.350 Legend Vs .450 Bushmaster: Does One Win Out For Hunting?

.350 Legend Vs .450 Bushmaster: Does One Win Out For Hunting?

New against established straight-wall deer slayers, which comes out on top in .350 Legend vs .450 Bushmaster?

How We Measure The .350 Legend Vs .450 Bushmaster:

A talk on straight-wall cartridges is, for the most part, a regional discussion. Not that it hurts to have a rifle chambered for one in your arsenal if you live big county out West. It’s an interesting and unique addition and most are mighty fun to shoot. But for overall practicality, straight-wall cartridges are a topic for the good folks around the Great Lakes region.

In the past decade, state wildlife management agencies in the region have opened what were once shotgun-only deer grounds to rifles chambered for straight-wall cartridges. Ever perceptive, the market has responded by expanding this somewhat forgotten corner of the firearms world. Perhaps the most notable in recent years has been the .350 Legend. Plenty of fanfare and spilled ink has greeted the latest and greatest do-all deer medicine. But does it deserve the attention?

One sure way to cut through some of the tall grass is measure it against an established cartridge that’s already proven its worth. And when it comes to straight-wall Midwestern deer options that would be the .450 Bushmaster. A behemoth by any standard, the large-bore rifle cartridge has been the go-to for many if not most hunters around the shores of Lake Michigan and Lake Erie up to this point.

So when it comes to the .350 Legend vs .450 Bushmaster, is there any discernable advantage of hunting one or the other?

Matching Them Up

Since the topic is hunting, we’ve selected two respected hunting rounds in common weights for calibers and with similar style bullets to side-by-side the cartridges. In the .450 Bushmaster’s corner is Hornady’s 250-grain FTX load, which has a listed muzzle velocity of 2,200 fps, is topped with a flex-tip bullet and has a ballistic coefficient (BC) of .210. For the .350 Legend, the ammo of choice is Winchester’s 150-grain Deer Season XP, with a listed muzzle velocity of 2,325 fps and a BC of .223. The data in both cases are from a 20-inch barrel, which is somewhat common in the field and is the standard test length utilized by most ammunition companies.

.350 Legend vs .450 Bushmaster Ballistics

At reasonable straight-wall cartridge hunting distances, for both velocity and trajectory, there is no real out-and-out winner between .450 Bushmaster vs .350 Legend. Both shed velocity like mad, the Legend losing 29-percent of its muzzle velocity at the 200-yard mark and the Bushmaster 31 percent—1,648 fps and 1,515 fps respectively. Still, the clip each moves at this range is more than adequate to ensure satisfactory penetration, proper bullet expansion (if you are using such a projectile) and an ethical kill.

450 Bushmaster vs 350 Legend 3
The .350 Legend Winchester load put to the test.

As far as trajectory, both start to drop excessively at 200 yards, 7.58 inches on a scope zeroed for 100 yards in the .350’s case and 8.96 in the .450’s. Yes, the Legend does tend to shoot a fraction flatter at distance, but not substantially so. In terms of maximum point-blank range, it’s only a 16-yard difference on a 14-inch target (roughly the size of a small deer’s vital zone). Or more plainly speaking, you’d dial a scope on a Bushmaster up .2-inch more than on the Legend when sighting in at 100 yards.

There is a difference between the two, and the edge goes to the .350 Legend, but it doesn’t have such an overwhelming advantage to say it’s hands-down better.

Go Big!:

.450 Bushmaster Vs .350 Legend Recoil

Often overlooked, much to the detriment of the hunter, is how much “kick” they’ll endure from a particular rifle-cartridge combination. Certainly, some pride themselves in how much recoil they can endure. That’s fine and dandy. More power to them. But if you get behind the business end of a gun you dread to drop the hammer on, you’re sandbagging your potential in the field. It won’t matter a lick how far a cartridge can send a bullet and how devastating its terminal ballistics are once at its destination if you develop a flinch and send it anywhere but the vital zone.

As it concerns .350 Legend vs .450 Bushmaster, the smaller-caliber cartridge has a decided advantage.

Utilizing a lighter bullet with a smaller powder charge, it can generally be said it produces less recoil. Absolutely, it depends on what rifle you use—more exactly its weight—as to how many foot-pounds of energy will jolt into your shoulder. But the .450 Bushmaster and .350 Legend are chambered in very similar rifles, some from the same line with minuscule differences. They track closely in weight, thus when chambered Legend tend to be more pleasurable to shoot.

And truly, it is a pleasurable cartridge, very much akin to the .30-30, which by almost anyone’s standard is extremely manageable. Benefits abound with a tamer rifle. Not only does it reduce the possibility of developing a flinch, but it also improves the ability of the average hunter to deliver an accurate follow-up shot. That said, the Bushmaster—while stout—isn’t the North American version of the .500 Nitro Express. Shoot it enough and know what to expect and it shouldn’t prove prohibitive, except to the most recoil shy.

.350 Legend vs .450 Bushmaster Rifles

Again, there isn’t a bright clear advantage when it comes to rifles chambered for cartridges. Much of this is attributable to the Legend and Bushmaster competing for the same hunters. Why wouldn’t they be in similar rifles?

Ruger Ranch Rifle in .450 Bushmaster
Ruger Ranch Rifle in .450 Bushmaster

It goes so far as, previously mentioned, manufacturers offering the same model rifle in both .450 Bushmaster and .350 Legend. For instance, Ruger chambers its American Ranch rifle for both cartridges, with few differences between the two.

