The Light Nitro .577 x 2 3/4 Express:  
  a cartridge whose day has finally arrived!  
There have been several lively discussions on the various internet forums lately, concerning the preferred calibres or chamberings for newly-constructed double rifles.
Of course the various .400s, .450/.458/.470s, and .500s are all viable options and have their staunch supporters, and a range of even bigger wild-cats is fast becoming popular with the modern big-bore fan. Amongst all this however, there is one cartridge that has been largely overlooked, ignored by contemporary gun-writers, and scorned by the magnum snobs. It is nevertheless a simply marvellous chambering, a prime candidate for the modern double or big-bore single, and a genuine practical alternative to the shoulder-crunching muzzle-blasters at the upper end of the big-bore range. Since acquiring an example myself not long ago, it is fast becoming one of my favourites. It is....
…the .577 x 2 3/4 Light Nitro!
This will come as a surprise to most, however even at the lowest traditional MVs around 1650 fps, it shoots absolutely flat at practical big-game hunting distances. Despite its big round nose, the Woodleigh 650-grain soft-point still manages a Ballistic Coefficient of 0.32. Sighted dead-on at around 90 yards, the trajectory never deviates more than one inch from the line of sight out to 100 yards and slightly beyond. The drop at 150 yds, a practical maximum for most big game hunting, is only 6 inches. Simply point and shoot!
  Trajectory Graph  
The rifles can be made to weigh a practical 10 to 11 pounds, no heavier than standard .400 to .470 doubles, and are quite comfortable to carry and shoot. They can be regulated for any load between 1650 and 1950 fps, depending on the owner's recoil tolerance and energy requirements. There is no factory ammunition, so they will always be a reloading concern, hence no chance of a mix-up. Top-quality brass and projectiles are readily available.
Even at a low 1665 fps MV, the Taylor Knock-Out factor is still a whopping 90 values, ranging up over 105 for the higher-velocity loads! Only for big elephants could this cartridge be considered marginal, but how many double-rifle aficionados these days are genuinely likely to seek conclusions with jumbo? For everything else on earth, the .577 Light Nitro is perfectly adequate, and provides a satisfying overkill for most! Regarding the 'Gee Whiz' factor at the local club, it is jolly-well still a .577 Nitro Express!, but without the enormous weight and recoil which robs the shooter of much of the pleasure he should be getting from his new toy. A well-made .577 Light Nitro double is an absolute joy to shoot!
Unfortunately Craig Boddington comprehensively canned this cartridge in his 'Safari Rifles', stating that "velocity is low and energy just 5,500 ftlbs" (huh!?!), and "...the 650-grain bullet does not stack up". On the other hand, 'Pondoro' Taylor gave it a pretty good wrap in 'African Rifles and Cartridges'. Speaking of the 75-grain Cordite-equivalent load:
"Using the solid hard lead bullet I have killed elephant and buffalo, but of course, only with heart and lung shots. If I was concentrating on tiger or man-eating lion, I shouldn't hesitate: I would almost certainly have a double .577 built to handle the modern .577/75/650 load."
...and although he lacked personal experience with the 90-grain load:
"Theoretically, it should be a very effective weapon for close-range work, (and) with modern steels could be built very light for a weapon of that power."
It always amuses me that the 750gr bullet is widely acclaimed for its penetration, whereas the 650gr bullet is roundly condemned for poor penetration when it is only 13.3% lighter!! Admittedly, the early 650-grainers were usually very soft for use in older BP guns, but the current range of Woodleighs includes both BP and Nitro 650s, as well as a superb steel-jacketed solid. The solid is a definite no-no in old BP guns of course, it would probably smooth out all the rifling with the first shot in those old barrels!
In fact, it is the new Woodleigh 650-grain FMJ solid (Catalogue No. 4A) that inspired the contention that the .577 x 2 3/4 is a cartridge whose day may finally have come. These bullets may look stubby, but they still boast a Sectional Density of .27, and the heavy steel jacket simply will not deform. Penetration is simply unbelievable. Remember that a hundred and ten years ago, Arthur Neumann took himself off to Africa and kicked-off a long and happy career shooting elephants professionally with the .577 cartridge and 570-grain lead bullets, and Sir Samuel Baker regularly raked big buffalo bulls 'from stem to stern' with identical lead-bullet ballistics in Ceylon. I suspect that both these gentlemen would have crawled through broken glass to get their hands on the marvellous steel-jacketed 650gr solids Geoff MacDonald is making today!
  Woodleigh 650gr Steel-Jacketed Solids  
  Pic of the (relatively) new Woodleigh 650-grain steel-jacketed solids. Jewellery for boys!  
A new heavy-jacketed 650gr bonded-core soft-point (Catalogue No. 3A) has also been added to the Woodleigh range, specifically for use with moderate Nitro Express loads. Never before to my knowledge has a 650-grain bonded-core bullet been offered with the thick jacket. These new premium bullets render all the old rhetoric obsolete, and all the penetration prejudices of the BP era simply no longer hold true.
  Recovery from Buffalo  
  Woodleigh 650-grain .577 Weldcores recovered from buffalo:  
  Left: Catalogue No.5 (for BP), Right: Catalogue No.3A (for Nitro)  
  Recoveries from Boar  
  How's this for the perfect mushroom?  
  Woodleigh 650gr soft-nose recovered from a large Northern Territory boar.  
We now have better bullets, better brass, and better barrel steel than ever before. With newly made doubles like the Searcy for example, built to the customer's weight and power requirements, we are no longer bound to 1650 fps like the old 'nitro-for-black' loadings, or a specific factory load. Anything up to 1950 fps (or more?!) can be regulated by the manufacturer on demand. These new rifles and bullets extend the usefulness of the .577 Light Nitro way beyond that ever envisaged by the British gun trade a century ago. Over 5,000 ftlbs of ME, with bonded-core softs or steel-jacketed solids, has definitely moved this cartridge up from the realm of a 'good tiger or lion gun' to a versatile modern big-bore and perhaps the perfect buffalo rifle. For the 99.9% of us who will never pull the trigger on an elephant or rhino, I reckon this chambering is worth very serious consideration!
If I were to commission a new rifle like the Searcy tomorrow, I would unhesitatingly specify an 11-pound .577 x 2 3/4 Light Nitro regulated for the 650-grain bullet at 1850 fps, and it would give me great pleasure to wear it out on our local buffalo population! (...with the odd African excursion if finances permit!)
If this essay should stimulate a tiny seed of interest in the minds of those who may be contemplating a new double in the near future, the author will be well pleased. The full-nitro .577 is quite simply too much gun for fun at the range or regular practice in the woods, but the Light Nitro version might just be today's perfect big-bore!
Further reading:
"Dancing with the Fat Lady"
Greener .577 x 2 3/4 Nitro built from an Empire shotgun.
"Joint Operation"
Hunting with the Greener .577 conversion.
"Private Pig'n'Pussy Hunt"
Chasing pigs and feral cats independently from the famous Pine Creek event!
"Jungle Tusker"
Tusky boar taken in thick jungle with the .577 Light Nitro.
Boar taken on the run with the stumpy .577 double rifle.
"Short-Stop Hogs"
Greener .577 as a fast and accurate short-range stopper.
"Last Dance with the Fat Lady"
Final buffalo hunt with the Greener 'Empire' .577 double.