We know hunters in other parts of the country won't understand it, but the introduction of straight wall cartridge laws for deer season was a game changer for Midwestern states like Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, and Iowa. These were all states marred with antiquated laws prohibiting the use of centerfire rifles because of concerns about how far the bullets travel in the flat, populated areas. If you lived in certain areas of these states, you could only use a shotgun or muzzleloader. State wildlife agencies finally loosened up in the face of dropping hunter participation and now rounds like the powerful .450 Bushmaster are now perfectly legal in those areas.
The .450 often gets favorably compared to the .45-70 Govt, of which it shares many characteristics. The only difference is the Govt's case length is just a hair too long for Michigan's Zone 3, and some other state's regulations too. At 1.80 inches, the Bushmaster is perfectly legal, and it packs a real punch on whitetail deer. In most instances, it'll knock a deer dead where it stands, eliminating tough tracking jobs completely. Of course, a round is only as good as the ammo offerings. Which is why today we're taking a close look at .450 Bushmaster rifle ammo. We'll answer some frequently answered questions and give our recommendations for your best options this season.
Ballistics and Frequently Asked Questions
We won't rehash the whole history of the .450 Bushmaster here as we've covered it many times in the past. This round uses a .45-caliber, .452-inch diameter bullet. The .284 Winchester is the parent case. Performance-wise, most .450 Bushmaster ammo will shoot mostly flat out to around 200 yards. Some will give a slight rise of one to two inches give or take at 100. It's not an extreme long range round, but for most Midwestern hunting scenarios between 100 and 150 yards, it will get the job done. Bullet weights vary from about 220 to 395 grains. You'll usually find them in the 250 to 300-grain range on most store shelves. As for muzzle velocity, you're usually looking at about 1,800 to 2,200-fps on average.
The real selling point of the .450 is the energy delivered to the target. The muzzle energy is usually somewhere in the 2,500 to 2,700-foot pound area. At 100 yards, you're still getting 1,500 to 1,800-foot pounds of energy. Some hunters have misconception the .450 is overkill for deer, but I can assure you through personal experience it is not. The biggest upside to the .450 is that it usually knocks the deer dead where it stands. If you hate tracking or have a smaller parcel of land to work with, it's a great option. At the same time, the .450 has more than enough power for bears, and feral hogs. At closer ranges with heavier bullets, it can be effective on elk too. For Michigan, this can effectively be a "one size fits all" cartridge for the game animals we have here.
The only bad thing about factory rifle ammunition for the .450 is that it can be quite expensive. I picked several boxes of various brands up in 2020 and they started out at about $30 a box before jumping to around $40 a box a few months later. Inflation hasn't helped much, and now they're jumping to $45 to $50 a box depending on brand and bullet. So, you're usually looking at $2 to $2.50 a round at a minimum. That said, let's look at some of the top options out there.
Hornady Custom 250-gr FTX
Arguably the most popular Hornady 450 Bushmaster cartridge on the market right now, I found this to be the best grouping of all the options I've tried. The 250-grain FTX is a polymer tip bullet and has a muzzle velocity of about 2,200-fps and Hornady gives a rise of about 4.1 inches at 100 yards and zero at 200 yards. FTX stands for flex tip expanding and these bullets do an excellent job of expansion after striking an animal. This is really the round that Hornady designed the 450 Bushmaster around, so it's no surprise it's one of the best performing options on the market. Prior to Covid and inflation, these rounds were around $30 a box. They've since increased to about $40 at most retailers. I've noticed they're cheaper online, often going for about $35. In any case, this is the round I would recommend putting through a new .450 first to see how your new gun patterns.
Federal Premium Non-Typical 300-grain
For hunters looking for a little extra stopping power from a 300-grain bullet, give these jacketed hollow points a try. They have a muzzle velocity of around 1,900-fps and are still doing over 1,500-fps at 100 yards. You're looking at about 1,697-foot pounds of energy at that distance. Federal Premium puts the drop at zero for 200 yards and a rise of 6.2 inches at 100 yards. Most deer are never going to know what hit them with a properly placed shot. The only downside is the cost of this Bushmaster ammunition. We found it going online for about $50 to $60 a box. Try to make every shot count.
