There’s an almost-irresistible urge in many shooters to worship numbers, much like the wretches who can spout baseball stats at you as though it means something. I, too, was guilty of this in my youth, and could quote statistics by the yard.

Some people go a lot further, and draw up tables and formulas to tell you how effective a cartridge will be, and on which animals, and at which ranges. Yes, of course, and I can tell you just what the stock market is going to do for the rest of the year.

John Taylor figured out something he called the Knockdown Effect, and worked up a formula for it:
KP (knockdown power)= WVD/7,000

In other words, a bullet’s weight, velocity, and diameter divided by 7,000. Taylor was a hunter of immense experience, and how he squared this with what he actually saw is beyond me. As any experienced hunter knows, you don’t knock anything down, and when you pull the trigger anything can happen.

Elmer Keith had something he called pounds-feet. Ed Matunas came up with a formula to calculate the ideal ranges for shooting at animals depending on their weight. And so on.

Let me tell you a true story. Two years ago I was in Africa with a guy who was hunting eland with a 7mm Remington Magnum loaded with 160-grain Hornady bullets. For days I followed the poor guy around, nattering at him that his 7mm wasn’t big enough to take a monster antelope like an eland, and wouldn’t he like to borrow my .375 H&H;, which was a proven eland-basher? He politely declined, and went on to shoot a huge eland bull at precisely 200 yards, high in the shoulder.

Said eland went down in its tracks and never so much as twitched. I’ve seen only two or three animals killed as quickly in 40 years of hunting. Numbers are fun, but it’s better to shoot good.