According to rifleshootermag.com‘s article PH Rifle Suggestions For 10 Popular African Hunts, selecting an appropriate rifle for shooting African animals isn’t as easy as all that. “Not only do you have to match your rifle to the animals you are hunting, you also have to have a rifle that suits the terrain and cover found in that hunting area.” Eleven click throughs later we learn that a .40 caliber rifle is ideal for a buffalo soldiers, elephant will remember a .416, Rhino ride the .470 nitro express (straight to hell) and Springbok back away from the 7×64 Brenneke. Commentator Benny ain’t buying the whole rifle diversity deal. “Bahumbug & Fooey on the .40 or larger for Buffalo. A .375 H&H with 350 grainers in softs and solids from norma will drop anything on planet earth. All you will ever need. . .1 man, 1 planet, 1 rifle. The magnificent .375H&H.” Is he wrong?

91 Responses to Question of the Day: You. Africa. Hunting. One Gun. Which One?

    • Agree, but I’d admit the post-2008 claw-extractor FN-built Model 70 Safari .375 H&H’s. They’re extremely well built, somewhat more strongly cross-bolted, and (if mine compared to my uncle’s is representative) as accurate.

  1. I’d argue that unless you’re planning on shooting a lot of elephant (does anyone even hunt rhino anymore?) you don’t even need a .375. A .300 Win Mag is plenty for anything else. Hell, my grandfather took everything but elephant with a 6.5 x 55 Mauser in the 40’s and 50’s. For elephant he used the hunter’s .416 since it seemed stupid to him to buy a rifle he would only use on three hunts and fire a total of 4 times.

    • The only cause of my comment is this: .375 H&H is the legal minimum in most African jurisdictions to hunt Cape Buffalo and others in the big five. A few jurisdictions require more for Elephant and one does for (surprisingly) Lion. Ah, to have been on your grandfather’s hunts back in those days….

      • You say that now, but if I had a dollar for every time he made me sit thru his ridiculously complete collection of home movies of his safaris… I swear he started filming the second he got off the plane… 🙂 . Compared to today, there was an amazing lack of red tape, that’s for sure.

        • Funny. My maternal GF pulled that same film-watching bit regarding his major bill fish adventures. Less red tape (and per-trophy fees) would be nice, though.

  2. I sure wish I had inherited my fathers’ .375 Weatherby Magnum. I only used it once to go groundhog hunting. It was a little overkill. I never knew if I had hit the target from 100 yards, the dust cloud kicked up obscured everything downrange 🙂 One shot was enough to make me re-evaluate my choice of rifles for varmint shooting. My Dad never did miss that round..

  3. I wish had my late fathers’ .375 Weatherby Magnum, great groundhog gun 🙂 I shot at one — once… Young dumb and bruised. Glad my father didn’t miss the round…

    • No joke! I was amazed to learn that the AK variants are in fact the most common item used by poachers in Africa. Good thing they’ve got those big magazines….

  4. A .375 H&H is the LEGAL minimum cal rifle for hunting dangerous game in South Africa. We personally use a .416 Rigby because any of the “Big 5” can be successfully taken with it (this is where ammo choice comes into play). It doesn’t make sense to buy a different gun to hunt an elephant vs a buff when one gun with a little more power behind it can take them both. As far as plains game goes, I’ve harvested everything from steenbok to eland with my Browning 7mm mag. My dad prefers a 30-06 (anything in the cal range is plenty for plains game). Something like this is personal preference and you generally want to use a trusty rifle that you are comfortable with. Versatility is key when you can only bring two guns into the country (again, I’m talking specifically about SA), unless you plan on renting one from your PH. I personally don’t want to shoot an unfamiliar gun.

    DrewN: As far as your comment about rhino-yes, people still hunt them. 🙂

    • Teddy Roosevelt’s preferred arm for African hunting, including dangerous game, was a Sprinfield ’03, Sporterized, in .30-06

      • TR definitely used his “Springfield .30” quite a bit, but mostly for for smaller game such as gazelle. He dubbed the .500/450 Nitro Express Holland & Holland ‘Royal’ as “the most magnificent rifle ever made.”

