Calibers for Beginners: .450 Bushmaster

Calibers for beginners .450 Bushmaster

The winds of change are coming to deer camp. States across the country are now allowing the use of straight-walled cases in what used to be shotgun-only zones for deer. Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, and Iowa are among the states where a somewhat new cartridge is taking the woods and fields by storm. The .450 Bushmaster has come of age and is making waves. Buckle up, kids, we’re going to cover a lot of ground in the next 1,900 words.

The first thing that the beginner should understand about the .450 Bushmaster is that it makes very little sense at all. I’ve authored some of the most detailed content ever written on the cartridge, the guns that fire it, and its theory of use and I can’t wrap my head around it as a modern round.

The beginner should know that there are forces that drive sales and popularity, but not all are valid or even logical. The .450 BM is sort of the Star Wars: The Last Jedi of the cartridge world. It’s not what we wanted or asked for. Instead it’s just a bumbling mess of random features that we somehow have to live with. At least you’ll never get called a bigot for saying that you’d rather shoot .45-70, unlike when I say that I’d rather watch the Star Wars Holiday Special than deal with Disney’s SJW agenda.

For as much as I make fun of the 6.5 Creedmoor and its salivating, sore-wristed followers, I can see that it does have some advantages for playing games and hunting small to medium game at close ranges over legacy cartridges, especially in the hands of the small-statured and the young. When it comes to the .450 Bushmaster I fail to see what it brings to the table. So why is it so damn popular today?

The answer to that is simple: vapid, ignorant bureaucrats in state and local government. To my DNR and local government readers out there, please take no offense. It is the prerogative of government to know close to nothing about any given subject when making policy, and it isn’t your fault that you are so woefully uninformed.

The .450 BM rose to popularity because it’s legal in virtually all of the Midwest and especially in Michigan, which is were just about all the good deer hunting in the world takes place. Not only that, we have the best beer, the best beaches, the most culture, the best rivalries (U of M vs MSU), the most attractive women, and Tim Allen and Ted Nugent as our unofficial state mascots. How can other states even compete? (Pro tip: they can’t.)

But for all the incredible things we have here in Michigan, we have two major problems: a shared border with Ohio and nonsense deer hunting laws. The truly amazing thing is that I can coyote hunt year-round with anything smaller than a 6.5 bore day and night, 24/7, but I can’t hunt deer in more than half the state with the same rifle during gun season.

If the DNR suddenly changed their case size laws, the .450 would instantly be forgotten. Let me repeat that for you: the .450 Bushmaster owes its success to state laws, not its superior ballistics, marketing, or ease of use. It is, in point of fact, a terribly designed cartridge that has a huge number of flaws.

The beginner to the .450 should know that they ought to buy a factory-made .450 rifle, and a bolt-action at that. I did a very large spread on my custom AR build for another publisher and it was nothing but problems. I ended up having to modify almost every part in the action, including the magazines.

There are only a few true options out there that I’ve seen, and a couple I can’t release details on just yet because they’re still in development. At the end of the day, the industry as a whole hasn’t answered demand for reliable .450 AR mags. That’s currently changing, but it has been a long, uphill battle.

Calibers for beginners .450 Bushmaster

Why does the round not work well? The answer is in the case. The case is what makes it legal for these straight-walled (non-bottlenecked) zones, but it isn’t exactly straight. There’s slight taper to the body and the head is rebated. This means that the case body isn’t supported by the magazine lips along the whole length. Rounds can lift point-up and cause the action to jam. I’ve seen it happen frequently. This does not have an impact on bolt actions that I’ve seen.

The cartridge also suffers from another problem: weak sauce loads. The cartridge was designed, albeit poorly, to fit into an AR mag and action. The problem with this is that the relatively flimsy AR action is prone to damage when introduced to the type of pressure the .450 BM can generate if loaded hot.

Unlike the .223 where you might get a stuck case, the .450 is capable of being handloaded above safe levels and still have plenty of room in the case left over. Most bolt-action .450 rifles would have no issue with hotter loads, but in a sem-iauto rifle you’re asking for trouble.

