CARTRIDGES - .458 LOTT
During a hunt in the Zambezi Valley in the 1960s, the late Jack Lott, a wellknown American gun journalist and hunter, was tossed by a buffalo which he had failed to kill with his .458 Win Mag. Jack immediately set out to design something better and the result was the .458 Lott, based on a full-length .375 H&H case blown out to have straight walls which taper very slightly.
In other words, the .458 Lott is simply a .458 Win Mag with a longer case to provide greater powder capacity. A .375 H&H case is 2.85” (72.39mm) long, but physically blown-out .375 cases (as distinct from original factorymade .458 Lott cases) shorten by just over a millimetre in the forming. ‘Officially’, the Lott’s case length is 2.8” (71.12mm).
Our locally-made Lott cases (Sabi, etc) are PMP .375 H&H cases which come off the production line prior to the final forming (body taper, shoulder/ neck, etc) i.e. the walls are simply left straight. These cases come a tad longer than 71.12mm, but in most .458 Lott chambers, need not be trimmed – the extra length affords a smidge more powder capacity (the .458 Lott headspaces on the belt.)
Why the Lott? Experience has taught PHs and game rangers (who cull large numbers of dangerous game under adverse conditions) that their task becomes surer, quicker and safer if they have at least 2 100fps from a 500gr FMJ bullet to provide adequate penetration in the largest game shot from any angle. The Lott fits the bill and is a cheap, simple conversion (just extend the chamber of an existing .458 Win Mag), and .375 cases are freely available and relatively cheap. Further, the popularity of the .458 Win Mag and .460 Weatherby ensures a wide range of top-quality .458 bullets which are cheaper than other similar large-bore calibres. Finally, if you run out of Lott ammo, standard .458 Win Mag ammunition can be used with no or little loss in accuracy.
Introduced as a wildcat in 1971, the Lott duplicates and betters the .470’s ballistics without any powder compression. With South African powders this cartridge achieves an honest 2 150fps with the 500gr bullet. Some stalwarts get it up to 2 300fps, but this requires a compressed load, which is not recommended in cartridges intended for dangerous game in hot African climates.
Most of those who know, say that a 500 grainer at 2 150fps is all you need for Africa’s ‘meanies’, so there is no need to ‘magnumize’ the Lott. This cartridge also produces superb performance on large dangerous game using 550gr bullets – both softs and FMJs. Monolithic bullets, being longer for calibre, are best kept at 500gr or lighter to avoid powder compression.
The Lott is primarily intended for large dangerous game at close range, but can be turned into a very versatile bushveld cartridge. With 400gr bullets, it duplicates .416 Rigby velocities, working wonderfully well on non-dangerous game and cats, but these 400 grainers penetrate less than the heavier 500 and 550gr bullets. The 450gr BarnesX works very well as an allrounder to include buffalo.
The Lott kicks! When hunting, most people barely notice recoil, but recoil-sensitive people tend to remember (consciously or subconsciously) the pain they felt at the shooting bench, and often flinch in anticipation when shooting at game. Lighter bullets (350 to 400gr) would make the Lott more user friendly, but please note that Sierra’s 300gr .458 bullet, Hornady’s 350gr bullet, and Speer’s 400 grainer are too fragile for close-range shooting in the Lott – they were developed for the slower .45-70 Government.
Kynoch has adopted the .458 Lott as a factory cartridge but our ailing rand makes this British ammo extremely expensive. However, loaded ammunition is now available from Federal, Hornady, Norma, Nosler and Barnes. Prospective .458 owners can also neck up .375 H&H brass by means of a couple of tapered, expander plugs or by fire-forming them with 12gr of MP200 pistol powder with the case filled with dry rice and a tissue paper wad at the mouth. That is a bit of a schlep though, so I would stick to proper .458 Lott brass.
As far as I know only one or two major rifle manufacturers market rifles in .458 Lott, so if you want one, it’s often quicker to get a custom-built rifle or a converted .458 Win Mag. Quality bullets are readily available in South Africa and our S321 and S335 powders are suitable. A 400gr Barnes-X bullet with 82gr S321 leaves a 21"- barrel at 2 320fps, while 80gr of the same launches Woodleigh’s 500gr RNSP at 2 145fps. Woodleigh’s 550gr FMJ in front of 80gr S321 is good for 2 115fps and the same bullet with 78gr S335 does 2 075fps at the muzzle. Eighty grains of S335 propel Hornady’s 500gr FMJ at 2 150fps with no compression problems. As with all heavily recoiling calibres, case mouth crimping is imperative. The bullets take a battering against the front wall of the magazine during recoil, and can intrude deeper into the case, causing feeding problems and raised pressures.
As a short-range dangerous game cruncher, the .458 Lott is an improvement over the .458 Win Mag. According to one enthusiast, it is “a little longer, a Lott better”.
Illustration: Copyright Pierre van der Walt