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Gallery photos and information: Elephant Gun Bullet

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These very large and very heavy firearms were the first to be known as the elephant guns of the black powder era (1850–1890), though their use also included all thick-skinned dangerous game such as rhinoceros, hippopotamus and cape buffalo. Due to the velocity limitations of black powder and lead—usually around 1,500 feet per second (460 m/s)—the only way to increase penetration was to make a larger gun. The largest bore guns in common use (and bore rifles with the advent of breech loading and rifling in the late 19th century) included the 4 bore, using a 2,000-grain (130 g) slug at up to 1,400 ft/s (430 m/s). Despite their enormous power, the short low-velocity slugs still suffered the penetration issues which plagued guns of this era, particularly for the toughest shot of all: defeating the bone mass for a frontal brain shot on an elephant. Thus, dangerous game hunting in the 19th century was as much a test of the gun-bearer's ability to relay guns to the hunter, and of horsemanship to evade charges long enough to reload.

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