The Big Bore Dilemma

TOBY458

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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.
 

kurpfalzjäger

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No matter what I hunt now , I always try to use the biggest suitable cartridge for this game that I master perfectly. Sure there is sometimes a difference between what you really need and what you could still use easily. For the buffalo hunting , cartridges caliber .416 or similar are almost ideal and .458 a maximum. That's the theory , but who can handle bigger well can use it for buffalo hunting.

My problem with increasing in age is not the recoil of the big bore rifles , but the weight of this kind of rifles.
 

kurpfalzjäger

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.375H&H is the ultimate all-rounder, the bigger stuff just lets you feel a little more secure if something jumps out to give you a fright.

As an ultimate all-rounder , I really would not call the cartridge 375 H&H Magnum. She was highly praised to something like that at the beginning of the era client/PH in the fifties. Initially the authorities wanted that only cartridges over 10mm / .400 are used for DG hunting , but then one was afraid that the clients would stay away. That's why the 375 H&H Magnum came up. If we had to hunt alone , only with local trackers , maybe it would be different and other cartridges would be used for hunting DG.

It is a very good cartridge which was initially intended for shooting plain game at long range. The 416 Rigby , the 404 Jeffery and the 425 Westley Richards are cartridges for hunting DG that came on the market at this time. These old cartridges and the more modern .416 cartridges could be called all-rounders.
 

PeteG

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If we had to hunt alone , only with local trackers , maybe it would be different and other cartridges would be used for hunting DG.

This...
For me, the 375 is good but not the all rounder due mainly to the fact that when we go hunting DG, its us and only us. There is no ph to back us up.
The situation demands the tools i feel.

In terms of penetration, there is little to beat a .375 solid. In terms of security and being the one and only person to fire the shot, the 375 doesnt cut it for me unfortunately.
Truth be told, any of these calibers through the brain of any animal will stop it without question, and i dont think there is an animal that is hunted regularly that a 375 cannot penetrate safely through on a frontal.
BUUUUT... to be faced with a charging (.............) i would most certainly feel more comfortable with my 416rigby or larger.
and in fairness, up to the 458lott, the recoil freehand at a charging (.............) is negligible. :A Stirring::A Gathering:

@TOBY458 besides, i thought 375's were just there in the gun racks to scratch my back up against when itchy... ;):D
 

Bullthrower338

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On the seventh day while God was resting, he was putting the finishing touches on a fine 338 WM to hunt the beautiful plains game he had just created, he pondered the same thing.
I like to think that he settled on a perfect balance and started working on his 416 Rigby.
 

AZDAVE

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The great thing about the 375 H&H is that most anyone can be taught to shoot it well and have confidence in their bullet placement. (example my wife shoots her 375 lights out good, listens to the PH and won't take a marginal shot and all 5'2" 3/4 of her is happy with the rifle (Don't forget the 3/4 or you will end up with a boot print on the lower bits area).
Plus the PH will be much happier to have a client that has a 375 and shoots it well rather than a 40+ that they are scared of.

I have always considered the 375 a mid bore. My personal view is 30 and below are small bore, 8mm-375 med bore, 40-50 big bore, 50-700 Damn big bore, and 700-2 bore frigging huge bore for shoulder fired rifles.

The 375 and 9.3 are the starting point for DG depending on where legal, they will do the job with proper bullets and shot placement, they are killing calibres in DG world not stoppers. My favorite 40's are the 450/400 in a double and 404 and 416 Rigby in a bolt gun and these are where the dividing line is usually met on recoil tolerance comes into play for most people. If you can shoot these well ypou have entered the start of the stopping range of rifles 40 cal at 2150-2400 have been dealing with cranky kritters for over a 100 years very successfully. The 45-50 you have reached stopping rounds and pick your 458WM-450Rigby and if you shoot it well go have fun. My two favourites in a double are the 450NE and 500NE. This class of rifles are where the professionals start carrying as back up in case the client that has his new 4500 mega boomer that he is afraid of and wounds something nasty and the PH has to deal with it. The 50-700 class is where the Professional uses when they have to stop something at oh SH%& range. My tolerance to shoot well and competently tops out at the 577 NE the 600's are just to much of a good thing.

