This topic has been covered a lot from when our forefathers started using black powder to propel lead balls in the hope of hunting buffalo. I am not going to copy what was written before but rather give prospective clients something to think about when they plan to swim over the pond and then hunt our Buffalo.
The .375H&H is arguably the calibre that has been used the most because of its versatility. It is also the minimum calibre that is legal to use for dangerous game in most of Africa. In the 30 years that I have been a PH, I myself have shot countless Big-6 animals with it and do not feel “under-gunned” at all with it.
That being said I must add that then I was the hunter myself and pulled off the first shot. I grew up doing it and I can keep my body and mind under control when I am within a few yards of dangerous game. I can also not remember when the last time was when I used a rest to shoot from except for Leopard and the occasional Hippo that needed to be culled in water. The rest have all been shot free-hand.
I had a look at my log-book from only the past 6 years and would like to share some statistics on Buffalo. I have guided 82 buffalo during this time (rifle only) and 58 of them were hunted using a .375 calibre (21 were hunted with a bow but are not included in these stats). Of the 58 Buff only 6 died with one shot. None of the 6 were shot with a solid bullet as a first shot. 37 required more than 2 shots and that included shots taken by the PH as is required.
24 Buff were hunted with larger calibres and only 2 needed more than one shot. That makes for interesting stats. It also confirms something us PH’s discussed many times in the past.
Yes, shot placement is the most important factor of all. Shot placement is NOT where the bullet hits the Buff on the outside but where it passes through the vitals on the INSIDE of the animal therefore it needs to penetrate deep irrespective of angle, bone and muscle that it in the way.
Today we are spoiled with top quality bullets. There is no need for any person using a .375 or .40 calibre round to use a solid bullet as a first shot. The quality expanding bullets we get today will inflict much more damage than a solid. From .45 calibre and up solids make good sense as the wound channel is so large.
I personally prefer clients to use any of the .416 variants, .404, .425 etc. to hunt buffalo. Many old time PH’s believe that a Buffalo calibre start with a 4. Again I will admit that shot placement is paramount but,,,,,,,, shot placement on the range is not the same as when you are tired, the dangerous animal is close, the adrenalin is making you shake and all the other little “Murphy factors” that will always be present.
If a “less than perfect” shot is going to be fired at a buffalo I would rather it be done with a .40 than a .375 calibre. Remember. Once a buffalo takes the first shot, all bets are off. He will be pumped up. He will have a surge of adrenalin in him and he will not just deflate. I for one am “shit scared” of a buffalo bull collapsing on the spot with the first shot. Been there, done that, don’t want a repeat. Rather give me a buffalo that takes the first shot, shows the reaction, runs off and die. That is normal and I like that. Those that collapse on the spot, get up and try and kill us all, always.
A 45-70 or 45-90 is NOT a buffalo calibre!! They are great for other things so apply them for that. This new craze that is starting where clients come to Africa with Air-rifles to hunt Buff is a stunt and cannot be called hunting at all. The guys who have done it clearly do not know that the Nature Conservation Law in South Africa is very clear on what an Air-rifle can and cannot be used for. As for the Outfitters and PH’s who guided those hunts…………..I rest my case.