Looking for the perfect hard hitting big bore cartridge for use on thick skinned dangerous game? Here’s what you need to know about the 458 Win Mag vs 458 Lott debate.
Most hunters and shooters looking for a big bore rifle to use on a cape buffalo hunt in Africa or a brown bear hunt in Alaska probably have at least a passing familiarity with the .458 Winchester Magnum and .458 Lott cartridges. While the .458 Lott has an excellent reputation as a proven big game stopper, many hunters these days are skeptical of the capabilities of the .458 Winchester Magnum for hunting thick skinned dangerous game. So what’s the real deal with hunting with the .458 Win Mag vs 458 Lott?
Unfortunately, there are a few genuine misunderstandings regarding the capabilities of the .458 Winchester Magnum. Additionally, the cartridge also has a somewhat checkered history. Both of these issues complicate the discussion. For that reason, it’s easy to understand how many hunters get confused about the real world strengths and weaknesses of the .458 Lott and the .458 Win Mag for hunting dangerous game.
In this article, I’m going to do a detailed comparison of the 458 Win Mag vs 458 Lott and discuss the pros and cons of each one so you can make an informed decision regarding which one will work best for you.
Before we get started, I have an administrative note:
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Additionally, I recorded an entire podcast episode on this exact subject. If you’d rather listen than read, you can either just press play below or click the appropriate link to download the episode through your preferred service.
History Of The 458 Winchester Magnum & 458 Lott
The British Empire controlled large chunks of Africa as well India in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Since those places were inhabited by large, tough, and dangerous creatures like cape buffalo, lion, tiger, and elephant, the British firearms industry manufactured a variety of heavy hitting big bore rifles specifically for hunters in Africa and India.
Double rifles chambered in the various Nitro Express cartridges (like the .450 NE, .470 NE, .500 NE, and .577 NE) were extremely popular for many years with hunters in the British Empire. The development of the legendary German Mauser 98 bolt action rifle and the subsequent introduction of the 9.3x62mm Mauser cartridge in 1905 spurred the British to develop their own bolt action rifles as well as cartridges like the .375 H&H Magnum, the .404 Jeffrey, the .416 Rigby, and the .425 Westley Richards.
Just as their names suggest, British gun manufacturers like Holland and Holland, Westley Richards, John Rigby & Company, and W.J. Jeffery & Company produced the majority of rifles used by British hunters in Africa and India. At the same time, Kynoch (also a British company) was the source of virtually all the ammunition for those various cartridges.
The situation dramatically changed after World War II primarily due to two factors: lack of ammunition for many of the traditional big bore rifle cartridges and the influx of large numbers of American hunters going on safari.
We’ll start with the ammunition issue first.
Profit margins on big bore rifles and ammunition were never very large. Ammo companies can make a tidy profit on cartridges like the 6.5 Creedmoor initially developed for competitive shooters (where a small number of shooters shoot large amounts of ammunition) as well as cartridges like the 7mm Mauser and the .30-06 Springfield used by the general hunting community (where large numbers of hunters each shoot small amounts of ammunition).
However, big bore cartridges like the .404 Jeffrey and .470 Nitro Express are used by a relatively small niche of the hunting community who usually don’t shoot large amounts of ammo each year. This reason, combined with the general turmoil of World War II and the decolonization of Africa and India in the subsequent decades, resulted in Kynoch ceasing ammunition production for many of those cartridges in the years following the war.
At the same time, the demographics of hunters visiting Africa changed dramatically. Escaping the devastation most European countries suffered, the post-World War II era instead ushered in a time of incredible wealth and prosperity for United States.
While some American hunters (like former President Theodore Roosevelt) did travel to Africa on safari in the late 1800s and early 1900s, that trickle increased to a flood in the 1950s. This surge in the popularity of African hunting safaris among American hunters was helped along by writers like Jack O’Connor and Robert Ruark (though they were far from the only ones).
Ruark’s first safari in 1951 with legendary Professional Harry Selby was immortalized in the 1953 book Horn of the Hunter, which remains a classic to this day. Outdoor Life footed the bill for O’Connor’s first safari in 1953 and the stories of his exploits on that hunt and his subsequent trips to Africa filled magazine pages, as well as the dreams of many American hunters, over the next two decades.
Aside from the aforementioned British cartridges and the German 9.3x62mm Mauser, there weren’t very many options for American hunters to use on thick skinned dangerous game like buffalo and elephant though.
