I am often asked what caliber rifle to take on an African plains game hunt. My response is usually, “What do you have in your gun case now”? The reason I ask that is because almost everyone already has a .270 Winchester, .30-06 Springfield, etc.
If you are happy with any one of them, then use it. There is no need to go out and buy a new ‘Loudenboomer’. I agree with old time writer Jack O’Conner on the basic merits of the .270 Winchester… just do not ask it to do what it is not designed to do.
I have been a longtime fan of the .270 Winchester having used it first back in the ‘60s in Wyoming, then British Columbia and other USA hunts, but I wanted to give it a try in Africa.
Today’s bullets are far better than what was available in the ‘50s and ‘60s as now we have partitions, bonded cores, and monolithics to choose from. Plus, every ammo manufacturing company in the world seems to load .270 ammo of some sort.
That being said, the best reason to have one is, when the airlines lose your luggage and ammo, there is likely to be a store or farm near where you are hunting which will have a box you can use.
On my first trip to Africa, the particular .270 Winchester I had at that time just did not care for 130-gr. bullets. However, it loved 140-gr. bullets, and shot acceptably with 150-gr. bullets. Reloader 22 powder seemed to be the best choice for both calibers.
On paper, the Hornady Spire Points and Speer Grand Slams were both very good, however, on game the “best” performance came from the then-new Barnes 140-gr. TSX. These 140-gr. TSX bullets were just awesome performers, and the PHs I hunted with were quite impressed.
I’ve taken the following game with the 140-gr. TSX:
2 Cape Kudu
1 Blue Wildebeest
1 Mountain Reedbuck
We did not recover any bullets, which was quite indicative of them holding together and just plowing through.
“In My Experience”, I have found the .270 Winchester to be the minimum caliber I would recommend using in Africa, especially if you are planning on shooting kudu, wildebeest, or gemsbok-sized game. Several smaller calibers such as the .25-06 Remington, .243 Winchester, or the hot new 6.5 Creedmoor are plenty big enough for 100 to 150 lb. animals such as the springbok, impala, etc.
Even though the game I shot with the Hornady and Speer bullets was taken cleanly, both of them appeared to be a lot softer than I’d expected, as they left quite an exit hole as compared to the TSX.
I also tried a few 150-gr. Nosler Partitions and was surprised how soft they also appeared to be, again leaving large exit holes.
1 Black Wildebeest
1 Fallow Deer
Having just returned from another trip to South Africa, this time with a different .270 rifle that really loved 130-gr. bullets, I chose to use the 130-gr. Barnes TTSX with a max load of H4831SC in W-W cases and CCI 200 Primers producing just a bit over 3,000 fps.
I shot the following game:
2 Blue Wildebeest
1 Bush Pig (in daylight)
We recovered only 2 of the bullets from a Blue Wildebeest which was taken in excess of 250 yards. All the rest passed through the other animals, (even the eland and zebra). The two bullets we recovered weighed 128.7 grains and 128.9 grains. Both retained virtually 99% of their weight and had perfect expansion just like you see in Barnes ads.
I’ve had half a dozen different .270 rifles over the years, and they all either liked 130-gr. or 140-gr. bullets best. Not one of them really loved the 150-gr. bullets.
The .270 Winchester is a gem to reload for, as it will digest just about anything you put together.
I have found that H4831 seems to have been made just for the .270 Win, or maybe the .270 Winchester was made just for H4831. It’s hard to work out which one came first.
For those of you that do not reload, there are lots of great choices, but for an African plains game hunt, or elk and moose in North America, I’d make every effort to find some Barnes VorTX ammo loaded with 130-gr. TTSX bullets.
For deer, sheep, or antelope here in the USA, I’d opt for Hornady White Tail ammo, Federal Premium soft points, or Remington Core Lokts.
But above all, no matter what load you are shooting… BULLET PLACEMENT IS THE KEY.