The Cartridge Which Is Loved By Some, Loathed By Many, But Known By All

Discussion in 'Articles' started by Kawshik Rahman, Nov 10, 2019.

  1. Kawshik Rahman

    Kawshik Rahman AH Elite

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    I have been reading many excellent discussions in these forums , some of which go back to 2011.
    I also made some notes about numbers. I found out something very interesting about the .458 Winchester magnum calibre which might interest some of my dear respected forum members .
    No less than 54 forum members here in the last eight years are vocally outspoken critics of this cartridge.
    No less than 70 forum members here had a rifle in this cartridge , but switched for something else eventually.
    No less than 42 forum members here believe that “ It works , but so many better options are available here today that l would not really consider it an option “
    No less than 26 forum members here consider it a good cartridge which they would confidently use if they did not have anything better available.
    No less than 63 forum members here have one in their collection , but do not use it for hunting dangerous animals .
    However, there are at least 10 forum members here , who are very passionate about the cartridge and use ( or have used ) a .458 Winchester magnum calibre rifle as their primary rifle for many years .
    Today , on encouragement of my fellow forum members Foxi , Hoss Delgado and Kurpfalzjager , l have decided to write an article of my personal experiences and observations about this much debated cartridge , the .458 Winchester magnum calibre .
    I want to begin this article by saying two things :
    Firstly , l own every photograph used here except two , which were kindly provided to me by Hoss Delgado . Everything else here , is mine and mine alone.
    Secondly , l am not well read about the technical aspects of many modern fire arms and so do not consider myself an authority on this subject. I am merely describing my personal experiences with this cartridge and my personal observations. Many well read gentlemen may feel the need to correct me if l am incorrect about anything and l welcome that. Let us commence , dear readers .

    When l used to be a professional Shikari in Darjeeling , India from 1962 to 1970 , the largest calibre rifle ever brought to India for Shikar by any of my clients was a .458 Winchester magnum calibre rifle .
    A little bit of side information for my readers about India’s fire arms laws for foreign client Shikaris of this era . On paper , any fire arm of .45 bore was prohibited ever since the English colonial period. I actually called my friend , the retired Major Masud Rana ( who himself shot and killed a man-eating Royal Bengal tiger in 1979 ) to ask about the historical reason behind this decision. Rana, being an avid historian was bound to know the answer . Indeed , he did . The reason was because during the British colonial period in the late 1800s , many rebels had acquired .450 bore martini Henry rifles captured from old English military armories . In an attempt to ensure that the rebels cannot replenish their existing supplies of cartridges , the colonial government listed the any .450 bore as a prohibited bore in Colonial India ( how sound this decision was , is a whole other matter ) . This law was still in place after India’s independence in 1947. (Although , one can easily guess how tightly this law was actually enforced , if all . )
    However , in 1964 , customs were finally allowing foreign client Shikaris to bring .458 Winchester calibre weapons into India and letting these rifles and cartridges pass through the customs . In six years , l have had close to two dozen foreign client Shikaris bring .458 Winchester magnum calibre rifles to Darjeeling, India for Shikar. Today , l shall talk about the more memorable ones .
    By far , close to 75 % of my clients used to bring a rifle calibrated for .375 Holland and Holland magnum . Around 10 % of my respected clients used to bring a 9.3 millimeter mauser calibre rifle
    ( interestingly enough , they were ALL continental sportsmen) . 10 % of them would bring a rifle in .458 Winchester magnum calibre and 5 % would invariably bring something else .
    While l personally consider a .375 Holland and Holland magnum to be perfectly adequate for anything on Allah / God’s green earth ( except perhaps a large bull elephant which l have no experience shooting ) , many of my clients felt the need for more “ stopping power “ ( exactly how important stopping power is , compared to correct aim is a different story , altogether) .
    This is where the .458 Winchester magnum calibre came into the picture. After the .375 Holland and Holland magnum calibre , it was the largest ever brought into India by my respected clients.

