.458 Winchester Magnum Rifle
There’s a gentleman I correspond with who has been hunting deer using a .458 Win Mag during the last couple of years.
Sort of like the guys I’ve described in previous emails (who were hog hunting in Florida). This guy was literally deer hunting with an elephant gun.
If you’re not familiar with it, the .458 Winchester Magnum was originally designed in the 1950s for American hunters to use on dangerous game (like cape buffalo) in Africa and remains a very popular and effective cartridge for that sort of hunting to this day.
You probably won’t be surprised to hear that those deer didn’t run very far after he shot them.
The cartridge is undoubtedly extremely effective on whitetail deer at short range. However, deer hunting with the .458 Win Mag is not very popular among deer hunters.
No, it’s not because it “blows apart” deer.
In fact, he experienced much less meat loss than if he’d used a high-velocity cartridge like a .300 Win Mag in that exact situation.
Recoil is a major downside of the cartridge though. Even in a heavier rifle, the .458 Win Mag has a lot more recoil than most traditional deer hunting cartridges (about 2x as much as the 30-06).
Ammunition is typically much more expensive as well.
On the flip side, .458 Win Mag ammo has been much easier to find than a lot of other stuff lately.
While that’s certainly an advantage, ammo availability was not why he was deer hunting with the .458 Win Mag (though I wouldn’t be surprised if somebody somewhere deer hunted with a .458 Win Mag last year for that exact reason).
So why did he use it then?
Simple: he’s in the process of planning a cape buffalo hunt in Africa and wanted to get some experience actually hunting with it before his trip.
I did the same thing before a buffalo hunt myself a few years ago.
It’s definitely important to spend a lot of time at the range with your hunting rifle. Nothing beats actual time carrying it afield. That’s a great way to ensure it functions reliably and shoots accurately under real-world hunting conditions.
Nothing builds confidence like using a particular rifle successfully on a hunt either.
Hunting deer with your .458 Win Mag buffalo rifle is the perfect way to get some successes under your belt when the stakes aren’t so high.
You may only get one chance at the bull of a lifetime on your dream hunt, so make the most of it.
Hunting Guns 101 contains a module specifically for people who want to hunt cape buffalo or any other species of thick-skinned, dangerous game.
In that module, I discuss the specific features that are essential in rifles and ammunition. For those hunting situations and provide detailed recommendations on what exactly you need to be using and why that’s the case.
A number of companies market rifles and ammunition for use on dangerous game, but only a handful really are up to the task.
Fortunately, this particular module contains the details on what you should and should not be hunting thick-skinned dangerous game with.
For instance, this guy I’ve been telling you about using a very popular line of ammunition. This ammunition is heavily marketed for use on cape buffalo to shoot his deer.
It worked great for deer hunting with the .458 Win Mag, but I DO NOT recommend using it on cape buffalo.
Among other things, you’ll learn what ammo I’m talking about, why I don’t think it’s a good choice, and what to use instead in the training.
P.S. I’ll tell you a story in a future email about a different guy. He used that ammo on a buffalo hunt in Africa last year and almost paid the ultimate price.
Cape Buffalo Hunt In Africa With 458 Mag Rifle
There’s a video that pretty regularly makes the rounds online of a cape buffalo hunt in Africa that went sideways.
A single Professional Hunter (PH) was guiding two visiting hunters. The PH had a bolt-action .458 Lott, the main hunter had a bolt-action .416 Remington Magnum, and the other hunter had a .500 Nitro Express double rifle. Long story short, the cape buffalo was standing in tall grass that made identification of the vital zone pretty challenging.
For that reason, the hunter makes a less than perfect initial shot on the buffalo and it takes off running to the right. The hunter shoots again and the buffalo staggers, but recovers and keeps running. The hunter shot it a 3rd time, then struggled to work the bolt on his rifle and chamber a fresh round. At this point, the buffalo notices the hunters and starts to run towards them as he takes the 4th hit.
Now the PH and the other hunter get involved. The rapidly approaching buffalo took hits in the chest in rapid succession from the 458 and 500 Nitro. It kept coming without hardly slowing down.
Bullets to the brain from the second hunter and PH finally stopped the buffalo at just 9 yards.
For those who lost track, that buffalo took 4 hits from a 416 Remington (probably 400-grain bullets), 2 hits from a 458 Lott (probably 500-grain bullets), and 2 hits from a 500 Nitro (probably 570-grain bullets).
Add it all up and that buffalo absorbed a total of 3,740 grains. About 8.5 ounces (7,000 grains in a pound) of metal in less than 30 seconds. Nobody got hurt, but that just goes to show that cape buffalo hunting can be deadly serious business.
That first shot is absolutely vital. Executed correctly, the buffalo (probably) won’t go very far at all. Mess it up and you could run into a situation just like those guys encountered where it’s necessary to shoot it 8 or 10 times (or even more) to finally put that buffalo down for good.
So, diligently study proper shot placement on buffalo from a variety of different angles. Then, spend a lot of time at the range shooting your rifle under realistic conditions. You also need to practice cycling that action until you can do it in your sleep.
Trust me, those things don’t become easier in a stressful situation!
This video also demonstrates the importance of selecting a rifle that’s both unfailingly reliable and has a buttery smooth action. A jammed rifle or even a sticky bolt can make for a bad day with a rapidly approaching buffalo. The same thing goes for using poor-quality ammunition.
Unfortunately, it’s not nearly as simple as buying any old rifle chambered in 375 or 416. Or buying a box of ammo with a “dangerous game” label on it, and calling it good.
Things might work. However, it could also be a great way to experience a very nerve-wracking follow-up on a wounded buffalo. Potentially having your PH finish it off for you. If things really go wrong, somebody could end up seriously hurt or dead.
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Like what you see? You can read more great articles by John McAdams on the Big Game Hunting Blog.
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