Since the purchase of the Ruger No.1 in .458 Win Mag “Tropical” in August of 2018, I’ve been testing a variety of bullets and loads. This is a report on that activity and an evaluation of the same.
From mid October, 2018, to sometime in April, 2019, I didn’t visit our range due to winter weather conditions arriving somewhat early in late October to early November and lasting into mid April of this year. I did some shooting in late August and September of 2018, and carried the rifle into a remote hunting area in early October. That was it for 2018. In the meanwhile I purchased some additional bullets and made plans for loads to start the 2019 spring season as soon as possible. I’ve reported some of that activity on the Accurate Reloading Forum, BIG BORES, .458 Winchester Magnum thread.
Generally speaking, that involved becoming more familiar with the Ruger No.1 Tropical in .458 Winchester Magnum in shooting handloads of component bullets in 500gr, 480gr, 450gr, 400gr, 350gr and 300gr. In addition, I did some limited shooting of handloaded 470gr hardcasts and the 330gr Barnes Banded brass solids.
But due to an impending cataract surgery in May of this year, I quit shooting for a few weeks prior to that event; and I didn’t pursue shooting again for three weeks after surgery. I also purchased a Lead Sled that would nullify most felt recoil. Thereafter, I never shot anything like 15 to 20 rounds in a single sitting. I did take my CZ 455 (.22LR) along for more trigger time and practice.
I wanted to see if the 24″ ported barrel of the Ruger #1 in .458 could match the 25″ of the former CZ550 in MV and accuracy. For some loads I had to increase the powder charge by 1-grain; the 350 TSX as an example of that at 2760 fps. For the 500s there didn’t seem to be much loss, if any at all.
In seating all bullets as long as possible, while still having enough in the case for a solid grip on the bullets, which I’d also done for loads used in the CZ550 with its 3.8″ long action, I found that I could attain, and in some cases surpass, 2300 fps from the 500gr Hornady RN and the 500gr Speer GS.
*Here’s a list of the bullets tried this year (2019):
500gr Hornady RN Interloc
500gr Speer Grand Slam
480gr Hornady DGX — at 2353 fps (Hodgdon 4895)
470gr hardcast – at 2075 (RL-15) – not max
450gr TSX — at 2385 fps (Hodgdon 4895)
450gr Swift AF — at 2414 fps (H335)
405gr Remington — at 2085 fps (RL-15) – not max
400 Barnes X — at 2590 fps (H4198)
350gr TSX — at 2760 fps (H4198)
350gr Hornady FP — at 2510 fps (H4198) – not max
330gr Barnes Banded — at 2607 fps (H4198) – not max
300gr TSX — at 2980 fps (H4198) max
300gr TSX — at 2752 fps (H4198) – not max for hunting
*Most of the above was given previously, but for those who have not seen it, I provide it again.
My 1-lb can of AA2230 is comparatively “old”, having purchased it in 2010, so didn’t see much use prior to selling the CZ550 the following year. And I’ve been recently informed that the current manufacturer of that propellant is a different source, and it has been somewhat improved. My can, which is still about 70% unused and nearly a decade old came a bit short in MV compared to some of my old standbys, H4895 in particular, which was a recent purchase.
There were basically two gun powders that worked best in my former Ruger #1 in .45-70 LT for all bullet weights from the 300gr TSX to the 500gr Hornady. Those were H335 for the heavies, 450gr to 500gr, and H4198 for the rest. H335 was ideal for the .45-70 case since being a ball powder it allowed more into the case without undo compression. And having approximately the same burn rate as H4895, which is one of the best in the .458, it acted like I was using a full charge of H4895 in the .45-70 case, and still seat the 500s adequately, while still using a COL of up to 3.21″ for the long Barnes monos. That was 75 grains of H335 behind the 500 Hornady and 76 grains under the 450 Swift. That would not have been possible in using H4895, so I went with the ball powder that proved itself worthy of complete confidence through consistent and stable results. It was therefore natural that I should use those same two powders in my former CZ550 in .458, and for the same applications. In addition to those two, I also gave H4895 a try for the heavyweights in the .458 Win Mag since there was more available room in those cases. And in also seating the bullets long, that made my CZ equal to a .458 Lott. But I also discovered that I could exceed the .458 Lott COL of 3.600″ using the long Barnes bullets. That meant ballistics for the .458 Winchester in the CZ550 could exceed those of the Lott.