    In my previous articles “ Rifles for Royal Bengal tiger “ and “ Rifles for Gaur bison “ , l have already listed the different varieties of rifles brought to old India in this .458 Winchester magnum calibre and how l felt about each of them . So , l shall not bore my dear readers by being monotonous and repetitive.
    However , just in case a small summary is appropriate :
    Rifles without mauser type extracting claw device - Model 70 from Winchester , Model 700 from Remington , Birmingham Small Arms late pattern , Sauer model from Colt , Hi Power model from Browning .
    Rifles with mauser type extracting claw device - custom pieces built on military mauser mechanisms with changed barrels , Birmingham Small Arms early pattern .
    Double barrel rifle - Only one example . A bespoke piece from Holland and Holland .

    The .458 Winchester magnum cartridge was available in my time from the firms : Winchester , Remington and Hornady . The cartridge was loaded either with a metal envelope blunt head bullet of 500 grain weight , or a soft blunt head bullet of 510 grain weight . It’s advertised velocities were 2150 feet per second on their boxes ( give special attention to the word “ advertised “ ) . The question however , here is this : Can it do what it claims to do ?
    Screenshot_20191110-205745_01_01.png

    Observe this picture , kindly provided to me by fellow forum member , Hoss Delgado . It is a comparison of the .458 Winchester magnum cartridge with the beloved .375 Holland and Holland magnum cartridge.
    The cartridge case of the .375 bore is of 76 millimeter length . It fires a 300 grain bullet with superb penetration , because of that 76 millimeter cartridge case worth of propellant powder .
    The .458 Winchester magnum has a 500 grain bullet ( exactly 200 grains heavier ) , yet it has a 65 millimeter cartridge case length . An issue is very visibly evident . If the .458 Winchester magnum's bullet is heavier than the .375 Holland and Holland magnum bullet , then why does it have a smaller case worth of powder , instead of a larger case's worth of powder ?

    A favorite childhood author of mine , the Victorian era big game hunter , Sir Samuel White Baker once wrote that a heavier bullet always requires a proportionately larger charge of powder . Otherwise , it is like a heavy sword in the hands of a weak man .
    My late Shikari partner , Karim Chowdhury is in fact the very first person to point this out to me in 1965 , when a client brought a bolt operation rifle in such a calibre , made by the firm , Birmingham Small Arms .

    To my novice eyes , there are only three ways how one can circumvent this problem :
    1) Either , they reduce the size of the bullet to accomodate a larger charge of powder. This is a compromise , as it means a lighter bullet.
    2) They can get much closer to the beast to shoot it , so that velocities generated by the reduced charge of powder is of no consequence . The unsafe nature of this act , is foolhardy in and of itself ( although , many brave men have done so in days gone past )
    3) They find some way to compress the necessary charge of powder into that 65 millimeter cartridge case . How successful , this has been , l cannot say .
    4) They develop a propellant powder which generates the requisite velocity by using a quantity small enough to fit the 65 millimeter cartridge case . How successful , this has been , l again , cannot say.
    However , my scientific knowledge ends here . I am no ballistics expert , not do l pretend to be . Let us go to field experience , which l do have .

    Perhaps the most positive memory l have , of a .458 Winchester magnum calibre rifle , was of a double barrelled rifle built by the English firm , Holland and Holland which was brought by an English repeat client . He was a master with that rifle. In three Shikars with us , he had secured three Gaurs ( all weighing near to 2000 pounds weight ) with that rifle ( and in one trip , he also secured a 486 pound Royal Bengal tiger the day after he had secured the Gaur ) .
    Screenshot_20191006-203431_01_01.png Screenshot_20191006-203448_01_01_01.png

    The rifle will always have a core place in my memory , because it had all of my desired features in a double barrel rifle . Built by the Royal gun maker , Holland and Holland , it had 26 inch long muzzles , double triggers and no automatic safety mechanism . The makers had calibrated this piece of beauty for the Remington firm 500 grain and 510 grain pattern of bullet
    ( which l was amazed by , that a British gun maker can calibrate his rifles for American pattern cartridges ) . It had the finest stock of English walnut and folding sights . My respected client never needed more than two cartridges for anything that he had ever shot at .
    My knowledgeable forum member , Pondoro wrote here that he has doubts if a double barrel rifle , firing a cartridge such as the .458 Winchester magnum would be fine for long , on account of it being a high pressure cartridge . He may very well be correct , however l must also state that in the three Shikar trips with us , where our respected client used that double barrel rifle , he never had any problems with it ( to be fair , however , l have only seen him fire it eleven times in front of me and one should not draw any conclusions from a mere eleven shots ).
    For Gaurs , our client would load a 510 grain Remington soft head cartridge in one barrel ( for the first shot ) and a 500 grain blunt head metal envelope bullet in the other barrel ( for the finishing insurance shot ) .
    For his Royal Bengal tiger , our client used 510 grain soft head cartridges I both the barrels . He was most successful with it .
    For details of the actual Shikar , l refer you all , to my article " A double barrel rifle , a Gaur and an unpleasant surprise " .

