, I've worked up a load with Hornady 150 gr FMJ bullets at 2878 fps that will shoot moa at 100 yds.
I agree 100% that bullet placement is most important and I also believe in the value of practice. At $60 to $90 per box for factory loaded .300 Weatherby cartridges, I can see where that would tend to limit practice shooting. That's one of the reasons that I handload. Besides tailoring the load to my rifle, because of the additional powder, it only costs me about $0.10 more per cartridge to load my .300 Weatherby than it does to load a .30-06. I've always strived to get the best accuracy that I could with all my hunting rifles and have used the bullets that shoot the most accurate. My .300 Weatherby excels with these criteria.
This past month (July, 2012) I made my 4th hunt in South Africa, this time with my .300 Weatherby shooting 168 gr Barnes TTSX and Hornady 150 gr FMJ bullets. I ended up shooting 6 animals with this rifle/bullet combo which included a very beautiful 39" Sable bull and a 4 1/2" Klipspringer ram shot at 314 yds. This brought the total number of animals that I've shot with this rifle to 10, and all were one shot kills.
My only regret with this .300 Weatherby rifle is that I waited 40 years too long to build it.
Al, your last point that "bullets fail due to excessive speed more often than design" is most definitely true with the bullets that our grandfathers used, but not so much with many of the bullets that we have available today. I hunted big game in North America for 40 years with standard "cup and core" bullets of various manufacture and with Nosler Partition bullets mostly at velocities of 3000 fps or less, and I didn't know what bullet failure was until I got on the internet.
Like I wrote above, my .300 Weatherby likes Barnes TSX and TTSX bullets shot at 3250 to 3290 fps, and every animal that I've shot with this combination, from Klipspringer to Bull Elk and Sable, has been a one shot kill. I've only recovered two bullets from these animals, and both were the classic Barnes mushrooms.
Another rifle that I've taken to Africa twice is my .375 Ultra Mag shooting 270 gr Barnes TSX bullets at 3040 fps and 300 gr TSX bullets at 2830 fps. This caliber is like a .375 H&H on steroids. I also custom stocked this rifle, and it is basically a twin to my .300 Weatherby except that it is in a laminated stock and it has a stainless steel barrel and action. Both of these TSX bullets will also shoot moa in my rifle, and with them I have shot a variety of 18 African animals from Steenbok and Jackal to Eland and Buffalo. All shots were spot and stalk with ranges of 30 yds for the Chobe Bushbuck and Eland to 348 yds for a Gemsbok. Most were one shot kills, and the 3 TSX bullets that I recovered were also the classic Barnes mushrooms.
Like Alspeath recommended, I am very comfortable and confident with both of these rifles, the TSX and TTSX bullets that I shoot in them are not loaded to the maximum, but they still are very fast and they all give excellent grouping at 100 yds, and I practice with them A LOT before I take them hunting.
Ask your rifle what the "perfect bullet" is. It's the one your rifle shoots the most accurately.
For my .375 H&H and .416 Rigby that is the Barnes TSX hands down. The bullet's penetration is exceptional. My only complaint is the animals rarely bleed as much as a larger expanding bullet thus making the game a bit harder to track.
One that has a dead amimal at the other end of the gun!!!
+ 1 Nyati
Originally Posted by Nyati
Thanks again for comments and follow up comments.
I think if we re-read this entire post we find that everyone that has posted has their pets.... and yet no one really slams the others for having theirs... This is a great group of guys/gals on AH. My original post was meant to be Rhetorical, because I knew from previous threads that everyone of us have there own personal preference on rifles, scopes, calibers, bullets. It is nice to see that this post did not turn into a pissing match and who's bullet is better than your's scenerio.
Well done members.
BTW BART, 3006' does not suck.
Just a small update on this.
Originally Posted by Norwegianwoods
I have now tried the 120 grain Barnes TTSX in my 6.5-06 on 4 deer(1 reindeer and 3 fallow) and the first 3 dropped on the shot and the last ran 30 meters.
Great effect and little meat damage on all.
It looks very good so far, but I will need to shoot many more animals with it to say for sure how good it is :)
For me the best bullet is the North Fork SS for mice to moose. It is now the only bullet I use for trophy hunting or hunting bite back critters.
I use the 180gr in my 300 Weatherby, 250gr in my 9.3x62. 270gr & 300gr in my 375 Ruger (Winchester Model 70 Safari Express)
I also believe the Swift A-Frame in the same caliber & weights are excellent bullets.
I also use Accubond & Woodleigh PPSN for general shooting & non trophy-non dangerous game hunting.
If I am in pursuit of the big or dangerous it is only the North Fork or Swift A-Frame I use. They never fail. Front on, side on, raking or ass on. They get into the plumbing.
I see that this thread is back to the top so I'll update my thoughts a little. I got my 6.5-06 and have worked up a very accurate load with 140 gr Bergers. My sheep guide has a strong preference for them. Worked great with a borderline hit on my Bighorn sheep and no problem w/ my Pronghorn.
When I went to Africa 5 yrs ago I had loaded some Bergers up. 168 gr in .300 WSM. I looked at the box recently and realized it was the TARGET bullets and not the HUNTING ones I had loaded. Just too dumb to notice the difference I guess. So perhaps that was my problem. My sheep guide swears by the Bergers.
My taxidermist went to Namibia a few months ago. He took a 6.5 mag of some flavor. 140 gr Accubonds. Girlfriend decided not to shoot so he did all of the shooting on the trip. 31 animals. 4 Kudu, 4 Gemsbuck,4 wilderbeast and many others. At least 1 Eland. He tells me all were 1 shot kills from 300 to 600 yards. The 600 yd shot was a Springbuck. On the bigger animals the bullet was just under the skin. He was very happy with their performance. Best of luck all. Bruce