If my search summary of the various posts in "African Big Game Hunting" is correct, the most mentioned cartridge was the .458 Win. Mag. as the preferred item for cape buffalo/elephant.
To get a better appreciation for the .458 Win Mag, I did a quick search and found the following article. The author also covers the .460 Weatherby Mag which I have seen shot at our local range. I was on the pistol range and noticed a shooter on the rifle range shoot and then walk around for about 10/15 minutes. Shoot again and same walk. I stopped on my way out and asked what he was shooting. He said .460 Weatherby Mag and showed me the shell that looked like my thumb. I asked, "What in the world do you shoot with that?" and he replied, "Moose." That's how I developed my respect for Mr. Moose. This guy wasn't a real happy shooter. And I'd have to have the cape buffalo/bear really convince me they were serious before I'd want to shoot that rifle.
The .458 Winchester Magnum
& .460 Weatherby Magnum
By Chuck Hawks
.458 Winchester Magnum
The .458 Winchester Magnum is the most popular "elephant rifle" cartridge in the world. It was introduced in 1956; the first of the original series of three Winchester belted magnum cartridges for standard length actions. (The other two were the .264 Mag. and the .338 Mag.) It quickly established itself as a premier cartridge for thick-skinned dangerous game (elephant, rhino, and buffalo). The .458 appeared in a special version of the Model 70 bolt action rifle named the "African." I have heard that its immediate acceptance and popularity surprised even Winchester.
It was a time when air travel was beginning to allow affluent middle-class hunters from North America to embark on African safaris that only ten years earlier had been prohibitively expensive and time-consuming. In 1956, the year the .458 Mag. appeared, the introduction of the Douglas DC-7C airliner made possible reasonably affordable nonstop Trans-Atlantic air service in both directions. It was followed by the Lockheed Starliner, which entered Trans-Atlantic service in 1957. The Boeing 707 jetliner entered service in 1958, and the first Douglas commercial jetliner, the DC-8, entered service in 1959. The .458 Win. Mag. turned out to be the right cartridge at the right time.
The ballistic performance of the .458 Win. Mag. was based very closely on that of the pioneering British Nitro Express big bore cartridge, the .450 Nitro Express, and its popular successor the .470 Nitro Express. The .470 Nitro Express had became the most popular of all the British elephant rifle cartridges. As originally loaded with cordite (British smokeless) powder, it drove a 500 grain bullet at a MV of 2,125 fps for a ME of 5,030 ft. lbs. Performance on thick-skinned dangerous game was, and is, excellent.
This was the baseline the .458 Win. was designed to match, and Winchester's original .458 factory loads were exactly the same as above. Recoil from the .458 Magnum is terrific, of course. About 65 ft. lbs. of recoil energy from the 500 grain bullet at 2,125 fps in a 9.5 pound rifle.
The main drawback to any of the Nitro Express cartridges is their length. They were designed for break action double rifles, not repeaters. And new double rifles are prohibitively expensive for all but the very rich, which is where the .458 Win. Mag. comes in.
The .458 works through standard length bolt action rifles, and duplicates the traditional ballistics of the .470 N.E. Several manufacturers chamber their bolt action rifles for the .458 Magnum, including Remington, Ruger, Savage, and Winchester. It is also chambered in modern single shot rifles, like the elegant Ruger No. 1H Tropical Rifle.
Reloaders have their choice of 300, 350, 400, and 500 grain .458" bullets in soft point, controlled expansion, and solid (full metal jacket) types. Top reloads run 2,100-2,200 fps with 500 grain bullets. Maximum permissible pressure for the .458 Mag is 53,000 cup.
In the U.S. .458 Mag. factory loads are available from A-Square, Federal, Hornady, Norma, Remington, Speer and Winchester. Bullet weights run from 350-510 grains in both expanding and non-expanding (solid) types. .458 Mag. ammunition is manufactured and distributed world wide.
Federal offers a Premium Safari 350 grain soft point bullet (SD .238) at a MV of 2,470 fps and a ME of 4,740 ft. lbs. The figures at 100 yards are 1,990 fps and 3,065 ft. lbs. This load is primarily for hunters wishing to use their .458's on large North American game.