    Let us now go to an experience , which was not so good . The rifle in question here was from the firm , Birmingham Small Arms . It was a bolt operation rifle without the mauser type extracting claw device and the ammunition for it came from the firm , Hornady . An attempt made by our client , to dispatch a Gaur with this rifle , almost resulted in the deaths of all of us in our party . After we had finally managed to kill that enraged Gaur , we did a post mortem on it's corpse and saw that some of those 500 grain metal envelope bullets did not go six inches through the Gaur's flesh , and in some areas , no more than four inches through .
    The entire details of that horrible week , can be read in my account , " The Gaur Shikar which went very terribly wrong " .
    If you all are interested in seeing a photograph of the bullets cut out from the flesh of the Gaur , please read Hoss Delgado's upcoming book " A hobby called Hunting " chapter six . What you see , may well shock you. I had never seen metal envelope bullets deform like that in my entire career as a professional Shikari . Some bullets were slightly bent , while others had lead coming out of the badly ruptured metal envelopes .

    So there , you have it. I had one very good experience with the .458 Winchester magnum calibre and one very bad experience with the same calibre .
    I had another , slightly unpleasant experience with a rifle of .458 Winchester magnum calibre , however l cannot blame the penetration capacity of the calibre at all . I shall relate the incident here in short .

    In 1968 , we had a client visit us , for a Gaur Shikar . His weapon of choice was a Hi Power model bolt operation rifle , from the firm , Browning which was calibrated for the .458 Winchester magnum cartridge . He was using cartridges which he had reloaded by himself . He actually told me that he did not trust the Winchester firm of ammunition for the .458 Winchester magnum calibre , due difficulties in getting all of the powder inside the cartridges to ignite properly ( He used a term for this phenomenon to explain the compressed powder , however it sadly escapes my memory ) .
    So what this client did , was load his cartridges with 500 grain metal envelope bullets and a quantity of powder designed to achieve an extremely high velocity .
    Unfortunately , when he fired his first shot at the Gaur ( a 510 grain soft head cartridge ) , the force of the recoil caused the trap door hatch on the under side of the rifle to swing open and dump his remaining cartridges on the ground . The wounded Gaur , enraged and furious , charged us all . Me and my former Shikar partner , the late Karim Chowdhury were trying our best to hold off the 1900 pound beast by shooting it repeatedly with SG cartridges from our 12 bore Ishapore Arms Factory side by side shot-guns , but the real savior of that day was our loyal Nepalese gun bearer , Rishi .
    Screenshot_20191002-203359_01_01_01.png
    Rishi , loyal , optimistic and ready for anything that ever awaited us in the Shikar field .

    Rishi managed to toss a 500 grain metal envelope cartridge , to our client , who was still , by the grace of God clutching his rifle. Our client quickly loaded the cartridge into the rifle , took aim at the charging Gaur's heart ( which is located at the base of the chest , between the two fore legs of the beast ) and fired . That finally did it in .
    Of course , l cannot blame what happened to the .458 Winchester magnum calibre , at all. No , what happened was a result of a cavalier type attitude towards reloading one's own cartridges . This was an innocent mistake made on the part of our well meaning client .

