The .458 Winchester Magnum & I : A Fair Assessment

Major Khan

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There is no question about it . Over the last 61 years of my life as a hunter ( 10 of which , were spent as a professional shikaree ... Working under the employment of Allwyn Cooper Limited in Nagpur , India from 1961 - 1970 ) , I have not had many good things to say about the .458 Winchester magnum. Hell , I have been downright contemptful towards this caliber . A good deal of trouble , the .458 Winchester magnum has caused me ... During my career as a professional shikaree . How ever , all of this was more than 5 decades ago . My learned ( and experienced ) fellow forum members @HWL , @Timbo , @Captain Nwz , @Velo Dog , @Badboymelvin and @Doug Hamilton have had reasonably successful results with this caliber in recent times . And this is is what has inspired me to write an article today , about the .458 Winchester magnum . An article , where a I try to be as fair to it as possible . Information provided on this article are derived from a mixture of my personal experiences with the caliber , the experiences of certain people whom I personally know and information taken from numerous credible and unbiased sources .


For the purposes of this article , I am going to lay it out in 3 sections or posts :

> The .458 Winchester Magnum Of Our Time

> The .458 Winchester Magnum : Survival To Modernity

> Verdict


With out further ado ... Let us begin , Dear Readers .
A8E6846E-2D7F-446B-94C2-5BBE5D93D9C0.png

The late Tobin Stakkatz , carrying his .458 Winchester magnum caliber rifle ... Custom built on a Springfield Model 1903 action . After a successful hunt for an American Black Bear . Photograph taken by myself .
 

Major Khan

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The .458 Winchester Magnum Of Our Time

I was 15 years old , when Winchester Western 1st introduced their brand new “ Short Magnum “ : The .458 Winchester magnum . 5 years later , I would actually begin to see it being used in the shikar field ... By countless of my clients .


During my career , here are the following .458 Winchester magnum caliber rifles ... Which I have actually seen being used , in the shikar field :

> Pre 64 Winchester Model 70 ( With long claw format extractor )

> Post 64 Winchester Model 70 ( With plunger format extractor )

> Pre 1962 Fabrique Nationale / Browning Mauser ( With long claw format extractor )

> Post 1962 Fabrique Nationale / Browning Mauser ( With plunger format extractor )

> Birmingham Small Arms Emperor

> Birmingham Small Arms Majestic

> Remington Model 700

> Mannlicher Schoenauer

> Mauser Model 66

> Custom bolt rifles built on Springfield Model 1903 , Enfield Model 1917 or salvaged military surplus Mauser 98 actions

> Double barreled side by side rifles built by Holland & Holland , Auguste Francotte , Dumoulin or Franz Sodia .

> Double barreled over under rifles built by Dumoulin or Franz Sodia


During my career , here are the following makes of .458 Winchester magnum caliber factory loaded ammunition ... Which I have actually seen being used , in the shikar field :

> Winchester Super Speed 500 grain solid metal covered ( “ Full Metal Jacket “ ) cupronickel jacketed round nosed cartridges.

> Winchester Super Speed 510 grain soft point round nosed cartridges

> Remington Peters 500 grain solid metal covered ( “ Full Metal Jacket “ ) steel jacketed round nosed cartridges.

> Remington Peters 510 grain soft point round nosed cartridges


I have also seen countless of my clients bring hand loaded cartridges to India , for shikar . These were invariably loaded with Hornady brand 500 grain bullets . Prior to 1961 , Hornady used to manufacture their solid metal covered bullets with copper coated steel jackets . After 1961 , Hornady replaced the copper coated steel jackets with a cupronickel jacket .



In 13 of the 17 states of India , the Game Departments had enforced the following legal regulation : If a foreign client hunter wished to acquire a permit for shooting a royal Bengal tiger , gaur bison or Moheesh water buffalo ... Then , the .375 Holland & Holland magnum was the lightest caliber which he /she were permitted to use . Since ICI Kynoch had completely ceased manufacturing all center fire ammunition in 1963 , practically all of the heritage British sporting calibers ( Such as .505 Gibbs ) had disappeared during the time of my career . The only large calibers for which factory loaded ammunition or re loading components could be found ... Were the .375 Holland & Holland magnum , .378 Weatherby magnum , .458 Winchester magnum and .460 Weatherby magnum .


With out veering too much off topic , let us just say that the excessively high velocity of the Weatherby magnums made them undesirable for field use on dangerous game . That left most sports men with but 2 options : The .375 Holland & Holland magnum and the .458 Winchester magnum . Now , the .375 Holland & Holland magnum was ( Ans still is ) an exceptionally magnificent little cartridge . But since the largest of our Indian royal Bengal tigers can weigh up to 600 pounds , and the largest of our Indian gaur bison can weigh in excess of 3000 pounds ... It goes with out saying that countless sportsmen felt the need to kick things up a notch .



Enter the .458 Winchester magnum . Both Winchester and Remington Peters used to advertise their wares ... As being capable of propelling a 500 grain bullet at a velocity of 2130 feet per second . Indeed , when the .458 Winchester magnum caliber ammunition of our time succeeded in accomplishing this advertised velocity ... It was a magnificent thing to use . The problem was that most .458 Winchester magnum caliber ammunition of our time ... Was NOT able to deliver what their manufacturers had advertised .
275C2036-4E70-4849-95E9-F34AA584A8FB.jpeg

Sample taken from Winchester Western 1965 catalog . Taken from the “ International Ammunition Association “ web site .
9D3259BD-7080-4BE3-A038-B339BB6297BB.png

Sample taken from Remington Peter’s 1966 catalog . Taken from “ International Ammunition Association “ web site .