        But his favorite rifle, which he referred to as “Big Medicine” while on safari, was the Winchester Model 1895. He took three of them chambered in .405 Winchester to Africa on his famous 1909 safari.

        I give a rundown of these weapons and the game animals he shot in my review of the book Colonel Roosevelt.

    • Britney: I’ll keep using my .375, but I want you standing next to me with the .416 just in case.

  5. I don’t think the assertion that a .375 H&H is all you need is wrong. John “Pondoro” Taylor certainly killed a lot of African game with a .375. Peter Capstick asserted that a .375 H&H could go clean through an elephant and there wasn’t any game that couldn’t be taken with it.

    .375 H&H is the minimum requirement for hunting larger game in many African nations. And if I had to give up everything but one rifle, I’d have to think very hard between something in the .35 Whelen/9.3×62 class, or a .375H&H.

    As for the rifle: A sporterized Mauser 98, Springfield ’03 or Win 70, pre-64. No other bolt guns need apply. In Ye Olde Days, the Brits were known for their double rifle preference, whereas the German colonists in Namibia carried sporterized Mausers. With a double rifle, you have more “old school” cartridge choices. Open sights should be fixed to the barrel. A scope is optional, and if using a scope, it should be 4 power magnification or less.

  6. My Nikon D3 and 200-400 VR. Sorry, my guns are all bought with a defensive orientation. I shoot defenseless animals mostly with my cameras. On the occasions that I have hunted I’ve eaten every single bit of game I’ve taken.

    • *Tries to square “defenseless animal” with the murder-machine that is Cape Buffalo*

      *Fails*

      • Yeah, any animal that solves problems by running them over doesn’t seem too defenseless to me.

      • Buffalos are murderers?? Really?? Murderers?? Murderers?? No matter how many times I read it it won’t fit the definition.

        For real??

        http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/murder

        You did murder your attempt at a response though.

        Grab a pair of horns or a spear and go sit in a two ton truck 100 yards away from me with my rifle and see how well you can defend yourself. If the Buffalos had guns 99% of the big, bad, stalking, bragging, white hunters would just stay home and hide. Look at what happened to the Buffalo here in this country.

        Murderers… who are the murderers?

        • FLAME DELETED

          “Bison” and Cape Buffalo are two very different things.

          And yes, I think any animal that has recorded instances of attacking an oblivious human being walking along a trail, staving in their rib cage with the first hit on the horn-boss, flinging them through the air with their horn tips, stomping on the downed corpse to chop it up with their hooves, rolling around and smearing the mangled remains with their shoulder, then getting up and staring at the ragged meat for several minutes to make sure it doesn’t move anymore – and all for the animal equivalent of a cat-kicking tantrum – has earned the appellate “murder machine”.

          See also APBTFan’s comment above.

        • I assume, KWAL, that you are a vegetarian, yes?

          Then again….you said in your original comment you have hunted, and eaten game……right?

          So yeah. Who IS the murderer?

        • Not quite sure if your assertion of murder is facetious or not but if there is any animal on earth that can go toe to toe with a man with a gun and win it is the Cape Buffalo. Not only do you have to try to bring down with a single shot the animal equivalent of a T-34, they are the only animal commonly known to run to heavy cover when wounded KNOWING the hunter will follow. Most game when wounded will simply book it or go to water but Capes will make damn sure you earn their hide.

          Unless you’re vegan you’ve no ground to cry murder in any capacity.

        • I’m just pointing out to KWAL that he is likely standing on very shaky logical ground here.
          He is equating hunting to murder, as the animals are “defenseless”.
          However it is quite likely that he consumes livestock animals (as I do, along with game I hunt), and farmed livestock is the very definition of defenseless. It is a pervasive hypocrisy.

  7. I doubt I would ever go to Africa for any reason, least of all hunting. It does not seem to be a safe place to travel.

