Created June 19, 2009
"because this stuff is just too cool!"

Ready...Aim...Read On!
Tom Bischoff
Seen above is Tom Bischoff firing his stainless steel Marlin 60S-CF
Caliber .22LR at the Circle S Ranch & Outdoor Shooting Range in Petaluma, California

Into the Valley of "Kaboom"
.458 MagnumHolding my breath for a very calm half second, padded butt stock firmly against my arm, I squeezed the trigger and the world for me was never the same again.

"Holy cows! That was just...holy cows!" I said, rubbing my shoulder and smiling; I had just been introduced to a mid 1960's manufactured Model 70 .458 Winchester Magnum. It was just one of the many rifles that my father had collected over the years, one of a handful in his collection I began referring to as his "exotics". When talking of his collection amongst friends, powerful and shoulder-aching names were always about: .338 Winchester Magnum, .460 Weatherby Magnum, the 1911 introduced .416 Rigby, the 750-grain, 2,150 feet per second .577 Nitro Express, a more recent version of the popular black powder cartridge of the 1880's. Eventually, I made it through a good portion of that collection and it's well remembered recoils of 60 to 100 foot-pounds force, the typical amount measured for these "exotic" 300-500 grain ballistic wonders. The .700-Nitro Accurate Reloading made cartridge hits the meter at approximately 196 foot-pounds of force! When considers that the average .308 bolt action has a recoil force of around 20 foot-pounds one can better understand the meaning of "no shoulder to cry on". Image above: Winchester's Model 70 Super Grade. For a historical overview of the Model 70 see Chuck Hawks article The Rifleman's Rifle: Winchester's Model 70   [1]

.458 MagnumAs for the .458 Winchester Magnum, the development was an effort to duplicate the ballistics of the .450 and .470 Nitro Express ammunition, but in a cartridge that would fit in a standard bolt-action rifle. In order to achieve this the designers used a .375 Holland & Holland case that they shortened to 2.5 inches, enlarging the case opening ( also referrred to as "blown out" ) in order for it to accept the intended bullet diameter of .458 inch. The resulting cartridge was a success and was offered with Winchester's other successful package, the bolt action model 70 rifle. This heavy 300 to 500-grain bullet is a bit much for the typical North American game of elk or deer and as such, it's main target was primarily in the African Hunt where there existed larger and more dangerous game like Cape buffalo or lions. Due to the closure of it's leading competitors in the United Kingdom and of it's proven ballistics, reduced cost and availability the .458 Winchester Magnum reached it's zenith in the 1960's and remained there as one of the most popular choices for big game hunters. [2]

1898 — Birth of The Nitro Express
John RigbyIn 1898 the cartridge that started it all, the Nitro Express came into being. It was the creation of the world famous London gun maker John Rigby, recognized founder of the Nitro Express and the .450 double rifle that fired the cartridge. This was the beginning of the "smokeless powder" era of c.1897, a nitrocellulose-based cordite that was far more effective because it gave off almost no smoke and was three times more powerful than black powder. Higher muzzle velocity meant a flatter trajectory and therefore more accurate long range fire, out to perhaps 1000 metres in the first smokeless powder rifles. At left is an image of John Rigby, a distinguished rifleman who had competed at international level with the Irish team. It was in the early days at St. James Street, London, that John Rigby & Co. pioneered the first Nitro Express rifles, bringing the Rigby name to the fore in riflemaking.

John Rigby based his new cartridge on the common .45 caliber deer hunting cartridge of the day, one that was loaded with a large measure of black powder. Replacing the black powder with the new smokeless powder, Rigby realized huge increases in velocity over anything prior, giving him the ability to transform a deer hunting rifle into an elephant hunting rifle and forever changing the ideas of big-bore rifle design. Rigby was also among the first of the English gunmakers to recognize the potential of adapting what was to become one of the world's most reliable, esteemed and desired components in the firearms industry — the Mauser '98 bolt-action magazine design for sporting purposes.   [3]

.450 Double Rifle
Image: A Rigby .450EX double rifle

As for the cartridge and resuting rifle name, Nitro Express, the "Nitro" is in reference to the powder's chemical composition of 58% nitrocellulose-based cordite. As for the "Express", at the very time of Rigby's development, the British had manufactured and put into service a sensational new steam train. The train began to make record breaking runs, appearing in bold headlines in all the country's newspapers where it was named the Express Train. As such, John Rigby called his powerful new rifle, the "Nitro Express Train Rifle". A short time later, the train rifle part was dropped, leaving Nitro Express as it stands to this day.   [4]

From the Double Bore to the Single Bolt
It was the first big—bore, double rifle, big game stopper that used a smokeless cartridge and Rigby named it the .450 31Ú4 N.E. Introduced in 1898, it forged the way for a succession of other single and double rifles of various caliber and make. However, the next step for the Nitro Express came not from Rigby's company but from one of the most enduring and lasting legacy in the history of rifle technology. It was known to it's creator, Paul Mauser as simply the Gewehr 98 and within was Mauser's new turn-both style action. "To this day, no other action ever made has enjoyed more success, been more accepted, favored, respected or copied than the Mauser 98." [5]   It arrived on the scene almost simultaneously with smokeless powders, and with this combination in hand, the Mauser bolt action not only found itself speedily adopted by the military but just as speedily by the makers of sport rifles.

