Best Caliber for plainsgame in Africa ? Your opinion

Discussion in 'Hunting Africa' started by Frederik, Jun 6, 2009.

?

Best caliber for plainsgame

  1. various 7mm's

    22 vote(s)
    10.0%
  2. 308

    14 vote(s)
    6.4%
  3. 30-06

    37 vote(s)
    16.9%
  4. various .300's

    70 vote(s)
    32.0%
  5. 338 win mag

    33 vote(s)
    15.1%
  6. 358. norma magnum

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  7. 9.3 x 62

    12 vote(s)
    5.5%
  8. 375 H&H

    31 vote(s)
    14.2%
  1. AlSpaeth

    AlSpaeth AH Senior Member

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    I was one of the first to start a game ranching operation in the Eastern Cape in the mid 1980's. I attended all of USA conventions to try and market South Africa as a hunting destination. With aparthied and sanctions it was not easy to convince the public. As a result, I got several well known outdoor writers from the USA to come out and hunt and give us some coverage and recognition in the outdoor media. I met some of the most interesting characters in my life. They were knowldgeable and creative writers and photographers. I envied them as most had managed to hunt and fish the world for free and always brought along the latest and best rifles, scopes, and every new product to be found at the SHOT Show. Most were familiar with traditional American hunting - but knew little about Africa. They did help to get us on the map, but just wanted a few pictures and an interesting story. Few were genuine dedicated passionate hunters.
    I met Craig Boddingtion at an SCI convention. He was then the editor of Peterson's HUNTING magazine. He had already hunted most of Africa before we persuaded him to visit us. I thing he was elephant hunting in the CAR and extended his trip to include South Africa. We were already front page news in the USA - but it was BAD news. Race riots and blood flowing in the streets - if you believed the world press. Craig came anyway, loved the country, people, and combined his hunting passion with his writing skills. Most of the clients who enquired or booked over the next few years said that they first read about us in one of Craig's articles. We were also mentioned later in his books. Today South Africa is the biggest destination in Africa. I believe Craig played an important role in our success.
    Of all of the people we met in the hunting business over the next decade, none left a bigger impression on me than Craig. He was what he wrote. Unlike most American writers he did more than just promote Noth America. In my opinion he did more to promote the hunting world outside the USA than any other individual I can think of.
    I was also lucky enough to meet Peter Capstick and hunted with him in Botswana in 1990. Another legend of the outdoor writer's world. Peter was with George Hoffman and was testing the 458 Hoffman on Buff in the days when we were trying to improve on the 458 Win mag.
    These writers travelled the world armed with the latest rifles, ammo, and optics from Weatherby, Art Alphin (A Squared), and many others. Some totally new, and many just variations on traditional American and European calibers resizing existing brass for smaller and sometimes larger heads, bullets with improved construction for ever higher speeds, etc..
    You're right - this is why we now have such a huge choice today. It facinates me still that with all of the amazing strides over the past decades many experienced hunters and professional hunters admit that for Africa it's still hard to beat the old proven calibers. A 470 double, 375H&H, combined with another .30cal (mine is a 300H&H) are still favourites. They have all benefited from modern powders, heads, etc. but are still based on the originals. 416's and 404's have also made a comeback.
    Good "for Africa" is a nearly impossible statement. We are talking about the "big five" which includes the biggest and most dangerous animals and tiny pigmy antelope barely larger than a jack-rabbit. Hunting conditions vary from close range in thick tropical rain forest to mountains and semi-desert open plains where it can be a challenge to get withing 300yds. There is nowhere else in the world with a bigger variety of species or hunting conditions than Africa. What's good for Africa should be good anywhere in the world providing we also realise that each was designed for a specific purpose. "Use enough gun" also implies that it's not necessarily better to use more than "enough". 700 nitros, .50 brownings etc. just scare me.
    See Craig's article "RIFLES AND CARTRIDGES FOR YOUR SAFARI". He's hunted Africa 75 times - I'll take his advice.
    Regards,
    Al Spaeth
     
  2. monish

    monish AH Elite

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    Al,

    Thanks for sharing all about the brilliant experiences with the famed calibers like 300 H&H . 375 H&H & the 470 which have been around since a long time & still holding the crown.....

    Monish
     
  3. Jim Rea

    Jim Rea AH Senior Member

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    Al,
    You are truly one lucky individual. I envy your experiences. Thanks for sharing them.
     