Roy Weatherby rolled out his .375 and .378 Weatherby Magnum cartridges in 1944 and 1953 respectively. Ample supplies of rifles and ammunition for those cartridges were available to Americans and both cartridges were adequate for use on dangerous game. However, certain parts of Africa mandated the use of a .40 caliber cartridge or larger for dangerous game at the time, thus limiting the utility of those Weatherby cartridges.
This all created a unique confluence of events whereby large numbers of American hunters were itching to hunt Africa, but there were limited supplies of firearms and ammunition suitable for use on game like buffalo and elephant. There was also a strong desire among these hunters to use an American designed rifle and cartridge.
With all of those things in mind, Winchester sensed an immense opportunity and stepped in to fill that void with the cartridge we now know as the .458 Winchester Magnum in 1956. Initially offered in the famous Winchester Model 70 bolt action rifle, the .458 Win Mag changed the safari hunting world forever.
Winchester built the .458 Winchester Magnum using a modified .375 H&H case that was necked up to use .458″ bullets and shortened from 2.85″ down to 2.5″ long. The designers at Winchester opted for those shortened cases so the cartridge would fit in the standard length rifle action (same as the .30-06 Springfield) instead of the longer magnum length action required by the original .375 H&H cartridge.
Using the old .450 Nitro Express cartridge as a benchmark, Winchester advertised that the new .458 Win Mag cartridge could shoot a 510 grain bullet at 2,150fps for a whopping 5,234 foot pounds of muzzle energy.
The .450 Nitro was a proven performer on the largest and toughest species of dangerous game and had an excellent reputation among hunters in Africa. Well, Winchester developed a new cartridge they claimed could meet and even slightly exceed that performance, but it was also available in a reasonably priced and widely available bolt action rifle that was familiar to most American hunters.
Not surprisingly, the .458 Win Mag was a tremendous commercial success at the start. Not only did untold numbers of American hunters journey to Africa armed with Model 70 rifles chambered in the new cartridge, but many African Professional Hunters and game rangers began using the cartridge as well.
Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for reports of poor performance on part of the .458 Winchester on dangerous game in Africa to start circulating through the hunting community.
Specifically, some hunters experienced squib loads with extremely low muzzle velocities that resulted in woeful penetration and abysmal terminal performance. Velocities around 1,800 feet per second were not uncommon in these cases and there are even some documented instances of velocities as low as 600 feet per second.
To make matters worse, some of these horror stories about sub-par performance on part of the .458 Winchester Magnum involved hunters getting injured or killed by wounded game.
When they investigated the situation, the folks at Winchester found a few different factors at play.
First off, there were instances of clumped powder failing to burn properly and therefore failing to produce the desired velocities.
Prolonged exposure to high temperatures common in many parts of Africa potentially contributed to these powder clumping issues. Certain manufacturers resorted to gluing bullets in place, which also likely contributed to those problems as well.
Why did ammunition companies need to glue their bullets in place?
To put it simply, the .458 Winchester Magnum lacked the case capacity to achieve the desired performance level with the powder available at the time. Building a cartridge that could fit in a standard length action and reach 2,150 feet per second with a 510 grain bullet was an ambitious goal for the mid-1950s. After all, the .450 Nitro Express used 3.25″ case and Winchester tried to cram that same level of performance into a 2.5″ case.
So, while the .458 Win Mag came close to achieving that goal, it still fell a little short.
Additionally, considering Winchester developed their ballistic data for the cartridge using a 26″ barrel (while 22″ and 24″ barrel lengths are more common on dangerous game hunting rifles), it’s doubtful that the real world performance of the cartridge for hunters actually in the field at the time ever actually reached Winchester’s advertised specifications.
With those failures staring them in the face, the ballisticians at Winchester quickly took steps to correct the issues with the .458 Win Mag. They changed the powder used in the cartridge and revised their performance standards for the cartridge downward to a 500 grain bullet at 2,040 feet per second out of a 24″ barrel.
Those slightly more modest ballistic standards did not use as much powder and those smaller powder loads took up less space in the cartridge case. This removed the need to glue bullets in place and, in combination with the fact that Winchester began using a different type of powder, eliminated the problems with squib loads virtually overnight.
A 500 grain .458″ bullet at 2,040 feet per second is still an extremely potent load and is quite effective on the whole range of thick skinned dangerous game in Africa.
