3 Great Cartridges for Africa — and North America
Richard Mann 08.28.17
Fact: If it works here, it’ll work there.
There is an old wives’ tale that has been circulating for many years. It offers that animals in Africa are harder to kill than animals in North America. The result of this urban legend is that when hunters go to Africa, they take more gun than they need or can handle. I’m not sure how this myth began or where it started, but I have a theory.
When hunters go to Africa, it’s not uncommon for them to shoot poorly. As bad as this sounds, it’s understandable. It can be stressful when a “professional” hunter is looking over your shoulder as you shoot. And, when hunters lose, wound, or have to shoot an animal multiple times, it’s easier to say they’re harder to kill than it is to admit you shot poorly. And finally, most African plains game are herd animals, and when you shoot an animal in a herd, it tends to run farther, supposedly due to that herd mentality.
In North America, elk and moose are our largest, non-dangerous species. Both are similar in size to kudu and eland in Africa. Because all of these animals are made of similar hide, muscle, bone and cartilage, it would stand to reason that anything that will work on a moose, will work on anything non-dangerous in Africa.
As a point of fact, I’ve seen that hypothesis proven. I’ve taken elk and moose with a 308 Win., and it works superbly in Africa. It’s also doesn’t kick hard, which makes it easy to shoot accurately.
Bullet wise you don’t need anything larger in diameter or heavier than a 308 Win. can deliver. However, what you might want is something that will push a .308 caliber bullet faster so that you have more energy on target at extended distance, and so that holdover at those distances isn’t as critical. The simple answer is the 300 Win. Mag. If you can handle the recoil — which in reality isn’t all that bad — it will do at 500 yards what a 308 Win. will do at 300.
As surprising as it might seem, the 243 Win. isn’t a bad choice for Africa. Average shot distance in Africa is about 200 yards, and from the muzzle out to a bit beyond 200 yards, a 243 Win. loaded with a good bullet will push deep enough and damage enough tissue to ethically end a hunt. For those who might be recoil sensitive, especially young hunters, it’s ideal. I know, some will be screaming that shot placement is very important with a 243 Win. Well, I got news for you — shot placement is always important.
Just as important is that you can easily find ammunition for the 308 Win., 300 Win. Mag. and 243 Win. just about anywhere in Africa. In fact, your professional hunter will likely have a box of one or all three of these cartridges in his Land Cruiser.
I will add that because the minimum caliber requirement for dangerous game in Africa is .375, the 375 Ruger shouldn’t be left out. (You might get to Africa and just have to hunt a buffalo.) It will work ideally on plains game — if you don’t flinch when it blows that big bullet out the barrel. And, it’s enough for the beasties that might want to chew on you or stomp you into a blood puddle.