The issue with these weak loads is that they rob the .450 of what it could be. The .450 has the potential to be a truly great cartridge, but it’s being held back by the limits of the AR platform. The result is much the same as we’ve seen with other greats that have fallen on hard times due to high pressure concerns such as the 10mm Auto, .44 Magnum and 6.5-284.

Rest assured that all are making a significant comeback now that companies are making stiffer loads and good casting decisions. I’d like to see some dedicated hot bolt-action loads that have a longer OAL to prevent them from fitting in an AR mag at some point in the future.

So now that we’ve established that the .450 isn’t that great a design, we need to look at why it’s actually a terrible cartridge for beginners. I will say some positive things about it, so be patient.

The .450 generates a tremendous amount of recoil, even in an AR. It’s comparable to a .45-70 and is relatively violent in terms of how much it drives into the shoulder. I find that fast follow-up shots are hard to get. The other concern is how loud it is. I hunted with a muzzle brake on my rifle, but I wouldn’t recommend it. It cuts recoil, but it increases blast like you wouldn’t believe.

Calibers for beginners .450 Bushmaster

The beginner isn’t served especially well by the .450 Bushmaster. Instead, I would probably recommend something like a lever-action .44 Magnum or the like before I told a new hunter to go with this on their first trip. Ammo is somewhat expensive and can be hard to find, unlike common rounds like .44 Mag. Considering that most all deer hunting occurs inside 200 yards, with most in Michigan at only about 50 yards, it is certainly overkill.

That said, the .450 does a great deal right. It’s capable of handling huge bullets over 350 grains, has a .308 case head, making it just a barrel swap on most .308 rifles, and is easily able to kill all North American game with the right bullets, up to and including grizzly.

It is, in factory form, limited to about 200 yards in the hands of a skilled shooter, but with careful handloads can be pushed another hundred yards or so. It isn’t a long-range round, but it’s capable of delivering more lead inside its effective range than almost any other round in common use today.

Another benefit the .450 has it that it is generally pretty accurate. Many lever guns have limited accuracy past 150 yards, but the .450 BM is able to perform within MOA all the way to 200 and beyond. The trajectory of most .450 factory ammo allows you to zero at about 200 yards and hold right on anywhere inside that.

As far as rifles for this round go, you can find them from an increasing number of makers, but I’ll give you the highlights here:

Ruger: In addition to their Gunsite Scout Rifle, which may be one of the best medium-range hunting rifles you can own today, Ruger makes their affordable American Ranch in .450. They just released a new AR rifle chambered for it. Curiously, Ruger also makes a beautiful No. 1 single-shot in stainless and laminate that I have had the pleasure of testing.

AR Rifles: Bushmaster, Remington, Windham, and many others make good quality AR rifles for the .450. I’ve had issues with all the above as far as reliability, but that’s much more a magazine problem than anything having to do with the gun. The soon-to-be king of all the AR hunting rifles comes from Brenton USA. I have been to their facility and have seen with my own eyes the level of engineering and innovation that has been done to produce the finest .450 hunting rifles available. Keep your eyes on Brenton USA, my friends. They aren’t building parts guns or cheap imitations. I believe that their name will soon be synonymous to AR hunting and I couldn’t be prouder that they are in Michigan.

Other Guns: Savage, CVA, and several other makers have bolt actions, break-actions, and more available. The market is steadily growing in this department.

Ammunition: The struggle of the .450 has also been in the ammo arena. Hornady has a 250gr FTX load that has been the standard for years. Earlier this summer, Buffalo Bore released four loads to cover everything from deer to grizzly bear. I’ve had the chance to fire each and they are all excellent performers. Winchester and Remington also make ammo for the .450. There are more and more .450 loads coming out every week, so keep an eye out for new stuff.

The .450 Bushmaster is one of the most unlikely cartridges to achieve success in recent years, but I like to think that it has the potential to become a favorite. I like that it isn’t a long-range round. If I had to take a shot for every time I heard some braggart talk about shooting deer at 900 yards, my liver would have shut down years ago.