Winchester Super Speed factory loaded cartridges were the worst of it’s kind . In fact , I dare say that their product quality control ... Was down right criminal . Winchester was loading their factory manufactured .458 Winchester magnum caliber cartridges , with “ Olin Propellant Powder “ . This propellant powder was prone to clumping together ... And when this happened , the entire charge of propellant powder was frequently failing to ignite . The end results were disastrous . Fluctuations in velocity frequently resulted in speeds which were much lower than 1950 feet per second . This was not even close to the minimum acceptable speed for a 500 ( Or 510 ) grain bullet to travel ... In order to successfully punch in to the vital organs of a large male royal Bengal tiger or a large male gaur bison . To make matters worse , Winchester was loading their factory manufactured ammunition with ( What was possibly ) the most flimsily constructed bullets ... Of all time . Even at the fairly dismal velocities of 1950 feet per second , the bullets were encountering beastly amounts of distortion . 500 grain “ solid “ metal covered bullets were bending badly , up on striking the shoulder or rib bones of large male gaur bison . 510 grain soft point bullets were completely disintegrating , when being fired in to the chest muscles of a charging male royal Bengal tiger . How ever , Winchester’s most heinous crime was that they were frequently using UNDER SIZED bullets to load their .458 Winchester magnum cartridges . What was happening , was that 500 grain bullets were often being fired from rifle barrels ... With out even engaging the rifling !


Remington Peters factory loaded cartridges were marginally better , but only just . FRESHLY MANUFACTURED ammunition was actually capable of achieving the advertised velocity of 2130 feet per second . How ever , ammunition which was stored for more than a year ... Would develop erratic velocities . Velocities which were , in fact FAR lower than what was advertised. The solid metal covered ( Steel jacketed ) bullets were reasonably well constructed , and could be expected to properly penetrate in to the vital organs of a gaur bison from most angles . How ever , even these “ solid “ bullets would distort and bend terribly ... Upon striking the shoulder bones , or when being used for frontal heart shots on the heaviest of the male gaur bison . The 510 grain soft point bullets were excellent , and FRESH soft point cartridges were magnificent performers on the heaviest of royal Bengal tigers .



Countless of my American clients were passionate hand loaders , and I have seen my fair share of hand loaded .458 Winchester magnum caliber cartridges being brought to India for shikar . Back in those days , IMR 3031 powder was invariably the standard propellant powder ... Which was used for re loading cartridges . And Hornady bullets were the standard projectiles , which were used by hand loaders . FRESHLY hand loaded cartridges were , indeed capable of achieving a decent velocity of 2130 feet per second . How ever , if the loaded cartridges were kept unused for more than a year ... Then , velocities became erratic ( Just like the aforementioned Remington Peters factory loaded cartridges ) . The Hornady solid metal covered bullets which were manufactured prior to 1961 , had impressively thick copper coated steel jackets . Freshly hand loaded cartridges with these bullets were capable of CLEANLY breaking the shoulder bone of the heaviest 3000 pound male gaur bison , and penetrating in to it’s heart . The recovered bullets never showed even the slightest perceptible signs of distortion . In 1962 , Hornady ( In an attempt to reduce costs ) replaced their copper coated steel jackets on these “ Solid “ bullets with a ( relatively ) inferior cupronickel jacket . While These cupronickel jacketed “ Solid “ bullets could be expected to perform reasonably well on normal gaur bison , at most angles ... They were prone to severe distortion up on striking the shoulder bones of our heaviest gaur bison , and also when frontal heart shots had to be made on these 3000 pound brutes .


2 problems were evident in all the variations of .458 Winchester magnum caliber ammunition ( Be It Winchester , Remington Peters or hand loaded cartridges ) :

> Loaded ammunition could not be left unused for longer than a year ... With out the velocities becoming erratic .

> Loaded ammunition which had been kept unused for longer than a year , would slowly begin to push the bullets out of the cartridge cases ... Past the point of the original crimp . This would invariably cause feeding problems ... Especially in bolt rifles utilizing short actions , such as the Fabrique Nationale Mauser rifles .


During my 10 year career as a professional shikaree , 2 very grave tragedies can be attributed to the .458 Winchester magnum .

My best friend and former fellow professional shikaree , the late Tobin Stakkatz actually lost a kidney ... When he had been gored by an enraged gaur bison which had been wounded by a client’s .458 Winchester magnum caliber Birmingham Small Arms Majestic rifle . The reminiscence of that horrifying day , may be read here :



The closest I ever got to getting killed during my career ... Was when I was nearly mauled by a charging royal Bengal tiger , which was wounded by a client’s .458 Winchester magnum caliber Auguste Francotte double barreled rifle . The reminiscence of that bone chilling brush with death , may be read here :



Needless to say ... I was not a fan of the .458 Winchester magnum caliber , through out the entirety of my career . But would that change , over the years ?
 

