Rifle for Plains Game and Dangerous Game

Philip Glass

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Good evening,

I’ve read quite a few posts regarding the usual “which caliber is best”, but obviously that’s an extremely hard, if not impossible, question to answer with opinions.

Now, obviously I know that there are an infinite number of calibers to choose from for any type of hunting. However, I’m torn between the Winchester model 70 Safari Express in either .375 h&h, .416 rem mag, or .458 win mag.

Between these three, which would be a good option if I was looking for a primarily dangerous game (Cape and possibly Elephant) cartridge with the flexibility to do some plains game and North American hunting? I’m waiting until after I finish my Bachelor’s to go to Africa (I’ve already got all the arrangements made), but in the meantime I’m looking into some black bear, grizzly, and moose hunts. The only thing I’m having trouble with is choosing what caliber. I want a single caliber (a large expectation) that is flexible enough for anything from large North American game up to a charging Cape. I plan on dipping my feet into some PG hunting when I take my trip to Africa. I realize perhaps the most popular caliber would be .375 h&h with its rather flat trajectory and ability to reach out further, but I don’t really want to find out what 2000 pounds feels like when it hits you at 30mph (I know, an unlikely scenario since a PH would accompany me on an African hunt) if the .375 fails to perform.

I’ve read quite a bit on the flexibility of the .458 Winchester Magnum cartridge, but I feel like it just lacks the ability to reach out past 200 yards effectively. Would a .416 Remington Magnum be the most flexible cartridge for my needs? I’ve read up on it’s ballistics, and it seems as though it’s relatively flat shooting out to around 250 yards, but packs enough wallop to be a suitable rifle for cape buffalo and the like. Would the .416 Remington Magnum be a good pick for what I want it to do? I don’t plan on hunting past 250 yards (I know very few hunters that have even taken shots past 200).

Now, I know that shot placement is the key to dropping any animal dead (or almost) in its tracks, but unless conditions are perfect, perfect shot placement can often allude a hunter. Therefore, I’d prefer having more kinetic energy to fall back on should I need it.

Also, recoil is not an issue. I started shooting at the age of 9, with a .30-30 Winchester 94 and a Winchester 12 gauge being the guns I was trained on. I’ve since moved up a bit, commonly shooting hot .45-70 loads and 3 inch magnum shot shells on a regular basis. I’ve also had some time behind a .458 Lott, and frankly don’t see where the hype regarding recoil comes from, so neither of these three cartridges should be a hassle, at least for myself.

In short, .375 h&h, .416 rem mag, or .458 win mag for dangerous game and lesser game/PG within 200?
You said elephant so you have to go with .416 or bigger IMO. If you can somehow leave ele out then by all means you will have a lifetime of success with a .375 on everything from NA game, PG, and everything else but ele and rhino.
If you have not been to Africa yet then I will say you should buy and get good with a .375. If the bigger DG became a reality then buy another gun! That’s what we all do
Philip
 

WAB

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You said elephant so you have to go with .416 or bigger IMO. If you can somehow leave ele out then by all means you will have a lifetime of success with a .375 on everything from NA game, PG, and everything else but ele and rhino.
If you have not been to Africa yet then I will say you should buy and get good with a .375. If the bigger DG became a reality then buy another gun! That’s what we all do
Philip

Although I am a fan of bigger rifles, and typically use a .458 Lott, I have only harvested one bull elephant, and that was with a .375 H&H. I was shooting 350 gr Woodleigh solids at 2300 fps. I took that big Botswana bull with a side brain shot and I’m not sure passing through the skull even slowed that bullet down.

A good friend has a cattle ranch in northern Botswana. He has killed many elephant on the ranch with his .375.

Personally, I will take the Lott if I’m after buffalo or elephant, but it’s hard to argue that you’re undergunned with a .375.
 