I enjoy that the .450 has brought a level of sport back to some otherwise foolish and idiotic trends in hunting. It’s not exactly a classic, but one day it might get there. Hell, it may be known as the cartridge that introduced a new generation of deer hunters to the woods. Wouldn’t that be something?

comments

  1. avatar Billy says:

    Michigan State will always play second fiddle to Michigan. Both +500 favorites this weekend, Michigan State FAILED.

    1. avatar anonymoose says:

      How ’bout dem Buckeyes? :^)

    2. avatar frank speak says:

      you also have Detroit…’nuff said?…..

      1. avatar HoundDogDave says:

        True, but it’s tucked into a corner of the state and is easily avoidable. I’ve lived here most of my 60 years and have only needed to go down into Detroit 4 or 5 times. I only had my life threatened one of those times.

  2. avatar Rokurota says:

    Best beaches. Okay…

    1. avatar anonymoose says:

      Best turtle fences.

  3. avatar Kenneth says:

    In my opinion, no rebated case is ever going to be satisfactory in an autoloading action. The problems of proper support for the case in the magazine to insure proper feeding, are just too large.
    Which means that I believe we have not yet arrived at a point where a reliable, big bore, cartridge for the AR platform exists. What is needed is a non-rebated case that still qualifies as big bore, say .375 or .400 inch. That might just be doable, but the marketing moguls dictate that the .458 bore size is better known, thus easier to sell. And OFC, being in marketing, they haven’t the slightest clue as to the engineering problems they so create, since rare indeed is the marketer that can understand physics or math. Their practical skills tend to end with addition, as in: “add up this column of figures….”

    1. avatar anonymoose says:

      How about something like an elongated .475 Linebaugh with a standard 12mm rim in a DPMS G2?

      1. avatar Kenneth says:

        The largest boltface I can find in an AR bolt is the one for the 7.62X39. I wouldn’t build one of those either, as the large amount of case taper in the X39 is much more suited to a heavily curved magazine that rocks backward to lock home, like the AK or Ruger mini rifles do. That conversion is also fraught with problems when paired with the AR’s straight mag well.
        With 7.62X39 out of the question, I think that is still about the most that one can open up an AR bolt, at .447 inch. With a small amount of body taper minus the brass thickness that would be somewhere around a .41 – .42 inch bore size.
        Perhaps the 7.62X39 case blown out to make a 10.5 (.416) X39? That should take care of the body taper. And the capacity still ought to push a 300 grain slug at 1500 fps or more. I’d call that enough for most anything one should want to put down with a 5 pound carbine. And we’d lose the taper and rebated rim that cause so many problems.

      2. avatar Kenneth says:

        In fact, that’s a hell of a good idea. One wouldn’t even need to machine the bolt face. Just use the bolt from a 7.62×39 AR. I’ve never seen an AR barrel for sale with a .416 bore but Lilja(my favorite) or some other custom barrel maker should be able to provide one on order. There are enough AR gas systems on the market for almost anything, so that shouldn’t be much of an obstacle.
        That leaves the ammo to build, but Norma makes 7.62X39 ammo, in brass cases, with boxer priming. One fireform should do the trick, even though one would need to anneal the brass both before opening up the neck to .416, and again before fireforming out the body taper. That’s a bit of a pain, but once done on a number of cases it won’t be needed again for some time.
        That only leaves the magazine… Hmmm. That’s a poser. Can’t use 7.62 X 39 because the removal of the taper will mean the mag can’t have much curve. Lacking the manufacturing to create one’s own mags, It would have to be on a STANAG mag body with mods. Perhaps with only a new, custom, follower. It still might be doable in a small shop like mine though.
        I think I just found my next personal project… I’m going to contact Lilja right now. This is the kind of thing he digs on.

        1. avatar G.C. says:

          You have our attention as well. Knowing what needs to be tweaked saves a lot of frustration. You’re definitely onto something.

