350 Legend VS 450 Bushmaster: Does Size Matter?

Today we’re comparing and contrasting two straight-walled cartridges, the .350 Legend versus the .450 Bushmaster.

These two throwback-style cartridges may evoke images of a cowboy loading up his lever action, but their performance is plenty modern.

In Ohio, you can only hunt with straight-wall rifle cartridges. I never really gave 350 Legend the time of day until recently. The following video pits the 350 Legend up against the 450 Bushmaster.

The Tipped 350 Legend cartridge penetrated a steel plate at 50 yards! So, not only can I hunt with it in Ohio, but it also provides me with some barrier penetration capabilities (Light Armor Piercing).

History of 350 Legend vs 450 Bushmaster

Both the .350 Legend and the .450 Bushmaster were designed for use in AR-15 platform rifles, though that isn’t the primary reason we hear about them.

We can thank hunting restrictions at the state level for the popularity of these two cartridges.

Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, and Ohio all have laws on the books related to deer hunting cartridge restrictions.

While these restrictions vary between these states, the gist is that straight-walled rounds (usually in “pistols") are allowed in more areas than rounds with a shoulder built into the case, or the shouldered cases aren’t allowed at all.

Welcome to the world of “Straight-Walled Cartridge Compliant" deer hunting.

.450 Bushmaster

350 Legend VS 450 Bushmaster

History

The .450 Bushmaster was the first of the two to arrive on the scene, originally designed by Tim Legendre of Lemag Firearms in 2007.  Legendre’s 45 Professional was shortened to stuff it into an AR-15 platform rifle and re-dubbed the .450 Bushmaster.

Performance

Taking a look at currently available ammunition, there’s a spread from 240gr to 395gr rounds available for the .450 Bushmaster.

Hornady’s 245gr Interlock American Whitetail round exits a 20" barrel at 2200 FPS, with 2633 lb-ft of energy.

WINCHESTER 450 Bushmastr 250Gr Deer Season XP

$52.39
at Kentucky Gun Co
Prices accurate at time of writing

On the other end of the speed/mass spectrum, Hornaday’s 395gr Sub-X round leaves a 24" barrel at 1050 FPS, with 967 lb-ft of energy.  Obviously designed to be paired with a suppressor given the round’s subsonic velocity, there are few subsonic rounds that approach the 400gr mark.

Pros and Cons

  • Cost $1.50-$2 per round
  • Enough power to reliably drop North American game, moose and bear included
  • Recoil comparable to 45/70
  • Bolt action and AR platform rifles are available

.350 Legend

350 Legend VS 450 Bushmaster

History

I remember the 2019 SHOT Show well, in small part thanks to the announcement of the .350 Legend.  New caliber releases are always an interest of mine while covering SHOT, though at the time it didn’t strike me as filling a huge need.

Now, knowing more about the requirements for straight-walled cartridge hunting, it makes sense.

As mentioned, the .350 Legend was announced at SHOT Show 2019, by Winchester Ammunition.

WINCHESTER 350 Legend 180Gr SuperX Power Point

$30.99
at Kentucky Gun Co
Prices accurate at time of writing

Winchester wanted a 250-yard capable straight-walled cartridge, capable of feeding from an AR-15, much like the .450 Bushmaster.

Unlike the .450 Bushmaster, Winchester opted for a lighter round, with 124gr-280gr bullets available on the market.

Performance

Winchester’s 145gr “White Box" offering leaves the barrel (length not mentioned) at  2350 FPS, with 1778 lb-ft of energy.

Winchester’s subsonic Super Suppressed 255gr round has a muzzle velocity of 1060 FPS, with 636 lb-ft of energy.

WINCHESTER 350 Legend 260Gr Super Suppressed

$25.99
at Kentucky Gun Co
Prices accurate at time of writing

Pros and Cons

  • Significantly less recoil than .450 Bushmaster
  • Approximately half the cost per round
  • Approximately a 33% reduction in total kinetic energy vs .450 Bushmaster
  • A wide variety of guns are available, from bolt action to AR, to revolver.

The Showdown

Now we’re down to the brass tacks.  Which wins in a head-to-head battle?  If it’s a matter of raw power, clearly the .450 Bushmaster trumps the smaller but similarly paced .350 Legend.