Some hunters (like Phil Massaro) also recommend dropping down to a 480 grain bullet with the .458 Win Mag. That smaller bullet takes up less space and requires less powder to reach velocities in the 2,100-2,200 fps range. Thus, using that lighter weight bullet virtually eliminates any case capacity issues with the cartridge.
That bullet still has a relatively high sectional density (which we’ll discuss in more detail shortly) and a 480 grain bullet at 2,200 feet per second produces in excess of 5,100 foot pounds of energy.
That is also an extremely effective load on dangerous game and no buffalo will be able to tell the difference between a 500 grain bullet at 2,000 feet per second and a 480 grain bullet at 2,200 feet per second.
Additionally, advances in powder technology in the past 50 years have enabled some companies (like Hornady) to manufacture .458 Win Mag ammo that actually achieves the original performance objectives of the cartridge under real world conditions. Bullet technology has also improved by leaps and bounds since the 1950s as well.
Make no mistake: modern .458 Win Mag factory and hand loads are absolutely deadly on game like buffalo and elephant in the right hands and there’s no reason whatsoever to doubt their reliability.
Even so, those horror stories gave Winchester and their new cartridge a black eye and the .458 Win Mag has never quite been able to completely shake off the bad reputation it received in those early years.
Not surprisingly, hunters during the 1950s and 1960s started to look for alternatives to the .458 Win Mag. Indeed, a hunter and gun writer named Jack Lott was injured by a cape buffalo during a hunt in Mozambique in 1959. Lott used a .458 Win Mag on that hunt and was convinced the cartridge was not up to the task.
As a result, he decided to develop a new, more powerful cartridge that would be perfect for cape buffalo hunting and correct the shortcomings of the .458 Winchester Magnum.
Jack Lott unveiled the fruits of his labor in 1971: the .458 Lott.
Also developed using a necked up .375 H&H case, the .458 Lott is very similar to the .458 Win Mag, but the primary difference is the .458 Lott use a .3″ longer case (2.8″ vs 2.5″).
The .458 Lott is therefore too long to fit in a standard length rifle action, but it also has considerably more case capacity. For that reason, a 500 grain bullet at 2,300 feet per second (5,873 foot pounds of energy) is a pretty standard load for the .458 Lott.
That larger case capacity also means it can essentially duplicate the original performance specifications for the .458 Win Mag. The cartridge has no trouble pushing a 500 grain bullet at 2,150 feet per second with ample space remaining in the case, so there’s no need to compress the powder charge or glue the bullets in place.
Additionally, .458 Lott rifles have the added bonus of being able to safely fire the shorter length and lower pressure .458 Winchester Magnum ammunition.
.458 Winchester Magnum vs .458 Lott: Cartridge Sizes
Since they’re both descended from the .375 H&H Magnum the two cartridges have a similar straight tapered case. Both cartridges also use the same .458″ diameter bullet and both headspace off the belt.
However, the .458 Lott has a longer case length (2.8″ vs 2.5″) and a longer overall length (3.6″ vs 3.34″). Not surprisingly, the .458 Lott also has about 10-15% more case capacity than the .458 Win Mag. That said, the .458 Win Mag is designed to fit in a standard length action rifle while the longer .458 Lott requires the use of a magnum action.
The .458 Lott is also loaded to a slightly higher pressure than the .458 Winchester Magnum (62,500psi vs 60,000psi).
458 Lott vs 458 Win Mag Ballistics
Those differences in the external dimensions of the .458 Winchester Magnum and .458 Lott do translate into some interesting differences in their ballistic performance though.
This is illustrated in the table below comparing Federal Premium and Hornady factory ammunition loaded with 500gr DGX Bonded (.295 BC) and 500gr (.260 BC) Woodleigh Hydrostatically Stabilized Solids in both .458 Win Mag and .458 Lott. The chart also contains data for a .458 Win Mag hand load of a 480 grain DGX Bonded (.285 BC) at 2,200 feet per second.
All four loads used a 100 yard zero and a 24″ barrel. Note that the Hornady factory load for the .458 Win Mag essentially duplicates the original performance specifications of the cartridge while the Federal Premium load reflects the reduced performance standards.
It’s very unusual to take an initial shot at a cape buffalo at ranges in excess of 100 yards and, as you can see, all five loads compared have virtually the same trajectory out to about 150 yards.
