Nitro Express 3"

Although this was one of John Taylor's favorite African cartridges for larger game, even dangerous game, including Cape buffalo, there hadn't been much newsworthy activity involving it in recent years. That is, until Hornady began producing excellent loaded ammunition and loading components for it in the past decade, and Ruger began to offer it in their classic No. 1 Rifle. Generally, African hunters have thought of the 450/400 as a double-rifle cartridge, and even the lower-cost box-lock double rifles of upscale quality can set you back $35,000. So the single-shot Ruger, at not that much over a grand, can finally put this beautiful rimmed cartridge into the hands of people who don't have a BMW as their everyday driver.

The folks at Ruger and Hornady picked the right version of the 450/400. The slightly longer one with the thin rim isn't nearly as good. Hornady is doing a fine job of annealing the brass, and the relatively low-pressure round seals the chamber very well upon firing. The bullet diameter is kind of unique. Bullets of 0.410 to 0.411 inches are available for it from a number of manufacturers. Regular bullet weight is 400 grains, but 350s can also be found. Normal velocity of loaded rounds with a 400-grain bullet hangs in there between 2050 and 2100 feet per second, but the handloader with a Ruger can do quite a bit better. There have been some 400-grain loads published with velocities as high as 2405 feet per second, although we do not wish to participate in load development conversation on this website. Hornady lists loads at 2150 fps in their loading manual. The reason for the seemingly pokey factory loads is for regulation of the point of impact for both barrels of a double rifle.

Should someone living in North America ever consider having a 450/400 N.E. 3" for hunting on this continent? Oh, absolutely! I know people and know of people who hunt elk and other tough game with a bow. You know, a bow shoots those pointy sticks that the critter all too often runs away with, and dies an agonizing death a day later, but the hunters hardly ever admit it. Those guys. But at least they have developed stalking skills that put most rifle hunters to shame. They have to, because the bow and pointy stick doesn't work at all beyond about 60 yards. Now imagine this... You're out shooting a 22 rimfire with some friends and family. You're in a wide-open area, and can see the bullets kick up dust when shooting those empty pop cans at 50 yards, even farther. Then your buddy pulls a 22 Magnum out of his pickup, and he's going to show you a thing or two, "Move those cans back; way back!"

At 100 or so yards, after shooting the 22 LR, the magnum seems mighty hot. It gets out there right now! That's at 1900 fps, and a stubby 40-grain bullet that begins to slow down in a hurry as soon as it leaves the muzzle. Let's look at the 10-times heavier bullet from a 450/400; 400 grains at, say, a moderate 2150 fps, long and lean enough to have a pretty darn good ballistic coefficient. Demonstrating the performance is exactly what I've done to surprise the scoffers who don't think some of these big and chubby African cartridges can move out. You just take them to an area where long-range casual shooting at far-away rocks and clods presents no problems. They are typically dumbfounded. After seeing this, one guy wanted to try my 450-400 Ruger from the portable bench, so we padded him up to handle the recoil and turned him loose. He got right at nailing empty pop cans at 200, and then shot a couple of full ones to see the spray. This is what these rifles can do.

It should also be understood that Ruger No. 1 rifles, especially those chambered in larger cartridges, especially if those cartridges have a rim, are very fast to reload. It takes practice, but ejecting the spent brass and dropping a followup round in the chamber, and flicking that beautifully shaped lever back to raise the breech block, can be about as fast as operating a bolt-action. I believe the Ruger No. 1 chambered for the 450/400 N.E. 3" can be considered a viable choice for elk, moose, and any large bear. The hunter that makes that choice will just have to live with the fact that he'll look a lot classier than anyone else in the district.