My Views On Rifles & Ammunition For Sorting Out Dangerous Game

Professor Mawla

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For obvious reasons , every hunter must give a great deal of consideration to the arms and ammunition used for taking his quarry cleanly with little to no complications . For those who hunt dangerous game , even more care must be taken when selecting the proper armaments for hunting anything which has the ability to kill , wound or otherwise harm the hunter(s) .

Most of the local dangerous game which I have shot in my life till now ( hundreds of wild boar , 18 marauding cheetahs , a marauding Royal Bengal tiger and a rogue elephant bull ) , was taken under the authorization of either the Mymensingh or the Habiganj or the Maulvi Bazaar Forest Departments . During ten years spanning 1972 to 1982 ( when I hunted most of these dangerous game animals ) , the following armaments were used by the Maulvi Bazaar Forest Guards :


  • The standard issue rifle of the Forest Guards , was the Lee Enfield .303 calibre bolt action rifle . The standard issue ammunition for these rifles were 215 grain soft nosed rounds and 215 grain copper jacketed blunt nosed solid rounds . The soft nosed ammunition was from Remington Peters , while the solid ammunition was manufactured by Bangladesh Ordinance Factories .
  • The armory had a couple of old Belgian 12 bore side by side shotguns with exposed hammers , which had been refurbished and repaired locally . Alongside these shotguns , countless boxes of Eley Alphamax 2 3/4 inch number 4 birdshot shells were always to be found in the armory ( so that the Forest Guards could shoot winged game for the pot ) . Two or three boxes of Eley Alphamax 2 3/4 inch LG shells could also be found lying around in the armory .
  • There was also a .577 Nitro Express calibre Westley Richards droplock ejector single trigger double rifle , which was lying around in the armory . It had only one specific application - sorting out the largest of rogue elephants . Alongside this double rifle , there were a few boxes of old stock ICI Kynoch 750 grain round nosed steel jacketed solid ammunition .
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Bangladesh’s greatest hunter of marauding Royal Bengal tigers , Forest Ranger Pachabdhi Gazi ( 1924 - 1997 ) holding a department issue .303 British Lee Enfield after successfully hunting down his 51st marauder . 1972

Over the years , I have been fortunate enough to go after dangerous game with ( mostly ) my own arms . Until 1976 , this was limited to a .22 LR ( Long Rifle ) calibre BRNO bolt action rifle and a Laurona 12 bore sidelock ejector side by side shotgun . While I did manage to shoot and kill one female cheetah with a 40 grain solid lead bullet fired from my BRNO .22 LR , the vast majority of my marauding cheetahs ( 14 to be exact ) were killed with my Laurona 12 bore and Eley 2 3/4 inch Alphamax LG shells ( with each shell holding eight antimony hardened lead slugs of .36 calibre) .


All of this changed in 1976 , when I acquired a proper dangerous game rifle . It was a .458 WM ( Winchester Magnum) which was custom built by Flaig’s in Millvale , Pennsylvania on a Winchester Enfield 1917 action . It was fitted with a Douglas Premium barrel and a contoured French walnut stock . In my own homeland , this excellent rifle helped me account for countless wild boar , three marauding cheetahs , a marauding Royal Bengal tiger and a rogue elephant bull ( alongside standard table fare such as Axis deer and barking deer ) . The rifle , itself is built like a tank and has never let me down .
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Marauding Royal Bengal tiger shot by the author ( pictured ) by using a .458 WM . 1976


Since the last 48 years of my life as a hunter , I have hunted in many countries across the globe : Bangladesh , the United States , Europe and Australia . And my quarry has often included dangerous game : black bears and Kodiak bears in the United States , wild boars in Germany and water buffaloes in Australia . During this time , I have tried several dangerous game calibres : .338 WM , 9.3x62 mm Mauser , 9.3x74 mm R ( Rimmed ) , .375 H & H Magnum , 10.75x68 mm Mauser , .416 Remington Magnum, .458 Winchester Magnum , .505 Gibbs and .577 NE ( Nitro Express ) . All of them were really pleasant to use , and ( provided that proper ammunition is used ) you cannot really complain about the performance of any of them . Of course , I have used other calibres as well over the years ( such as .30-06 Springfield ) . However , I personally do not consider a dangerous game calibre to be anything smaller than a .338 bore and employing any bullet weighing less than 250 grains .


By the late 1950s , most countries in Africa had stipulated that .375 H&H Magnum was the lightest calibre to be legally used against dangerous game . In a few countries such as Kenya ( prior to the 1977 hunting ban ) , the lightest calibre to be legally used against dangerous game was the .400 bore . Until the Indira Gandhi Regime banned all forms of hunting in India in 1972 , 13 of the 30 states mandated that the .375 H&H Magnum was the lightest calibre to be legally used against Royal Bengal tiger and Gaur . Today , most African countries continue to stipulate that the .375 H&H Magnum is the lightest calibre to be legally used against dangerous game ( with a few countries lowering the legal limit to 9.3 mm calibre ) .


In essence , most hunters of dangerous game will opt for any calibre between .338 WM and .600 NE ( there is also a .700 NE , but it’s creation is motivated more out of novelty than out of practicality ) . Any of these calibres ( provided that the right load is being used ) can kill the largest six ton elephant bull . But some demand more critical shot placement than others . With the advent of modern bullets and gunpowders , the terminal ballistics of many calibres have been significantly improved from what they traditionally were :


  • A .338 WM traditionally uses 250 grain bullets , but nowadays 300 grain bullets can be used ( as sourced by Woodleigh )
  • A .375 H&H Magnum traditionally uses 300 grain bullets , but nowadays 350 grain bullets can be used ( as used in Norma’s PH line of factory loaded ammunition ) .
  • A .416 Rigby traditionally uses 410 grain bullets , but nowadays 450 grain bullets can be used ( as used in Norma’s PH line of factory loaded ammunition ) .
  • A .505 Gibbs traditionally uses 525 grain bullets , but nowadays 600 grain bullets can be used ( as used in Norma’s PH line of factory loaded ammunition ) .


Today , all of these calibres are extremely popular ( including countless more which I have not listed ) . Whichever the operator chooses to use , is largely a matter of personal preference . Seven out of ten client hunters visiting Africa today for a Safari will opt for a .375 H&H Magnum . Most of the American bear guides will also opt for this calibre ( but during the 1970s , they largely preferred the .338 WM ) . It is a reasonable choice , considering the following factors :


  • It is an extremely common chambering for bolt action rifles and most brands who manufacture bolt action rifles , will typically have the .375 H&H Magnum as an offering .
  • Ammunition ( or reloading components if you are into hand loading ) is relatively more affordable than other calibres and also relatively easier to source .
  • The recoil is relatively milder compared to most other dangerous game calibres .
  • The calibre is surprisingly accurate and flat shooting at longer ranges , compared to the larger dangerous game calibres .
  • It is so versatile that under most normal circumstances , it can take everything from a small barking deer to a large elephant bull ; thus negating the need to carry more than one rifle .

A .375 H&H Magnum is an excellent choice for the largest and most aggressive of dangerous game , provided that you manage to kill it with the first shot ( which is something that every hunter should aspire to achieve ) . When dealing with wounded game which is either charging or escaping , however it may very occasionally prove to be just marginal ( especially when used against Asiatic elephant or Gaur ) . For this reason , most clients hunters in Africa are typically accompanied by a PH ( professional hunter ) who carries a larger calibre rifle .

Those who hunt dangerous game alone without any professional hunter to back them up , typically opt for something of at least .400 bore . There is the .404 Jeffery and it’s double rifle counterpart, the .450/ 400 NE . These traditionally use 400 grain bullets . There is the .416 Rigby ( and the very similar .416 Remington Magnum ) and it’s double rifle counterpart , the .500/416 NE . These traditionally use 410 grain bullets ; a bullet weight which is also used by the fairly obscure .425 WR ( Westley Richards ) . Under most normal circumstances , any of the .400 or .416 bores are excellent stoppers of dangerous game.

Since I have usually been completely alone ( barring the occasional tracker ) during most of the times when I have hunted East Bengali dangerous game ( alongside having to hunt them on foot ) , I actually have a strong personal preference for the .450 bores and employing a 500 grain bullet . Under any circumstances , any of the .450 bores is capable of stopping the largest charging elephant bull or Royal Bengal tiger ( provided that shot placement is reasonable ) . At the same time , they are not as overtly specialized as the .500 bores ( or larger ) . Using the correspondingly proper ammunition , a .450 bore can comfortably drop an Axis deer ( without causing excessive meat damage) just as easily as it can drop a charging Asiatic elephant bull . My personal favorite happens to be the .458 WM ( Winchester Magnum ) .

