50ak1_1

By LB

For years I had been searching the perfect lever gun: short, charming, and capable of delivering at least 4000 ft/lbs of energy at 50 yards for my weekly brown bear encounter. I was considering finding one of the old pre-Remington Marlins in .45-70. What a great cartridge…nearly 150 years old and it’s still found as a modern chambering. But, that wasn’t quite big enough and lacked some of the energy I was looking for. A friend of mine, who lived in Alaska for years, suggested I look at the 50 B&M Alaskan. Let’s just say it filled all of the requirements I had set forth . . .

50ak2_1
From left to right: 22LR, 9mm Luger, 45 ACP, 5.56 Nato, 50 B&M Alaskan

The 50 Alaskan was developed by Harold Johnson in the 1950s for Alaskan guides. He took the classic .348 Winchester, blew out the case, and shoved a .510 bullet in the end. What a brilliant idea.

It allowed the use of the existing action size that most of the hunters had, plus delivered a considerable increase in energy. However, in today’s market, .510 diameter bullets aren’t easy to come by. However, there have been a plethora of bullets developed for the requirements of .500 shooters. In the 2000s, B&M necked this case down a bit more to accept .500 bullets – which opened the flood gates in regards to bullet choices and availability.

50ak3_1

During the middle of 2014, I contacted J.D. Jones of SSK Industries to have him build a rifle for me. Handgun hunters might recognize J.D.’s name as his development of cartridges such as the 375 JDJ has led to a lot of happy hunters. I outlined my requirements of the gun and the guys at SSK gave me feedback to build just the rifle I was looking for.

We decided to start with a Marlin 1895, have the action worked, barrel the rifle in 50 B&M Alaskan, mount a forward scope rail, install some ghost ring sights, and send the rifle off for finishing. I received the rifle in January 2015 and was thrilled to open the box and take it out to the range. The only problem was ammunition.

50ak4_1

Buffalo Bore currently loads .50 Alaskan, but that’s with the original .510 diameter bullets. SSK supplied me with enough formed 348 brass to get me started. But let’s be honest, I wanted to start developing loads straight away, and that’s hard to do with only a handful of brass.

Luckily for me, Star-Line is just up the road and, not only do they produce some of – if not the best – casings in the industry, but .50 Alaskan is one of their standard offerings. In addition, they’re right next door to Sierra Bullets. Therefore, I have basically one-stop shopping for those components. Now I just need to pick up some powder….

50ak5_1

I tried an assortment of loads with different bullets, but settled on the Sierra 400gr charged with 63g of IMR4831. This was one of Layne Simpson’s favorite loads when he took this cartridge around Africa and it has become mine. The recoil is heavy, but it’s accurate enough with benched groups consistently under 1” at 50 yds. In addition, I was able to maintain a 100% hit rate on 8” steel at 100 yards without support. Clearly good enough for bear work, considering most of the encounters are at far less distance than that.

50ak6_1

The gun is built well but still maintains some elements of its being a “Remlin”: poorly fitted stock, uneven bevel on the top of the action, and the serial number isn’t quite straight. However, SSK did everything they could to fix the issues we’ve seen with Marlins since Big Green took over their operation. The action is smoothed and tightened, the trigger now breaks like glass, the recoil pad is replaced with one more fitting of a large caliber, in addition to the items that SSK adds such as the banded front sight.

50ak7_1

Overall, I am very pleased with every aspect of this rifle. It’s very handy and fast to get on target. It has proven range reliable (of course, it’s a lever gun), it’s accurate, and delivers a lot of energy. In addition, I must say that I am really happy with the customer service SSK has provided for the rifle and the quality of workmanship that was put forth.

Specifications

  • Caliber: 50 B&M Alaskan
  • Sights: Ghost ring aperture rear, beaded and banded front
  • Optic: Leupold EER 2.5×20 Scout Scope
  • Weight (empty): 8 lbs 6 oz
  • Weight (loaded): 8 lbs 15 oz
  • Length: 37 3/4”
  • Barrel: 19”
  • Stock: Laminate wood
  • Estimated price (as shown): $2000

 

Ratings (out of five stars)

Fit & Finish * * * *
I must separate this into two categories. The fit and finish on Marlin’s part – and the work left behind even after it has been touched by SSK – I would rate at 2 or 3 stars. However, the quality of work shown by SSK is five stars. This is how I came to a four star rating.

