Of Rat Calibers, Elephant and Buffalo, In Witness Protection


AH legend
Jan 23, 2014
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Madison Georgia, USA
Hunting reports
That damned 3…7…5 is good for nothing but rats I tell ya! Damned dirty little rats! Leave that thing at home and take a real gun!!!

As many of us do, I put hours and hours and hours of thought into caliber selection for hunting dangerous game. Sometimes it consumes me so much I can hardly get any work done! For years I’ve studied the subject of dangerous game hunting and rifle calibers. Although I’ve taken seven buffalo, a single lioness, and now a tuskless elephant, I still consider myself a rank amateur when it comes to the actual killing of dangerous game.

When preparing for my last hunt, I agonized over whether, or not to bring along a second rifle to accompany my usual 375 H&H. I have always brought along a 375, as it is such a versatile caliber for most anything you run into in Africa. But…this time I was to hunt elephant. I knew how effective the 375 had been for me on Buffalo and plains game in the past, but now I was to hunt the largest land mammal on earth. Was the 375 enough??? OF COURSE NOT!!! Everyone knows that! You have to have at least a 40 caliber to get their attention! And 458 to 500 is even better! So, the decision was made to bring along a second rifle as my “big gun”, and to use the 375 for everything else that might be hunted. I had practiced shooting my 458 Lott and 458 Win Mag for over a year in anticipation for our hunt. But, after having a new stainless barrel installed on my Winchester 70, 416 Remington, and seeing how well it shot and handled with the 21.5” barrel, I just couldn’t talk myself into not taking it. I also had practiced extensively with open sights for the close range elephant hunting I was told we would be doing. The 400 grain TSX and CEB solids grouped together inside of an inch, and I was getting a solid 2380 fps from the short-ish barrel. So the 4457 forms for the Winchester 416 and the Blaser R8 375 were stamped and off we went.

During this whole process I had also done extensive shooting with my R8 375, and was extremely impressed with the way it shot. It’s a very lightweight rifle, and comes in at 9lbs, fully loaded, (4 rounds) with a sling and Nikon 1-4x20 scope on board. Like someone else once said, it’s like carrying around a 30/06 all day. Since there was a chance that I would have this rifle in hand while in elephant country, I also loaded up some 300gr CEB solids to go along with my TSX loads. They grouped tightly together, just as my 416 loads had done. But the solids were only a cautionary measure. No way was I hunting elephant with this puny 375! The 416 would do all the heavy lifting! Or so I thought…..

Our hunt began with the customary “sight in” session at the range. That’s when I discovered that the front sight had been broken on the 416 during our flight! Some idiot with the TSA had unpacked my rifles after they had already been inspected by another TSA agent upon my initial check in with Qatar airlines. I had carefully put the rifles back into the case after they were inspected the first time. But, when they did the second inspection without my presence, they somehow broke my front sight off! I WAS PISSED!!! My whole plan was to shoot my elephant with iron sights! Now I would be forced to use a scope. AND, I would have no back up iron sights if a follow up was needed in thick cover. Also, the 416 is quite heavy with a scope installed. I’ve always liked lightweight rifles, recoil be damned! And now I was going to have to tote this 11lb chunk of lead for 10 miles a day! And with the front sight broke off??? Not hardly…. So with that, I remembered how well the R8 shot with the Nikon 1-4 scope. This little rifle weighs less with the scope installed than the 416 does without the scope. AND the iron sights are very easy to see, should they be needed. So, the 416 was put away, and the rat caliber went hunting!

The first day of the hunt had us looking for fresh buffalo spoor. So, the trackers were sent out to walk the nearby dry river bottom, while my PH, Chap Esterhuizen, and I looked for sign in a different direction. We were not expecting to see elephant in this area, so it was a big surprise when Sadza, one of our trackers, called out on the handheld Radio that they had seen a tuskless cow! Now things were feeling real! I had spoken with Chap about caliber choices before the hunt, and he told me that he saw no real difference between the 375 and 416 if shot placement was correct, but I still felt a bit under gunned none the less! I was potentially about to shoot an elephant! With a puny 375??? Rats! It’s only good for rats! I kept remembering my friends saying. We will find out I guess…..

