May 27, 2017

Ongoing 458 Winchester Magnum Knocking - not


I found this interesting viewpoint when I was looking for any history of using Win 748 in the ammo I am testing with the GS Flat nose copper bullet.


Hi guys.

Here is a short article I wrote a while ago and I thought I'd post it for you to have a look at.

Why I no longer defend the .458 Winchester Magnum.

For more years than I can remember I have been an staunch fan of the .458 Winchester Magnum. Always have been, always will be and it is my personal favourite amongst the current crops of big bores. But I have to state right now that I hold no sort of caliber racism. I have owned a few big caliber rifles, a .375H&H, .375 Weatherby and two .458's and loved them all. I like the .458 Lott and I love the .404. I also like the various .416's and would own and stake my life on any of the above. It's just that the poor old .458 still cops a bashing whenever it's mentioned and the old girl just doesn't deserve it. It's a throughly capable caliber and a hunter using one can comfortably stake his life on it hunting any animal that walks the earth. Having owned 2 rifles chambered for the .458WM at least I can speak from experience (even of it is somewhat limited) about the round. I have not been able to fault either rifle and I have never experienced any problems when reloading the .458. Despite all the positive experiences I've had with the .458 Winchester Magnum I can now no longer defend it.

Why not?

Because there's no point. I'm sick of getting into arguments with people! People either don't listen - or they've already made up their mind about the .458 Winchester. I end up just getting frustrated, so now I don't really bother. Instead of arguing about the .458 Winchester magnum I'm going to go out with mine and shoot big animals with it! "Its poorly designed" "It was all there was at the time" "Lacks penetration" "Too slow" "Not powerful enough" "Not enough case capacity" "Caked powder and poor bullets" "At least in a magnum length action it can be converted to the Lott"

Heard 'em all and to be honest I'm just tired of it... and I don't agree with any of the above. (Well, except the poor bullets. In the day some of the bullets were shockers. Blew apart and were undersized.. true sick leave material.)

I have no shares or stakes in Winchester. I had no part in the design of the .458. I didn't invent the round, so if people choose to use or not use it, it's of no consequence to me. My feelings aren't going to get hurt, BUT, what does get me upset is when someone, usually someone new to Big Bores, buys a perfectly good rifle in .458 and then converts to the Lott - usually without even firing the rifle first! They buy a perfectly capable round and then convert it and all because 'experts' tell them that it HAS to be converted to the Lott for it to be effective on DG. Or to make it reliable. Or because some of ammo that was manufactured 50+ ago was suspect!! That'd be me like me saying "yeah, I drove a Chrysler 50 years and because of a bad experience I'll never drive one again!!" I'll be honest and say that I just don't get that kind of reasoning.

To put it in perspective, how many people buy a .30-06 for deer/ elk and then without firing it, get it converted to .30-06 Ackley Improved? Or buy a .300 Win Mag and then instantly get it converted to .300 Weatherby? Not too many that I've met.

Now don't get me wrong, if someone wants a Ackley, or a Weatherby, or a Lott then that's great. Good luck with your rifle and I'm sure that it'll serve you well. BUT, if someone buys one because they feel that the original cartridges aren't up to the task - because they were told (or read something online) by an 'expert' that says they're not, that's a real shame.

As far as the .458 stories go, the most prevalent one is in regards to the caked powder/ squib loads that the .458 is famous (or is that infamous) for. Now, to say this didn't happen is a lie. It did and I have no doubt that it got many a person in serious trouble... or worse. The most common cause I hear for this is because of 'compressed ball powder' that glues together under the African heat and doesn't ignite properly. The funny thing is that according to Winchester the original rounds WERE NOT loaded with ball powder! Winchester only changed to ball powder in the .458 some time in the late ‘70s or early ‘80s and this FIXED the problem! Before then, the .458 was loaded with a cylindrical, short-grain double-base powder.

A gentleman by the name of Georg Grohmann also wrote about this in detail. He wrote a great article while working up loads for his .458 and quoting; "But contrary to popular belief in certain quarters, old (1970s) Winchester ammo was not loaded with ball powder, but with a small-log, cylindrical, double base powder. None of the cartridges I had for testing contained compressed powder, neither was it caked. It was, however, cemented by chemical action. There were also undersize bullets. The end results were, in some cases, disastrous. Not only were velocities much reduced (as low as 1856 fps in my tests) but there were both hang fires and misfires! But it was NOT ball powder, neither was it compressed! There was about 1 mm of space between powder and bullet in the solid loads and about 2 mm in the softpoint loads. It was a short-grain, cylindrical, extruded double-base powder, resembling IMR 4320 in shape and size. (IMR powders are single-base, of course)."

