Body Shots On Elephant (Does Caliber Really Matter?)

Pondoro

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IvW..... You are a very smart individual and almost have it down 100% correct. The only thing I would change in your description is from just FMJ, to any Round Nose Solid Projectile.

Let me present to the group a little bit about Terminal Ballistics for Solids, but first You would never use anything but a Solid for Elephant, there are way too many variables involved to consider ANY sort of trauma inflicting bullet, or any soft point. Solids, or nothing at all. Yes, Caliber is important, 458+ hits elephant far harder than anything less than .458. Leave your 375 rat guns at home, and or make sure your PH has a proper caliber with him to back you up.

There are 8 Factors of Terminal Penetration for Solids and they are in this order of importance;

#1 Meplat Percentage of Caliber

Meplats that attain 65% Meplat of Caliber are terminally stable.... Above 70% Meplat bullets remain stable, however depth of penetration begins to decrease with every step up in meplat size. 70% Meplat or larger does increase trauma to, and destruction of tissue. 70% Meplats start to get difficult to feed, even in Winchester M70s...... From 65% Meplat to 68% Meplat is OPTIMUM for Stability, destruction of tissues, and feed and function in most quality rifles..........


#2 Nose Profile

There are many and varied Nose Profiles of solids on the market today, from the angled Nose Profiles of CEB and North Fork, to the straight nose profile of the older North Forks and GSC, the Barnes/Hornady Profiles (like a RN cut off at the top) to many more... Not all of these are created equal, and some are better performers than others. In recent tests in comparison between the old North Fork Profiles and the Newer North Fork Profiles I was getting 20% deeper penetration with the Newer North Forks than the older, with the same bullet, just difference in Nose Profile is all.... John at North Fork agrees, and in their work there they were getting more along the lines of 25% deeper penetration. One major thing that I noticed here, the stability at the end of penetration was 100% better. In most all tests here the last 2 inches of penetration of the old style North Forks would be unstable. Now this is and was of no consequence at the very end of penetration. The depth of penetration of these older nose profile bullets was always so deep that it had long accomplished its mission before loss of stability right at the very end. This new NOSE PROFILE of North Forks remains DEAD STRAIGHT to the very last of penetration, and always found NOSE FORWARD........

#3 Construction & Material

Construction of a solid is a major part of its ability to penetrate. To deny this is foolish to say the least. Some of our solids out there, lead core, are very very weak in construction and absolutely do not have the ability to bust through heavy bone and reach their intended targets. I have seen and have in hand failures of these bullets from the field..... A shame as well, as some of these bullets are promoted as Dangerous Game Solids, and some of them flatten out like pancakes when hitting heavy dense material. Some FMJ Have steel inserts, while this solves a problem in one area, it creates problems in other areas.... Brass is harder than Copper... No surprise there, but I have busted elephant heads with both copper and brass, and never had one distort, but, these solids were of a very STRONG NOSE PROFILE as well........ So you see, combinations of different factors work together to strengthen or weaken other factors..... A good strong Nose Profile, can overcome some material deficiencies and in the case of copper solids this is extremely important.

#4 Nose Projection

Nose Projection above the top bands was the last factor discovered. There may be more factors, but currently they remain undiscovered at this point in time.... We found that nose projection above the top of the bands of current CNC monolithic bullets is very important to depth of penetration. Some bullets designed to work through lever actin riflers require a SHORT NOSE PROJECTION in front of the bands so that they can be loaded deep enough to work through the actions of these guns... Nose Projection of these same bullets for bolt guns, single shots, and double rifles are longer, from .600 to .700 in front of the top band. The LONGER NOSE PROJECTION solids will penetrate on average 25% deeper than the shorter nose projection. Now, these bullets already have all the other required factors for stability, nose profile, construction and radius, so it is ONLY DEPTH Of penetration that is effected with properly designed bullets.



