Safari Rifles For Africa - Plains Game
There are any number of different rifle/cartridge combinations that can be used to hunt plains game. “Plains Game” is a large category of animals that can range from a 35 pound red duiker to a 1600-pound eland, with a 2,000+ pound stink bull giraffe thrown in for good measure. No one gun is suitable for all these animals, but there are certain calibers that are a better choice for the various sizes of plains game.
We’ll break down the plains game category into three sub-categories; light plains game, medium plains game, and large plains game. Then we’ll cover some suitable rifles for each group.
Discussions like this have been going on since Highland Scot Roualen Gordon Cumming strapped on his kilt, shouldered his German 12-bore “light” rifle and went safari in 1844 in deepest Africa. What we want to accomplish here is to acquaint the client with a general selection of rifles for specific plains game.
Light Plains Game Rifles
This category of animal covers animals up to 125 pounds. Included are all the Tiny Ten like the Damara dik-dik, grey duiker, klipspringer, and others. Next up are the gazelle, impala, and springbok-sized game. Some smaller cats like the civet, serval and caracal, and foxes, like bat-eared and Cape fox are included.
If the safari will be 2-gun with both large animals, and small plains game hunted, then a specific caliber rifle can be used on smaller plains game. Any of the 6mm cartridges would be more than adequate. A sample includes the .243 Winchester, the 6mm Remington, the .240 Weatherby Magnum, .257 Roberts, or the .257 Weatherby Magnum. With the faster .25 caliber Magnums, bullet choice is important. The .257 Weatherby is hustling a 90-grain bullet along at 3,550 feet per second. On smaller plains game, trophy damage can be extreme.
Medium Plains Game Rifles
Here we have plains game anywhere in size from 130 pounds to 300-350 pounds. A lot of time, hunting these larger animals happens in open areas, especially if your bag includes wildebeest, sitatunga, tsessebe, lechwe, bushbuck, or numerous others. Also for other animals like warthog, bushpig, hyena, ostrich, baboon or similar, you could use the same rifle as what you used for medium-sized plains game.
You have a great deal of latitude in caliber choice for medium-sized plains game. Anything from the .260 Nosler to the .325 Winchester Short Magnum will work. This includes the venerable .270 in many guises, the .280 Remington, eleven different calibers in .30 caliber, and the 8mm Magnum. A proper choice would depend on the type of terrain, range, animal, and your familiarity with the rifle. I stuck a 400-grain .416 bullet into a warthog’s boiler works one fine day. I expected dead hog right there. Unfortunately, someone neglected to inform Mr. hog as he proceeded to head for the far places at a good rate of speed. A quick follow-up put an end to his travels. That was a total of 800 grains of Hornady’s finest lead. The old saying about bullet placement is a whole lot more important than bullet size is very true.
Large Plains Game Rifles
There’s a wide variety of large plains game from the 350+ pound bontebok up to the 2,400 pound Livingstone eland. Some other large plains game includes sable, scimitar-horned oryx, roan, Hartmann’s zebra, black wildebeest, kudu and many others.
A rifle chambered for a cartridge in the .338-340 caliber is quite capable of taking all large plains game; it’s been done many times. Smaller calibers like the .300 Magnums have also been used on all these animals, however, if the shot isn’t exactly perfect, there may follow a long chase. Don’t forget that a wounded and lost animal has to be paid for.
Bullet weight should range from 225 grains to 250 grains. In this class of rifles, the .338 Winchester Magnum, the .338 Remington Ultra Magnum, .338 Norma Magnum, and the .340 Weatherby Magnum are four excellent choices. All of them shoot flat enough to reach out for those once-in-a-lifetime shots at a trophy animal out past 300 yards.
But when the really big plains game is on the license, it would be wise to move up to a larger caliber. The .375 H&H Magnum has worked for over 100 years on all of the largest plains game. In the past few years, other .375 caliber cartridges have sprung up. Last year I took a Hartmann’s Zebra with a Ruger #1 single-shot chambered in .375 Ruger; one shot, one animal in the salt.
Other cartridges in .375 caliber include the .375 and .378 Weatherby Magnum, .375 Remington Ultra Magnum, and the 9.3x62mm Mauser.
Optics For Plains Game
Optics are quite important when hunting large plains game – actually all plains game. Whether it’s a blacker than night sable standing in shadow at 100 yards, or a kudu on a ridge 200 yards away, a good scope is invaluable. Because these animals present a fairly large target, extreme accuracy isn’t necessary. Two different scope choices are a good 3-9x duplex, or a fixed 4x.
If all your hunting will be on open plains, and you’ve been told the shots could tend to be long, then a high end scope like a Meopta Meopro 4.5-14 Riflescope will get you out past 300 yards if needed.
Shooting Sticks for Plains Game
A short blurb here on shooting sticks. If you are looking at your first safari, and you have sighted in your rifle on a shooting bench, you need to start shooting off of shooting sticks. Almost all your plains game hunting will be done from sticks, unless you have a tree branch or other rest available. You need to practice shooting while standing. For this, you’ll need to get a set of shooting sticks.
Shooting sticks are available in monopod, bi-pod and tri-pod configurations. The more legs, the greater the stability and the more accurate the shot. Three-legged tripopds are the standard in Africa, so that is what you should practice shooting off of.
I’m currently using a set of Hammer’s three-legged shooting sticks. They are adjustable for height from two feet to six feet, and come with a carrying bag. They are pretty much self-explanatory. You can rest your rifle in the V-notch at the top, or you can hold the rifle’s fore end, and rest your hand on the sticks. When shooting heavier calibers, holding the rifle and resting your hand on the sticks helps in recoil control.