When it comes to taking down larger game like wild boars, more powerful rounds are necessary. For those with an AR-15 or similar, the choice comes down to .458 SOCOM or the popular .450 Bushmaster. How do they measure up? Let’s take a look at how they compare and our picks for the best rounds on the market.
.458 SOCOM Overview
The .458 SOCOM (which stands for Special Operations Command, by the way) can handle bullets ranging 140 to 600-grains. When it comes to a range of power, that’s absolutely incredible and is certainly sufficient for handling larger game.
Velocity is where the .458 SOCOM starts to weaken in performance, as it manages to push 140-grain bullets at 2,528 FPS, which is fine. Double that, and you start looking at 1,798 FPS. As you can see, velocity drops pretty much in parallel with the increase in grain.
What does this all mean? Well, the .458 SOCOM has incredible power potential, but in practice, the higher the grain, the closer you’ll need to be. If you’re looking to take down large game, you’ll be essentially limited to about 150 yards.
So, if you prefer to shoot within 150 yards and want a wide range of grain potential that can pack up to a 600-grain wallop, the .458 SOCOM is clearly right for you.
.450 Bushmaster Overview
If you’re suspecting that the .450 Bushmaster packs less potential power but gives you greater consistent range, you are right. The .450 Bushmaster was specifically designed around a 250-grain and as such, you’ll essentially be limited to this. Clearly, this falls far short of the 600-grain potential of the .458 SOCOM.
That said, it knocks rounds out at 2,200 FPS, even at this grain size. You’ll note that maintaining this velocity in the .458 SOCOM requires dropping down to about the 140-grain. With this high velocity, you’ll be able to take out game in excess of 220 yards.
Of course, you still have the up-close potential, but you’re not getting the same power the .458 SOCOM has up close. Ultimately, the takeaway is clear: the .450 Bushmaster is superior in terms of range versatility, which is why it’s so popular with hunters. Unfortunately, most game does not come up to greet you, so range is preferable to many hunters, especially if they’ve got the chops and gear to go long-range.
.458 SOCOM vs .450 Bushmaster: Similarities & Differences
As you can see, the .458 SOCOM and .450 Bushmaster are often interchangeable. A good hunter could use either and do just fine. But we don’t want to do just fine, we want to get the ammo that will help you do your best. So let’s really parse down what the differences and similarities amount to in practice.
.458 SOCOM vs. .450 Bushmaster Differences
These two are probably more similar than different, but the devil is in the details. Let’s look at the key differences:
One of the biggest arguments for the .458 SOCOM is the ability to handle up to 600-grain. The .450 Bushmaster can’t handle even half of that. It’s important to keep in mind that this only matters insofar as the game that you’re looking to take down—if you’re looking to hunt deer, the .450 Bushmaster is more than capable. A .458 SOCOM at 600-grain almost becomes absurd on a deer at close range, like using a Glock on a gnat. This power is truly suitable for larger game, like boars and bears.
Conversely, one of the biggest arguments against the .458 SOCOM is its limited range. It’s great that you can take down a bear with a 600-grain round, but don’t forget you’ll have to do it up close. On the other hand, taking down the largest game with the .450 Bushmaster requires more expertise (and gear, likely), but due to its long range it’s a great choice for taking down just about anything from any position, and the smaller the game the easier it will be to do so.
This might be common sense, but the limitation in the Bushmaster’s ability to handle larger grains means you’ll be dealing with less recoil. Actually, this holds true even when dealing with comparable grains. Because the .458 SOCOM is built for a wider grain range, most builds and components don’t zero in on a predictable amount of recoil as they do with the .450 Bushmaster. If you’re being fair and comparing the performance of both at, say, 100 yards, you’ll experience less recoil with most builds when using the .450 Bushmaster. Of course, this is all dependent upon your build, but as a general rule, it will be true.
.458 SOCOM vs. .450 Bushmaster Similarities
Despite their differences, it’s worth keeping in mind that these options are remarkably similar in a lot of respects.
Let’s be realistic and set aside potential in favor of practice. What distance are you shooting from? What grain are you using? If you’re shooting from a close to medium range and using a 250-grain round, there’s honestly not much difference. It’s only when these parameters shift that things change, and the difference can be overhyped simply because they can change so dramatically.