#5 Radius Edge of Meplat

We found that the radius edge of the meplat made a difference, small, but a difference none the less. A nicely radius edge penetrates about 5% deeper, and has more stability at the end than a sharp edged radius.... No more to go into here, thats it.......


All the Above Factors Deal with Bullet Design........

#6 Velocity

Velocity is a factor, but it also goes hand in hand with Nose Profile and Construction/Material. If we assume that the Meplat is optimum, the nose projection is optimum, and the bullet has a nice radius then velocity becomes a factor in combination with nose profile and construction/materials. Different Nose Profiles react differently with velocity. Some nose profiles at very low velocity cannot maintain stability, but this would be in the extreme, and other factors may come into play with some of this. In essence with some Nose Profiles, added velocity will equate to added depth of penetration, and of course trauma and destruction of tissue. Some nose profiles react better than others, but if properly designed, then all will get some gain from added velocity, UNTIL you reach the point that you get distortion of the meplat by TOO MUCH VELOCITY. Once you begin to distort that meplat, then all sorts of strange things begin to occur. One is depth of penetration will decrease, stability will decrease as well....... Normally you will only get this at extreme velocities at 2700-2800 fps or more, which in our big bore rifles is somewhat extreme.......... Lead core bullets will be effected in a serious manner at extreme velocities, followed by copper, and then brass........ Nose Profile and Construction & Material are very important for Factor #6.........


#7 Barrel Twist Rate

Barrel twist rate really only becomes a factor when Factor #1 is DEFICIENT....... If the meplat of caliber is undersized, less than 65%, then faster twist rates WILL INCREASE the depth of penetration by increasing the stability of terminal penetration. A 65% Meplat of Caliber can stabilize in slower twist rates of 1:18, or even slower...... I have seen 65% Meplat of Caliber stabilize with ZERO TWIST....... I have seen 50% Meplat of Caliber stability increase with faster twist rates, and have documentation to prove it, several times...... If you are using a properly designed Solid, then twist rate becomes less important, and more important if you are not using a proper designed solid. Fast Twist Rates can also increase stability of even RN Solids of decent design, hardly anything can increase stability of a more pointy RN FMJ.......



#8 Sectional Density

Sectional Density will ONLY BE A FACTOR with two bullets that are exactly the same in every other Factor or aspect. Factors #1 and #2 far outweigh Sectional Density in the terminal performance of Solids. We can take a properly designed 458 caliber 325 gr Solid and far out penetrate in depth and stability a poorly designed 550 gr 458 caliber bullet....... My son recently shot a medium sized elephant at 10 yards, perfectly executed side brain shot, with a 350 gr .474 caliber properly designed solid at 2200 fps. This bullet exited the head on the far side and still may be going for all I know. A 350 gr .474 caliber bullet has a sectional density of .223, and I personally would choose this little 350 gr bullet over the Woodleigh 500 gr RN FMJ at .4725 (ones I have here) any and every day for any mission............




These are undeniable facts, and can be proven over and over and over again in all test work, and these factors have been exercised in the field and have proven themselves in the field, many many times over...... These are the 8 Known Factors of Terminal Penetration of Solid Bullets.................

Objection…! .375H&H is far from being a "rat-gun"....it penetrates like crazy and is better than ever with all these wonderful new monolitic bullets..

I always bring my .375H&H as the reserve rifle when hunting elephant and have hunted them exclusively with it...try these:

https://www.jaktdepotet.no/hjemmela...hino/375-340gr-solid-20-stk-rhino-hippo-kuler
 

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CAustin

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I am contemplating doing an elephant hunt in the near future. I realize that most people prefer a brain shot for Elephant, but in the case that a heart/lung shot is presented, wouldn't that make a much larger target? I also realize the Elephant could possibly run for quite some distance before succumbing to such a shot, but if placement was correct, the outcome should be certain.
That said, due to the large size of an Elephant, and the fact that solids would most likely be used, is there really a huge difference in effectiveness between a 375 bullet, vs something larger? Say 416, 404 or 458. I'm sure the bigger guns are always somewhat more effective, but on such a huge animal, they all seem relatively small bore when considering a heart/lung shot.