  4. Sully

    Sully AH Member

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    If I remember correctly...Jack Oconner's wife shot ALL the non dangerous game in Africa with a custom made ( Mauser or Springfield action..???) rifle in 7x57. At that rate a 30-06 with varying bullet weights should get the job done in fine style. Its the "man" behind the gun thats important.
     
  5. AlSpaeth

    AlSpaeth AH Senior Member

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    Hi Sully,
    Thats exactly why I think the category "Various 7mm's" is a mistake. The 7X57 might be unimpressive on the ballistics charts but it is truly a great caliber. See the Norma ammo website NORMA - 7x57 Mauser.
    We are familar with it here in South Africa because "It was used with brutal success against the British in the Boer War in South Africa".Not only was it proven as the best all round Plains Game caliber in Africa but it was also "Karamojo" Bell's favorite chambering; he used it, with FMJ bullets, for hunting all African game – including hundreds (perhaps thousands!) of elephants, all cleanly dispatched with brain shots. (Shot placement and proper bullet performance always trump brute force.)". Wikipedia says he shot 1,011 elephant with his 7X57. The heavy nitro express doubles were only used as backup guns by the great ivory hunters. John "Pondoro" Taylor also rated it highly.
    What it did then, it can still do now. One of my hardest lessons learned in 50 years of hunting (I grew up in the USA and came to South Africa in 1969) was that "faster is not better". Too many hunters still buy rifles and hand load ammo based on ballistic charts and chronographs. I have tested various wildcat calibers and Weatherby's over the years here. One of the most memorable was a cutom 460 Weatherby sent to us by Roy Weatherby in the late 1980's. The late H Lea Lawrence brought it out as part of a story he was doing on hunting in the Eastern Cape. By the time we finished our wing shooting, plains game, and even flyfishing, we had not shot the 470. We decided to test it on a Wildebeest which are tough animals. We stalked a herd on a very windy, dry, dusty day. The swirling wind made them nervous and it was a difficult stalk. After about four hours we got into a shootable position behind a very small thorn tree at about 100 yds. I noticed the 460 has a muzzle brake so I pointed the Bull out to Lea and stepped back two paces a stuck my fingers in my ears. The blast that followed was beyond my expectations. The shot was just behind the left shoulder and the impact literally lifted the animal off it's feet and dropped it on it's right side 10ft away. I had never seen anything like it. Lea proved Newtons law (equal and opposite reaction) and came back two paces from the recoil, collided with me looking through my binocs, and we both tripped and fell. The Wildebeest was down - and so were we with the 460 on top of us. Lea was deafened and could not hear a word. We got up dusted ourselves off and I noticed my trackers who were standing behind some bush about 200 yds behind us were rolling around with laughter. One shot from the 460 had flattened a wildebeest, two white hunters, and four trackers! But then - the impossible happened.
    The wildebeest jumped up and took off over the hill! We just stared with our mouths hanging open.
    To shorten the saga a bit - we found it 350 yds away. The bullet had entered behind the left shoulder exactly as I saw from the cloud of dust that came off the bull's shoulder and connected with the opposite shoulder. The shoulder joint, blade, and most of the meat were gone and the right leg was in tact hanging from a piece of skin above the shoulder. The exit wound was about 12". Obviously most of the energy was expended from the far side of the animal. We found only a few small fragments of the bullet head. Lea was still deaf when we took the photos. The chart says that a 500gr head at 100yds should have hit with nearly 6,000 lbs of energy - 3 tons!
    I had many more lessons afterward with more Weatherby's and many other magnums. They did improve over the years with better bullet construction but my clients often went back with stiches over their eyebrows, a nervous wink, and spent a large part of their safaris tracking wounded animals. Thanks to my trackers and my old Jack Russell Terrier we found most of them.
    That there are men (and women) hunters who are capable of handling these calibers I have no doubt. But they are few and far between. Impressive? Yes - but are they really necessary? The obsession with bullet speed and energy on paper was largely an American phenomonen. Our Europen clients usually brought their traditional metric calibers. I loaned my 30-06 to many clients to complete their safaris.

    As W.D.M. "Karamojo" Bell said "Shot placement and proper bullet performance will always trump brute force". Elenor O'Connor believed him but many of today's hunters still don't.
     