Indeed, as mentioned above, I’ve found it quite possible to duplicate all that in my current Ruger Single-shot, as previously explained in recent blogs.
The current load that I’ve settled on for walk-about-hunting of both bear and wolf is the 300gr TSX at 2752 fps/5044 ft-lbs. My intent, God willing, is to spend a few days this fall in that unhurried form of outdoor recreation. I will walk a bit, then sit a bit for some calling. A number of years ago I was calling moose and ended up calling in a big bear! You never exactly know what to expect from such adventures, but you must be alert to all possibilities. I have a variety of mouth calls, and have recently added a hand-held electronic caller with recorded sounds of deer, fawns, coyote and rabbits. It’s all fun that keeps one on edge! At times I’ll have a partner, and at other times I’ll be solo — at least that’s the plan.
The Ruger is heavy (needs to be) but comfortable to carry. It balances very well, and is very short overall for such a powerful rifle at 40-inches. On the stock I’ll put a stock cartridge holder, and limit the number of cartridges in the holder to five, which will add about 1/2 lb but not enough to upset the rifle’s balance. Of course, I’ll have a few extra in a jacket pocket as well.
The 300gr TSX load makes the rifle quite versatile for reaching out a bit in the case of a wolf on the far side of a small lake or marsh, plus in close quarters it will lack nothing for a charging bear.
The MV ballistics are similar to a .375 Weatherby firing a 300gr. But a .458″, 300gr is relatively short so will slow down quicker than a .375. Still, it’s a load that as sighted at +1.31″ at 100 will drop to about -2.00″ at 200 yards. That’s plenty good enough for that type of hunt as I don’t expect to be shooting that far in any case.
<(The 300 TSX as tested in tough media at 2650 fps from 5 yards employing my former Ruger #1 in .45-70 LT. Left click on pics for a better view.)
Here is the load and ballistics as shot yesterday at our range (Oct. 8/19):
Ambient conditions: Sunny but frosty.
Rifle: Ruger #1 Tropical in .458 Win Mag with a 24″ Mag-Na-Ported barrel.
Remington brass (1x previously fired in my former CZ550)
75 grains H4198 (up 2 grains from previous results at 2687 fps)
MV = 2734, 2728, 2736 instrumental. Corrected average at muzzle = 2752 fps/5044 ft-lbs.
3 shots into sub-moa. Group was +2.25″ high, and 3/4 inch right. Adjustments were made to center that group at +1.31″ high dead over center.
Recoil will be about 36 ft-lbs with the Mag-Na-Ports, which, by the way, doesn’t seem to be more loud than a typical .30-06 — for some yet unknown reason.
The point of all this is to demonstrate that a .458 Winchester Magnum doesn’t need be reserved for shooting an elephant in your petunias!
Go ahead, use it on some hogs, deer, and an elk now and then. Many are doing just that, so why not try something different by way of a Big Bore, rather than going as small as current culture seems to suggest. There are far more .458 Win Mags out there than most “pundits” seem to think — or are aware of. And they are not going into oblivion any time soon!
Hunting and shooting isn’t just about killing something — as I believe most of us are aware of by now. It’s the composite of many things that may be perhaps summed up in a word — “adventure”. But if we have to kill something, let it be with an instrument that causes the least trauma possible. If it’s a .243, learn to shoot it precisely. If it’s a .458, learn also to shoot that one precisely. But I assure you there IS a pronounced difference in effect on the shooter as well as the animal!
Yesterday, at the range, I met a man whom I’d never previously encountered. It was a beautiful, frosty morning. I was the first to arrive at 8 am in order to get “set up”, including target, Chrony and rifle rests, as well as other accessories. I don’t like to be in the way of others who arrive later. The second was a fellow I’ve known for several years, much younger than I. Lastly was the unknown person — as least to myself, and he was older than the younger man, but not as old as myself — I’d say in his late sixties. Shooting was to start at 9:30 am, and while the second man was at the 300 yard berm putting up some targets, this “unknown man” and I chatted about moose hunting. It turned out that he’d shot a bull moose in the same northern jurisdiction as myself. He described in great detail the rain and wind that lasted for about 10 days before there was a break in the weather. The following day was good, and he shot a bull moose at around 150 yards. But he shot it a total of six times. After three shots it went down. But it didn’t stay down. It got up and started to move away from him and he shot it three more times and it went down to stay.