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.458 WM belonging to the author .

Originally designed to propel a 500 grain bullet from a 2 1/2 inch shell case at a velocity of 2130 feet per second , the .458 WM has generated more than it’s fair share of controversy within the ammunition and hunting industry . In order to achieve the originally advertised velocity , the charge of gunpowder has to be severely compressed in order to fit the 2 1/2 inch shell . With freshly loaded ammunition , this is not really a readily apparent problem . But ammunition which had been loaded and stored for a year or too , will start having the powder charge congeal into one rock solid mass . As a result , not all of the gunpowder would burn during ignition and actual velocities were somewhere in the 1500 feet per second range . Not good enough for reliably stopping large and aggressive dangerous game . Until 1979 , this issue plagued Winchester Super Speed and Remington Peters factory loaded ammunition for the .458 WM .

But there was a way around this problem . My close friend and the original owner of my .458 WM ( Colonel Mirza ) taught me that by keeping my Winchester Super Speed .458 WM factory loaded ammunition in an airtight gun safe with some silica gel , I would actually be able to prevent any moisture from making contact with my loaded ammunition . This would help to prolong shelf life , noticeably . Using this trick since the last 44 years , I have been fortunate enough never to have a velocity problem with the .458 WM . From 1979 onwards , both brands ( Winchester Super Speed and Remington Peters ) began to advertise the velocity of their .458 Winchester Magnum factory loaded ammunition as 2040 feet per second ; indicating a reduction in powder charge . This was done to avoid compression and improve shelf life . It did this while being able to retain it’s potency against most dangerous game ( the exception being frontal brain shots on large elephant bulls ) .
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Boxes of 1985 era Winchester Super X .458 WM 500 & 510 grain factory loaded ammunition owned by the author ( two boxes of 510 grain soft nosed ammunition and one box of 500 grain round nosed steel jacketed solid ammunition ) .

Only in the late 2010s , did it become possible to achieve a velocity of 2140 feet per second from .458 Winchester Magnum factory loaded ammunition ( while employing a 500 grain bullet ) . The answer came from Hornady and the next developments in their Dangerous Game line . This line of factory loaded ammunition uses a special cool burning powder and is loaded to fairly high pressures in order to accomplish the velocity of 2140 feet per second . I have actually run a few of these newest Hornady DGS ( Dangerous Game Solid ) and DGX ( Dangerous Game eXpanding) factory loaded .458 Winchester Magnum 500 grain rounds through a chronograph . The velocity is indeed , an honest 2137 feet per second from the 25 inch barrel of my .458 WM . This is appreciably close to the advertised figure ( 2140 feet per second ) on the Hornady DGS and DGX ammunition boxes .


Today , there are a number of improved .450 bores on the market . These use a slightly larger shell case than the .458 WM and can be loaded to higher velocities for propelling 500 ( or even 550 ) grain bullets , without requiring powder compression . These include the .460 Weatherby Magnum , the .458 Lott , the .450 Rigby and the .450 Dakota . With the exception of the .460 Weatherby Magnum ( where overtly high velocities frequently lead to distortion of most conventional bullet designs ) , most of these would be sensible choices today for the hunter who wants to use a .450 bore but is not confident about the performance of the .458 WM .

There are also some calibres between the .450 bores and the .500 bores which are exclusively for double rifles . There is the .450 NE , the .500/450 NE , the .500/465 NE and the .475 NE ; all of which traditionally use 480 grain bullets . There is the .470 NE which traditionally uses a 500 grain bullet and also the .476 WR which traditionally uses a 525 grain bullet . For those who prefer to use double rifles , any of these are quite similar in terms of ballistic performance to the .450 bores discussed in the previous paragraph .

Then , we come to the .500 bores and the .600 NE . The .505 Gibbs traditionally uses a 525 grain bullet . The .500 Jeffery traditionally uses a 535 grain bullet . The .500 NE traditionally uses a 570 grain bullet . The .577 NE traditionally uses a 750 grain bullet , while the .600 NE traditionally uses a 900 grain bullet . Any of these are excellent choices for use against elephants , Cape buffalo , Gaur or rhinoceros . However , I personally feel that they are a bit too overtly specialized and are strictly for sorting out thick skinned dangerous game . Hunters who take these rifles to the field , are usually forced to bring additional rifles of lighter calibres in order to hunt other game species .


What I really appreciate about the .450 bores , is that they can fully qualify as true stoppers of charging dangerous game while also still being versatile enough to use against the lighter class of game ; should the need arise ( provided that the appropriate ammunition is used accordingly ) .


With the different calibres for dangerous game having been discussed , we can now discuss the appropriate platform for a dangerous game rifle . In broad categories , there are two :


* Magazine rifles - These include lever action rifles and bolt action rifles .


* Double rifles - These include side by side rifles and over under rifles .

Both of these platforms are proven performers in the field against dangerous game . The advantages of the magazine rifle is as follows :


  • Being able to hold three to six rounds without needing to reload .
  • Being more accurate out to longer ranges , on account of the single sighting plane .
  • Being able to produce accurate results with a wide variety of ammunition.
  • Generally being more affordable than most double rifles .

The advantages of double rifles are as follows :


  • The ability to discharge an instant second shot without needing to operate a lever or a bolt .
  • Being guaranteed a second shot without needing to rely upon the mechanical intricacies of the rifle ( although this is not necessarily true ) .
  • They are essential when following up wounded cheetahs into the thick vegetation .

Which one to pick , is largely a matter of personal choice . I personally prefer magazine rifles because I find that their advantages outweigh those offered by the double rifle . This is again , strictly a personal choice . Countless hunters who are far more successful than myself , prefer double rifles over magazine rifles . I have one particular reason ( above all others ) for choosing magazine rifles over double rifles . Since I live and hunt mostly in a third world country ( where ammunition for the 12 bore , .32 ACP and the .22 rimfires are the only ones which are regularly imported into arms shops ) , I have to make do with whatever factory loaded ammunition or reloading components which I can get my hands on . In this context , a magazine rifle ( which can produce accurate groups with most brands of ammunition ) is a much more practical thing to own than a double rifle ( which , on account of the two barrels ; is regulated by manufacturers so that both barrels shoot to the same point of impact with one very specific make and brand of ammunition ) .

There is , however one context where a double barrel weapon is irreplaceable. This is when one has to follow up wounded cheetahs into dense vegetation . 90 % of follow up work on cheetahs culminate in a charge . And when a cheetah charges , it will always be at extremely short ranges ( usually less than ten yards ) . The cheetah is the fastest of all of the dangerous game in South East Asia . Facing a charging cheetah with a magazine rifle , will usually allow the operator time for only one shot . You will not be able to operate the lever or cycle the bolt before the cheetah manages to get ahold of you . For this reason , a double barrel weapon with double triggers is preferable . It provides allowance for an instant second shot . For this sort of work , I prefer a 12 bore double barrel side by side shotgun and LG shells . My personal setup has always been a Laurona 12 bore sidelock ejector and Eley 2 3/4 inch Alphamax LG shells ( with each shell holding eight antimony hardened lead slugs ) which has always worked well for me .
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Left to right : Winchester Super Double X Magnum 2 3/4 inch SG shell ( 12 copper plated slugs ) , Eley Alphamax 2 3/4 inch LG shell ( eight antimony hardened slugs) , locally reloaded 2 3/4 inch LG shell ( six antimony hardened slugs )

However , those who own shotguns with 3 inch chambers will greatly benefit from using 3 inch SG or LG Magnum buckshot shells . These hold more slugs in the shell , which is always a good thing . The copper plated SG and LG buckshot shells offered by Winchester and Federal in modern times , are infinitely superior to the Eley Alphamax LG shells which I was forced to make do with during the 1970s .
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Marauding cheetah shot by the author with a Laurona 12 bore sidelock ejector and two Eley Alphamax LG shells . 1976

Between lever action rifles and bolt action rifles , bolt actions strike me as the more sensible choice for hunting dangerous game . Since most lever action rifles utilize tubular magazines , they are limited to being chambered in calibres which use flat nosed bullets and cannot be chambered in calibres which use rounded or pointed nose bullets ( for safety reasons ) . The exceptions are the Winchester Model 1905 and the Savage Model 99 . These use internal box magazines ( with earlier variations of the Savage Model 99 using a rotary magazine ) . To the best of my knowledge , the only dangerous game calibre option which has been offered by either of these two rifles is the .405 Winchester in the Winchester Model 1895 . Propelling a 300 grain bullet at a velocity of 2200 feet per second , it goes without saying that ( while an acceptable dangerous game calibre in some contexts ) it is far from the best .