Find where your recoil threshold is and practice with your chosen rifle till it is second nature so that you have a great DG hunt and not a sketchy followup because you mucked up the shot with more rifle than you can handle.
 

TOBY458

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As an ultimate all-rounder , I really would not call the cartridge 375 H&H Magnum. She was highly praised to something like that at the beginning of the era client/PH in the fifties. Initially the authorities wanted that only cartridges over 10mm / .400 are used for DG hunting , but then one was afraid that the clients would stay away. That's why the 375 H&H Magnum came up. If we had to hunt alone , only with local trackers , maybe it would be different and other cartridges would be used for hunting DG.

It is a very good cartridge which was initially intended for shooting plain game at long range. The 416 Rigby , the 404 Jeffery and the 425 Westley Richards are cartridges for hunting DG that came on the market at this time. These old cartridges and the more modern .416 cartridges could be called all-rounders.
The main difference between then and now is bullets. We have far better bullets today that bring every cartridge up in performance from where it once was.
 

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I have to agree with Toby. So far I have only one dg kill, my buff with a 375HH and 350g Barnes TSX. One shot kill frontal. Good shot? Maybe. Lucky? Damn right. Will it happen again? Who knows. As of now I am a firm believer of the venerable 375HH being all one needs. The name of the game is not throwing fist sized blobs of lead at something but putting a round from something manageable in the right spot.
I can see people owning and attempting to manage one of these shoulder fired howitzers but is it necessary or is it an ego trip? For most hunters I don't think it's necessary. The bigger than you syndrome is not practical to me.
Now, on the other hand, I am about to break the 40 threshhold with my 404Jeffery. Needless to say, there is going to be a learning curve. Do I really need one? Probably not but it is nice to have (contradicting my previous statement). Can I manage the recoil? We'll see. Can I hit anything consistantly? Again, it remains to be seen. If it proves out it will be my first, last, and only true big bore. Should I get in a situation where it is not adequate, I'll holler for my PH and his cannon.
 

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If it proves out it will be my first, last, and only true big bore.

Careful there, many have failed to keep their big bore bug under control. When she bites you better be strong.
 

Newboomer

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How well I know that one. I thought I had no use for anything bigger than my 375HH and look what happened---a 404Jeffery on order. It's hell to be a gun lover, as well as being expensive.
 

BnC 04

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Easy fix, buy 1 all the way up the ladder. Then figure out which ones you really enjoy and start buying 2nds and 3rds.
 

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Easy fix, buy 1 all the way up the ladder. Then figure out which ones you really enjoy and start buying 2nds and 3rds.
Yes, very solid plan that should be followed to the letter!
 

kurpfalzjäger

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The main difference between then and now is bullets. We have far better bullets today that bring every cartridge up in performance from where it once was.

That's right and I agree with that.

My initially concept of DG hunting dates from the eighties. In the meantime , I have also revised a lot and I am therefore more in favor of using smaller calibers than 45 for buffalo hunting.
 