IvW

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You said elephant so you have to go with .416 or bigger IMO. If you can somehow leave ele out then by all means you will have a lifetime of success with a .375 on everything from NA game, PG, and everything else but ele and rhino.
If you have not been to Africa yet then I will say you should buy and get good with a .375. If the bigger DG became a reality then buy another gun! That’s what we all do
Philip
If you are "thinking" about maybe one elephant you need nothing more than the 375 H&H....if you said Elephant for sure and maybe some PG maybe that would change it but not as you have it now...
 

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Just from Cutting Edge Bullets there are 12 choices for .458. In reality one needs only 3 bullets. A light one for PG, leopard etc.., expandable heavy for lion, buffalo etc. and a solid for buffalo, elephant, hippo etc.. For me that is 258 CEB tipped raptor, 420 grain CEB raptor and 450 grain CEB solid. But I have a .458 wildcat. On a .458 WM he can go to 500 grains for the heavies.



In most countries illegal for DG.
Many times I hunted in Zimbabwe and Namibia and nobody blamad me that I was hunting with 9,3x62 for DG. In South Africa and South West Africa 9,3x62 is called " bush caliber ".
 

Tanks

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Many times I hunted in Zimbabwe and Namibia and nobody blamad me that I was hunting with 9,3x62 for DG. In South Africa and South West Africa 9,3x62 is called " bush caliber ".
Yes, we also jaywalk without repercussions at times. However, what you can get away with vs what is legal are two different things. All it takes is an officious Parks guy to ruin a hunt.
 

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I‘ve not hunted Africa, but have hunted N.A. extensively. I shot my Moose at 350 ish yards with a 30-06. My son shot his with the same rifle at 25 feet. Had I not been capable of a 350 yard shot under field conditions I would have eaten tag soup. My point, if picking one rifle, is I’d select the rifle that can make the furthest shot I’d ever take, that can cleanly take the largest and/or meanest game I’d ever chase. Thankfully you will likely accumulate more rifles over time.

If you are hunting DG, you will have a PH with you carrying a proper stopping rifle. For Brown Bear in AK, you will need a guide or resident, both presumably armed. The suggestion to take a camp rifle should elephant be on the menu and you want more diameter seems sound. So with that, and your 3 stated options, 375 offers the most versatility, without having to go to very very light for caliber bullets that lack adequate S.D.
 

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I have been quite happy with my 375 H&H for almost everything I’ve taken from caracal to Cape buffalo. My plan for elephant is the 375 with a PH backing me if I make a shot error.
As someone suggested, if you’re going for a mixed bag up to elephant, take two (or borrow a .40+ rifle for elephant). The vast majority of your hunting (unless you have way to much money!) will be for lesser species of which the 375 can handle quite well assuming you do your part.
Good question for someone looking at DG! Best of luck and I hope you get the chance at elephant! I’ll be very envious!
 

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I say all three are good choices. Pick the one that tickles your fancy then learn it well.
 

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...
As someone suggested, if you’re going for a mixed bag up to elephant, take two...
I know @Red Leg will disagree as he likes going light. But for me I always take two. One can put two rifles in a case without going over the weight limit.

Heck, for my upcoming pheasant hunt in SD I am taking two SxS shotguns just in case even though the outfitter also provides shotguns to those that wish to use their guns. I have a take down TuffPak case that I can fit two shotguns in Boyt softcases and most of my gear. Just a light carry on other than that for the trip.
 

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Yes, we also jaywalk without repercussions at times. However, what you can get away with vs what is legal are two different things. All it takes is an officious Parks guy to ruin a hunt.

Not sure about Namibia but the 9.3x62 is legal in Zim.
 

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Well, with everybody’s advice, I’ve decided on a .375 H&H. For my needs, it fits the bill the best. For my first trip, I plan on a New Mexico black bear hunt (only an 8 hour drive from me here in Texas), so the .375 is definitely the preferable round. Shortly after that hunt, I’m looking at a PG hunt in which I’m wanting to go for Zebra, Giraffe, and possibly Eland (haven’t decided on that one yet). From what I can tell, the .375 H&H is the most versatile caliber that can be used for any game animal walking the earth, and since that is what I’m looking for, that’s what I’m going with. I’ve heard Giraffe have some of thickest skin of any animal in the world, but from what I’ve seen, the .375 is more than up to the task.