Assuming you’ll probably use an AR-15 or similar, it’s worth noting that the rounds are supported pretty equally on other models of gun. So if you’re the type of hunter that likes to maintain a variety of weapons and have a range of cross-compatible ammo, either is a great so long as you have the right barrels.
Everyone will have a different opinion on this aspect, but there are a fair number of options no matter what route you go. Many believe that the Bushmaster offers a more limited selection, but the options are generally better. The .458 SOCOM has more options, but you’ll have to do more homework to find a good choice. If you’re reading this guide, this is a wash, because we’ve done the work for you!
This goes along with compatibility, but if you’re considering opting for one or the other, the only thing you strictly need is the appropriate barrel. Should you decide to try the other, you haven’t wasted time or money on a whole build (although you can certainly go that route, and should in the long run).
Our Top Picks for .458 SOCOM Ammo
If you want versatility in your grains and serious power within a reasonable distance, the .458 SOCOM is a great choice. There are many brands available, though, so to really maximize its potential it’s important to make the right choice. Here are our picks for the three best available today.
Black Butterfly Ammunition’s Barnes TSK 300-grain rounds are excellent if you’re looking to take advantage of a larger grain without pushing it too far, meaning you’ll experience minimal side-effects that you would typically get with the largest grains, such as recoil. This makes it perfect for large game such as hogs or even bears, without the need to dive too deep into your build.
With a muzzle velocity of 1,950 FPS from a standard build, you’ll enjoy great accuracy from a .458 SOCOM, which is definitely important at the upper ranges of its maximum range. Up close, you’ll have similar performance to lower-grain rounds.
One great aspect of the Black Butterfly is that while their rounds are a bit pricier, they not only perform well, but are excellent quality. Each round is handmade and individually inspected in the US. This means less chance of misfires and an easier time cleaning your gun (which you’ll definitely want to do often with higher grain rounds).
Underwood produces some of the most popular rounds for the .458 SOCOM, so inevitably they have two entrants on our list. That said, they produce quite a lot of ammunition, so knowing which one is best is very useful.
To start, we recommend the Xtreme Hunter Ammo 250-grain Xtreme Defense for hunters who want to optimize the velocity and penetration depth of their rounds. The Xtreme Defense line is actually an update of their older Xtreme Hunter line, so if you’re familiar with the older version—or just confused about the double-name—there’s the clarity. The older model was quite famous among seasoned hunters for the carefully-crafted nose flute which provides this excellent performance.
In addition to the nose flute, the frontal surface area has been optimized with barrier-breaking edges. In all, it moves at 2,000 FPS with 2,220 ft-lbs of energy. If you’re looking for a versatile, light round for the .458 SOCOM to nail your target with utter precision, this is for you.
There are many other great choices from Underwood, with the 250-grain ammunition above being our top pick for the lower-grain option to take down a wide range of game with precision and minimal recoil. Moving to the other end of the spectrum, we have these excellent 500-grain rounds.
Underwood’s slogan for this ammo tells you all you need to know: “If it moves, this ammo will take it down.” They’re not kidding. With a Hi-Tek coated, hard-cast flat nose, the bullets penetrate deep without expanding. The coating is made from polymer and makes for a clean shot, just like a jacketed bullet. Not only that, there’s less fouling and better environmental interaction. It’s excellent for even indoor ranges, with no wax or oil producing excess smoke.
If you’re looking to take down truly large game, this ammunition is the only serious way to go with the .458 SOCOM, ensuring that you’ll get performance to back up the power behind a 500-grain round.
Our Top Picks for .458 SOCOM Models
For those looking to start out with a .458 SOCOM model fully-built, we have two excellent options. Why get a fully-built model instead of swapping out your barrel? These models are fully optimized to handle high-grain rounds.
Our top pick is from Radical Firearms, built from a law enforcement-grade upper receiver with a mil-spec lower. The barrel is 4150 Chromoly vanadium steel and treated with melonite, offering the best in both durability and accuracy. Trust us, if you’re going to be shooting super-high grain rounds, this will make a huge difference. Additionally, the bolt carrier groups have the same finish.
There is also a .936” micro gas block, a stainless carbine-length gas tube, and a Radical Firearms brand Panzer 49/64-20 Brake. A freely floating handguard keeps your hands away from the action and allows you to equip all the accessories you could want. You also get a 12” forward-guard shield for Magpul Moe attachments, while the RF rail allows for more than just Picatinny attachments.
