My Favorite Cartridges for Africa. (Part 4)

by david on October 18, 2012

Bullet Type

Believe it or not, the type of bullet is extremely important for hunting, especially in Africa where even an antelope can do you serious bodily harm if you only wound them.  You need heavy, well-constructed bullets available in both “softs” and “solids”.  A soft is familiar to most Americans, but you know it better as an expanding bullet.  An expanding bullet is one that expands or mushrooms upon impact, creating a wound channel larger than the bullet’s diameter.  I personally like the Barnes TSX, but there are any number of great bullets out there.  Whichever you choose, it must be well constructed so that it does not separate or break up when it hits the target.  A solid bullet is exactly what it sounds like — a tough nonexpanding bullet designed to punch straight through the toughest hide and bone around.  Even if I am only hunting plains game, I always have a few solids with me in case we run into something big and nasty.  You can also use solids on the smallest of African game as they punch a nice, neat, round hole without destroying the trophy’s cape or meat like an expanding bullet could. 

What does bullet selection have to do with choosing a rifle?  Not a lot if you are convinced you are only going to Africa once, going to hunt only plains game, and are planning on taking your trusty deer rifle with you.  You can shoot a well-constructed heavy-for-caliber bullet and do just fine.  On the other hand, if there is a possibility you may be returning to Africa for a future hunt (I personally know of no one who has hunted Africa and does not want to go back), it makes sense to purchase a rifle in a caliber suitable for most of Africa’s game.  The problem is that not all rifle calibers are readily available with suitable bullets for Africa.  The softs are a bit easier to find than the solids, and that may or may not be a problem.  Solids are simply not available for all calibers of commercially loaded ammunition.  If you can hand load your own ammunition, you are in much better shape as, more than likely, someone, somewhere, makes the components you want.  The main reason I am harping on the availability of solids is I think it is important to have a few if you will be in a dangerous game area.  I personally will not hunt a dangerous game area without a few solids in my pocket.  Even though I have never had the need for them, I feel much more secure knowing I have them if the situation ever turns hairy.  They are also a must-have item if you are going to hunt dangerous game such as Cape buffalo or elephant.  Their hides are so thick and bones are so strong that a solid is a necessity rather than a luxury. 

One last little footnote about selecting a rifle for Africa is whether or not you can buy ammunition for it in-country.  On my first trip over, I took a .300 Weatherby rifle.  Upon landing, I discovered that my guns had made it but my suitcase had not.  You guessed it, my ammo was in the suitcase.  I did not know it at the time, but .300 Weatherby ammo is not widely available in Africa.  There is a chance I could have found some if we had driven the five hours back to the capitol city, but it was beginning to look like I was going to have to borrow a rifle for the hunt.  Luckily, my suitcase showed up the next morning and all was well.  It is good to keep local ammunition availability in mind when you choose a rifle.

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