Five Rifle Calibres for
by Stephan Hofmann
My Namibian Red Hartebeest shot with Ruger .300 Win Mag
I have decided to list my choices of the five most useful rifle calibers available to an International Hunter. I have limited the choices to five calibers to make the selection process less difficult and more definitive.
My number one choice is the .17 cal HMR developed by Hornady and Ruger. The .17 HMR is a super hot rimfire cartridge that propels a Hornady 17 g V-Max bullet at 2500 fps. The cartridge is extremely accurate out to 200 yards. The cartridge is excellent for prairie dogs, squirrels, rabbits, and other varmints.
I have a Marlin Model 917 VS .17 HMR with a Simmons 3-9x50 scope. The rifle has a two pound trigger job. After I sighted it in, my friend took a few shots. At fifty yards his first shot went right in the middle of the bullseye. We could not find out where his second and third shots went. We went to the target and found out that he had put three shots in the same hole. The rifle and bullet combination is that accurate. The rifle was extremely accurate at 100 yards also. At 200 yards the bullets start to wander a bit.
I took my Marlin out to South Dakota. The rifle was murder on prairie dogs and rabbits that were nibbling away at my friend's Buffalo pasture. There is little recoil with this rifle and bullet combination and one can see the effects of the bullet when a prairie dog is hit. The .17 HMR is an absolutely fantastic cartridge! I think this cartridge would be of service in Africa for Rock Hyrax, Dassies, and Black-backed Jackals.
My second choice is the .22-250 Remington centerfire cartridge. I shoot Winchester white box 45 g bullets that attain speeds of 4000 fps. This is the ultimate varmint cartridge, routinely capable of hits out to 500 yards.
I have a Remington Model 700 VLS rifle with a Nikon 4.5-14x40 Buckmaster scope with Mil Dot Reticule. I have shot hundreds of prairie dogs with this rifle; many of the dogs at 450-500 yards. I also took two Merriam Turkeys out West with this gun. My guide and I saw two big Thanksgiving sized gobblers strutting in a field. We climbed a hill overlooking the Turkeys. We tried to ambush them with my .22-250 Rem. At 400 yards I took a shot and missed. I shot again and missed. The Turkeys sensed our presence and started to run. The largest gobbler was running through some brush. I aimed carefully about six inches over his head. At the shot the Turkey dropped. It had been an incredibly lucky 450 yards shot through the neck! The other gobbler joined a group of jakes and hens. I scoped him at 400 yards and shot him through the neck also. It was very good and very lucky shooting. I think that the prairie dogs that I had been shooting at 500 yards had improved my aim and allowed me to take those two gobblers.
I think this cartridge would be of use in Africa for Rock Hyrax, Dassies, Black-backed Jackals, and possibly, Springbok.
My third choice is the mighty and venerable .300 Winchester Magnum. This caliber is just as useful as the .30-06 Springfield, but packs a little more punch and a little more distance. The rifle is made for long shots and any animal less than a distance of 300 yards is usually dead meat with this gun.
I have a Ruger M77 Mark II Standard .300 Win Mag with a Nikon Buckmaster 4.5-14x40 scope with Mil Dot Reticule. I shoot mainly Remington 180 g Cor Lokt factory ammo. I like to use a Harris bipod when hunting with this rifle.
I have made 300 yard shots on Pronghorn Antelope in Wyoming with this rifle combination. I have shot Mule Deer that dropped in their tracks and saved us the hard work of retrieving them out of a canyon. I have shot a Canadian Moose in British Columbia with this rifle-bullet combination. The Moose was very tough to bring down. The .300 Win Mag is the ultimate Elk Rifle but it may be a trifle light for a 1200 pound bull Moose. When I shot my Moose at 125 yards he hardly flinched. He started to walk up hill and I put another bullet into his back. My guide said to stop shooting. I was going to fire again but the Moose staggered on his feet and crashed to the forest floor. The next time I go Moose hunting I am bringing a .338 Win Mag or a .35 Whelen.
The .300 Win Mag is the quintessential African Plains Rifle. I have shot Kudu, Red Hartebeest, Springbok, Gemsbok, Zebra, and Warthog with my .300 Win Mag and 180 g Cor Lokt bullet. The rifle would be sufficient for Leopard and perhaps, Lion. My Professional Hunter said that the .300 Win Mag is enough gun for the massive Eland. I plan to take an Eland in 2009 with my .300 Win Mag.
If I had to have just one rifle to hunt with, I would choose the .300 Win Mag.
My fourth choice is the powerful .35 Whelen. This is an old and venerable caliber named after that great rifleman and outdoorsman Col. Townsend Whelen. The rifle is accurate to 200 yards and it packs a lot of punch. It is the ideal Bear rifle; be they Black Bears or the Great Bears of the Northern latitudes. I have taken two Color phase Bears in Idaho with my Remington Model 700 CDL .35 Whelen with Remington 250 g Cor Lokt Factory Ammo. The rifle has a Leupold Rifleman 3-9x50 scope and a 2 pound Timney trigger.
It is also an ideal Moose caliber. The next time I go after Shiras Moose in the Bighorn Mountains of Wyoming I am bringing my .35 Whelen. The .35 Whelen is also a good Elk Gun. I harvested a 6x6 Bull Elk in Wisconsin with my .35 Whelen. I am going after Wild Pigs in Texas this March and plan to use my .35 Whelen.
The .35 Whelen is an ideal African rifle. I read an article about a hunt in the Dande North area of Zimbabwe where the hunter used the .35 Whelen to take a Leopard and a Lioness. The hunter also harvested a multitude of Plains Game with the rifle. The .35 Whelen packs more punch than the .300 Win Mag and would certainly be a fine choice for Eland and Giraffe. The .35 Whelen is a very useful caliber capable of taking a wide variety of game. The rifle is fun the shoot and enjoyable to hunt with. The recoil on this gun is entirely tolerable.
My fifth and last choice is the .458 Lott. The .458 Lott was developed by an American gun smith and big game hunter, Jack Lott, in the early 1980's. Jack Lott had a serious run in with a wounded Cape Buffalo in Africa and wanted a gun with a bit more punch than his .458 Win Mag.
He developed the .458 Lott out of .375 H&H brass. The .458 Lott is essentially a .458 Win Mag on steroids. The 500 g Lott bullet travels over 2400 fps and generates over 6000 foot pounds at the muzzle. It is a tremendously powerful cartridge capable of taking Cape Buffalo, Elephant, Hippo, Croc, Lion, and the great bears of North America and Kamchatka.
I own a Ruger M77 MKII .458 Lott with a Leupold VX-I 3-9x40 scope. I shoot Hornady 500 g Round Nose Bullets. I have taken two American Bison Bulls with the powerful Rifle. One of my Bison, a 2000 pound monster, made the record book. Both Bison that I have shot have dropped in their tracks. No "Rodeo" ensued after the shot.
The .458 Lott is not for the faint of heart. The recoil is seriously bone crunching and shoulder breaking. I have found, however, that one does not notice the recoil in a hunting situation.
I plan on using my .458 Lott for Cape Buffalo and Elephant in Africa some day.
I read that the Makah Indians of Neah Bay, in Clallum County, Washington, hunt their allotted quota of grey whales with a .577 Tyrannosaur. Maybe the .458 Lott could be used for this purpose also.
So, those are my choices for five rifles that would enable the hunter to shoot any animal in the world. I know there are many calibers and many choices available to the hunter.
I do not want to argue with anyone, just give information.