    My other experiences with the .458 Winchester magnum calibre went by rather uneventfully .
    Do l think that the .458 Winchester magnum cartridge is a good one , or do l think it is a bad one ? Truth be told , l never could make up my mind . Indeed , with so many modern cartridges ( the names and details of which l do not know ) available today , does one really find any appeal to the .458 Winchester magnum cartridge anymore ?
    Well , my opinion is : Why not ?
    It is the calibre which many an American sportsmen carried into Old India , to pit his skill against large , dangerous wild beasts with success . It is , l believe, the first American cartridge truly designed for tackling dangerous animals . Call it the first of it's kind if you will . I was granted the privilege to read an early draft of Hoss Delgado's book , which mentions an African professional hunter by the name of Mr. Terry Irwin . This gentleman predominantly used a .458 Winchester magnum calibre bolt operation rifle , from the firm , Mannlicher and hand loaded cartridges to dispatch elephants and cape buffaloes by the hundred with success. In a thread here once , l read about another gentleman named Mr. La Grange , who used to be a professional elephant culler in Africa , who used his .458 Winchester magnum calibre issued rifle to lay low bull elephants by the thousands , using 500 grain Hornady metal envelope ammunition . Certainly , a good deal of hunting has been had with the .458 Winchester magnum cartridge . And in all probability , modern bullets and powders have made it a very safe cartridge ( whether it is the best cartridge , is another very different argument ).
    Screenshot_20191013-052701_01.png
    My late colleague , Clayton with the head of a beautiful Indian water buffalo shot by his client . The rifle was a mauser type bolt operation rifle ( old pattern ) made by the firm , Birmingham Small Arms . The cartridge was a 510 grain soft head cartridge made by the firm , Remington . A single shot through two lungs of the beast from the side , made short work of him .




    At the same time , however , the Knowledgeable forum members Bull Hunter, Pondoro , Foxi and Kurpfalzjager have also brought to my attention the fact that dozens of double barrel rifles originally calibrated for the .458 Winchester magnum cartridge , have been converted to use other calibre's instead .
    Now , to my knowledge , the only reason some one would convert the calibre of an excellently crafted double barrel rifle ( and impact it's re- sale value ) is because of one of two reasons :
    1) The cartridges for the original calibre are no longer available .
    This cannot be the issue with the .458 Winchester magnum cartridge , as it is so readily available .
    2) The owner dislikes the original calibre of the rifle with a passion.

    I have no illusions as to which reason is a factor here , for the conversions .

    Thus , to conclude this article , my views on the .458 Winchester magnum cartridge are no more conclusive today than they were five decades ago , when l was an active professional Shikari in Darjeeling , India . Personally , however , were l to choose , l would stay with a .375 Holland and Holland magnum and be very content , for my personal hunting .
    Do any of my dear readers have a place in their battery , for the .458 Winchester magnum ? If so , have you had any success with yours ? And what rifle do you own ? If your experience with the .458 Winchester magnum is decidedly negative , still feel free to share your own input and experiences . It will be most educational .
    I hope that you all have enjoyed this article .
     
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2019

  2. Red Leg

    Red Leg AH ENABLER LIFETIME BRONZE BENEFACTOR AH Legend

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    Excellent article that will encourage a lot of discussion. A lot of ink has been used writing about the failures, real and imagined, of early .458 ammunition. You clearly experienced some of that. With modern ammunition, I think it is a perfectly acceptable DG choice. Unfortunately, it will always carry the baggage of those earlier years.

    Most .458 doubles were made during the three decades or so when ammunition for classic double rifle calibers was virtually unobtainable. Like the .375 H&H it is not ideal in that format due to the cases’ rimless design. Anyone with experience with rimmed cartridges has a hard time trusting those tiny spring-loaded tabs to work time after time after time (though my .375 has). Conversion to a rimmed .450 is not all that difficult (though not cheap), and re-regulation will also be required. But assuming it is a quality working rifle (as opposed to bespoke collector’s piece), one could create a potentially more dependable and durable (due to operating pressures) rifle that might be worth the investment.

    However, based on my experience with quality doubles chambered for rimless cartridges, the tabs seem to work, and it is unlikely most of us would shoot one so chambered enough to put it off face very quickly. I think I would use those conversion dollars to purchase another double in a more traditional caliber.
     
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2019

  3. crs

    crs AH Fanatic

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    Thank you Kawshik for the article and pix.

