While you might face 1-in-5 odds for bagging an elk of any size in the American West, you’ve got close to 100 percent chance for taking a spectacular trophy kudu, oryx, wildebeest, bushbuck etc. in Namibia, South Africa, Mozambique and similar countries. You don’t have to pre-purchase licenses and are charged only for the animals you take. You can shoot dozens if you have the funds for it. All the meat is absolutely used.
And you can do this all with your deer rifle.
That’s correct. You do not need an expensive, hard-kicking African dangerous game rifle for hunting what the Africans call “plains game.” You don’t even need a 300 magnum. Your .30-06 will work. Your .270 Win. will suffice. A .308 Win. or 7mm-08 Rem. will do the job, too. Barrels from 20- to 26-inhes are fine, 22- to 24 inches about perfect. Just use the right bullets.
Bullets are the main thing in all big game hunting. Whether they land at 3,000 fps with 5,000 foot-pounds of energy or at 1,500 fps with 800 foot-pounds matters less than how they penetrate and expand. Unless you hit brain or spine forward of the shoulders, a bullet kills by damaging vital tissues such as heart and lungs. Subsequent blood loss to the brain causes unconsciousness after a few seconds.
Thus, you want bullets that will penetrate to as many vitals as possible. You want bullets that expand reliably to increase tissue impact. And you want bullets that will land in the right spot.
This last piece of the puzzle is another reason to use your old, familiar rifle, one you can shoot precisely without flinching. This applies to all hunting, here and abroad. Get and use a rifle you can shoot accurately. Don’t close your eyes, don’t jerk the trigger, use a good bullet and you win. Your all-American rifle is all you need for Africa.
That said, I would argue against autoloaders. They might be illegal in some countries, and they raise the “complication” factor. Africa can be exceedingly dusty during hunting season, which is reason enough to use a rugged, durable, simple, strong single-shot or bolt-action.
And given the need for quick follow-up shots, I’d strongly recommend a repeating bolt-action. They’re easy to clean and maintain. They have the power to chamber rounds when other actions might not. And, once you know how, you can quickly and easily remove the bolts and firing pins for clean up.
So, suite yourself, but ideally you’ll want to take on Africa with a sporter-weight bolt-action in a chambering you shoot well. Stuff it with bonded or controlled expansion, monolithic or partitioned bullets, designed to retain lots of mass while expanding 1.5 to 2X and penetrating deep. Good ones include but are not limited to Barnes TSX and TTSX, Swift A-Frame and Scirocco, Nosler Accubond and Partition, Winchester Power Core, Hornady GMX and InterBond, and Federal Trophy Copper.
To direct where those bullets should go, get a scope in the 3-9x40mm to 2-14x44mm range with fully multi-coated lenses (for maximum light transmission.) Keep it simple because more complicated things break or malfunction more easily than simple things, and you don’t usually get a lot of extreme range shots in Africa anyway. The professional hunters there will lead you plenty close to all the game. Their biggest challenge is getting around all the critters you aren’t stalking in order to reach the ones you are.
Take a sling for the rifle. Sometimes you want it removed when working through thick brush, but generally you’ll want it for carrying the rifle. You’re not likely to encounter lions, buffalo, rhinos or elephants on most plains game hunts, so no need for life-saving, fast-handling rifles in heavy brush.
If you want to sample the finest piece of your hunting heritage, the greatest spectacle of big game animals on your planet, then start planning for an African safari with your all-American rifle. You won’t regret it.