Reliability * * * * *
It’s a lever gun. If it jams, chances are the user has done something wrong.

Accuracy * * * * *
Accuracy is relative and, in this case, superb. It’s not going to win any bench competitions, but it’s quite fine for a rifle such as this and for its intended use.

Ergonomics * * * *
Handles well, swings well, points well… I’d just want a bit longer pull. But that’s probably due to my long arms and won’t affect most shooters.

Accessories * * *
There’s really not a lot specific for this rifle other than what has already been installed (sights, scope rail). Naturally, there are plenty of bread and butter accessories to outfit the rifle for hunting.

In regards to ammunition, you must load it yourself. Great bullets – ranging from 300gr to 500gr – are available from a variety of sources such as Sierra, Northfork, and others. New brass is available from Starline; or you can fireform it yourself using 348 Winchester as the platform.

Overall * * * * ½
It’s a great shooting, fun, and powerful rifle.

Recommended For You

36 Responses to Gun Review: SSK 50 B&M Alaskan Rifle

    • The 400gr Sierra loads I’ve been using have roughly 4300 ft/lbs of energy at the muzzle. 500S&W loadings with the same bullet weight offer around 2300 ft/lbs, so the difference is around 2000 lbs.

      • The .500 Smith can hit 4,000+ FPE from an 18″ lever gun, just like a .357 Mag hits roughly .30-30 energy levels from a lever gun. Heck, the .500 Smith can hit roughly 2,800 FPE from an 8 3/8″ X-frame revolver. Even the “lowly” .460 Smith Mag can hit 2600-2800 FPE from an 8 3/8″ barrel using 300 or 360 grain rounds from Buffalo Bore. Put those energetic handgun rounds into a carbine and speed and energy increase nicely.

        I wonder if SSK could do a .500 Smith version. That’d be great with factory ammo and reloads.

  1. Why would you put a scope on a 50 yard bear defense gun?
    I can understand using one for accuracy testing, otherwise…?

    • In low light, iron sights mean that at best you can see your target or your sights, but not both. A good scope fixes that.

  2. 45-70 comparison? I have the Marlin guide model in 45-70 and this would have to be pretty awesome to get me to switch or even add….

  3. Looks like a lot of fun, but it also looks like a solution in search of a problem. 45-70 can be loaded pretty hot for the 1895 Marlin. And can be had for not much money if full power isn’t required.

  4. I have to imagine there’s a lot of coin in getting this rifle built; it would be interesting, if not useful, to know the $$ value vs a stock .45-70 from Marlin or even Henry.

  5. Good write up, with one small problem, now I WANT ONE!

    I need a new gun lust like another hole in the head.

    Prolly a half inch in diameter, entry side, of course…

  6. [.45-70] …wasn’t quite big enough and lacked some of the energy I was looking for

    I really don’t understand this point. Not big enough and lacking in energy for what? You could plausibly take down an elephant with a .45-70. Certainly anything in North America.

    I’ve seen loadings of the .45-70 ranging from 1700 ft.lb. to 3500 ft. lb.

    Sure, there are more powerful cartridges out there, but at what point are you just needlessly punishing your shoulder (and your ammo budget)?

  7. Did the NFA have any influence on the decision to offer a .50 cal?

    Would one of these rifles in anthing more than .500 in be considered a destructive device?
    I believe that to be the c ase.

    Don

    • Yup. Anything over .50 is a destructive device, because “reasons” and would be regulated as such.

  8. Hot damn that sure looks fun. There’s just something about a good lever gun. Plain fun. That’s about twice as much as we need out here on the right coast. It would be funny to shoot that beast side by side with my little .357 1892 haha. Anyway, good post.

  9. I was talking to JDJ in 1995 about making a .50 semi-automatic rifle for me and was able to converse with the maker of this and some other 1/2″-bore rounds developed under the “B&M” monicker. JDJ convinced me that there weren’t any suitable semi-auto receivers, but Mike Mcourry (the designer) showed me that there were plenty of .50 choices available. Check out http://www.ammoguide.com to see the variations he has come up with over the years – including .50 B&M Alaskan .50 B&M Long and my personal favorite, the .500 MDM Ultra.

    Now that there is a suitably strong semi-auto receiver available from NEMO (Omen .300 Winchester Magnum), I think I’ll start saving up for the project again.

  10. I saw Chris Pratt use one of these in Jurassic World, and it didn’t do jack to a 25 ton dinosaur. 😉

    • It really pissed me off how they portraied guns as much less efficient than reality so the dinosaurs could seem mighty.

