The following eight loads consist of seven handloads I’ve developed for my rifle, which worked ideally, plus one Hornady Factory load.
My rifle is pictured on the header and is a Ruger No.1H in .458 Win Mag. The Hornady load hasn’t been fired from my rifle, but I chose it because it appears to be a decent load that actually fulfils its purpose.
Some have complained about the poor performance from factory products. However, some tests of those products do confirm their manufacturer’s claims. Likely, what happened in the past is that some factory .458 Winchester Magnum ammo wasn’t tested before it went to market, and was simply assumed to be both safe and adequate based on the amount of a particular powder loaded before seating bullets. It was also probably assumed that hunters would never notice any differences in effect from a 500gr at 1900 fps or at 2125 fps. In fact, recent tests of some vintage factory ammo, as well as some of more recent manufacture, by Ron Berry (Riflecrank) and “Jerry” (gunner500) on the 24hr Campfire, leaves no doubt that the fired factory products lived up to manufacturers’ claims – and is good ammo.
However, I’ve yet to fire a single factory product in any of my three .458 Win Mag rifles. I’m not adverse to that, but it has to do with the fact that I’m an inveterate handloader, and have no need to purchase factory fodder, or any interest in doing so.
<Some of the bullets I’ve handloaded for my .458s and .45-70s: L to R – 480 DGX, 465 hardcast, 450 Swift AF, 450 Barnes X, 405 Rem, 405 Win, 400 Hawk, 400 Barnes Buster, 350 Hornady RN, 350 Speer, 350 TSX, 350 Hornady with double cannelure, 330 Barnes brass solid, 325 Hornady FTX, 300 Hornady and 300 Sierra. This isn’t a full list.
Here are some others not included in the above:< L to R: a 600 Barnes Original, a 500 Hornady FMJ, 500 Hornady RN, 9th from L, a 400 Barnes Original, and 2nd to right of the 400 Barnes O, a 300 X.
And more: <These are 450gr TSX’s
The following seven handloads fired in my Ruger No.1H reflect something of the excellence of this cartridge in a suitable rifle – primarily its great versatility:
A 500gr at 2300 fps
A 450gr at 2400 fps
A 400gr at 2600 fps
A 350gr at 2780 fps
A 300gr at 2975 fps
A 250gr at 2700 fps
A 550gr at 1650 fps
And a 500gr Hornady factory DGX/DGS at 2140 fps
The last two handloads are reduced loads, and any above those could also be reduced by 25% to bring them in line with the potential of an 1895 Marlin in .45-70 shooting top handloads.
Following are some details of the selected loads presented above (there are several others that could have been chosen):
The 500gr Hornady RN (or DGX/DGS) – often this is selected for developing handloads and their accuracy, and for sighting-in a .458-cal rifle. Sometimes it has been used for hunting (I killed a bear with one), but often a “better bullet” is chosen for the actual hunt that involves DG. But it did give 20 fps higher velocity than a 500gr Speer AGS from an identical load of 81 grains of H4895 in Remington brass, ignited by WLRM primers and 3.58″ COL. Corrected to MV = 2297 fps for the 500 Speer AGS, and 2317 fps, corrected to MV for the 500gr Hornady.
< At 5 yards from the muzzle. Add 14 fps for correction to MV.
Since Hornady lists the same results for the 500gr RN and 500gr DGX/DGS employing the same powder and amount, I’d assume 2300 fps would be close enough for the 500gr DGX as for the 500gr RN from my test results, having yet to fire one (or more) from my new box of 500gr DGX’s.
The DGX bullets are excellent in my view, based on a test of their 480gr DGX that went completely through 15.5 inches of very tough media, impacting a ledge behind the setup, leaving a perfect imprint of the nose of that 480 DGX. By comparison, the 500gr Speer AGS was defeated at 6.5 inches into the media and lost its front core with 62% remaining (310 grains).
< The 500gr Speer AGS is on the far left. The one in the center was a 350gr Hornady RN, and on the right is a 350gr TSX that retained 350 grains after having penetrated 15.5 inches of the media and stopped just inside the last panel of the second box. It retained more weight than the 500gr Speer at 310 grains, and outpenetrated it by nine inches.
I only have 1/2 dozen of those 480s left so went looking for more without success, and came home with a box of the 500 DGX’s. These are bonded and the 480s were not. Since the unbonded penetrated the full test media without expansion, what could we expect from the 500s that are bonded? The Cape buffs should head for cover…
2300 fps from a 500 = 5872 ft-lbs KE at the muzzle.
The 450gr Swift A-Frame at 2403 fps: COL @ 3.53″; 84 grains H335; WLRM primers; Remington brass. This load hasn’t been tested in media (yet), but I’ve no doubts of its utility on large game – it simply doesn’t need more tests to prove itself based on feedback from African safaris, including PH’s. This is presented to show what’s possible from a Ruger No.1H, or a magazine rifle like the CZ550. Of course, in the CZ a second cannelure must be created midway between the manufactured cannelure and the bullet base. Or, because the 450 AF’s jacket is relatively “soft”, one could use a LEE crimp die that will make a groove for crimping, and/or a tool that makes cannelures wherever we need ’em. Though not specifically called for in a single-shot, I use my LEE crimp die anyway for those 450gr Swifts (under the 550gr Woodleigh box above).
A 400gr Barnes X-Bullet at 2590 fps: I still have eight of those, and saving them if ever I should do another moose hunt… which is unlikely. However, I’m still in the game for a possible big bruin! I already know the load I’d use, so I’d practice with a bunch of other 400s (Speer, Remington, Barnes, etc), use a couple for sight in and reserve the rest for the hunt.