Among bolt actions , we again come into two broad categories :


  • The push feed - Currently produced examples include the actions used in the Remington Model 700 , Schultz & Larsen rifles , Sauer Model 404 , Mauser Model M03 and the Steyr Mannlicher CL II .
  • The control round feed - Currently produced examples include the actions used in the Dakota Model 76 , Winchester Model 70 , Mauser Model 98 and Zastava Model 70
  • Hybrid actions - Currently produced examples include the Sako brown bear and the Blaser R 8
Let us leave hybrid actions out of the discussion . The main difference between push feed actions and control round feed actions , is the method of extracting the expended shell casing . The push feed action uses a small plunger type extractor , while the control round feed action uses a large non rotating claw shaped extractor . Traditionally speaking , the push feed action boasts the advantage of allowing a round to be fed directly into the chamber of the rifle , unlike most control round feed actions where rounds must be loaded into the chamber through the magazine ( many modern control round feed actions however , employ beveled extractors which allow a round to be loaded directly into the chamber ) . The control round feed action boasts the advantage of a larger extractor which allows for more reliable extraction , especially in high stress situations where the operator might not pull the bolt completely back while cycling it ( many modern push feed actions however , have incredibly reliable extraction and leave nothing to be desired ) .

Whether to choose a push feed action or a control round feed action , is a matter of personal preference . My own .458 WM is built on a Winchester Enfield 1917 action , which is a control round feed action and I am incredibly happy with it . However , I also happen to think quite highly of the Blaser R-8 , which is not really a control round feed action . My Himalayan ibex has been taken with one such rifle which was chambered in .338 WM and I could not be happier with it’s performance .

Most of the currently produced control round feed actions , are based on Paul Mauser’s iconic Mauser Model 98 . These actions are produced by Waffen Prechtll , Granite Mountain Arms , Mauser Oberndorf or Mayfair Engineering ( among others ) . While all of these are excellent products which are built to tight tolerances , I personally try to opt for control round feed actions where the magazine floor plate release catch is not located inside the trigger bow . Currently produced control round feed actions where the release catch is located outside the trigger bow include the Winchester Model 70 and ( until they got discontinued in 2020 ) the CZ Model 550 . SABI Rifles in South Africa also offers a proprietary control round feed action for their bolt action rifles , where the magazine floor plate release catch is located outside the trigger bow .

My Enfield 1917 action .458 WM actually uses a military release , which means that the magazine floor plate does not open on a hinge at all . In order to open it , a nylon rod ( or a simple metal pin ) needs to be inserted into a small pin hole between the trigger guard and the floor plate and then pushed forward . The entire magazine follower and floor plate then pops out . I personally appreciate this rock solid design greatly , although a disadvantage needs to be recognized. If I want to switch the contents of my magazine from soft nosed rounds to solid rounds , then the only way is to manually cycle each round out of the rifle . One by one . This does not really bother me , but other hunters who have used my .458 WM have occasionally found it to be a little annoying . Magazines should always be made from steel and never aluminum or any of the cheap metal alloys . They are inferior to steel and durability is compromised , relatively speaking .

Stocks on large calibre rifles should either be made from a synthetic material ( such as hogue ) or a very tightly grained wood ( such as Mesquite or English / French / Turkish walnut ) . American walnut ( such as Claro ) does not make for a very good stock on a large calibre rifle , because it is quite open grained and thus very much susceptible to splitting from recoil . The stocks should be cross bolted for reinforcing and bedded with fiberglass , as further insurance against splitting . My own .458 WM uses a contoured French walnut stock which has been bedded with fiberglass and reinforced with cross bolts . After 43 years of regular use , it looks as good today as it did when I had first purchased it .

The barrels of dangerous game rifles should not be overtly long , although this is greatly dependent upon the height of the individual operator . I am six feet four inches tall and I have no problems with the 25 inch long Douglas Premium barrel of my .458 WM . I find that most operators will settle on a barrel length of 24 inches , while some choose to go as short as 22 inches .

In regards to the kinds of sights with which the operator should equip their rifles , I am an avid believer of telescopic sights because I find that they allow the operator to land his first shot on a game animal with much more accurate results than open iron sights ; thus ensuring a quick kill . Choices as to what constitutes the best telescopic sights , are largely a matter of individual preference . I personally prefer a Leupold two to five variable telescopic sight , but I have also preferred Lyman Alaskan telescopic sights in the past . I must stress the importance of open sights in one particular set up circumstances , however . When following up wounded game or while shooting driven game during a beat , a telescopic sight will do you no good . Open iron sights with wide V backsights and an uncovered ivory bead foresight are the best set up for instinctive close quarters shooting .

In regards to the best companies for manufacturing rifles , this is largely dependent upon :


  • What the operator is looking for .
  • What the operator’s budget is .

Up until very recently , the most popular large calibre line of sporting rifles were the ones manufactured by CZ for their 550 Magnum series . Available in .375 H&H Magnum , .404 Jeffery , .416 RM , .416 Rigby , .458 WM , .458 Lott , .500 Jeffery and .505 Gibbs . At their price range , they were extremely good values for the money . However , there were countless independent reports of some of these rifles failing to function properly “ out of the box “ . There may some grain of truth to this , because an entire business named “ AHR “ had been specifically set up just to rework and make these rifles function flawlessly . With CZ recently choosing to discontinue their 550 Magnum line , it will not be long before the existing supply of these rifles on the market dry up . Then , new aspiring hunters will be needing to look for alternatives .

All things considered ; I would personally consider the best make of large calibre bolt action rifle which is currently being manufactured today , to be the new Winchester Model 70 Safari Express which is manufactured by Fabrique Nationale . Available in .375 H&H Magnum , .416 RM and .458 WM ; they have all of my desirable features in them . But the options do not end here . There is the Dakota Model 76 . Available in .375 H&H Magnum , .404 Jeffery , .416 RM , .416 Rigby , .458 WM , .458 Lott , .500 Jeffery and .505 Gibbs . There is the Heym Express Mauser 98 action rifle. Available in .375 H&H Magnum , .404 Jeffery , .416 Rigby .458 Lott and .450 Rigby .

There are of course , plenty of excellent custom rifle makers who turn out a fine top quality product . There are the American custom gunmakers such as Griffin & Howe and Hill Country Rifles . There are the bespoke English gunmakers such as Holland & Holland , John Rigby & Co. , James Purdey & Sons , Anderson Wheeler and Westley Richards . Then , you have the bespoke Continental gunmakers . There is Dorleac & Dorleac in France , Reimer Johanssen in Germany , Lebeau Courally in Belgium and Hambrusch Hunting Rifles in Ferlach ( Austria ) . And I am certain that there are countless more exceptionally talented gunmakers whom I have not heard of .

For those who prefer double rifles , the options are just as diverse . You have the aforementioned bespoke English gunmakers , who were once perceived as being the only ones capable enough to turn out a good quality double rifle . You have the Continental gunmakers such as as Heym , Krieghoff , Merkel and Verney-Carron . In the 1970s ( When I first began to hunt ) , the idea that American gun makers would one day be capable of turning out double rifles was unfathomable ( they were thought of as extremely un American , at the time ) . But today , excellent double rifles of American manufacture can easily be had from Butch Searcy or Bailey Bradshaw .


We now come to the appropriate choice of factory loaded ammunition . Today , factory loaded large calibre sporting ammunition can be sourced from six main companies :


  • Norma
  • Nosler
  • Federal
  • Hornady
  • Double Tap Ammunition
  • Barnes
  • Labor Fur Ballistik
Most of these products enjoy stellar reputations , although there have been countless independent reports of Federal’s Trophy Bonded Bear Claw and Sledgehammer Solid line of ammunition deteriorating in quality in recent years . The 2000s were some of the worst years for Hornady’s Dangerous Game line of ammunition , with too many independent reports about bullet deformation for people to ignore the fact that there actually was an issue . Be that as it may , I can personally attest to the manner in which Hornady has greatly improved the quality of their Dangerous Game line in the last four years . They now chemically bond the copper clad steel jackets of their bullets to the lead cores , and this significantly cuts down any risk of bullet deformation . They also load all of their factory ammunition to appreciably ( but not overtly ) high velocities .