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Kawshik Rahman

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During my time , the three largest calibres ever brought by my clients into India were ( from smallest to largest ) :
9.3 millimeter mauser , utilizing a 286 grain bullet.
.375 Holland and Holland magnum , utilizing s 300 grain bullet.
.458 Winchester magnum , utilizing a 500 grain bullet .
All three performed admirably on Royal Bengal tigers . The 9.3 millimeter mauser fell a little short , on any Gaur weighing above the 1800 pound mark.
The .375 Holland and Holland magnum was used flawlessly on all of the Indian “ dangerous six “
: Royal Bengal tiger , leopard , Gaur , Asian Sloth Bear , Indian bush boar and crocodiles. My deceased friend , Mohiyuddin , who used to work in the forest department and dispatch rogue elephants , documented that a .375 Holland and Holland magnum 300 grain metal envelope bullet can also dispatch a six ton bull elephant , provided that it is shot in the side of the skull , so that the bullet can reach the brain ( having seen elephant skulls dissected , l can personally attest that the front part of an elephant skull is much thicker than the side part of an elephant skull ) .
On charging Gaur , l observed that a .375 Holland and Holland magnum 300 grain metal envelope bullet fired into the beast’s heart ( without hitting any part of the lungs ) , did not produce a large enough wound “ channel “ to immediately incapacitate the animal . The .375 bore metal envelope bullet would produce a hole , which was so small that it would close every time the heart was pumping blood . It would some times take up to 17 minutes , for a Gaur to die from such a shot , and during those 17 minutes , the Gaur remained very much a real threat to us and the client .
Now , a 300 grain Winchester silver tip cartridge of the same calibre , fired into the lungs of the Gaur from a side position can be a very lethal thing , if both the lungs are pierced . This was because of the massive amount of damage a Winchester silver tip bullet can do if it opens up inside the lungs of a Gaur. A Gaur hit like this , would seldom charge. It would go 75 yards at most , blowing blood from it's oral and nasal cavities , like a macabre fountain , before dropping to the ground lifeless.
A .458 Winchester magnum cartridge , loaded with a 500 grain metal envelope bullet fired into the heart of a charging Gaur ( without hitting any of the lungs ) will produce a larger wound " channel " than the 300 grain metal envelope bullet of a .375 Holland and Holland magnum .
A Gaur hit this way , will have it's life exhausted in less than seven minutes and is more unlikely to charge than a Gaur struck in the same region with the 300 grain metal envelope bullet of the .375 Holland and Holland magnum ( say 45 % more unlikely ) . The problem with the .458 Wimch magnum cartridge , during our time , was that , on account of the small cartridge case worth of powder , there were fluctuations in velocity . When it did , as it was advertised to do ( that is , to propel a 500 grain bullet at 2150 feet per second ) , it was quite the performer. However , if the velocity fluctuated on the lower side , there were penetration problems . Today , with modern advancements in propellants , l doubt that the problems concerning fluctuations in velocity , are existent anymore .
However , my personal favorite is the .375 Holland and Holland magnum cartridge , as it is the gold standard of rifle cartridges and never let the Shikari down , with proper and critical shot placement.
 

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How well I know that one. I thought I had no use for anything bigger than my 375HH and look what happened---a 404Jeffery on order. It's hell to be a gun lover, as well as being expensive.

Newboomer, you are going to have to trust me on this one. There is no doubt in my mind that you are going to love the hell out of your new 404 Jeffery. If you reload go immediately to Von Gruff's accuracy load, 84 Gr. of
H- 4350 pushing a 400 Gr. bullet. My choice of bullet was a Swift A Frame. Accuracy with two different rifles
(both mine) was sub MOA. Velocity was 2300 FPS. I've shared this recipe with many others, the result is always the same. If you are looking for a better load than that, good luck finding it.
 

Kawshik Rahman

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I also agree with Toby458 about " need " being a subjective word. I took the photograph below in an auction house in Sirguja in 1958 , when l went there on a visit with Abba ( Father )
Screenshot_20191017-164946_01_01.png

This double barrel rifle calibrated for the .600 Nitro Express cartridge ( firing a 900 grain metal envelope blunt head bullet ) , was built by the English firm , Holland and Holland for His Royal Excellence , the Maharajah of Sirguja . His Royal Excellence would use this rifle to hunt Gaur bison .
Now , since most of my clients secured Gaurs with .375 Holland and Holland magnum calibre rifles and .458 Winchester magnum calibre rifles ( and a few clients used even smaller calibres ! ) ,
It is needless to say that a .600 Nitro Express calibre double barrel rifle is certainly not NECESSARY to dispatch Gaur. However , it certainly was loved by His Royal Excellence .
 

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Big Bore Dilemma...It is good to have such problems.

There was a time when I was getting my first 375 and all my friends just shook their heads in disgust.
I was going against the grain of most of the US lower 48 hunters have only used up to a .30 caliber...EVER!
Now to take it another step I'm moving up to a 416RM for DG hunting, again with the shaking heads.
I've never been one who was afraid to break from the crowd and try something different.

Even a little guy like myself (70" 160#) can easily shoot a 375 and I look forward the 416.
Three years ago I never would have dreamed...

The Africa Hunting community has changed my perception of mid and large bore calibers.
On this day of Thanks, that is just one of the things I'm thankful for.
 

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