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.
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.
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.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?
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.
.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.
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.
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.