Since I predominantly hunt with a .458 WM and I prefer 500 grain conventional full metal jacket bullets ( being propelled at a velocity exceeding 2100 feet per second ) to one piece construction brass / copper / naval bronze monolithic solid bullets ( which take up far too much powder space of the .458 WM’s already limited case volume ) , Hornady is the only brand who offers factory loaded solid ammunition that fulfills all of my requirements . While Labor Fur Ballistik offers factory loaded ammunition employing full metal jacket bullets , these weigh 480 grains . While Federal does offer ammunition loaded with 500 grain Trophy Bonded Sledgehammer Solid bronze jacketed solid bullets for the .458 WM , these are only loaded to a velocity of 1950 feet per second . This , I find to be too low .
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Recovered .458 calibre 500 grain Hornady DGS flat nosed steel jacketed solid bullet . Weight retention is 100 % .

Among factory ammunition which is loaded with soft nose bullets , I personally favor the original Nosler Partition over all others . For the .458 WM , Nosler offers ammunition loaded with 500 grain Partition soft nosed bullets which achieves a velocity of 2100 feet per second. These , I find to be excellent . Especially on American Kodiak bear .


Among bullets for reloading , the options are endless today :


  • Cutting Edge
  • Sierra
  • Rhino
  • Peregrine
  • North Fork
  • GS Custom
  • Barnes
  • Nosler
  • PMP
If traditional full metal jacket bullets are what you are after , then you have a few decent options :


  • Woodleigh
  • Hornady
  • Wim Degol
  • Ken Stewart

For solid bullets , I personally have a strong preference for the newest bonded Hornady DGS .458 calibre 500 grain bullets . Featuring strong copper clad steel jackets and being slightly flattened at the point , these bullets are quite some of the finest which are crafted in America today . For soft nosed bullets , I have a soft spot for the original .458 calibre Nosler Partition soft nose bullets . Not the most modern design available , but they are a time tested and proven design .


Our choices in firearms and ammunition are largely dictated by what we grew up around . I began hunting in 1972 and most of my dangerous game has been taken between 1972 and 1982 . During this time , not a lot of choices were available . During the 1970s , new control round feed action rifles were practically non existent . The Winchester Model 70 was using a push feed action , as was the Fabrique Nationale Mauser / Browning Safari High Power . The other large calibre rifles which were being commercially manufactured at the time , included the Remington Model 799 and the Weatherby Mark V - Both push feed actions . The only control round feed action large calibre rifle available on market , was the Czechoslovakian BRNO ZKK - 602 . The predecessor of the CZ 550 Magnum action , these were offered in two large game calibres : .375 H&H Magnum and .458 WM . While the .375 H&H Magnum variants were perfect , the .458 WM variants needed to be significantly modified with aftermarket alterations in order to feed reliably . In 1974 , Interarms began to offer their Mark X Whitworth Express Mauser 98 based bolt action rifles . A predecessor of the modern Zastava Model 70 , these rifles were offered in two large calibre chamberings : The .375 H&H Magnum and the .458 WM . While the actions were robustly constructed , their magazine floor plates were notoriously prone to springing open as a result of recoil . The barrels were also made from relatively soft steel , and barrel rifling was known to have a relatively short life .

Things were not much better with custom gunmakers either . The only option for a proper control round feed bolt action rifle back in those days , was to salvage actions from military surplus rifles and extensively rework them into forming the basis for large calibre sporting rifles . Options included :


* Salvaged military surplus Mauser 98 actions
* Salvaged military surplus Springfield 1903 actions
* Salvaged military surplus Pattern 14 Enfield actions
* Salvaged military surplus Enfield 1917 actions .

Naturally , none of these actions were designed to accept large calibre sporting rounds ( such as the .375 H&H Magnum or the .458 WM ) . Unsurprisingly , many of these custom rifles did not fare too well in the field . Especially , in terms of feeding. I consider myself to be incredibly fortunate that my Enfield 1917 action .458 WM was built by Flaig’s to function as perfectly as can be.

Choices of ammunition back in those days , were incredibly narrow as well . ICI Kynoch had completely ceased making metal cased centre fire ammunition in 1972 and thus , it would not be until 1983 that the British sporting calibres would return to the hunting scene . .375 H&H Magnum ( 300 grain bullets ) and .458 WM ( 500 grain bullets ) factory loaded ammunition was offered by Winchester Western and Remington Peters. 9.3x62 mm Mauser ( 286 grain bullets ) and 9.3x74 mm R ( 286 grain bullets ) factory loaded ammunition was offered by RWS . And that was it , really . Neither of the brands which manufactured .458 WM factory loaded ammunition ( Winchester Western and Remington Peters ) used good quality bullets . The 500 grain round nosed steel jacketed solid bullets used in Winchester’s factory loaded ammunition , was quite prone to bullet deformation . Even at velocity as low as 1950 feet per second . As a matter of fact , I personally experienced this when I had to face a charging rogue elephant bull in 1977 . I had to shoot him four times , in order to end his life . The first two shots were frontal brain shots . Even though the bullets were properly placed , both of them had failed to reach the brain . This was because they had deformed badly and the lead core core squished out of the back of the bullet base . I was forced to use my third bullet to cripple the elephant bull , by breaking it’s knee . My fourth bullet ( a side brain shot ) is what had finally killed the rogue elephant bull . The steel jackets on the round nosed solids used in Remington Peter’s .458 WM factory loaded ammunition , were actually far thinner than the ones which were used in Winchester’s .458 WM factory loaded ammunition .
9A16270B-553F-4894-AD36-4B9812EB60F6.jpeg

Winchester .458 calibre 500 grain round nosed steel jacketed solid bullets badly deformed upon striking African elephant skulls and shoulder bones . Photograph courtesy of Charles Haley


For hand loaders , choices were pretty limited as well . Solid ( full metal jacket , since monolithics did not hit the market until 1987 ) bullets were only being manufactured by two brands . Hornady was offering cupronickel jacketed round nosed solid bullets in .308 calibre ( 220 grain ) , .375 calibre ( 300 grain ) and .458 calibre ( 500 grain ) .
D6EC9050-2A25-4B7C-A38C-9F8DC0682C1D.jpeg

1971 Hornady bullet catalog

Barnes offered a far wider range of calibres . They used copper jacketed lead cored bullets . These had a minute pin hole which was located at the base and tip of the bullet . They were also notoriously prone to deformation , especially when striking the bones of thick skinned dangerous game animals (such as being used for frontal brain shots against six ton elephant bulls ) .
F466C25B-27CC-4C3A-8B21-871A317FD4CB.jpeg

Barnes .458 calibre 500 grain copper jacketed lead cored solid bullets


Today , the choices are endless for the modern aspiring hunter . And I strongly doubt that anyone will have trouble in making sound rifle , ammunition and bullet choices for hunting dangerous game .

If I were an aspiring hunter who was looking to purchase a currently manufactured dangerous game rifle today , then my personal choice would be a Winchester Model 70 Safari Express which is chambered in .458 WM . However , my custom built Enfield 1917 action .458 WM does not look as if it will need replacing anytime soon ( hopefully . Alongside my Laurona 12 bore sidelock ejector and my BRNO .22 LR ( Long Rifle ) bolt action rifle , it really does leave nothing to be desired for all of my hunting purposes .

THE END
 
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Major Khan

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You make me want to cry , Anayeth. My entire life and career as a professional shikaree , I have always hated the vile .458 Winchester magnum . But you ... You found a method to solve the shelf life problem . By using SILICA GEL ... Of all things !!!
 

Professor Mawla

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You make me want to cry , Anayeth. My entire life and career as a professional shikaree , I have always hated the vile .458 Winchester magnum . But you ... You found a method to solve the shelf life problem . By using SILICA GEL ... Of all things !!!
@Major Khan Sir
I cannot claim credit for he innovation . It was Mirza Sir we had taught it to me . Who taught Mirza Sir the trick , is anybody’s guess .
 
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For obvious reasons , every hunter must give a great deal of consideration to the arms and ammunition used for taking his quarry cleanly with little to no complications . For those who hunt dangerous game , even more care must be taken when selecting the proper armaments for hunting anything which has the ability to kill , wound or otherwise harm the hunter(s) .

