416 Weatherby MagnumWeatherby
It was a lot of years ago, during a visit with Steve Hornady and others at their facility in Grand Island, Nebraska, that Steve handed me a prototype 400-grain, round nose, 0.416" bullet. "We're working on this now" he said, and told me to keep it. I did, and still have that early version of an entirely new caliber for them in a watch chest on my dresser. Steve was pumped about the .416" diameter, and commented that a lot of things were developing with it at that time.
Within a few years we had affordable ammunition for the 416 Rigby, along with rifles chambered for the new 416 Remington and the super-powered 416 Weatherby. In recent years, after Ruger discontinued their superb Model 77 RSM with that fantastic oversized action, they have come forth with their trim 77 Hawkeye African in 416 Ruger; a new standard-length cartridge that nearly equals the 416 Rigby and 416 Remington in performance. However, the 416 Weatherby stands alone. There's nothing else quite like it on the planet.
You see, the 416 Weatherby is capable of driving 400-grain bullets at 2700 fps. What does that mean? For one, it means that instead of a little over 5000 foot-pounds of muzzle energy as developed by the other 416s mentioned, the Weatherby puts out right at 6500. And, with pointed bullets that have higher ballistic coefficients than the rounder varieties, it can shoot as flat as a 30-06. This is serious power.
People that know me know I appreciate big-bore rifles, and in my book that starts at 40 caliber. I have always marveled at how accurate many of these big cartridges are, typically shooting right along with most any other hunting rifle. Sub-moa big bores are not uncommon at all. I suppose it has been about 15 years ago that I was visiting on the phone with Weatherby's Custom Shop when the discussion led to accuracy generalizations with specific cartridges. "The 416 is a real winner in that department" so said the Custom Shop. As we continued on about it (I already had a 416 Weatherby Mark V Deluxe at the time, and another in their Euromark), I decided to order a Mark V Safari. Say what you like, think what you wish; Weatherby builds a really fine custom safari rifle, with fancy French walnut and excellent balance. They run about $7000, which is less than most people suffer in depreciation when they drive their new car off the lot. The Mark V Safari, on the other hand, appears to not depreciate at all.
I mentioned balance, or handling, if you prefer. The 460 Weatherby is pretty heavy. The barrel is Weatherby's No. 4, 26 inches long, plus two more inches of muzzle brake (called Accubrake). The 416 uses the No. 3 barrel, which is trimmer. Still the same length, but less wall thickness. This makes for a much quicker handling rifle over the 460; a very noticeable difference. About the recoil, the rifle should not be fired without the muzzle brake in place. Depending on the rifle weight with scope, recoil is going to up there in the 80-foot-pounds range, which is way beyond any normal person's comfort limit. For comparison, a 30-06 will be somewhere in the range of 18 foot-pounds, again depending on overall weight. When you're talking roughly four and one half times the recoil of an "aught-six", that's a bunch. The Accubrake tames the 416 Weatherby down to about 40 foot pounds, or somewhere in the neighborhood of a 375 H&H Magnum, according to Weatherby. Personally, I think the 416 Weatherby Magnum kicks somewhat harder than a 375 H&H in a relatively hefty Model 70. Lighter 375s, like Browning's X-Bolt, come back more like the 416. The stock design of the Weatherby, which is not understood by a great number of critical gun writers, has just the right amount of draft in the Monte Carlo cheekpiece to slip gracefully away from the shooter's cheek during recoil, thereby not causing that imperceptible but present "facial whip"; a factor that can contribute to flinching.
Some gun writers have also said that the 416 Weatherby has too much power; so much that some bullets cannot stand up to the high-velocity impact on thick-skinned dangerous game. What we're talking about here is Cape buffalo, and especially frontal shots into the tough but loose "trampoline" layer. I guess it's okay to hit that area at 2300 fps, but not at 2600, at a distance of 30 or 40 yards. Let's get past that for a moment... Here's the real ballistic difference between the 416 Weatherby at 2700 fps muzzle velocity and the other three 416s at about 2400 fps: 100 yards. Yup, a round nose bullet coming out of the Weatherby at 2700 fps is down to about 2400 fps in 100 yards. To me, 100 yards could be a welcome safety factor. And if you wanted to slow things down because you believed the gun writers, simply load up Woodleigh's 450-grain 416s, soft nose or FMJ. Sectional density is .371, so what won't they penetrate?
Let's say you want to go to Africa and hunt larger game. Barnes 350-grain TSX Bullets come flying out of the muzzle of the 416 WBY at 2880 fps (factory loads), and only drop 20.4 inches at 400 yards when sighted in at 200. That should take care of any plains game, while the 400- to 450-grain dangerous game bullets will handle that category. You'll seldom find any gun shop that carries a 416 Weatherby Magnum. Almost everywhere across the country it will be a special order. A Mark V Deluxe will likely be over $2500, even at a good-hearted discount. Ammunition, made for Weatherby by Norma, retails for about $200 per box of 20. It's not an inexpensive proposition, and is recommended only to those who want amazing performance that is simply superior to most anything else.