The .600 Nitro Express is a large-caliber hunting rifle cartridge developed in the United Kingdom by W.J. Jeffery & Co. for hunting large game, such as elephants.
Design Details[edit | edit source]
The .600 Nitro Express is a rimmed centerfire cartridge with a slightly tapered wall, designed for use in single-shot rifles and double rifles.
The cartridge uses a large .620 inch diameter, 900 grain (58 grams) projectile with three different propellant loadings. The first is a standard 6.5 gram load of cordite at a muzzle velocity of 1,850 feet per second, the second being a 7.1 gram load at 1,950 ft/s, and the third is 7.8 grams at 2,050 ft/s.
Due to the immense recoil force generated by the cartridge, rifles that are chambered for it typically weigh up to a hefty 16 lbs (7.3 kg).
History[edit | edit source]
The .600 Nitro Express was developed by W.J. Jeffery & Co. in London, England. Sources varied about the date of the caliber's introduction, though it seemed that it was in 1900 that W.J. Jeffery & Co. produced its first .600 Nitro Express-chambered weapon, a 15 lb (6.8 kg) exposed-hammer double rifle.
The company manufactured 70 rifles chambered in .600 Nitro Express in four types of actions; two-barreled exposed-hammer break-open, single-barreled break-open and falling block, and two-barreled break-open with and without ejectors.
Until the advent of the .700 Nitro Express in 1988, the .600 Nitro Express was known as the most powerful commercially available hunting rifle cartridge in the world. Aside from W.J. Jeffery & Co., several other gunmakers have and continue to offer rifles chambered in .600 Nitro Express, though in 2009, it was estimated by Holland & Holland that only one hundred .600 Nitro Express rifles have ever been produced to that time.
Service in WWI[edit | edit source]
While having been designed primarily as a big game hunting cartridge, the .600 Nitro Express had seen military service in the British Army during World War I.
In 1914 and early 1915, German snipers engaged British positions from steel plates that could not be penetrated effectively by .303 British ball rounds. In a bid to counter this threat, the British War Office purchased sixty-two big game hunting rifles, four of which being chambered in .600 Nitro Express, and then issued to regiments of the British Army.
The large-bore hunting weapons proved particularly effective against the German snipers' steel plates, piercing through them "like butter", as was stated in the book Sniping in France 1914-1918 by Major H. Hesketh-Prichard, DSO, MC.
Stuart Cloete, a sniping officer for the King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, had stated, "We used a heavy sporting rifle - a .600 Express. These had been donated to the army by big game hunters and when we hit a plate we stove it right in. But it had to be fired standing or from a kneeling position to take up the recoil. The first man who fired it from the prone position had his collar bone broken."