I’ll cover bullet momentum later in this article, but the .458 Lott loads do have a noticeable advantage in kinetic energy when compared to the .458 Winchester Magnum though. For instance, that .458 Lott Hornady load has nearly as much energy remaining at 100 yards as the .458 Win Mag Woodleigh load has at the muzzle.
We’ll discuss how much that kinetic energy advantage means in practical terms in a minute. But first, we can’t ignore the price paid for that additional energy: recoil.
The table below compares the recoil produced by 480 grain and 500 grain loads for the .458 Win Mag to a 500 grain loads for the .458 Lott when fired from a 9.38 pound CZ 550 American Safari Magnum rifle. I used Hornady’s reloading data published in the 10th Edition of the Hornady Reloading Manual (p769 & 771).
Felt recoil will vary from shooter to shooter and rifle to rifle, but free recoil energy is still a useful way to compare cartridges.
As you can see, both the .458 Lott and .458 Winchester Magnum have a pretty stout recoil. As the saying goes, they hit hard on both ends.
As a point of comparison, that particular .458 Lott load has approximately 4x the free recoil energy of a typical .30-06 load.
Some hunters can handle that recoil, but many people can’t.
Additionally, the .458 Lott has about 15% more recoil than the 500 grain load from the .458 Winchester Magnum. Note that .458 Lott load compared above is for a 500 grain bullet at 2,250 feet per second (which is the fastest load in my reloading manual). Bumping that velocity up to the 2,300 feet per second advertised with many .458 Lott factory loads will increase that recoil disparity even more.
For this reason, many hunters download their .458 Lott to shoot a 500 grain bullet at around 2,150 feet per second. That load is roughly comparable to .458 Win Mag ammo and is still extremely effective on dangerous game, but doesn’t have quite as much recoil as the full power .458 Lott ammo.
The 480 grain .458 Win Mag offers another modest step down in recoil energy, but that load is no pussycat either.
Regardless of which cartridge and specific load you decide to hunt with, it’s clear that recoil is a major consideration you should keep in mind.
A properly fitted stock with a recoil pad will tame felt recoil to a certain extent. Additionally, those rifle weights listed above are for an unloaded rifle without a scope. So, adding a scope, sling, etc. will all increase the weight of the rifle and dampen recoil to a certain extent.
Heck, these cartridges are big and heavy enough that the weight added by fully loading the rifle magazine will also work to reduce recoil energy by a measurable amount.
For instance, I weighed a few loaded .458 Win Mag and .458 Lott cartridges I have on hand and determined that adding 5 cartridges to the magazine would increase rifle weight by 8-10 ounces. That alone will reduce free recoil energy by about 5% for the .458 Lott in this particular case.
That’s not a tremendous difference, but it’s also not nothing either. That benefit would obviously be most apparent for the first shot, but that’s also the one that usually matters most in the real world.
A muzzle brake will also help, but make sure you wear ear protection while hunting if you go down that route. The muzzle blast from those cartridges when using a brake can be vicious, especially for anybody standing off to either side (like your PH and/or a tracker).
For that reason, many outfitters discourage clients from using a muzzle brake. Honestly, if you can’t accurately shoot your dangerous game rifle without a muzzle brake, it’s probably a good idea to step down to something less powerful that you can handle the recoil of without a brake.
Now let’s talk about some additional areas we need to discuss as it relates to ballistics: bullet weight and sectional density.
Both cartridges use the same .458″ bullets, so there is no difference in frontal surface area (also known as cross sectional area) with the 458 Win Mag vs 458 Lott.
However, the .458 Lott is generally better suited to using heavier bullets.
While the cartridge is capable of using 325-550 grain bullets, the majority of .458 Lott factory loads shoot either 500 grain or 550 grain bullets.
On the other hand, .458 Win Mag factory ammo is normally offered with 325-500 grain bullets. 500 grain loads are very popular for the .458 Win Mag, but 400 grain and 450 grain factory loads are not uncommon either. Though I’m not aware of any 480 grain factory loads, that’s another good option for handloaders.
Unfortunately, this is an area where the .458 Winchester Magnum is hampered by limited case capacity. That small package only has so much space to go around and there’s simply not enough room to achieve acceptable velocities with heavier bullets, especially with rifles that have shorter barrels.
This is especially true with monolithic bullets, like the Barnes TSX, that have a longer overall length than lead core bullets of the same weight. That’s why the Barnes factory load for the .458 Win Mag uses a 450 grain bullet and the Barnes .458 Lott factory load uses a 500 grain bullet.
