Enough Gun?

In Comments about the .375 H&H cartridge, Fergie asks:

I wonder why the venerable .45-70 isn’t on the table for him?  North American bison are heavyweights too, and .45-70 will handle them with aplomb even at range.  I wouldn’t hesitate if offered a decent shot at that critter – a properly stoked cartridge with a hard cast 500 grain round nose from an elegant 1885 single shot would end the hunt nicely.

I’ve thought about that a lot myself (not owning a rifle chambered in .375 H&H, but owning the aforesaid 1885 High Wall rifle in .45-70 Govt).

I remember looking at the situation back when I was thinking of joining Mr. Free Market and Doc Russia on a South African safari, and basically I was told that the PH wouldn’t let you hunt Cape buffalo with the .45-70 Govt because it’s too underpowered.  I bridled a little at that, and went looking around.

Here’s what the stats say about Buffalo Bore .45-70 Govt “Magnum” offerings:

Mono-Metal Flatnose:  380 gr.  @ 2,075 fps / muzzle energy 3,632 ft-lbs
LBT-LFN:  430 gr. @ 1,925 fps / muzzle energy 3,537 ft-lbs
FMJ-Flatnose:  500 gr.  @ 1,625 fps / muzzle energy 2,931 ft-lbs

Compare that to Buffalo Bore’s own .375 H&H Mag offering, which they call “Supercharged”:

SUPERCHARGED: 300 gr. Barnes TSX @ 2,550 fps / muzzle energy 4,330 ft lbs

Here’s the critical part, though.  Most PHs recommend that the bullet arrives with no less than 3,000 ft-lbs at 100 yards.

At 100 yards, the .375 H&H  Hornady DGS 300gr lands at 3,292 .  The Buffalo Bore .45-70 Govt (or any manufacturer’s, for that matter)?  Anywhere from 2,500 – 2,700 ft-lbs.  Not nearly enough;  those big, heavy ol’ boolets lose velocity too quickly.

More telling is the bullet’s ballistic coefficient (BC) / sectional density (SD) or, for a better definition, penetration power.  (The higher the BC / SD, the better the penetration.)

At about 2,500 fps (which is at about 175 yards), the .375 H&H 300gr bullet has a BC of 480, and its SD is 305 (480/305).

At 1,900 fps (which is at the muzzle), the  .45-70 Govt 300gr bullet  has a BC of 185 and an SD of 204 (185/204).

In other words:  if you were to shoot a Cape buffalo with the hottest-possible .45-70 Govt cartridge, you’d pretty much have to be in halitosis range to get the same result as you’d get with a .375 H&H cartridge at 100-150 yards.

And as Longtime Friend Combat Controller succinctly put it when we were discussing the topic last night:  “If the .45-70 worked in Africa, they’d be using it.  They don’t.”

Yup.  In any safari camp, when you un-case your .375 H&H rifle, the PH will nod in approval.  And especially so when it’s a CZ 550 Safari, a.k.a. the Brno 602.


  1. Well all of this is well beyond my financial capacity so I’ll just sit back and watch the show. That CZ would look it’s best sitting in my cabinet accompanied by a couple slammed ammo cans.

  2. About 25 years back I had an invitation to hunt in South Africa. I probably could have come up with the money but the “minor” details of the thing convinced me to stick to white tail deer. My first problem was the lack of a gun that was big enough. All of my rifles were in the .30-06 or .303 class. Friend said that he could come up with a rifle if I supplied the ammunition which was very expensive even back in those days. After some consideration I decided that the real problem wasn’t in the size of my gun but rather the size of my testicular fortitude which really wasn’t up to the task. Maybe when I was 19 and crazy.

  3. It’s an interesting debate. I am a black powder geek, and remember a raging debate on the gun boards years ago where ballistics “proved” that shooting elk with a .243 was better than doing it with a .58 caliber muzzle loader. It was absolute rot, of course, assuming sane ranges for the muzzle loader. Ballistics sometimes don’t tell the whole story on killing power.

    Most people don’t realize that the old buffalo guns of the Wild West shot the big lead bullets at around 1300 FPS. When you get a super heavy bullet even at sedate velocities… they don’t slow down for nothin’!

    For the sake of argument, Kim: can we set the math aside, and just compare the critters themselves? Are the cape buffs more solid than their North American counterparts? Also – is bullet expansion a consideration for the 375/Cape buffalo hunter? I seem to recall the safari guys favouring non-expanding solids for them. Is that correct?

