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Rifle Magazine
August - September 2002
Volume 37, Number 4
ISSN: 0017-7393
Number 218
On the cover...
A Kimber Custom Shop .45 ACP and Smith & Wesson Model 625 .45 ACP were used in Brian Pearce's report on page 62. Coyote photo by John R. Ford. Kimber photo by Gerald Hudson.
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Nosler’s 260-Grain, .375 Ballistic Tip

South Africa’s a great place to test hunting handloads, because you can shoot more game than in North America. Most big game is owned by the landowner and can legally be sold (you can buy game meat in supermarkets, just as you can in most of Europe). Trophy males normally go to outfitters, while excess females and non-trophy males usually go to professional cullers, but these days some outfitters are offering attractive rates to visiting hunters willing to cull a few animals.

In April I traveled to South Africa on a hunt partly co-sponsored by Swarovski, Nosler and my savings account. The first few days took place in the Karoo, a region that looks much like the high plains of eastern Wyoming. This trip would partly be a springbok cull, providing the first opportunity to field-test Nosler’s new 260-grain, .375 Ballistic Tip, which I had a small part in creating, mostly by continually whining, “When’s that .375 Ballistic Tip coming out?” My first box arrived this winter with a note from Paul Coil, Nosler’s production vice president, telling me to shut up since “the Barsness bullet” was now on-line.

Isn’t the Ballistic Tip a relatively “soft” bullet, meant for deer-size game? Not always, as pointed out in December’s column (Handloader No. 214). Ballistic Tips over .30 caliber have much heavier jackets and act more like Partitions. My happy experiences with the 200-grain .338 convinced me a .375 Ballistic Tip would work great on open-country “plains game” in Africa, as well as North American game like big black bears and elk.

Nosler’s previous “light” .375 bullet, the 260-grain Partition, already worked fine on any non-dangerous game, and recoiled substantially less than its 300-grain Partition. But the 260-grain Partition’s relatively low ballistic coefficient of .314 keeps it from shooting flatter than the 300 grainer, despite being driven 200 fps faster.

The 260-grain Ballistic Tip’s listed coefficient is .473, which turns it into a genuine long-range bullet. As the “test vehicle,” I chose my Ruger No. 1 .375 H&H Tropical rifle. Load development was simple. Nosler’s manual suggests Alliant Reloder 15 as the most accurate powder for the 260-grain Partition and 69 grains as the most accurate charge. I’d already tried this load with the Partition, using Winchester cases and Federal 215 primers, and achieved three-shot groups of just over an inch at 2,700 fps. Substituting the 260-grain Ballistic Tip resulted in the same velocity and finer accuracy, an average of .8 inch.

How did it work in Africa? I warmed up on springbok, a gazelle weighing up to 100 pounds on the hoof. Three were shot at various angles, just to get an idea of how the bullet might hold up. The 260-grain Ballistic Tip expanded well on broadside rib shots, then penetrated almost lengthwise through a springbok facing me at only 60 yards. The bullet broke the right shoulder, made a mess of the inside of the chest and exited just behind the left side of the rib cage, leaving what Elmer Keith called “a silver-dollar exit hole.”

Then we went after gemsbok. These “giant oryx” are exotically marked in black and white and tan with straight, sharp 3-foot horns and have inch-thick hide on their forequarters to ward off attacks from other gemsbok. They can weigh a very stocky 500 pounds and are notoriously tough to put down.

As professional hunter Mike Birch and I glassed from a high plateau, I happened to look into a small draw on our right and saw a gemsbok standing there, pointing it out to Mike as the big antelope trotted behind a patch of thorn trees, followed by more gemsbok. As the herd filed from behind the trees, Mike laid down his “bargain” binoculars and grabbed my 10x42 Swarovski ELs, while I rested the Ruger over a boulder. “The first two are bulls, both very good. If they stop, take the first one.”

The bull stopped on the bench below us, in shin-high “Karoo” bush that looks exactly like sagebrush with thorns, and I directed a Ballistic Tip toward the pocket behind the front shoulder joint. But the bullet shot flatter than expected, and didn’t drift in the stiff wind, so landed about 3 inches higher and farther back. The bull staggered, the thump of the big bullet plainly audible above the wind, and started to wobble back the way he’d come. In the meantime I’d ejected the empty, and slid another round into the chamber, but about that time the bull eased to his knees and rolled over in the Karoo bush.

As we took the photos, my roommate Larry Scott showed up. He’d watched from another hill as the rest of the herd filed past but hadn’t shot because his scope (not a Swarovski) had somehow gone screwy, as Larry discovered while taking a shot at a springbok. Two minutes after he arrived another herd showed up, filing past the boulder I’d used as a rifle rest. “You want my rifle?” I whispered as we sat among the thorns. Larry nodded, and I handed him the .375.

The herd wandered even closer, and at 150 yards Larry put the bullet into the biggest bull’s shoulder. That gemsbok went down even more quickly than mine. Larry’s shot had broken the right shoulder just above the big joint, then cracked the left shoulder blade before whining off across the Karoo.

My bullet stopped under the hide on the far side, weighing 156 grains, probably because the shot was longer and my gemsbok was bigger. Back at the ranch’s meat-house, the skinned carcass (minus head, insides and lower legs) weighed 136 kilograms, which converts to 300 pounds. In South Africa they’ve compiled very accurate tables comparing “hanging” versus live weight, and hanging gemsbok average 55 percent of live weight, so the bull weighed close to 550 pounds on the hoof. The carcass of Larry’s bull weighed 120 kilograms, which converts to about 480 pounds. I would be quite happy to use this bullet for any open-country shooting of non-dangerous game, either in Africa or North America.

The hunt was conducted by Kevin Thomas Safaris, which I can highly recommend: PO Box 2701, Port Alfred, South Africa, 6170, (buffhunt@mweb.co.za).

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