Most of the local dangerous game which I have shot in my life till now ( hundreds of wild boar , 18 marauding cheetahs , a marauding Royal Bengal tiger and a rogue elephant bull ) , was taken under the authorization of either the Mymensingh or the Habiganj or the Maulvi Bazaar Forest Departments . During ten years spanning 1972 to 1982 ( when I hunted most of these dangerous game animals ) , the following armaments were used by the Maulvi Bazaar Forest Guards :


  • The standard issue rifle of the Forest Guards , was the Lee Enfield .303 calibre bolt action rifle . The standard issue ammunition for these rifles were 215 grain soft nosed rounds and 215 grain copper jacketed blunt nosed solid rounds . The soft nosed ammunition was from Remington Peters , while the solid ammunition was manufactured by Bangladesh Ordinance Factories .
  • The armory had a couple of old Belgian 12 bore side by side shotguns with exposed hammers , which had been refurbished and repaired locally . Alongside these shotguns , countless boxes of Eley Alphamax 2 3/4 inch number 4 birdshot shells were always to be found in the armory ( so that the Forest Guards could shoot winged game for the pot ) . Two or three boxes of Eley Alphamax 2 3/4 inch LG shells could also be found lying around in the armory .
  • There was also a .577 Nitro Express calibre Westley Richards droplock ejector single trigger double rifle , which was lying around in the armory . It had only one specific application - sorting out the largest of rogue elephants . Alongside this double rifle , there were a few boxes of old stock ICI Kynoch 750 grain round nosed steel jacketed solid ammunition .
View attachment 364818
Bangladesh’s greatest hunter of marauding Royal Bengal tigers , Forest Ranger Pachabdhi Gazi ( 1924 - 1997 ) holding a department issue .303 British Lee Enfield after successfully hunting down his 51st marauder . 1972

Over the years , I have been fortunate enough to go after dangerous game with ( mostly ) my own arms . Until 1976 , this was limited to a .22 LR ( Long Rifle ) calibre BRNO bolt action rifle and a Laurona 12 bore sidelock ejector side by side shotgun . While I did manage to shoot and kill one female cheetah with a 40 grain solid lead bullet fired from my BRNO .22 LR , the vast majority of my marauding cheetahs ( 14 to be exact ) were killed with my Laurona 12 bore and Eley 2 3/4 inch Alphamax LG shells ( with each shell holding eight antimony hardened lead slugs of .36 calibre) .


All of this changed in 1976 , when I acquired a proper dangerous game rifle . It was a .458 WM ( Winchester Magnum) which was custom built by Flaig’s in Millvale , Pennsylvania on a Winchester Enfield 1917 action . It was fitted with a Douglas Premium barrel and a contoured French walnut stock . In my own homeland , this excellent rifle helped me account for countless wild boar , three marauding cheetahs , a marauding Royal Bengal tiger and a rogue elephant bull ( alongside standard table fare such as Axis deer and barking deer ) . The rifle , itself is built like a tank and has never let me down .
View attachment 364816
Marauding Royal Bengal tiger shot by the author ( pictured ) by using a .458 WM . 1976


Since the last 48 years of my life as a hunter , I have hunted in many countries across the globe : Bangladesh , the United States , Europe and Australia . And my quarry has often included dangerous game : black bears and Kodiak bears in the United States , wild boars in Germany and water buffaloes in Australia . During this time , I have tried several dangerous game calibres : .338 WM , 9.3x62 mm Mauser , 9.3x74 mm R ( Rimmed ) , .375 H & H Magnum , 10.75x68 mm Mauser , .416 Remington Magnum, .458 Winchester Magnum , .505 Gibbs and .577 NE ( Nitro Express ) . All of them were really pleasant to use , and ( provided that proper ammunition is used ) you cannot really complain about the performance of any of them . Of course , I have used other calibres as well over the years ( such as .30-06 Springfield ) . However , I personally do not consider a dangerous game calibre to be anything smaller than a .338 bore and employing any bullet weighing less than 250 grains .


By the late 1950s , most countries in Africa had stipulated that .375 H&H Magnum was the lightest calibre to be legally used against dangerous game . In a few countries such as Kenya ( prior to the 1977 hunting ban ) , the lightest calibre to be legally used against dangerous game was the .400 bore . Until the Indira Gandhi Regime banned all forms of hunting in India in 1972 , 13 of the 30 states mandated that the .375 H&H Magnum was the lightest calibre to be legally used against Royal Bengal tiger and Gaur . Today , most African countries continue to stipulate that the .375 H&H Magnum is the lightest calibre to be legally used against dangerous game ( with a few countries lowering the legal limit to 9.3 mm calibre ) .


In essence , most hunters of dangerous game will opt for any calibre between .338 WM and .600 NE ( there is also a .700 NE , but it’s creation is motivated more out of novelty than out of practicality ) . Any of these calibres ( provided that the right load is being used ) can kill the largest six ton elephant bull . But some demand more critical shot placement than others . With the advent of modern bullets and gunpowders , the terminal ballistics of many calibres have been significantly improved from what they traditionally were :


  • A .338 WM traditionally uses 250 grain bullets , but nowadays 300 grain bullets can be used ( as sourced by Woodleigh )
  • A .375 H&H Magnum traditionally uses 300 grain bullets , but nowadays 350 grain bullets can be used ( as used in Norma’s PH line of factory loaded ammunition ) .
  • A .416 Rigby traditionally uses 410 grain bullets , but nowadays 450 grain bullets can be used ( as used in Norma’s PH line of factory loaded ammunition ) .
  • A .505 Gibbs traditionally uses 525 grain bullets , but nowadays 600 grain bullets can be used ( as used in Norma’s PH line of factory loaded ammunition ) .


Today , all of these calibres are extremely popular ( including countless more which I have not listed ) . Whichever the operator chooses to use , is largely a matter of personal preference . Seven out of ten client hunters visiting Africa today for a Safari will opt for a .375 H&H Magnum . Most of the American bear guides will also opt for this calibre ( but during the 1970s , they largely preferred the .338 WM ) . It is a reasonable choice , considering the following factors :


  • It is an extremely common chambering for bolt action rifles and most brands who manufacture bolt action rifles , will typically have the .375 H&H Magnum as an offering .
  • Ammunition ( or reloading components if you are into hand loading ) is relatively more affordable than other calibres and also relatively easier to source .
  • The recoil is relatively milder compared to most other dangerous game calibres .
  • The calibre is surprisingly accurate and flat shooting at longer ranges , compared to the larger dangerous game calibres .
  • It is so versatile that under most normal circumstances , it can take everything from a small barking deer to a large elephant bull ; thus negating the need to carry more than one rifle .

A .375 H&H Magnum is an excellent choice for the largest and most aggressive of dangerous game , provided that you manage to kill it with the first shot ( which is something that every hunter should aspire to achieve ) . When dealing with wounded game which is either charging or escaping , however it may very occasionally prove to be just marginal ( especially when used against Asiatic elephant or Gaur ) . For this reason , most clients hunters in Africa are typically accompanied by a PH ( professional hunter ) who carries a larger calibre rifle .

Those who hunt dangerous game alone without any professional hunter to back them up , typically opt for something of at least .400 bore . There is the .404 Jeffery and it’s double rifle counterpart, the .450/ 400 NE . These traditionally use 400 grain bullets . There is the .416 Rigby ( and the very similar .416 Remington Magnum ) and it’s double rifle counterpart , the .500/416 NE . These traditionally use 410 grain bullets ; a bullet weight which is also used by the fairly obscure .425 WR ( Westley Richards ) . Under most normal circumstances , any of the .400 or .416 bores are excellent stoppers of dangerous game.

Since I have usually been completely alone ( barring the occasional tracker ) during most of the times when I have hunted East Bengali dangerous game ( alongside having to hunt them on foot ) , I actually have a strong personal preference for the .450 bores and employing a 500 grain bullet . Under any circumstances , any of the .450 bores is capable of stopping the largest charging elephant bull or Royal Bengal tiger ( provided that shot placement is reasonable ) . At the same time , they are not as overtly specialized as the .500 bores ( or larger ) . Using the correspondingly proper ammunition , a .450 bore can comfortably drop an Axis deer ( without causing excessive meat damage) just as easily as it can drop a charging Asiatic elephant bull . My personal favorite happens to be the .458 WM ( Winchester Magnum ) .

View attachment 364819
.458 WM belonging to the author .