Sectional density (SD) is a measure of the ratio of the diameter of a projectile to its mass. All other things equal, a heavier projectile of a given caliber will be longer and therefore have a higher sectional density and consequently penetrate deeper than projectiles with a lower mass and sectional density.
A 550 grain .458″ bullet has a sectional density of .375, a 500 grain .458″ bullet has a sectional density of .341, a 480 grain .458″ bullet has a sectional density of .327, and a 450 grain .458″ bullet has a sectional density of .306.
The good news is that even that 450 grain bullet still meets Kevin Robertson’s recommended SD of .300 for hunting cape buffalo (outlined on p98 of his book Africa’s Most Dangerous). That being said, there’s clearly a gigantic difference between those 500 and 550 grain bullets used by the .458 Lott and the lighter bullets the .458 Win Mag is sometimes restricted to.
While kinetic energy is an important factor in evaluating the suitability of a particular cartridge or load for hunting, kinetic energy is weighted towards higher velocity projectiles. Especially when hunting dangerous game, bullet momentum is also a very important characteristic.
Calculated by simply multiplying bullet weight in grains by muzzle velocity and then dividing by 7,000, bullet momentum is important for evaluating how suitable a given load is for deep, straight line penetration.
Put simply, a bullet with more momentum will be harder to stop than a bullet with less momentum (all other things being equal).
Since it can fire heavier bullets and achieve higher velocities than the .458 Winchester Magnum, the .458 Lott has an advantage in this area as well.
For instance, a .458 Win Mag load firing a 450 grain bullet at 2,240fps has a momentum value of 144 ft-lbs/sec, a 480 grain bullet at 2,200fps has a momentum value of 150 ft-lbs/sec, a 500 grain bullet at 2,050fps has a momentum value of 146 ft-lbs/sec, and a 500 grain bullet at 2,150fps has a momentum value of 153 ft-lbs/sec.
On the other hand, 458 Lott loads of a 500 grain bullet at 2,300fps and a 550 grain bullet at 2,100fps have momentum values of 164 ft-lbs/sec and 165 ft-lbs/sec respectively.
Once again, all of those loads achieve Kevin Robertson’s recommended momentum value of 95 ft-lbs/sec with plenty of room to spare, but the .458 Lott has a definite advantage in this area as well.
So where do we stand with each cartridge?
The .458 Winchester Magnum has a smaller case than the .458 Lott and therefore has a lower ceiling on its maximum performance. In that same vein, the .458 Winchester is generally better suited to using lighter weight bullets with a lower sectional density. When shooting the same weight bullets as the .458 Lott, the .458 Win Mag shoots them at a slower velocity.
Even so, the .458 Winchester Magnum is still a very powerful cartridge and is more than powerful enough to quickly and ethically kill any species of big game on this planet.
Additionally, though it does have a very stout recoil, the .458 Win Mag has a noticeable advantage over the .458 Lott in this area as well.
On the other hand, the .458 Lott uses a larger case that provides more flexibility and a higher ceiling on its maximum performance than the case used by the .458 Winchester Magnum. For instance, while it’s possible for the .458 Win Mag to shoot a 500 grain bullet at 2,150fps with modern powder, the cartridge is basically maxed out at that point.
However, the .458 Lott is easily capable of that sort of performance and more and can use heavier bullets and/or shoot them at a faster velocity than the .458 Win Mag is capable of. For this reason, many .458 Lott loads use bullets with a higher sectional density and carry more energy and momentum downrange than the .458 Win Mag.
The .458 Lott is also an extremely powerful and hard hitting cartridge that’s easily capable of taking down any species of game on earth with good shot placement.
Like we just discussed though, that extra power comes at the expense of more recoil.
Don’t underestimate the impact that recoil has on the ability of a person to shoot accurately either. Regardless of how well a given person handles recoil, all other things being equal, they will absolutely shoot better with a milder recoil.
Any PH or guide hunting game anywhere in the world from North American big game like brown bear to African game like cape buffalo would prefer a well placed shot from a .458 Win Mag over a poorly placed shot from a .458 Lott.
Indeed, many hunters who use the .458 Lott will intentionally download the cartridge to .458 Win Mag levels to reduce recoil.
This brings us full circle to the reason why the .458 Lott exists in the first place: the desire for a cartridge that can reliably shoot a 500 grain .458″ bullet at 2,150 feet per second under realistic conditions.