Not good, not good at all, but also NOT due to caked ball powder. He goes on to further write;

"As for ball powder ‘caking’ in compressed loads, this is another very persistent story. All I can say here is that I have been loading Win/Olin 748 ball powder in my .458 since October 1974. In unfired cases, my standard load is slightly compressed, yet I have never had a problem. In 2002, in order to check up on this, I disassembled some .458/748 loads, which I had put together in 1982! There was a little clumping of the powder, but no more than in cartridges I checked six months after loading. These rounds were re-assembled and then chronographed together with some cartridges, which had not been disturbed. Average MV was 2060 fps, exactly the same as what I got in 1982, when I checked some of the same batch of reloads."

So why then the bad performance of the .458 years and years ago? Well let's see, there's the stick powder having a chemical reaction and clumping together - even though it wasn't compressed, the original 'solids' blowing apart and being undersize. The production line spilling powder from the empty shells before the bullet was seated. (Yes this really happened and Winchester documented it!!) The 'glue' that held the bullet in place (yes, some companies glued the bullets in place) leaked in the case and interfered with the proper combustion of the powder. These problems have been fixed (decades ago!!) and it's a testament to the round's reliable performance on game that it's still so popular.

What about the stories I hear about the .458 being not powerful enough for the really big stuff, like elephant? Well, I've never shot an elephant and unless I win the lottery I probably never will. But I do own a chronograph. And I know that a 500gr bullet at between 2050 - 2200 fps will kill any elephant under any condition. I know this because even though I've never shot an elephant, Grobler, Harland, Aagaard, Duckworth and Thomson have. Around 20,000 actually and all with the 458wm. And I also know that today, it's no problem to drive a 500gr bullet at these speeds, without super compressing (not that I think compressed loads are bad) or without sky high pressure. In fact the ADI loading manual lists the following STARTING loads for the .458 (in a 24" barrel) with the 500gr bullet, 70grs of AR2208 (Varget) for 2050fps and 70grs of AR 2206H (H4895) for 2070fps. These starting loads are as powerful as the factory ammo that culled 20,000 elephants, yet are not compressed and are very mild pressure wise. The .458 would probably be the most popular big bore here in Australia for hunting water buffalo and the such, and I'll tell you, in summertime up the Northern Territory, it gets as hot up there as anywhere in Africa. The loads that are listed in Australian manuals with Aussie ADI powders show that speeds up to 2205fps are possible (74grs AR2206H) without excess pressure and the N.T is where they are field tested. I don't think that 2050 - 2200fps is to slow for anything that a .458 caliber rifle would be used on. It compares very favourably to the .470 Nitro and would probably surpasses it if the .470 was chronographed in the more realistic 24- 26" barrel instead of the usual 28+" the .470 is usually credited with. Even if the .470 was 50fps or so quicker than the .458 the .458 has a higher S.D when both are fired with 500gr bullets. So on game they would be pretty much identical... except that the .458 can do it in a standard action - not a magnum. This is why I think that the .458 Winchester Magnum ISN'T a poorly designed round. Nitro performance out of a .30-06 sized action. What's not to like?

But what if you do have a .458 in a Magnum sized action like I do with my CZ550 Safari Magnum? Well according to the experts it simply makes sense to convert it to the Lott and it's a pretty cheap conversion. Well not getting it done is cheaper again! One can load to an OAL of 3.8 in the CZ and all you need is a Lee Factory Crimp Die. They're about $15-20! At this OAL they are the same length as the Lott and have the same case capacity. That means in a CZ, they're pretty much the same thing. The original load that was recommended to me for my CZ taking advantage of the longer action was the 550gr Woodleigh and 74grs of AR2206. This load gives 2100 fps and over 5300 ft/lbs of energy. There wouldn't be many situations where this would be lacking for dangerous game. (Although I must admit now, I favour the lighter non-con bullets over the 500-550gr nowadays, CEB, Northforks and Woodleigh Hydro's) So before converting it to the Lott, why not just seat the bullets out deeper in the .458 Winchester and see how you go? Brass and components are cheaper and factory ammo is a lot more common. I know that WM ammo can be used in the Lott but if you're going to use factory ammo, I'd just use the WM as is. And remember that factory ammo culled all those elephant years ago...

