Compared: The .350 Rem. Mag. and .450 Marlin
By Chuck Hawks
This may seem, at first glance, a strange comparison. After all, the medium bore .350 Remington Magnum is offered in the very modern bolt action Remington Model 673 rifle, while the big bore .450 Marlin is offered in the traditional Marlin Model 1895 lever action rifle. What do the .350 and the .450 have in common besides a belted case?
The answer, of course, is contained in the sub-title; they are both designed for the same purpose. They represent different paths to the same goal. Powerful stopping rifles for the professional hunting guides of North America.
For the less glamorous amateur hunter and recreational shooter, who account for the great bulk of all rifle sales in North America, either might well be considered for hunting the likes of elk, moose and the great bears (CXP3 class game). And it is in that light that I will compare these two fine big game cartridges.
.350 Remington Magnum
The .350 Remington Magnum was introduced in 1964 in the Remington Model 600M bolt action carbine. Back then the combination was not targeted at professional hunters and guides (perhaps it should have been), it was just supposed to be a powerful cartridge in a handy carbine intended for hunting heavy North American game.
The .350 was the world's first true short magnum cartridge, designed to work in short (.308 length) rifle actions. Its case length is 2.17" long and the maximum cartridge overall length (COL) is 2.8". The SAAMI maximum average pressure (MAP) is 53,000 cup. The original Remington factory loads included a 200 grain bullet at a muzzle velocity (MV) of 2710 fps and a 250 grain bullet at a MV of 2410 fps in a 20" test barrel.
The short (18.5" barrel), light (6.5 pound) Model 600 carbine proved to be an unfortunate choice for such a powerful cartridge and the two quickly gained a reputation as a hard kicking combination, which eventually doomed both. The Model 600M was discontinued only three years after its introduction, and Remington quietly dropped the .350 Mag. cartridge from it loading list in 1997. Strangely, after it was discontinued the Model 600M carbine became an underground classic and a favorite of Alaskan big game hunters.
In 2003 Remington surprised the shooting press and public alike by reintroducing the .350 Magnum in a new and much improved Model 673 "Guide Rifle" based on their successful Model 7 Magnum action. The new Model 673 retained the racy look of the old Model 600, but corrected its most glaring flaws. The 673 weighs a reasonable 7.5 pounds and sports a 22" rifle barrel. Its carefully designed laminated stock has a large butt surface and an efficient recoil pad to minimize the effect of recoil. Magazine capacity is three rounds.
The single .350 Rem. Mag. factory load in 2003 advertises a 200 grain PSP Core-Lokt bullet at a muzzle velocity (MV) of 2775 fps with muzzle energy (ME) of 3419 ft. lbs. in a 22" test barrel. Remington intends to release a factory load using a heavier premium bullet (probably 225 grains) in the future.
Marlin and Hornady introduced the .450 Marlin cartridge in 2000 as a joint development. It is based on a shortened (2.1") .458 Winchester Magnum case with an extra long belt and designed to duplicate the ballistics of hot .45-70 reloads. The maximum COL is 2.550". The SAAMI MAP is some 43,500 psi. The single Hornady factory load uses a 350 grain flat nose Interlock bullet at a claimed MV of 2100 fps and ME of 3427 ft. lbs. in a 24" test barrel.
The first and most popular rifle offered in .450 Marlin is the Marlin Model 1885M "Guide Gun." This big bore lever action is based on the successful Model 336 action. It sports a short, carbine length, 18.5" ported barrel and weighs only 7 pounds. Needless to say, the Hornady .450 factory load does not achieve its catalog velocity in such a short barrel. Different sources report chronograph velocities of 1928 fps and 2891 ft. lbs. of energy and 2028 fps and 3197 ft. lbs. respectively. Hornady themselves list maximum MV's of 2000 fps and ME of 3108 ft. lbs. in the Guide Gun's 18.5" barrel, which are the figures I will use for this article.
Marlin belatedly realized this and in 2003 added the Model 1895MR to their line. This is a rifle with a 22" barrel and a pistol grip stock that weighs 7.5 pounds. It is reputed to deliver velocities reasonably close to those claimed for the Hornady .450 factory load. The magazine capacity is 4 rounds for both Marlin rifles.
