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Big Game Sporting Ammunition


Active Member
I know this site is mainly devoted to military ordnance, but is anyone interested in commercial ammunition for big game rifles?

I have a Parker Hale .375 H&H rifle (on an FAC) and much as I would love a collection of heavy double rifles there's no way I'll ever afford it. So I collect the ammunition instead. I've got examples of most of the well known calibres, from .375 to .600 but by no means all of them. Is it just me?
Express rifles

There are plenty of people who collect sporting ammo, particularly British sporting. You should join the European Cartridge Research Assoc., as there are two meetings a year at Bisley and lots of sporting ammo to buy and trade.

Military and sporting ammo is not mutually exclusive. During WWI the War Office tried to buy as many Express rifles as possible to counter the armoured sniper shields used by the Germans. Unfortunately they were too expensive and they ended up only buying 52 in a variety of calibres.

The picture shows some of the calibres used in France. I will leave you to identify them before I post the answers!

At one stage in 1916/17 there were plans to rebarrel Pattern 13 rifles to .470 NE calibre but improvements in .303 armour piercing ammunition made this unnecessary.


Ok lets see - this is without going to the Boys Own Bumper Book of Bullets:

1. .303 Mk VIIZ
2. .500 NE 3" case
3. .500 NE 3 1/4" case
4. .475 NE
5. .475 No 2
6. .500/465 H&H NE
7. .470 NE

How did I do?
Just a couple more.
.700 nitro express
.500 Rafiki
I feel sorry for the poor elephant with one of these comming their way!
Both INERT and legal to own, no cores or soft points etc.


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Hi dave. Big old badgers, them! I don't know much about the Rafiki, but the .700 is pretty much unusable as a hunting round, being more of a technical exercise. I expect you know the story of its birth. Even the old timers thought the .600 was a bit much. Most professional ivory hunters would use something in the .470 class with a .577 for back-up. There were always exceptions though, and still are.
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Express cartridges

Hi Bruce

Not bad at all! They actually are:

Left to Right
1. .303 Ball Mark VII (for comparison)

2. .500 Nitro 3”
3. .500 Nitro 3 ”
4. .450 Nitro 3 ”
5. .450 No.2 Nitro
6. .475 No.2 Nitro
7. .475 No.2 Jeffries Nitro

These were all calibres that were used in WWI together with .333 (as described by Hesketh-Prichard) plus a couple of .600 NE double rifles. They were exceedingly unpopular with the troops, partly because of the recoil meant they could only be fired standing up, but more importantly, the firing signature was so distinctive that it immediately resulted in retribution from the German trench mortar batteries.

Although not on display, the IWM have a very nice set of sectioned and whole express cartridges from the original exhibition when the Museum was opened in 1920(?). I have used some photos of these in my book on secondary Land Service small arms.


Here`s another one,a .460 Weatherby with a 7.62x51 for comparison.


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I have a reference collection of commercial sporting ammunition (i.e. one of each case type). I don't actively look for them but if I spot one for sale that I don't have I usually pick it up.

These are my big game rounds from the .458 Win upwards. The first number is the bullet diameter, the second the equivalent metric measurements.

.458 Winchester Magnum .458 11.5x63B
.460 Short A-Square .458 11.5x63B
.458 Lott .458 11.5x71B
.450 Watts Magnum .458 11.5x72B
.458 Ackley Magnum .458 11.5x72B
.450 Rigby Magnum .458 11.5x73
.450 Dakota .458 11.5x73
.460 Weatherby Magnum .458 11.5x73B
.450x3" Nitro Express .458 11.5x82R
.500/465 Nitro Express .466 11.9x82R
.470 Capstick .475 12x72B
.470 Nitro Express (Rigby) .475 12x82R
.475 Jeffrey No.2 .489 12x89R
.505 Gibbs Magnum .505 12.5x80
.500 JURRAS .510 12.7x41R
.50 Alaskan .510 12.7x53R
.495 A-Square Magnum .510 12.7x70B
.500 Jeffrey Rimless .510 12.7x70RB
.500 A-Square Magnum .510 12.7x73B
.577/.500 Magnum Express .510 12.7x79R
.500x3 Nitro Express .510 12.7x82R
.50-110 Express .512 12.7x61R
.550 Magnum .550 14.4x76B
.585 Nyati .585 14.6x71RB
.577 A-Square Tyrannosaur .585 14.6x75
.577 Nitro Express 3" .585 14.6x76R
.577 Rewa .585 14.6x76R
.700/.577 .585 14.6x94R
.600 Nitro Express 3" .622 15.2x76R
.700 Nitro Express .700 17.8x89R
Westley Richards Paradox .729 18.5x64R
10 Bore Rifle .775 19.7x73R
I heard somewhere that rounds for the .500 Rafiki cost 150 EACH! If you can't stretch your budget that far you could always fire the .700 at 90 Per round.
hi Tony, are you saying that the troops were issued with large game calibre weapons? for what purpose were they used - other than to impress the enemy? Presumably they had FMJs. Dave
Express rifles