A lot of people buy a Lott and load it down to the the proven standard 480-500gr bullet at 2150fps. This is a sound idea as it is about ideal for DG and also lessens recoil quite a bit. Pressure would also be very low to boot. But one can also load the WM to this velocity and stay under pressure. And really, under pressure is under pressure. As long as it's under all will be fine. Personally I would not consider to re chamber my rifle to another caliber that essentially does the same thing but with 5000psi less pressure. Especially when both are under max anyway. The .458 of today is a totally different kettle of fish to the one 50 odd years ago. All the horror stories that rightly or wrongly dogged the cartridge, such as squib loads, not enough velocity, to high pressure, not enough case capacity are just that. Ancient stories now.

Another thing that can't be underestimated is recoil. The .458 has plenty of it as it is! A lot of people find the jump up from the WM to the Lott, Ackley, etc.. just to much. In fact a lot of people find the WM to much and are better off with a .375. Recoil is just one of those things.. it means different things to different people. But I think that we can all agree that for hunting, one MUST be able to shoot their rifle well and one MUST not be scared of it and flinch. Flinching causes wounded game, which in turn causes pain and suffering for the animal and potential danger for the hunter - especially when the big 5 are in question.

I will always stand by the statement that on game, the .458WM will do ANYTHING anyone could want in a .458 bore. Modern powders and bullets have made it better than ever and if the .458WM of 2014 isn't a dangerous game caliber, then nothing else is either. Having said that I totally understand why someone would want something different. .416's, .470's, .404's.. I mean why not? They all work. They're all fun. Go for it!

So this is why I no longer defend about the .458 Winchester Magnum.

I don't need to.

It has probably killed more dangerous game than any other cartridge and is now beyond criticism. People like Don Heath and Craig Boddington, who previously, were very outspoken about their dislike of the .458 have now called a truce with it. Why? Because there is nothing to criticise.. and there hasn't been for some time. Don Heath states that today there is nothing wrong with the .458 and Craig Boddington credits the .458 "as the gun that saved Africa". But I think that Craig sums up the .458 nicely with the following post; "Even though (years ago) Winchester boldly dropped the .458 Winchester Magnum, it needs to stay. It is still the least expensive option for a true big bore, and despite the current popularity of .458-bashing, it is absolutely adequate for the world’s largest game."

And I couldn't agree more.

Picture posted by @TMS...Here is a pic of 458, client used it on his buffalo, one shot on the shoulder..


Author: BadboyMelvin on

May 27, 2017Edited: Jun 14, 2017


"Modern powders and bullets have made it better than ever and if the .458WM of 2014 isn't a dangerous game caliber, then nothing else is either." Indeed? NO SIR.


Long dissertation and the author (again) has no personal experience with the cartridge on Cape Buffalo and elephant shoulder - he merely repeats what other people have said SHOULD happen. He has not hunted buffalo in Africa with it and apparently has no plans to do so. I fail to see the value of his missive, advising as he does that it is good enough for the person wanting to use the cartridge as a regular Cape buffalo killer.


There are these recurrent dissertations by gun writers and forum talkers - remotely away from Africa hunting and with no plans to do it - about what should or could work in Africa, purely based on their feelings and opinion.


5,400 ft/lb of energy will kill a buffalo? If energy did the killing then a 180 gr Nosler Ballistic Tip from a 300 RUM is the ideal buffalo killer as it has the same kinetic energy as a 500gr from a .458 Lott.


There is no "knocking" of the .458 Win Mag in Africa - for very good reason it simply is not used here anymore by hunters who shoot elephant or Cape buffalo regularly from any angle as the emergency situation may demand. It is not even talked about anymore. Particularly does no PH who has the responsibility to protect his client's life carry it. There is a very valid reason why the .458 Lott, .460 Weatherby, the South African .458 3" Express and .458 Sabi came into being.


Fact is that with the length of a 500 gr bullet you need at least 2,100 ft/sec impact velocity to stabilise it all the way through the skin, tendons, shoulder bone, first rib, innards, off-side rib and off-side shoulder. Except for a specific South African duplex load used by two hunters there is no commercial powder either in South Africa or the USA that can achieve that muzzle velocity. Period.


