The Powerful .450 Marlin

By Chuck Hawks

.450 Marlin
Illustration courtesy of Hornady Mfg. Co.

The powerful .450 Marlin Magnum cartridge, a joint development of Hornady and Marlin, essentially duplicates the performance of .45-70 handloads for modern lever action rifles, only in a factory load. The new cartridge itself is based on a .458 Winchester Magnum case cut down to 2" in length, with a wider (.109") belt. The wide belt is to prevent it from being chambered in rifles designed for standard belted magnum cases, and also gives the .450 an extremely strong case head. At a glance, the new cartridge looks for all the world like a belted .45-70 case, and the capacity of the new case is just a hair less than that of the .45-70 case.

The first rifle for the new .450 is Marlin's Model 1895M. This is essentially Marlin's popular Guide Gun chambered for the new cartridge. This rifle features an 18.5 inch ported barrel and three-quarter length magazine. Metal finish is polished blue, and the genuine walnut stock is cut checkered and has a straight grip. Marlin also offers the .450 in the Model 1895MR, which sports a 22" barrel that delivers close to the full factory specified muzzle velocity, decreased muzzle blast, and somewhat less recoil. In 2003 Browning announced that their BLR lever action would be available in .450 Marlin.

The Hornady factory load uses a new flat point version of Hornady's 350 grain Interlock bullet. Shooting Times magazine chronographed the Hornady 350 grain factory load at 2028 fps and 3197 ft. lb. of energy from the barrel of a Model 1895M rifle. Hornady figures call for 2100 fps at the muzzle and 3400 ft. lb. of energy. SAAMI maximum average pressure (MAP) for the .450 Marlin is 43,500 psi. Hornady factory loads for the new cartridge are reportedly loaded to about 42,000 psi.

The trajectory of the new cartridge is such that, if fired from a scoped Marlin lever action at a MV of 2000 fps, the 350 grain Hornady bullet can be zeroed as follows: 2.1" high at 50 yards, 2.9" high at 100 yards, and 4.8" low at 200 yards. This gives the shooter a 187 yard maximum point blank range.

Recoil is right up there in the light 7-pound Marlin Model 1895M rifle, at 37.2 ft. lbs. A scoped 1895MR weighing 8.5-pounds will still kick the shooter with 33.6 ft. lbs. of recoil energy. Functioning and accuracy of the Model 1895 in .450 caliber are to Marlin's normal high standards, making this rifle/cartridge combination one of the very best for stopping big or dangerous game at moderate range.

For the handloader, I can't see much advantage to the .450 Marlin over the .45-70. However, the fact that the .450 is based on a stronger case with a thicker web and walls should mean that brass lasts longer. A decent selection of bullets is available for the .450, as it can use all of the bullets up to 405 grains designed for the .45-70.

Hornady reloading data from the 6th edition of their handbook shows that the 300 grain Hornady FP bullet can be driven to a MV of 1700 fps by 40.1 grains of IMR 4198 powder, or a MV of 2100 fps by a maximum load of 51.0 grains of IMR 4198. Their 350 grain FP bullet can be driven to a MV of 1600 fps by 39.9 grains of RL-7, and to a MV of 2000 fps by a maximum load of 51.5 grains of RL-7. These figures were achieved in the 18.5" barrel of an 1895M carbine and used Hornady brass and Winchester WLR primers.

Hodgdon reloading data shows that the 400 grain Speer FP bullet can be driven to a MV of 2023 fps by a maximum charge of 52.5 grains of H322 powder at a MAP of 41,900 psi. This load also used Hornady brass and Winchester primers; velocities were taken in a 24" test barrel.

For a person who doesn't handload, the factory load for the new cartridge outperforms existing factory loads for both the .444 Marlin and the .45-70, assuming that a dealer near you stocks Hornady ammo in the new caliber. I suspect that Marlin and Hornady have developed a winner.

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Copyright 2001, 2012 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.