Toby we should talk live. Either the 416 or 404 will do the job guide nicely. My elephant was taken with a 416 Ruger as you know. Side on brain shot and he was down. A body shot behind the front leg was possible for the heart and the ammo would have been suited to the work, however we didn’t want the beast to run due to location close to the river and park boundary. I have the Buzz Carlton video on hunting elephant which details all the possible shots from actual hunts. Side on heart shot in one hunt and the beast ran maybe 100 yards. We should talk!
 

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With a possible ele hunt in Zimbabwe planned for 2022, I feel I should resurrect this old thread. I haven't booked the trip yet, but am leaning hard on the fence.

Now I have a couple of R8's in 375 to muddy the water, if I take the Jaeger, I'll need to decide whether or not to buy a 416 or 458 barrel for it and get a larger forend to fit the larger profile barrels, or stick with the 375 barrel. If I take the Professional it will have to be in 375, because the stock won't accept a larger profile barrel, and I have no interest in opening up the stock.

OR....I will take my Winchester 70 416 Rem or Win 70 458 Win Mag for Elephant, and the Blaser 375 for everything else.

Having over a year to make the decision does help though.
 

Royal27

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Having over a year to make the decision does help though.

OMG that's funny!!!

There is no way you even yet own the rifle you'll take if you have over a year !

:E Lol:
 

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i've never hunted elephant, probably never will. I do hope to hunt cape buffalo. I load both the Barnes 570g TSX and 570g Banded Solids in my 500 Jeffery to 2300 fps. They shoot close (1/2" at 100 yards) to the same point of impact. I hope to use the 500g TSX on buffalo.
 

edward

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A well placed hart/lung shot will kill an elephant in about 100 yards.

375 H&H is adequate but you need to use a decent solid. Meplat brass or the Woodleigh hydro which is excellent. Not jacketed old style solids.

Bigger bullets are better, the elephant is the largest land mammal after all.

There is a difference in calibers for sure as you move up. There is a significant difference when you get to the .500's, having said that the 375 H&H is adequate.
 

edward

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i've never hunted elephant, probably never will. I do hope to hunt cape buffalo. I load both the Barnes 570g TSX and 570g Banded Solids in my 500 Jeffery to 2300 fps. They shoot close (1/2" at 100 yards) to the same point of impact. I hope to use the 500g TSX on buffalo.
a well placed well constructed 375 that you can shoot perfectly,is far better than a cal that beats the crap out of you that your afraid of,J.M.O
 

Ike85123

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I guess to me the terrain and distance would be a factor. With no obstacles between me and the elephant and at relatively short distance, I would use my 500ne. I wouldn't want to rely on the ph to back me up. A 375 would do it, with great placement. But I wouldnt take the chance. 458wm would be the absolute smallest I would feel comfortable with. Everything ive seen, done and read is true, bring enough gun !
 

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For a body shot on a small Bull like a Limpopo bull, or a binga or Zambezi valley bull, a 458 and it’s equals like 404 and 416 is more than enough.

for a hwange/ Botswana bull a 470 doesn’t get their attention much. It’s a chase, they may die a considerable distance away. I wouldn’t like to shoot them with less than 450NE and up.

the professionals are using 500jeff, 500ne, and 577 because they need that certainty that a shot to the brain (near miss) will stun them and an anchoring assist shot up the tailpipe will positively break the hip to quickly end the hunt. That’s for professionals, clients need to shoot the biggest thing they shoot well. 470 is pretty much the quintessential elephant rifle for a client whether heart lung or brain shot.
 

