ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Best Dangerous Game Rifles: Your Life Could Depend on It

Updated on February 14, 2018
LJ Bonham profile image

LJ Bonham is a semi-subsistence hunter, hunting magazine editor, and firearms enthusiast who lives in the Rocky Mountains.


What is a DGR and Why Do You Need One?

Dangerous game rifles. The very words conjure endless savannah, or wind swept tundra, and fearsome beasts. A reliable, effective defensive firearm is a must in places such as Africa’s Serengeti, Alaska’s bush, or Montana’s mountains, and not just for people who hunt dangerous game. Outdoor enthusiasts, whatever their sport, may be faced with a life or death encounter in such places.

A dangerous game rifle must do one thing: stop a charge from a large, angry animal, not simply kill. Predators such as bear, lion, leopard, wolf, and tiger, also herbivores—elephant, Cape buffalo, rhinoceros, moose, and hippopotamus—can all pose a serious threat to humans.

You only get one chance to stop a charge

Must Haves

A dangerous game rifle must have three basic qualities: reliability, power, and quick handling.

A rifle that does not fire when commanded is just an expensive club.

Holland & Holland double rifle
Holland & Holland double rifle | Source
Mauser 98 bolt showing large claw extractor for controlled round feed
Mauser 98 bolt showing large claw extractor for controlled round feed | Source

Traditional Double Rifle or Modern Repeater?

Traditional dangerous game rifles are either double barrelled, break-open actions, or bolt actions. The double rifle is preferred; it offers two, certain, quick shots. The double has few moving parts, which reduces the opportunity for failure at a critical moment, and only two triggers for the shooter to manipulate as opposed to a bolt, lever, or slide.

Most animal charges occur with little warning, and are measured in seconds. The person under attack often only has time for one, perhaps two shots before the animals is upon them; large magazine capacity is moot and there is no time to fiddle with anything more complicated than a safety and a trigger.

Double rifles are expensive—four thousand dollars on up—so many outdoor adventurers carry a less expensive, modern repeating rifle. Today’s market has many fine repeaters: lever actions, pumps, semi-automatics, and bolt actions, but the bolt is the most reliable. Based on the Mauser 1898 design, a dangerous game bolt action has “controlled feed.” A large, one piece, spring steel extractor grips half the cartridge case’s rim and guides it smoothly into the firing chamber from the magazine; regardless if the weapon is tipped at an angle. The Mauser type extractor also exerts tremendous force to pull a fired case from the chamber and throw it clear; very important in hot climates where an overheated round can swell and stick.

Professional Hunter Demonstrates Double Rifle Techniques

L-R: .30-06, .375 H&H, .404 Jeffery, .505 Gibbs
L-R: .30-06, .375 H&H, .404 Jeffery, .505 Gibbs | Source

No Substitute for Raw Power

After reliability, power is the most important attribute. Most dangerous mammals are heavy bodied, with thick muscle and bones. A dangerous game cartridge must punch a wide wound cavity deep into the animals vitals and not deflect, or stop, against major bones. The classic, often obsolete, African safari cartridges such as .404 Jeffery, .470 Nitro Express, and .505 Gibbs did just that.

.375 H&H (L) compared to .338 Win Mag (R)
.375 H&H (L) compared to .338 Win Mag (R) | Source

Modern DGR Calibers

Today, the .375 H&H Magnum, .416 Remington Magnum, .416 Rigby, and .458 Winchester Magnum are the most common dangerous game calibers, and all but the .458 require a magnum length Mauser action which is more expensive than standard length actions.

Several standard action cartridges are suitable, though: .375 and .416 Ruger, 9.3 X 62mm Mauser, .35 Whelen, and .338 Winchester Magnum. Some suitable short action cartridges have appeared in the last decade such as .338 Federal, and .325 Winchester Short Magnum.

When loaded with very heavy for caliber bullets, traditional hunting cartridges such as .30-06 and 8 X 57mm are a last resort for predators, but not large, thick skinned herbivores. Australian bullet maker, Woodleigh, offers bullets designed for dangerous game in these two calibers, as well as many other DGR calibers.

If It Fits, It Hits

A dangerous game rifle must also rise to the shoulder without drama, and have simple, rugged, easy to use sights. You only have seconds to defend yourself—a clumsy, poorly sighted rifle is useless. The best choice is a custom rifle from a quality gun maker, such as Holland & Holland. If you can only afford an off the rack weapon, have a qualified gun smith fit the stock to you and install proper express sights.

Iron sight types with express sight (D)
Iron sight types with express sight (D) | Source

The Verdict

Whether you hunt Africa’s savannas, fish Alaska’s rivers, or hike Montana’s mountains, a reliable, powerful, and well fitted dangerous game rifle will give you the confidence to face whatever nature brings your way.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • LJ Bonham profile imageAUTHOR

      LJ Bonham 

      3 years ago


      The .35 Whelen is excellent within its range envelope, the American equivalent of the 9.3x62 Mauser which has an good rep in Africa. For more info, check out my Hub, "All-American Heavy Weights" which covers the .35 Whelen.

    • Pax Pacis profile image

      Pax Pacis 

      3 years ago from North Carolina

      What is your opinion on the .35 Whelen ? I picked one up for primitive season in Louisiana, and have considered a bolt action for Elk/bear in the mountains. I am under the impression that the .35 Whelen is probably the best all around cartridge for the largest north american game. Would you agree?


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)