.416 Rigby or .416 Rem. Mag or .416 Ruger?
Reading through my missives in this series I realise I review the different cartridges from the viewpoint of the Africa PH, using, or seeing the different cartridges being used here in Africa under our conditions of climate, and vegetation - and of course the animals likely to be hunted with each.
Having hunted in Colorado and Wyoming I have not experienced much that would make me generally express different opinions, but the reader must accept that this website is about hunting in Africa. Of course the three cartridges under discussion here have no serious need in the northern hemisphere and particularly not in North America - they were all three conceived with Africa in mind and nowhere else.
The .416 Rigby came into being in 1911 and was the first cartridge with a .416" bullet optimised at 400 gr for a launch velocity of 2,400 ft/sec and with a chamber pressure well below 50,000 psi (3,250 bar / 47,137 psi). Africa's heat really favour low pressure dangerous game cartridges with a distinct taper towards the neck for easy extraction and a smooth, immediate reload after the shot. Overpressure by hot propellant inside the case, difficult extraction and wasting critical moments are hazards that the regular DG hunter and PH does not want to create because these bring on the risks of not being immediately prepared when one of the Big 6 was not killed with the first shot.
(Image: Shooting Times)
Almost 100 years younger than the .416 Rigby, the .416 Ruger like its mother case (the .375 Ruger) this combined effort by Ruger and Hornady is a well thought out union. The 400 gr bullet makes efficient use of the limited case capacity (100 gr water as opposed to about 130 gr of the .416 Rigby) without too high chamber pressure. Despite being marketed as such it may not actually meet the performance of the big Rigby and larger Remington offerings, but with good design monolithic bullets it is an adequate performer - certainly good enough for elephant brain shots and side-on shots on Cape buffalo. I see it in the same relative category as the 9,3x62 in relation to the .375 H&H.
In Southern Africa there is repeated criticism of both the Hornady DGX and DGS bullets on Cape buffalo and elephant - and the patriotic American self loader may wish to employ either the 400 gr Barnes TSX or the Barnes Banded Solids. GS Custom Bullets, with their excellent flat nose solids and hollow point expanding series, even though a South African design also have a production facility in the USA. Peregrine bullets are also available via an agent in the USA. The reader may read more about the best bullets for dangerous game here. My personal choice out here in South Africa would be the 400 gr Peregrine VRG-2 monolithic solid - just because I have good experience with this load in the .416 Rigby and am impressed with its performance on everything.
The case walls of the Ruger cartridge have considerably less taper than the old Rigby which may cause extraction problems from overpressure on a hot day in Africa. The reloader should consider his own environmental temperature and that at his destination when preparing his ammunition for his Cape buffalo safari, and load below 60,000 psi. With 400 gr Barnes bullets it seems that 2,250 ft/sec should be the maximum from a 24" barrel, and maybe 2,300 ft/sec if the hunter does not mind a propellant leaving a high muzzle pressure and burn-out only outside the muzzle. For various reasons I do not do that. Being lathe turned the GS Custom bullets and the Peregrines have measurable less bore friction than the Barnes and display higher muzzle velocities for the same maximum pressure. I have no personal experience with the .416 Ruger but the proved penetration impulse per sq. mm bullet frontal area in the table at the end shows that it will be adequate for the job.
The issue of overpressure by a .416 Ruger during a rather tight situation is shown in the video below. The actual scene of the stuck case of the .416 Ruger is at the end, but the three preceeding videos are shown to appreciate the speed at which things happen:
During the late 1980s when there was a surge of DG safaris to Africa, there was a sudden growing demand for the .416 Rigby by local PHs. Superficial research indicated that American hunters after Cape buffalo and elephant and lion, arriving with their .460 Wbys and .458 Lotts and .470s (remember Peter H. Capstick?) felt a little uncomfortable when the rifle his PH carried was a little .375 H&H. That emotion was not lost on the PH and so the demand for a custom built .416 Rigby grew locally.
