African Safari Cartridges: CXP3 Game

By Chuck Hawks

.30-06 Springfield. Illustration courtesy of Hornady Mfg. Co.

Africa is the home of some of the world's most desirable CXP3 game trophies. Representative animals in the CXP3 classification include eland, kudu, zebra, wildebeest, waterbuck, gemsbok/oryx and sable. Basically, we are talking about non-dangerous game that averages anywhere from 301 to over 1,000 pounds on the hoof. North American animals of equivalent size are elk and moose.

Animals this big require good bullet placement and cartridges of sufficient power to insure quick kills. The cartridges that are recommended for hunting North American elk and Scandinavian moose will also be appropriate for African CXP3 game. It is not possible to name every suitable rifle cartridge in an article of this type, so if your favorite is not mentioned below but a similar cartridge is, it is probably safe to assume that your cartridge will also suffice.

To complicate matters, many African hunts will be for a combination of CXP2 and CXP3 animals. In these situations the one rifle hunter will be best served by one of the "all-around" calibers. (See "All-Around Rifle Cartridges" on the Cartridge Articles index of the Rifle Information Page for more on this subject.) The best known of these in Africa are probably the .270 Winchester, 7x64 Brenneke, 7mm Rem. Mag., .308 Winchester, .30-06, .303 British and 8x57JS. At medium range these cartridges are also suitable for hyena and leopard, where legal.

A step above these cartridges are the .300 and 8mm Magnums. Included in this group are such cartridges as the .300 H&H, .300 Win. Mag., .300 Wby. Mag., 8x68S and 8mm Rem. Mag. Any of these are satisfactory (if a bit much) for CXP2 game and will provide all the killing power necessary for even the largest CXP3 game, at the price of considerably more recoil than the cartridges named in the paragraph above.

The hunter who can bring a rifle specifically for shooting CXP3 game on his or her African safari might consider one of the medium bore cartridges. Examples include the .338 Federal, .338-06, .338 Win. Mag., .340 Wby. Mag., .358 Winchester, .35 Whelen, .350 Rem. Mag., 9.3x57, 9.3x62 and 9.3x74R. These are cartridges designed for killing CXP3 game. Most are medium range cartridges, but the .338/.340 Magnums combine plenty of power with the flat trajectory required for hits at long range.

The .300, 8mm, and medium bore magnums define the upper limit of power and recoil reasonable for hunting non-dangerous game. They also pack adequate killing power, where legal, for lion. (Be aware that local laws often require no less than a .375 H&H for lion.) Heavy recoil impedes accurate bullet placement, so be sure that you can handle the power before choosing a magnum cartridge.

CXP3 game are large animals, so the heavier bullet weights in each caliber are generally preferred. Look for a sectional density of around .270 or better in the small bore calibers and .250 or better in the medium bore calibers. This generally means 150 grain bullets in .270, 154-175 grain bullets in 7mm, 180-220 grain bullets in .30-.32 caliber, 210-250 grain bullets in .338, 225-250 grain bullets in .35 caliber, and 250-286 grain bullets in 9.3mm.

Controlled expansion bullets that provide deep penetration are usually recommended, but they must expand adequately to achieve quick kills. Remember that a bullet can be too tough as well as too fragile. The Nosler Partition, for example, combines good expansion with good penetration and has proven itself over and over on African game. Plastic-tipped, bonded core bullets such as the Hornady InnerBond, Swift Scirocco and Nosler AccuBond are also good choices.

Remember that raw power is no substitute for accurate bullet placement. CXP3 game is tough, but not indestructible. Any of the animals mentioned in the first paragraph can and have (many times) been dropped by one well placed bullet from a 7x57 rifle. They have also run off after being hit by a magazine load of improperly placed .300 Magnum bullets.

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Copyright 2006, 2010 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.