It seems that such discussions from various media sources ultimately deteriorate into splitting hairs. But how much accuracy is needed from any rifle to terminate the intended game? It’s quite often assumed that Big Bores (.40-cal to ?) either are incapable of producing “fine accuracy”, or don’t need to as they are intended for larger game at relatively close ranges. While that may be true under certain conditions, yet absolutely NOT under all.
From the multiple professional videos I’ve watched in addition to some print media, a PH frequently calls for a shot by the client on a Cape Buffalo through a relatively small “hole” in thick thorn bush cover. And often enough a precision type shot is urgent on a fast escaping wounded leopard or grizzly headed in the opposite direction, or in a quarter-on-angle towards the hunter in a charge from fifteen yards! In such scenarios MOA may not be essential but extreme confidence is, and that is chiefly gained in developing the load, and by a great deal of practice with it from various positions. But if the inherent accuracy is only mediocre at best…. how much confidence will that inspire in a life and death encounter with a revengeful beast?
<Field practice is essential in developing confidence. This was my CZ 550 loaded with a 405gr at ~2400 fps in the Haliburton Highlands 93 kms from home.
Personally speaking, I want as much accuracy from my BIG BORES as is humanly possible or they will not go on a hunt with me! And as to inherent accuracy, all my big-bore rifles proved to be as accurate as I was, and often more so! Sub-MOA to MOA was the norm, though under field conditions, unless a rest was used, results were what they were, sometimes on a quickly departing animal! At others, a stationary game animal from offhand or from a rest.
So a smaller-bore rifle (.30-cal?) that shoots itty-bitty groups of five at a hundred… what will their accuracy be under the terms described above?
Some (many?) say it depends on the recoil of a rifle, therefore a hunter (any hunter?) can shoot better under the stress of urgency using a common round like a .30-06 than a BIG BORE. Really? I’m doubtful of that for a number of reasons:
1) It might take more than a single shot to accomplish DRT from a charging Cape Buff, lion, grizzly, black bear, moose, bison… or you name it!
2) A savvy hunter experienced with his BIG BORE will keep his calm much better under intense danger with a .458 Win he trusts than a .308 Win he doesn’t ! Therefore he’ll shoot better with the BIG BORE!
3) My experience with BIG BORES is limited to .458-caliber in multiple .45-70s and three .458 Win Mags. I’d be seriously disappointed if I failed to develop a multi-purpose load in any of them that didn’t shoot MOA… consistently… and in some instances, one hole groups of three at 100 yards.
4) Such experiences breeds confidence – and by the time hunting season rolls around, recoil is a faint memory.
The following paragraph shouldn’t be passed over lightly even though it’s basics have been made in these blogs multiple times, or that I’m considered as “prejudiced” in promotion of the .458 Winchester. If so, I think I CAN and have made a pretty decent argument as to why it’s TRUTH for those who want the experience of killing game from medium to large, and even dangerous, in the use of a true BIG BORE.
While there are others, the advantages of .458-caliber shouldn’t be ignored due to an incomparible variety of bullets from manufacturers, plus innumerable moulds to make your own, and all that in addition to many suitable propellants. Any gun powder that works well, or is manufactured for the .223 Rem is a candidate for .45-70s and .458 Win Mags – and they are indeed plenty! Mostly, I’ve used these three: AA2015, H4198 and H335. H4198 had replaced RL-7, and more recently AA2230 and 2460 has come along as perhaps the best for heavier bullets in the .458 Win Mag. Also, Accurate 5744 is ideal for reduced loads. Is there anything that can’t be done using a good, appropriate load in the .458 Win?
But there are other .45-calibers, some of which are still in use on mega fauna, and date back to the pre-smokless powder era, including the .45-70, .45-90 and .45-110, plus others.
My first choice of bullets for my first 1895 Marlin with the micro-groove barrel, were 300gr Sierras and Hornadys, 350 RN Hornadys and the 400gr Speer FP. At the time (about 1990), I owned a .338 Win Mag in the Sako FS so had high expectations for the Marlin at closer ranges- it’s first hunt was for a black bear, of which I’ve told that story several times. I shot the bear ( a very good one) using the 400gr Speer. In the following photo, it was on it’s maiden trip for whitetail deer in the woods of Haliburton Highlands. The load was a 350gr Hornady RN at about 2100 fps – good enough for the largest moose of the area, and likely plenty for an Alaskan grizzly within range. As said, I had high hopes for that first .45-70. The powder was RL-7.
<This is a pic of a photograph taken by my old 35mm camera… since given to somebody… I don’t remember to whom. It was taken by my partner, Bob, a retired school principle. Since those days I’ve used digital and have lost a few hundred in a computer which I no longer have. That was my first 1895 Marlin in .45-70.