Originally designed to propel a 500 grain bullet from a 2 1/2 inch shell case at a velocity of 2130 feet per second , the .458 WM has generated more than it’s fair share of controversy within the ammunition and hunting industry . In order to achieve the originally advertised velocity , the charge of gunpowder has to be severely compressed in order to fit the 2 1/2 inch shell . With freshly loaded ammunition , this is not really a readily apparent problem . But ammunition which had been loaded and stored for a year or too , will start having the powder charge congeal into one rock solid mass . As a result , not all of the gunpowder would burn during ignition and actual velocities were somewhere in the 1500 feet per second range . Not good enough for reliably stopping large and aggressive dangerous game . Until 1979 , this issue plagued Winchester Super Speed and Remington Peters factory loaded ammunition for the .458 WM .

But there was a way around this problem . My close friend and the original owner of my .458 WM ( Colonel Mirza ) taught me that by keeping my Winchester Super Speed .458 WM factory loaded ammunition in an airtight gun safe with some silica gel , I would actually be able to prevent any moisture from making contact with my loaded ammunition . This would help to prolong shelf life , noticeably . Using this trick since the last 44 years , I have been fortunate enough never to have a velocity problem with the .458 WM . From 1979 onwards , both brands ( Winchester Super Speed and Remington Peters ) began to advertise the velocity of their .458 Winchester Magnum factory loaded ammunition as 2040 feet per second ; indicating a reduction in powder charge . This was done to avoid compression and improve shelf life . It did this while being able to retain it’s potency against most dangerous game ( the exception being frontal brain shots on large elephant bulls ) .
View attachment 364820
Boxes of 1985 era Winchester Super X .458 WM 500 & 510 grain factory loaded ammunition owned by the author ( two boxes of 510 grain soft nosed ammunition and one box of 500 grain round nosed steel jacketed solid ammunition ) .

Only in the late 2010s , did it become possible to achieve a velocity of 2140 feet per second from .458 Winchester Magnum factory loaded ammunition ( while employing a 500 grain bullet ) . The answer came from Hornady and the next developments in their Dangerous Game line . This line of factory loaded ammunition uses a special cool burning powder and is loaded to fairly high pressures in order to accomplish the velocity of 2140 feet per second . I have actually run a few of these newest Hornady DGS ( Dangerous Game Solid ) and DGX ( Dangerous Game eXpanding) factory loaded .458 Winchester Magnum 500 grain rounds through a chronograph . The velocity is indeed , an honest 2137 feet per second from the 25 inch barrel of my .458 WM . This is appreciably close to the advertised figure ( 2140 feet per second ) on the Hornady DGS and DGX ammunition boxes .


Today , there are a number of improved .450 bores on the market . These use a slightly larger shell case than the .458 WM and can be loaded to higher velocities for propelling 500 ( or even 550 ) grain bullets , without requiring powder compression . These include the .460 Weatherby Magnum , the .458 Lott , the .450 Rigby and the .450 Dakota . With the exception of the .460 Weatherby Magnum ( where overtly high velocities frequently lead to distortion of most conventional bullet designs ) , most of these would be sensible choices today for the hunter who wants to use a .450 bore but is not confident about the performance of the .458 WM .

There are also some calibres between the .450 bores and the .500 bores which are exclusively for double rifles . There is the .450 NE , the .500/450 NE , the .500/465 NE and the .475 NE ; all of which traditionally use 480 grain bullets . There is the .470 NE which traditionally uses a 500 grain bullet and also the .476 WR which traditionally uses a 525 grain bullet . For those who prefer to use double rifles , any of these are quite similar in terms of ballistic performance to the .450 bores discussed in the previous paragraph .

Then , we come to the .500 bores and the .600 NE . The .505 Gibbs traditionally uses a 525 grain bullet . The .500 Jeffery traditionally uses a 535 grain bullet . The .500 NE traditionally uses a 570 grain bullet . The .577 NE traditionally uses a 750 grain bullet , while the .600 NE traditionally uses a 900 grain bullet . Any of these are excellent choices for use against elephants , Cape buffalo , Gaur or rhinoceros . However , I personally feel that they are a bit too overtly specialized and are strictly for sorting out thick skinned dangerous game . Hunters who take these rifles to the field , are usually forced to bring additional rifles of lighter calibres in order to hunt other game species .


What I really appreciate about the .450 bores , is that they can fully qualify as true stoppers of charging dangerous game while also still being versatile enough to use against the lighter class of game ; should the need arise ( provided that the appropriate ammunition is used accordingly ) .


With the different calibres for dangerous game having been discussed , we can now discuss the appropriate platform for a dangerous game rifle . In broad categories , there are two :


* Magazine rifles - These include lever action rifles and bolt action rifles .


* Double rifles - These include side by side rifles and over under rifles .

Both of these platforms are proven performers in the field against dangerous game . The advantages of the magazine rifle is as follows :


  • Being able to hold three to six rounds without needing to reload .
  • Being more accurate out to longer ranges , on account of the single sighting plane .
  • Being able to produce accurate results with a wide variety of ammunition.
  • Generally being more affordable than most double rifles .

The advantages of double rifles are as follows :


  • The ability to discharge an instant second shot without needing to operate a lever or a bolt .
  • Being guaranteed a second shot without needing to rely upon the mechanical intricacies of the rifle ( although this is not necessarily true ) .
  • They are essential when following up wounded cheetahs into the thick vegetation .

Which one to pick , is largely a matter of personal choice . I personally prefer magazine rifles because I find that their advantages outweigh those offered by the double rifle . This is again , strictly a personal choice . Countless hunters who are far more successful than myself , prefer double rifles over magazine rifles . I have one particular reason ( above all others ) for choosing magazine rifles over double rifles . Since I live and hunt mostly in a third world country ( where ammunition for the 12 bore , .32 ACP and the .22 rimfires are the only ones which are regularly imported into arms shops ) , I have to make do with whatever factory loaded ammunition or reloading components which I can get my hands on . In this context , a magazine rifle ( which can produce accurate groups with most brands of ammunition ) is a much more practical thing to own than a double rifle ( which , on account of the two barrels ; is regulated by manufacturers so that both barrels shoot to the same point of impact with one very specific make and brand of ammunition ) .

There is , however one context where a double barrel weapon is irreplaceable. This is when one has to follow up wounded cheetahs into dense vegetation . 90 % of follow up work on cheetahs culminate in a charge . And when a cheetah charges , it will always be at extremely short ranges ( usually less than ten yards ) . The cheetah is the fastest of all of the dangerous game in South East Asia . Facing a charging cheetah with a magazine rifle , will usually allow the operator time for only one shot . You will not be able to operate the lever or cycle the bolt before the cheetah manages to get ahold of you . For this reason , a double barrel weapon with double triggers is preferable . It provides allowance for an instant second shot . For this sort of work , I prefer a 12 bore double barrel side by side shotgun and LG shells . My personal setup has always been a Laurona 12 bore sidelock ejector and Eley 2 3/4 inch Alphamax LG shells ( with each shell holding eight antimony hardened lead slugs ) which has always worked well for me .
View attachment 364838
Left to right : Winchester Super Double X Magnum 2 3/4 inch SG shell ( 12 copper plated slugs ) , Eley Alphamax 2 3/4 inch LG shell ( eight antimony hardened slugs) , locally reloaded 2 3/4 inch LG shell ( six antimony hardened slugs )

However , those who own shotguns with 3 inch chambers will greatly benefit from using 3 inch SG or LG Magnum buckshot shells . These hold more slugs in the shell , which is always a good thing . The copper plated SG and LG buckshot shells offered by Winchester and Federal in modern times , are infinitely superior to the Eley Alphamax LG shells which I was forced to make do with during the 1970s .
View attachment 364821
Marauding cheetah shot by the author with a Laurona 12 bore sidelock ejector and two Eley Alphamax LG shells . 1976

Between lever action rifles and bolt action rifles , bolt actions strike me as the more sensible choice for hunting dangerous game . Since most lever action rifles utilize tubular magazines , they are limited to being chambered in calibres which use flat nosed bullets and cannot be chambered in calibres which use rounded or pointed nose bullets ( for safety reasons ) . The exceptions are the Winchester Model 1905 and the Savage Model 99 . These use internal box magazines ( with earlier variations of the Savage Model 99 using a rotary magazine ) . To the best of my knowledge , the only dangerous game calibre option which has been offered by either of these two rifles is the .405 Winchester in the Winchester Model 1895 . Propelling a 300 grain bullet at a velocity of 2200 feet per second , it goes without saying that ( while an acceptable dangerous game calibre in some contexts ) it is far from the best .

