Thought Provoking Question: How Many Of You Would Use A Smaller Calibre If It Were Legal?

Major Khan

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Dec 3, 2019
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Dear Forum Members ,
As part of a survey for a new article which I am writing for African Hunting Forums .... I would like all of you gentle men to think and answer a question :
We all know that the .375 Holland & Holland magnum calibre is the minimum legally permissible calibre for most species of dangerous game in most countries of Africa .
Back when I used to be a professional shikaree , working for Allwyn Cooper Limited in Nagpur , India ( from 1961 to 1970 ) , we had similar rules in 13 of the 30 states of India .
The .375 Holland & Holland magnum was the bare minimum legally permissible calibre for international client shikarees to use , on royal Bengal tigers , water buffaloes and gaur bison .
Below , as a reference ... I have provided a scan of a page of my copy of our " Professional Shikaree's Regulation Book For Uttar Pradesh ( 1968 Edition ) . Observe Section 14.


Now , my question to all of you is this :
Assuming that there were no legal regulations in place ... how many of you would opt for a smaller calibre ?

I personally have mixed feelings about such legal regulations . When I was guiding clients in the 17 " unregulated " states of India ... I used to see my clients successfully lay low dozens of royal Bengal tigers by using .338 Winchester magnum calibre or 9.3 × 62 mm Mauser calibre bolt rifles or 9.3 × 74 mm Rimmed calibre double barreled rifles . Not once did any of these calibres prove to be inadequate in the hands of my clients .
Infact , countless of my clients even successfully dispatched 2000 pound gaur bison with these calibres with utter impunity .
My client who took the most royal Bengal tigers ( 1 taken every year from 1964 to 1970 ) used a .30-06 Springfield calibre sporterized Enfield Model 1917 bolt rifle , loaded with 220 grain Winchester Silver Tip soft point cartridges . He absolutely despised the recoil of the .375 Holland & Holland magnum , but proved to be more than a match for 500 pound male royal Bengal tigers , armed with a .30-06 Springfield calibre rifle .

The smallest calibre rifle ever used by 1 of my clients to successfully dispatch a royal Bengal tiger ... was a .243 Winchester calibre Savage Model 110 bolt rifle , loaded with 105 grain Winchester soft point cartridges.
Of course , attempting such a feat is really " pushing your luck " .

On the other end of the spectrum .... there IS something called " Too Little Power " . In 1965, an American client of another Indian shikar outfitters had actually lost his life by attempting to hunt a 500 pound male royal Bengal tiger , with a .220 Swift calibre pre 64 Winchester Model 70 .

I also noticed that the smaller the calibre being utilized... the more critical shot placement becomes . I personally observed during my 10 year career that , while the 9.3×62 mm Mauser calibre and the .476 Westley Richards calibre are BOTH capable of killing a 2000 pound male gaur bison ...
shot placement needs to be far more critical with the 9.3×62 mm Mauser calibre .
What are each of your thoughts on this subject ? Would any of you opt for a calibre smaller than the .375 Holland & Holland magnum to use against dangerous game , if the law allowed it ? What would you opt for and what animal would it be ?
Speaking only for myself ... I would personally opt for a 9.3x74 mm Rimmed calibre double barreled side by side rifle for use against royal Bengal tigers .
Your thoughts and opinions will be warmly welcomed , and shall be used in the survey of my upcoming article.
Yours sincerely,
Major Poton Khan ( Retired )
I would guess that the class just below the .375H&H, e.g. 9.3x62/64/74R or 358 Norma Mag and even 338 Win Mag would be able to work in many situations. Maybe not from every angle on the biggest animals. They would probably work well on lion. On buffalo as well if the conditions are good. I guess that shot placement and bullet selection is still the most important factor.

I have no personal experience with DG, so this is a bit of armchair guessing. :)
I suppose that within reason, people should be allowed to use whatever they wish.

That said, if I was a PH I'd want people using a rifle that I, as well as they, had confidence in and .243 on large animals ain't gonna cut it, no matter what the client said.

9.3 though? Yeah, it's pretty close to .375 either way and it worked for the German speaking colonies for a long time, so crack on. I reckon that with todays powders and bullets, a 9.3 is a harder hitting round than the .375 of the 1960s anyway.

Personally, I'd probably comply with the .375 limit. it seems a reasonable balance between manageable recoil and bullet mass/energy.

Not really sure where I'd draw the line to be honest. I've no practical experience of .338 on any animal, so can't really comment.
No I would not use anything less than .375H&H for Buffalo, Elephant (certainly not with elephant..), Rhino or Lion...except perhaps .375H&H Flanged in a double for lion and the odd tiger..

Why go below .375H&H in power as long as you shoot it well..what is the point..?
Good question Poton!