There are a number of factors to consider when comparing the effectiveness of hunting cartridges. Velocity is a key component in computing kinetic energy and also important in flattening trajectory, which makes hitting easier and increases the maximum point blank range (MPBR) of any bullet. It may or may not contribute to shocking power and killing power. The evidence on that is inconclusive and has been debated for decades. Among African big game hunters, for instance, there is a widespread belief that bullets at a MV over 2400 fps have greatly increased penetration and stopping power.
Here are the velocities of the loads I am going to use for this comparison. In .350 Rem. Mag. caliber they represent the new 200 grain Remington factory load and the old 250 grain factory load (which can easily be duplicated by handloaders) as fired from the 22" barrel of a Model 673 rifle. In .450 Marlin caliber they represent the single Hornady factory load as fired first from the 22" barrel of a Marlin 1895MR rifle and second from the 18.5" barrel of an 1895M carbine. (Caliber, bullet weight and style - MV, 100 yard velocity, 200 yard velocity, 300 yard velocity.)
It is no surprise that these figures show a big velocity advantage for the .350 Mag. The 200 grain bullet starts out 675 fps faster than the best .450 Marlin load and is still traveling 667 fps faster at 300 yards. The 250 grain bullet for the .350 Mag. starts out 410 fps faster than the 350 grain .450 Marlin bullet from a Guide Gun and is traveling 678 fps faster at 300 yards. This is partly because both Remington bullets are pointed in form, and the 350 grain Hornady bullet used in the .450 is a flat nose design, necessary because of the tubular magazine of the Model 1895 rifle. The disparity at 300 yards may not be very important, since it is somewhat beyond the MPBR of the .350 Remington even with the 200 grain bullet, and way beyond the MPBR of the .450 Marlin with any load. Lastly, it may be worth noting that the .350 loads are both above the 2400 fps MV threshold, while the .450 remains well below that velocity regardless of barrel length.
One of the most important factors in killing power is kinetic energy, which is directly influenced by both bullet weight and velocity. The more energy the more "work" (read "damage") the bullet can potentially do. Here are the energy figures in foot pounds for the loads above. (Caliber, bullet weight at MV - ME, energy at 100 yards, energy at 200 yards, energy at 300 yards.)
The ME of the 200 grain .350 load and 350 grain .450 load, fired in 22" barrels, is almost identical. The energy produced by the .350's 250 grain load and .450 Guide Gun's 18.5" barrel are less, but still substantial when measured "up close and personal." At very close range there is little to choose in terms of energy between the .350 Rem. and .450 Marlin. However, at only 100 yards both .350 loads have pulled considerably ahead of the .450 loads, the average difference being a 23% advantage for the .350. At 200 yards the .350 Mag. loads average about 50% more energy than the .450 Marlin, and the disparity just gets worse as the range continues to increase.
Ballistic coefficient and sectional density
The characteristics of the .350 and .450 bullets themselves are different. The two most common measurements applied to bullets are their ballistic coefficient (BC) and sectional density (SD).
The ballistic coefficient is essentially reflects the bullets aerodynamic drag. The higher the number the more efficiently the bullet travels through the air. A high ballistic coefficient means a flatter trajectory, other factors being equal.
Sectional density is the ratio of a bullet's weight to its diameter. SD is important primarily because of its effect on penetration. The higher the SD the deeper the bullet's potential penetration (all other factors, including bullet terminal performance and kinetic energy, being equal). Many shooters are under the misapprehension that it is bullet weight that primarily determines penetration, but this is incorrect. It is the ratio of bullet weight to diameter that matters. Making a bullet heavy gains nothing if you also make it fat. A skinny bullet of any given weight penetrates best.
Here are the BC and SD figures for the bullets used in the .350 Magnum and .450 Marlin loads we have been considering. The actual diameter of .350 bullets is .358" and the actual diameter of .450 bullets is .458". (Bullet diameter, bullet weight - BC, SD.)
As we have learned, SD is a key component in penetration. Penetration matters because the bullet must reach the game animal's vitals to effect a quick kill. And a long wound channel damages and destroys more tissue than a short wound channel. Penetration becomes particularly important when hunting large CXP3 class game (elk, moose, and the great bears), for which both the .350 Rem. Mag. and .450 Marlin cartridges are designed. Energy, of course, powers penetration.
As we can see from the numbers above, the .450's 350 grain bullet has a better SD than the .350's 200 grain bullet, but the .350's 250 grain bullet has, by a wide margin, the best SD of all. Add to that the extra energy carried downrange by the .350 Magnum bullet and the conclusion that the .350 clearly offers potentially deeper penetration becomes inescapable.