For a bullet of that length to stay nose first through all the above mentioned obstructions 2,200+ ft/sec is required from a 1:14" rifling, and that can not be achieved in any .458 Win Mag. There is no modern US load that even achieves 2,100ft/sec. In fact those advertised at 2,060 ft/sec proved to be 1,950 ft/sec when tested here.


His mentioning of all the loads below maximum pressure is neither here not there - apart from the locally used duplex load it is impossible to obtain maximum pressure from the .458WM case and a 500gr bullet.


No doubt if the hunter is with his PH and the latter can get the hunter side-on to 40 yards and there is time to, unseen by the buffalo, wait for the bull to eventually put its inside leg forward enough to expose the heart; then the first hurdle is removed and the 500gr at 2,050 ft/sec will do its job - as did a 220gr SAKO Hammerhead from my 30-06.


fnhunter13, with your 450gr at 2,350 ft/sec I believe we may demonstrate that that GS Custom Flat Point is up to the job through the shoulder.


Agaardt et al hunted their elephant under control of a professional leader. We do not know if a side-on brain shot was used. Even a 150gr solid Peregrine / GSC / Rhino / etc. from a .308W does that.


20,000 elephant killed with the .458 Win Mag? I have no knowledge of that.

May 27, 2017Edited: May 28, 2017

I remember that the initial aimed for minimum velocity was 2,150 ft/sec for the 500gr. and that was what Winchester punted it as doing. No speculative opinions were given by the developers of the replacement .458s, but many tests into the most difficult placement areas by lots of local tester shooting of buffalo indicated that 2,200 ft/sec gives consistent, repeatable results. The guys with the duplex loads in their .458 WM here also achieve that velocity and are very experienced buffalo hunters.


Much is in the bullet mass distribution when the object is to keep the bullet nose ahead - those 450gr FPs you bought have it forward of the 50% longitudinal position. I am very interested in the Hornady bullet's construction.

May 27, 2017

Gee that surely is a NICE buffalo in that photo -and a very happy hunter!

May 27, 2017

According to Hornady that 500g steel plated 500g solid can reach 2200 fps with 78.3g AA 2230. Coal 3.31. I have not experimented with that one however. I know I can get the 480g version to 2200 fps.


I guess you realize one American hunter proved that 1600 fps is a better penetrator than 2200 with a 500g hard cast bullet, by experiment. He took the big five with a lever action 45/70. The Cape Buffalo took two shots. Your calcs do not consider hydraulic lock, which absolutely can be a factor in penetration. All I am saying is that is not simple.


In any case, I am concentrating on the bullets you suggested, as well as the 450g TSXFB. I will be shooting both of those, as well as the 35 Whelen with the 225 Barnes TSXFB with two loads tomorrow at a federal range. The range is called the "Pearl River Honey Island Swamp Range" and yes it's in the middle of a huge swamp.

May 28, 2017

"Pearl River Honey Island Swamp".. that sounds like a real sweet place to be shooting. enjoy! :)

May 28, 2017

The bullet testing post was moved to the Bullet Behaviour Category.

Jun 25, 2017

Forum member Harry Niedecken posted a very interesting and relevant question in another forum and since he has lately joined us I am repeating his observations here. Harry's thinking is the following: The .458 Win Mag does not meet Africa hunters' requirements for penetration on elephant and Cape buffalo, and its first (better built) cousin the .460 Weatherby Magnum is known for its punishing recoil. Why did somebody not experiment using Somchem propellants and design a down-rated .460 Wby load that will meet the minimum velocity requirements for a 500 gr bullet to penetrate properly but has less recoil than the big Weatherby?




That is exactly what Peter Lott did after his injuries by a Cape buffalo. He wanted the magic 2,350 ft/sec from a 500 gr bullet and said one does not need the punishing 2,600 ft/sec delivered by the Weatherby (although truth must be told that none ever tested in South Africa delivered more than 2,500 ft/sec.


Left are the .458 Win Mag / .458 Lott and the .460 Wby Mag.





Jeff Cooper who escaped injury after his 7 or 8 shots failed to down his buffalo immediately wrote a scathing letter to Winchester - which was kindly ignored - and then motivated the design and built of the .460 Guns& Ammo. I had occasion to shoot this very rifle at a in the field demo in South Africa and handed it back to the organiser in disgust. The recoil from the poorly designed stock was exceedingly fierce and left me with a bleeding nose. An absolute useless tool for dangerous game it was.