Another Federal Premium Safari load is a 400 grain Trophy Bonded Bear Claw (controlled expansion) bullet at a MV of 2,380 fps and a ME of 5,030 ft. lbs. That ought to stop the biggest Alaskan brown bear or African lion that ever lived.
Federal's Premium Safari line also has a couple of 500 grain controlled expansion type bullets, and a 500 grain solid. All of these are loaded to a MV of 2,090 fps and a ME of 4,850 ft. lbs. The 100 yard figures are 1,870 fps and 3,880 ft. lbs. The solid is the ticket for breaking down thick-skinned dangerous game like elephant, rhino, and Cape buffalo.
The Federal Premium Safari 510 gr. soft point bullet, a traditional load for the .458, has a MV of 2,090 fps and a ME of 4,895 ft. lbs. The figures at 100 yards are 1,820 fps and 3,730 ft. lbs. This load has always been regarded as a "stopper" for thin-skinned dangerous game like lion and tiger, or heart/lung shots on buffalo. The Winchester 510 gr. Super-X load, at a MV of 2,040 fps, is similar.
Remington, in their Premier Safari Grade line, offers a 450 grain Swift A-Frame (partitioned) bullet at a MV of 2,150 fps and a ME of 4,618 ft. lbs. The figures at 100 yards are 1,901 fps and 3,609 ft. lbs. This ought to make a pretty good general purpose load for the .458 Win. Mag.
None of the .458 Mag. loads are suited to long range shooting. Typical trajectory for a 500-510 grain factory load zeroed at 100 yards shows an 8.5" to 9" drop at 200 yards. The .458 is about a 150 yard big game cartridge.
The flattest shooting of all the factory loads is the Remington 450 grain A-Frame bullet. Its trajectory looks like this: +1.8" at 100 yards, 0" at 150 yards, and -4.6" at 200 yards. It makes the .458 about a 200 yard big game cartridge. At 200 yards that bullet retains 2,789 ft. lbs. of energy, slightly less than the best loads for the .338 Win. Mag. and the .375 H&H Mag. at that range.
.460 Weatherby Magnum
The big .460 Weatherby Magnum is based on the .378 Weatherby case necked up to accept .458" bullets, the same bullets used by the .458 Win. Mag. It was introduced in 1958, no doubt in response to the unexpected popularity of Winchester's .458 Mag.
Weatherby's ultimate magnum had to be spectacular, and the .460 is. Weatherby factory loads launch a 500 grain bullet at 2,600 fps with 7,504 ft. lbs. of energy. At the time of its introduction it was alleged to be the most powerful big game cartridge in the world, a claim disputed, by the way, by proponents of the .600 Nitro Express. Regardless, the .460 Wby. Mag. is one powerful cartridge. Just the thing to have if a T-Rex comes calling.
Handloaders can push a 300 grain bullet to over 3,000 fps, a 350 grain bullet to about 2,950 fps, a 400 grain bullet to over 2,750 fps, and a 500 grain bullet to about 2,650 fps. Why anyone would want to do so is beside the point--like Mount Everest, the .460 Wby. Mag. is there.
It takes real nerve to touch off a round from a .460 Weatherby rifle. The Weatherby Mark V rifle in this caliber has a 26" barrel and weighs 10.5 pounds. Fire a 500 grain bullet at 2,650 fps and you are going to have to deal with 109.7 ft. lbs. of recoil energy!
Weatherby factory loads offer a 450 grain Barnes-X bullet at 2,700 fps and 7,248 ft. lbs. of muzzle energy. Also 500 grain soft point and FMJ bullets, both at 2,600 fps and 7,504 ft. lbs. of ME. The only other company to load .460 ammo is A-Square, who offers a 500 grain "Triad" bullet at 2,580 fps and 7,389 ft. lbs. of ME.
Ballistics tables show that if the 500 grain Weatherby factory loads are zeroed at 200 yards, the bullet will strike about 2.5" high at 100 yards and 11" low at 300 yards. For those few who can shoot it accurately, the .460 is a 250+ yard big game cartridge.
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