It stands out in my memory that I developed – or was it instinctive – more confidence in the Marlin .45-70 than in my Sako FS in .338 WM for larger game at closer quarters. And I never had an experience that changed that view of matters, even as time passed.
As an indication of that, consider this: A .458-cal 405gr at 1667 fps is equal in momentum to a 250gr/.338-cal at 2700 fps. The Marlin could shoot the 405gr Remington at up to 2120 fps!
The TE (Terminal Effect) from my .340 Wby at 165 yards, on the bull moose killed by it, was 83.75 TE. I had my Marlin as a backup, loaded with the 405gr at +2100 fps. At 165 yards the velocity impact would have been 1687 fps for a 102 TE !! At the time, I sensed that the Marlin would have performed better than the .340 Wby at that range just from the size hole it made in game, plus its train-like momentum! Of course, the .340 was there for potential shots to 500 – 600 yards in open clearcuts. But a cross-sectional bullet area of .1650 sq-in from a .458-shouldn’t be ignored vs .0897 sq-in from a .338. That’s an 18% advantage in potential displacement of tissue and bone that favors the larger bore, plus a slight advantage in momentum!
And let’s not forget the comparison being made here: a Marlin in .45-70 vs a .340 Wby Mag! If we up the ante to a Ruger No.1 in .45-70 LT (long throat) the advantage of .458-cal over .338-cal is magnified 1.63 times over the .338 Win in momentum as well as 1.83 times in cross-sectional area! More or less the same for the Weatherby version in .338. Then, go with the .458 Win Mag and any advantage is only proportionally increased.
And what does all that have to do with a Big Bore’s accuracy, one might ask? Plenty! It’s only logical to assume that if accuracy is equal (or thereabouts) in .458 with .338 calibers, it’s a win-win situation for the .458-cal shooter-hunter! No arguments entertained that could possibly be logical!
<These were from three 225gr AccuBonds at 100 yards. Corrected to 2838 fps… recently from my .35 Whelen. Recoil was about 33 ft-lbs.
“Yes but…”, splitting hairs are we? “The .338 Win or .338 Edge, or .338 Lapua, or….” are better at longer ranges for moose-size game? How far is “longer ranges”? Yes, I’ve gone on record in stating that my .340 Wby was created for those “potential” ranges of 500 – 600 yards in the “Far North” of our province. But the actual prospect of that happening was less than one in fifty because 9 out of 10 shot in that area of N. Ontario are harvested inside 200 yards, and only one in four tries by an individual resident hunter living outside that area is usually successful. So 5% of those 25% is what for shots beyond 200 yards? That’s barely more than one chance in a hundred of being successful in taking any moose beyond 200 yards for someone like myself who was still on a learning curve of the particular area I was hunting in. I’ve yet to hear or read of a bona-fide report of anyone harvesting a moose in that area at 500 to 600 yards – and that’s not to say it never, ever happened, but I switched to a .458 Win and a load that was good (so I thought at the time) for up to a 400 yard shot on moose, which would have been much more realistic as a “long shot”.
I’ve known a fellow at our range, who is about my age, who went with a group to N. Ontario on an annual moose hunt. Over somewhere between fifteen to twenty years he personally killed three moose, all less than 400 yards. He started with a 270 Win and found it completely outclassed for that area. He had wounded one bull with the 270 at something over 200 yards and he along with some of the group spent a full day searching for the bull. It was finally found, and still very much alive, but then quickly dispatched. He traded or sold his .270 for a 7 Rem Mag which he said after a hunt that it was not that much better than the .270. Finally, he got a .338 Win Mag (which I’d suggested to him) and with handloads of the 210gr Nosler Partition he killed two bull moose in two years, one at just under 300 yards and the last at about 400. My friend, “Jim”, has not done a moose hunt going back several years. In fact, he no longer shows up at the range. I’m unsure if he’s still with us, but I did hear from him a couple of times via email.
But to put it all in a reality happening: If today I were to visit that region once more for a bull moose, here are the probables:
1) A long trip of 1000 miles (1600 kms) by auto (truck, SUV, car). 160 litres of gas @ $1.5 per L x2 (there and back, plus driving around in scouting while there = +30 litres) = 350 litres minimum x $1.5 = $525 for fuel alone. Plus all other foreseen and unforeseen expenses.
2) A partner.
3) Equipment: trailer and camping gear.
4) Plus safety equipment, GPS and phones.
5) Food and drink.
7) Rifles and all other equipment related to seeing game, knowing ranges and secure setups for accurate shooting.
8) My limit would be ~500 yards under ideal conditions: time to calculate range and wind; stance of animal; animal not moving; very steady setup of rifle from a standing/sitting/kneeling position – not prone in using a .458 Win.
9) Field dressing.
10) Retrieval of game. Securing it from contamination.
11) Dismantling camp.
12) 1000 mile drive home.