  6. oenpelli

    oenpelli AH Member

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    Alspaeth,
    love your accounts of your hunts. I'm a big fan of the 7 x 57 (I own 2) and the 30/06. I chose the .375 H&H for Africa because of the reliability of the cartridge on game and also the availability of the ammunition. I shot game from Steenbuck to Wildebeest with the .375, a grand cartridge.
    cheers,
    Chris
     
  7. AlSpaeth

    AlSpaeth AH Senior Member

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    Oenpelli,
    Great calibers. I have also shot everything from Steenbuck to Buffalo with my .375H&H. 375 and 30-06 are a great combo. 300gr 375 ballistics nearly identical to 180gr 30-06 - same for 270gr 375 and 165gr 30-06. If you shoot a 30-06 confidently the move to 375 comes easy. Recoil is more of a "push" than a kick with a good 375H&H stock design. I used the two for years. My 300H&H came in later years. I had it custom built purely for a "backup" gun for plains game. Don't think the rifles your PH uses are the ones you should buy for hunting Africa. I also had a .458 win mag. As a hunter I would have been eternally happy with the 30-06 and 375H&H combo for life. Still amazes me how little meat damage the 375 leaves - even on small animals. Good for "backup" is not always necessary for hunting.
    Al
     
  8. Skyline

    Skyline AH Fanatic

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    I could not agree more with your take on velocity AlSpeath. It has become such an obsession with many hunters. After some 35 years of guiding hunters and longer than that as a hunter and gun nut, I have tried a lot of cartridges and bullets and seen many more in use. In the end, as I head towards retirement, I can unequivocally state that good bullets and moderate velocities are the partners to reliable and consistent performance on big game.

    Over the last couple of years I have sold off most of my dust collectors and gotten down to 4 rifles chambered in cartridges that have proven themselves over and over again. Rifles that I use year in and year out...............and, if pressured, I could whittle that down to two (Heaven forbid!). Those would be a .30-06 and the .375 H&H.

    The powder and bullet selection we have today makes those two cartridges hard to beat.
     
  9. enysse

    enysse AH Ambassador

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    I have to agree with calibers...that have the title "ultra mag" or super velocity....are not necessarily the best for hunting...they are great for "target shooting" and "bench shooting"....but the traditional calibers with decent bullets are about the only thing I'm interested in now a days. To me a 375 H&H/300 Win are about all you ever need. But I could easily go to 7mm Mag and 375 H&H.

    I took a elk this year at 211 yards with a muzzleloader and it really went nowhere...it was 50 cal. load with 150 gr. of Triple 7 and 250 gr. SST bullet.

    Shot placement is everything!
     
  10. classicsafari

    classicsafari AH Enthusiast

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    The 9.3x64Brenneke is what I would consider an ideal general Plains Game round. Its also a great Big Game round.
    What more could you ask for?
     
  11. trigger creep

    trigger creep AH Enthusiast

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    I agree with people in this thread saying that a lot of Americans are too worried about velocity. However, that doesn't mean I'm going too buy a .30-30 or .300 Savage for all of my hunting. If you're going to be taking 1,000 yard shots (like the guys on Best of the West on the Outdoor channel) it makes sense too have a super fast round, like the .300 Weatherby or .300 RUM. But 99.99 % of hunters won't be taking 1,000 yard shots. In fact, a lot of hunters couldn't hit the broadside of a barn at that range. I think some Americans are more worried about the "cool factor" than they actually are about the hunt itself. Does this mean I think guys who buy super-fast velocity cartridges (for relatively average shooting distances) are idiots, no. I just think they are too enamored (spelling?) with what I call, the "cool factor".
     
  12. trigger creep

    trigger creep AH Enthusiast

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    Shhh! Don't say that too loud. You are going to make the person who likes to shoot big game with innadequate cartridges happy. And at the same time you're going to make the mini Elmer Keiths mad...... Both sides make me wanna :vomit:.
     
  13. enysse

    enysse AH Ambassador

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    My deer hunting rifle is a 243 Win. and I have never seen a deer get more than a 100 yards.....I use 100 grain power points....I would be willing to hunt most of the time with that gun.....but common sense says the 7mm Rem is better....and the 300 Win. is more than enough gun.

    It still comes down to shoot placement :).
     