Major Khan

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The .458 Winchester Magnum : Survival To Modernity


Even after I retired from my career as a professional shikaree in 1971 , I have closely followed the development of the .458 Winchester magnum ... Remaining skeptical as to whether or not the performance of the cartridge could ever be made more acceptable . In 1973 , Winchester had slightly reduced the powder charge of their .458 Winchester magnum caliber factory loaded ammunition ... In an attempt to prolong shelf life . In 1975 , Remington Peters undertook the same course of action . Winchester and Remington Peters catalogs from 1973 and 1975 ( Respectively ) , both list the advertised velocity for their .458 Winchester magnum caliber cartridges as being 2120 feet per second . How ever , the problems with a short shelf life were still very much present .
EE399309-A06A-4585-AD6C-A2AC7D7E7E10.jpeg

Sample taken from Winchester Western’s 1973 catalog . Taken from “ International Ammunition Association “ web site.
7A273CFF-0B2D-4AA8-BA71-4F746D0B3F26.png

Sample taken from Remington Peter’s 1975 catalog . Taken from “ International Ammunition Association “ Web Site .


In 1978 , Winchester further reduced the powder charge of their .458 Winchester magnum caliber factory loaded cartridges . Now , they advertised the velocity as 2040 feet per second . In 1979 , Remington undertook the same course of action .
73ADFAE8-7912-4537-AE7B-EBE5A670DA97.jpeg

Sample taken from Winchester Western’s 1978 catalog . Taken from “ International Ammunition Association “ web site .
7B0EB3D7-D7CD-4F64-9CC0-1BB1521A1B3E.png

Sample taken from Remington Peter’s 1979 catalog . Taken from “ International Ammunition Association “ web site .





This course of action , more or less absolved the .458 Winchester magnum of it’s shelf life problems . The problem now , was that the .458 Winchester magnum factory loaded cartridges were repeatedly proving inadequate on frontal brain shots on the largest of the African bull elephants . Mr. Mike LaGrange ( A professional Zimbabwe based elephant culler , who was in charge of a culling team at Nyamanetchi in the 1980s and personally dispatched upwards of 6000 African elephants while under the employment of the Department Of National Parks & Wild Life Management ) documents the problem , impartially in his book “ Ballistics In Perspective “ ( 1980 ) . The culling officers were issued pre 1962 Fabrique Nationale Mauser rifles , chambered in .458 Winchester magnum ... For contending with matriarch cow elephants ( And the odd bull elephant ) . The short comings of a 500 grain .458 caliber bullet being propelled at a velocity of 2040 feet per second ... Soon became evident , when frontal brain shots on large bull elephants had to be taken .


In 1984 , A Square ( Owned by Colonel Art Alphin ) began to supply the Department Of National Parks & Wild Life Management with specially loaded ammunition .... For use in the elephant culling programs . These were Remington Peters cartridge cases , loaded with 500 grain Hornady solid metal covered bullets ( Which , by this point had resumed using copper coated steel jackets ... Once more ) to achieve the original 1960s era advertised velocity of 2130 feet per second . These were reliable performers on even the largest and most dangerous of game ... As long as FRESHLY manufactured ammunition was used . The shelf life problems associated with the pre 1978 era Winchester and Remington Peters factory loaded ammunition had returned again .
4B6B0F5A-396C-40F3-957F-B91C553704EF.png

Page taken from “ Ballistics In Perspective “ 2nd Edition ( 1990 ) by Mr. Mike LaGrange .



In 1991 , A Square began to load their factory manufactured .458 Winchester magnum cartridges with a 465 grain homogeneous bullet made out of naval bronze ( The “ Monolithic Solid “ bullet ) and advertised a velocity of 2200 feet per second . These A Square brand factory loaded 465 grain cartridges were reliable performers on the largest of dangerous game ... As long as FRESHLY loaded ammunition was used . The late Ganyana / Don Heath ( An African White Hunter and fire arms writer ) reported that if this A Square .458 Winchester magnum caliber factory loaded ammunition was stored for upwards of 3 years , then velocities would begin to become erratic ( Often reading as low as 1700 feet per second , on chronographs ) . A Square Monolithic solid bullets were also reported to prematurely wear out the rifling inside barrels , in less than 500 firings ( How ever , that is a completely different discuss ... Altogether ) .


In 1992 , Federal began to offer loaded .458 Winchester magnum caliber ammunition . They were loaded with 500 grain Trophy Bonded Bear Claw soft point bullets and 500 grain Trophy Bonded Sledge Hammer Solid Metal covered bullets . These revolutionary new flat nosed bullets had lead cores , which were chemically fused ( Or “ Bonded “ ) to thick bronze jackets . These were loaded to achieve a velocity of merely 1950 feet per second . For obvious reasons , it can be understood why hunters of thick skinned dangerous game were not satisfied with these velocities . Then , there were also reports that Trophy Bonded Bullets had deteriorated in quality , once their inventor ( Mr. Jack Carter ) ceased to be involved in their manufacturing processing .


During this time , the Speer brand began to manufacture a .458 caliber 500 grain bullet ... Which employed a Tungsten core . An interesting property about Tungsten , is that it has more mass than lead . Thus , a 500 grain Tungsten cored bullet was shorter than a traditional 500 grain lead cored bullet . This used to be a GODSEND for hand loaders of the .458 Winchester magnum , because it allowed operators to load larger charges of propellant powder in to the cartridge cases and achieve more desirable velocities . How ever , these are sadly discontinued .


Some time after 1996 , Hornady developed a line of factory loaded .458 Winchester magnum caliber ammunition ... Which they referred to , as the “ Heavy Magnum “ . These were advertised to propel steel jacketed round nosed 500 grain bullets at an advertised velocity of 2200 feet per second. This would have probably been the perfect factory loaded ammunition for the .458 Winchester magnum ... Had 1 serious flaw not existed . The advertised shelf life was only 6 months . After a few years , Hornady finally discontinued their “ Heavy Magnum “ line .