JMO, but if a 9.3 was legal people would want it to be a 338. If 338 was legal, then the want would be 308. Etc.
My opinion (I’m old, so I’m allowed to be opinionated!:LOL:) leopard, crocodile and maybe lion don’t physically need the bullet frontal area of a 375. But bigger is always better if one can handle it IMO.
I really enjoy knowing I have a 375 in my hand when in Africa just knowing that what ever shows up, I can probably handle it.
I would defer to the experience and recommendation of my PH.

I find it more "comfortable" to shoot my 9.3x62 or my 9.3x74R vs either my .375H&H rifle or my .450-400 3" . That usually makes me a slightly better, more accurate and quicker shot with those rifles.

Another point is that modern bullets and powders certainly have progressed to make somewhat smaller bore rifles more effective that the old standards. As good as the .375 H&H was with the obsolete 300 grain Winchester Silvertip, I would prefer to use either of my 9.3's with a 286 grain Swift Aframe. The "rules" are partly practical, and partly tradition and government inertia.

Mine is a very unqualified opinion. My experience is sadly limited to only one dangerous animal, a buffalo. I shot it with a .450-400. To answer your question directly, IF a miracle occurred and I was given the opportunity to hunt Royal Bengal tigers, with no restrictions, I would choose my 9.3x74R and the Norma Oryx bullet.
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Maj Khan, I've never hunted dangerous game (it's on my list to do), so what I'm about to tell you is what I read. Mr. Roy Weatherby used a 257 Weatherby to take a cape buffalo, and killed it with one shot. I believe (if my memory serves me well) he was trying to prove that it could be done. I'll have to check my book Weatherby: The Man. the Gun. the Legend.
Within reason I would. I’m a 9.3 fan and would certainly consider using a 9.3x74R double rifle with heavier bullets in lieu of 375H&H for game for which the latter is appropriate. I have confidence that whatever 375H&H can do 9.3x64 can also achieve but as I have a 375H&H rifle(my favourite calibre) I would only consider using a 9.3x64 if my rifle was unavailable or a use of a particularly nice 9.3 was offered.
Assuming that there were no legal regulations in place ... how many of you would opt for a smaller calibre ?

Answer: I would not.
I beleive there is no such thing as over kill in hunting, but on opposite side certainly there is wounding. And I am all for "using enough gun"

But there is a trick question.
How would one know, what is a "smaller caliber" then reasonably required for specific animal? Leopard and elephant are dangerous, but quite different in body size and mass. How then to draw the line of what is acceptable and what is not? There should be either knowledge (or common sense) or legal regulation covering the caliber choice.

Reading this forum, I am under the impression that average forum member here is educated more then average rifle hunter, world wide.
Someone knowledgeable, and well educated as it is the case for average member forum here, they can ethically choose in educated manner calibers such as 9.3x62, 9.3x74r, 9.3x64, 338 win mag, or even 8x68, perhaps. And knowing limitations of each, use it wisely. (like our 4 respected bangladesh shikarees used their shotguns in the lack of something better)

But for vast majority, of less initiated, less educated, in case there is no regulation defining minimum caliber requirements, how they can consider a smaller caliber then necessary? Caliber smaller then what? There must be a drawn line.

Lets say, first time African hunter plans for safari. lets say there is no regulations defining minimum calibers. Lets say there is no PH to guide, or no legal requirement for having PH.
He Wants an elephant and buffalo.
Is 7x57 option, as described by Bell?
I am sure there will be much bigger percentage of such hunters choosing wrong, in the lack of legal regulations, for the reason of ignorance.

Many different rules can be seen or described as stupid, but minimum caliber requirement is not one of them, to my understanding.
It prevents stupid to make foolish thing, under condition he follows the rules.
Instead of a caliber restriction how about a energy in ft lbs restriction?

While there is no way that I would say that a .338 would be the choice round for elephant, rhino, or a hippo it may be just fine for the cats and buffalo. I have seen what a .340 Weatherby can do with proper bullets at close and long range and would not feel under gunned using it for the cats or buffalo, but I would have a large screw loose in my head if I were to say that it would be proper for elephant, rhino, or hippo.

But as was mentioned a couple of times it really comes down to shot placement. A bad shot with a .375, 458, or other large caliber round is just as bad as a bad shot with a lesser caliber.

When I was considering a Kodiak brown bear hunt I talked to a number of outfitters and most of them recommended that I bring a rifle that I could shoot very well instead of a heavy caliber that I couldn't. Then there were those that said that they wouldn't take anyone out with less than a .338 Win mag.
I think this question has a different set of answers depending upon the decade of which we speak. For instance, a lot of buffalo were killed by the 30-06 between the wars. Quite a few were also wounded. Regardless of the quality of the bullet, I suspect the same outcomes would occur today. The .338 Win Mag is a very different beast. With a 250 gr TSX or A-Frame, I am confident it would handily dispatch any buffalo in Africa. After all, the 270 gr .375 has become very popular as an all around bullet in recent years. And, back in the day, the 318 Westley Richards, with its amazing 250 gr solid, accounted for everything on four legs. It had a well-earned reputation as the best penetrating bullet on the continent and was preferred “brainer” by many for elephant. With today’s readily adjustable scopes one could make a three load safari (250 gr SP/Solid and lighter SP) for everything. It would have, potentially, a bit more reach than a .375 and virtually the same penetration in 250 as the .375’s 270/300 gr bullets.

