Best Caliber for Cape Buffalo Hunting

Best Caliber for Hunting Cape Buffalo

There isn’t much agreement regarding the best caliber for hunting Cape buffalo. They don’t call these Kings of African Dangerous Game Hunts “Black Death” for no reason. They’re one of the toughest animals in the world to kill.

We’ve all heard stories about the ferocity of a wounded Cape Buffalo.

One of them took seven 500 grain solid bullets from a .458 over 45 minutes with over a mile of tracking and an additional shot by the PH before expiring. Another buff took eleven shots from a .375 and two more from a .470 N.E. We even heard a story about a big Dugga Boy that took nine shots from a .470 and a 500 before hitting the dirt. Let’s discuss the best caliber for cape buffalo hunting.

Ernest Hemingway poses with a cape buffalo he shot in 1953.
Ernest Hemingway poses with a cape buffalo he shot in 1953.

Cape Buffalo Calibers Used by the Famous “White Hunters”.

In the quest for the best caliber for Cape Buffalo hunting, let’s look at what these guys used on their dangerous game hunts.

It took some big guns to bring the likes of Teddy Roosevelt, Ernest Hemingway and Peter Hathaway Capstick in the mouth of the fatal five and back out again safely (not to mention “the poor man’s buffalo” AKA the Blue wildebeest).

  • Roosevelt was a fan of an H&H 500/.450 double rifle given to him by a group of admiring Britons and a Winchester .405 1895 rifle.
  • Capstick was known to use a .470 rifle. The .470 Capstick rifle cartridge was developed by Colonel Arthur B. Alphin in 1990 named after Peter Capstick.
  • Some of the earlier rifles used included the .416 Rigby, 404 Jeffery and the .505 Gibbs.
  • The .505 was a scary rifle with a four inch long cartridge that would fire a 525 grain bullet that is still classified today as a “ destructive device.”

Modern Dangerous Game Rifles

When you ask the question: “What is the best caliber for Cape Buffalo hunting”, odds are one of these heavy hitters will be mentioned.

  • Ruger Tropical .375 H&H
  • Browning Bar Safari rifle
  • .500 nitro
  • .460 Weatherby Magnum
  • The .700 nitro and the .950 JOJ are meant for elephants, not cape buffalo hunting.
Westley Richards .470 Double Rifle
A classic Westley Richards .470 Double Rifle

Best Caliber for Cape Buffalo Hunting

  • Smallest legal rifle for a Cape buffalo is a .375 H&H.
  • .416 either in Rigby or Remington Magnum is the most popular caliber used.
  • Any .400 bore or larger will be more than adequate for dangerous game hunting; .404 Jeffery, .470 Nitro, .458 WM or Lott and .416 Remington.
  • You could justify using a double barrel rifle. Most people prefer a rifle that holds 4-5 rounds.
  • The rifle should be mounted by either open sights or a low powered scope.

Bullets for Dangerous Game

  • Soft point Barnes X or TSX are great options for buffalo in a soft.
  • Trophy bonded Bear Claw, Swift A Frame, Woodleigh Weldcore are all good choices
  • Solids Trophy Bonded Sledgehammer is one of the most reliable options for any dangerous game.
  • Woodleigh Solids, Barnes Banded solid are a couple options.
  • You need both solid and soft point bullets. Check out this giraffe hunting video where they started with soft points and had to go to solids….cape buffalo are tougher than a giraffe.
  • Carry no fewer than 15 rounds on your person, in a place where you can get to them quickly.
  • Most if not all airlines have a 5 kilogram rule for ammo. Be sure to take what you need. For a longer safari, like our one in Mozambique.Take 60-80 rounds for the lighter rifle and 30-40 for the heavier rifle.

If you’re a bowhunter, be sure to check out our article on the best archery setup for Cape Buffalo.

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