Big Bore Rifles. And their utility in today's Africa. In a recent online discussion, I opined that the 375 H&H was the KING of African calibers. While my take was based more on the versatility of this great medium bore cartridge, than pure horsepower. I was challenged by a few readers, that stated the (to them) obvious conclusion, that the ole Holland and Holland was not only less than a big bore, it was also boring and mundane. The buffalo would snicker, and Mr. Jumbo would piss his pants in laughter at the mere thought of a foreigner armed with such a puny weapon. I was left in defense mode. I couldn't believe the audacity of these people questioning the validity of my favorite caliber! I mean, I love large caliber rifles as much as the next guy, but I also know they are largely unnecessary in today's world of premium bullets and limited dangerous game bag limits. One 300 grain Swift through the boiler room of Black Death, or a 350 grain solid through the brain pan of the largest bull ele, would surely answer all questions of adequacy. But for those of you that demand more, let's move up a bit in inches. The .400 plus caliber rifles await. Not to ruffle any feathers, but I will skip over Teddy Roosevelt's darlng 405 Winchester. With it's low SD 300 grain bullets, it offers nothing over a 375, and I would even put it behind by quite a margin. Now we enter the realm of true Buffalo smashing cartridges. Cartridges that will penetrate an Enraged bull Hippo from most any angle. But, your shoulder will deny that you've fired much more than a heavily loaded 375 when the powder ignites. We come to the 450/400 and 404 Jeffrey on the low end, then step up to the middle ground 416 Rem Mag, 416 Ruger and Rigby. This is where buffalo rifles could and probably should end. Ah....but you say...there are indeed cartridges above this power level in the 400 class. With these we get into bullet and shoulder destroying velocities. 400 grain bullets traveling at a flinch inducing 2700 fps. Enter the 416 Weatherby and it's kin. To me, once this level of recoil is reached, it's time to step up in diameter once again. The 45 caliber rifles are the next step in the upward direction. We will start by defending a cartridge that some people love to hate. And by denouncing a cartridge that is praised by some, but in reality falls quite short of the mark in this discussion. The 458 Win Mag with today's propellants and great bullets, is where our 45 caliber discussion begins. It does not begin with the 45/70. A 450-480 grain 45 caliber bullet traveling at a mild 2150-2250 fps should get the attention of most anything that needs attending to. And if that doesn't work out, then either run, or reach for the next group of 45s. The 458 Lott and 450 Rigby. These two are what most consider the pinnacle of big bore cartridges. (We could also throw in the 450 and 470 Nitro Express in this category.) And to most, we are on the ragged edge of controllability. We are holding a rifle that when used in the right hands, needs no besting. But then there are the people that just have to have more. For the few that can handle it, the 460 Weatherby is there. Now we are way past controllability. At this point, we may as well step up to the ultimate. Now we go to a half inch and above. The .500 through .600 class of cartridges are really only a discussion for the professionals. This level of horsepower is of very limited use. But, when a wounded Cape Buffalo or an enraged Cow Elephant is baring down on you, you must put an abrupt halt to these types of situations. There is little room for error. There is even less time. You must stop it now! Now we are talking about the 500 Jeffrey, 505 Gibbs, 500 Nitro Express, 577 Nitro Express and the be all and end all 600 Nitro Express. We are propelling 570-900 grain bullets anywhere from 2050-2300 fps. Rifles that only the most determined of men can handle. Many hours of practice is needed to master this level of performance. A level of power that is actually dangerous if not handled correctly. But, when applied in the appropriate manner, has no equal. In the end, while we could make a good argument for the utility of these big bore rifles in Africa, we could all probably agree that for most of us, the 416 and maybe the 458 caliber rifles are the biggest step needed above the grand old 375. And need...my friends...is a very subjective word.