        2. avatar Kenneth says:

          G.C.
          I just heard back from Carson Lilja. He’s on board to do the barrel. I just put a feeler out to RCBS to see if they would be interested in doing the chamber reamer. I’ll draw up some reamer specs over the next couple of days.
          BTW, who might you be? Do you have access to manufacturing facilities that might be of use in this project? Like the magazine in particular?
          Know anyone in the bullet biz? I think this might work better as a 10mm, but all the bullets are too light in both weight and construction. I can hard cast plain lead in whatever size needed for prototyping and testing, but jacketed bullets will still be needed, somewhere down the timeline. One thing about 10mm, it’s almost automatic to call it the 10mm Mag. It’s about the only size left that hasn’t got the word magnum hung on it anywhere. That might help make up for it not being called a .45 or a .50.
          Or we could make it 10mm bore and just call it the .50 supermag and count on the name to convince people the way they did the .38 special at the turn of the last century. 🙂
          (not really! I believe in the truth, and if the marketers don’t like it, too bad)
          Anyway, if you want to feedback on this my email address is: [email protected] dot com

  4. avatar el Possum Guapo Standartenfuher " they think we're making pizza's Oberst von Burn says:

    I did not know much about the .450 BM, 1900 words later I still don’t. Other then a few firearms chambered for it

    1. avatar Joel says:

      I knew absolutely nothing about this Cartridge before this article so I guess I learned something.

      And I’m not in a beginner class by any measurable standard. But I do prefer to sticking to the basics. (Like how versatile a 12ga can be. That was a good beginner article if I ever saw one.)

  5. avatar Nathan says:

    It hammers deer, I’d probably prefer 357 AR rimless max if major manufactures did pressure tests and got 358 rifle bullets hitting 2600 fps ie 180 grain Barnes. but that’s not likely to happen. But that’s the straight wall game.

    1. avatar Andrew Lias says:

      Have you seen any stuff for it? I want to wildcat one.

  6. avatar Curtis in IL says:

    So.. the .450BM guns and ammo should be in the same section of the gun store with the rifled shotgun barrels and slug shells made for such. The sign above reads, “bureaucratic compliance equipment.”

    Here in Illinois, people hunt deer with scoped revolvers in .357 Magnum. Because a lever action rifle in .357 Magnum would be illegal.

    Michigan may have the best beaches, but Illinois leads in the category of legislative ignorance.

    1. avatar miforest says:

      yep you win. Ill has us beat there . but we will be trying hard to catch up soon.

  7. avatar HoundDogDave says:

    I have to concur on your sentiments about the deer in Michigan. Although we sure could stand to have a few more folks out here hunting them, the population is enormous. So many in fact that we have had to have them culled out of season to thin the herds I delivered newspapers in the early mornings in western Washtenaw County (just outside Ann Arbor) for about 10 years, and during that time hit 7 of them with my little car. Every one of those hits was from a deer clearing cover at full speed, head down in a full out run. 2 of the impacts were from the deer running into the side of my car. After one incident I got my car back from 2 weeks in the body shop and 10 days later it was right back to the shop from another hit. I have counted 50+ deer yarding at one time in a cornfield more than once. Some of the best whitetail deer hunting in the country is in S.E. Michigan. And please don’t be too hard on Ohio. Like my father would often say “Ohio does keep Kentucky from bumping into Michigan”.

    1. avatar Yeah Michigan says:

      Thank god for Ohio. It keeps Michigan’s deer with CWD from infecting the Kentucky herds.

  8. avatar miforest says:

    I live in Michigan too. I have hunted deer here since 1974. the 450 BM is overkill on deer and small shooters alike. most of the guns I have seen chambered for it art very light and short barrel . this only makes shooting it worse. same problem with the 12 ga full power sabot slugs . I am ocassionally a range safety officer during site in days at a club here. you cannot believe how many people show up with a plastic stocked pump weighing in at 6.5 lbs , and shooting sabot’s with 385 gr at 1900 fps . I have even see 600 gr 3″ at 1730 fps . needless to say shooting these from the bench is absolutely brutal.
    Most hunters in the shotguns zone would be better served with a 77/44 bolt gun or a single shot 44 mag like the cva . another good choice is a 20 ga with a rifled barrel . either one is a good deer gun to 150 yds if you can hit well with it.
    I have had very few opportunities at over 125 yard in southern mi. In the rifle zone, there is nothing saying you can’t hunt deer with a 460 wby mag, but there are better choices.

