350 Legend vs. 450 Bushmaster: The Battle of Straight-Wall Cartridges

One of the newest caliber debates in gun forums is 350 Legend vs. 450 Bushmaster. It’s a worthy debate, especially since states like Ohio and Michigan require deer hunting with straight-walled cartridges.

The 350 Legend and 450 BM (Bushmaster) are superb calibers that effectively take down hogs and deer. Furthermore, they’re versatile enough for bolt-action rifles and semi-auto ARs.

However, they are different, and the following sections will give you a comprehensive understanding of both calibers.

No matter where you stand on the 350 Legend vs 450 Bushmaster debate, you can pick up the ammo for it HERE. But before you choose one, read this comparison of the two.

350 Legend vs. 450 Bushmaster Caliber Comparison

While I wouldn’t actively choose the 350 Legend or 450 Bushmaster over a .308 or .270, many hunters have no other choice. In fact, some states like Ohio, Indiana (on public land), and Michigan only permit straight-walled cartridges for deer hunting. They’re still easier to work with than muzzleloaders, but they aren’t as versatile or powerful as traditional bottle-necked cartridges.

Furthermore, these two calibers are worth reviewing if you want to hunt with an AR. While many will tell you that the 450 Bushmaster is superior in range and stopping power, I’m here to tell you that they both have advantages, and most hunters will fare better with the 350 Legend.

From the cost and availability of ammo to the cartridge specs, trajectory, and stopping power, you will learn a lot from the following sections.

Cartridge Specs

More often than not, it’s helpful to review the cartridge specs and better understand how they differ on paper. If you’re already familiar with handgun cartridges, we’re essentially looking at a .45 ACP and .9mm, except they’re in rifle cases.

The 350 Legend and the 450 Bushmaster are straight-wall cartridges, and they’re designed for deer hunting in AR-15 rifles. However, there are a few notable differences between the two.

The most significant differences between these calibers are the max pressure, case capacity, and bullet diameter.

The 350 Legend shoots a 0.355” (-0.003”) out of a 1.71” case (which is perfect for some state regulations). For those unaware, some states only permit 0.357” projectiles, so Winchester included the 0.357” and subtracted 0.003” from it. Essentially, it actually has a diameter of 0.355, but it says 0.357” - 0.003” on the box, making it legal (don’t ask questions, just accept it).

The 450 Bushmaster is a bit larger in diameter at 0.452. It’s also longer overall at 2.260” (which is the maximum size for AR chambers). Finally, the 450 Bushmaster has a higher case capacity but lower pressure (55K psi vs. 38,500 psi).

Ultimately, the 450 Bushmaster is larger than the 350 Legend cartridge, but both are designed to meet stringent state deer hunting laws and work in AR-15 rifles.

Recoil

I would be doing you a disservice if I didn’t cover recoil in this comparison guide. Recoil is arguably one of the more essential factors to consider when choosing a hunting rifle because it affects how comfortable you are with your firearm and how accurate your follow-up shots are.

Felt recoil is a term used to describe how much kick the firearm has, and it’s largely affected by the rifle’s weight, the cartridge’s powder charge, the muzzle velocity, and the bullet weight.

Fortunately, both cartridges fit in the AR-15, so we can compare the recoil of each in the same rifle. Typically, the 350 Legend will have 50-60% less recoil than the 450 Bushmaster.

For example, in an AR weighing 6.5 pounds, firing a 250-grain 450 Bushmaster bullet with 2,200 fps of muzzle energy will have 27.45 ft-lbs (foot-pounds) of recoil. In contrast, a 150-grain 350 Legend cartridge with 2,350 fps of muzzle energy will only have 11.6 ft-lbs of recoil.

The 450 Bushmaster shoots heavier bullets faster, so it makes sense that the recoil will be much higher. If you want something easy on the shoulder, the 350 Legend is the better option.

Trajectory

Trajectory describes how flat a projectile travels from barrel to target. This is something I look at because I want to see how much a bullet is going to drop over a period of several hundred yards. Things like the bullet’s weight, the muzzle velocity, and design all impact how flat a projectile travels.

Furthermore, a bullet with a flat trajectory gives us a little bit of an advantage with accuracy because bullets that travel more aerodynamically are more forgiving for ranging mistakes. While the 450 Bushmaster is more effective at long ranges, the 350 Legend has a flatter trajectory.

The trajectory varies depending on which ammo you choose, but more often than not, the 350 Legend performs better. For example, Winchester Super-X 260-grain ammo shot from a 450 Bushmaster will only drop 38 inches at 300 yards. On the other hand, Winchester Deer Season XP 350 Legend 150-grain drops only 28” at that distance.