This bullet had, and has, such a reputation that is was pronounced “the best” for all-around hunting of BG from a .458 Win Mag by none others than Finn Aagaard and Phil Shoemaker! And I would add my vote to theirs.
Just do the math! At nearly 2600 fps and a B.C. of .457, and a sectional density of .272, we have an energyof ~3300 ft-lbs at 400 yards!
So, I’ll hang onto mine until I sense I’ll need ’em for a bear or moose… or until I can get my hands on some of those new 404gr Hammers that have replaced the long-gone 400 X’s… Thanks to Sir Ron on the 24hr campfire!
COL for the 400gr X-Bullet at 2590 fps from my 24″ Ruger No.1H barrel was 3.61″. Powder was a “max load” (for my rifle) of H4198. I’ll not give the load as it may be too much for some rifles, especially if they use a shorter COL. I’ll simply say: “It was borrowed”, wiith some extrapolation on my part. The primer was what I always use in my .458 (WLRM).
The 350gr TSX: Don’t discount this bullet as a bit light for dangerous game like lion or large buffalo! It has been very effective on both! I know of one cull of Australian water buffalo that took over 100 by a Canadian, and he pronounced the 350gr TSX at about 2650 fps MV as effective as a 450 AF and better than the 420gr CE at max ranges to around 200 yards. Close in, the 450 Swift was best, followed by the TSX and CE (the 420 CE was no better than the 350 TSX at close range, he said). I killed one bear using this bullet at 2750 fps. It zipped through from frontal chest to right flank so quickly that it didn’t have time to expand much. And the young bear didn’t know it was dead until nothing worked anymore.
< I load the 350gr TSX to a COL of 3.44″
The 300gr TSX: And don’t discount this one either! It’s one of my all-time favorites! With the increased scarceness of component bullets these days, if all I had left were some 300gr TSX’s, I certainly would’t feel forsaken or undergunned! At up to nearly 3000 fps it can take anything coming it’s way, including buffalo, lion, the big bears and giant moose, etc! It’s main fault, of course, is a rather poor profile for long-range shooting. But at 2975 fps from the muzzle, it’s still going over 1600 fps at 400 yards. Nearly1800 ft-lbs (whatever we might think about KE) from a .458-cal bullet that will still expand and retain near 100% of its unfired weight, isn’t going to be laughed at by a mature elk or moose! It has been successfully used on grizzly at “in your face” range, and DRT!
The 250gr MonoFlex: In my rifle it is sighted dead-on at 150 yards. As said already, it’s a reduced load at about 2680 fps. It could be pushed out the muzzzle at over 3000 fps. But the purpose of the load is for bear and deer where I mostly hunt these days around an hour’s drive from my house.
It’s a mono bullet without lead, and has a smallish cavity with a red-pointed poly tip for slightly improved ballistics at range. Yet, it’s also a very tough bullet, made especially for lever-action Marlins in 450 Marlin and .45-70. Said to be by Hornady “made for large game like moose and elk”, and big bears. I’m pushing it quite a bit faster than a Marlin lever-action could make – that’s obvious. From bench tests that I’ve recently done on a bunch of .458-cal bullets, it’s as tough as the best! Obviously, despite the pointy tip, it has a very poor B.C. of only .175 – but even then it’s BC is better than a shotgun slug! For my intentions, it’s perfect!
The 550gr Woodleigh: I didn’t need a bullet this heavy with a bonded core. Yet, I wanted to test its potential in media at a variety of speeds, and at the current load’s velocity it could be useful on bear at the ranges I hunt them – 50 to 150 yards.
The 500gr Hornady factory DGX/DGS: Dr Ron Berry has done tests that reveal Hornady’s claims are exact: 2140 fps/5084 ft-lbs KE. There’s really no need for anything else if an African safari for elephant, rhino, hippo or Cape buffalo is on the agenda.
RECOIL of the various loads above from my 10.6 lb rifle (with a few cartridges in a stock ammo holder). My rifle has Mag-Na-Porting so I’ll put those approximate results in brackets:
The 500gr Hornady handload = 66 ft-lbs (56 ft-lbs)
The 450gr Swift AF handload = 61 ft-lbs (52 ft-lbs)
The 400gr Barnes X handload = 57.5 ft-lbs (49 ft-lbs)
The 350gr TSX handload = 55.6 ft-lbs (47 ft-lbs)
The 300gr TSX handload = 51.4 ft-lbs (44 ft-lbs)
The 250gr MonoFlex handload = 28.4 ft-lbs (24 ft-lbs)
The 550gr Woodleigh handload = 32.9 ft-lbs (28 ft-lbs)
About recoil: Many factors influence “felt” recoil: The above numbers can only be compared with one another because they are all from the same rifle, same basic weight for all loads, and how I hold it.
<This was my CZ550 in .458 Win Mag. The Burris fixed 4x scope had a long eye relief of 5″, and often for a relative long shot the sling went over my right elbow, acting as a brace for increased steadyness.
Generally, the physics of these loads is adjusted to the ballistics. A relatively “slow” moving projectile will give a sense of a heavy push from a heavy rifle, whereas a “fast” relatively light bullet from a “light” rifle will give a quicker – sharper recoil effect even though the numbers say the recoil should be less than a “big bore” shooting a heavy bullet. The difference in “felt” recoil? The recoil from a heavy big-bore rifle shooting a relatively “heavy” bullet is spread over more time.
Hoping this provides some insights into the exceptional serviceability of the grand .458 Winchester Magnum.
Til the next…