Place of origin
.584 in (14.8 mm)
.577 Nitro Express 2¾-inch & .577 Nitro Express 3¼-inch
.577 Black Powder Express
The .577 Nitro Express is a large bore centerfire rifle cartridge designed for the purpose of hunting large game such as elephant. This cartridge is used almost exclusively in single shot and double express rifles for hunting in the Tropics or hot climates in general and is a cartridge associated with the Golden Age of African safaris and Indian shikars.
The .577 Nitro Express is a straight rimmed .584-inch (14.8 mm) calibre cartridge designed for use in single-shot and double rifles. It has been made in three case lengths based on their respective black-powder .577 Black Powder Express cartidges.
.577 Nitro Express 2¾-inch
The .577 Nitro Express 2¾-inch is a conversion of the .577 Black Powder Express 2¾-inch, it fires a 750-grain (49 g) projectile at over 1,800 feet per second (550 m/s). Never as popular as the 3-inch version, today it is only available by special order.
.577 Nitro Express 3-inch
The .577 Nitro Express 3-inch is a conversion of the .577 Black Powder Express 3-inch, it fires a 750-grain (49 g) projectile at over 2,050 feet per second (620 m/s). This cartridge was to become the most popular of the three and a standard round for African elephant hunters in the early 20th century.
.577 Nitro Express 3¼-inch
The .577 Nitro Express 3¼-inch is a conversion of the .577 Black Powder Express 3¼-inch, again it was never as popular as the 3-inch version.
Following the success of the development in 1898 of the revolutionary .450 Nitro Express by John Rigby & Company, achieved by loading the old .450 Black Powder Express with cordite, similar conversions were made to other blackpowder Express cartidges, including the .577 Black Powder Express in its various case lengths.
Once a standard rifle calibre, the rise of Mauser's Gewehr 98 bolt actioned rifles offered cheaper alternatives to the expensive double rifles required by the Nitro Express cartridges. A few manufacturers still make rifles chambered in .577 Nitro Express due to its popularity, including Hartmann & Weiss, Heym, Holland & Holland, Butch Searcy & Co., James Purdey and Sons, Westley Richards, and Hambrusch Hunting Weapons.
The .577 Nitro Express is suitable for hunting all dangerous game, although it was considered something of a specialist elephant hunter's tool for close cover hunting and emergencies, the harsh recoil this round produces requires a rifle of 13-pound (5.9 kg) minimum weight. Typically a hunter carried a lighter rifle in a smaller calibre for general hunting whilst a rifle bearer carried a heavy gun such as this, a necessity as an exhausted man could not reliably aim a heavy rifle like these.
James H. Sutherland, author of The Adventures Of An Elephant Hunter, who over the course of his life shot between 1,300 and 1,600 elephants, hunted with rifles in various calibres including .303 British, 10.75 x 68mm Mauser, .450 Nitro Express and .500 Nitro Express. Eventually he settled on a Westley Richards Droplock .577 Nitro Express double rifle, along with a bolt action .318 Westley Richards, for all his African hunting.
Sutherland's close friend Major G.H. Anderson, author of African Safaris and founder of the East African Professional Hunter's Association, who over the course of his life shot between 350 and 400 elephants, did all of his African hunting with a Westley Richards Droplock .577 Nitro Express, along with a .318 Westley Richards and a .470 Nitro Express.
Ernest Hemingway and Alfred Józef Potocki both owned Westley Richards Droplock .577 Nitro Express double rifles, Stewart Granger owned two including Potocki's rifle.