In 2004 , Hornady developed their line of “ Dangerous Game “ factory loaded ammunition ... Which included an offering in .458 Winchester magnum. These came in 2 variants :

> Dangerous Game Solid ( DGS ) : A solid metal covered steel jacketed flat nosed 500 grain cartridge .

> Dangerous Game eXpanding ( DGX ) : A soft point 500 grain cartridge .


Advertised velocity is 2140 feet per second . Velocity wise , it appears that Hornady has finally succeeded in delivering what the .458 Winchester magnum was advertised as delivering ... In 1956 . How ever , the construction of Hornady bullets appeared to have severely deteriorated by this point . Hornady appears to have finally rectified the problem in recent years , by “ Bonding “ the jackets of their bullets to the lead cores ... And recent reports indicate that the .458 Winchester magnum caliber is finally sailing in clear waters ( Although the occasional report of poor field performance , still surfaces from time to time ) .
 
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Major Khan

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Verdict


There is no question about it . The .458 Winchester magnum uses a disproportionately small cartridge casing . Even it’s staunchest supporters can not deny this fact . Let us use the .375 Holland & Holland magnum , as an example . It has a 3 inch cartridge casing’s worth of propellant powder and propels a 300 grain bullet at admirable velocities . The .458 Winchester magnum propels a 500 grain bullet ( Which is 200 grains heavier than what the .375 Holland & Holland magnum uses ) , yet utilizes a 2.5 inch cartridge casing’s worth of propellant powder . This is , by design alone ... Conceptually wrong . What it needed was a larger cartridge casing than the .375 Holland & Holland magnum . Not a smaller 1 . In order to achieve the ORIGINAL advertised velocity ( 2130 feet per second) , Winchester and Remington Peters ( As well as hand loaders ) had to compress the powder charge inside the cartridges which they were loading . This is the very flaw which Jack Lott’s creation “ The .458 Lott “ and Don Allen’s creation “ The .450 Dakota “ sought to rectify .
810D3FF4-5BD2-4B01-8F44-0052FDBE7278.png

Side by side comparison of .458 Winchester magnum and .375 Holland & Holland magnum . Taken from Wikipedia.



But we must be fair to the .458 Winchester magnum . Mr. Walter Engel ( Who used to be the ballistics engineer at Winchester , at the time when the .458 Winchester magnum was invented ) writes that the .458 Winchester magnum was never designed to be the most powerful “ Charge Stopper “ on earth . It was designed to be an affordable ( But adequate ) big game caliber , which would fit in to the standard length action of the Winchester Model 70 rifles ... With out necessitating the use of a magnum length action . It was Winchester Western’s sales department who were responsible for advertising the .458 Winchester magnum to be some thing , which it was never even designed to be : The end all in “ Big Game Charge Stoppers “ .


To this end , the .458 Winchester magnum is not a bad caliber . It was simply a victim of grievous misrepresentation . Winchester’s poorly constructed bullets and the poor properties of Olin propellant powder did a great deal to damage it’s reputation . How ever , even the propellant powder used by Remington Peters and the hand loaders of our time ( IMR 3031 ) were delivering erratic velocities in loaded ammunition ... Which was stored for too long .


To the best of my knowledge ... The Hornady Dangerous Game series is currently the ONLY brand of factory loaded ammunition , utilizing 500 grain bullets which advertises a velocity of 2140 feet per second . Both Nosler and Norma advertise their factory loaded cartridges ( Which are loaded with , either a 500 grain Nosler Partition soft point bullet or a 500 grain monolithic solid brass bullet ) as being capable of delivering a velocity of 2100 feet per second . But I do have my doubts . A monolithic brass bullet possesses less mass than a traditional lead cored bullet of similar length . Therefore a 500 grain monolithic brass bullet is invariably longer in length than a traditional 500 grain solid metal covered lead cored bullet . This would consume even larger amounts of powder space , than traditional 500 grain solid metal covered bullets ( Which my personal experience in the shikar fields of 1960s era India has shown to be plenty problematic , as is ) .


The saving grace of the .458 Winchester magnum came in the form of the fairly new “ Lighter For Caliber “ bullets which have recently begun to appear on the catalogs of countless boutique bullet makers ... Some going as light as 400 grains . They allow larger charges of propellant powder to be used in the short .458 Winchester magnum cartridge casing . I personally am not a fan of these “ Lighter For Caliber “ bullets . A 400 grain .458 caliber bullet lacks proper sectional density and thus , penetration . I would say that the 480 grains seems just about right for a traditional solid metal covered lead cored bullet ( Such as Woodleigh or Hornady DGS bullets ) . In a monolithic brass bullet , if I had to make an educated guess ... Then , I would say that 450 grains seems like a proper weight ( Such as the Woodleigh Hydrostatically Stabilized Solid ) . Sectional density is comprised , but only just . The advent of propellant powders which are far more refined than the IMR3031 of our time , have also greatly improved the shelf life of the .458 Winchester magnum caliber ( Such as Win 760 or Accurate 2230 ) . They allow higher velocities to be achieved , with out any need to compress the propellant powder loading inside the cartridge casing.



