Ron Spomer and Richard Mann have been around the block a couple of times. Here's what they have to say about the best cartridges for hunting Africa.
African game, particularly animals like cape buffalo, have reputations for being extremely tough and really difficult to bring down. To a certain extent that's true, but it's also true that you don't need a really powerful cartridge to ethically and quickly bring down most species of African game.
In fact, using a cartridge so powerful that you can't shoot it accurately can actually be detrimental to your odds of success.
Believe it or not, for most hunters, the best cartridges for hunting Africa are the really popular centerfire rifle cartridges for hunting big game elsewhere in the world. This encompasses cartridges like the .270 Winchester, the 7mm Remington Magnum, the .308 Winchester, the .30-06 Springfield, and the .300 Winchester Magnum (as well as many others).
Richard Mann and Ron Spomer have written at length on most of the common rifle cartridges used by hunters. They've also spent quite a bit of time afield and have a lot of real world hunting experience between them.
Watch the video to see what they think about the best cartridges for hunting Africa.
I'd say that, for the most part, I agree with their assessment.
As the saying goes, a smaller bullet in the right place is better than a bigger bullet in the wrong place. Shot placement is critical and any hunting guide or PH anywhere in the world would rather you use a rifle and cartridge that you're familiar with and can shoot accurately instead of one that kicks so hard that you're afraid of it.
However, it's also true that a larger bullet in the right place is better than a smaller one placed identically. This is particularly the case if that smaller cartridge doesn't have the horsepower to reliably, cleanly, and ethically kill the animal in question.
This is mainly an issue with really large and tough species of game like cape buffalo though. For buffalo and other species of thick-skinned dangerous game, it's still a good idea to view the .375 H&H as the minimum acceptable cartridge (both legally and practically).
Aside from cape buffalo, there are a bunch of acceptable cartridges for hunting plains game.
Ron Spomer really likes 7mm cartridges like the 7mm Remington Magnum, the .280 Remington, the 7x57mm Mauser, or the 7mm-08 Remington. If he had to choose only one of those to hunt plains game in Afirca, it sounds like he'd go with the 7mm Mauser.
On the other hand, Richard really likes the .308 Winchester.
Neither guy is wrong and they also recognize that everybody has their own personal preferences.
Bottom line: choose the rifle and cartridge that you feel comfortable with and can shoot accurately. Don't feel pressured to go out and buy a brand new rifle chambered in a more powerful cartridge than you're comfortable with just because you're going to Africa.
Use good quality ammunition and take your shot placement seriously. As long as you do those things, you'll very likely experience success regardless of whether you're using a 6.5 Creedmoor or a .300 Win mag, or something in-between.
Finally, for what it's worth, the cartridges they had on display were (from left to right): .416 Remington Magnum, .375 H&H, .300 Win Mag, .308 Winchester, .280 Remington, 7x57mm Mauser, 7mm-08 Remington, and 6.5 Creedmoor.
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