In short, this is a rifle that is built to both perform like a tank from day one but provides you with all the room necessary to customize your set up to tame the .458 SOCOM. Plus, the price is beyond reasonable, making it a great option for anyone.
If you’re looking for the absolute best rifle to take advantage of .458 SOCOM, this is it. While it’s not as low-priced and accessible to the masses as our previous entrant, you certainly get much more than your money’s worth.
First off, you have your choice of four barrels to customize your preferred length, as well as a preference for fluted or non-fluted. This is just the beginning.
Next, you’ll enjoy a rifle-length gas system with an SLR Rifleworks Adjustable Gas Block, a 14.6” M-LOK rail, a three-section Magpul Type 1 rail covers, a Rogers/Wilson Super-Stoc, a Wilson Combat TTU M2, a low-mass bolt carrier made from nickel-boron, a BCM charging handle, an excellent starburst gunfighter grip, and an Armor-Tuff finish to the fully anodized upper and lower receivers.
You also have options for the colors, which come in a green and black blend by default, but can be mixed and matched, along with camo options. Additionally, you can add on a Leupold VX-2, 3-9×40 LRDX mounted in 1” Ultralight AR Scope Rings or a Burris FFE1 4-14×42 SF BPLX mounted in 1” Ultralight AR Scope Rings.
If you’re looking for a complete package, this is a premium solution through and through.
Our Top Picks For .450 Bushmaster Ammo
The .450 Bushmaster might have fewer options on the market than the .458 SOCOM, but that doesn’t mean finding the best rounds is an easy task. Here are our top choices for each type of hunter.
Hornady is a fairly well-known brand, having existed since 1949, yet their lineup has undergone some recent changes as they’ve added support for more modern AR builds. Their .450 Bushmaster 250-grain ammunition is designed to be a basic and affordable option, and it certainly exceeds this goal. As some of the most affordable rounds available for the .450 Bushmaster above surplus ammo quality, it provides exceptional performance.
Many rounds that are a budget solution will have you encountering a very messy performance or feeding problems, but Hornady’s rounds are exceptionally smooth and clean. Additionally, with an average velocity consistently topping 2,000 FPS, they are reliable enough for practice or hunting large game.
We strongly suggest that before looking for budget ammo that will impede your performance or looking for more premium ammo that will cost more, consider Hornady’s offering, as it truly offers the best of both worlds. It’s affordable enough to stock up on while offering dependable performance on the field.
Hornady’s BLACK line of ammo is another excellent option, designed to be closer in price to typical surplus range ammo. That said, it performs about as well as the Custom Centerfire Rifle Ammo. The BLACK line is available in a range of grains for the .450 Bushmaster, allowing you to find the right kick to your shot.
You’ll likely encounter no malfunctions and consistent velocity topping well over 2,000 FPS. Accuracy remains high at over 100 yards, only beginning to drop towards the longer end of the .450 Bushmaster’s effective range.
We love this option for stocking up on rounds for testing, casual shooting, or even hunting. While we’d take the Custom Centerfire Rifle Ammo for its moderately improved performance, the unbeatable value of the BLACK line makes it a great choice as stock rounds for any occasion, whether simply out having fun or bringing home big game.
Lastly, we have good old Winchester’s Deer Season XP Rifle Ammunition. Equipped with a polymer tip that retains energy and long-range accuracy, as well as a large-diameter point that expands immediately on impact, these rounds are designed to bring game down quickly. They feature a streamlined ballistic profile that maintains consistent velocity and accuracy up to the point of impact.
We find them to be less clean than the Hornady BLACK line, but with slightly improved accuracy and certainly a noticeable impact. They are an ideal choice for taking down blacktails, whitetails, and mule. Of course, you can certainly use them on larger game as well, thanks to the alloyed lead core’s optimum energy transfer that packs a sufficient punch on impact no matter your range.
They are also very affordable, making them a great alternative to the Hornady BLACK line, with a bit more punch in exchange for a bit more mess.
Our Top Picks For .450 Bushmaster Models
Rather than rebuilding your current AR, purchasing a model custom-built to tame the .450 Bushmaster beast may be a wise investment. Before doing so, ensure you’re considering only the best builds available. Of course, we’ve scoured the market to bring you the top three available.
