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Why I no longer defend the .458WM

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Russ View Drop Down
.30/06 SpringField
.30/06 SpringField

Joined: 13 July 2014
Location: Australia
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Points: 430
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Russ Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: Why I no longer defend the .458WM
    Posted: 15 July 2014 at 23:24
Hey guys,

I posted this on the other forums so thought I'd share here as well.

Why I no longer defend the .458 Winchester Magnum.

For more years than I can remember I have been an staunch fan of the
.458 Winchester Magnum. Having owned 2 rifles chambered for the
.458WM at least I can speak from experience (even of it is somewhat
limited) about the round.
I have not been able to fault either rifle and I have never experienced
any problems when reloading the .458.
Despite all the positive experiences I've had with the .458 Winchester
Magnum I can now no longer defend it.
Why not?
Because there's no point. People either don't listen - or they've already
made up their mind about the .458 Winchester. I end up just getting
frustrated, so now I'm just not going to bother. Instead of arguing about
the .458 Winchester magnum I'm going to go out with mine and shoot
big animals with it.
"Its poorly designed"
"It was all there was at the time"
"Lacks penetration"
"Too slow"
"Not powerful enough"
"Not enough case capacity"
"Caked powder and poor bullets"
"At least in a magnum length action it can be converted to the Lott"

Heard 'em all and to be honest I just get sick of it... and I it don't agree
with any of the above.
I have no shares or stakes in Winchester. I had no part in the design of
the .458. I didn't invent the round, so if people choose to use or not use
it, it's of no consequence to me. My feelings aren't gonna get hurt, BUT,
what does get me upset is when someone buys a perfectly good rifle
and then converts to the Lott - usually without even firing the rifle first!
Or because of ammo that was manufactured decades ago!! That's like
me saying "yeah, I drove a Chrysler 50 years and because of a bad
experience I'll never drive one again!!" Gimme a break..
I'll be honest and say that I just don't get that kind of reasoning.
How many people buy a .30-06 for deer/ elk and then without firing it
get it converted to the Ackley? Or buy a .300 Win Mag and then get it
converted to .300 Weatherby? Not to many that I've met.
Now don't get me wrong, if someone wants a Ackley, or a Weatherby,
or a Lott then that's all cool and groovy, good luck with your rifle and I'm
sure that it'll serve you well.
BUT, if someone buys one because they feel that the original cartridges
aren't up to the task - because they were told (or read something
online) by an 'expert' that says they're not, that really gets me going.
I think my favourite one is in regards to the caked powder/ squib loads
that the .458 is famous for. To say this didn't happen is a lie. It did and I
don't doubt that it got many a person in serious trouble... or worse. The
most common cause I hear for this is because of 'compressed ball
powder' that glues together under the African heat and doesn't ignite
The funny thing is that according to Winchester the original rounds
WERE NOT loaded with ball powder! Winchester only changed to ball
powder in the .458 some time in the late ‘70s or early ‘80s. Before then,
the .458 was loaded with a cylindrical, short-grain double-base powder.
A gentleman by the name of Georg Grohmann also wrote about this in
detail. He wrote a great article while working up loads for his .458 and
"But contrary to popular belief in certain quarters, old (1970s)
Winchester ammo was not loaded with ball powder, but with a small-
log, cylindrical, double base powder. None of the cartridges I had for
testing contained compressed powder, neither was it caked. It was,
however, cemented by chemical action. There were also undersize
bullets. The end results were, in some cases, disastrous. Not only were
velocities much reduced (as low as 1856 fps in my tests) but there were
both hang fires and misfires! But it was NOT ball powder, neither was it
compressed! There was about 1 mm of space between powder and
bullet in the solid loads and about 2 mm in the softpoint loads. It was a
short-grain, cylindrical, extruded double-base powder, resembling IMR
4320 in shape and size. (IMR powders are single-base, of course)."

Not good, not good at all, but also not due to caked ball powder. He
goes on to further write;

"As for ball powder ‘caking’ in compressed loads, this is another very
persistent story. All I can say here is that I have been loading Win/Olin
748 ball powder in my .458 since October 1974. In unfired cases, my
standard load is slightly compressed, yet I have never had a problem.
In 2002, in order to check up on this, I disassembled some .458/748
loads, which I had put together in 1982! There was a little clumping of
the powder, but no more than in cartridges I checked six months after
loading. These rounds were re-assembled and then chronographed
together with some cartridges, which had not been disturbed. Average
MV was 2060 fps, exactly the same as what I got in 1982, when I
checked some of the same batch of reloads."

So why then the bad performance of the .458 years and years ago?
Well let's see, there's the stick powder having a chemical reaction and
clumping together - even though it wasn't compressed, the original
'solids' blowing apart and being undersized and the production line
spilling powder from the shells before the bullet was seated.
These problems have been fixed (decades ago!!) and it's a testament
to the round's reliable performance on game that it's still so popular.