    For those interested in a more thorough technical discussion , consider reading the 162 page long post on the 458 Mag over on Accurate Reloading. Much less hunting stories but much more technical information and pix , some by proud .458 zealots that really know their stuff. I am not one of the knowledgeable ones and have made only a few posts of the hundreds there. Enjoy.
    BTW, I do not own a .375 Mag or a .458 Mag and have no need of either. That i s a .405 WCF leaning on the dead critter to the left.
     

  4. CoElkHunter

    CoElkHunter AH Fanatic

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    How did you manage to hunt with a lever action rifle and actually kill something? Many here on AH have said that’s impossible! Did you photoshop your posted photo? Ha! Ha! Ha!
     

  5. CBH Australia

    CBH Australia AH Enthusiast

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    Yeah like I thought you would be mad to go to Africa with anything less than a CRF,
    Hang on my PH is loaning me a Sako? Perhaps I missed that in all the excitement of booking my first safari. I’m looking foreword to using that Swarovski scope in the field.
     

  6. Wyatt Smith

    Wyatt Smith AH Enthusiast

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    I’ve always longed for a pre 64 model 70 .458.
     
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  7. CoElkHunter

    CoElkHunter AH Fanatic

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    ”Need?” Oh, you need one or both of those calibers (maybe more!) so you can fit in with the many here (including myself), who own perfectly fine useable caliber rifles, but boredom sets in and the search for more FUN cartridges is too tempting! Ha! Ha! Ha!
     

  8. CBH Australia

    CBH Australia AH Enthusiast

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    Dear Mr. @Kawshik Rahman you are a Bloody Legend! Make no mistake thats a Compliment on our great continent.
    Thats a lot of data that you have reviewed to identify the members who have discussed the .458, me being one of them.
    I read some bad reports on them shortly after buying my first Elephant gun as an impulse buy. I had fired a .375H&H and got a kick out of it, pardon the pun. I bought a .458 on special. My wife likes it because I smile when I fire it.
    But I read the good the bad and the ugly soon finding that the bad publicity was mainly due to some historic issues that have long been rectified with modern components. Jacques Lott lived with a tale to tell and left a legacy to boot!
    I was satisfied that was the case. But I also decided I wanted the iconic .375H&H. I could not justify both so I bought the .375 and sold the .458.
    My 17 year old twin nieces were there when I let the first few rounds fly in the .375 and had no hesitation in lining up to shoot the elephant gun before there father arrived, he won’t live that one down.
    Anyway, thanks for the reading Rawshik you have entertained many of us. Don’t give all of your stories to @Hoss Delgado , maybe write your own book. The more I read the better your English writing becomes.
    Perhaps @Red Leg can get a .458 barrel for that straight pull thing he loves and do some reviews. I’m sure the .458 is quite suitable for the bear he will pursue (envious)
    I was satisfied from reading many reviews the .458wm is a stopping rifle. I also hope I shoot well enough with the .375 to use it as a dropping rifle dropping my target when it counts.
    Maybe I would consider a .416 if I could justify it but there are some avid .404 fans here.
    Good luck and good health Mr Rahman, keep writing.
     

  9. sestoppelman

    sestoppelman AH ENABLER AH Ambassador

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    My PH in Botswana in 1990 carried a SxS in .458 Win. Boy he got red face, cussing, screaming mad:eek::eek::mad::mad::mad: when he saw it in the bottom of the makoro sloshing around in bilge water!! :eek:It was soft cased but man oh man I sure felt bad for the tracker who had to endure this and other verbal onslaughts!:(
     

  10. CoElkHunter

    CoElkHunter AH Fanatic

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    Sako? Non CRF? You better stay hunting in OZ with that rifle! Ha! Ha! Ha! I’ll loan you my Browning A Bolt .338 so you won’t miss! Ha! Ha! Ha!
     
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  11. Wyatt Smith

    Wyatt Smith AH Enthusiast

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    Mr. Rahman, did you get any clients who used a 404 Jeffrey? CBH got me thinking about it and I can’t recall you ever mentioning it.
     
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  12. CoElkHunter

    CoElkHunter AH Fanatic

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    Go forth to Gun Broker and buy one. There are a couple there for sale.
     
