I’m not a nostalgic person, per se. And I don’t live with vain regrets. As the saying goes:”There’s no point in crying over spilt milk.” You can’t get it back into the bottle. But I do believe in admitting (confessing) my faults, weaknesses and sins (Gr. = “missing the mark”) to my Maker, and then like the great Apostle Paul of the Scriptures, “Forgetting that which is past, I press on toward the goal” for which God called me in Christ Jesus.
All of which is to say that while we shouldn’t live our lives with vain regrets, we SHOULD learn something from mistakes, failures and even our sinfulness. And THAT brings me to our subject.
This is NOT about rifles I shouldn’t have bought in the first place, but about those I should have kept! But where to begin…
I discovered a trait in myself that I formerly never knew existed until I began buying rifles I didn’t need. These were “investments”. Or so I thought. And claimed. They were true bargains that I was quite certain of “flipping” and making some money on for the purchasing of other rifles that I really wanted. The problem was that some of them proved to be “too good to be true” and I wanted to keep ’em!
The FIRST attempt to upgrade in value and satisfaction involved a Winchester M70 in .375 H&H. It was like a NIB rifle. When I first encountered it at a trade show in Toronto, I thought it was indeed a new, never owned by a customer rifle as it was being sold/traded by a gun dealer. As it turned out, the dealer was a wealthy young man who, with his father, owned several nursing homes (legalized printing of money). The business of selling and trading rifles was a hobby of the father who, due to age, could no longer manage it. So the son was seemingly very happy to trade this M70, .375 H&H for my “beat up” Sako FS Carbine in .338 Win Mag without questions asked or even seeing it! I thought I had just robbed a bank! But he was happy with the deal as that is what it was all about for his father! A few rifles, more or less, didn’t seem to matter as it was not a primary, or even secondary, source of income. That rifle was handloaded and went both moose and bear hunting but the trigger was never squeezed with either big game in its glass sights– though it also had irons as well.
(A modern version of the Winchester M70 in .375 H&H — in looks, identical to mine)
The SECOND that I recall of this nature was a Ruger M77 with a stout 22-inch barrel, a lot of extra metal and a tang safety that makes more sense to me than any other kind, and — get this — in a caliber that truly gave some excitement — at least to me — a .458 Winchester Magnum! And to this day, my pulse rate goes up at the thought of owning another .458 Winchester Magnum. There is no other cartridge that does that for me, especially in a rifle similar to that Ruger. No, I didn’t NEED a .458 Winchester Magnum, but I NEEDED a .458-caliber to scratch an itch — in this case a .45-70 in a Ruger No.1. Instead, I got a like “new” solidly made Ruger in .458 WM at a bargain basement price with the idea of flipping it within a year or so on a like-new Ruger No.1 in .45-70. And that’s exactly what happened. The problem then was that I wanted to keep ’em both but couldn’t afford it! Or, so I though, thinking the Ruger No.1 in .45-70 would sooth my itch… which it didn’t, of course, at least not to 100%.
And I never fired a factory round in the .458, only handloads, and modest ones at that. A scope was mounted (I forget which one) and it would shoot three of those Hornady 500gr into a ragged hole of around 5/8″ (.625″). I kept velocity relatively low so as to prepare myself for the Ruger No.1 in .45-70. Little did I realize at the time that the No.1 Ruger in .45-70 could easily keep pace with my “modest” .458 loads at 1950 to 2020 fps! I never really ever pushed that rifle to see what it could actually do with those 500gr RNSP Interlocs as it shot them so well. The 500s went moose hunting as a backup. It turned out that it got used more than my standby Winchester M70 in.375 H&H as we were in the midst of a wicked storm of wind and rain, bringing down trees all around us, and I didn’t want to expose my cherished M70 in .375 to those terrible conditions! But I did shoot a bear with it employing the 350gr Speer Hot-Cor in a somewhat mild load of AA2015 at 2343 fps (4266 ft-lbs). Range was an estimated 70 yards. After I traded it for a slightly used No.1 in .45-70, I forgot about the .458, being totally enamoured by the Ruger No.1 in .45-70 and it’s ballistic ability.
The two Ruger rifles were similar in some ways and distinct in others: The Ruger M77 was a bolt action repeater, of course, while the No.1 was a single shot. Yet ballistics were similar, at least up to a point. A max load of the Hornady 500s was a tad over 2000 fps in the No.1 (tested at a lab for me at nearly 2100 fps from a 24″ test barrel), and about the same from the Ruger .458 WM from a medium load.
The weight of the .458 exceeded that of the No.1 by about 3/4 lb (ready to go: 9.25 lb for the .458 and 8.4 lb for the No.1). Both had a very solid feeling with the No.1 coming to the shoulder, aiming and firing the first shot a bit quicker than the .458 — or so it seemed to me. The No.1 in .45-70 was shorter by 4-inches due to the absence of a magazine, though barrel lengths were equal at 22-inches. My current Ruger No.1 with an improved throat of +0.30 inch is fully the equal of a 22″ .458 WM shooting the .450 Swift AF or the 500gr Hornady, making 2317 fps for the former and 2210 fps for the latter.
It seems that those who own the Ruger M77 in .458 WM are holding on to them as rarely, if ever, is one seen on the market. I don’t blame them. If one ever did appear on a Canadian market at a decent price, I’d be sorely tempted — if I were twenty years younger. In my view, it was one of the best bolt-action repeaters ever produced in .458 WM at a price not much greater than a .30-06, though it had a lot more metal in it than any .30-06.
