When you have decided that a big-bore rifle is for you, and you’ve ironed out your load for dangerous game purposes, there’s still more fun to be had.
We are all aware of the fantastic reputation of the .375 with 300-grain bullets, the .416s and .404 with 400-grain bullets, and the various .458s with their 480 and 500-grain bullets. But there are ways to extend the versatility of those big guns, so you can spend more time afield with them.
We hunters, generally speaking, don’t get as much time as we’d like to use a true big bore rifle. And, as much as I love the rifles chambered to 6mm through .30 caliber (they definitely get the lion’s share of the time afield), I have a love of big guns, from .375 and up.
As handloaders, we can extend the versatility of the big guns, so we can hunt with them more often. There are many specialty bullets on the market that can do just that.
Cutting Edge Bullets from Pennsylvania comes quickly to mind. Their Safari Raptor bullets are constructed of brass, lathe turned and feature a deep hollowpoint. Like other monometal bullets, they are easily produced in light-for-caliber weights, and can offer an increase in velocity and a reduction on recoil. This is a great combination for lighter game, especially if you want to use your big bore for elk, moose or bears.
On a recent safari with deMoulpied & Son Outdoor Adventures, Dave deMoulpied asked me to cook him up a load for plains game in his .416 Rigby. Dave was after zebra and wildebeest, both tough animals, but they don’t necessarily require the tough 400-grain softs and solids that buffalo and elephant do.
We picked out the 325-grain Safari Raptor from Cutting Edge, and seating it over an even 100.0 grains of Alliant Reloder-22, we obtained MOA accuracy and a velocity of 2,550 fps. Dave had a great safari, taking impala, wildebeest and his zebra, with the shot on the zebra being almost 200 yards. The additional velocity flattened out the trajectory a bit, yet there was still plenty of bullet to take the tougher plains game.
The same can be said for what I consider to be the most useful cartridge ever made: the .375 H&H Magnum. The heavy bullets are certainly available, like the 300-grain slug that made the .375’s reputation and even the newer 350 grainers that will give a bunch of confidence, but the 235-grain Barnes TSX and Cutting Edge Safari Raptor can turn your .375 into a long range rifle. With handloads, you can push those lighter bullets to around 2,900 fps, giving a very flat trajectory for longer shots, yet comfortably taking smaller game.
Even the .458s can be loaded with 350 or 400-grain bullets, to approximate the performance of the .45-70 Government. Take a look at lighter bullets for the big bores, and have fun making some new ammunition so you can use your big gun more often. Don’t be embarrassed to take your big gun into the whitetail or black bear woods.