What about the stories I hear about the .458 being not powerful enough
for elephant? Well, I've never shot an elephant and unless I win the
lottery I probably never will. But I do own a chronograph. And I know
that a 500gr bullet at between 2050 - 2200 fps will kill any elephant
under any condition. I know this because even though I've never shot
an elephant, Grobler, Harland, Aagaard, Duckworth and Thomson
have. Around 20,000 actually and all with the 458wm.
And I also know that today, it's no problem to drive a 500gr bullet at
these speeds, without super compressing (not that I think compressed
loads are bad) or without sky high pressure. In fact the ADI loading
manual lists the following STARTING loads for the .458 with the 500gr
bullet, 70grs of AR2208 (Varget) for 2050fps and 70grs of AR 2206H
(H4895) for 2070fps. These starting loads are as powerful as the
factory ammo that culled 20,000 elephants, yet are not compressed
and are very mild pressure wise. The .458 would probably be the most
popular big bore here in Australia for hunting water buffalo and the
such, and I'll tell you, in summertime up the Northern Territory, it gets as
hot up there as anywhere in Africa. The loads that are listed in
Australian manuals with Aussie ADI powders show that speeds up to
2205fps are possible (74grs AR2206H) without excess pressure and
the N.T is where they are field tested.
I don't think that 2050 - 2200fps is to slow for anything that a .458
would be used on. It compares very favourably to the .470 Nitro and
would probably surpasses it if the .470 was chronographed in the more
realistic 24- 26" barrel instead of the usual 28" the .470 is credited with.
Even if the .470 was 50fps or so quicker than the .458 the .458 has a
higher S.D when both are fired with 500gr bullets. So on game they
would be pretty much identical... except that the .458 can do it in a
standard action - not a magnum. This is why I think that the .458
Winchester Magnum ISN'T a poorly designed round. Nitro performance
out of a .30-06 sized action.

But what if you do have a .458 in a Magnum sized action like I do with
my CZ550 Safari Magnum? Well according to the experts it simply
makes sense to convert it to the Lott and it's a pretty cheap conversion.
Well not getting it done is cheaper! One can load to an OAL of 3.8 in
the CZ and all you need is a Lee Factory Crimp Die. They're about $15-
20! The load that was recommended to me for my CZ taking advantage
of the longer action was the 550gr Woodleigh and 74grs of AR2206.
This load gives 2100 fps and over 5300 ft/lbs of energy. In what
situation would this be lacking for dangerous game?
So before converting it to the Lott, why not just seat the bullets out
deeper in the .458 Winchester and see how you go? Brass and
components are cheaper and factory ammo is a lot more common. (I
know that WM ammo can be used in the Lott but if you're gonna factory
ammo just use the WM as is. And remember that factory ammo culled
those 20,000 ele's.)

So this is why I no longer defend about the .458 Winchester Magnum.
I don't need to.
It has killed more dangerous game than any other cartridge and is now
beyond criticism. People like Don Heath and Craig Boddington, who
previously, were very outspoken about their dislike of the .458 have
now called a truce with it. Why? Because there is nothing to criticise..
and there hasn't been for some time. Don Heath states that today there
is nothing wrong with the .458 and Craig Boddington credits the .458
"as the gun that saved Africa". But I think that Craig sums up the .458
nicely with the following post;
"Even though (years ago) Winchester boldly dropped the .458
Winchester Magnum, it needs to stay. It is still the least expensive
option for a true big bore, and despite the current popularity of .458-
bashing, it is absolutely adequate for the world’s largest game."

And I couldn't agree more.

Edited by Russ
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BEAR View Drop Down

Joined: 07 September 2013
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Points: 8831
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote BEAR Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16 July 2014 at 01:38

I've got to agree with you Russ.  Great round, but with lots of gun mag writers bad-mouthing.

Over the years I've been lucky enough to shoot the 458, 470, lott, 416 Weatherby mag, and a lot of 416 rem.  I've been chased twice by elephants; but never shot one even having had the chance.  Personally, I like the 416 and 9.3 for dangerous game.  But for elephant and lion, only a 500 grainer will do in my book.

The lott I shot was an african PH's gun, pre-64 m70.  Always thought the idea was lame.  First on most rifles the action needs to have a lengthened feed ramp.  will the feed ramp area that is cut away is a very weak link; right where the right locking lug bears.  And any problems with the 458 win would also be present in the Lott.

For a while I had a m70 458 mag on order for a safari; but the LGD just keep screwing there are none in my cabinet now.

Of the 458 wildcats, I always liked the 458 2".

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RaySendero View Drop Down
.30/06 SpringField
.30/06 SpringField

Joined: 29 November 2005
Location: US South
Status: Offline
Points: 423
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote RaySendero Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 July 2014 at 13:06
Russ, I understand!!!

Edited by RaySendero
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