Double, Bolt action or Lever Action rifle on Dangerous Game

Kenneth McMillan

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I am wondering what would be the best rifle to use for stalked Dangerous Game (Elephant, Rhino, Hippo, Buffalo and sometimes Lion). I am pretty good with a Lever Action rifle as this was what I learned to shoot first but however I am thinking a double in either over and under or side by side in either.450 Nitro Express or .400/450 Nitro Express would be better for Dangerous Game on foot but one of my friends thinks the lever in 45/70 Govt would be good as it has higher capacity and my other friend thinks that a bolt action in a suitable large calibre is better as you would have more shots. What would the members use for Dangerous Game on foot.
 

EDELWEISS

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OK first any of the actions you mentioned, would work; but you could also add a semi auto or a single shot or a muzzle loader and bow/crossbow. As too the capacity issue, exactly how many shots are you expecting to need or for that matter be able to shoot?

When your serious about planning your Dangerous Game hunt, you should take up the topic with your PH. He'll probably give you some guidelines for the area youll be hunting (regulations vary from country to country and maybe within each country). Your PH will want you to bring the most powerful rifle that you can shoot well, because power without the ability to shoot it is useless.

Personally Im not a fan of lever actions or 45-70 for Dangerous Game. I suppose if you must use a lever action, theres always the Winchester 1895 in .405, it worked on Lion for Teddy Roosevelt.

I just got back from hunting Lion in RSA. I used a .470 Merkel Double Rifle. I would have happily used a Ruger No1 (single shot in 9.3x74R (but RSA requires 375H&H as a minimum). I have a .577NE single shot; but that seemed excessive for Lion.
 

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Bolt for hunters, doubles for Ph's.

Or a Ruger 1 in 450/400 and we have a member here who has one for sale at a good price! Contact @farrokhrt for more info.
 

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Double or bolt
 

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Hello Kenneth Mcmillan,

Personally, I would not select the lever action for African heavy / dangerous game.
Generally speaking, lever action rifles usually tend to be chambered in short, marginal cartridges (low powder capacity/potentially high chamber pressure).
Some Winchester / Browning 1886 actions have been used as the basis for "wildcat" lever action cartridges, with Africa in mind.
However, I would worry about chamber pressure in hot weather, (as well as my PH wondering why on earth I would bother trying to re-invent the wheel).

The Winchester 1895 lever action was / is chambered in .405 Winchester which, could be argued is a very fine lion cartridge.
I would not know since I have never shot or even seen a lion shot.
That being said, lions are impressive animals when not upset,
I would not want to face an upset one, while I was carrying only a .405 caliber rifle.
The .375 H&H / 300 grain bonded soft, comes to mind as a decent minimum IMO (only slightly more energy but much better penetration potential).
The .450/400 NE. .404 Jeffery, .416 Rigby or, any of the even larger bore Africa proven cartridges above these, including the .500's (not the black powder versions) seem like they'd be so much the better.
The .577 seems a bit much to carry all day (especially at my ripe old age) and by reputation, all of the other ones mentioned above, should smartly crumple the grumpiest lion, (with a reasonably well placed shot).

Regarding other dangerous African animals, in some countries over there, lever action cartridges, "wildcats" included, typically do not meet the legal ballistic requirements for certain species.
If you are serious about hunting African dangerous game, just buy yourself a sturdy bolt action, such as the Winchester Model 70 or CZ 550 magnum, in .375 H&H, then learn to shoot it exceptionally well (about twice the recoil of a .30-06 with heavy bullets).
If you are already quite comfortable with that much recoil and are considering truly heavy game (you mentioned elephant and rhino) then, I suggest a .458 Lott.
With 500 grain monolithic solids, it is a penetrator for sure - recoil is quite "sporting' though, LOL.

Parting Shot as it were:
I feel you would be better off with even a single shot, chambered in a proven caliber than, you would with some less powerful lever action, no matter how many cartridges it held.

Cheers,
Velo Dog.
 
Last edited:

K-man

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Hello and welcome! Remember, especially in Africa, your job is to put ONE SHOT in the perfect place. With most DG your shots will be less than 100 yds, sometimes at 10. Get a reliable bolt, you can always use a double, but use the money you save to shoot more animals, because you will want to. but whatever you get make sure it functions perfectly with the exact ammo you will use there.
 

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Many a PH says to bring the rifle with which you are familiar and that you shoot well. WRT lever actions, note my picture at the left - Winchester 1895 .405 with 400 grain Woodleigh at 2076 fps (sound a little like the 450-400 performance?). Five rounds - one in the chamber and four in the magazine and I never have needed more than two.

Also, consider my Winchester 1886 .45-90 shooting 450 grain bullets at 2150 fps that took ele, leopard, and some cape buffalo on a PAC hunt.

If you get the right velocity with the right bullets and can shoot the rifle well, a lever action will do the job and only a double rifle is faster for the second shot if needed.
 