Of course, it’s important to remember that this doesn’t mean you can drop a buck with the 350 Legend at 300 yards. Actually, both calibers aren’t great for hunting at that distance. But I’ll discuss that in more detail below. The key takeaway here is that the 350 Legend has a flatter trajectory thanks to its lighter bullets, but the bullet design also impacts its path of travel.

Ballistic Coefficient

The ballistic coefficient of a rifle cartridge is important to consider for long-range shots. Each caliber and bullet has different capabilities. Particularly, the weight and design affect how well the bullet travels over a certain distance, among a few other factors.

The BC does vary depending on which loads you’re using and a few other factors. For example, the heavier the bullet, the better it resists environmental force, but this varies depending on the design (boattails, polymer tips, etc.). The 350 Legend uses a .357 projectile weighing between 125 and 250 grains. On the other hand, the 450 Bushmaster shoots a heavier (240-300 grains) and larger 0.452” projectile.

With lighter bullets that are typically round or blunt-nosed bullets, the 350 Legend has a BC between 0.186 and 0.264. This isn’t as high as long-range calibers like the 6.5 Creedmoor or 338 Lapua, but it does mean that the 350 Legend is going to have adequate accuracy within about 250 yards.

The 450 Legend typically shoots heavier bullets, but it’s still important to remember that they aren’t designed to resist wind drift, as well as something like the .308. The average BC of the 450 Legend is between 0.2 and 0.225.

So, if you want to take long-range shots, it’s a good idea to look for projectiles designed to increase the ballistic coefficient.

Ultimately, the 450 Bushmaster has a higher ballistic coefficient than the 350 Legend. However, it’s by a very small margin and likely not a key factor in your decision-making process.

Stopping Power

There’s a lot of debate regarding the term stopping power, but we typically quantify stopping power using Sectional Density (SD). Sectional Density describes how well a bullet penetrates its target. Unfortunately, I don’t have enough time in this article to break it all down, but the bullet weight, velocity, design, and diameter all affect how well the bullet penetrates (and expands).

If you revisit the caliber specs above, the 450 Bushmaster has a larger diameter than the 350 Legend. It also comes out of the barrel much faster, so the 450 Bushmaster has a higher SD and more stopping power.

We can look at the rifle cartridges and see how much of a difference there will be between the two calibers. For example, I like affordable rifle cartridges that perform really well. Hornady 450 Bushmaster 250 grain FTX ammunition has 2,686 ft-lbs of muzzle energy and an SD of .175. Compared to Winchester Deer Season XP 350 Legend 150-grain XP ammo, which has 1,800 ft-lbs muzzle energy and an SD of 0.168.

What’s interesting is that while the 350 Legend has a flatter trajectory, it loses energy long before the 450 Bushmaster. Therefore, the 450 Bushmaster has more stopping power at long-range distances. The effective distance of the 350 Legend is around 200 yards, while the effective range of the 450 Bushmaster is closer to 300 yards.

Both cartridges are designed to expand on impact, but the 450 Bushmaster has a higher sectional density, meaning it has a bit more stopping power than the 350 Legend.

Hunting

The 450 Bushmaster vs. 350 Legend debate always winds up in one place: Which one is better for hunting? These straight-walled cartridges have been gaining a lot of traction since states like Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Pennsylvania, and Iowa began permitting their use for hunting.

If that’s why you’re here, it’s natural to want the best one for deer and hog hunting.

Ultimately, both are excellent for hunting. Whether you prefer simple lever action rifles or semi-auto ARs (if it’s legal in your state), I’d use either of these calibers on the hunt.

Revisiting trajectory and sectional density, the 350 Legend is flatter shooting but loses too much energy to be effective past 200 yards. The 450 BM has more drop at 300 yards, but if you do spot a trophy-grade buck, you better hope you have a 450 Bushmaster in hand because it still has the energy to drop it at those ranges.

You can’t push the 350 Legend past 250 yards because it doesn’t have enough energy to ethically take down a medium to large-sized critter. However, most hunters don’t actually have a line of sight that far. So, unless you’re on flat terrain with no forestry, those shots aren’t practical at that range anyway.

Furthermore, if you stumble across a pack of feral hogs, both will effectively put them down. Just ensure you have enough rounds for follow-up shots.

Ammo and Rifle Cost/Availability

If you’re limited to finding a straight-wall cartridge option for deer season, a big factor to consider is the cost and availability. What good is an excellent hunting caliber that’s legal in your state if you can’t find the ammo? Well, it isn’t any good.

Fortunately, it isn’t too challenging to find either of these options online (brick-and-mortar stores are another story). However, 350 Legend FMJ ammo is much easier to find than 450 Bushmaster range ammo.