Do I believe that the .458 Winchester magnum caliber is no good ? Absolutely not . I believe that it is sort of akin to a “ Special Needs Child “ . Very decent , but it just needs a few extra considerations to make it achieve desirable results .
2 renowned African White Hunters ( Mr. Terry Irwin and Mr . John Coleman ) have made exclusive use of the .458 Winchester magnum caliber , to lay low African elephants by the hundreds . Mr . Irwin used a Mannlicher Schoenauer with a 26 inch barrel . This , he used with Remington Peters cartridges which were freshly hand loaded with 500 grain Hornady bullets . Mr. Coleman used a pre 64 Winchester Model 70 “ African “ with a 25 inch barrel . This , he used with Winchester cartridge cases which were freshly hand loaded with 500 grain Hornady bullets . Neither of them had any reasons to complain about the .458 Winchester magnum ... Through out the entirety of their careers . Even during my career as a professional shikaree , the .458 Winchester magnum was an excellent performer ... When ever it was doing what the advertisements promised it to be capable of .


To this end , I find that the .458 Winchester magnum caliber is certainly an acceptable 1 in modern times . It is certainly not the BEST of anything . But it is a nice affordable short action magnum caliber , for which rifles can easily be built on any standard length action . And for which , factory loaded ammunition and a wide selection of re loading components are easily available . A good compromise , it is . Would I personally use a .458 Winchester magnum caliber rifle to tackle dangerous game , in modern times ?


Well ... if I could :

> Use a rifle with a 25 inch barrel ( Such as a pre 64 Winchester Model 70 )

> Hand load cartridges with Accurate 2230 propellant powder

> Use 480 grain Hornady DGS or DGX bullets

Then , I certainly would have no lack of confidence in facing the heaviest of our 600 pound royal Bengal tigers or 3000 pound gaur bison ... Armed with a .458 Winchester magnum caliber rifle .


All in all , taking modern 480 grain bullets and re loading components in to consideration ... I would rank the .458 Winchester magnum as a solid 7.5 out of 10 .

I apologize sincerely , if my views have offended anybody . There are gentle men who are much more fond of the .458 Winchester magnum , than I am . And there are also gentle men who despise it much more than I do . If any body believes that any information that I have shared here needs amendment , then it shall be my utmost privilege to be corrected .

THE END
PS : For some reason , I was unable to share links to the reminiscences of the 2 incidents where Tobin and I had nearly lost our lives due to the .458 Winchester magnum . Here , they are :

https://www.africahunting.com/threads/the-gaur-which-ended-a-shikar-career.54665/

https://www.africahunting.com/threads/the-royal-bengal-tiger-which-almost-did-me-in.55875/
 
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Wyatt Smith

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What an interesting topic for an article, Major. I agree the 458 win mag is better now than it ever gas been. It must have been strange to only have two options for a dangerous game rifle, being how we have so many now.
Peter Hathaway Capstick illustrated this beautifully when he said. “Kynoch 470s were worth their weight in sterling silver.”
 

Major Khan

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What an interesting topic for an article, Major. I agree the 458 win mag is better now than it ever gas been. It must have been strange to only have two options for a dangerous game rifle, being how we have so many now.
Peter Hathaway Capstick illustrated this beautifully when he said. “Kynoch 470s were worth their weight in sterling silver.”
Why thank you so much for your kind words , Master Smith . I will let you in a little secret . I let many of my favorite clients ( Whose marksmanship , I had utmost confidence in ) illegally use .338 Winchester magnum or 9.3 x 62 mm Mauser or 9.3 x 74 mm Rimmed caliber rifles to hunt royal Bengal tigers ( Provided that they were using either 250 grain Winchester Silver Tip soft point cartridges or 286 grain RWS soft point cartridges) . But sshh ! Do not tell anybody ! What would the other forum members think , if they found out ? Ha Ha !

And yes , I am 100 % inclined to agree with Mr. Cap Stick . An American client in 1964 , told me that he had purchased old stock .476 Westley Richards caliber ICI Kynoch cartridges ( In lots of 5 ) for $ 2 per cartridge . In 1964 , this was a great deal of money ... Mind you .
 

Major Khan

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Again Major Khan, thanks for such a fine article, well researched and thought out. I appreciate it- these are so very time consuming to put together. Hats off to you!
Why thank you so much for your kind words , four five eight . It was not easy , being fair to this caliber . I used to despise it ! But now that I think about it ... In modern contexts , it is quite acceptable .
 

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Verdict


There is no question about it . The .458 Winchester magnum uses a disproportionately small cartridge casing . Even it’s staunchest supporters can not deny this fact . Let us use the .375 Holland & Holland magnum , as an example . It has a 3 inch cartridge casing’s worth of propellant powder and propels a 300 grain bullet at admirable velocities . The .458 Winchester magnum propels a 500 grain bullet ( Which is 200 grains heavier than what the .375 Holland & Holland magnum uses ) , yet utilizes a 2.5 inch cartridge casing’s worth of propellant powder . This is , by design alone ... Conceptually wrong . What it needed was a larger cartridge casing than the .375 Holland & Holland magnum . Not a smaller 1 . In order to achieve the ORIGINAL advertised velocity ( 2130 feet per second) , Winchester and Remington Peters ( As well as hand loaders ) had to compress the powder charge inside the cartridges which they were loading . This is the very flaw which Jack Lott’s creation “ The .458 Lott “ and Don Allen’s creation “ The .450 Dakota “ sought to rectify .
View attachment 358903
Side by side comparison of .458 Winchester magnum and .375 Holland & Holland magnum . Taken from Wikipedia.



But we must be fair to the .458 Winchester magnum . Mr. Walter Engel ( Who used to be the ballistics engineer at Winchester , at the time when the .458 Winchester magnum was invented ) writes that the .458 Winchester magnum was never designed to be the most powerful “ Charge Stopper “ on earth . It was designed to be an affordable ( But adequate ) big game caliber , which would fit in to the standard length action of the Winchester Model 70 rifles ... With out necessitating the use of a magnum length action . It was Winchester Western’s sales department who were responsible for advertising the .458 Winchester magnum to be some thing , which it was never even designed to be : The end all in “ Big Game Charge Stoppers “ .