Would it be worth it? Again? No, not really at this time in my life. If I were 50 to 60 again, then all matters considered I’d propably do that adventure. But with the odds of a 25% chance of success…? I might stay home and shoot a bear!
But in theory, I’m discussing the NEEDED accuracy of such a hunt in the “Far North” in using a Big Bore rifle at up to ~ 500 yards on game the size of a mature bull moose.
Bullet: 404gr Shock Hammer; .419 BC; .275 SD
Ambient conditions: Temp = 40*F average; RH = 60%; Elevation = 1200 ft.
Rifle: Ruger No.1H in .458 Win Mag
Scope: 2 – 7 x 32mm Nikon
Weight ready = 10.65 lbs (5 cartridges + scope and sling)
MV = 2550 fps/ 5835 ft-lbs
500 = 1630 fps/ 2383 ft-lbs/ -50.8″
Zero @ 250 yards
Will the 404gr Hammer bullet expand adequately at 1630 fps on a through the lungs hit? I believe so, but that needs verification from experience which is yet lacking.
In any case, 2383 ft-lbs is usually more than plenty for a mature bull moose if the bullet hits vitals. More importantly, however, is impact velocity, SD and cartridge caliber that, altogether, = 99 TE at 500 yards. That’s indeed, more than plenty – if the bullet works as advertised!
Recoil: about 48 – 49 ft-lbs from my rifle with the Mag-Na-Porting. That’s a bit less than my .340 Wby at 54 ft-lbs on that historic moose hunt.
Trajectory of the 250gr NP wasn’t a concern on that hunt, neither sould it be on the simulated hunt using the 404gr Hammer bullet at 2550 fps from a .458 Win Mag.
A mature Canada bull moose can go to 1400 lbs, though an average one might be 1100 – 1200 lbs. That’s still a big target to hit in the vitals (heart-lung) of up to a 30″ circle! Obviously, a range finder is critical. But at ~ 500 yards, with a drop of about 51 inches below the reticle’s center cross bar, many scopes today have dots and/or bars across the vertical line to compensate for that drop below absolute center of the reticle. So 500 yards is quite doable for the above load in an accurate .458 Win assuming a solid rest with confidence built on continued use of the rifle and load.
But there’s the rub…! The emotional cost will be in making a decision to use that BIG BORE for far more hunting than two or three trips to Africa in a lifetime!
“Is a BIG BORE needed for moose-size game at 500 yards?”
That’s off topic… which is a BIG BORE’S accuracy – implied: are they, or can they be accurate enough for a long (500 yd?) poke on a medium to large game animal? I think that’s been answered.
But the real questions are: Is the shooter accurate enough, and will he ever need to experience a 500 + yard shot from his BIG BORE?
This is realistic as to potential ranges where I hunt in Haliburton Highlands.There are two dark objects side by side to the left of the photo just in front of the trees on the far shore… How far? Moose? When the pic is blown up to about 9″ wide on a computer screen, the visual effect is what I saw without optical aid. I didn’t have my rangefinder to check, but I’d say it’s less than 200 yards. From a standing offhand shot could I have made it, though my .458 was capable?
It turned out to be an “optical illusion”, but we always must check with binoculars before shooting phantoms or something illegal! Because moose are black (in these parts), as well as black bears, we MUST have binoculars handy! And how might that affect one chance in a lifetime, no matter the rifle in hand? Hunters in Ontario MUST wear Hunter Orange that would stand out brilliantly against a dark green background.
If those were two side by side adult moose, either they would have been a cow and calf or a bull and a cow – first they would have had to be identified in binoculars. Since I was alone, and scouting, the binos would have been dropped, hanging by their strap from my neck, the rifle raised, aimed (from offhand), then waiting for the cow or bull (depending on the license) to turn at least to a quarter-on shot. How much time for all that? Using the sling over my offside elbow for steadiness, taking a deep breath and… how much longer before the right animal presents a realistic shot? What about the wind? And so on… The .458 can shoot MOA, but can I shoot 3 MOA? At 200 yards that’s at least 3 in a 6″ circle! But what if…? the moose swings and heads back into the trees? And I didn’t bring a boat! That’s an awful lot of work ahead!
Shooting accurately may turn out to be the easier part! A few years earlier, I did a moose call from a couple hundred yards from where I took that pic. That was a week before the season opened to see if I’d get a response – if there were moose in the area. I called in a bear instead – a BIG one – to within 50 yards from where I took the above photo! I told that story last time – I passed on it because of some circumstances I didn’t like…. time of day and being alone. Now a bull moose, on the other hand, would outweigh that 400 lb bear by up to three times!
If I’d recommend a partner for a 400 lb bear, how much more so for a moose! It turns out that “fine accuracy” is, in a very real sense, the least of some other potential challengers.
Till the next… .264 calibers