As a matter of interest, perhaps to someone else, within the past week I visited one of my old haunts for rifles, Gagnon’s in Oshawa — I did a lot of trading there “back-in-the-day”. I looked at and handled a Zastava 9.3 x 62 FS with a 20″ barrel. I’d previously seen many photos but this was my first chance to actually examine and handle one up close. I was impressed with both handling and quality. And the price was very good for the product. The other rifle I handled and examined was another Zastava (Mark X Mauser) in left-hand action chambered for the .375 H&H. It had a 22-inch tube and both weight and handling were appropriate for the cartridge in my view. Again, the cost was exceptional for those with limited budgets. I said to the young man (within ear shot of the manager-owner with whom I’d done a lot of business in bygone days) that if they got one in .458 WM (in a RH action), I’d take a serious look.
I then asked if they had any .45-70 brass… A short “No” came in reply. “Any bullets in .458?” “I’ll check”, said the young man, who no doubt was a family member. And to my amazement and excitement, he came up with a very old original box of 500-grain Speer African Grand Slam SPs! They had a sterling reputation on African fauna. The price on the box — which may have pre-dated the turn of the century — was still too high for my liking, so rather than risk them sitting on the shelf for another 20 years or so, he knocked off $35! “You’ve got a sale!” Today, my bank account is thinner than it was, but I’ve new plans for my Ruger No.1 in .45-70 IMP! I love trying new (old) bullets! Plans? Some will be lobbed at 1800 – 1900 fps, a couple at 2200, a couple more for penetration tests along side some others for comparison… and one, maybe two, for bear! It’s good to have a plan. It helps me stay alive!
Why do I have a fascination with .458-bore, the .45-70 and .458 Winchester Magnum in particular? In total, I’ve owned eight rifles chambered in .45-70 — four Marlins, one of which was the short Guide Gun that I came to despise because of the muzzle blast due to the porting of the original and the too-short barrel. In my view the GG should have come with a 20″ barrel and no “sissy-slots”. There were two NEF single-shots and two No.1 Rugers, the second of which I had the throat “improved” by 0.30″ for seating bullets out of the case by leaving only 1/4-inch of the bullet’s shank in the case. For some all-copper bullets, that means a COL slightly longer than a .458 Win Mag COL. So, potential ballistics are on par with a .458 Win Mag from the heavy-weights of 450 and 500gr.
In addition to the .45-70s, I’ve owned the Ruger M77 (22″ barrel) and a CZ550 (25″ barrel) in .458 Winchester Magnum. The CZ in particular was the full equal of a .458 Lott, when bullets were seated “long” in the .458 WM. All of that has been documented in my manual on the .458 Winchester Magnum (no longer in print – but if enough are interested I may have more printed).
Believe me, I’ve done a full search of my conscious and sub-conscious thoughts and emotions to discern the motive of this… er, “malady” of owning so many rifles chambered in .458-cal, and thoughts of yet another .458 WM at this advanced stage of my life.
The most significant aspect of preference for Big Bores on my part is the psychological or mental perspective. I’ve always been interested in the horse-power of motors in cars, trucks, big trucks and fishing vessels. To this day, I recall the HP of the in-line, eight-cylinder Chrysler marine motor in my dad’s new forty-eight foot, all-purpose fishing vessel. And that of the six-cylinder, larger displacement Chrysler marine motor that replaced it, when the first was worn-out: 145 hp @ 3200 rpm for the first and 160 hp @ 3000 rpm that replaced it. I also know the HP of the V12 diesel in the 70-foot fish dragger that replaced the 48-foot.
In just recently returning from Campobello, NB, as part of our 60th anniversary, where we spent nearly two weeks, part of the enjoyment for myself was in visiting the various ports on the island. The fleets have changed from utility fishing boats to more specialized vessels that harvest lobster and scallops. I had a good visit with my cousin, Stan, who recently retired from lobster fishing and handed over both boat and license to his son. All boats are now diesel powered and fully equipped with electronics. Costs? All-in, including boat, electronics and diesel; plus floating docks and equipment shed and traps = +/- $1,000,000, plus the license at about $400,000. Diesels? Mostly Cats and Volvos. His, now his son’s, has a Volvo diesel capable of 600+ continuous HP but restricted to just over 300 HP (working HP). Why do I know these things? Because of a fascination with measuring power. You understand, I’m sure, that a fishing vessel towing a big net over the ocean’s rugged terrain, or a scallop dragger towing a heavy metal drag for scallops, must have enough power to do so, as well as some in reserve if the net with all it’s attached metal and wood parts, or the drag for scallops that is thousands of pounds in weight catches on rocks and ledges, or has to climb a “mountain” 60 fathoms below the surface.
(Just two of twenty or more at Head Harbour on Campobello Island, N.B.)
Because of that background and awareness, and my father’s input on such matters, I perhaps have come to believe in reserves of power in ballistics. Though I’m sure that isn’t the only reason. It’s a temperament thing as well. I’m not unlike my father in a number of temperament traits.
There are those whose focus is primarily getting something done “adequately”, but with precision. They choose their rifles and motors based on that view of matters. That’s OK, but that’s not who I am. I’ve had my share of small bores from .22 Hornet to .270 Winchester, and frankly I find them boring, including the 6.5s. Precision is nice, and I work for it, but I’ll not hang my hat on it when it comes to keeping an animal on the ground where it was shot. In such a scenario, 1/2 moa is no better than 1.5 moa. But, depending on conditions, 4000 ft-lbs may be better than 3000 ft-lbs, whether at impact or at the muzzle. Just like the Volvo diesel, 50% is used continuously, but just in case it’s needed, 600 horses are available.
When I look at the hole in the end of the barrel of a .458-cal, I know there is a lot in reserve, if and when needed!
More next time.