It seems to me more folks would get into less trouble if they listened to guys like Jon. While many enjoy the challenge—and thrill—of hunting dangerous game with a single-shot, I'll admit up front that I am not one of them. I admire those who do, but I prefer another two ready rounds in case something goes wrong.
"Any chance of getting the Model 77-based Magnum?" I asked.
"Let me see. They haven't started them yet, but let me know when you are leaving," replied Margaret.
Two weeks before I was to leave, a bolt-action Ruger Magnum with ".458 Lott" stamped on the barrel arrived in my office.
Looking At The Man & The Numbers
The .458 Win. Mag., based on a belted .375 H&H case that gently tapers from 0.513" ahead of the belt to 0.483" at the case mouth and with a .458" bullet, was introduced in 1956 by Winchester along with a Model 70 dubbed the "African." It was intended to offer the ballistics of the .450 Nitro Express and .470 Nitro Express through an affordable bolt-action platform. Factory tables, likely exaggerated at the time, originally quoted the .458 as moving a 510-gr. bullet at about 2130 f.p.s. through 24" barreled rifles.
That discrepancy played a role in the creation of the .458 Lott. Reaction today from those who knew him paints a disparate picture of the colorful, contrary character who was Jacque P. Lott. A gunsmith, big-game hunter and one-time technical editor of Guns & Ammo, some called Lott a "wonderful guy," a "renaissance man" and a "great friend," while others didn't hold such a high opinion. One of the latter quipped of the cartridge: "It's unpleasant, just like the man who made it."
Regardless of positive or negative comments concerning his character or virtues, Lott has left his legacy when it comes to the cartridge that bears his name. Lott hunted Africa often, in particular dangerous game. A 1959 potential life-ending (his life, that is) safari gone wrong with a wounded Cape buffalo and a .458 Win. Mag., which didn't penetrate the shoulder as deeply as he believed it should, eventually set Lott in search of .458-cal. cartridge with more power and penetration than was offered in the factory .458 Win. Mag. with 500-gr. bullets. He wrote on big magnums quite a bit, and in a 1971 article on the .458-cal. ".460 G&A" wildcat introduced before his own, he wrote "[It] is designed to produce all the qualities needed by an optimum .458-caliber elephant rifle, falling as it does about midway between the .458 Winchester and the heavy recoiling .460 Weatherby." At the time, the .458 Win. Mag. was listed 2130 f.p.s. at the muzzle and the .460 Wby. Mag. at 2700 f.p.s. with 500-gr. bullets, both from 25" barrels.
What Lott was looking for was a .500-gr., .458" bullet moving out in the 2200-2300 f.p.s. range from a 22" barrel. By the early to mid 1970s (most sources state 1971), he had created it himself. The Lott's case is based on the .375 H&H magnum case, just like the .458 Win. Mag., but the Lott's case length is 2.800" as opposed to the 2.500" of the Win. Mag. Except for the 0.3" extra length it's the same case—with the attendant increase in powder capacity that provides—and all the other dimensions are the same. While there are other magnums firing .458" projectiles, such as the .450 Ackley, .460 G&A and .450 Watts, to name but a few, the Lott caught on with handloaders and wildcatters as it was simple matter to have the chamber of a .458 Win. Mag. rifle reamed deeper to accept the Lott.
As a matter of fact, one of the virtues of the Lott is—if the maker says it's okay, and they usually do—you can fire .458 Win. Mag. out of a .458 Lott rifle safely. As .458 Win. Mag. is much easier to find than .458 Lott in remote parts of the world, that's a significant advantage. Think of the .458 Lott and .458 Win. Mag. as the .357 Mag. and .38 Spl., respectively, of massive dangerous game cartridges.
The performance difference between .458 Lott and .458 Win. Mag is summed up in Frank C. Barnes's Cartridges of the World, Sixth Edition as such: "The .458 Winchester is advertised as developing 2040 fps with the 500-grain bullet, fired from a 24-inch barrel. In practice it doesn't actually do much better than 1900 fps. The .458 Lott will do an honest 2300 fps+ from a 22-inch barrel."
Factory Loading The .458 Lott
"We wanted to do something different and exciting without being 'me too' when it came to a 'new' magnum," Steve Hornady, president of the company that bears his name, told me. "The Lott was already established and had both a good reputation and good following, so it just made sense." With the Lott, Hornady set out to "make a cartridge that is what the world wanted from the .458 Winchester—or what many had hoped the .458 Winchester promised to be when introduced." Current factory ballistics with a 500-gr. bullet on the .458 Win. Mag. run from 2040 to 2080 f.p.s. at the muzzle, with the exception of Hornady's Heavy Magnum load topped with a 500-gr. FMJ- RN, which is listed at 2260 f.p.s. from a 24" barrel. But that load cannot, under any circumstances, be safely duplicated by handloaders.
The current Hornady .458 Lott factory loadings both include 500-gr. bullets, but one is a round- nose Interlock with a soft-lead tip and a copper jacket and the other is a full-metal-jacket round- nose with a brass jacket and a lead core. According to factory data, they both leave the muzzle at 2300 f.p.s. with 5,872 ft.-lbs. of energy, and at 100 yds. the Interlock is moving at 2022 with 4,537 ft.-lbs. of energy while the FMJ is at 2028 f.p.s. with 4,567 ft.-lbs. of energy. At 200 yds., the round-nose is moving at 1776 f.p.s. with 3,502 ft.-lbs. of energy, and the FMJ is at 1777 f.p.s. with 3,506 ft.-lbs. of energy. For comparison's sake, a soft-point 180-gr. .300 Win. Mag. leaving the muzzle at 2967 f.p.s. generates a "mere" 3,510 ft.-lbs. of energy at the muzzle.
Shooting factory loads through the Ruger Magnum over our Oehler Model 43 chronograph, the Hornady 500-gr. FMJ load had a muzzle velocity of 2151 f.p.s. and a muzzle energy of 5,138 ft.- lbs. The 500-gr. Interlock moved out at 2290 f.p.s. at the muzzle with 5,826 ft.-lbs. of energy. In comparison, I fired Federal's Premium Safari load with a 500-gr. solid as well, and it delivered a muzzle velocity of 2078 f.p.s. and 4,797 ft.-lbs. of energy at the muzzle. To put things in perspective, the difference in energy between the .458 Lott Hornady Interlock loading and the .458 Win. Mag. Federal load at 100 yds. was 798 ft.-lbs., or roughly the disparity in energy between a .308 Win. and a .300 Win. Mag. when both are loaded with the same 150-gr. bullet.