  • The Gewehr 98 and it's controlled-feed Mauser M98 bolt-action system. A simple, safe, strong and well-thought-out design that inspired other military and sport hunting designs that became available during the 20th century.
    Mauser's M98 BoltMauser's M98 Bolt

  • In 1905 W.J.Jeffery created the .404 Rimless N.E. or 404 Jeffery that was loaded into a standard Mauser 98 with an opened-up action and modified magazine box which incorporated the larger .404 round. Duplicating the .450 — .400 N.E. ballistics, the .404 (actually a 0.423"-diameter bullet) fires a 400-gr. bullet at 2,125 f.p.s.
    .404 Cartridge

  • A second famous gunsmith who also used the Mauser 98 was Westley Richards who, in 1909, introduced the .425 Westley Richards. It was a unusual round in that it had a rebated rim or one that is smaller in diameter than the case body; the rim was turned down to just 0.467-inch in order for it to fit the standard Mauser bolt face. The cartridge length measured 2.64-inches while the head measured 0.543-inch in diameter. In spite of its peculiar shape and dimensions, the .425 WR cartridge produced an impressive ballistic record by pushing a 410-grain bullet to 2,350 f.p.s. [6]
    .425 Cartridge

  • John Rigby & Co. developed a cartridge designed around the Magnum Mauser Model 98 square-bridge action, and in 1912 unveiled the first .416 Rigby rifle, destined to become the most famous large, medium-bore of them all. According to Jon Speed in his book, Mauser Original Oberndorf Sporting Rifles, "One of the first .416 rifles was sold in August, 1912. With the advent of the .416 Rigby Magnum Mauser, the large-bore magazine bolt rifle could be considered a viable option for those who could not afford or did not wish to use an expensive double rifle."   [7]

Shooting the Big Bores — Video

The Nitro Express, Myths & Facts

The Urban Legend of the .577 T-Rex Nitro

Rifle of Last Resort
It's been decribed as the rifle of last resort, made to stop anything of any size that's currently pissed off, mean and charging at you with just one goal — to end your current placement on this earth. If pissing off African big game requires you to carry special ordnance such as the .577 then brother, I wouldn't even go quail hunting with you. Regarding the large, recoiling A-square .577 caliber T-Rex, a shooting aficionado wrote:

"The .577 Tyrannosaur or .577 T-rex is a proprietary cartridge developed by A-Square in 1993. It is an entirely new design, not based on any previous cartridge for the hunting of large game in Africa. The .577 contains a .585 inch diameter 750-grain (49 g) Monolithic Solid Projectile which when fired moves at 2,460 ft/s (750 m/s) producing 10,180 foot-pounds force (13,800 J) of energy. For comparison the .223 Remington/NATO 5.56mm round used in weapons such as the M16 rifle, when using a 77-grain (5.0 g) projectile, moves at 2,750 ft/s (840 m/s) producing 1,293 foot-pounds force (1,753 J). The production model from A-square is based on their Hannibal rifle platform, which also comes in other large rifle calibers as well."   [7]

The heavy 13-pound rifle has more control due to special recoil reducers that, according to A-Square, keep it under that of the Weatherby Mark V .460. Perhaps someone should have told that to the group of folks trying the .577 ( probably for the first time ) in order to see what the recoil of a big bore is all about:

The video alone is a good indication that a last resort scenario is nothing more than the wrong person in the wrong place doing the wrong thing. As point out by the Airborne Combat Engineer's website article on the .577 Tyrannosaur & .700 Nitro Express:

The famous Jeff Cooper said he'd call it the ".577 Dundee" and explains why:

We were fascinated at SHOT to examine the "577 Tyrannosaur" from A Square. This piece is designed to end all discussion about stopping power. It is a bolt-action (1917), 3-plus-1, 13lb rifle which fires a 750-grain bullet at 2460 feet per second. It is said to be the first sporting rifle cartridge that "breaks the 10,000 foot-pound barrier." In my opinion this is a definitive example of a piece which is made to own rather than to shoot. It is not at all clear that it will kill an elephant or a buffalo or a hippo any better than a well placed hit from a 470, and, of course, it will not do anything with a badly placed hit except annoy the recipient. As I see it, this combination should be referred to as the "577 Dundee." You keep it available in your armory so that when people start talking about the power of their rifles you can break yours out and say, "That's not a rifle. THIS is a rifle!"