Among bolt actions , we again come into two broad categories :


  • The push feed - Currently produced examples include the actions used in the Remington Model 700 , Schultz & Larsen rifles , Sauer Model 404 , Mauser Model M03 and the Steyr Mannlicher CL II .
  • The control round feed - Currently produced examples include the actions used in the Dakota Model 76 , Winchester Model 70 , Mauser Model 98 and Zastava Model 70
  • Hybrid actions - Currently produced examples include the Sako brown bear and the Blaser R 8
Let us leave hybrid actions out of the discussion . The main difference between push feed actions and control round feed actions , is the method of extracting the expended shell casing . The push feed action uses a small plunger type extractor , while the control round feed action uses a large non rotating claw shaped extractor . Traditionally speaking , the push feed action boasts the advantage of allowing a round to be fed directly into the chamber of the rifle , unlike most control round feed actions where rounds must be loaded into the chamber through the magazine ( many modern control round feed actions however , employ beveled extractors which allow a round to be loaded directly into the chamber ) . The control round feed action boasts the advantage of a larger extractor which allows for more reliable extraction , especially in high stress situations where the operator might not pull the bolt completely back while cycling it ( many modern push feed actions however , have incredibly reliable extraction and leave nothing to be desired ) .

Whether to choose a push feed action or a control round feed action , is a matter of personal preference . My own .458 WM is built on a Winchester Enfield 1917 action , which is a control round feed action and I am incredibly happy with it . However , I also happen to think quite highly of the Blaser R-8 , which is not really a control round feed action . My Himalayan ibex has been taken with one such rifle which was chambered in .338 WM and I could not be happier with it’s performance .

Most of the currently produced control round feed actions , are based on Paul Mauser’s iconic Mauser Model 98 . These actions are produced by Waffen Prechtll , Granite Mountain Arms , Mauser Oberndorf or Mayfair Engineering ( among others ) . While all of these are excellent products which are built to tight tolerances , I personally try to opt for control round feed actions where the magazine floor plate release catch is not located inside the trigger bow . Currently produced control round feed actions where the release catch is located outside the trigger bow include the Winchester Model 70 and ( until they got discontinued in 2020 ) the CZ Model 550 . SABI Rifles in South Africa also offers a proprietary control round feed action for their bolt action rifles , where the magazine floor plate release catch is located outside the trigger bow .

My Enfield 1917 action .458 WM actually uses a military release , which means that the magazine floor plate does not open on a hinge at all . In order to open it , a nylon rod ( or a simple metal pin ) needs to be inserted into a small pin hole between the trigger guard and the floor plate and then pushed forward . The entire magazine follower and floor plate then pops out . I personally appreciate this rock solid design greatly , although a disadvantage needs to be recognized. If I want to switch the contents of my magazine from soft nosed rounds to solid rounds , then the only way is to manually cycle each round out of the rifle . One by one . This does not really bother me , but other hunters who have used my .458 WM have occasionally found it to be a little annoying . Magazines should always be made from steel and never aluminum or any of the cheap metal alloys . They are inferior to steel and durability is compromised , relatively speaking .

Stocks on large calibre rifles should either be made from a synthetic material ( such as hogue ) or a very tightly grained wood ( such as Mesquite or English / French / Turkish walnut ) . American walnut ( such as Claro ) does not make for a very good stock on a large calibre rifle , because it is quite open grained and thus very much susceptible to splitting from recoil . The stocks should be cross bolted for reinforcing and bedded with fiberglass , as further insurance against splitting . My own .458 WM uses a contoured French walnut stock which has been bedded with fiberglass and reinforced with cross bolts . After 43 years of regular use , it looks as good today as it did when I had first purchased it .

The barrels of dangerous game rifles should not be overtly long , although this is greatly dependent upon the height of the individual operator . I am six feet four inches tall and I have no problems with the 25 inch long Douglas Premium barrel of my .458 WM . I find that most operators will settle on a barrel length of 24 inches , while some choose to go as short as 22 inches .

In regards to the kinds of sights with which the operator should equip their rifles , I am an avid believer of telescopic sights because I find that they allow the operator to land his first shot on a game animal with much more accurate results than open iron sights ; thus ensuring a quick kill . Choices as to what constitutes the best telescopic sights , are largely a matter of individual preference . I personally prefer a Leupold two to five variable telescopic sight , but I have also preferred Lyman Alaskan telescopic sights in the past . I must stress the importance of open sights in one particular set up circumstances , however . When following up wounded game or while shooting driven game during a beat , a telescopic sight will do you no good . Open iron sights with wide V backsights and an uncovered ivory bead foresight are the best set up for instinctive close quarters shooting .

In regards to the best companies for manufacturing rifles , this is largely dependent upon :


  • What the operator is looking for .
  • What the operator’s budget is .

Up until very recently , the most popular large calibre line of sporting rifles were the ones manufactured by CZ for their 550 Magnum series . Available in .375 H&H Magnum , .404 Jeffery , .416 RM , .416 Rigby , .458 WM , .458 Lott , .500 Jeffery and .505 Gibbs . At their price range , they were extremely good values for the money . However , there were countless independent reports of some of these rifles failing to function properly “ out of the box “ . There may some grain of truth to this , because an entire business named “ AHR “ had been specifically set up just to rework and make these rifles function flawlessly . With CZ recently choosing to discontinue their 550 Magnum line , it will not be long before the existing supply of these rifles on the market dry up . Then , new aspiring hunters will be needing to look for alternatives .

All things considered ; I would personally consider the best make of large calibre bolt action rifle which is currently being manufactured today , to be the new Winchester Model 70 Safari Express which is manufactured by Fabrique Nationale . Available in .375 H&H Magnum , .416 RM and .458 WM ; they have all of my desirable features in them . But the options do not end here . There is the Dakota Model 76 . Available in .375 H&H Magnum , .404 Jeffery , .416 RM , .416 Rigby , .458 WM , .458 Lott , .500 Jeffery and .505 Gibbs . There is the Heym Express Mauser 98 action rifle. Available in .375 H&H Magnum , .404 Jeffery , .416 Rigby .458 Lott and .450 Rigby .

There are of course , plenty of excellent custom rifle makers who turn out a fine top quality product . There are the American custom gunmakers such as Griffin & Howe and Hill Country Rifles . There are the bespoke English gunmakers such as Holland & Holland , John Rigby & Co. , James Purdey & Sons , Anderson Wheeler and Westley Richards . Then , you have the bespoke Continental gunmakers . There is Dorleac & Dorleac in France , Reimer Johanssen in Germany , Lebeau Courally in Belgium and Hambrusch Hunting Rifles in Ferlach ( Austria ) . And I am certain that there are countless more exceptionally talented gunmakers whom I have not heard of .

For those who prefer double rifles , the options are just as diverse . You have the aforementioned bespoke English gunmakers , who were once perceived as being the only ones capable enough to turn out a good quality double rifle . You have the Continental gunmakers such as as Heym , Krieghoff , Merkel and Verney-Carron . In the 1970s ( When I first began to hunt ) , the idea that American gun makers would one day be capable of turning out double rifles was unfathomable ( they were thought of as extremely un American , at the time ) . But today , excellent double rifles of American manufacture can easily be had from Butch Searcy or Bailey Bradshaw .


We now come to the appropriate choice of factory loaded ammunition . Today , factory loaded large calibre sporting ammunition can be sourced from six main companies :


  • Norma
  • Nosler
  • Federal
  • Hornady
  • Double Tap Ammunition
  • Barnes
  • Labor Fur Ballistik
Most of these products enjoy stellar reputations , although there have been countless independent reports of Federal’s Trophy Bonded Bear Claw and Sledgehammer Solid line of ammunition deteriorating in quality in recent years . The 2000s were some of the worst years for Hornady’s Dangerous Game line of ammunition , with too many independent reports about bullet deformation for people to ignore the fact that there actually was an issue . Be that as it may , I can personally attest to the manner in which Hornady has greatly improved the quality of their Dangerous Game line in the last four years . They now chemically bond the copper clad steel jackets of their bullets to the lead cores , and this significantly cuts down any risk of bullet deformation . They also load all of their factory ammunition to appreciably ( but not overtly ) high velocities .

Since I predominantly hunt with a .458 WM and I prefer 500 grain conventional full metal jacket bullets ( being propelled at a velocity exceeding 2100 feet per second ) to one piece construction brass / copper / naval bronze monolithic solid bullets ( which take up far too much powder space of the .458 WM’s already limited case volume ) , Hornady is the only brand who offers factory loaded solid ammunition that fulfills all of my requirements . While Labor Fur Ballistik offers factory loaded ammunition employing full metal jacket bullets , these weigh 480 grains . While Federal does offer ammunition loaded with 500 grain Trophy Bonded Sledgehammer Solid bronze jacketed solid bullets for the .458 WM , these are only loaded to a velocity of 1950 feet per second . This , I find to be too low .
View attachment 364822
Recovered .458 calibre 500 grain Hornady DGS flat nosed steel jacketed solid bullet . Weight retention is 100 % .

