The reason for this brief series on “moose-size game cartridges” is because the only game in my part of the world the size of moose — is MOOSE! And I’ve done more than a handful of hunts exclusively for that wild animal at long distances from home! So my concern over rifle cartridges for soft-skinned game animals that may go from 1000 lbs to 2000 lbs is founded on what? Experiences with whitetails that might go 250 lbs, or bear of 350 lbs? Hardly!
Two mature bull moose in my bear hunting areas died in combat with their antlers interlocked. A hunter stumbled upon them while hunting. He reported it to the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) who sent officers to check it out. Indeed, they found the situation as reported and had a heck of a time getting the bulls separated. A helicopter was brought in to transport the animals, one at a time, to one of their bases. En route, each was weighed by a device on the chopper. It turned out that the average weight was about 1400 lbs each! Those were Canada Moose from Central Canada, not Alaska-Yukon moose!
So, if I were to hunt a boar grizzly in the Yukon, what cartridge rifle would you recommend for a large one at 1000 lbs, not knowing all possible conditions and circumstances before the fact?
That’s what we’re potentially addressing in this topic under consideration. It’s primarily addressed to DIY hunters, and secondarily to those who hire a guide — and for guides themselves!
BIG BORES are better than small bores, sub-mediums and mediums if the right loads are used accordingly, and the shooter is skilled in their use. “Skilled” as including the management of recoil to the extent that accurate shooting isn’t impaired.
A friend who writes for SPORTS AFIELD, Kelly Ross, totes a .458 Win Mag as backup for the big black bears of the West as an outfitter and guide! Where not permitted as a guide, as in Northern Manitoba, his defensive weapon was a 12-gauge loaded with Brennekes. He’s a man after my own heart!
In my analysis, BIG BORES start with the .40’s and go up from there. But we want, or need, one for more than arm’s length shooting… if being a guide/outfitter, or DIY hunter, of large and/or dangerous game that could attain a half-ton or more!
As it pertains to big bears, moose, elk or bison in North America, there are obviously several potential scenarios of involvement. In the Rocky Mountain States and Provinces/Territories, opportunities could range from a few yards to several hundred. The same is possible in the northern reaches of Canada, including our home Province of Ontario in the northwest, north and northeast. Though we don’t have grizzly/brown bear or bison, some game could still attain at least 1/2 ton at unknown ranges up to 500 yards, or even more. So what rifle cartridges from among the BIG BORES could be made sanely serviceable for big bears, moose, elk, bison, eland, Cape buffalo and Red Stag, keeping in mind that shots could range from 25 yards/meters to as far as you or I might need to shoot a wounded-escaping large, wild animal in the rear?
In recent years, Hornady has been the main enterprise for supporting Big Bore rifles and cartridges, through handloading components and even factory ammo., as well as in the resurrection of a few oldies such as the 450 Nitro Express 3 1/4″.
In addition to multiple TSX bullets being supplied for a plethora of .458-calibers, Barnes also makes available a few for the likes of the .404 Jeff, the .470 NE, the .505 Gibbs, the .500 NE 3″, .500 Jeffery and .577 NE 3″.That should be more than enough for our discussion on BIG BORES for soft-skinned game of 1/2 ton to more than a full ton of wild animal flesh and bone!
In fact, I get weary thinking about it! So, I’m gonna cut to the chase and eliminate most of them due to one cause or another.
I’ve already written a full series on all of them which are found in my archives: “The .458 Winchester Magnum compared to…” etc. But I’ll still mention a few possible candidates besides the favorite .458 Winchester Magnum.
The most likely caliber to compete well with .458″ is .416″. Let’s start with a reasonable weight: .416 Remington Magnum firing a 350gr TSX.
BC = .345
SD = .289
Barrel = 24″
MV= 2627 fps (best from the BARNES #4)/5363 ft-lbs/211 MTE
100= 2379 fps/4396 ft-lbs/173 MTE
200= 2144 fps/3572 ft-lbs/140 MTE
300= 1923 fps/2875 ft-lbs/113 MTE
400= 1718 fps/2293 ft-lbs/ 90 MTE
450= 1622 fps/2043 ft-lbs/ 80 MTE
*I chose the 350gr TSX as it’s likely the one that would be used for a potential long-range shot if needed.
Then finally: The .458 Winchester Magnum. I choose the former 400gr X-Bullet since Barnes doesn’t make a 400 TSX, and for some unknown reason apparently does’t plan to. Because I still have enough of the 400gr X-Bullets to make a trek into the vast regions of Northern Ontario for a big bull moose, that 400gr would go with me.
BC = .457
SD = .272
MV= 2590 fps/5957 ft=lbs/267 MTE
100= 2403 fps/5127 ft-lbs/230 MTE
200= 2224 fps/4390 ft-lbs/197 MTE
300= 2052 fps/3739 ft-lbs/168 MTE
400= 1888 fps/3167 ft-lbs/142 MTE
500= 1734 fps/2669 ft-lbs/120 MTE
*That was an actual load from my current Ruger No.1 .458 Winchester Magnum with a 24″ Mag-na-ported barrel. And it would shoot flat enough to make any shot to 500 yards reasonable on a 1000 to 3000 lb critter.
When in my 60’s, recoil on the order of 48.5 ft-lbs with the Mag-na-ports would have been normal. Today, closing in on 85, I’d not have a problem if shooting from sticks or off-hand. From the bench, about six or seven is about all I want to deal with in one sit down.
There you have it. The only other true Big Bores listed in the common reloading manuals that can match or surpass that load for distance shooting is the .416 Weatherby and .460 Weatherby. But the cost in recoil, weight and $$$ might be too much for the average sportsman. The .416 Weatherby will shoot the 400gr TSX at 2600 fps from a 26″ barrel, but with a BC of only .392 within 50 yards it has fallen behind my 400gr X-Bullet load for the .458 Winchester Magnum with it 24″ barrel. From that point on it only gets worse! The Ruger #1 in .458 WIN shoots flatter and hits harder at all ranges! The .460 WBY can beat my Ruger shooting the 450gr at 2677 fps but the BC of that bullet is only .369 vs .457 for the 400-X, so again, the .458 load from my rifle shoots flatter with only 62% of the recoil found in the .460, and more than plenty for a 3000 lb animal at 500 yards!
All the others: the 404 Jeff, the .500s and the .577 NE fall behind past 300 yards. Apart from the “Jeff”, the others fail as a “serviceable” all-purpose, large-game-soft-skinned cartridge due to weight, limited range and recoil.
The 400gr X-Bullet was my favorite for the .458 Winchester Magnum. Sad, that it’s no longer available.
What about the .458 Lott, surely it’ll equal or better the ballistics of the .458 Winchester Magnum, will it not?
Not really — for evidence and reasons go to: http://www.accuratereloading.com Accurate Reloading Forums/BIG BORES/.458 Winchester Magnum. And the Lott has fallen somewhat out of favor in recent months as the .458 Winchester Magnum is experiencing a resurgence of interest and use.
That’s it for “Moose-size game cartridges compared”.
See ya next time…