Coming in at an excellent price point is the Ruger AR-556 Semi-Auto Rifle, offering direct-impingement with a carbine-length gas system. You’ll enjoy a bolt machined out of high-strength superalloy, preferable to typical MSR bolts.
The upper offers a large ejection port with a forward assist, a dust cover, and a brass deflector. The lower offers a Magpul MOE pistol grip and MOE SL six-position collapsible buttstock with a mil-spec buffer tube. Each is machined out of mil-spec forges with Type III hard-coated anodization. You also get a 15” free-floating M-LOK handguard to keep your hands cool and three accessory attachment slots.
Meanwhile, the barrel is cold hammer-forged from chrome-moly steel with 5R rifling and a black nitride finish with a 1:16” twist. You also get a Ruger radial-port flash suppressor which has been specially optimized for the .450 Bushmaster, and a five-round metal box magazine.
In short, this is an affordable build that gives you more than enough to work with. Rather than just swapping out the barrel, get a model built from the ground up with features like a custom suppressor to tame the .450 Bushmaster.
Those looking for an even more affordable build to let them hit the ground running need look no further than the Ruger American Rifle Ranch Bolt-Action Rifle. Featuring a user-adjustable weight-of-pull with the Marksman Adjustable trigger, you’ll enjoy crisp and light, precise shooting.
The stock itself is made of a rugged composite and stylized to Flat Dark Earth, with texture and groove throughout the grip and fore-end. You’ll also get molded-in Power Bedding recoil blocks to keep the barrel action in sync with the stock and free-floating barrel, while a rubber recoil pad helps to absorb recoil.
A shorter barrel and mounted Ruger muzzle brake offer easy maneuverability and quick shooting. The barrel has been cold hammer-forged for great precision, while a 70-degree lift provides ample clearance between the riflescope and bolt handle. Reloading is rapid and easy with a detachable, single-column box magazine.
While it’s not as decked out as our first entrant to the list, it’s an undeniably affordable and precise machine built to maximize the Bushmaster’s potential.
Lastly, another affordable solution comes to us from Radical Firearms, designed for maximum stopping power. Giving you a standardized mil-spec AR-15 lower and a direct-impingement gas system, along with a 16-inch barrel constructed from mil-spec 4150 steel with a Melonite-treated finish, it’s an excellent option for durability and precision alike.
You’ll enjoy a 12-inch FGS handguard and Magpul MOE attachments. Included is a removable 10-round magazine for 10-plus-one capacity.
Weighing in at only 6.5 pounds, it is designed to be a grower model, offering exceptional quality for you to hit the ground running but also providing the ability to add additional features like a suppressor or improved scope as you see fit. With its lower price tag, it’s an excellent option for those looking for a mil-spec standard model but who don’t want all the extras already picked out for them. Grab this starter model and customize as you grow with the Bushmaster.
Top Pick Between .458 SOCOM & .450 Bushmaster
Given all of this, which is better between the two models?
In truth, either can be better depending on your individual needs. It would be hard to deny that the .450 Bushmaster isn’t the most popular option for many shooters, and if we were to recommend one model without caveats, it would likely be the Bushmaster.
The reason is that the .450 Bushmaster provides an exceptional range. Even in excess of 200 yards, you should be able to take down anything precisely with the right skills and equipment. While the grain is limited, a skillful shooter should be able to take down the largest of game with 250-grain rounds. In fact, in regions known for taking down larger bears, 250-grain is fairly standard.
That said, there are some assumptions being made here, primarily in regards to skill and equipment, as well as shooting style. Those who prefer to shoot up close or want to take down larger game but are unsure of their ability to do so without packing a serious wallop will find the .458 SOCOM more comfortable.
While the tradeoff is that you’ll want to stay within 100 yards, typically, there’s no denying that with a 600-grain round, you’ll be stopping anything in its tracks. If that doesn’t sound like a limitation to you, then the .458 SOCOM might be a better choice. Just remember, however, that being that close to large game introduces its own risks, and you’re also inhibiting your ability to grow to shoot from longer ranges.
The .458 SOCOM and .450 Bushmaster both offer exceptional stopping power in an AR, but both have advantages and disadvantages. Our article has pointed out what type of shooter would best be suited to each type, along with recommendations for the top choices in both rounds and builds. Pick up what suits you and enjoy taking down larger game!