If we’re talking accuracy at range, the .350 Legend has a generally higher ballistic coefficient of friction (BC), meaning it loses velocity at a slower rate, keeping a flatter ballistic arc.

Both are easily capable of dropping a buck, so which is best?  The maddening answer:  it depends.  Stay with me, you’ll get a solid answer at the end.

Image courtesy of Winchester Ammunition

The Case For .450 Bushmaster

While total kinetic energy (often “stopping power") isn’t the best measure of lethality, it can be illuminating when comparing calibers.  There is no true consensus on just how much energy it takes to kill a certain animal, there are simply too many variables.

The usual argument though, is that more is better.  If 1500 lb-ft of energy is what it takes to reliably, ethically kill a moose, then .450 Bushmaster with 245gr Hornady Interlock has that out to ~120 yards.

HORNADY 450 Bushmaster 250 Gr FTX Black

$41.99
at Kentucky Gun Co
Prices accurate at time of writing

That’s far above what it takes to drop a nice buck, having done so at much further ranges with much less stout calibers.

If you’re hunting deer in an area where bears, moose, or other dangers lurk, .450 Bushmaster gives you a wide margin of safety through brute force.

The Case For .350 Legend

Whenever the “minimum stopping power for X animal" argument comes up, someone inevitably trots out the “lots of people have killed X animal with a .22lr".  I’ve seen that old horse brought out often, and have taken her for a ride around the ring a few times myself.

It’s true, but it’s also taking the argument to an extreme.  Simply put, brute force is not always the best method to achieve a clean kill.  An accurate bullet, well placed in a vital zone does not need to leave a gaping maw to drop a deer.

Point in fact, the more damage done, the more meat wasted.

Furthermore, a gun with a harsh recoil is far more likely to induce a shooter flinch than one with a mild recoil.  Yes, that’s true even if you’ve been hunting for many years.

Another point against the .450 Bushmaster (and thus for the .350 Legend) is the cost per round.  At approximately double the cost, a shooter is even less likely to practice as often with the .450 Bushmaster as with the .350 Legend.

Where To Buy a 350 Legend or 450 Bushmaster Rifle

Are you interested in picking up a .350 Legend?  Think I’m wrong and want to grab a .450 Bushmaster?  Here are a couple of links to guns and products that might interest you.

.350 Legend For Sale On The Web

350 Legend 150gr TCP

$37.99
at HOP Munitions
Prices accurate at time of writing

Winchester XPR Hunter .350 Legend Bolt Action

$649.99
at Brownells.com
Prices accurate at time of writing

Ruger AR-556 MPR .350 Legend

$949.99
at Brownells.com
Prices accurate at time of writing

Faxon Firearms 16 inch Gunner Profile AR-15 Barrel

$199
at Faxon Firearms
Prices accurate at time of writing

.450 Bushmaster For Sale On The Web

450 Bushmaster 300 grain JHP

$29.99
at HOP Munitions
Prices accurate at time of writing

Ruger American Ranch .450 Bushmaster

$489.99
at Brownells.com
Prices accurate at time of writing

Ruger AR556 MPR .450 Bushmaster

$929.99
at Brownells.com
Prices accurate at time of writing

Faxon Firearms 16 inch Gunner Profile AR-15 Barrel .450 Bushmaster

$270
at Faxon Firearms
Prices accurate at time of writing

Conclusion

Unless we’re talking muscle cars, I’m a fan of efficiency over brute force.  I prefer dropping a buck with a .223 to the brain or a .300blk to the high neck over a .30 caliber magnum that’s going to scatter portions of the deer over half the zip code.

Some like to say “there’s no kill like overkill".  I agree when killing is the only point.  With a deer, making them dead as dramatically as possible isn’t the intent, harvesting the meat is.

Unless I’m in an area where grizzlies like to play hide-and-seek (hello Admiralty island), I’d be taking the .350 Legend over the .450 Bushmaster.


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Table of Contents

  • History of 350 Legend vs 450 Bushmaster
  • .450 Bushmaster
  • History
  • Performance
  • Pros and Cons
  • .350 Legend
  • History
  • Performance
  • Pros and Cons
  • The Showdown
  • The Case For .450 Bushmaster
  • The Case For .350 Legend
  • Where To Buy a 350 Legend or 450 Bushmaster Rifle
  • .350 Legend For Sale On The Web
  • .450 Bushmaster For Sale On The Web
  • Conclusion

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