Big Bore Compendium – .700 Nitro Express

02The 700 Nitro Express came about when a customer of Holland & Holland wanted to purchase a 600 Nitro Express double rifle, but H&H had sold the “last one”. Undaunted, the customer pushed the project ahead and H&H built a 700 N.E. double rifle for him. Currently H&H, Watson Bros. and Searcy Enterprises offer double rifles in 700 N.E. Hambrusch Hunting Weapons of Ferlach, Austria offers a bolt-action repeater in 700 N.E. as well. Standard ballistics indicate a 1000 bullet at 2000 f.p.s. However, there has been some discussion of penetration problems with the cartridge and talk of increasing the bullet weight to 1200 grains while keeping velocity at 2000 f.p.s. to improve penetration. Rifles for this caliber weigh in the 16-20 pound range and only the fittest of men can carry such a burden for 20 miles on an elephant track in the hot African sun.

700bA 700 Nitro Express was taken on a recent elephant hunt in Botswana with Safaris Botswana Bound (, and the following report was provided by Graeme Pollock.

“The gun was too heavy for the hunter to walk the long distances sometimes required in Elephant hunting…. The first shot on the Elephant was a frontal shot which did not hit the brain and did not knock the Elephant down. The shot was apparently high due to a hang fire. The second shot was lung heart and the elephant again did not go straight down but it did not move much either before going down. The 1000g bullet seems to have not much more noticeable knockdown power than the 500 or 470 NE 500g round.”

Similarly, professional hunter Mark Sullivan who has hunted with a 16 pound Watson Brother’s 700 Nitro Express, finds it a bit too heavy to get onto charging buffalo as quickly as he would like. When considering the cost of a rifle in 700 Nitro Express, the weight and difficulty of carrying one, and the savage recoil, the performance on game is rather disappointing.

Example load:

Cartridge Powder Primer Bullet Velocity Notes
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 hangfires.