The rifle and load? A .30-06 shooting 180 factory fodder. None of the loads fully penetrated the moose through the lungs from broad-side hits! I told him I shot mine using 250gr Nosler Partitions from a .340 Weatherby. The first shot was broadside at 165 yards through the lungs from an offhand position, and not only did the bullet land within an inch or so of where I aimed, but it was a pass-through, with blood and lung tissue splattering over the bushes on the far side for twenty feet! On the second shot the moose went down on the spot! And those were lung shots — not CNS hits! I waited for my son to arrive from his blind at 350 yards from me. He wanted to see the bull that was in a bit of a hollow and out of sight. He got too close and the bull staggered to its feet, but wasn’t going anywhere. I gave it another in the seat of its pants and it went down to stay. In total, it moved not more than half its length from where I fired the first shot.
The point: larger bores, bigger bullets and speed DOES make a difference! And a significant one at that — most of the time assuming good bullets and hits where they should be!
The .458 Winchester Magnum can do all that and more — if we can manage its potential. That’s a challenge to those who want to climb this “mountain”.
At this point I feel a need to give glory to my LORD, and public thanks to a friend before terminating this piece.
Most of you know that I’ve professionally been a pastor/missionary most of my adult years — and still am part-time — and own a “Rev” before my name for some official purposes, which I never otherwise use, much preferring “Pastor” by those who know me in that role. That’s sort of a preamble to what follows. I want to preempt any notion that what I have to say from this point on is therefore some sort of “professional” statement. It is NOT! It’s simply a confession of faith as a Christian.
Several weeks have past since an “accident” occurred at the range to my Ruger Tropical in .458 Winchester Magnum. I had just finished firing five medium loads of a 470gr hardcast at around 2075 fps. I then removed the rifle from the Lead Sled, looked it over (which I always do) and to my utter horror noticed a hairline crack extending from where the butt stock attaches to the action for a full 5 – 6 inches, then another crack right where it touches the action!
To put this in perspective, I’d cleaned the barrel and all external parts the evening before coming to the range. I had previously been given a “head’s up” by the “second” man, mentioned above, that the Lead Sled had a reputation of cracking stocks on heavy magnum rifles. There is no “give” for the stock to move rearward under severe recoil, therefore tremendous pressure must be endured by the stock all by itself. (Recently, I’ve abandoned the Lead Sled for the .458 Win., taking that force on my body that moves rearward under recoil.)
Immediately, I knew what was involved. It could not be repaired in any manner that would render it capable of handling .458 Win Mag loads! Replacement might take a year or more! We’re not as fortunate in these matters as those south of the border. Even then, costs could amount to + $500, taking into account shipping from Ruger, Canadian tax, import duties, and exchange on the Canadian dollar! For a senior on a fixed income, that’s no small amount!
I prayed about it, and immediately had peace! I KNEW my Father in heaven would take it in hand, as I had put it there. No worries from that point on! Within a couple of days I mentioned the problem on the AR forum as I’d been sharing test loads, and said I’d not be able to continue due to the cracked butt stock. It was not, believe me, with any intention of getting sympathy or anything else, it was simply to inform others that I’d not be able to continue contributing to the thread on the .458 Win Mag.
Well, Dr. Ron Berry (known as RIP on the forum, except for a few friends who know him as “Ron”) immediately wanted to know how he could get a “spare” (as he called it) to me! We dealt with it privately, and within about a week I had a “new” Tropical butt stock for my Ruger Tropical in .458, pictured on the header! I gave, and owe, many thanks to Ron, but did not forget to give thanks to my heavenly Father! Ron may not know this, but his generous gift was the hand of God in blessing me! As James, the brother of our Lord, wrote it in his epistle: “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father … who does not change like shifting shadows”. (James 1:17)
It’s Canadian Thanksgiving time, so what an additional reason for offering thanks to my Father above, while not forgetting my generous friend… Thanks again Ron!
Til the next,