The Ballistician: .416 Remington Magnum
January 12, 2018
Remington introduced the .416 Remington Magnum in 1988. It was the first true dangerous-game cartridge developed by a major U.S. company since the .458 Winchester Magnum in 1956. There were big-bore wildcats and proprietary cartridges, but the big U.S. ammo companies seemed to let the British and mainland European ammo purveyors own that segment of the business. The .416 Rem. Mag. changed that.
The .416 Rem. Mag. is simply the full-length .375 Holland & Holland case necked up to hold 0.416-inch-diameter bullets and with much of the H&H body taper removed. Pushing a 400-grain bullet to 2,400 fps and 5,100 ft-lbs of energy, the .416 Rem. Mag. delivered .416 Rigby performance in a cartridge that fit the abundance of affordable American bolt rifles with H&H boltface dimensions. Dimensionally, the .416 Rem. Mag. is similar to the wildcat .416 Hoffman that was developed in the 1970s.
Prior to 1988, .416-caliber rifle cartridges existed, but they were little known in the U.S. The British had enjoyed the .416 Rigby, one of the finest dangerous-game cartridges, since 1911. And there were other British cartridges in that .40- to .45-caliber niche that were common in Africa: the .404 Jeffery, the .450/400 Nitro Express, and the .425 Westley Richards, for example. Many of the European cartridges required either a double rifle or a bolt gun built on the very pricey Magnum Mauser action, which limited their consumer appeal.
There was enough interest in .416-caliber bullets for some component bulletmakers to offer that diameter but only on a special-order basis. (The first .416 cartridge I read about was the wildcat .416 Taylor in the 1970s. That article showed pictures of some Hornady 400-grain softpoint bullets with box labels that looked as though they were produced on a typewriter.) I found some old one-page sell sheets at Speer showing some odd-diameter bullets, including 0.416 inch. But it took standardization of the .416 Rem. Mag. for 0.416-inch bullets to go mainstream and appear in bullet companies' standard lines.
RENEWED INTEREST IN BIG CALIBERS
The .416 Rem. Mag. renewed American interest in Africa-capable cartridges in .40 caliber and up. And we had more choices. Some cartridges were new developments, and others brought existing European cartridges under SAAMI (Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers' Institute) guidelines.
A year after the .416 Rem. Mag. was standardized, Federal began loading the famous .416 Rigby and the .470 Nitro Express. Weatherby added the .416 Weatherby Magnum in 1994. In the late 1990s, A-Square joined SAAMI, and a number of its dangerous-game cartridges became standardized. The .458 Lott, a wildcat that nicely improved on .458 Win. Mag. performance moved to standardized status in 1999. Ruger added the .416 Ruger in 2009, and that venerable old wildcat, the .416 Taylor, was standardized in 2011.
Today, you can find the .416 Rem. Mag. from most major ammomakers. Remington no longer sells .416 Rem. Mag. under its brand, but Remington's parent company purchased Barnes several years ago, and Barnes sells .416 Rem. Mag. ammo loaded with its 400-grain bullets. Winchester, Federal, Hornady, Nosler, and Norma all load .416 Rem. Mag. ammo, as does several smaller ammo companies.
Reloaders will find a healthy selection of component bullets. Most are 400-grainers, but there are exceptions. Speer's only .416-caliber offering is a 350-grain Mag-Tip softpoint for North American large game. It can be driven at more than 2,600 fps and 5,250 ft-lbs at safe pressure levels, making it a potent large-bear cartridge. Likewise, Barnes has lighter component bullets at 300 and 350 grains that are also excellent for North American game. Also, 400-grain bullets are available in both expanding and solid versions for the largest game. Hornady has a sleek 450-grain match bullet, and Woodleigh makes 450-grain hunting bullets.
Propellant selection is easy. The .416 Rem. Mag. likes most propellants that work well in the .375 H&H. Look to those in the IMR 4064/H4895/Reloder 15 burn-rate class for great performance.
On the other hand, charge weights need special attention. Even with the mid-burn-rate propellants that work best, you will encounter compressed loads as you approach maximum charge weights with 400-grain bullets. A powder funnel with a long drop tube will help, as will taking your time when pouring the charge into the case.
The other charge weight issue is a big one. Bullets are now made in many different forms that affect bullet length. A bullet of homogeneous construction can be much longer than a conventional lead-core bullet of the same weight. That affects both bore bearing surface and case capacity, and both can affect pressure. You must use only the charge weights recommended by the maker of the bullet you choose. No substitutions!
A strong crimp is always needed for cartridges with this much recoil. Large-caliber rifle cases often have relatively thin case neck walls; separating the seating and crimping operations is close to mandatory to avoid case damage.
I have always found big-bore cartridges interesting, and it was with great appreciation that I saw Hornady expand its line of dangerous-game ammo for rifles. At press time, the Hornady website shows 16 different cartridges with several loadings each in calibers from 9.3mm (0.366 inch) up to .500-caliber. All save one are offered for U.S. distribution. Some are newer developments, but others are old classics updated and modernized with 21st century bullet technology. So maybe the .416 Rem. Mag. did start a trend.