African Dangerous Game Cartridges
Hereafter I transmit to you my review of Pierre van der Walt's book, African Dangerous Game Cartridges, published in the last issue of Voyages de Chasse, as well as a very slightly longer English version. By the way Pierre is now writing another book about African Medium Bore Cartridges. Again there will apparently be far more in it than just the discussion of various calibers from 7mm to .338, with chapters about Expanding Bullet Characteristics, Terminal Ballistic Theories and Trauma Factor, with a number of sub-chapters in each. Further to his request I have just sent him some pictures, and I'll send some more. I wish somebody in France would write a practical book about modern hunting rifles and calibers as exist both in English and German.
With kind regards
oldafrican (Ivan de Klasz)
Pierre van der Walt: African Dangerous Game Cartridges. XX + 460pp., very numerous illustrations. 8 x 11" Hardcover with dustcover. Price: 85.- US $. Pathfinder Book Publishers, Johannesburg, 2011. (Can also be ordered from Rowland Ward Publications or Safari Press).
When I saw the first advertisement for Pierre van der Walt's above book, I thought it was only a somewhat extended second edition of the author's -though excellent- "International Big Bore Load Data Collection". However on a second thought, with the same size and three times as many pages it could not be just a bit extended edition.
In fact it is not. While it definitely shows "family features", "African Dangerous Game Cartridges", is not only including more calibres, it is a different book. In my opinion a real new encyclopaedia for the dangerous game big-bores. And whatever the undeniable merits of John "Pondoro" Taylor's African Rifles and Cartridges, published in 1948 and repeatedly reedited after the author's passing away, in the over 6 decades past in between, many things has changed, not only in manufacturing technology, but also in the characteristics of the hunting firearms, bullets, powders and in appearing of new calibres.
For these reasons, I am convinced that the book of Pierre van der Walt, arms expert, ballistician, professional hunter and founding member of the Big Bore Association of South Africa, will be the successor for the big bores of Taylor's book for many years to come.
The title of the book is somewhat misleading: it does not deal only with ammunitions: a quarter of it discusses the advantages and disadvantages of the various types of arms, systems, weight of the rifles, recoil, optics adapted for this kind of hunting, the various types of bullets best suited for this, and a short introduction of reloading (while underlining that this is not a reloading manual). And in the ammunition part, last but not least, he gives rifling twists which many books are very "discreet" about and insists on the importance of pressures in hot climates.
The choice of calibre goes from 9.3x62 to the .600 Nitro Express. Some hunters, especially in Europe, will be astonished that the 9.3x62 is considered as a dangerous game cartridge. But after all this calibre has been developed at the beginning of the last century, (1905) like its "ballistic sister" the 9,3x74 (1902) essentially for Germany's African colonies for this and "in African nature conservation departments thousands of elephants have bent the knee before it as tells the author. [Do not despise the old calibres: the .375 H. & H. legal practically everywhere as a dangerous game cartridge, will be 100 year old in 2012. And with modern propellants the 9.3x62 currently delivers the same performances the .375 H. & H. Magnum originally did with cordite loads from hunting rifle (not proof) length barrels with less recoil.]
Each cartridge description is subdivided in
1.) History (often quite amusing and useful, not only for the "historians");
Data, in numbers, are usually grouped in tables with colour base, thus the reader can find them very easily.
I am convinced that even experienced Africa hunters will learn a lot from this book, as I did myself - and possibly even some gunsmiths. Who knew for instance, that the .475 N.E. n#2 (which one saw sometimes in Africa in the epoch of the "Belgian Congo" and still years after) represents in practice 2 calibres: the .475 N.E. n#2 "Eley" and the .475 N.E. n#2 "Jeffery", with bullets of a rather different calibre? [Shooting monometallic or "iron clad" solid bullets of .475 N.E. n#2 Eley from a double .475 N.E. n#2 "Jeffery" does not present any problem. But doing the contrary, i.e. shooting .475 N.E. "Jeffery" ammo in a .475 N.E. n#2 "Eley could seriously damage an old double rifle of great value.
The author also states that the .425 Westley Richards, "the world's first short magnum" as he calls it.., "upon introduction claimed... [to be]... the most powerful bolt action rifle of the world. And it was. According to Pierre van der Walt there is nothing wrong with the cartridges, in spite of its rebated rim. What brought the .425 WR into disrepute was a "cheap model for the colonial trade", quoted already by Taylor, which not only had a feeding problem, but also poor workmanship. [Another very recent (2011) book, also by a well-known South African "gun writer", Koos Barnard of Magnum fames, agrees with this assessment.]
[I personally only saw one .425 WR, on my first non-self organised safari in Zambia, many years back. The PH had that long-barrelled rifle, and shot with it, with open sight, like a God.]
To appreciate totally this book one has to have some basic knowledge of arms but by no means to be a gunsmith or a ballistician. As told above, it is not a reloading manual, but it gives masses of useful professional information also for reloaders and particularly lots of sources where to find all the necessary data.
As told this book for me is a real encyclopaedia for the big bores, and will in my opinion give an advantage, to those who read it, during the inevitable campfire discussions. But generally it should not be missing from the hunting books of a dedicated African hunter, whether experienced or prospective.
It is superbly illustrated, printed on very good paper. The presentation is really pleasant. The very lively personal style of the author makes the reading much more pleasant than many other books on such subjects.
[My only regret is that Pierre van der Walt did not include a few calibres "full length" such as the 9.3x66 Super Express vom Hofe (SEvH), 9.3x66 SAKO (or 370 SAKO as it is also known) and the .460 Short A-Square, although all mentioned. And some conversion-tables between imperial and metric measurement units, more familiar to many readers from countries using the metric system. But he explained this in a personal letter, when reading the first review.]
While I have seen mentioned that the focus could be considered as narrow for such a large book, I am not of this opinion. Just imagine how many volumes will be necessary for describing and discussing all current cartridges in such depth. I do not see any part of the book, which could be left out without loosing of value.
This is a book for hunters who do not consider their hunting rifles as mere killing instruments.
There are of course books aimed for a wider readership, Craig Boddington's Safari Rifles II is such a book, as is Gregor Woods ' Rifles for Africa. Terry Wiedland's Dangerous Game Rifles is an interesting reading. I was told that the enlarged 2nd edition is even better. Layne Simpson's Rifles and Cartridges for Large Game is also nice, though more oriented on North American hunters or the quite recent 2011 Cartridges 101. A Guide to 101 Popular Rifles Cartridges of Koos Barnard. But in none of these, though I loved them all, I found so much in depth information on big bores as in Pierre van der Walt' s African Dangerous Game Cartridges. And all of them are aimed more on the "average hunters" who also look for information on all the small and medium game calibres. Therefore I think P. van der Walt's book should not be missed from hunting books of a dedicated African big game hunter.