Yes, they were actually issued in the trenches in limited numbers. As I said in the previous post, they were not very popular with the troops though for the reasons stated.

They were principally used to penetrate German sniper shields which were impervious to the normal .303 ball. Even if the express rounds did not penetrate, can yo imagine being behind one when it was hit by a .500 or .600 nitro express!

They were all FMJ bullets, some of which had strengthened jackets that had originally been designed for penetrating the skulls of large African game.

hi Tony, are you saying that the troops were issued with large game calibre weapons? for what purpose were they used - other than to impress the enemy? Presumably they had FMJs. Dave
Dave, you need to get hold of a copy of "Land Service Small Arms", Part 3 of the excellent series on "British Secondary Small Arms 1914-1919", as this not only details the big-game guns issued but also their ammunition.

Incidentally, it's by a certain TonyE :tinysmile_twink_t:
On the bigger side of a .700 Nitro, I just acquired a 2-bore shell case made by Holland & Holland. It is a REWA marked case & I have been told it was custom made for an Indian Maharaja. All I need to do is track down or fabricate a suitable .955 head!!!

On the totally ridiculous side of that is a 1.3 inch 2 bore for which some funny stories exist. One relates to a gun called 'baby' used to hunt Elephant. The owner only fired it 20 times and describes it as 'spinning him round like a top', he quotes 'I was not sure who was more stunned, me or the Elephant'.
Just a couple more.
.700 nitro express
.500 Rafiki
I feel sorry for the poor elephant with one of these comming their way!
Both INERT and legal to own, no cores or soft points etc.

A cored bullet is illegal?
2 bore

Wardenc - Rewa was a well known Calcutta gunsmith who also designed the scarce .577 REWA, which was a .600 NE necked down to .577.

If your round has a .995 bullet (not "head" please!) then it is a 4 bore. As you said later in your post the 2 bore is about 1.3" calibre.

I have never fired a 2 bore, but have fired a 4 bore. Interesting! However, as it was a blackpowder load it tends to push backwards rather that violently kick. If one leans well into it it is not too bad with nothing worse than a broken shoulder!

Hi guys, New member here. That's quite right, the .500 Rafiki is a big old badger! I was fortunate enough to have worked for Westley Richards, 1996 - 2007. When the Rafiki was first test fired, it shook the windows at the adjacent Birmingham University, and people thought a bomb had gone off!! I fired a few rounds personally, but standing, not from the test bench. Recoil was heavy but managable, and I am only a little guy! A few years further into my career there we built a .700/.577 N.E, in which I fitted the lockwork, this was an even bigger badger!!, lobbing a 900grain bullet. All very good fun!
Not sure if this is relevant to this thread but I have a 600/.577 REWA round with the headstamp of .577 REWA (at 12 o'clock) K (at 6 o'clock), any ideas what period this would have been manufactured. If it makes any difference it has a GM/lead soft point bullet. Any comments would be most welcome. Regards John P
Rewa is a city in Madhya Pradesh State in India and the Maharajah of Rewa ordered a double rifle in this calibre from Holland & Holland in the 1920's.
My later empty box is dated 250652 so was loaded in 1952. Cartridges are found with solid, soft nose & WR capped projectiles all made by Kynoch.