    • GS650G: A lot of people have a misconception about Africa “not being safe”. This is not a totally correct statement. There are places in Africa that have not seen any kind of civil unrest in many, many years. South Africa is one of them. It is safe to travel there and I have been doing so since I was 16 years old. Not once have I ever felt unsafe. If you are going to a larger city like Port Elizabeth or Cape Town you obviously have to use common sense and not go into the city at night. But you wouldn’t want to go to down town Detroit at night either. It’s that same thing. Are there some areas of Africa that are not safe to travel to? Yes. Absolutely. Not where the majority of hunting takes place.

  8. I’d use a Humvee or other heavy duty truck. Ah, erm, half track? half ton truck?
    oh GUNS. BULLETS…. I’d use the .577 T-Rex and hope I hit something before my entire body disjoins from the recoil…

  9. Something really big thats holds more than one round, with friends equipped with same said weapons.

  10. I coincidentally read yesterday that a .45-70 will take down just about anything. Not a hunter (yet; reading was prep for the safety course) – is there a reason no one’s picked that?

    • Ballistics would be my guess. The 45-70 has plenty of bullet and velocity but compared to other readily available cartridges it falls short in range.

    • .45-70 from moderate-close range will take down anything *in North America*. There are a number of animals with quite peevish temperments in Africa that are built to extremely tough specification.

      You need to punch through hide (absorbs more energy than you think), fat (absorbs energy without injury to the animal), muscle powerful enough to move a one-ton+ animal, bone dense enough to support a one-ton+ animal, and connective tissue tough enough to keep a one-ton+ animal together before you reach anything vital on a Cape Buffalo, Hippopotamus, or Elephant. Shoot one and fail to stop it – it *will* take offense. So penetration is paramount.

      A strong .30-06 load will get you about 3,000 ft*lbs of muzzle energy on a .308 slug. The newer, super-high loadings for .45-70 will get you around 3,500 ft*lbs spread over a somewhat wider surface area of a .458 slug.

      In comparison, the “African minimum” .375 Holland & Holland Magnum has 4,500 ft*lbs of muzzle energy spread across .375 caliber. The more “elegant” .404 Jeffery delivers a mere 4,000 ft*lbs, but does it with a field-beating sectional density on a .423 caliber slug.

      If you’re really, *really* good, you can get away with using tiny shells and perfectly aimed shots. “Karamojo” Bell, greatest elephant hunter that ever lived, used high-sectional density 6.5 and 7 mm fmj rifle rounds. But if you’re not confident in your ability to hit a lemon-sized target by route of least resistance on a running animal that wants to kill you, you need to stick with something that can plow through it center-of-mass.

      • Walter Bell sure did love his .275 Rigby’s. Smart, too. Advised that the best way to become an excellent big-game hunter was to snap-shoot dry-fire at randomly picked targets while taking the long walk to your hunt.

      • Read Garrett’s info on penetration testing of the .45-70 vs. the .458 Winchester Mag. The .45-70 shoots a .458 slug, and penetrates incredibly well, thanks. Stop worrying about muzzle energy and ft-lbs, lest you think a 5.56 has the same stopping power as a .44 mag. Yes, I went there.

        Here’s a link:
        http://www.garrettcartridges.com/penetration.html

        That being said, if a had the $$$ to get to Africa, I’d take multiple rifles: a .30-06 or .308 for “light” game, a .375 H&H bolt for medium / long range heavy game, and a controlled – feed .458 Mag bolt for close in work. For my backup / professional hunter, I would be just fine with any high quality solids (Buffalo Bore 500 grain, or Grizzly Ammo Punch 405 grain, etc.) in .45-70 (a pricey double or even a lever), a .458 Win Mag bolt gun, or (my personal red herring) a .50 Beowulf AR-15 with 7 or 10 rounds of 400 or 500 grain ammo. Not many shoulder – fired guns can match the .50 Beowulf for heavy lead downrange in a hurry.