Winchester Deer Season XP 250 Grain Extreme Point
We just appreciate the fact Winchester has been making quality ammunition for years that is also affordable. You're looking at about $45 a box for these 250-grain soft point rounds. They feature a contoured jacket for better ballistics and an alloyed lead core to help deliver all that power and energy. The velocity at 2,200-fps at the muzzle, and at 100 yards is approximately 1,834-fps. This round is hitting with 1,867-foot pounds of energy at that distance. Winchester puts the drop at zero for 100 yards. This would be our choice for any shooter who doesn't believe they will need to reach out beyond 150 yards for that reason.
Barnes Vor-Tx 250-Grain
The Barnes name is well established as a premium hunting rifle ammo brand known for performance and the Vor-Tx delivers just that. These rounds use Barnes' TSX bullets, which use a solid copper construction. This is a good option if your gun is fragmenting other types of bullets. It delivers a muzzle velocity of 2,200-fps and is still doing 1,811-fps at 100 yards. It delivers about 1,821-foot pounds of energy at 100 yards too, ensuring you don't lose any knock-own power on whitetails. Barnes has the drop at zero for 100 yards and -8.8 at 200. The only downside is Barnes ammo can sometimes be hard to find on store shelves, necessitating an online purchase. It goes for about $50 a box, which is about what you'd expect from a brand like Barnes.
Hornady Sub-X 450 Bushmaster 395-Grain
One thing I neglected to mention earlier is how much bark the .450 Bushmaster has. It's a magnum round, so it's not surprising there's a loud report. This subsonic 450 Bushmaster round was specifically designed to have a lower report, especially when used in conjunction with a suppressor. The downside is that you're dealing with lower velocities and energy, but these rounds do make use of Hornady's XTP controlled expansion bullets, so no worries about losing performance on game. The muzzle velocity is approximately 1,050-fps. It only slows to about 977-fps at 100 yards and you're looking at 837-foot pounds of energy. Hornady subsonics go for about $45 a box.
Remington Premier AccuTip 260-Grain
This is a solid option for anyone who wants a solid round that's accurate out to 200 yards. These 260-grain Remington rounds have a solid lead core that's bonded to the jacket. The polymer Power Port tips help give these rounds zero drop at 200 yards and a slight rise of 5.7 inches at 100 yards. As far as velocity goes, expect 2,180-fps at the muzzle, and 1,685-fps at 100 yards. These rounds hit with around 1,600-foot pounds of energy and expand well thanks to the spiral nose design. Expect to pay around $50 a box, although sometimes you can catch these on sale for much less.
HSM Bear Load 450 Bushmaster
If you're looking for something with a ton of knockdown power for a dangerous predator, you need look no further than the HSM Bear Load. The company designs most of their bear loads for defensive purposes against bruins with large handguns. We appreciate the fact they branched out a little to make this 300-grain jacketed soft point Speer bullets. These rounds have a muzzle velocity of around 1,950-fps and a muzzle energy of approximately 2,532-foot pounds. They'll put down a bruin quickly and humanely in just about any hunting situation. You could also potentially use these for elk.
Hornady American Whitetail 245 gr InterLock
Our last recommendation on this list features an exposed lead tip that helps with some great controlled expansion of these bullets. They also have an "InterLock" ring that keeps the core and jacket together until it hits the target. Once it strikes, it has a tapered jacket that expands quite nicely. The lead alloy core then transfers all that energy to the deer, dropping it quick. This is a great option for anyone who wants to bag whitetails out to 200 yards since Hornady puts the drop at that distance at zero. These 245-grain bullets are doing about 1,742-fps at 100 yards and hitting with about 1,651-foot pounds of energy. This is one of the more affordable Hornady rounds out there, costing about $40 a box from most major retailers.
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