There’s nothing magical about that sort of performance. Sure, it’s great for killing buffalo and elephant, but so is 480 grain bullet at 2,200 feet per second or a 500 grain bullet at 2,050 feet per second. All of those loads meet or exceed the performance of several very popular and effective .450 Nitro loads from decades prior.
Winchester’s marketing was one of the biggest reasons why hunters fixated on a 500 grain bullet a 2,150 feet per second.
Had Winchester used a longer case that was actually capable of delivering that sort of performance in the real world, or established more realistic performance objectives for the shorter case from the beginning, hunters very likely would not have encountered problems with squib loads and there would have been no reason to develop improved cartridges like the .458 Lott.
Like I previously stated, once Winchester fixed the initial issues with the .458 Winchester Magnum, it became a very effective and reliable cartridge for use on thick skinned dangerous game.
This is a very important point that often gets lost or overlooked in the 458 Win Mag vs 458 Lott debate.
Yes, the .458 Lott is more powerful than the .458 Win Mag, but it’s not clear that all that extra energy actually translates into improved killing power in the real world AND it also comes with extra recoil.
.458 Lott vs .458 Win Mag Ammo
Since both the .458 Lott and the .458 Winchester Magnum are intended for a specific niche in the hunting community, neither is extremely popular in absolute terms and can’t hold a candle to the popularity of cartridges like the .270 Winchester or .30-06.
That said, both are pretty common choices among hunters pursuing dangerous game who need a heavy hitting rifle. For that reason, several of the big ammunition manufacturers who cater to those sort of hunters manufacture ammunition for both cartridges.
Most notably, this list includes Barnes with their VOR-TX Safari line (loaded with TSX bullets), Federal Premium with their Cape Shok line (loaded with Trophy Bonded Bear Claw and Sledgehammer, Swift A-Frame, and Woodleigh Hydro Solid bullets), Hornady with their Dangerous Game line (loaded with DGX Bonded and DGS Solid bullets), Norma with their African PH line (loaded with Woodleigh FMJ and Soft Nose bullets) Nosler with their Safari line (loaded with Partition and Safari Solid bullets), and Swift (loaded with A-Frame and Break-Away Solid bullets).
While they’re both usually much more expensive than smaller bore centerfire rifle hunting ammo, .458 Win Mag ammo is generally moderately cheaper than .458 Lott ammo. That said, factory ammo for both cartridges typically costs $100-200 for a box of 20.
Since both cartridges are used by a relatively small segment of the hunting world, not every sporting goods store keeps .458 Lott or .458 Win Mag ammo in stock. The .458 Win Mag is usually a little bit more common, but a store that carries one of those cartridges usually keeps the other in stock as well.
Most of the big retailers in the USA will usually have a couple of boxes of each on hand, but outside of places like Alaska (and often not even there), it would be extremely unusual to find .458 Winchester or .458 Lott ammo at a Wal-Mart or a smaller gun store.
This difference is even more apparent in places like Africa, where .458 Win Mag factory ammo is quite often significantly more common and less expensive than .458 Lott ammo.
Availability of ammunition is usually pretty good online though and the bigger retailers typically have a good selection of quality factory ammo for both cartridges in stock.
Fortunately, reloading components for both cartridges are widely available. The high price of factory ammo and the difficulty involved with obtaining a reliable supply of ammo at times makes both cartridges very popular among handloaders.
Indeed, both cartridges offer a fair bit of options for handloaders.
For instance, hunters having trouble reaching desired velocities with the .458 Winchester Magnum with a 500 grain bullet can drop down to a 450gr or a 480gr bullet.
On the other hand, hunters who don’t like the recoil of the .458 Lott with full powered factory ammo can download the cartridge slightly to achieve more modest performance on par with the original .458 Win Mag specifications.
Both the .458 Lott and .458 Winchester shoot the extremely popular .458″ bullet size that’s also used by the .458 SOCOM, .45-70 Government, .450 Marlin, and .460 Weatherby Magnum (among others).
Fortunately, there are a BUNCH of outstanding quality .458″ bullets suitable for use on dangerous game that reloaders can choose from. Just about all of those bullets previously mentioned as available in factory ammunition are also usually available as component bullets.
Among others, the Barnes TSX, the Hornady DGX Bonded, the Hornady DGS Round Nose, the Nosler Partition, the Nosler Safari Solid, the Swift A-Frame, the Swift Break-Away Solid, Trophy Bonded Bear Claw, Trophy Bonded Sledgehammer Solid, the Woodleigh Soft Point, and the Woodleigh Hydrostatically Stabilized Solid are all popular with handloaders.