Bullet cross-sectional area
The cross-sectional area or frontal area of the bullet is important because the greater the frontal area of the bullet, the larger the hole it punches through the target and the more tissue it damages and destroys on its journey. In other words, a large caliber bullet makes a bigger hole in the target than a medium caliber bullet.
The cross-sectional area of a .358" bullet is 0.1007 square inch. The cross-sectional area of a .458" bullet is 0.1647 square inch. With about a 60% advantage in frontal area, a .450 Marlin bullet will clearly make a bigger and potentially more damaging hole in game than a .350 Remington bullet.
You can't kill what you can't hit. A flat trajectory extends the maximum point blank range (MPBR) of the rifle and makes accurate bullet placement easier. And bullet placement is the most important factor of all in killing power. The trajectories of all four of the loads compared in this article are shown below. The MPBR is calculated for a bullet path that rises no more than 3" above the line of sight and falls no more than 3" below the line of sight. (Caliber, bullet weight and type at MV: bullet path at 100 yards, bullet path at 200 yards, MPBR in yards.)
Higher velocity and higher ballistic coefficient both contribute to a flatter trajectory. We have already seen that the .350 Mag. is superior in both, so it should come as no surprise that it offers a considerably flatter trajectory. The .350's 250 grain bullet has a substantial 49 yard advantage in maximum point blank range over the best .450 load. The .350's 200 grain bullet has a big 71 yard advantage over the best .450 load, and an even bigger 79 yard advantage comparing Guide Rifle trajectory to Guide Gun trajectory.
This is a difficult thing to compare because it is such a complex subject. Energy, penetration, frontal area, terminal performance, velocity, ballistic coefficient and, most important, bullet placement all have a greater or smaller effect on killing power. While no killing power formula is 100% correct, the Optimum Game Weight (OGW) formula developed by Edward A. Matunas and published in the 47th edition of the Lyman Reloading Handbook does attempt to take into consideration all of the quantifiable factors mentioned in this article. One good sign is that the resulting OGW table generally matches the observations of most experienced big game hunters.
The OGW formula shows the following results. (Cartridge, bullet weight at MV - OGW in pounds at 25 yards, OGW in pounds at 50 yards, OGW in pounds at 100 yards, OGW in pounds at 200 yards, OGW in pounds at 300 yards.)
While it may not be perfect, the OGW formula indicates that the .450 Marlin is superior in killing power at very close range. At 25 yards and closer the Marlin 1895MR rifle is the best stopper of the bunch, and the Model 1895M Guide Gun is second best.
The recreational shooter would be wise to invest in the medium weight rifle version of the Marlin. He or she will be well served by the 1895MR's reduced recoil and muzzle blast, power, superior balance, and fast operating lever action. The professional big game guide carries his rifle a lot farther in any given year than the average recreational hunter and shoots mostly to stop dangerous game at very short range or to prevent the escape of a wounded animal. He should be well served by the lighter, short barreled Marlin Guide Gun.
The .350 Rem. Mag. is also a good stopping caliber at very short range, but it really begins to shine at ranges between 50 and 250 yards. I have read that sport hunters should endeavor to shoot dangerous game between 50 yards and 150 yards, close enough to make an easy shot, and far enough to allow some time to stop an animal that charges. This sounds like sensible advice to me, and the .350 Remington Magnum Guide Rifle is superior to the .450 Marlin Guide Gun at these ranges.
The .45 caliber Marlin 1895MR rifle hangs in there with the .35 caliber Remington Model 673 rifle out to about 100 yards. After that even the full length .450 rapidly falls behind the .350 in killing power. At 200 yards, which you will remember is well within the MPBR of both .350 Mag. loads, the 200 grain .350 Mag. bullet has a 195 pound advantage in optimum game weight over the best .450 load. At 200 yards the 250 grain .350 bullet has a 259 pound advantage in optimum game weight over the best .450 load.
The Remington Model 673 Guide Rifle and the Marlin Model 1895 series, including the Guide Gun, are quite different approaches to the same goal. The Remington 673 is a modern bolt action rifle with laminated wood, modern classic style stock. This stock has a generous butt area, a straight comb, a cheek piece to position the shooter's head correctly, and a slender pistol grip for good control. These features aid in shouldering the rifle quickly and naturally, and help to moderate the effects of recoil. The latter is particularly important for a powerful rifle, and the Remington stock does its job well.
