Gun writer, Josh Wayner, begins his article series on the .450 Bushmaster.
GRAND RAPIDS, MI USA – -(Ammoland.com)- In this article series we will be taking a look at a what is fast becoming a hunting mainstay in modern America : the .450 Bushmaster .
The .450 Bushmaster is a round that has grown immensely in popularity in the last few years. This year has proven to be an even better year for the cartridge, as it is receiving high marks with hunters all over due to the fact that ammunition and guns are increasing in number and quality.
This article will be looking at the development of the .450 Bushmaster and why exactly it is as popular as it is now. To understand this trend, we need to look at the laws and legal reasons that led to its current state. In recent years, many states, especially those in the midwest, have allowed the use of straight-walled cases for deer hunting. The idea is that these straight walled cases offer the hunter the use of a rifle as opposed to a shotgun. As shotgun technology increased, a 200 yard shot from a rifled shotgun became a regular occurrence, and shotgun slugs became more powerful than many normal rifle cartridges at those ranges, thus prompting a look at other options.
The idea behind the straight-walled case hunting policies is that the rifles chambered for these types of rounds would be in pistol calibers such as .44 and .357 Magnum. Michigan, for instance, allows any cartridge .35 caliber and larger with a case length minimum of 1.16” and a maximum of 1.8”. Notice that this doesn’t include the cartridge overall length (COAL for the reloaders out there), but rather the physical length of the cartridge cases themselves. This means that the .38 Special is technically excluded at a case length of 1.155”, but the .357 Mag is allowed at a length of 1.29”. Rounds like 9mm meet the .35 caliber minimum, but fail at being under 1.16” case length. It should be noted that many people have a false impression of this and still regard 9mm as a legal case due to the fact that the COAL is around 1.17”.
The .450 Bushmaster falls into this category of straight-walled cases because it easily exceeds the .35 caliber minimum being a .45 caliber, and it meets the length restrictions at 1.7”. There are several more reasons it is popular, among those being that it is easily adaptable to both .308 Winchester-based rifles like the Remington 700 and 5.56mm based platforms like the AR-15. We will be looking at everything including bolt actions, single-shots, and semiautos in this series and what they offer the hunter and shooter.
There is some head scratching going on in the audience and I can tell why. How is it that a fat .45 caliber rifle round fits in both a .308 action and an AR?
The answer is twofold. First, the .450 shares the same bolt face and rim dimensions as .308 Win. This means that most .308 rifles, especially bolt actions, can be converted to .450 with only a barrel change. A detachable magazine assembly like the AICS pattern and related family can reliably feed .450 BM, despite there being a little room in the front of the magazine. This won’t have much of an impact at all on feeding or reliability in case you were wondering.
The AR-15 side is a bit different. There is modification required to get it to work correctly in an AR, and I built one for this series with the help of Brownell’s to show you what to look for. I’ll be covering that rifle in an upcoming article, but you can get a good preview in the title imagery for this article.
Since it is laws that tend to dictate what can and can’t be used for a given type of hunting, the .450 is riding a popularity curve that few new cartridges get to embark on. The funny thing about it is that the .450 was likely on the verge of going to the cartridge graveyard if it were not for the changes in law. It can be a very finicky cartridge in a semiauto and was never really designed to go in bolt actions. Necessity is what is driving it forward, as most hunters want the most power inside their legal limits. There is nothing wrong with a .44 Mag lever action, but a 240gr bullet at less than 1,500fps pales in comparison to a 300gr bullet at 2,000fps from the .450 Bushmaster. There is a price in recoil and noise, but the benefits are there, too, with those being incredible power on target and flat trajectory.
The .450 Bushmaster started out as an AR-15 based cartridge and was developed with Col. Jeff Cooper’s idea of a ‘Thumper’ weapon in mind. The rough idea behind ‘Thumper’ was to have a rifle cartridge that allowed effectiveness through means of mass rather than velocity. This was an interesting concept, but fairly behind the times when the rest of the world was looking at rounds like 5.56mm and 5.45mm. The end of the development cycle resulted in a joint effort between Hornady, Bushmaster, and Tim LeGendre, the designer of the .450 Bushmaster’s parent case, the .45 Professional.
Tim LeGendre owner LeMag Firearms, LLC Interview:
Since it was developed, the .450 Bushmaster has struggled against other big bore AR cartridges in a contest that seems to have never ended. Rounds like .458 Socom, .50 Beowulf, and many others all tried to bring something to the table that the others didn’t offer. In the end, it is the Achilles Heel of the .450 BM that became a saving grace, that being the straight walled case. The straight walls make it so that there is difficulty feeding from many kinds of magazines and some won’t work with it at all. I have found what I believe is the best magazine design and I will be covering that in a special article dedicated to the many and confounding problems with getting a .450 BM to feed reliably in an AR rifle.
As it stands today, the .450 Bushmaster has a great deal to offer the modern hunter. It isn’t a very good ‘let’s go play at the range’ cartridge in that it is large, has stout recoil, and is relatively expensive to buy. What it does offer is nothing short of extraordinary and it is worth it for hunters in any state to take a look at it. Stay tuned to this series to see reviews on everything .450, including guns, ammunition, reloading projects, and much, much more.
Ammunition pictured in this article can be found at www.buffalobore.com and www.hornady.com. The rifle pictured will be covered in an upcoming article, along with a list of parts so you can build one just like mine with help from Brownell’s.
About Josh Wayner:
Josh Wayner has been writing in the gun industry for five years. He is an active competition shooter with 14 medals from Camp Perry. In addition to firearms-related work, Josh enjoys working with animals and researching conservation projects in his home state of Michigan.