After a short stalk, we got within range of the huge animals. I had never been close to an elephant in the wild, and was amazed by their size! We surveyed the situation and did indeed find a tuskless cow. Now we had to make sure that the small calf in the group wasn’t hers. After confirming that the calf belonged to another cow in the group, the hunt was on! We circled the group and got downwind of them as they walked along a dry riverbank. Once we found a clearing that they were going to pass through, we waited for a shot opportunity. The tuskless cow was leading the group and came into the opening first. I had a quick decision to make. Should I make a heart lung shot? Or go for the brain? I had studied time and time again how to make the side brain shot on an elephant. I also knew that the heart lung shot was the most fool proof. But at under 10 yards, and with this puny little rat rifle of mine in hand, I knew the choice was clear. The 300gr CEB Solid went through her brain like a hot knife through butter! And DOWN SHE WENT! And after a shout down of the other elephants in the group, I put in a couple of insurance shots, just for….well….insurance.

Not too bad! I thought. The 375 had not let me down after all. The first shot had penetrated the entire skull, and came out the neck, behind her offside ear. Those CEB solids did their job as expected! I had been in close contact with a friend of mine about these solids before my hunt, and he has done extensive testing with them in larger calibers. So, I knew that they were/are one of the best available. Although I never once doubted him, I can now confirm that they do indeed penetrate! Thanks Michael! I know you’ll be thrilled to be mentioned in a thread about THREE SEVEN FIVE! LOL!

Anyway, on to the next hunt.

The next thing on our list was Buffalo. I did another thread on that hunt, entitled BLACK DEATH IN THE OMAY. So, you can get all the details there. But the short version goes like this. After miles and miles of tracking, and six days into our hunt, a shot opportunity finally came to fruition. I was again carrying the same Blaser 375 rifle as before, and after all the miles walked, and hills climbed, I was grateful for such a lightweight package! Call me a pussy, but not enough can be said about a lightweight, easy to carry rifle on such a hunt as this, which sometimes resembled an Elk hunt rather than a Buffalo safari. I had done my walking and training at home for months before our trip, so I was in good condition physically. And I was glad of it! Those trackers are like mountain goats!

On the sixth day we bumped a Dugga Boy while on the way back to the truck. After taking up the spoor, we were walking down a small trail when the game scout noticed a big black object lurking in the shadows of the thorn bushes. After a quick look through the binoculars, my PH whispered, OH SHIT! It’s a buffalo! He was standing there staring at us from what he thought was the safety of the tall grass and thorns. His body was behind an impenetrable wall of vegetation. No way to get a bullet through that mess! But he made a mistake. While his chest was hidden from any danger from a bullet, his head, unfortunately for him, was not. I placed the crosshairs on his forehead and pressed the trigger. DOWN GOES FRAZIER!!! Another bout won by the 375!

Now….I know that most any caliber with the correct bullets would’ve brought about the same outcome on brain shots such as the two mentioned above. I will not argue against that at all. And I will also never argue that a bigger rifle is not better for most all dangerous game situations. Especially in thick cover. But in every case, shot placement is the most important factor. And having a lightweight, easily carried package, that you can carry comfortably all day, is a huge plus. So, a case can be made for both medium and big bore rifle/caliber combinations. They can both be very effective in the hands of someone who knows how to use them.

So, whether you are loaded for rats, or for buffalo, put that bullet where it belongs!





Well now that the front sight is wrecked on the 416…are we gonna see it on your island in the kitchen?? ;)

Edit: my God we’re never going to hear the end of the ballads sung about rat calibers and tinker toys. :LOL::ROFLMAO:
If your friends say it's only good for rats you need a better class of friends....
Congrats on a great hunt! Here's to the King of calibers and the best tinkertoy out there!
Like you said, it's more about where the bullet goes than how big. My first elephant was much the same as your experience. 300 grain Barnes entered last nose wrinkle, exited back top of skull.
Again, congrats!
Congratulations on your hunt and trophies.
The only thing now is but a .416 barrel for that Blaser. You know you want too.
I'm glad your rat caliber was more than enough. Congratulations. The fact that it happened to be a Blaser R8 (in 375H&H) is just the cherry on top.
It is always good to meet another enlightened, dare I say, refined hunter that understands the art of "duel a mort" with a rapier rather than just another broadsword. Really, really well done!
Lol, Red Leg converted another one.

Awesome experience thanks for the write up. Awesome job on making it happen. Now....when is the song coming out?
Yessir. The King of Rifles(caliber) does it again. No need for a shoulder killing cannon.
So, whether you are loaded for rats, or for buffalo, put that bullet where it belongs!

That about says it all. Apparently, you heeded your advice! (y)

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