On a side note, I’m also looking for some African hunting literature if anyone has any recommendations.
 

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Don’t think twice, hunt eland and insist on a true tracking hunt. Make sure you’re in shape!
 

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Not sure about Namibia but the 9.3x62 is legal in Zim.
Namibia has 5,400 joules (3,981 ft/lbs) , Zim 5,300 joules (3,909 ft/lbs) minimum energy rather than caliber. Don't know what energy 9.3x62 produces.

Botswana, Tanzania, Zambia and some parts of RSA require .375 minimum. Rest whatever within reason I guess.
 

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Yes, we also jaywalk without repercussions at times. However, what you can get away with vs what is legal are two different things. All it takes is an officious Parks guy to ruin a hunt.
In Zimbabwe and Namibia caliber 9,3x62 is legal for DG.
 
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Ridgewalker

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On a side note, I’m also looking for some African hunting literature if anyone has any recommendations.
I suggest a copy of Dr Robertson’s book “The Perfect Shot”. Excellent info for many animals as to where to shoot them, what calibers and bullet recommendations.
Also check out all the excellent photos Jerome has put on AH of where to shoot. Look under “Shot Placement”.
If you’re looking for literature, there’s an excellent thread on AH with everyone’s recommendations. Search for articles on AH by Kevin Thomas. He has some good books very reasonably priced on hunting.
One of my favorite PHes, JA Hunter has some good books including “Hunter” I have enjoyed.
“Use Enough Gun” by Robert Ruark is a good tale of one of his Africa hunts.
Theodore Roosevelt’s tales of his Safari was very enjoyable...wordy...as are all his writings.
Craig Boddington’s and Capstick are always enjoyable reads.

A warning about reading all these and your first trip to Africa...highly addictive! It will become an obsession to return!
Enjoy!
 

Red Leg

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I suggest a copy of Dr Robertson’s book “The Perfect Shot”. Excellent info for many animals as to where to shoot them, what calibers and bullet recommendations.
Also check out all the excellent photos Jerome has put on AH of where to shoot. Look under “Shot Placement”.
If you’re looking for literature, there’s an excellent thread on AH with everyone’s recommendations. Search for articles on AH by Kevin Thomas. He has some good books very reasonably priced on hunting.
One of my favorite PHes, JA Hunter has some good books including “Hunter” I have enjoyed.
“Use Enough Gun” by Robert Ruark is a good tale of one of his Africa hunts.
Theodore Roosevelt’s tales of his Safari was very enjoyable...wordy...as are all his writings.
Craig Boddington’s and Capstick are always enjoyable reads.

A warning about reading all these and your first trip to Africa...highly addictive! It will become an obsession to return!
Enjoy!
Ruark's "Use Enough Gun" is readable, but it is essentially left over material from his classic "Horn of the Hunter." That book is where I would start my African odyssey. Hemingway's "Green Hills of Africa" is, to my mind, the other great safari narrative. Roosevelt's "African Game Trails" is a much tougher slog for a modern reader due to its traditional, somewhat plodding Victorian era style. For a lively entertaining read, you will enjoy Peter Hathaway Capstick's "Death in the Long Grass" and "Death in the Silent Places." They aren't quite as autobiographical as they would seem to profess to be, but are extremely well written. I would also agree that J. A. Hunter's "Hunter" is probably the classic from a PH's point of view. I personally don't much care for Boddington's writing style, but I am in a distinct minority. There are many others, and as noted above, you can pull up several threads on the site.

 
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Ridgewalker

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Ruark's "Use Enough Gun" is readable, but it is essentially left over material from his classic "Horn of the Hunter."
Right you are! Not sure what I was thinking when my finger just typed in “Use Enough Gun”! Maybe because we had been discussing calibers.
Thanks for your clarification Red Leg!
 

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Don't forget "Death and Double Rifles" written by legendary PH Mark Sullivan. ;)
 

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