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For a body shot on a small Bull like a Limpopo bull, or a binga or Zambezi valley bull, a 458 and it’s equals like 404 and 416 is more than enough.

for a hwange/ Botswana bull a 470 doesn’t get their attention much. It’s a chase, they may die a considerable distance away. I wouldn’t like to shoot them with less than 450NE and up.

the professionals are using 500jeff, 500ne, and 577 because they need that certainty that a shot to the brain (near miss) will stun them and an anchoring assist shot up the tailpipe will positively break the hip to quickly end the hunt. That’s for professionals, clients need to shoot the biggest thing they shoot well. 470 is pretty much the quintessential elephant rifle for a client whether heart lung or brain shot.
This will be a tuskless hunt, so body size shouldn't be an issue. I think the 375 would do just fine, but a 416 or 458 may be more convincing...
 

rookhawk

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This will be a tuskless hunt, so body size shouldn't be an issue. I think the 375 would do just fine, but a 416 or 458 may be more convincing...

having been surrounded by cows I can tell you that they can be dangerous. Much more dangerous to be winded in chaotic moments around cows. If I were on a tuskless hunt I would be sure I had enough gun to protect my life. Bring a big gun that you can reload quickly and that you have utter confidence in. Stick to the PH uncomfortably close. Listen to directions. And bring enough gun for what could become a sh$tstorm.

just my opinion, but I’m risk averse. I’ve never been at ease in thick Jess with cows nearby.
 

One Day...

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So..................

With my own elephant hunt this coming August 2021 in Zimbabwe, God permitting, and if the current enlightened American Administration does not screw the pooch too bad on international travels, I too have given this a lot of thoughts. I will be hunting a bull, but I would not think any differently if it was a notoriously cantankerous tuskless cow.

Since I already own a Krieghoff double .470 NE, it will come as no surprise that this will be my primary rifle, but my backup rifle - should a dream 60 pounder show up across a clearing that we cannot cross to less than 50 yards - will be a scoped R8 .375 H&H loaded with Norma PH Woodleigh solids 350 gr.

If I did not own a double .470...

1) I am not sure that I would buy one !?!?!?
A well handled Blaser R8 will double "almost" (but not quite) as fast as a double rifle, but even if its second shot is a little slower, its third and fourth shots will definitely be faster than a double's.

2) I would not buy a factory .416 Rem (or custom .404 Jeffery) barrel for the R8. The .40+ are certainly a big step up from the .375 H&H 300 gr, but:
  • the .40+ 400 gr are apparently only a modest step up from the .375 H&H 350 gr (ref. Kevin "doctari" Robertson);
  • the .40+ are great killers but not great stoppers (ref. the long list of PHs who have in the end moved from a .40+ to a .45+ with Buzz Charlton coming to mind as a recent example - and few are more experienced than he his on modern elephant).
Of course, a 450 gr .40+ slug will up the game, just as a 350 gr .375 slug ups the game, but still it will be short of the next step: a 500 gr .45+ slug that has been the accepted reference for over a century.

3) I would buy a .458 Lott factory barrel for the R8. The .458 Lott is the modern equivalent to the classic .450 / .470 / .500 NE. Based on a large number of professionals' feedback, it hits noticeably harder on body shots that a 40+, and it is likely to stun/stumble an elephant, especially a cow, on a close miss at the brain shot. There is no guaranty of this, but many pros believe that it is probable, based on their own experience (ref. from "Pondoro" Taylor to Buzz Charlton). These few seconds may buy you the time for a killing heart/lungs body shot after a fumbled brain shot...

Some may prefer a .500 Jeffery R8 factory barrel. I am not advocating that energy kills* but energy is a mathematical indicator of penetration potential (with the right bullet) and killing/stopping power (however we care to calculate it), and bullet weight as well as bullet caliber/frontal area are objective measurements. Therefore, the .500 Jeff 570 gr (6,700 ft./lbs.) is a bigger hammer than the .458 Lott 500 gr (5,900 ft./lbs.), which itself is a bigger hammer than the .416 Rigby/Rem 400 gr (5,100 ft./lbs.). However, 100 years of experience seem to indicate that a 500 gr .45+ solid at 2,150 fps works well enough, so a modern 500 gr .458 mono/meplat solid at 2,300 fps is good enough for me, and I really like the .458 Lott (and .458 Win in a pinch) ammo quasi universal availability over the .500 Jeff limited offering. Hand-loaders who live in country likely have a different perspective.