Weatherby cases are expensive as are reamers - but the idea of a large capacity case is sound. The Lott is the ideal compromise, but achieves the 2,300 ft/sec at high pressure.


Enter the South African designed and built .458 3" Express, the brain child of professor Koos Badenhorst of Haenertsburg in the Limpopo province of South Africa. Compared to the Lott which uses a 2.80" case and has 103 gr water capacity, the 2.99" .458 Express has 111 gr water capacity allowing it to deliver 2,400 ft/sec with a 500gr bullet at lower pressure than the Lott does to produce 2,300ft/sec.




The .458 Three Inch Express (far left), the .458 Lott, a .450 Watts and the .458 Win Mag.


Elephant shot in Mozambique

with a .458 Three Inch








At about the same time came the development by Sabi Custom Rifles in South Africa of the .458 Sabi which happened to just surpass the performance of the .460 Weatherby but again at lower pressure. 2,550 ft/sec with a 500gr bullet is the hallmark of the .458 Sabi which can be fired from any K98 Mauser standard length action. The cartridge is based on the .500 Jeffery case.


This cartridge is also used exactly in the way Harry had in mind: It is often down loaded to .458 Lott performance of 2,300 ft/sec for plinking. Its use on heavy game is with a 550 gr bullet at 2,300 ft/sec.


Jun 25, 2017

My thinking is why not just go to 50 BMG? At 30 pounds the recoil might be man manageable.


I would also say that 2250 fps with a 450g bullet is about all my not so huge persona is willing to say can accurately put down field, and first of all it better be a good shot.

Jun 25, 2017Edited: Jun 25, 2017

No matter the weight or velocity of the bullet - a lung shot on a buffalo with a .460 Weatherby will get you killed as surely as had it been with a Whelen. Being a good shot with whatever rifle you use is imperative. A CZ 550 in .458 Lott is satisfying to shoot if it is the Bavarian stock. The US design stock takes some getting used to.


The success and popularity of the .375 H&H is exactly this: The mild recoil with 300gr bullets allows the hunter to practice enough to be very proficient with it. Visitors coming here with the big Weatherby believing that bullet shock or whatever will compensate for his trigger jerking goes home with a trophy that was killed by his guide. Not hitting the brain or the heart on a dangerous animal will cause an immediate shot by the PH.

Jun 25, 2017

By the way that 458 SABI is a 458 A. R. here in the USA. That IS actually a conversion I could do with my 458 Win Mag if I could find a gunsmith that can do it.


Unfortunately under our previous political environment most of those left the business. Too much federal nosiness drove them out. When we send the rifle to a Gunsmith, they fix it and now must return it to an FFL holder rather than directly to you. That adds a transfer fee and hassle. This is exactly the kind of ridiculous federal control that angers people.


The conversion would give about 115 grains water capacity over the 95 of the 458 Win.

Jun 25, 2017

The SABE is a little longer than the 458 A.R. as designed by Jeff Osso. 2.55" instead of 2.67". The idea is the same and there is a brass conversion method from 375 RUM. There are no load tables here for the 458 SABI here, however the A.R. has 500g Hornady DGS going 2375 fps with an H335 (same as TAC) load. Very American, heh.

Jan 7

If my memory serves me correctly, Jacques Lott experienced bullet failure and incorrectly diagnosed the problem as needing more velocity.

Jan 26

Jack Lott was but one of the many that suffered injury besides the three game wardens in Rhodesia (that I remember) who got killed by buffalo).


No bullet ever failed from the .458 Win Mag. Due to the mostly 1,700 to best 1,900 ft/sec muzzle velocity the bullets never had proper stability inside the animal after passing through the skin and wobbled and ended its penetration right there.


Jeff Cooper had the same problems and had a scathing series of communications with Winchester and then he principaled the .460 Guns & Ammo which I shot with him on an airfield gun range in the Karoo at a horse auction. The stock design was so poor and therefore felt recoil was horrible. I gave it back to him in disgust with a nose bleed and a swollen cheek bone, but a ringing 6" gong at 50 yards.


His and jack Lott's attempts were indeed the first to solve a dangerous issue which Winchester chose to ignore. The Lott is a beautiful chambering and a pleasure to shoot if the rifle has a well thought out rear stock profile.


