The .550 Magnum Season 2

A Report By PH Jason Van Aarde

Well, after my first successful season with Grizelda, or my .550 Magnum as most would know her, I was a lot more confident in using this beast on dangerous game. I had more than enough ammo left from last season so I had no reason to reload or experiment with other loads. All that I can say is that by now I have really got used to carrying the 11.5 lbs around and she is more comfortable to carry than most other rifles. I believe her bigger curves make her feel easier on my shoulder and I feel the weight less.

550 Magnum
550 Magnum
Experienced Professional Hunter Tony Tomkinson firing the .550 Magnum

The first dangerous animal of the 2011 season was an elephant that we hunted in the Limpopo province of South Africa. We found him late on the afternoon of the 4 day and with the help of some heavy thunder, we managed to get to an easy 11 paces from him. As he saw us he quickly closed the gap to 7 paces and looked down his nose at us. The client did not waste time taking a frontal brain shot and then another quick second shot which dropped the bull momentarily. As the bull struggled to his feet the client reloaded and took two more shots with no effect. By now the bull was completely recovered and the client busy reloading when I decided it was about time for me to finish the job. A shot just above the eye into the brain and he rocked back to collapse on the spot. The client was using a .416 flanged double rifle, kindly lent to us by Tony Tomkinson.

550 Magnum& Elephant
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Elephant bull shot at 7 yards, after client's 4 shots with .416 failed.

The next dangerous game was two rhino that we took in Northern Zululand. Danie, my assistant Professional Hunter, was carrying the .550 Magnum and I had my .458 Lott. The first rhino, a bull, took off in a straight line from us with the client's shot to the shoulder with his .375 H&H and 300gr Trophy-Bonded Sledgehammer solid. From the discussion before between the client, Danie and me, was it agreed that we, the PHs would only shoot if I felt it necessary. I did - as the bull did not show the usual reaction that a well-shot rhino would normally display.

All I had to say was, "Danie" and he levelled the .550 and put in a shot about five inches to the right of the root of the rhino's tail. The effect was noticeable as the rhino suddenly changed gear and lowered his back to fall dead 80 paces further away. When we were skinning the rhino we discovered that the 700gr GS Custom Solid not only punched a hole through the pelvic bone but completely broke it from one side to the other. There was also a loose piece of pelvic bone about 10" x 10" and some smaller broken pieces.

550 Magnum & Rhino
First Rhino

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Pelvic broken completely in half. Right: 10"x10" broken piece of pelvis

For the second rhino, the client decided to use the .550 Magnum after he saw the devastating effect of the calibre. It took us three days to locate the rhino we were after, on the vast 37,000 hectare ranch. There were three rhinos grouped together, which made the stalk much more difficult. After about 20 minutes we got to about 30 paces from the rhino. The one we wanted eventually gave us a chance when it moved to the left and stood broadside. The client knelt down using a big fallen Knobthorn tree as a rest. I remember thinking, rather him shooting it kneeling, than me. With the shot the rhino stumbled, recovered and ran straight from us. I shouted, "reload, shoot!" and that is what he did. I have to mention that he did reload and shoot quite fast. The second shot was in the rear and it went another 40 paces before it expired.

550 Magnum & Rhino
Second Rhino

What I can say? The client shot the monster rhino, with the .550 in a kneeling position with no bad effect, reloaded and managed to shoot a second accurate shot in a very fast and impressive time. He could have been using any other big game calibre, half the size.

Next was an elephant we hunted with my friend Jimmy, in Mozambique. Jimmy was using a beautiful .450 No.2 Joseph Lang with some wonderful history behind it. (Tony Tomkinson used it in the Park days on some hippo culling). It was after one hell of a day tracking some 20+ km and some intense hours of being with the 8 bulls in some really thick bush, that Jimmy got a slightly angled, frontal head shot. The bull collapsed, immediately turned, got up and start running. (It always blows me away how fast an elephant can do this). Jimmy's second barrel malfunctioned, which caught me by surprise, and I took a hasty shot at the elephant's side through some really thick stuff. I did not shoulder the .550 properly and the recoil knocked me hard, hurting my shoulder for a week. My shot missed the vitals, got a part of the liver and exited. We tracked the bull for at least an hour before we caught up with him and Jimmy put him down with a well-placed shot from the .450 No.2.

550 Magnum & Elephant
Second Elephant

550 Magnum & Rhino
GS Custom solids being loaded

The third elephant was also taken in Mozambique. It was a frontal shot at 13 paces, by the client using a .450-400 double. It showed no effect and as it was busy turning I gave it a shot to the shoulder. I reloaded and my client and I shot again almost simultaneously, from which the bull collapsed. My bullet from the second shot, a 700gr flat point Barnes, went in just behind the shoulder, broke some serious bones and was recovered on the skin on the opposed side, still looking good.

.550 Magnum & Elephant 700gr Barnes solid .550 Magnum & Elephant

Third Elephant Centre: 700gr Barnes solid

Last of the season was a lion that had a badly snared leg and had to be destroyed. I set up the blind 25 paces from the bait because all we had were open-sighted rifles. Just before dark he came in and I took a shot with the .550 using a GS Custom solid which was all I had left. The bullet took him on the shoulder from where he jumped, turned and ran in the direction he came from, to fall no more than 15 paces from the bait. Not bad for a solid on a cat!

550 Magnum & Lion
Lion shot with 700gr GS solid

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First timer with a "big bore".....No complaints!

.550 Magnum & Jason
The .550 at 11.5 lbs is not too bad to carry

Not just me, all the Professional Hunters that hunted with me or used the .550 magnum has now fallen in love with the rifle and calibre. Of course, it is not just beautiful but it works well as a big game stopper and a practical ultra-big bore dangerous game calibre. I can say I now have complete confidence in the .550 magnum! Till next season....

Jason van Aarde


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