What do you intend to use the rifle for?

If you are intending to build or buy a big bore rifle to hunt with, your intended game and the hunting environment have a lot to do with both the design of the rifle, as well as your calibre selection. Is your game going to be at longer ranges in open areas, or is it going to be lurking in thick vegetation perhaps only metres away from you? Are you hunting non-aggressive species or are you hunting dangerous game? The answers to these questions should directly influence your selection. This is just as true whether you are considering a B&M rifle / calibre, or any other big game rifle / calibre.

Some examples to illustrate how these answers affect your selection:

  • If you are going to hunt big game at longer ranges in open areas, this would suggest a relatively flat shooting calibre, allowing you to engage your game over the typical distances that you may be able to take the shot. You will probably want a longer barrel to maximise velocity and keep you projectiles trajectory flat and maintain its downrange impact velocity. Finally, if you will be shooting at longer ranges, a medium to high power scope will assist you to spot, identify and assess game, as well as helping you to place your shot properly.


  • If you are going to hunt dangerous game such as Cape buffalo, lion or bear, which may possibly be engaged at very close range, you would be best suited by a shorter barrelled rifle in a stopping calibre. A compact rifle is easier to use when negotiating thick bush and is less likely to catch on branches and make noise as you move forward. If forced to fire quickly should a dangerous animal confront you at very close range, a short barrel is less likely to hit vegetation should you swing it onto target quickly. A stopping calibre is one that has not only ample bore diameter for maximal tissue damage, but also has a projectile with sufficient mass and sturdy construction that can penetrate deeply through flesh and organs and smashing through bones and to anchor an animal on the spot. You will want the rifle to be topped with a very low power scope, reflex sight or iron sights to ensure the largest field of view and quickest target acquisition, needed for moving targets at close range. You really don't want to have issues associated with high magnification and small field of view if your game in uncomfortably close.

Of course, if you want one big bore rifle to 'do it all', then you are going to have to make compromises to get something that is an 'all-rounder'. This is not the best solution by any means, but if you are constrained to one big bore rifle, then you need to find a happy medium. Remember to choose a rifle / calibre combination that is fit for purpose. Take a little extra time to consider what application it is that you really need the rifle for. You'll be glad you did once you take it into the hunting field.

For more detailed considerations, take a look at the Rifle Design Pros & Cons page in the Technical Notes section.