Game wardens in South Africa who still use the .458 WM use a duplex load of single and double base propellants which gives the 500 gr bullet its original designed muzzle velocity of 2,150 ft/sec.


In a sense you are correct about bullet design - round nose bullets tend to bend when hitting the humerus bone and then stop penetration right there. Since the advent of the flat nose solids as well as expanding designs shown in the start of this thread faster than 2,200 ft/sec muzzle velocity is not required for the long 500 gr bullet.

Jan 28

The problem with Boddington and others who write for magazines , is they are on a fine line , as you know ,, several writers have been dropped by magazines for seemingly harmless drivel . You don't bite the hand that feeds you .. I like him as a writer , but he ha to keep his benefactors happy .. I will choose the Lott , every time .. The Win Mag to me is like the 375 , a fine round when everything goes right , but when it goes wrong , it aint pretty

Jan 28

Hornady has their dgs 500g bullet going 2200fps out of a 24” .458 Win Mag hand loading with AA2230 powder. Have not confirmed this load though, since I decided to use my Lott instead.

Jan 28Edited: Jan 28

I shall for ever distrust muzzle velocities as posted by ammunition and ammunition component manufacturers. Nosler comes to mind first - anyone who uses his chronograph and Nosler muzzle veocity for virually all cartridges and their bullets to determine maximum chamber pressure needs some reloading education.


Propellant manufacturers have the backsides on the line (at least here in my neck of the woods so I have faith in the Somchem tables. (by the way, Michael, Somchem has a new booklet with a much greater spread of Amiercan cartridges and all of these usung the Barnes series bullet as well - but not yet Peregrine.


Their figure for a 500 gr Hornady RN FMJ is still under 2,100 ft/sec. I am sure the slippery Peregrine will break the 2,100 barrier, but it needs 2,200 ft/sec for in animal stability. With a Barnes 500 gr it does not make 2,000 ft/sec.


BUT - the .458 Win Mag has seen its days in South Africa long time ago - only the few die-hards with their duplex loads are staying with it. That means right on 62,000 psi chamber pressure to have the required muzzle pressure that your Lott has with the 480 gr Peregrines - and if I remember correctly you were about 57,000 psi chamber pressure according to Quickload. My own conversion calculations using Somchem S321 at the time was that it would be just about 58,000 psi chamber pressure.


My elder son is getting married in the Somchem city of Somerset West this weekend and I am flying to Cape Town on Wednesday night and shall be staying at a friend who is a ballistics engineer at Somchem and shall discuss figures for Peregrine bullets with him - also mention my plans for the .35 Whelen hunt and testing a .356" AND a .358" heavy bullet.


By the way - there are rumours that AA 2230 in fact is the Somchem S321, but nobody wants to talk about it. I shall ask Werner about this as well.



Jan 28Edited: Jan 29

I have found that the books (by the way this is Hornady Load Book No. 10) are correct for a test barrel only. My results have been +|- 50 psi when using most book values. A great exception to that was Hodgdons max BLC2 load for the 35 Whelen and 250g bullet predicting 2550 FPS when it actually gave me 2800fps! What a shock. No reason for them to lie about it Andries. However we do not have test barrels With the same free bore.


Hornady shows 7 different powders that will get the 500 DGS TO 2150 FPS WITH THE 458 WinMag, but only 2230 will get it 50 fps faster. Quickload is pretty useless with these straight cases unfortunately, so I really cannot use it to validate the Hornady claims. The loads look really too hot to Quickload.


I was able to get these Hornady DGS 480g out of the Lott 75 fps faster than the Perigrines. 2300 fps was recorded on my Chronograph.

