Bring up the topic of hunting dangerous game, and my ears prick up like a golden retriever at the mention of a truck ride. Irrespective of continent, hemisphere or species, I enjoy hunting dangerous game. It is not a widely accepted practice—as the events of the past year have shown—and it’s certainly not for everyone, but it is definitely exciting. The potential of being mauled, gored, clawed or trampled brings a whole different set of emotions to our usual pursuits, and how we come to depend upon our gear, namely the rifle and ammunition. An encounter with dangerous game—whether intentional or accidental—will change the way a hunter looks at things. Hunting deer in an area shared with bears will require a rifle that will not only take a deer, but also save your bacon should a huge bruin have you cornered. An African plains game safari takes on a whole new light should you bump a buffalo or elephant. But the intentional pursuit of the heavyweights will tooth, claw, fang or horn will require that you research and thoroughly test your ammunition, to provide the proper level of performance.
Dangerous game varies in species, size, and tenacity, but regardless of whether it’s a grizzly in a willow thicket, a Cape buffalo in the jesse bush, or an elephant at a distance you measure in feet instead of yards, the requirement may be different. Volumes have been written with regards to adequate calibers, bullet weights and construction, but the good folks at American Hunter wanted me to limit it to five, so I’m going to pick my top choices, based upon my own experiences and the recommendations of the Professionals I’m proud to call my friends.
Federal Cape-Shok, loaded with Swift A-Frame bullets
I’ve used a Swift A-Frame on over a dozen different species, and I’ve never been let down. It has a strong partition, and the front core is bonded to the thick jacket to prevent premature break-up, and these bullets retain over 90 percent of their weight, while offering deep penetration. Choose a suitable cartridge for your particular species, and load it with an A-Frame, and you’re good to go, for anything shy of elephant. I’m a huge fan of the Swift A-Frame.
Norma African PH
For the largest beasts on earth, Norma has loaded up heavy-for-caliber Woodleigh soft points and solids. Designed in conjunction with Africa Professional Hunter Kevin ‘Doctari’ Robertson, the 350-grain .375 H&H, 450-grain .416 Rigby and 550-grain .458 Lott and .450 Rigby all offer the high sectional density bullets and bone crushing power needed to end an argument quickly. Woodleigh Weldcore soft points have a fantastic reputation among dangerous game hunters, and the Woodleigh solids have the ability to penetrate from any angle.
There’s no question that the Nosler Partition is held in high esteem among hunters of truly big game—and that opinion need not change in today’s market. Nosler is now producing their own line of safari ammunition, built around the Partition for the soft points, and the Nosler Solids for the thickest skinned creatures, all in good nickel-plated cases. These make a great one-two punch for Cape buffalo, and the larger caliber Partitions are an excellent choice for lion, hippo and grizzly. The Nosler Solids, being a flat point, all-copper affair, will prove worthy on elephant and other pachyderms. My .404 Jeffery will put three 400-grain Nosler Solids into a sub-MOA group. Try the Nosler ammo; it’s great stuff.
Hornady Dangerous Game
Hornady has long been famous for their ammunition, and I’ve used the heavier InterLock bullets for years as my go-to bear load. However, while the InterLock is still represented in the DG line, Hornady has developed the DGX (Dangerous Game eXpanding) and DGS (Dangerous Game Solids) pair of bullets specifically for those animals requiring projectiles that absolutely will not fail. While I have yet to have an opportunity to use these bullets on game, I know those who have, and the field reports have all been good. I can attest to the fact that these bullets are accurate; both my .416 Remington and .404 Jeffery will print groups that one would expect from a light-recoiling deer rifle. Hornady offers them in most of the popular calibers, and some of the rarities, like .376 Steyr, .416 Ruger and .500/416 Nitro Express. Hornady’s Dangerous Game line is often used in the regulation of modern double rifles.
Federal Cape-Shok, loaded with Woodleigh Hydrostatically Stabilized Solids
This bullet, dear reader, is a horse-of-a-different-color. It is a solid-brass bullet, with a funky sort of dimpled tip, covered in a blue hemispherical polymer tip. The Woodleigh Hydro, at first appearance, is the kind of bullet that one would normally associate with thick-skinned behemoths like hippo, buffalo and elephant, offering all sorts of penetration, but virtually no expansion. These bullets will definitely reach the vitals, but the wound channel is definitely smaller than an expanding bullet. However, while the fact that the bullet is a solid is true, but that’s where the similarities end. The ‘dimpled tip’ creates a shockwave of tissue-destroying devastation, doing all sorts of damage to the vitals, regardless of the animal’s size. I’ve used this highly accurate bullet to take plains game in Africa—namely impala and wildebeest—with one well-placed shot each, as well as a huge bodied Zimbabwean bull elephant. The bullet completely penetrated the elephant’s body, twice, on a heart/lung shot, quartering toward me. The Woodleigh Hydro Solid is a bullet, which I would use against any game, anywhere.
Do your research on the dangerous game you intend to hunt, and be sure that the caliber you intend to use is suitable. Go out and pick up some quality ammo and test it thoroughly in your rifle, so you can head afield confidently.
Want to read more from Philip Massaro? Check out the stories below:
• Top 5 Turkey Loads
• 5 Rifle Cartridges That Need to Make a Comeback
• Top 5 Safari Calibers
• 5 New Year's Resolutions for Hunters
• What Your Favorite Rifle Cartridge Says About You
• America's Most Wanted Cartridges
• America's Strangest Game Laws
• What Your Favorite Rifle Cartridge Says About You, Part II
• Top 5 Overrated Rifle Cartridges
• Top 5 Underrated Rifle Cartridges
• 5 Cartridges You Might Not Know About
• Top 5 Wildcat Cartridges
• An Ode to the Ruger Mini-14
• Top 5 Hog Loads
• Top 5 Deer Bullets
• Why .30-30 Winchester Will Never Die