There seems to be a new interest in loading and shooting heavier 350- to 400-grain saboted bullets out of today's modern .50 caliber No. 209 primer ignition in-line rifles. At least, here at NORTH AMERICAN MUZZLELOADER HUNTING we've been getting more inquiries about which bullet makers offer a heavyweight .451"/.452" diameter bullet that can be loaded with a .50x.45 sabot. The answer to that one is easy..."Not very many!"
My search among the major bullet makers found one 325-grain (Swift) .452" diameter bullet that could be loaded with a .50x.45 sabot into a .50 caliber bore. While almost everyone producing a full line of bullets tends to offer a 300-grain bullet of .451" or .452" diameter, the ONLY bullet of that diameter that exceeds 350-grains that I know of is the 400-grain .451"diameter Hard Cast saboted bullets offered by Harvester Muzzleloading.
However...when you move up .007" in diameter, to .458", the door opens to a much better selection of heavyweights.
The short 20-inch barreled .54 rifle shown here was at one time my "go in after them" brush rifle, offered by Green Mountain Rifle Barrel Co. a few years back. This rifle, built on a Knight DISC Extreme action, shot the 400-grain Hard Cast (and the 330-grain version of the same bullet) with exceptional accuracy. Loaded with 120-grains of Blackhorn 209, this short barrel rifle and bullet is good for 1,803 f.p.s. at the muzzle ... and 2,880 f.p.e.
Anything Inside of 100 yards would be hammered by more than 2,000 foot-pounds of knockdown power!
That 400-grain .451" diameter non-expanding Hard Cast bullet is shown here, on the right side, with another 400-grain non-expanding bullet - the .458" diameter Barnes flat-nosed Buster bullet. This copper encapsulated lead core bullet measures 1.079" in length, while the Harvester Muzzleloading hardened lead bullet measures exactly 1" in length. Both stabilize very well in a bore having a 1-in-28 twist.
The other bullet shown in the photo at the very top of this post is the 400-grain .458" diameter Barnes copper-jacketed Original bullet. The feature of this spitzer style bullet that really caught my eye is the extremely high ballistic coefficient of the the bullet. Barnes claims the bullet has a .389 b.c.!
Now, I did quite a bit of shooting with all three of these 400-grain bullets a couple of years back...using the same black .50x.45 Crush Rib Sabot, from Harvester Muzzleloading, for loading the .451" and .458" diameter bullets into several different .50 caliber in-line rifles. While the .458" bullets did load noticeably tighter...loading was no where close to being impossible. Here are links to a couple of the articles written about loading and shooting these 400-grain bullets. Note the energy levels produced...
As we head into March, and the weather permits, my goal is to get back out and do more shooting with these bullets, using our Cooper Model 22 ML rifle. We'll bring the report on that shooting to you shortly after we can spend some time on the range.
Now, have any of you done any shooting with saboted bullets of this weight...or of .458" diameter? If you have, please use the comment section for this post and share your experience. Also, what are your thoughts on relying on the broad flat nose of the above bullet designs to transfer energy rather than relying on bullet expansion? - Toby Bridges
Above Featured Rifle - Cooper .50 Model 22 ML
HARVESTER MUZZLELOADING Hunter
Harvester Muzzleoading has been a primary sponsor of this website since 2004 - the company's reputation has been built through the quality of their sabots and bullets...plus their outstanding service to America's muzzleloading hunters.