To this end , the .458 Winchester magnum is not a bad caliber . It was simply a victim of grievous misrepresentation . Winchester’s poorly constructed bullets and the poor properties of Olin propellant powder did a great deal to damage it’s reputation . How ever , even the propellant powder used by Remington Peters and the hand loaders of our time ( IMR 3031 ) were delivering erratic velocities in loaded ammunition ... Which was stored for too long .


To the best of my knowledge ... The Hornady Dangerous Game series is currently the ONLY brand of factory loaded ammunition , utilizing 500 grain bullets which advertises a velocity of 2140 feet per second . Both Nosler and Norma advertise their factory loaded cartridges ( Which are loaded with , either a 500 grain Nosler Partition soft point bullet or a 500 grain monolithic solid brass bullet ) as being capable of delivering a velocity of 2100 feet per second . But I do have my doubts . A monolithic brass bullet possesses less mass than a traditional lead cored bullet of similar length . Therefore a 500 grain monolithic brass bullet is invariably longer in length than a traditional 500 grain solid metal covered lead cored bullet . This would consume even larger amounts of powder space , than traditional 500 grain solid metal covered bullets ( Which my personal experience in the shikar fields of 1960s era India has shown to be plenty problematic , as is ) .


The saving grace of the .458 Winchester magnum came in the form of the fairly new “ Lighter For Caliber “ bullets which have recently begun to appear on the catalogs of countless boutique bullet makers ... Some going as light as 400 grains . They allow larger charges of propellant powder to be used in the short .458 Winchester magnum cartridge casing . I personally am not a fan of these “ Lighter For Caliber “ bullets . A 400 grain .458 caliber bullet lacks proper sectional density and thus , penetration . I would say that the 480 grains seems just about right for a traditional solid metal covered lead cored bullet ( Such as Woodleigh or Hornady DGS bullets ) . In a monolithic brass bullet , if I had to make an educated guess ... Then , I would say that 450 grains seems like a proper weight ( Such as the Woodleigh Hydrostatically Stabilized Solid ) . Sectional density is comprised , but only just . The advent of propellant powders which are far more refined than the IMR3031 of our time , have also greatly improved the shelf life of the .458 Winchester magnum caliber ( Such as Win 760 or Accurate 2230 ) . They allow higher velocities to be achieved , with out any need to compress the propellant powder loading inside the cartridge casing.



Do I believe that the .458 Winchester magnum caliber is no good ? Absolutely not . I believe that it is sort of akin to a “ Special Needs Child “ . Very decent , but it just needs a few extra considerations to make it achieve desirable results .
2 renowned African White Hunters ( Mr. Terry Irwin and Mr . John Coleman ) have made exclusive use of the .458 Winchester magnum caliber , to lay low African elephants by the hundreds . Mr . Irwin used a Mannlicher Schoenauer with a 26 inch barrel . This , he used with Remington Peters cartridges which were freshly hand loaded with 500 grain Hornady bullets . Mr. Coleman used a pre 64 Winchester Model 70 “ African “ with a 25 inch barrel . This , he used with Winchester cartridge cases which were freshly hand loaded with 500 grain Hornady bullets . Neither of them had any reasons to complain about the .458 Winchester magnum ... Through out the entirety of their careers . Even during my career as a professional shikaree , the .458 Winchester magnum was an excellent performer ... When ever it was doing what the advertisements promised it to be capable of .


To this end , I find that the .458 Winchester magnum caliber is certainly an acceptable 1 in modern times . It is certainly not the BEST of anything . But it is a nice affordable short action magnum caliber , for which rifles can easily be built on any standard length action . And for which , factory loaded ammunition and a wide selection of re loading components are easily available . A good compromise , it is . Would I personally use a .458 Winchester magnum caliber rifle to tackle dangerous game , in modern times ?


Well ... if I could :

> Use a rifle with a 25 inch barrel ( Such as a pre 64 Winchester Model 70 )

> Hand load cartridges with Accurate 2230 propellant powder

> Use 480 grain Hornady DGS or DGX bullets

Then , I certainly would have no lack of confidence in facing the heaviest of our 600 pound royal Bengal tigers or 3000 pound gaur bison ... Armed with a .458 Winchester magnum caliber rifle .


All in all , taking modern 480 grain bullets and re loading components in to consideration ... I would rank the .458 Winchester magnum as a solid 7.5 out of 10 .

I apologize sincerely , if my views have offended anybody . There are gentle men who are much more fond of the .458 Winchester magnum , than I am . And there are also gentle men who despise it much more than I do . If any body believes that any information that I have shared here needs amendment , then it shall be my utmost privilege to be corrected .

