June 02, 2009
Petzal: The Hardest Kicking Cartridges
By David E. Petzal
Herewith, a rogue’s list of shoulder shredders, clavicle crunchers, retina wrenchers, and subdural hematoma hasteners that you don’t want to shoot. To give things a little perspective, a .30/06 in an 8-pound rifle produces 21 foot-pounds of recoil; a .375 H&H, which maxes out most shooters, comes in at 40.
.700 H&H: This is the cartridge for those who think the .600 Nitro Express is kind of...wussy. 1,000-grain bullet at 2,000 fps, 8,900 foot-pounds of muzzle energy. In a 19-pound Holland & Holland double rifle, 109 foot-pounds of recoil. A friend of mine who has shot one assures me that it’s unmanageable. Pull the trigger and the muzzle points at the sky while the butt ends down at your belt. Also, the rifle costs over $200,000.
.600 Nitro Express: 900-grain bullet at 1,950 fps, 7,600 foot-pounds of muzzle energy. In a 16-pound double rifle, 99 foot-pounds of recoil. For 90 years, until it was surpassed by the .700, the .600 was numero uno in sheer brute power. Very few .600s have been built, to the sorrow of orthopedic surgeons everywhere.
.475 A&M Magnum: Shooting it is no worse than being in a plane crash. 600-grain bullet at 2,500 fps; 8,340 foot-pounds of muzzle energy. In a 12-pound bolt-action rifle, 97 foot-pounds of recoil. This obscure but very sincere wildcat was developed by the Prescott, AZ gunsmithing firm of Atkinson & Marquardt in 1959. It’s a .378 Weatherby case necked up to .47. I’ve only seen one gun chambered for it; the first time its owner pulled the trigger the stock split as if struck with an axe.
.577 Tyrannosaur: T-Rex himself would hesitate before pulling the trigger on one of these. 750-grain bullet at 2,460 fps; 10,000 foot-pounds of muzzle energy. In a 12-pound bolt-action rifle, 172 foot-pounds of recoil. The cartridge and rifle are made only by A-Square, which claims that it is a popular load. I would rather get a horn through the liver.
.460 Weatherby: Practially a maiden’s kiss compared to the preceeding, but a monster in its own right. 500-grain bullet at 2,600 fps. 7,500 foot-pounds of muzzle energy. In an 11-pound bolt-action rifle, 93 foot-pounds of recoil. The original version of this cartridge, which appeared in 1958, was loaded a little bit hotter. Even so, shooting a .460 Weatherby is still an unforgettable experience.
.454 Casull: For sheer pain, unequalled among handgun cartridges, shoot this one. 325 grains at 1,525 fps. 1,630 foot-pounds of muzzle energy 40 foot-pounds of recoil in a 3-pound single-action revolver. Although it’s outclassed in power by the .460 and the .500 S&W, these cartridges are chambered in huge, heavy revolvers designed to control insane amounts of recoil. The Casull, on the other hand, is encountered in standard-sized handguns. For sheer, carpal-crunching agony, there is nothing that compares to the .454.