  9. avatar New Continental Army says:

    I’d like to see an article on 8.6 creedmoor.

  10. avatar Kountryboy says:

    It looks like a better solution would be to resurrect the old Winchester .351 and .401 cartridges. They would be adequate for deer without beating up the gun or the shooter.

  11. avatar JD says:

    I can legally hunt deer in my state with a .22 magnum. Michigan = 👎

    1. avatar David says:

      You can use a .25 caliber rimfire in West Virginia

  12. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

    While I rightly despise the 6.5 Creedmoor as the lame imitator that it is, I am a .260 Rem fan. So I have to ask, by ‘small to medium game at close ranges’ I assume you mean deer out to 500 yards?

    The Bushwhacker has about exactly the same taper as a .223, so I’m guessing it’s the rebated rim that’s the problem. The 7.62×39 has quite a bit more taper but I keep hearing how the AKs will feed, fire and fling no matter what.

    1. avatar Geoff "Mess with the Bull, get the Horns" PR says:

      “The Bushwhacker has about exactly the same taper as a .223, so I’m guessing it’s the rebated rim that’s the problem.”

      It smells to me like it’s a cartridge designed to extract the most it can out of an AR bolt.

      And manages to piss off most everyone in the process…

  13. avatar Dale_ND says:

    I have found a great round for the .450, made by Black Butterfly ammunition. The use a 275 gr Barnes XPB all copper bullet. It works great on feral hogs!!

  14. avatar Yeah Michigan says:

    I found it odd that the author would pick Ted Nugent (self professed pedophile) and Tim Allen (former convicted drug dealer) as the leading representatives of Michigan. He could have made a better choice in Charlton Heston and Tom Selleck. Much better représentatives of the state.

    1. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

      But Tom never rode a bull bison onto the stage in a loincloth.

      Chuck did part the Red Sea though.

    2. avatar Kenneth says:

      What about Bob Seger? Doesn’t he get any love?

      1. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

        I do like Down on Main Street.

        1. avatar Kenneth says:

          “Night Moves” is the saddest song ever. Except for maybe “Running On Empty”, by Jackson Browne. He isn’t from Michigan, though…
          Ever hear “Sunspot Baby”, IMO one of the best songs ever?

  15. avatar SAD Tactical says:

    Just got an AR chambered in .458 socom…bigger round, better ballistics…why bother with the smaller nonsense(only for the hunting reason above?). Wierd rant in the article…keep it to the guns.

    1. avatar tsbhoa.p.jr says:

      it is not a straight walled cartridge.

  16. avatar Brian says:

    Almost the whole way through, I’m thinking, “But I have NEVER had a loading or cycling problem with MY AR .450 BM using Brenton USA mags…”

    Guess I did my homework first and picked the right magazine maker. 🙂

    I’ve shot nothing but Hornady 250gr FTX and only have Brenton magazines for my .450 and have been thrilled with it (although I DID slap a Limbsaver recoil pad on it…)

    For what it’s worth, I live in the NC mountains and the .450 is fairly popular with bear hunters here.

  17. avatar Andrew Lias says:

    Just wanted to say this is my caliber to make an “ignorant” AR pistol from. My game plan is to put a block in it to make it single shot auto eject gun and use it to hunt for deer in IL in the most politically incorrect way plausible.

  18. avatar Lud says:

    Why no love for 50 beowulf. Love it never haf a problem with the round or the firearm

  19. avatar i says:

    The 405 gr. 45-70 cowboy loads are more than powerful enough and recoil in my Henry doesn’t seem any worse than .308 in my AR-10.

  20. avatar Alan says:

    Among other virtues, if that be an acceptable term, Michigan sends, and I believe has for many years sent Debby Stbenow, aka Debby-Stab-Me-Now to the U.S. Senate, correct? Please bear with me regarding possible misspelling of the lady’s last name.

Write a Comment

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

button to share on facebook
button to tweet
button to share via email