THE END
PS : For some reason , I was unable to share links to the reminiscences of the 2 incidents where Tobin and I had nearly lost our lives due to the .458 Winchester magnum . Here , they are :

www.africahunting.com/threads/the-gaur-which-ended-a-shikar-career.54665/
https://www.africahunting.com/threads/the-royal-bengal-tiger-which-almost-did-me-in.55875/
I believe that this article is a fair assessment of the .458 WM. While it may not be the best caliber for truly heavy game, it is entirely capable of handling the job. It fits into a standard length action and delivers enough energy with proper modern loads. I am not particularly recoil shy, but my .458 kicks more than enough for me. The increased velocity of the Lott results in a lot more recoil and I just don't think I want to deal with it.
As always, your article was meticulously researched and if I had had your experience with it as you did in India, I wouldn't care much for it either!
Doug
 

flatwater bill

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Well written and informative. I remember looking at the compact little .458 cartridge as a boy, and wondering why they had decided upon a 2.5 inch case, at a time when they were offering the much longer .300 H&H and .375 H&H chamberings in their Mod 70's. Later, I owned a light push feed bolt in 458 and found the recoil intolerable. Despite it's diminutive size, it proved too much for me. Thanks for taking the time to write such a fine article.................Bill
 

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Thank you for writing this Major - it was written in your usual entertaining style and I thoroughly enjoyed it (y)

And I also give you the utmost respect for giving the .458 it's props even though you had experienced some failures with it.

I can assure you that today there is no problem with the .458!
5000 ft/lbs is easily obtainable with it and it seems it has finally made good on it's promises :)

I have a Sambar hunt planned this weekend and I was planning on trying to blood my new Rem 700 .308 - however Major, after reading your excellent article I have decided that I'm using my .458 instead and any Sambar that I bag will be in your honour!

Thank you again for writing this.

Long live the .458!

Kindest regards,

Russ
 
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Verdict


There is no question about it . The .458 Winchester magnum uses a disproportionately small cartridge casing . Even it’s staunchest supporters can not deny this fact . Let us use the .375 Holland & Holland magnum , as an example . It has a 3 inch cartridge casing’s worth of propellant powder and propels a 300 grain bullet at admirable velocities . The .458 Winchester magnum propels a 500 grain bullet ( Which is 200 grains heavier than what the .375 Holland & Holland magnum uses ) , yet utilizes a 2.5 inch cartridge casing’s worth of propellant powder . This is , by design alone ... Conceptually wrong . What it needed was a larger cartridge casing than the .375 Holland & Holland magnum . Not a smaller 1 . In order to achieve the ORIGINAL advertised velocity ( 2130 feet per second) , Winchester and Remington Peters ( As well as hand loaders ) had to compress the powder charge inside the cartridges which they were loading . This is the very flaw which Jack Lott’s creation “ The .458 Lott “ and Don Allen’s creation “ The .450 Dakota “ sought to rectify .
View attachment 358903
Side by side comparison of .458 Winchester magnum and .375 Holland & Holland magnum . Taken from Wikipedia.



But we must be fair to the .458 Winchester magnum . Mr. Walter Engel ( Who used to be the ballistics engineer at Winchester , at the time when the .458 Winchester magnum was invented ) writes that the .458 Winchester magnum was never designed to be the most powerful “ Charge Stopper “ on earth . It was designed to be an affordable ( But adequate ) big game caliber , which would fit in to the standard length action of the Winchester Model 70 rifles ... With out necessitating the use of a magnum length action . It was Winchester Western’s sales department who were responsible for advertising the .458 Winchester magnum to be some thing , which it was never even designed to be : The end all in “ Big Game Charge Stoppers “ .


To this end , the .458 Winchester magnum is not a bad caliber . It was simply a victim of grievous misrepresentation . Winchester’s poorly constructed bullets and the poor properties of Olin propellant powder did a great deal to damage it’s reputation . How ever , even the propellant powder used by Remington Peters and the hand loaders of our time ( IMR 3031 ) were delivering erratic velocities in loaded ammunition ... Which was stored for too long .


To the best of my knowledge ... The Hornady Dangerous Game series is currently the ONLY brand of factory loaded ammunition , utilizing 500 grain bullets which advertises a velocity of 2140 feet per second . Both Nosler and Norma advertise their factory loaded cartridges ( Which are loaded with , either a 500 grain Nosler Partition soft point bullet or a 500 grain monolithic solid brass bullet ) as being capable of delivering a velocity of 2100 feet per second . But I do have my doubts . A monolithic brass bullet possesses less mass than a traditional lead cored bullet of similar length . Therefore a 500 grain monolithic brass bullet is invariably longer in length than a traditional 500 grain solid metal covered lead cored bullet . This would consume even larger amounts of powder space , than traditional 500 grain solid metal covered bullets ( Which my personal experience in the shikar fields of 1960s era India has shown to be plenty problematic , as is ) .


The saving grace of the .458 Winchester magnum came in the form of the fairly new “ Lighter For Caliber “ bullets which have recently begun to appear on the catalogs of countless boutique bullet makers ... Some going as light as 400 grains . They allow larger charges of propellant powder to be used in the short .458 Winchester magnum cartridge casing . I personally am not a fan of these “ Lighter For Caliber “ bullets . A 400 grain .458 caliber bullet lacks proper sectional density and thus , penetration . I would say that the 480 grains seems just about right for a traditional solid metal covered lead cored bullet ( Such as Woodleigh or Hornady DGS bullets ) . In a monolithic brass bullet , if I had to make an educated guess ... Then , I would say that 450 grains seems like a proper weight ( Such as the Woodleigh Hydrostatically Stabilized Solid ) . Sectional density is comprised , but only just . The advent of propellant powders which are far more refined than the IMR3031 of our time , have also greatly improved the shelf life of the .458 Winchester magnum caliber ( Such as Win 760 or Accurate 2230 ) . They allow higher velocities to be achieved , with out any need to compress the propellant powder loading inside the cartridge casing.