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  13. Wyatt Smith

    Wyatt Smith AH Enthusiast

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    I know they are there believe me, but it doesn’t hurt a person to want. For now I have to be content with my safari express 375
     
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  14. CoElkHunter

    CoElkHunter AH Fanatic

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    You and me both! We ALL dream of that perfect, nostalgic rifle! That’s what keeps us going in our firearm/ hunting world. You could do far worse than the great Safari Express!
     
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  15. Wyatt Smith

    Wyatt Smith AH Enthusiast

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    It’s a fine rifle, but nothing beats the nostalgia of having the best American bolt gun, chambered in America’s big bore cartridge. I love the English and European rifles/cartridges, and I know there’s better cartridges, but I’m a patriotic American.
     
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  16. crs

    crs AH Fanatic

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    Nope, what I NEED is have my surgeon remove his last stitches tomorrow so I can hunt more!
    I deserve (not need) an ATTABOY! for being able to mow, harrow, and seed Rye in our horse pastures with those stitches still in. Just finished seeding today and a cold front with rain is due tomorrow.
    And I NEED to have another big BBQ for my hunting friends (and maybe a couple relatives) to eat some of the game in our freezers so I have an excuse to shoot more.
    I NEED to use a few more of my rifles to kill feral hogs so all of them can say they have done that.
    I NEED to take my .405 and .458 doubles to Africa, Australia, etc just for the fun of it.
    I NEED to kill some black bears with those doubles too. Two such hunts have fallen through , but another is now booked. Wife says she wants a bear rug, so,,,.

    I NEED to HUNT more!!!

    CEH, you got me there, it is all photo shopped by my wife! She also did this nice Simson Co Trade Label for the Simson DR gun case:
    [​IMG]
     

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  17. Kawshik Rahman

    Kawshik Rahman AH Elite

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    Red Leg
    Thank you , my friend for your excellent assessment of the .458 Winchester magnum cartridge in a double barrel rifle and helping me to understand things from a more scientific perspective.
    Even though this Holland and Holland double barrel rifle was flawless , l concede that seeing only one rifle of it's class is in no way , an accurate method of gauging the suitability of a particular cartridge for a particular configuration of fire arm . Holland and Holland , are after all , one of the finest makers of sporting fire arms in the world .
    I have two questions for you , which made me curious .
    First , may l ask what is " Off face " ? Pondoro used the same terminology in my recent article " Rifles used for Royal Bengal tigers " . I assumed that he means that something bad will happen to the double barrel rifle by pro longed firing of .458 Winchester magnum cartridges .
    Second , what firm made your .375 Holland and Holland magnum double barrel rifle ?
     
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  18. Kawshik Rahman

    Kawshik Rahman AH Elite

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    Thank you so much for your kind words and support. I have read about the .405 Winchester central fire calibre.
    My favorite president of the United States of America , Mr. Theodore Roosevelt used one during his African Safari for securing quite a few lions and even one elephant ( with multiple shots fired by himself and his son at the beast ).
    That foul traitor to the hunting world , Kenneth Anderson ( whose writings contributed to the hunting ban in India ) used to use a .405 Winchester calibre under lever rifle ( the model 1895 from Winchester ) when he was a hunter and killed one rogue Indian elephant with it by shooting it three times in the head ( on other occasions for rogue elephant , he generally favored his .400 bore double barrel rifle built by the English firm , Jeffery ).
    Hoss Delgado also owns an under lever rifle calibrated for .405 Winchester central fire cartridge , which he has shown me on a video interview he was conducting of me .
     
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  19. Kawshik Rahman

    Kawshik Rahman AH Elite

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    Co Elk Hunter
    You will be most interested in knowing that a client of mine actually owned a Winchester under lever rifle , calibrated for the .30-06 Springfield cartridge ( it was the same model of Hoss Delgado's .405 Winchester calibre under lever rifle , but in a different calibre ) . He used it to secure a 192 pound male leopard , using three 220 grain Remington core lock soft head cartridges .
     
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  20. Kawshik Rahman

    Kawshik Rahman AH Elite

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    Wyatt Smith
    Thank you for enlightening me on something. I always thought that the .458 Winchester Magnum model 70 rifles with the mauser type extracting claw device were a relatively modern innovation from the 1990s decade . Now , l know that they also existed much before.
     
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