Now, the ammo cost is a different story. 450 Bushmaster ammunition is consistently higher priced than 350 Legend ammo, especially as it relates to range ammo. You can get 350 Legend FMJs for range day for less than $1.00 per cartridge. On the other hand, premium hunting rounds tend to be around $2.00 per cartridge for both calibers. Either way, 350 Legend wins this section because 450 Bushmaster doesn’t have cheap range ammo that’s readily available.

Furthermore, there are plenty of rifles to choose from. As stated previously, both of these calibers were designed for the AR platform. That means any standard 5.56 AR-15 is a potential host for either cartridge. All you need to do for a conversion is install a new barrel, bolt, and magazine.

But you can get bolt-action rifles like the Ruger American Ranch for a pretty decent price. Moreover, Savage, Mossberg, Winchester, Remington, and other manufacturers also offer rifles in 350 Legend and 450 BM.

Reloading

With respect to the 350 Legend and 450 Bushmaster, there are too many reasons to count why you should consider reloading. Sure, you can find this ammo online, but it’s still a niche option, and therefore, reloading is a great way to ensure your rifle mags never run dry.

Fortunately, both of these options are reloadable, and the primers/powders and reload data are readily available. However, there’s one thing you need that isn’t always in stock: the brass.

Whether you choose the 350 Legend or 450 Bushmaster, it’s a good idea to keep the spent brass cases from your factory ammo so you can reload them again.

450 Bushmaster Development/History

The history and development of the 450 Bushmaster are actually pretty neat. Lt. Col. Jeff Cooper (who was instrumental in the development of the 10mm) came up with the thumper concept to increase the stopping power of AR-15 rifles. The idea was to use a .44 caliber bullet in a smaller rifle with an effective range of 200 yards.

Tim LeGrande, CEO of LeMag Firearms LLC, was inspired by the thumper concept and began working with a 284 Winchester case. Eventually, he teamed up with Hornady and Bushmaster. After a few tweaks, they developed the 450 Bushmaster (or 450 BM, for short).

In 2007, the 450 Bushmaster joined the ranks of other excellent straight-walled cartridge calibers like the 50 Beowulf. Shooting 0.452” projectiles at more than 2,200 fps, it would seem that LeGrande did an excellent job of bringing Lt. Col. Cooper’s concept to life.

350 Legend Development/History

The 350 Legend is a SAAMI-accepted straight-walled cartridge designed by Winchester Repeating Arms for AR-15s and hunters in states with extreme restrictions on rifle cartridges for deer hunting.

Whereas the 450 Bushmaster and 444 Marlin were already on the market for shooters in those states, Winchester designed these to provide another hard-hitting hunting option that still fit in the AR-15l.

Ultimately, Winchester wanted to provide hunters with a straight-walled cartridge that met the required specifications but also had lower recoil.

The 350 Legend was initially showcased in 2019 with Winchester’s XPR bolt-action rifles. Now, Ruger and Savage also manufacture rifles chambered in this caliber.

Today, the 350 Legend is known for being a worthy contender in the world of limited-caliber selection and hunting. Shooting 0.355” projectiles with an effective range out to 250 yards with over 2,000 fps muzzle velocity is a great option if your state legislators prohibit more common calibers.

Parting Shots

We’re grateful for the 350 Legend and 450 Bushmaster because they allow hunters to use rifles during deer season in states with strict regulations. While I wouldn’t say that one is better than the other, the 350 Legend is a better option for most shooters because it performs well in standard hunting distances and won’t beat your shoulder like the 450 Bushmaster.

However, if you need more stopping power at longer distances, the 450 Bushmaster is the clear winner (and you can consider a muzzle brake to help with recoil). Of course, if you want to explore the ammo cost and availability further, click HERE.

350 Legend vs. 450 Bushmaster: The Battle of Straight-Wall Cartridges originally appeared on Ammo.com

5 Likes

IMO not much of a comparison, 450 is clearly the winner. Energy on target is what you want when hunting and the 450 kicks the 350’s azz easily.

5 Likes

What about revolvers that offer both these rounds in their offerings ie…BFR both rounds out of these revolvers are 200 yrd. Worthy.

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Few problems the S&W M350 couldn’t handle, that’s for certain.

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The recoil of the 450 Bushmaster 458 SOCOM and 50 Beowulf all turned me off. The 350 Legend seems like the better existing alternative, especially when talking straight wall cartridges (yes the 458 Isn’t, I know). I still want to build a hard hitting close in anti-pig AR and the 450 / 458 / 50 are still on the table.

3 Likes

My 450 &Beowulf dont kick any more than a semi auto 20 gauge. Ive had the beowulf for years. Unthreaded barrel and no muzzle brake.

3 Likes

I see your partial to S&W’s nothing wrong with that but once you fire and shot a BFR you’ll want to own one.

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:sunglasses: so cool!!

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