The same rule for selecting cartridges for African hunting applies to bullet selection. The bullet must be of adequate weight and tough enough construction to ensure adequate penetration on the largest game you plan to hunt.
- Accuracy versus velocity versus performance. American hunters tend to be addicted to accuracy and velocity. There’s nothing wrong with that, but genuine long-range shooting is unusual in Africa. So, neither the tightest groups nor the highest bullet velocities are as important as the terminal performance of the bullet. Some rifles produce their best accuracy with the toughest bullets at the highest speeds—but many do not. Consider the size variance of African animals and the toughness of some species. When compromises must be made among accuracy, velocity, and bullet performance, the latter should be the most important consideration.
- Tough bullets. Most manufacturers offer some bullets designed to expand quickly. They also offer other types designed to expand either less or more slowly, retain more weight, and penetrate deeper. The manufacturers’ literature may contain some hyperbole but will generally accurately describe the design characteristics of their bullets. The latter types—tough bullets—are the better choices for African hunting. Adequate penetration must be assured on the larger animals. Rule of thumb: The smaller the cartridge in relation to the game being hunted, the tougher the bullet should be.
- What about two types of bullets? In a perfect world, it might be ideal to have quicker-expanding bullets for the smaller animals and tougher, slower-expanding bullets for larger game. In our experience, this is a great idea but very difficult in execution. Because you never know exactly what animal might appear at any given time, it’s too complex—and there often isn’t time—to switch loads in midstream. Choose a bullet tough enough for the largest game you intend to hunt, and use it throughout.