.458 Lott vs .458 Win Mag Rifles
The rifle situation is very similar to the ammunition situation with these cartridges: there are a handful of options for each cartridge and there is also quite a bit of overlap in the rifles available in each chambering.
.458 Win Mag rifles in current production include the Winchester Model 70, CZ 550, and Blaser R8.
Of these, the CZ 550 and Blaser R8 are also available in .458 Lott. At the same time, the Kimber Caprivi is also an option for a current production .458 Lott rifle.
Though Ruger does not manufacture any rifles in either cartridge at this time, both were available from Ruger at one time in their single shot No. 1 Tropical and bolt action M77 rifles. The same goes for the Remington 700, the Weatherby Mark V Dangerous Game Rifle, and the Browning Safari bolt action rifles.
There are also a fair number of rifles out there that started out as a .458 Winchester Magnum, but were converted to .458 Lott at some point as well.
So, while the selection of rifles available for each cartridge is relatively small, hunters do have some very good quality rifles to choose from when selecting a rifle for a dangerous game hunt. In particular, the CZ 550 is a very popular option.
McCann Industries even manufactured a .458 Win Mag M1 Garand for a short period of time as well. I’ve never shot one myself and I’m somewhat skeptical of the utility of that rifle for a hunter, but it was a novel idea to be sure.
As a side note, Winchester initially offered the .458 Win Mag in their Model 70 rifle when they first rolled the cartridge out in 1956. So, there are a small number of pre-64 Model 70 rifles out there chambered in .458 Winchester Magnum that are prized by collectors due to their relative scarcity.
.458 Lott vs .458 Winchester Magnum: Which Is Right For You?
Do you need a cartridge ideally suited for hunting dangerous game like grizzly bear, cape buffalo, water buffalo, or elephant? With modern ammunition, both cartridges are excellent choices with proven reputations afield. I personally lean towards the .458 Win Mag, but I understand why other people might go with the .458 Lott.
Are you a hunter who needs to wring out all the performance you possibly can from a .45 caliber rifle? Professional Hunters in Africa who guide dangerous game hunts are the first group of people who come to mind in this category. In this situation, it makes sense to use the .458 Lott. The .458 Winchester is an acceptable choice, but the ability to use those heavier 550 grain bullets and get that extra bit of muzzle velocity are factors in favor of the .458 Lott.
Are you a handloader? Both cartridges are good choices for handloaders. That said, the .458 Lott offers a bit more room to tailor loads to your exact specifications. At the same time, handloaders can also tweak .458 Win Mag loads (usually by using lighter bullets) for better performance in some cases if they’re not obtaining the results they want out of their particular rifle.
Are you a hunter who does a lot of handloading, but doesn’t always have access to first rate powder? While modern powders have dramatically improved the performance of the .458 Win Mag, not everybody always has access to those powders. In those cases, the .458 Lott is certainly a better choice as that extra case capacity is even more important with lower quality powder.
Are you sensitive to recoil? While the .458 Winchester Magnum has a pretty stout recoil itself, the .458 Lott has considerably more. If the .458 Win Mag is still too much to handle though, it’s probably a good idea to move down to something that doesn’t recoil quite so much.
The .458 Winchester Magnum and .458 Lott are both outstanding dangerous game cartridges. You need to carefully analyze your potential needs and choose the one (458 Win Mag vs 458 Lott) you think will fit them best.
Even so, no animal will never know the difference if your shot is placed in the right spot. Get a good hunting rifle chambered in the cartridge that you think fits your needs the best, learn to shoot it well, use quality bullets, and you’ll be all set for most hunting situations.
Are just itching to take a rifle chambered in one of these cartridges on a hunt?
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The Lyman 50th Edition (p369-370) and Hornady 10th Edition (p767-769, 770-771) reloading manuals as well as Kevin Robertson’s book Africa’s Most Dangerous (p114-115) were used as references for the history of the cartridges. The data used to compare the trajectory of the cartridges was obtained from Federal (here and here) and Hornady (here and here). Data used to calculate recoil was obtained from the Hornady 10th Edition reloading manual. Case capacities were obtained from Kwk. Maximum pressure obtained from SAAMI (p43). I used ShootersCalculator.com to compare trajectory and recoil for the cartridges.