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My buff was shot with a 450NE double. My first choice is a double. However shot a rifle that fits you well, that you have shot so much it feels like and extension of you, that you can shoot when breathing hard after a long climb, or at the end of a long day on track, that just comes up and seems to go off by itself with out you really thinking about it. So take the rifle that is of a big enough calibre that you shoot well. My advice would be a double, then bolt, then single shot, then lever gun.
 

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I am wondering what would be the best rifle to use for stalked Dangerous Game (Elephant, Rhino, Hippo, Buffalo and sometimes Lion). I am pretty good with a Lever Action rifle as this was what I learned to shoot first but however I am thinking a double in either over and under or side by side in either.450 Nitro Express or .400/450 Nitro Express would be better for Dangerous Game on foot but one of my friends thinks the lever in 45/70 Govt would be good as it has higher capacity and my other friend thinks that a bolt action in a suitable large calibre is better as you would have more shots. What would the members use for Dangerous Game on foot.

If you must (want to) use a lever action look into a 475 Turnbull (Winchester or Browning 86) - not cheap but effective on big game of Africa. But as @CAustin indicated a Ruger #1 or a good double or a good bolt action ($$$) with appropriate cartridge (i.e., 458 Win Mag, 458 Lott, 450/400) would be good. A 375 H&H or Ruger's will be just fine for lion or other soft skinned game. You have a lot of options. It's just a matter of your taste, available dollars and your PH's recommendations. Have fun.
 

ActionBob

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OK first any of the actions you mentioned, would work; but you could also add a semi auto

Actually I don't think you can... semi auto is not going to be legal in most if not all of Africa. Even if it is legal somewhere, I'm not sure where you find one in an adequate caliber. And I think it could be a real PIA to get through the rifle permit process. I do believe I've seen some semi auto shotguns used in some Africa TV show or magazine article where the gun company got them in to try them out in the field and get some early press on a new model?
 

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I am wondering what would be the best rifle to use for stalked Dangerous Game (Elephant, Rhino, Hippo, Buffalo and sometimes Lion). I am pretty good with a Lever Action rifle as this was what I learned to shoot first but however I am thinking a double in either over and under or side by side in either.450 Nitro Express or .400/450 Nitro Express would be better for Dangerous Game on foot but one of my friends thinks the lever in 45/70 Govt would be good as it has higher capacity and my other friend thinks that a bolt action in a suitable large calibre is better as you would have more shots. What would the members use for Dangerous Game on foot.

I really think most PH's are the most pleased to see a client show up carrying a reliable bolt gun they can shoot well with low magnification scope attached solidly. And many prefer clients to have a 375 they shoot well because too many don't shoot the real powerhouse cartridges well (but that would only be people not on AH;)

I too grew up with a lever action deer gun, pump .22 and 12 gauge. But I have made the switch to bolt guns and love them. I have hunted DG with Winchester, CZ and Ruger bolt guns and all worked great. Scoped between 1 or 1.5 to 4, 5, or 6.

The double gun bug has not bitten me yet but I certainly can see the intrigue they hold to many. I also find it interesting that a double gun is the most preferred weapon choice for DG, but if you shoot a bolt it must hold at least 5 cartridges... Ok, that is completely tongue in cheek but seems to illustrate the extremes in some guys' opinions;)

So to your friend's advice that the lever gun 45/70 that has higher capacity.. Hogwash! Nothing in DG hunting is more important than an accurate first shot with a proper bullet penetrating to the vitals. If you want to do it with a double or single shot in a fine old suitable cartridge, great! Do it. And if you want to do it with open sites, practice and know your ability then get close and do it because you want to! And if you want to hunt DG with a lever gun, know it's limitations, practice, and get close to stay within those limitations and do that! Just don't do it thinking that all those extra cartridges in the tube are going to be your backup.... Do it! But do it with making a clean one shot kill in mind.

However, if you want the most accurate and reliable hardware to make that one deep penetrating killing shot while still having backup shots available quickly, you won't do better than a good bolt gun in the appropriate caliber for the game and with proper loads and a good low power scope.
 

ActionBob

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Nemo arms does an AR style rifle in belted magnums, including .458win mag. ;-)
Fascinating, but can you get one into Africa and would you want to hunt DG with one?
 

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mdwest

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looks like action bob and I were thinking the same thing at the same time lol...
 

mdwest

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would you want to hunt DG with one?

Ive never shot a Nemo.. but.. one of the guys that attends DSC meetings in the DFW area regularly has one and swears by its reliability and its accuracy... If he could legally hunt Africa with it, I think he absolutely would.. (he admits its pretty much a toy for him to play with though and will likely never find an opportunity to hunt with it..)..
 

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The double is the romantic pick but most of us aren't practiced enough with a double trigger to rapidly employ the second barrel in a high stress situation. Most hunters should stick with a bolt gun and leave the double to the professionals.
 

edward

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as a handgun hunter ill keep my mouth shut,though they are capable of taking t rex, with,as always,proper bullet and proper placement.oop,s.
 

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