New Posts
  • erich_33614
    Jan 28

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  • Andries
    Jan 28

    Terry B. sent me the verbatim quoted note below from the USA. He is not a signed up member yet so I took the liberty to repeat his missive here (Terry was a member minutes after I had posted this...) : The 30-06 in Africa With the African hunting season coming on soon, I thought of this old story I had about what gun to take on a plains game trip. It actually started way back in 1960 with an article by a Dr. Wendell G. Swank from Michigan State College that was in the Sports Afield Gun Annual. He and a fellow doctor took their old pre-64 Winchester M 70 .30-06 Springfield’s with Sierra bullets to Uganda to harvest game for research. They did a fantastic job of taking pictures of the bullets recovered and details of each bullets performance. Not only did they take plains game normally associated with the .30-06 Springfield, but also took Hippo, Lion and even a Cape Buffalo. That article intrigued me so much that I still have an original copy and it prompted me to research the .30-06 Springfield performance ever since. My first “Deer” rifle was lever action .30-30 Winchester, but my second was a Remington pump action .30-06 Springfield, and I don’t think that in the past 50 plus years, there has ever been a time that I did not have at least one or two .30-06 Springfield rifles around. At first, I used factory Remington 180 grain RN Core Lokts and all the Deer I shot fell over just fine. Then as time progressed I took up reloading and since then have taken Deer, Elk, Moose, Caribou, Antelope and Mt Goat in North America with various bullets. I started out using the same 180 grain Sierra bullets Dr. Swank used and eventually tried just about every bullet and powder combo I could come up with and eventually ended up using mostly 180 grain Nosler Partitions. During the next 30+ years, I took the .30-06 Springfield to Africa with me several times as it was my intention to field test as many bullets as I could, and here is a list of the bullets tested there: 180 gr Hornady Spire Point FB & BT 180 gr Speer Hot Core 190 gr Hornady Spire Point BT 180 gr Speer SP BT 220 gr Hornady RN 220 gr Sierra RN 180 gr Remington Core-Lokt Ultra 165 gr Trophy Bonded Bear Claw 180 gr Nosler Partition 180 gr Speer Mag Tips 180 gr Remington RN Core Lokt 150 gr Barnes TSX & TTSX 180 gr Speer Deep Curl 165 gr Hornady GMX 180 gr Nosler AccuBond 168 gr Barnes TSX & TTSX 180 gr Federal Fusion 180 gr Barnes TSX & TTSX 180 gr Federal Tipped TBBC 180 gr Sierra SP BT & Flat Base 200 gr Nosler Partitions 150 gr Hornady SP Each of the above-mentioned bullets has its own distinctive characteristic performance. The typical soft point bullets all seem to kill about the same, but the premium bonded core or monolithic bullets give much more dependable penetration. On a recent trip, I shot six Blesbok with six different bullets and found that it made no difference at all. Each was shot about the same distance and they were all about the same broadside lung shots. Every bullet gave complete penetration and each animal rarely went more than a few yards before going down. If you were to make me choose any one of the “common” lead cup and core bullets to use from now on, my choice is surely going to surprise you as I’d take the 220 grain Nosler Partition as my first choice and the 220 grain Sierra RN next. Those two bullets will almost always penetrate completely and leave a nice exit hole. They will not give you those instant kills of high speed bullets, and seldom will the animals drop at the shot, but they will only go a few yards before expiring. Ya, Ya, I can see the readers jumping up a down about the “rainbow” trajectory of those bullets. Now just a minute, with the 220 grain Partition at 2400 fps muzzle velocity that is zeroed 2.9” high at 100 yards, it is then dead on at 200 yards. The 180 grain Nosler Partition at 2700 fps zeroed 2” high at 100 yards is dead on at 200 yards, so no big deal. I’m being conservative on my 220 grain velocities at 2,400 fps as the Nosler Reloading Guide #4 page 329 shows loads up to 2,602 fps. For most shooters 200 yards is plenty far to shoot anyway, and if you can crawl up to 200 you will never know the difference in trajectory, but you will see a difference in performance on the game as those 220 grain bullets really put the hammer down. I remember an outfitter from Zimbabwe that took some 220 grain Sierra RN bullets home to try. When I met up with him the next year, he said they were the most dependable bullet in the .30-06 Springfield he had ever used. As you can well imagine this whole bullet subject can be cussed and discussed much like religion and politics long into the night, but the truth will end up being that the .30-06 Springfield with well placed shots, will take any plains game Africa has to offer. Another wonderful thing about the .30-06 Springfield is that virtually anywhere in the world you go, and should you lose your luggage and ammo, you can usually scare up a box of ammo somewhere. It may not be your first choice of brand or bullet, but it beats having none at all. Not having or being able to find ammo is my number one contention with the new RUM and WSM cartridges. Unless the fellow that hunted there ahead of you left his ammo, you don’t have a snow ball’s chance of buying any abroad. We have seen great advances in bullet construction and technology with John Nosler’s first Partition bullets all the way thru the Jack Carter’s Trophy Bonded Bear Claws, and now unto the Hornady GMX and Barnes TSX lead free bullets. As usually, it all boils down to “Bullet Placement”. If you do your job the old “ought six” will do its part. Feel free to write Terry anytime about bullet choices at
  • Andries
    Jan 21, 2018