* interestingly, the .375 H&H 350 gr (4,100 ft./lbs.) generates less "energy" than the .375 H&H 300 gr (4,300 ft./lbs.) due to the fact that it flies slower, and velocity is squared in the energy calculation, but based on people in the know and with the experience to back it, it is a notoriously more effective killer and stopper on thick skinned dangerous game from Buff to Elephant, Hippo, etc. The same applies to the .416 400 gr (5,100 ft./lbs.) and the .416 400 gr (4,600 ft./lbs.).

All this being said, because the heart/lungs area is approximately the size of a suitcase, and the brain is approximately the size of a foot/rugby ball from the side, and a baseball from the front, OF COURSE it is logical that for neophyte elephant hunters the heart/lungs shot is a safer route than the brain shot............. Not to mention that if you hover a few square feet inside the lungs area you have a dead elephant, but if you miss the brain by only a few inches, you likely have a very expensive lost elephant - unless the PH kills it for you with a backup heart/lungs shot................ but don't we all prefer to kill our own game...............
 
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Riksa

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I'm a fan of heavy for caliber bullets. I've used 450gr Woodleigh FMJ in my .416 Rigby. Loaded them to 2150ft/s, the same speed that Norma African PH uses. Hitting Botswana sized bull to heart lung area did penetrate the elephant.
 

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@One Day...

I agree with everything you wrote. One thing I’d add is since you’re comparing apples and oranges with the 375hh in 300gr versus 350gr, your opinion of the 404 Jeff needs equal contrast. The original 400gr load was a Buffalo load and thus the results on elephant were so-so, just like the 300gr 375hh. But a modern 450gr solid from a 404jeff? It’s in that 416/458 efficacy range and may be a bit more oomph than you give credit.
 

One Day...

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Agreed :)

As noted: "the .375 H&H 350 gr (4,100 ft./lbs.) generates less "energy" than the .375 H&H 300 gr (4,300 ft./lbs.) due to the fact that it flies slower, and velocity is squared in the energy calculation, but, based on people in the know and with the experience to back it, it is a notoriously more effective killer and stopper on thick skinned dangerous game from Buff to Elephant, Hippo, etc. The same applies to the .416 400 gr (5,100 ft./lbs.) and the .416 450 gr (4,600 ft./lbs.)" (underline added).

Apologies for the typo in the original post "The same applies to the .416 400 gr (5,100 ft./lbs.) and the .416 400 gr (4,600 ft./lbs.)". I obviously meant "The same applies to the .416 400 gr (5,100 ft./lbs.) and the .416 450 gr (4,600 ft./lbs.)."

My overall point, to which I think we all agree, was and remains: a .458 Lott 500 gr is by any measure a better choice for elephant than either .375 or .416, be they with 300 gr / 400 gr or 350 gr / 450 gr solids, ASSUMING (?) that the hunter can still shoot the .458 Lott well, which is a substantial recoil threshold above, in order, .375, .404, and .416.
 
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I wouldn't say that! But that Heym sure is mighty pretty to be dragging through the thorns. My synthetic stocked 416 would make much more sense! :A Stirring:
@TOBY458
More sense maybe but not as much fun. If'n y'all are that worried get a synthetic stock for the Heymen. What's a few scratches they are story lines of the hunt any who.
Bob
 

One Day...

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You got my attention there Bob !!!
Are you aware of any supplier for polymer/synthetic stocks for double rifles? I would put one on my Krieghoff in a heartbeat :)
 

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