  11. Sounds like a nice gun…….if you don’t factor in just how hard it is to feed.
    I can get 45/70 most anywhere. I can get a LOT of rounds that work just
    as well most anywhere. As a boutique toy to play with it’s probably ok,
    as a working gun…..nope. Not till ammo availability is addressed.

  12. A alternative for the poor folks (like me):
    Some guys who purport to design bear defense guns need to spend some time in brown/grizzly bear country to develop a realistic perspective. There is bear hunting and bear defense which is not the same thing. A lot of us don’t have $2000+ (more like $3000 all told) for a custom defensive gun. Many of us paysans do not reload and depend on factory ammo to fill our needs.
    In 2014 I bought a stainless remlin guide gun 45-70 off the rack at my favorite lgs and checked it over thoroughly for mechanical condition and functionality before laying my hard earned money down. This included running some dummy ammo thru the action and a bore inspection with a quality bore light. The shop proprietor thankfully was amenable to me doing this under close scrutiny of one of his salesmen.
    The gun I walked out of the shop with was rough cycling but basically intact.
    It was dead of winter so transforming the diamond in the rough remlin 1895GS to a bear defense gun was a good winter project.
    In a nutshell to avoid getting bogged down in technicalities in an internet blog I stripped the gun totally apart and deburred and polished all the internal parts with stones, jewelers files and fine grit emery paper, removed the cross bolt safety and plugged the holes and removed the factory sights and installed a rail and X/S aperture sights with a wide aperture. I thought about replacing the square finger lever with a big loop but decided to stay with the factory lever as it was more comfortable for me.
    I found a deal ($28/box@20rounds) on factory 45-70 HSM Bear Load ammo which pushes a 430 grain hard cast (Brinell 25) lead bullet out of the 18.5″ bbl of my 1895GS ~1760 fps (~3000 ft-lbs ME) which will drop any brown or grizzly bear I ever saw within the less than 50 yard range a defensive bear gun is designed to be deployed in. Also, stainless is the best choice under adverse Alaskan conditions.
    Take my word for it … you do not want a safety (other than the resident half cock) or a scope on a gun in your hands when a peeved off grizz is charging. They can cover 50 yards faster than you can fill your boots with last nights supper and they are hard to acquire and hit when they are running full bore towards you and you need to STOP them IMMEDIATELY or SOONER..
    Bin there, dun that.
    My 2 cents.

  13. Hi Guys……..

    I am Michael McCourry, I developed the B&M Cartridges. On occasion I do a search to see what is out there and came across this little Article by Dan done last year. Actually very good.

    The first B&Ms were all for the bolt guns and designed for my personal use in the field. 1st up being the 50 B&M, a 2.25 inch RUM case, rifle a Win M70 WSM action, and true .500 caliber. .500 caliber proved to be very effective, and the 2.25 inch RUM case equal case capacity to 458 Win Mag. .500 is very efficient, lots of inside cubic inches to burn powder, and 18 inches was more than enough to get things going.

    I love lever guns as well, so it was very easy and natural to take .500 caliber to both Marlin 1895s and the Various M71s, Browning and Winchester. I used Starline 50 AK (.510) to simply squeeze it down to .500 caliber, size and load, easy as that. Once the 50 B&M AK was designed and a few loads done for it with conventional bullets, I put it to the side until Layne Simpson decided he wanted one. At that time I got busy and did more load development, bullet development with both Cutting Edge Bullets and NorthFork, and did the pressure work on the cartridge as well. Through new bullet tech there are now numerous extremely serious bullets for the 50 B&M Alaskan, which allow it to be very efficient in the field for many missions asked of it. Far more than what was available in the beginning.

    The way to enhance any cartridge is with Bullet Technology. The bullet does the heavy lifting in the end.

    SSK has done a tremendous job with all the B&M Cartridges. Early in the development, I made the B&Ms proprietary to SSK Industries because of the quality work they do. My name and reputation is at stake with the B&Ms, so I don’t chance that to just anyone.

    In 2013 I took the 50 B&M Alaskan to Africa, was very successful with both hippo and buffalo, and various other critters using bullets designed specifically for the 50 B&M AK……..

    You can see more about the 50 B&M Alaskan on the B&M Website……….

    http://www.b-mriflesandcartridges.com/50-B-M-Alaskan.html

    Thanks
    Michael

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *