How Not to Get Your Ass Kicked by Your .416

A correspondent writes, “If you don’t want to get your retinas detached by your .416, switch to a .375 H&H, … Continued

A correspondent writes, “If you don’t want to get your retinas detached by your .416, switch to a .375 H&H, load it with 350-grain bullets, and it’ll do the job just as well.” He was referring to my practicing with a .416 Remington for an upcoming Cape buffalo hunt, and subsequent whining about the beating I was taking.

Well then there now. I have not shot all the buffalo in the world, but I’ve shot a number of them, and the first four were taken with a .375 H&H, and I ain’t doing that any more. I’m well aware that the .375 has killed more buff than the rinderpest, and that many PHs carry one as a backup rifle, but I still have vivid memories of one of them charging after I had shot it fatally and then further irritated it by chasing it, and another one standing on a little hillock, watching with mild annoyance as I pumped one round after another into its shoulder. Both of them eventually keeled over, but I was worn to a frazzle. Since then I’ve used bigger rifles.

The problem with loading 350-grain bullets into a .375 H&H is, it’s still a .375 H&H. The science of matching the cartridge to the game is not a science at all because the animals get a vote and quite often they have not read the ballistics charts or they have and don’t give a s**t. From what I’ve seen the .41-calibers hit a lot harder than the .375, even though you can cobble the latter until it’s pretty close in terms of muzzle energy, etc.

What I’m doing with the .416 is what Happy Myles does—fire 3 shots at a time and put the thing away. If you burn up a whole box of .416 ammo every time you go to the range you will be both bankrupt and flinching in short order. And, in fact, the big gun doesn’t seem half so bad as it did when I started out.

If I were to swap rifles, it would be for a .404 Jeffrey, which kicks noticeably less than the .416 because it propels 400-grain bullets at 2,150 fps instead of 2,400 fps. Indeed, the Jeffrey, which is an old, old cartridge, is enjoying something of a renaissance these days because it’s better on the big stuff than the .375 H&H while kicking a lot less than the competition. Some years ago I shot a left-hand .404 built by D’Arcy Echols, and if I had $15,000 or so right now, I would ask D’Arcy to build me a duplicate.

My PH, by the way, uses a Heym double rifle in .500 Nitro Express, and can get four shots out of it quicker than most people can crank them out of a heavy bolt action. Hopefully, he won’t have to.

*With apologies to Chris Rock for the title of this post. Rock’s “How Not to Get Your Ass Kicked by the Police” is not only very funny, but very good advice.