.404 Jeffery

The .404 Jeffery is a rifle cartridge designed for hunting large, dangerous game animals, such as the "Big Five" (elephant, rhino, cape buffalo, lion and leopard) of Africa.[2] The cartridge is standardized by the C.I.P. and is also known as .404 Rimless Nitro Express.[3] It was designed in 1905 by London based gunmaker W.J. Jeffery & Co to duplicate the performance of the .450/400 Nitro Express 3-inch in bolt-action rifles.[4] The .404 Jeffery fired a bullet of .422 in (10.72 mm) diameter of either 300 gr (19 g) with a muzzle velocity of 2,600 ft/s (790 m/s) and muzzle energy of 4,500 foot-pounds force (6,100 N⋅m) or 400 gr (26 g) with a muzzle velocity of 2,150 ft/s (660 m/s) and 4,100 foot-pounds force (5,600 N⋅m) of energy. It is very effective on large game and is favored by many hunters of dangerous game. The .404 Jeffery was popular with hunters and game wardens in Africa because of good performance with a manageable recoil. By way of comparison, the .416 Rigby and .416 Remington Magnum cartridges fire a .416 in (10.57 mm) bullet of 400 gr (26 g) at 2,400 feet per second (730 m/s) with a muzzle energy of approximately 5,000 foot-pounds force (6,800 N⋅m). These cartridges exceed the ballistic performance of the .404 Jeffery but at the price of greater recoil and in the case of the .416 Rigby, rifles that are more expensive.

.404 Jeffery
Place of originEngland
Production history
DesignerW.J. Jeffery & Co
Case typeRimless, bottleneck
Bullet diameter.422 in (10.7 mm)
Neck diameter.452 in (11.5 mm)
Shoulder diameter.530 in (13.5 mm)
Base diameter.545 in (13.8 mm)
Rim diameter.543 in (13.8 mm)
Rim thickness.050 in (1.3 mm)
Case length2.875 in (73.0 mm)
Overall length3.530 in (89.7 mm)
Case capacity113.0 gr H2O (7.32 cm3)
Rifling twist1-16.53 in (420 mm)
Primer typeLarge rifle magnum
Maximum pressure52,939 psi (365.00 MPa)
Ballistic performance
Bullet mass/type Velocity Energy
400 gr (26 g) Norma Solid 2,325 ft/s (709 m/s) 4,802 ft⋅lbf (6,511 J)
450 gr (29 g) Woodleigh FMJ 2,150 ft/s (660 m/s) 4,620 ft⋅lbf (6,260 J)
450 gr (29 g) Woodleigh Soft Nose 2,150 ft/s (660 m/s) 4,620 ft⋅lbf (6,260 J)
Test barrel length: 610 millimetres (24 in)
Source(s): Norma[1]


Originally the .404 Jeffery was very popular with hunters in Africa and saw significant use in both British and German colonies. As the British Empire began to shrink, many of the popular British big-bore cartridges also dwindled in popularity, and the .404 Jeffery was one of them. By the 1960s it had all but disappeared from common firearm usage. This condition was mostly the result of the closing of the British Ammunition giant Kynoch, which was the primary manufacturer of the .404 Jeffery and many other British cartridges. The introduction of the .458 Winchester Magnum in 1956 in the Winchester Model 70 bolt-action rifle provided an affordable alternative to the big Nitro Express rifles and cartridges. Winchester also started a marketing campaign at about this time called "Winchester in Africa" with much success. Renewed interest in heavy game rifles and political stability in Africa has led to a resurgence in African hunting and the rifles suited for it. Several ammunition makers like Kynoch, Norma, Federal, and Hornady are offering .404 Jeffery sporting ammunition.

A more recent development by Norma of Sweden has been the introduction of 450 gr ammunition under their African PH banner. The increase in bullet weight and sectional density turns the ballistics of the .404 Jeffery into something to behold. Fired at 2150 fps the cartridge now outperforms most of its peers with a still relatively mild recoil due to the efficient design of the cartridge. The ability to do this out of a standard length Mauser action makes it one of the top contenders as the greatest large-medium bore cartridge in existence today. Heavy for caliber bullets are available from Woodleigh Bullets, Australia.

Commercial and wildcat variations

In 1908, W.J. Jeffery & Co created the .333 Jeffery by shortening the .404 case, giving it greater taper and necking it down to .333 in (8.5 mm).[5] In 1913, Jeffery further necked down the .333 Jeffery to .288 inches, creating the .280 Jeffery.

In recent times, the .404 case has seen a resurgence in use by wildcatters. This case has no belt, unlike many other magnum cartridges, which can be desirable for handloading because of possible problems with case head separation with repeated reloading of belted magnum cartridges. The rimless design also contributes to smooth feeding from the box magazine of bolt-action rifles.

Some common commercial children of the .404 Jeffery case are the Remington Ultra Magnum (RUM) cartridge family, which in turned spawned the Remington Short Action Ultra Magnum (RSAUM) cartridges. Also, the Winchester Short Magnum (WSM) and the Winchester Super Short Magnum (WSSM) families are believed to derive from the 404 Jeffery case. Both the Winchester and Remington cartridges have also spawned many current wildcats, like the popular .338 Edge.

All but one (.450 Dakota, based on .416 Rigby) of the proprietary cartridges of Dakota Arms such as .375 Dakota, and the .400 Tembo by Velocity USA, and the once-famous .460 G&A, used by Jeff Cooper in his "Baby" rifles,[6] are all based on .404 Jeffery.

Another example of the popularity of creating small-bore, high velocity cartridges based on .404 Jeffery design is the .26 Nosler, .28 Nosler, .30 Nosler and the latest .33 Nosler, introduced by Nosler in between 2013 and 2016.

See also


  1. .404 Jeffery data from Norma
  2. Big Bore Rifles and Cartridges (1991). Wolfe Publishing Co.:Prescott, Arizona. pg. 235 ISBN 1-879356-00-7
  3. https://bobp.cip-bobp.org/uploads/tdcc/tab-i/tabical-en-page145.pdf
  4. Howell, Ken (1995). Designing and Forming Custom Cartridges. Precision Shooting. pp. 330, 331. ISBN 0-9643623-0-9.
  5. Roberts, Paul, Nitro big game rifles, retrieved 24 Jan 16.
  6. Cooper, Jeff (1998). To Ride, Shoot Straight, and Speak the Truth. Paladin Press. ISBN 0-87364-973-7
  • Barnes, Frank, Cartridges of the World 4th Edition, p. 329
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