The history around the development of the .500 Nitro Express is not entirely clear. It first appeared in the United Kingdom in the late 19th century, where it evolved from the .500 Express case. The difference between the two is that black powder is loaded in the .500 Express, and cordite is loaded in the .500 Nitro Express.
The .500 Nitro Express was designed to be fired from the most common hunting rifles of the late 1800s and early 1900s, including single and double barrel rifles. Today this cartridge is for sale for double action and bolt action rifles made by some of the most excellent rifle makers in Europe including Holland & Holland, Hambrusch and Rigby.
African hunting has surged again in recent years, leading many hunters to choose the .500 Nitro Express as their cartridge to harvest the continent's most dangerous game. And as impressive as the ballistics are for this century-old cartridge, the .500 Nitro Express deserves the attention it has garnered. The cartridge fires a Hornady Dangerous Game Solid bullet weighing 570 grains out the muzzle, travelling at 2,100 feet per second and carrying a muzzle energy of more than 5,800 foot pounds. 200 yards downrange, the bullet is still flying faster than 1,600 feet per second and delivering more than 3,200 foot pounds of energy. Today, the .500 Nitro Express is sold with Soft Point bullets, Triple Shock bullets and many other popular configurations.
Some hunters declare the .500 Nitro Express has too much power and over penetrates all but the largest elephants, but other hunters tell stories of using the cartridge on successful hunts for Cape buffalo and rhinoceros. The .500 Nitro Express cartridge, in any case, is extremely effective and capable at short ranges. This cartridge does have a definite downside in that the rifle must be very heavy to keep recoil at almost manageable levels. In a rifle weighing 10 pounds, the .500 Nitro Express still generates recoil energy of about 85 foot pounds. That is nearly double the recoil energy of an eight-pound 12 gauge shotgun!
American hunters will not find many applications for the .500 Nitro Express beyond stopping a rogue elephant that has escaped from the local zoo or stopping a semi-truck that's trying to run you over. However, the idea of owning a cartridge that shoots nearly an ounce of lead with two tons of force is a compelling thought!