A Namibia farmers collection of working rifles, from left to right Savage 340C 22 Hornet, Musgrave 30 06 Springfield with supressor and Sako Finnbear 7mm Remington Magnum
For the rifle hunter Namibia is bound to test your skills as a marksman to the limit. Many areas are quite devoid of vegetation that makes stalking closer to your prey more difficult. This will mean that you might be required to take longer shots at game than you are used to. Namibian plains game animals are also notoriously tough and can take a lot of punishment, so excellent shot placement is vitally important.
As I said in part 1 of this series I am not going to argue the merits of why 1 calibre is better than another, everybody has their favourites and trying to convince someone why I believe another cartridge is better is unwise. To be honest a lot of these calibres are so close to each other performance wise, that arguing about why the 300 Weatherby Magnum is better than the 300 Winchester Magnum is a futile argument. We all know the Weatherby is a bit hotter than the 300 Winchester Magnum, but the reality is that a Kudu or Gemsbok shot with either of these 300′s will not be able to tell the difference and will be equally dead regardless of which of these calibres are used.
Cartridge comparison left to right; 264 Winchester Magnum 140gr. 308 Winchester 150gr. 22 Hornet 45gr and 22LR. All of these cartridges have their application they are suited for. The 264Win Mag will however be the best of the lot for plains game hunting in Namibia while the 308 is better suited to South African Bush Veld conditions. The 22′s are best not used on antelope species.
This why I will merely try and indicate what range of cartridges in my humble opinion are suited for what types of hunting in Namibia. Using the right calibre rifle for the right application is important provided the marksmen has done his job and placed the bullet in the vitals. If you have difficulty hitting the target with your 30 06 Springfield bringing a 460 Weatherby Magnum with you to Namibia will not magically turn you into a Marine Corps Sniper. The opposite is also true, just because you are an exceptional marksman and you have shot everything from prairie dogs to Grizzly Bears with your 243 Winchester, does not mean you should try and emulate that in Africa, rather use a calibre suited to the application it is required for.
So question remains what do you use on what in Namibia? What the locals use are usually a good indication of what works in a specific area. Gun laws in Namibia are not as friendly as in the USA and most locals don’t have the luxury of owning hundreds of rifles in different calibres, so they generally stick to tried and trusted equipment that has stood the test of time. Ask your PH what rifles he uses and owns and what he suggests you bring with.
From my experiences in Namibia I have observed what some of the locals use and have come to the following conclusions. For most antelope species like Kudu, Springbuck and Impala I would say the 270 Winchester with good 130 grain bullets like Swift A Frames, Barnes X or Noslers would be the minimum calibre I would suggest as adequate. South African and Namibian hunters regularly use the 308 Winchester and 30 06 Springfield effectively to take Springbuck, Kudu and even Gemsbok in Namibia. These calibres work and have the credentials in combat to back it up. But just like the US military found in Afghanistan that they needed a cartridge with a flatter trajectory than the tried and trusted 308, for longer range sniping in Afghan conditions, the same logic applies to certain areas in Namibia.
Any of the various 300 Magnums with good quality 180 grain bullets will work well on all antelope encountered in Namibian conditions. The 7mm Remington Magnum and my personal favourite the 264 Winchester Magnums with 140 grain Barnes X bullets are also viable options. I love the 264 Winchester Magnum but that is just because it has been in the family for longer than we care to remember and it has never failed to bring home the venison. I will in no way try and convince anyone to rather use a 264 instead of a 7mm or 300 Magnum. In my opinion any of the Magnums from the 264 Winchester Magnum up to and including all of the various 300 Magnums will get the job done for hunting anything from Springbuck up to Gemsbok. If you have difficulty handling the recoil of the magnums, I suggest you rather bring a 30 06 Springfield with good quality 168 grain bullets.
If you have larger antelope like Eland on the menu a 338 Winchester Magnum or 338 Lappua Magnum with premium quality bullets between 220 grain and 250 grains will be an ideal choice, provided you can handle the recoil and shoot it accurately. The 375 Holland and Holland is extremely versatile round and with lighter 220 – 250gr. projectiles it can be effectively used for longer range shooting. With the lighter bullets a 375 will almost emulate the 300 Magnums trajectory. By switching to heavier bullets like the 300 grain Barnes X you can confidently hunt Buffalo as well. So if you are bringing only one rifle, a rifle in the class of the 375 Holland and Holland will be quite a good choice. Another cartridge that is ballistic wise very close to the 375 Holland and Holland is the 9.3 x 64 Brenneke which is also referred to as the German 375.
Something else to take into account is if the calibre rifle you are bringing is a popular calibre in Namibia and if ammunition for your rifle will be available locally. It can happen that your luggage with ammunition supply can get lost on route by the airlines and if that happens, it will be better to have a rifle that you will not have trouble getting ammunition for in Namibia.
Have fun deciding what calibre rifle or rifles you want to use on your African Hunting Safari, but don’t forget to prepare properly before getting on the plane. Get fit and practise a lot of long range shooting from sticks and field positions, get to know your rifles trajectory and its limitations. Marksmanship is still the most important factor in helping you bag your trophy.
***Join me in part 3 on what calibres are suited for hunting in the South African Bush-veld of Mpumalanga and Limpopo.