  14. classicsafari

    classicsafari AH Enthusiast

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    So what happens when you fluf a shot or the bullet hits a twig on the way in?
    Id rather hit it with a slightly more than ample round for insurance as Ive seen too many good shots f%^k it up.
     
  15. enysse

    enysse AH Ambassador

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    I think every hunter is different. I would pass up a indifferent shot....there will always be a better shot opportunity in the future, I'm not going to shoot through the grass or brush. I don't like wounding animals.

    As far as using a bigger caliber....I have nothing against it....I still say shot placement is everything. That's why there are plenty of successful bowhunters out there....they strive for the that close and personal.....high percentage shot. Nothing is screw-up proof....but the closer you are...the less chance of a bad shot.

    I'm not a Big 7....hunter though either....and that is my preference too....I have nothing against anybody hunting the Big 7....my personality and pocketbook match plains game hunts.

    Nothing better than a good kudu hunt!!!
     
  16. ECHIV

    ECHIV AH Member

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    Twigs and sticks in the way deflect bullets, period. THey do not care about the caliber of the bullet. How far away the twig or stick is will determine wether the bullet wounds, kills or misses the animal.

    I have hunted with a .308 Win, 30-06, .300 win mag and a .338 win mag. I was completely confident that I could put the first shot and then several more, if needed, inside a 2" circle at 200 Yards with any of the rifles listed. The key is getting the poison pill in the place where it will do the most to kill the animal with your first shot. a 30 caliber slug in both lungs or the heart is extremely hard to recover from, especially with no medical assistance. I know of hunting partners who have killed Mature Alaskan Moose with a .308 and one friend who made a one-shot on a 7 foot class Grizzly bear with a .257 Roberts while sheep hunting. Thanks to the many handloaders out there who changed the rules for factory ammo premium bullets are available in many factory calibers. I heard many Alaskan hunters complaining about bullet failure on their trophy. I always wanted to ask at what point in the demise of the animal did the bullet fail? Bullet Placement is everything. Take a proven cartridge in a rifle you can handle and are comfortable with and decide where you want your trophies to go in the man cave back home.
     
  17. Sully

    Sully AH Member

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    Sounds to me like poor shooting and incorrect bullets used!!! Cant speak for the Lapua 338...but the Win .338 with a 225 grain slug...has 1370 ft lbs of energy at 500 yds..whereas the 30-06 with a 165 gr bullet has 1350 ft lbs! If 20 ft lbs of energy is so critical...then my safari I'll use nothing but a bolt action with a magazine loaded with .50 cal Browning rounds!!


    Nothing short of an ICBM can make up for poor shooting...and the incorrect bullet doesnt do a hunter much good at all. "Solids" on field mice doesnt get ya where ya want to be.
     
  18. sestoppelman

    sestoppelman SILVER SUPPORTER AH Legend

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    If we are being practical here, what a bullet will or will not do on game at 500 yards is somewhat moot as most hunters couldn't hit a truck at this distance from a FIELD position. So with that in mind looking at the figures above, yes depending on the particular load used, its possible for a .30-06 to essentially have the same remaining energy at that distance. So what? The same can be said of certain 6.5 Swede loads. Assuming again that one can hit an animal at that distance, doubtful for most of us, I think, despite the similarity in energy, the larger caliber, heavier bullet wins the argument, hands down - every time, bullet quality being equal. Muzzle energy in itself does not kill game, trauma does and that is a factor of the proper bullet put in the proper place with adequate penetration. The rest is just numbers that we, myself included, love to fling about, but in the end they dont tell the whole story.
     
  19. Sully

    Sully AH Member

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    I only used the 500 yard distance in passing because 500-600 meters was stated in the posting I replied to. But besides that....if I can hoit a man sized paper target at 500 yards...why is it "impossible" for me to hit a target much larger with even better equipment?

    "Trama" is induced via bullet SHOCK.....and a proper slug...say a 30-06 at 250 yds and a 165 gr Nosler ballistic tip round can more than induce adequate "shock" and trama.

    Thinking that one needs a caliber such as a .375 to bring down plains game...simply tells me that person either has been shooting big bores FARRR too often..or has been out in the harsh sun without a hat on too many times.
     
  20. Sully

    Sully AH Member

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    Agreed 100 percent. An adaquate bullet in the "right" place will do it every time.
     

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