Do I believe that the .458 Winchester magnum caliber is no good ? Absolutely not . I believe that it is sort of akin to a “ Special Needs Child “ . Very decent , but it just needs a few extra considerations to make it achieve desirable results .
2 renowned African White Hunters ( Mr. Terry Irwin and Mr . John Coleman ) have made exclusive use of the .458 Winchester magnum caliber , to lay low African elephants by the hundreds . Mr . Irwin used a Mannlicher Schoenauer with a 26 inch barrel . This , he used with Remington Peters cartridges which were freshly hand loaded with 500 grain Hornady bullets . Mr. Coleman used a pre 64 Winchester Model 70 “ African “ with a 25 inch barrel . This , he used with Winchester cartridge cases which were freshly hand loaded with 500 grain Hornady bullets . Neither of them had any reasons to complain about the .458 Winchester magnum ... Through out the entirety of their careers . Even during my career as a professional shikaree , the .458 Winchester magnum was an excellent performer ... When ever it was doing what the advertisements promised it to be capable of .


To this end , I find that the .458 Winchester magnum caliber is certainly an acceptable 1 in modern times . It is certainly not the BEST of anything . But it is a nice affordable short action magnum caliber , for which rifles can easily be built on any standard length action . And for which , factory loaded ammunition and a wide selection of re loading components are easily available . A good compromise , it is . Would I personally use a .458 Winchester magnum caliber rifle to tackle dangerous game , in modern times ?


Well ... if I could :

> Use a rifle with a 25 inch barrel ( Such as a pre 64 Winchester Model 70 )

> Hand load cartridges with Accurate 2230 propellant powder

> Use 480 grain Hornady DGS or DGX bullets

Then , I certainly would have no lack of confidence in facing the heaviest of our 600 pound royal Bengal tigers or 3000 pound gaur bison ... Armed with a .458 Winchester magnum caliber rifle .


All in all , taking modern 480 grain bullets and re loading components in to consideration ... I would rank the .458 Winchester magnum as a solid 7.5 out of 10 .

I apologize sincerely , if my views have offended anybody . There are gentle men who are much more fond of the .458 Winchester magnum , than I am . And there are also gentle men who despise it much more than I do . If any body believes that any information that I have shared here needs amendment , then it shall be my utmost privilege to be corrected .

THE END
PS : For some reason , I was unable to share links to the reminiscences of the 2 incidents where Tobin and I had nearly lost our lives due to the .458 Winchester magnum . Here , they are :

https://www.africahunting.com/threads/the-gaur-which-ended-a-shikar-career.54665/

https://www.africahunting.com/threads/the-royal-bengal-tiger-which-almost-did-me-in.55875/
@Major Khan
My dear friend Ponton.
It is with great pleasure I have read your latest article. I have missed your writings.
I remember reading a story about Joyce Hornaday sitting around a campfire with a group of hunters who were discussing the 458 and the dismal performance of the Hornaday solid projectiles in it. These hunters didn't realise they were talking with Mr Hornaday and he didn't tell them who he was. That experience lead him to develop a better solid projectile to solve the problem.
I pray you are keeping well my friend.
Your humble reader and friend
Bob Nelson
 

Major Khan

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I believe that this article is a fair assessment of the .458 WM. While it may not be the best caliber for truly heavy game, it is entirely capable of handling the job. It fits into a standard length action and delivers enough energy with proper modern loads. I am not particularly recoil shy, but my .458 kicks more than enough for me. The increased velocity of the Lott results in a lot more recoil and I just don't think I want to deal with it.
As always, your article was meticulously researched and if I had had your experience with it as you did in India, I wouldn't care much for it either!
Doug
By all means ... Please do , Doug . Based up on my personal knowledge of ballistics , I would have to say that you are best served with 450 grain North Fork monolithic bullets or traditional Hornady 480 grain DGS/ DGX bullets .
 

Forrest Halley

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@CoElkHunter I can't seem to keep the ammunition loaded for very long. The rifle song calls to me and I must go and appease the great thunder gods with smoke and fire. Unfortunately the rifle range at the house is closing. I hit a target of a different sort the other day and the match results are due to arrive in about 7 months. So no more loud noises around the house for a while. I'll have to join a local club and be annoyed by other shooters.
@Major Khan I thank you for the time you took to compose this. It was a most interesting story and I much enjoyed the pictures of the old ballistics tables. I used to memorize them as a kid. I was fascinated by the .458 and its imposing nature. However even as a young child I could see the greater potential in the .375. Please continue to stood the old campfires in our minds. All the best!
 

Major Khan

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@CoElkHunter I can't seem to keep the ammunition loaded for very long. The rifle song calls to me and I must go and appease the great thunder gods with smoke and fire. Unfortunately the rifle range at the house is closing. I hit a target of a different sort the other day and the match results are due to arrive in about 7 months. So no more loud noises around the house for a while. I'll have to join a local club and be annoyed by other shooters.
@Major Khan I thank you for the time you took to compose this. It was a most interesting story and I much enjoyed the pictures of the old ballistics tables. I used to memorize them as a kid. I was fascinated by the .458 and its imposing nature. However even as a young child I could see the greater potential in the .375. Please continue to stood the old campfires in our minds. All the best!
Congratulations about the upcoming child , Mr. Haley . Wishing you a very happy parenthood . Children are God's blessing .
 

CoElkHunter

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Upcoming child! I guess I’m dense, but I don’t see that in your recent post! I thought you had shot somebody’s truck or something with your Lott and the range was now closed for seven months? I thought you were old like me? Guess not, but if your having a child, CONGRATS! guess now I’ll have to cut you some slack! Not a lot (Lott), but some! Get a suppressor for your Lott!
 

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