Comparing the T-Rex

Yes, that is a Browning .50 caliber machine gun round it's being compared to, giving one a good idea of the size of the .577 round. The rifle has very limited application for almost all areas were one might hunt and in those, only a seasoned and experienced hunter or guide would or should consider the use of this piece. It's designers, A Square, manufactured this big bore at the request of an experienced hunting guide in India whom had a nervous moment when a client of his failed to put down a very large and angry elephant, even after it had been hit twice with a .460. So, unless you're going around pissing off massive, full grown bull elephants where you live then this rifle is no more than that piece you keep around for the prestige of being able to say, "Boys, big daddy's in town!"

In our next section, we'll look at the wonderful world of custom designed weapons of outrageous calibers. These are the true "exotics", custom designed and built weapons whose sole purpose in life is to chamber the worlds largest rounds possible in a compact firearm without the risk of disappearing off the face of this earth. As we'll see, the risk is not always from the round itself.

"I'm currently in the process of tooling and turning material for a firearm that is going to close the book once and for all on just what weapon is truely the most powerful firearm in all the world, the .800 Nitro Express. It will be like holding a sidewinder missle in your hands, ready to throw it into the air the moment you yell Fire in the hole!"
— From the rumor mill between custom designers and gunsmiths.

Move over .700 Nitro Express, the 825 Express Just Pulled In

the .800 NitroSome years ago, I remember the rumor mill was again cranked up and running full bore ( no pun intended ) with the news that designers were looking to put a "custom" weapon chambered for .800 caliber ammuntion into a heavy, very heavy revolver sized package. That was pretty much were it stood for some time — unconfirmed rumor. Till last year, no one seriously had considered a purpose manufactured round of .800 caliber, let alone anything bigger. In addition, at these calibers, you'd be moving into the military area of arms like the Barrett XM109 25mm and its .984 caliber bore. But that's no fun and besides, the fed's take a particular interest in your "hobbies" when you begin using military ordnance for the eradication of dangerous swarms of killer gophers in your backyard. No, what is needed is a legitimate wildcat round or accredited manufacture's own round involved in this concept. Well ladies and gentlemen, enter the .825 G&S Online Express Magnum and it's big:

"The .825 G&S Online Express Magnum, with an actual bullet diameter of .823", provides a realistic 0.323" increase in bore diameter to kill elk and other North American big game animals and keep them dead. This is the cartridge that separates the girley men from the real men."

All fine and well, now we can sit around saturday night beer parties and be able to join in the forever ongoing debate as to which weapon is truely the world's most powerful. But wait! That doesn't work without a weapon that fires this big boy and simply bragging on the size and power of the .800 Express Magnum, while sure to bring satisfying "oohs and aahs" from the boys, falls flat when asked, "So, what does this bad boy of a gun look like?" Oops, can I have another beer please?

Not to worry though, someone has your saturday bull & beer barrel meetings well protected.

"The Guns and Shooting Online Technical Department is developing an innovative new revolver based on the 9-lug Weatherby Mark V action. Despite certain minor pre-production snags, we hope to have a review of this new revolver available soon. The new revolvers, as well as factory loaded .825 Mag. ammunition, will be sold exclusively though the Guns and Shooting Online Store.

Preliminary testing of the new cartridge has been conducted using a single shot, closed-breech pistol with a 10" barrel and has yielded excellent accuracy results. 5-shot, 100 yard groups have averaged 0.2 MOA, with the largest groups measuring 0.5" and the smallest groups measuring 0.1", regardless of who on the Guns and Shooting Online staff has done the shooting. Seldom, outside of the pages of print magazines, has the shooting world seen such a consistently accurate cartridge." [8]

I don't know about you but I'm feeling mightly proud to be an American. The .800 Express has just pulled in and if you think for one minute that every red blooded american custom gun maker isn't trying to figure out how to get this round into one of their own designs, then you can just stay home on Saturday nights and plunk at gophers in your backyard while me and the boys suck down brews and laugh at the online videos of the first novice and inexperienced shooter who squeezes the trigger on one of these suckers, thereby releasing well over 100 foot-pounds of scientifically proven recoil force.

CONTINUED PAGE 2 ... Whetherby .460 Magnum — Video Clips

Reference Sources

  1. .458 Winchester Magnum, From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia June 19, 2009.
  2. ACCURATE RELOADING A non-affliated website developed by professional shooting and hunting individuals. Website offers historical, reloading, forums, FAQ's and more. June 19, 2009
  3. Nitro Express The History & The Story © 2007 Nitro Express Ltd All rights reserved, June 19, 2009
  4. John Rigby & Co. - The Finest Custom Firearms in the World the history of John Rigby, Copyright © 2008 John Rigby & Co.
  5. The .416 Rigby article reprinted from the monthly publication The American Rifleman 2002 by Joe Coogan. Posting and article from the FreeRepublic website. FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794
  6. Westley Richards | Gun Room information and images on metallic ammuntion from the The Westley Richards firm's website. June 20, 2009
  7. .577 T-REX | Guns Lot website article posted January 3, 2009
  8. The NEW .825 G&S Online Express Magnum By the Guns and Shooting Online Staff, Copyright 2006, 2008 by All rights reserved. June 20, 2009