One of the worlds most powerful hunting rifles is chambered for the .700 Nitro Express cartridge, and the bolt action rifle pictured above is more than capable of handling the big and heavy, super recoil generating round.

This awesome cartridge came about many years ago when a customer of Holland & Holland rifles in the U.K wanted to buy a .600 Nitro Express double barrelled rifle but H&H had not got one in stock.  The customer apparently persuaded H&H to build a .700 Nitro Express rifle for him and several months later they had made the rifle and the customer paid for it with much satisfaction.

.700 Nitro Express rifles are not too common but they can be sought and H&H, Watson Bros and Searcy Enterprises currently offer the .700NE in a double barrelled rifle configuration.

Whilst HHW - Hambrusch Hunting Weapons of Gartengasse 4, 9170  Ferlach, Austria offer a nice repeater model. Below is Peter Hambrusch, posing with his .700 Nitro Express bolt action rifle and a Cape Buffalo head that was taken down with it.

Below is a very nice double barrel .700 Holland & Holland Nitro Express hunting rifle. This configuration is the absolute classic example of how this massive caliber was first introduced. Notice also the 1000 grain, soft nose bullets, these will expand and fragment upon impact, making the wound even larger.

The .700NE is able to fire a 1000 grain bullet with a muzzle velocity of around 2000 feet per second.  There has however been talk of increasing the bullet weight to 1200 grain and keeping the velocity at 2000 feet per second to give the bullet even better penetration properties over longer distances, as the bullet tends to suffer from drag coefficient whilst in flight and henceforth loses momentum.

The .700NE cartridge seen below is nearly actual size, compared with the standard Winchester 30-06 hunting rifle cartridge.

Big bullets might appear to be the end and all of the shooting world but when the ballistics are closely examined then a smaller bullet such as the H&H .375 Magnum  with its higher velocity and flatter trajectory is much better and more preferred.

The big .700NE rifle is also somewhat of a burden to the hunter as was recently testified when the hunter complained that the gun was too heavy when trekking long distances through the bush.  Also it must be noted that the gun is slow to shoulder and get on aim quickly due to its weight at around 16lb. Along with its savage recoil, the overall performance of the big .700NE is not as suitable for hunting expeditions as one would first think.

Apparently, the .700NE has been recorded as not being able to kill a charging elephant with one shot, due to its slower velocity hampering the penetration of the bullet through elephants thick boned cranium.   When comparing the .700NE to a .280 or a .270, it is quite a slow bullet as the smaller bullets fly at a faster muzzle velocity of 2850 fps and allegedly deliver more radial and hydrostatic shock, which are the knock down properties of a bullets impact.

LETS GET TECHNICAL...

Many shooters however view such claims with a little scepticism, as Albert Einstein said..." E=MC² " (Energy equals mass x velocity, squared) and relatively speaking the .700NE has all three! Energy and mass of course being the bullets main forte.

The .700 Nitro Express bullet produces nearly 9000 ft/lbs of raw and totally brutal energy, which is close to four tons of game smashing power.   Power that incidentally, exceeds any casual rifle round by a factor of three.  Power on this scale quantifies the .700NE to be more powerful than a maxed  out  .50 caliber, and the .50 caliber sure packs a punch as it is.

Below is a typical load for the .700NE

 Cartridge  Powder  Primer Bullet Velocity

Notes

Energy
700 Nitro Express 160.0 gr. Reloader 15  F215

1000 grain Woodleigh solid

 2000 f.p.s. Use 1 1/8" hard foam wad between powder and bullet to avoid misfires and hang fires.   8900 ft-lbs

Below is the .700 Nitro Express compared to a Winchester .270 underneath it, the difference in size is immediately apparent.

 

As the YouTube video below testifies, this is one awesome rifle to fire, delivering massive amounts of recoil to the shooter, this illustrates that the rifle has to be held correctly and the shooter needs to be confident, experienced and not afraid to fire it.

 

The ammunition for this rifle is made by Kynoch  of the USA, and at over $50.00 a round its a very expensive bullet to shoot.  The .700 Nitro Express fires 1000 grain bullets and the recoil almost lifts the guy off his feet.

The .700 Nitro Express develops an approximate average of 8900 foot pounds of muzzle energy with a 1000 grain bullet at 2000 feet per second. However hand loaders can push the cartridge to generate as much as 15000 ft-lb of energy in a modern bolt action rifle, by using the same 1000 grain bullet fired at 2600 fps. However, doing so makes the action of the rifle used nearly inoperable (especially in the case of a box lock or side lock rifle), while at the same time rupturing the cartridge casing and the primer cap that can split in two!

The typical average muzzle velocity of a factory loaded .700NE cartridge is 2,000 fps. In the fourteen pound rifle used by Accurate Reloading  this would result in recoil energy of approximately 196 ft-lb. This is more than ten times the average recoil from a .308 Winchester which is a very common hunting caliber, and more than twice the recoil of a power-house .45-70 Government round.

And on those grounds we could say that with all the expense, recoil and discomfort that the .700NE  has to offer, it may not be worth the trouble when a smaller, cheaper and sometimes more potent caliber such as the .280 or H&H .375 Magnum would suffice.

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Page created June 20th 2009. Updated January 1st 2013