    It’s a fascinating topic. I think I remember reading that Americans did quite well in Africa with that .405 Winchester lever gun too…

    1. Back in the day they used what they had and there was no “minimum”. I am sure any number of smaller calibers would work to some degree because in the end shot placement trumps energy (to a point) but the governments have an interest in preventing novices/tourists who do not really know what they are doing from getting killed.

      1. Perhaps. But professional buff hunters tended to use what worked. North American bison are not known for their sweet disposition either, and if you dared them with pea shooters and poor marksmanship you would eventually regret it. In the days of the Wild West and great buffalo herds, black powder would not produce anything close to the velocities of modern smokeless. If you wanted killing power, you got it by projectile mass. The old buffalo guns are celebrated by the various Black Powder Cartridge Rifle clubs and leagues and make for fascinating discussion and shooting.

        The .45-70 WAS on the low end for guns of the time; many professionals used larger rounds like the .45-90, .50-90, .45-120, etc.

        1. How about the .45/110? Think that was the caliber of Selleck’s rifle in Quigley… heard he kept it, too. I only have a coupla .22s that I haven’t shot since before I retired from the army in ’95. There are no, absolutely no ranges in these parts and I’m a town critter and don’t know anyone with acreage.

  4. Every time the Cape Buffalo comes up in this sort of conversation, I start thinking of alternate justifications for buying a Barrett Light Fifty.

    655 grain, 3000 fps, 13,000 ft-lbs, with a five or ten round magazine. Not to mention you could get armor-piercing bullets, which sounds like a requirement for the Cape Buffalo, quite honestly.

  5. One other factor of importance…velocity. Velocity on its own according to a number of Africa hunters is really really important. But not in the way you might thunk. Seems there is quite a consensus that a magic speed exists. 2400 fps is viewed as working miracles on large nasty animals. I’ve read it has to do with crossing over into the realm of hydraulic shock, and permanent damage around cavity expansion. Faster doesnt get ya much more without huge recoil and shooter pain, and slower is illustrated by say a 45-70 where ya are taking a chance.

    Kindof why the wonderful 9.3×62 is viewed as adequate.

      1. I really like Lucky Gunner stuff. Just on this one would like to point out that it took FBI about 60 years after African PHs “discovered” magic velocity ! 9.3 or 416 Rigby etc all staple of guys like Selby or Taylor etc. Their experiments were not in gel but thousands of beasties across Africa and they were keen observers. AND were cognizant that shot placement was factor number 1 as Bell made clear.

        I don’t like nothing invented after around 1930… lol

      1. I do not know Kim, but I would like to also. Following the link to the Vince Lupo sight he claims to have taken a bull elephant using a Marlin rifle and the 540 grain Garrett Hammerheads:

        “Given the swirling wind, and the high level of sensitivity of Elephants, we could only stalk up to about 60 yards. We could not chance moving in any closer. As the largest bull turned his head to the left, I sent a 540gr Hammerhead slamming into his left side temple followed immediately by a second shot to his rear spine as he fell to his right. The other 2 bulls trumpeted and headed off at a quick pace. We circled to the front of the Elephant were at about 10 feet I placed an insurance frontal brain shot. His large tusk weighed in at 68lbs and his smaller one at 46lbs for a total of 114lbs! We donated about 10 tons of meat to a very happy village that immediately started a huge party!”

  6. I believe 9.3×62 is the minimum in at least a few places (according to those I have talked to, I have been to Africa, but never hunted there). A quick search shows it to be the case in at least some places. I certainly would not feel under-gunned with one.

    In any case, the 45-70 was not a hunting cartridge, thus the 45-70 “GOV” designation. It was a military round for shooting 2 legged dangerous game. Certainly it was used on bison a lot because it worked well enough and it was plentiful. The designed for buffalo guns were however a class higher in power; like 44-90, 44-105, 45-100, 45-125, 50-100 and such and thus ran about 30% more powerful than the 45-70 or more. Those rounds are all for the antique fun shooting guys if at all these days, but I have no reason to expect they would not work perfectly well on a Cape Buffalo or such today if used.

    1. Yeah, but if we’re going to go up there, I’d go with a more “modern” [snigger] round like the .416 Rigby or .470 Nitro.

    1. As long as YOU carried it, it would be fine.
      I’ve seen one in the flesh (at the museum in Denton TX), and it’s a monster.

  7. I’ve got 2 beautiful Africa guns, both well suited to a Cape. I don’t think I’ll ever make it there, but if I do a Winchester Model 70 Safari grade in .458 Win Mag and a CZ 550 with a purdy Mannlicher stock in 9.3×62 will do the trick nicely. In the meantime, they’ll suffice for anti-armor and anti-vehicle work in the coming dark days.

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