This bolt action will be familiar to most experienced shooters, as it is the Model 7 Magnum action. Its best features are great strength, an extremely fast lock time, and a fully adjustable trigger. There are screw adjustments for trigger over-travel, sear engagement, and pull weight. The Remington safety is well designed and quick to use. The Model 673's magazine holds 3 cartridges, plus 1 in the chamber for a total of 4 rounds. The magazine may be unloaded from the bottom by means of its hinged magazine floor plate.
The 673's 22" barrel is bedded at two points. Like other Remington bolt action rifles, the 673 usually delivers a high degree of accuracy.
The Marlin Model 1895M is the .450 Marlin caliber version of the famous Marlin Guide Gun. This is a carbine length lever action rifle with a black walnut straight-grip stock and fore-end. This stock is traditional in shape and positions the shooter's head correctly for using the supplied iron sights, although the Marlin's receiver is drilled and tapped for a scope mount. The butt wears a ventilated recoil pad to help protect the shooter's shoulder.
The new Marlin 1895 action is the big bore version of the best selling Model 336. It is not a reprise of the old, square bolt, Model 1895 action. Like all Marlin lever action rifles, it has a solid receiver top and side ejection that makes scope mounting easy. It is a simple action, but there are no user adjustments inside. If you want to lighten the trigger pull you will have to take it to a gunsmith or polish the engagement surfaces yourself. Like the latest Model 336 actions, the new 1895 action has a cross-bolt hammer block safety as well as a "safe" quarter cock hammer position. The tubular magazine residing under the barrel holds 4 cartridges, plus 1 in the chamber for a total of 5 rounds. To unload the rifle, cartridges in the magazine must be worked through the action.
The barrel is only 18.5" long and incorporates an integral muzzle brake. The Guide gun, with its slender, straight grip stock and short barrel is a fast handling rifle that weighs only 7 pounds.
The Model 1895MR rifle is identical to the Guide Gun carbine in most respects. The differences are the MR's pistol grip butt stock and 22" barrel. These serve to increase the gun's weight to 7.5 pounds and the MV by about 100 fps. Balance is improved and muzzle blast is reduced because of the longer barrel.
The final point to consider is recoil. The more a rifle kicks, the harder it is to place a bullet perfectly. And, as I have already stated, bullet placement is (by far) the most important factor in killing power. So let's see how the .350 and .450 stack-up in terms of recoil in the Model 673, Model 1895MR and Model 1895M rifles. The 673 Guide Rifle weighs 7.5 pounds plus 1 pound for a scope and mount for a total weight of 8.5 pounds. The Model 1895MR rifle also weighs 7.5 pounds plus 1 pound for a scope and mount for a total of 8.5 pounds. The Model 1895M Guide Gun weighs 7 pounds and in this example will be used with the supplied iron sights, as it might be if carried as a "stopping" rifle; total weight remains 7 pounds. (Caliber, bullet weight in grains at MV, rifle weight - free recoil energy in foot pounds.)
Despite its old reputation as a hard kicking cartridge, the .350 Rem. Mag. in the new Model 673 rifle is a veritable pussycat among medium bore magnum cartridges. The .450 Marlin, on the other hand, gives the shooter plenty to think about before he pulls the trigger, particularly in a naked Guide Gun.
For hunting large non-dangerous game like elk and moose, the purpose for which most sport hunters will use these rifles, the .350 Rem. Mag. would seem to be the better cartridge choice. These creatures are often engaged at medium (rather than short) range. Due to its superior trajectory, especially when using the 200 grain spitzer bullet, the .350 will also prove to be the more versatile caliber for a mixed bag hunt that includes both CXP2 and CXP3 class game (mule deer and elk, for instance).
A couple of things are for sure, regardless of which caliber is chosen. One is that both the .350 Remington Magnum and the .450 Marlin are powerful big game hunting cartridges suitable for taking the largest and meanest North American game. (And I know of a couple of guys who have taken their .350's to Africa and blown away all of the large and dangerous game that continent has to offer, too, including elephants.) The other thing is that both the Marlin 1895 and Remington Model 673 are sleek, fast handling and deadly hunting rifles.
Copyright 2003, 2012 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.