By Stefan Fouché

What is the most important piece of equipment you will use on your African safari to determine the success of the hunt? Will it be the calibre, the rifle itself or your optical equipment?

I am sure one can argue that all these are equally important to achieve a certain goal (taking your intended trophy swiftly and successfully), and rightly so. However, I think there is one specific piece of equipment that determines the level of accomplishment, and that is the bullet you use. It’s that small item that does all the work and must therefore be of top quality. In today’s world, where technology is developing faster than the consumers’ ability to keep up, we are spoilt for choice. There are numerous brands and ranges available on the market. This facilitates choosing the correct type of bullet for the intended application.
It’s important to keep in mind, however, that every bullet is designed to perform at its best at a certain velocity. It is no use torturing a softer lead bullet with extreme velocities – it will simply break up. Also, when choosing a monolithic type of bullet, you need to achieve the velocity prescribed by the manufacturer, otherwise it will not open up enough or even open up at all, leading to total bullet failure and compromising the success of your hunt.
The point where the bullet strikes the animal is of utmost importance. This is the deciding factor, the difference between success and failure. If your bullets are substandard, you put your whole safari at risk. Spending days tracking a wounded animal is hardly ideal, especially not for the animal. And in the case of a dangerous animal, you will be putting your own life, as well as that of your PH and tracker, at risk.
In this series of articles we will be showing what happened, with real bullets recovered from real animals after a hunt. We will put the facts on the table, give credit where it is due and also highlight mistakes, weak points and failures. This is what it is all about – where the Metal meets the Meat …

André Roux hunted this buffalo in the southern part of the Selous Game Reserve in Tanzania using his original Jeffrey rifle in .333 Jeffrey calibre. André was shooting a 250 gr Woodleigh soft-nosed bullet at a muzzle velocity of 2 350 fps. The bull stood broadside at a distance of 35 m. The bullet struck the bull in the middle of the shoulder, penetrated in a straight line and stopped in the heart. The buffalo only managed about 50 paces before coming down. With no scale to weigh the recovered Woodleigh, André speculated that the bullet retained close to 90% of its original weight, if not more.

Ruan van Greuning, owner of Hartzview Safaris, shot this big blue wildebeest bull on his property, Hartz-hoogte. He used a Blaser S2 double rifle in .500/.416NE, shooting 400 gr Woodleigh softs at 2 150 fps. The bull stood quartering towards him at a distance of 100 m and the bullet struck on the point of the shoulder. The wildebeest ran for 35 m before expiring. The bullet was recovered underneath the skin on the opposite side of the animal, weighing 378 gr, or 94,5%, of the original weight.

Dewald van der Walt harvested this blesbok in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province near Vryheid. He used his Sako rifle in a .222 Rem loaded with 50 gr Barnes TSX bullets at a muzzle velocity of 3 245 fps. The blesbok was 170 m away, standing completely broadside. The placement of the bullet was on the shoulder, and after passing through the vitals came to a stop underneath the skin on the opposite shoulder. The animal went down on the spot and the little Barnes mushroomed to perfection and retained 100% of the original 50 gr.

Karl Stumpfe, PH and owner of Ndumo Safaris, took a backup shot (as instructed beforehand by the client) into the hip of the wounded elephant from a distance of 40 yards. It was later shown that the client’s heart / lung shots were, in fact, sufficient. Karl used his Verney Carron double rifle in .577 NE calibre, shooting South African made Peregrine VRG2 solids weighing 700 gr. The bullet broke the hip and was recovered in front of the opposite shoulder, i.e. 2,2 m of straight-line penetration (measured). The bullet retained its original shape and weight – an excellent performance.

Stefan Fouché hunted this zebra at Langkloof Game Farm in the Limpopo province of South Africa. He used his .375 Ruger in a Ruger Alaskan rifle, shooting hand-loaded ammunition. He shoots Barnes TSX bullets in 270 gr at a muzzle velocity of 2 552 fps. The shot was taken from 120 m and the zebra stood at an angle, quartering towards him. The shot was placed on the shoulder and the bullet was recovered just in front of the hind leg on the opposite side underneath the skin. Excellent straight-line penetration! The Barnes mushroomed beautifully and retained 100% of its original 270 gr.