        Lest I get called out, I have personal hunting experience with all the .30 calibers I mentioned, and the .45-70, the .50 Beowulf, but not the .458. I can’t afford to hunt in Africa, but a trip to hunt minor game within the next two years is very well on the horizon.

        On second thought, I don’t think I’d take an irreplaceable .45-70 double rifle in checked baggage. I haven’t yet met a baggage handler I trust. They can’t bust my Pelican case (well, there’s a first for everything), but they sure as hell can lose it.

        • Yup, I did read that link. It’s a whole lot of words with absolutely no documentative backing or visual records. Especially lacking is any kind of calibration for their target media: they have no repeatable standard for comparing one “stack of wet newspaper” versus another.

          But let’s take their claim at face value: they get less and less penetration with increasing velocity over a critical threshold value with solid, non-expanding projectiles.

          Do you know why hunters use solids rather than expanding bullets when hunting dangerous game? Because part of their kinetic energy is converted to work in deformation of the slug and decreasing sectional density results in halting the bullet much sooner – the energy gets bled off and it doesn’t penetrate as much.

          Do you know why ballistics tests use callibrated gellatin rather than cheap, jugs of predictable-density water? Because the gellatin retains virtually all of its mass during the impact (just like a living animal) rather than losing liquid through hydraulic work – the external equivalent of energy loss through metal deformation.

          What that ammunition-manufacturer blog post shows is that when you increase the slug velocity to a critical point, you reach the point where an internal shockwave effect is not merely pushing water out of the way of the projectile, but transmitting energy to the entire, uncompressible mass of water at the same time and converting it to hydraulic work – taking energy out of the projectile to force water out of the newspaper as if it were a coherent solid absorbing energy in order to fracture.

          Through thorough and meticulously un-documented testing they have determined that a higher velocity bullet removes water from wet newspaper much better than a lower velocity one.

          There’s no magic in a bullet that lets it violate the laws of motion.

        • Garrett did a cheap test, and I understand that. I also understand the value of thoroughly calibrated ballistic gelatin. I’m merely stating that the .45-70 penetrates well – something akin to a .458 Wing Mag “lite.” I’m not recommending the .45-70 for elephant, but it’s taken plenty of buffalo in the US, and can take them in Africa as well. Cape Buffalo, Hippo, Lion, etc. can be taken with a .45-70, with a suitable African – caliber backup. Again, I’d take a .50 Beowulf into the brush after a lion – it would probably be my first choice, for that particular mission. For elephant, I believe there is a case for going larger than .458 Win Mag, cause those things are monsters!

          I don’t believe in magic bullets, I believe in hitting your target hard and fast with enough energy and momentum to get the job done.

          There are also many cases in ballistic gelatin, by the way, where a slower bullet penetrates less than a faster one in the same caliber and weight. I.E., a 5.56 shot from a pistol or SBR penetrating to the same or similar depth as one from a rifle, albeit with a smaller secondary cavity, less fragmentation or expansion, etc.

    • The problem for the .45-70 is that it is capable of being loaded to nearly .458 WinMag levels…. but God help you if any of those loads find their way into being fired in a lever gun or a Springfield trap door carbine. .45-70 loadings that are safe to fire in a lever action rifle are significantly diminished from what the .45-70 can do in a falling block action.

      If you have a Ruger #1 chambered in .45-70, you can load and fire a “nearly .458” load safely. However, there aren’t too many people who want to hunt dangerous game in Africa with a single-shot falling block rifle.

        • It would be very unwise to put a load exceeding 40,000 to 43,000 CUP into any lever-action rifle.

          The .45-70 loads for the Ruger #1 can go as high as 54,000 CUP.

        • Ah…

          I’d been looking for that number and now I know why I haven’t seen any .460 S&W lever guns.

          Oh well. Thanks for answering an unasked question.

        • I hope I’m not being something of a nag on this subject, but people should know that there are several grand old cartridges out there from the days when we transitioned from black powder to smokeless which pose a real danger when reloading.

          Offhand, I’d put all of:

          .45 Colt
          .45 ACP
          .44-40
          .45-70

          into the category of “You’d better keep REAL close track of your ammo and reloads” if you have more than one firearm that chambers these rounds.