All that said, I’ll stick with the old Holland & Holland.
Caliber not the only variable...

In my mind, discussing caliber, or energy, is only a partial discussion.

The other variable which I believe we will all agree upon, is bullet performance, whether it be expanding (old language: "soft") or penetrating (old language: "solid").

I reckon that mono-metal bullets have deeply changed the game, and generally up-gunned about every caliber.

I would think that .338, .358, .366 etc. with hollow point mono-metal slugs (e.g. Barnes TSX) outperform ANY cup & core designs upon which performance the .375 H&H minimum "rules" were built. Tough bonded slugs, a.k.a A Frame, would work too. Similarly, I would think that .338, .358, .366 etc. with flat point mono-metal slugs (e.g. Barnes Solid, North Fork, etc.) outperform a number of steel jacketed "solids" of the old days.

I would have no qualm whatsoever using a .340 Wby / .338 RUM / .338 Win Mag, with TSX 250 gr on buff, or Banded Solid 250 gr on elephant brain if Barnes decided to make it (if memory serves the smallest Banded Solid they offer is the 9.3 250 gr.), and there is ample field evidence that .338 does quite the job on cats...

PS: dare I say that, push come to shove, I would not feel entirely stupid either with a .300 (Wby/RUM/Win/Blaser/Nosler/etc.) with a 200 gr TSX and a 200 gr Banded Solid... not to forget a 165 gr TTSX for PG... (although, truth be told, I say 165 gr as an olive branch offering, because I would personally use the 130 gr TTSX on most PG up to ~500 lbs)
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My interest in DG is
I would be comfortable with my .340 Weatherby loaded with the
285 TSX at. 2300-2500 fps, SD .356
275 A - Frame at 2300-2500 fps, SD .344

But l have never hunted either so it would be left up to my PH. If he wasn't comfortable, it would be a .375 H&H. 350 grain Northfork
I would rely on his experience
The .338 Win Mag is a very different beast. With a 250 gr TSX or A-Frame, I am confident it would handily dispatch any buffalo in Africa...

I would have no qualm whatsoever using a .340 Wby / .338 RUM / .338 Win Mag, with TSX 250 gr on buff, or Banded Solid 250 gr on elephant brain if Barnes decided to make it (if memory serves the smallest Banded Solid they offer is the 9.3 250 gr.), and there is ample field evidence that .338 does quite the job on cats...

Ahahaha, looks like we were both typing essentially the same answer at the same time :)
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I agree with the others expressing their preference for 9.3x62. I think that or 9.3x74R would suffice against most game I'd have an interest in, which might've included tigers once upon a time. I've no doubt a smaller calibre would work fine; as you say, Major, you've seen .30-06 used against tigers and .303 British was used against elephants successfully (and, I expect, against tigers back in the day), but I don't think I'd trust my life to something less than a 9.3mm unless I had enough people in support or a semi-auto for additional firepower.
I shot a giraffe with a 9.3 x 62 and it went down pretty fast, same with a Burchell zebra and a .338 Win Mag. I would never feel under gunned with either caliber!

I have mainly hunted the bigger animals with a 7 mm Rem Mag and 300 Win Mag. I do see why people recommend a 375 H&H as a minimum. And for hunting Cape buffalo, hippo...etc a good 375 H&H just seems appropriate for the size of the animal hunted.

I frankly would not recommend using anything less than .308, 7x57 or 30/06 for large plains game. On top of that I would recommend premier bullets like Swift A Frame or TSX...etc. I use a 7 mm Rem Mag on my leopard and never felt undergunned!

For springbok, impala, puku, red hartebeest etc I can see plenty of use for the .243, 6mm or .270.
As has been said many times on AH shot placement is everything. If the only rifle I own is a 7x57 and I was forced to hunt DG I would take brain shots not chest shots. I believe this was the case for many of the Boers that settled South Africa and the reason why the 7x57 is so popular in SA. Professional cull hunters are know for taking head shots with small caliber rifles rather than chest shots with larger rifles. So would I use a smaller caliber than a 375 to hunt DG, in a word, NO, thankfully I live in a time and place where access to large caliber firearms is nothing more than a 30 minute drive, a credit card swipe and a few minutes of paper work. I realize that a 375 H&H with a high quality 300 grain bullet will take anything that walks the earth but I personally like my DG rifle to start with a 4 and end with things like Rigby, Express or Jeffery.
I don’t think I would go below the the 375 for any dangerous game, however I haven’t hunted any DG either. I know shot placement is critical with any caliber, but wouldn’t a larger heavier bullet in the same place as a a smaller lighter bullet be more effective? (Provided bullet construction was the correct type for the game being hunted)

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