In time BRNO and CZ saw this and the excellent CZ 550 in .416 Rigby is a really affordable rifle of high quality and reliability. Remington saw this upsurge when USA hunters bound for Africa were ordering the CZs in .416 Rigby and they thought hard about designing a .416 and eventually came up with the 8mm Rem Mag case necked out to accept .416" bullet. Also, Remington being Remington decided to outshoot the .416 Rigby and by that dominate the market - so they lobbied SAAMI to advise that it is safe to employ 65,000 psi in the chamber, a figure they needed in order to advertise that the .416 Remington Magnum shot a 400 gr bullet at 2,500 ft/sec, a full 100 ft/sec faster than the .416 Rigby. The market has alwys indicated that even marginal increased velocity sells in the USA.
Not so in Africa because velocity has never impressed local hunters - reliability and particularly ease of extraction sell dangerous game rifles here. The knowledge soon spread that the .4i6 Remington Magnum with its almost parallel case walls regularly caused extraction problems and this increased the demand for the 100 year old .416 Rigby in a controlled feed and extraction action. Local gunsmiths and CZ concentrated on the Rigby chambering. Lapua offered cases and because of Remington's original over-pressured chambers and extraction issues in Africa it did not dominate the market. Subsequently Remington downloaded their factory ammunition to below 62,000 psi and duplicated the 2,400 ft/sec of the Rigby with a 400gr bullet, but the damage was done and the American .416 Remington will stay the USA Africa DG cartridge used by a few original buyers and will never equal the sales of the now 110 year old .416 Rigby.
Clever owners of the .416 Rem Mag load their cartridges before a trip to South Africa to nothing more than the Rigby level of performance and never experience extraction problems. A good quality 400 gr .416 bullet at 2,400 ft/sec is an impressive penetrator on Cape buffalo and elephant, and in the Remington chambering of 107 gr of water capacity achieves that at 62,500 psi, which is safe and ensures easy extraction. Had Remington marketing done this from the very beginning the cartridge may have even in Africa gained a foothold. For the .416 Remington Magnum "the bullet is through the church" as we say locally when poor judgement causes any plan to fail.
Only one PH or wildlife ranger needs to experience a dangerous situation and the word will be around the country's hunting organisations within a few days. Having said all the above - because the .416 Remington is potentially an excellent alternative to the big Rigby, Somchem, the local propellant manufacturer has done and published extensive velocity and pressure testing on this cartridge. Their tables should be the guidelines for American hunters planning a Cape buffalo safari.
In all the aforegoing I have tried to indicate that all three the present .416 chamberings are of equal excellence on Cape buffalo and elephant if best quality bullets are used. For bullet choice have a look here.
I have personal experience of the .416 Rigby in far northern Mozambique on everything except lion and elephant. It is a most impressive performer and very close to my heart. The new kids on the Africa DG block mentioned above are excellent choices for the visiting hunter.
.416 Rigby cartridges with 400 gr Peregrine VRG-2 monolothic solids used on everything
from bushbuck to buffalo
With elephant, lion, hyena, hippo and Cape buffalo all around, and often in camp,
the CZ 550 .416 Rigby must always be close at hand, even when preparing the steaks
of the kudu shot yesterday. It is a rifle-cartridge combination fully trusted.
So which cartridge to bring to South Africa is my own preference - and advice to the new visitor for Cape buffalo? Without a doubt the .375 Holland & Holland. Ammunition is plentiful in every small country town and its ability is simply 100% of that of the bigger bores. It kills a Cape buffalo as neatly as does a .458 Lott and the .416 offerings. Its ammunition or components are affordable and its recoil is virtually non-existent so that the hunter can practice a lot before his trip and be able to put his bullet exactly where his PH advises him to.
Some penetration impulse tables will shortly be added.
In the discussion to follow the reader will notice that the aforementioned hazards certainly exist with the modern American offerings by Remington and Ruger.
That is neither here not there for the visiting hunter as he will have his PH with him to take care of a difficult situation should it arise.
That being said the visitor will still be well advised to not try and squeeze the last possible 5 meter/second velocity out of his Remington or Ruger: stay with the Rigby performance and the chamber pressure will be safe in the warm climate