          Let’s take the .45-70: You can put it into a:

          – Springfield trapdoor, which is a very weak action, and which will scatter your face up and down the range long before your loads get to 30,000 CUP.
          – A classic lever action from the late 1800’s, which will likely come apart somewhere in the mid-30K CUP
          – a modern lever action, which could withstand 40K CUP
          – A classic (eg, Sharps) falling block, which could probably withstand 40K CUP+
          – a modern falling block, which can withstand 50K CUP+.

          Same deal with .45 Colt and classic revolvers and lever guns. Load the .45 Colt to modern potential for something like a Ruger Vaquero or Blackhawk, let that load slip into a first generation, pre-1896 Colt SAA and you’ll be a headline here on TTAG.

  11. I think if you have to pick one round “for anything” you need to err on the safe side without being too unrealistic.

    Just because the .375 H&H will drop anything doesn’t mean it would be the safest all around choice. For example, longbows in the 85# range (at your draw length) with narrow broadheads and small diameter arrows in the 1100 grain range will (and have) dropped just about everything including cape buffalo, hippo, and elephant. This doesn’t mean this is what you would want to be stuck with.

    Without going overboard I think trading to a heavier bullet (400-500 grains) and some more KE would be better (like around 5000 ft*lbs), for example .400 H&H, .458 winchester magnum, or .416 rigby.

    -D

  12. I am guessing that given the tough tissue of some of the animals they are dealing w/, plus the fact that their projectiles are moving very fast, is probably why some of the very big game bullets are made of a brass or bronze. At the speeds given I could see many conventional bullets shredding. That, and the fact that they are really hard helps penetration.

    I did some calculating on my own and a .72 diameter tungsten ball from a 12 gauge shotgun moving at 1,300 fps gives 3,500 + foot pounds of energy; a .77 (1o gauge) gives you 4,350 + at the same speed. Granted, that diameter is almost twice the width of most rifle bullets for the job – but we are talking tungsten which is harder and stronger than almost anything out there. I think for really big game one would want to invest in the best ammo available – or handload. And yes, I know shotguns do not give near the range that rifles do and range is mega important when hunting dangerous game.

    I like the idea of a 12-gauge pump for Africa. Lots or birds and snakes out there. Good for protection against predators and reliable. Not so good for pachyderms, which I would not be going after as I am a hunting n00b. I am thinking starting out on hippos w/ guns I have never shot before is a bad idea.

    • You’ll be unsurprised to hear that possibly the very best Solid bullet for Africa was along your lines, but was taken off the market two years ago: The Speer African Safari Grand Slam Solid had a tungsten-carbide core. Another casualty of the War on Terror, I suppose. It was only produced in .375 H&H and larger calibers. (They still make a steel-jacketed mono-metal bullet with the same name.)

      • There’s a small boutique manufacturer that offered a tungsten core bullet a couple of years ago. I can’t recall the name right now, and I have no idea if they are still around, but they did make the rounds of the various big game hunting forums taking opinions and offering their bullets. Cost was a huge issue, and, I suspect, that was what killed the Speer AGS too. Not sure that the War on Terror had anything to do with the AGS, though the ATF has concocted excuses to ban some bullets in the Barnes range of monometals recently, using the deceptive “cop killer” language of the Clinton era.

  13. My grandfather went on safari in 1926 and utilized at least three different firearms. A Rigby double rifle in 450 Nitro Express for rhinos, elephants, and water buffalo. He also had a sporting rifle factory made by Mauser in 9x57mm for medium sized game and a FN 12 gauge side-by-side for birds and rabbits.

    Do not think I will ever get the opportunity to do the same, but if I do, it will be a Winchester Model 70 in 458 Win Mag and another one in 300 Win Mag. Open sites on both.

  14. An anti-tank weapon?
    Depends on what you are going to hunt I suppose.
    I am still doing the bunny hop back in Indiana.

