The Versatile .458 Winchester Magnum

The .458 Winchester Magnum is one of my all time favorites along with the 454 Casull and 45-70 Gov’t. The .458 Win Mag has been around since the 1960’s and has a great reputation for taking lots of dangerous game in Africa. It launches a 500 grain bullet at around 2,050 fps or a 400 grain bullet at 2,350 fps. These ballistics are enough to stop any animal on Earth if needed but the .458 Win Mag has another side…when reloaded.


Reloading the .458 Win Mag turns it into a much more versatile cartridge and much tamer too. You do no have to load it full bore or max loads all the time. There is a wide range of bullets to use in the .458 Win Mag from 300 grain to 720 grains, cast, solid and soft points. Velocities can range from 800 fps to 2600 fps. And of course recoil can range from 8 ft. lbs to 60 ft. lbs.

I owned two .458 Win Mag rifles for quite a few years. They were a Thompson Center Encore rifle with a custom MGM 26″ bull barrel and a Ruger #1 Tropical rifle. The Ruger was brutal with heavy loads but the Encore was way easier on the shoulder. The Encore was heavier at 10 lbs, had a much more effective recoil pad (Kick Eez) and a muzzle brake (Hollands QD Brake). Full house loads were no problem but I enjoyed the reduced loads much more.

If you shoot cast bullets in the .458, you can have a lot of fun and save money. I used to shoot 405 grain and 550 grain hard cast bullets at about 1,200 fps. This is really fun and will not kill your shoulder or your ears. I have also shot some of my custom 720 LFNGC cast bullets in it. The velocity was around 1,600 fps. Recoil was very heavy. There are lots of powders you can use but I really love Trail Boss.

Trail Boss is a smokeless powder that is used to provide the same velocities as black powder cartridges. It is extremely bulky and will fill the case entirely so you will never get a hang fire. I used it with cast bullets and it worked very well. Starting loads were around 800 fps while max loads were 1,200 fps. You can use Trail Boss in any cartridge according to IMR and it is virtually impossible to overload. When you fill a case with it, the weight of the powder is less than half of a normal powder (or something like that). You can contact IMR about Trail Boss load data. They will respond promptly.

So the .458 Win Mag can be loaded down to 45 Colt ballistics and all the way up to “Elephant Slayer”. Cast bullets in the .458 are accurate and less expensive than jacketed. I did not get much lead fowling either because of the gas checks.

Have fun with the .458 and shoot it often.