    There is an established confidence that ALL 7mm and .30" calibre cartridges will shoot to the same point of impact out to 250 yards and kill exactly the same with similar weight bullets. Because the 30-06 and 7mm Rem Magnum and 8x57 are ballistic triplets, and the .308W and .270W and 7x57 are ballistic triplets, and the 6.5x55 Swede, 6.5x57 Mauser, 6.5x58 Portuguese are ballistic triplets, and because all of these 9 cartridges shoot to within less than 1/4 MOA from one another when zeroed at 200 yards, the actual calibre designation has very little to do with the way South African hunters choose their hunting rifles. The 7mm Rem Magnum is not very popular here because despite its bigger case capacity it merely equals the 30-06 in performance. On top of that try and explain the reason for the presence of the belt on the case and South African hunters are not convinced that it has any advantage - in fact the opposite - and they just stay with their 30-06s. The .270W can not handle the heavier bullets we prefer for big game, so the 7x64 Brenneke and .308W outshines it on big game - and with 150gr bullets and lighter the .270W merely equals the .308W. So the .308W has become the most sought after calibre for big and smaller game. The rifle brand name is the first driver in getting the buyer's interest - but when paying the money even that is lower than the appealing appearance the rifle will have regarding a pleasing, understated profile, good wood, and neat wood to metal appearance, and the ease of shouldering, and immediate and instinctive line up. Only then will the buyer look at the calibre designation. He may beforehand have decided on whether he wanted a 6.5 mm or larger - but the choice between a 7mm and .30" and particularly amongst the ballistic similar chamberings will be made by the individual RIFLE as there is no difference in killing ability as long as any one of the 7mm chamberings allows for bullets in the 170+ gr weight class. The new (since the 1970s) standard against which all hunting cartridges have been measured regarding big game killing ability is the 308W. (Of course the real standard is the 30-06 or 8x57 which is 100% capable of killing even the 2,000 lb eland under all conditions - but the .308W is far by far the most popular big game hunting cartridge in South Africa). There are very few .338" calibres around and virtually no .35s because nothing " more powerful " than the 308W is needed to kill any of the 12 size elk big game with a single heart shot. The .338" / .35" is a true American want-but-not-needed calibre, which is a concept we do not fully understand in Africa. Having a non dangerous game rifle which merely sends its fully penetrating bullet further into the unknown beyond the shot animal than the .308W already does is seen as kind of an anomaly. If a .308W 180 gr bonded core bullet has a perfect penetration impulse to penetrate through the shoulders of all the 12 elk size big game animals then the next step up is for a rifle to kill buffalo or elephant - which is the .375 H&H - so there is no requirement in Africa for a rifle in between the ballistic similar group of the 7x57 / .308W / 30-06 / .303 Brit / 7x64 Brenneke and then, for dangerous game, the .375 H&H / .416 Rigby / .458 Lott / .458 3" Express / .458 Sabi. Regarding brand names - European made rifles without a doubt rule the roost - SAKO, BRNO, CZ 550, and of course the locally manufactured Musgraves and custom built rifles on Mauser actions. There are many South African hunters who only own one rifle and that invariably is a BRNO / CZ 550 / Mauser / SAKO / Musgrave in .308W. He will in all likelyhood use only one bullet weight in it all the time which will depend on the area where he hunts - the distances that he shoots at will determine bullet weight - whether he hunts wildebeest or impala. The size of the animal he hunts is not the determining factor. Always using only one bullet weight allows the hunter to intimately know the trajectory out to say 300 yards. In the northern part of the country where I live and where shooting distances are mostly between 80 - 150 and rarely 200 yards it will be 180 gr, and on the open plains with shooting distances of 200-300 yards it will be a 165-150 gr bullet of premium construction. On shooting distances: There still is a strong ethic here that if your stalking skills are such that you are unable to get closer than 300 yards then you need to practice more. The culture we foster in the hunter education programmes (the hunting rifle shooting competitions) is that there should never ever be a reason to shoot at an animal beyond 300 yards. If the local hunter can not get closer than 300 yards it more than likely means that game is too scarce in his area to be hunted.

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