Among factory ammunition which is loaded with soft nose bullets , I personally favor the original Nosler Partition over all others . For the .458 WM , Nosler offers ammunition loaded with 500 grain Partition soft nosed bullets which achieves a velocity of 2100 feet per second. These , I find to be excellent . Especially on American Kodiak bear .


Among bullets for reloading , the options are endless today :


  • Cutting Edge
  • Sierra
  • Rhino
  • Peregrine
  • North Fork
  • GS Custom
  • Barnes
  • Nosler
  • PMP
If traditional full metal jacket bullets are what you are after , then you have a few decent options :


  • Woodleigh
  • Hornady
  • Wim Degol
  • Ken Stewart

For solid bullets , I personally have a strong preference for the newest bonded Hornady DGS .458 calibre 500 grain bullets . Featuring strong copper clad steel jackets and being slightly flattened at the point , these bullets are quite some of the finest which are crafted in America today . For soft nosed bullets , I have a soft spot for the original .458 calibre Nosler Partition soft nose bullets . Not the most modern design available , but they are a time tested and proven design .


Our choices in firearms and ammunition are largely dictated by what we grew up around . I began hunting in 1972 and most of my dangerous game has been taken between 1972 and 1982 . During this time , not a lot of choices were available . During the 1970s , new control round feed action rifles were practically non existent . The Winchester Model 70 was using a push feed action , as was the Fabrique Nationale Mauser / Browning Safari High Power . The other large calibre rifles which were being commercially manufactured at the time , included the Remington Model 799 and the Weatherby Mark V - Both push feed actions . The only control round feed action large calibre rifle available on market , was the Czechoslovakian BRNO ZKK - 602 . The predecessor of the CZ 550 Magnum action , these were offered in two large game calibres : .375 H&H Magnum and .458 WM . While the .375 H&H Magnum variants were perfect , the .458 WM variants needed to be significantly modified with aftermarket alterations in order to feed reliably . In 1974 , Interarms began to offer their Mark X Whitworth Express Mauser 98 based bolt action rifles . A predecessor of the modern Zastava Model 70 , these rifles were offered in two large calibre chamberings : The .375 H&H Magnum and the .458 WM . While the actions were robustly constructed , their magazine floor plates were notoriously prone to springing open as a result of recoil . The barrels were also made from relatively soft steel , and barrel rifling was known to have a relatively short life .

Things were not much better with custom gunmakers either . The only option for a proper control round feed bolt action rifle back in those days , was to salvage actions from military surplus rifles and extensively rework them into forming the basis for large calibre sporting rifles . Options included :


* Salvaged military surplus Mauser 98 actions
* Salvaged military surplus Springfield 1903 actions
* Salvaged military surplus Pattern 14 Enfield actions
* Salvaged military surplus Enfield 1917 actions .

Naturally , none of these actions were designed to accept large calibre sporting rounds ( such as the .375 H&H Magnum or the .458 WM ) . Unsurprisingly , many of these custom rifles did not fare too well in the field . Especially , in terms of feeding. I consider myself to be incredibly fortunate that my Enfield 1917 action .458 WM was built by Flaig’s to function as perfectly as can be.

Choices of ammunition back in those days , were incredibly narrow as well . ICI Kynoch had completely ceased making metal cased centre fire ammunition in 1972 and thus , it would not be until 1983 that the British sporting calibres would return to the hunting scene . .375 H&H Magnum ( 300 grain bullets ) and .458 WM ( 500 grain bullets ) factory loaded ammunition was offered by Winchester Western and Remington Peters. 9.3x62 mm Mauser ( 286 grain bullets ) and 9.3x74 mm R ( 286 grain bullets ) factory loaded ammunition was offered by RWS . And that was it , really . Neither of the brands which manufactured .458 WM factory loaded ammunition ( Winchester Western and Remington Peters ) used good quality bullets . The 500 grain round nosed steel jacketed solid bullets used in Winchester’s factory loaded ammunition , was quite prone to bullet deformation . Even at velocity as low as 1950 feet per second . As a matter of fact , I personally experienced this when I had to face a charging rogue elephant bull in 1977 . I had to shoot him four times , in order to end his life . The first two shots were frontal brain shots . Even though the bullets were properly placed , both of them had failed to reach the brain . This was because they had deformed badly and the lead core core squished out of the back of the bullet base . I was forced to use my third bullet to cripple the elephant bull , by breaking it’s knee . My fourth bullet ( a side brain shot ) is what had finally killed the rogue elephant bull . The steel jackets on the round nosed solids used in Remington Peter’s .458 WM factory loaded ammunition , were actually far thinner than the ones which were used in Winchester’s .458 WM factory loaded ammunition .
View attachment 364824
Winchester .458 calibre 500 grain round nosed steel jacketed solid bullets badly deformed upon striking African elephant skulls and shoulder bones . Photograph courtesy of Charles Haley


For hand loaders , choices were pretty limited as well . Solid ( full metal jacket , since monolithics did not hit the market until 1987 ) bullets were only being manufactured by two brands . Hornady was offering cupronickel jacketed round nosed solid bullets in .308 calibre ( 220 grain ) , .375 calibre ( 300 grain ) and .458 calibre ( 500 grain ) .
View attachment 364825
1971 Hornady bullet catalog

Barnes offered a far wider range of calibres . They used copper jacketed lead cored bullets . These had a minute pin hole which was located at the base and tip of the bullet . They were also notoriously prone to deformation , especially when striking the bones of thick skinned dangerous game animals (such as being used for frontal brain shots against six ton elephant bulls ) .
View attachment 364823
Barnes .458 calibre 500 grain copper jacketed lead cored solid bullets


Today , the choices are endless for the modern aspiring hunter . And I strongly doubt that anyone will have trouble in making sound rifle , ammunition and bullet choices for hunting dangerous game .

If I were an aspiring hunter who was looking to purchase a currently manufactured dangerous game rifle today , then my personal choice would be a Winchester Model 70 Safari Express which is chambered in .458 WM . However , my custom built Enfield 1917 action .458 WM does not look as if it will need replacing anytime soon ( hopefully . Alongside my Laurona 12 bore sidelock ejector and my BRNO .22 LR ( Long Rifle ) bolt action rifle , it really does leave nothing to be desired for all of my hunting purposes .

THE END
@Professor Malwa
A truly excellent and enlightening article by a person of experience and knowledge.
Out of all the military actions for converting to big game cartridges the M17's reign supreme. Art Alpin used them for his line of big A square cartridges because they were the only action that would handle his rounds at the time.
Our good friend Major Khan said Holland and Holland made bespoke 375s out of them. They are easy to make the long 375s to feed. My gunsmith has converted them to 505 Gibbs as well and they feed as smooth as silk and if you can handle the recoil shoot like a varmit rifle.
Your M17 will last you a lifetime and still be going strong long after..
Thank you again for such an informative article.
Bob Nelson.
 
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You make me want to cry , Anayeth. My entire life and career as a professional shikaree , I have always hated the vile .458 Winchester magnum . But you ... You found a method to solve the shelf life problem . By using SILICA GEL ... Of all things !!!
@major Kahn
My dear friend Poton you may need to change your mind on the 458 and actually buy one. Your dislike of the 458 is equalled by my dislike of the 243.
Bad boy Melvin dedicated his last sambar hunt to you using his 458.
Hope you are keeping safe and well my friend.
Bob
 

Professor Mawla

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Good review Professor. I personally prefer the the 375 H&H. I’m glad you speak highly of it.
@Wyatt Smith
.375 H&H Magnum is a very good calibre , especially with modern era ammunition ( such as 300 grain Nosler Partitions or 300 grain Hornady DGS meplat nosed steel jacketed solids) . It can sort out anything from barking deer to elephant bull . I personally prefer the .458 Winchester Magnum . But the advent of modern bullet designs and gunpowders has made most of the large bore calibres to be extremely dependable in the field against dangerous game . During the hay day of my dangerous game hunting time , the .375 H&H Magnum would only use 300 grain bullets . Today , Norma produces factory loads employing even 350 grain bullets . Very effective at closer ranges . Almost closes the difference in ballistic performance between the .375 H&H Magnum and the .404 Jeffery .
 

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