  15. I’d take an Alaskan Co-Pilot in 457 Wild West Magnum. It’s a Marlin Guide Gun converted to shoot 405 grain, .45 caliber bullets at 2000 fps from a ported 16″ barrel.

    Five really quick shots of Big Medicine will do the job on any beast that walks the Earth, and it will also fire cheaper .45-70 rounds on smaller game AND .410 shot shells at the little flying things.

    And it’s only $1700. Needless to say, I want one BAD. So does Leghorn.

  16. Having just seen an African elephant, a hippo, a few lions, and some other critters at the zoo today, I think I will revise my original opinion (.375 H&H or .458 Lott).
    I would now like a South African NTW-20 (chambered in the 20x82mm round) with armor piercing. I’d also like a very fast jeep.
    You see that elephant in person for the first time in years, you look down at your hand and remember the size of the round you’d thought of before, and you suddenly feel less confident.

    • I’ll offer my Jeep and chauffeur skills. 4.0L straight six has all the grunt and giddyup a man could ask for. 4 low will climb Kilimanjaro if need be. No top or doors means plenty of free roll bar to mount heavy weapons.

  17. LMT .308 with 10 Larue mags filled with Speer soft tips. Nightforce 2.5-10x with a dual illuminated RMR mounted on top.

    I agree with the sentiment of others that if that can’t handle the game I am hunting then I just don’t think it’s such a good idea to hunt it in the first place. Also, given that it’s Africa and a good 25% of the continent is one step away from zombie-level anarchy, I like that the LMT would double as a battle rifle.

  18. Snagged this from a blog while searching for rifles in .35 Whelen.

    “My most extreme case of gun lust would be for a custom 20 inch double rifle in .35 whelen with an engraving of me shooting a T-Rex at the foot of an erupting volcano on one side and me taking the tusk of a mastadon on the other side. The strip under the foregrip would have an engraving of a naked lady with a big big ass like Coco or Niki Minaj. It would be my only rifle to get a name.”

    I would take this gun. I think 35 Whelen might get the job done in Africa or back in the Cretaceous Period. I, personally, might like a longer barrel.

  19. If plains game were the main quarry, then the .375 H&H would be my choice, as it isn’t underpowered if something bigger turns up.
    If cape buffalo were the target, then either a CZ550 in .458 Lott loaded with monolithics, or a Heym double in .470 NE.

    Why Heym?

    Because they’re niiiiiiice.:-)

  20. A .300 H&H Pre 64′ Winchester Mag with 230 Gr Burger Bullets and additional .165 GR thru 22o gr bullets from Burger Bullets for different plains game and any other game in Africa! This is all I need to hunt Africa and it’s complete species of game!

  21. I own a .416 Wby. and while it is more gun than I’d need for 99% of all game animals, it’s the other 1% that will kill you. I have used it going back in the A.M. to retrieve moose who were killed late in the day. You can argue about the necessity for so much power, but a Grizzly will kill you just as dead as an elephant will. I hunt the America’s with .338 win. mg but find the .416 Wby. to be reassuring when taking point while retrieving a downed moose, which, is a dinner bell for all the Grizzlies in the area. While accuracy is of the essence, a 400 gr at 2700 fps is very reassuring when in the back-yard of the big brown bear, and taking his food source away. The PH I have hunted with 9 seasons in a row has been rushed on 4 occasions and it’s a wonder he is still alive. These hunts are fly-in’s and the use of a Zodiac to traverse lakes and rivers. Where there is an abundance of moose there is an abundance of bear. The .416 Wby levels the playing field just a bit more than say, the .375 H & H. I know my .338 win mag with 250 gr Nosler partition will kill any bear out there, but when the bear is coming at you at 40 mph it is Weatherby time !

    • the Winchester 338 magnum is the perfect rifle for anything in the world including elephant and cape bats y they make the big 300 grain solids for this caliber , has better penetration than the 375 h andh with its 300 grain bullet , becase of better sectional density and better ballistic coefficient on the bullet , the 338 will do it all, its already proved that since1958

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