If there is an apparent divide in .450 Bushmaster vs .350 Legend rifles it’s muzzle devices and barrel contour. By and large, .450 Bushmaster rifles are outfitted with medium to heavy contour barrels, a function of its large bore. Additionally, but not across the board, many are factory outfitted with muzzle brakes to help mitigate some of the angry mule in the cartridge-rifle combination.

On the other hand, the Legend is available with thinner sporter contour barrels. And, outside a flash hider on an AR, don’t usually come with a muzzle device standard.

.450 Bushmaster Vs .350 Legend Cost

Rubber meet road, because if there is anyone point in .450 Bushmaster vs .350 Legend battle where one wins out, it’s here.

For all the .450 Bushmaster’s assets, economic shooting isn’t one of them. On average, factory loaded ammo for the beast rings up north of $1 per trigger pull, which in a word is spendy. The .350 Legend is a blue-light special (if you remember that analogy) in comparison. Year-round, you can find ammo at less than 50₵ per round, which isn’t 5.56 NATO cheap, but is thrifty.

One other advantage of the .350 Legend not mentioned in the text, greater magazine capacity.
One other advantage of the .350 Legend not mentioned in the text, greater magazine capacity.

The only way to get near that with a Bushy is to load your own ammo. Now I won’t dissuade anyone from getting involved with reloading ammunition. It’s great skill and potentially one of the best hobbies you’ll ever pick up. But in all honesty, it isn’t for everyone—be it due to tight quarters or time constraints. Therefore, some might be stuck with the full Bushmaster tab.

Parting Shot

When it comes to .450 Bushmaster vs .350 Legend, is there a clear winner? If your pocketbook is tight or you don’t appreciate your shoulder getting thumped, then I suppose there is. The .350 Legend takes it easier on each by a fairly wide margin.

On the other hand, performance-wise, the dividing line is thin enough so it's difficult to tip fence-sitters one way or another. That’s alright. The hunting world is big enough for both the .450 Bushmaster and .350 Legend, and either will put meat on the table. In the end that’s what counts.


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Elwood Shelton is the Digital Editor for Gun Digest. He lives in Colorado and has provided coverage on a vast spectrum of topics for GD for more than a decade. Before that, he was an award-winning sports and outdoors reporter for a number of newspapers across the Rocky Mountains. His experience has consisted of covering the spread of chronic wasting disease into the Western Slope of Colorado to the state’s ranching for wildlife programs. His passion for shooting began at a young age, fostered on pheasant hunts with his father. Since then, he has become an accomplished handloader, long-range shooter and avid hunter—particularly mule deer and any low-down, dirty varmint that comes into his crosshairs. He is a regular contributor to Gun Digest Magazine and has contributed to various books on guns and shooting, most recently Lever-Actions: A Tribute to the All-American Rifle.


  1. Why no mention of energy in this article? Energy is an important part of what any cartridge can deliver. My guess would be the 450 hands down. I’ve taken deer and hogs with the 450 and it ABSOLUTLY wallops them. The 350 legend to me is the 6.5 Creedmoor of straight walls

  2. How ‘bout impact energy, maybe at the muzzle, 100 and 200yards? I’m sure anyone on the fence between these two calibers would consider their comparative energy dump into Bambi a critical point of consideration. Presumably the .450 has an edge here, but knowing by how much would be interesting for sure.
    Also, in a pinch, which one makes a better impromptu home defense tool, in case a home invasion predator drops in needing a ballistic bouquet from the kinetic welcome wagon? Inquiring minds, ya know?

  3. The crux is terminal performance on game. Penetration, expansion, frontal area. The 450 would do better, but, is it needed on deer? Will it put a deer down faster. Probably. Eliminate trailing, disputes over the game, keep the deer on your side of the fence. In Ohio, can use 45-70 and 458 win.

  4. Unless one lives in a state that requires a straight wall for hunting, then there is not much use for either unless it is to say you got one.

    • I disagree. I live in the dense hard woods of new England where even walking up a tall hill will put you into the pines and out of any hardwoods. You have to understand though I live within walking distance of the northern end of the white mountain national forest and the hills around here often get above 4000 feet in elevation. The forests around here are always thick brushed with all sorts of not only leafy brush but full of little twig saplings and raspberry bushes and the like. I use a 450 bushmaster ar-15 as my big bore brush gun for my up close and personal bear hunting and coming across a deer 25 yards away through the bushes. Ive used a 308 and hit a branch with it and the bullet broke apart and i thankfully got a lucky hit to the neck with about half a bullet tumbling through the air. After that instance I went to a big bore brush gun and never had such a problem since. It drops a bear at 100 yards like no one’s business if you catch it from your tree stand and it puts deer on the ground fast too. The 2 deer ive gotten with it they made it less than 25 yards. Its a very useful tool for me and I now phased out my 308s and just use my 450 for everything now. I was torn between a lever action 45-70 and a 450 bushmaster ar-15. I ended up just taking a lower I had and put a 450 upper on it with a vortex crossfire II 1-4×30 I think or maybe it’s 35 or something like that not sure but it will group at 2 inches even for an 10 shot group at 100 yards. It’s very accurate and I feel more comfortable with it than a marlin 1895 big bore or another one of the other many 45-70 lever guns. Ive used a Remington 1100 with a slug barrel on it before that but had problems getting out to the 100-150 yard mark accurately. So I switched to the 450 bm and never regretted it and it comes with me everywhere.

    • My state doesn’t require one, but the 450 is my go to rifle for deer and hog, even though I do use 30.06 once in a while. That said, pretty much all my shots will be less than 200 and most less than 100. 450 serves me quite well.


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