- Published: Wednesday, 01 June 2016 00:00
The .500/.416 Nitro Express 3-1/4”
The history of double rifle cartridges is a long and colored one; many of them were developed in the black powder era, and others in the transition-era, when Cordite was the propellant du jour. These cartridges were largely designed around the heavy-for-caliber cup-and-core round nosed and full-patch bullets of yesteryear, and the guns were regulated for relatively close shooting. Almost all of the designs were rimmed cartridges; the rimmed case giving just about the best headspacing available. While the rimmed cartridges didn’t work very well in the repeating rifles, they work just fine in the single-shot and double rifles.
There are some double rifles chambered for the rimless and belted cartridges, but the rimmed cases offer the easiest and most positive extraction. The reputation and performance the .416 Rigby - and later the .416 Remington – was undeniable, and while there are doubles chambered to these cartridges, Kreighoff saw the wisdom of a rimmed cartridge using a .416” diameter bullet. Early in 1996, Kreighoff unveiled the .500/.416 Nitro Express 3 ¼”, based on the proven .500 Nitro Express case, with a nice, long neck for good bullet tension, a good taper for easy feeding under duress, and enough case capacity to mimic the performance of the rimless .416s. The result was a winner – the .500/.416 NE pushes a 410-grain bullet at 2,325 fps, for just under 5,000 ft.-lbs. of energy at the muzzle. This ballistic formula has been used on the largest game on earth with great results, and in a double rifle, will allow for the reliable, immediate second shot that double rifle shooters have come to appreciate.
So, why choose the .500/.416 over the classic double rifle cartridges? What advantages does it have over the other, earlier calibers and designs? Well, here’s how I look at it: the classic .450/400 3” NE is one of my absolute favorite rimmed calibers, and probably continue to be so, for a couple of reasons. One, it offers a heavier bullet weight – 400 grains – than do the .375 and 9.3mm bores, and I like that better for dangerous game. Two, it offers less muzzle jump than does the .450 NE or the .470 NE, which allows the shooter to get back on target quicker for a much faster second shot, an important feature when it comes to dangerous game. Yes, I know about the arguments for larger frontal diameter and heavier throw weight, but I also recall the experiences I’ve had using the .416 Remington Magnum and .404 Jeffery on dangerous game. The .500/.416 NE bridges a huge gap between the .450/400 and the .450 NE, and offers a shooting experience closer to the .450/400, while giving plenty of power for hunting any and all dangerous game.
While I totally see the case for the larger bores if you are a Professional Hunter, I think that the .450/.400 and .500/.416 make a great choice for the traveling sportsman. When comparing the two, the .500/.416 offers a bit more frontal diameter (.416” v. .411”) and a considerable increase in velocity (2,325 vs. 2,050 to 2,125, depending on manufacturer), so it boils down to whether you desire a bit more reach-out-and-touch-‘em or the lesser recoil of the lighter cartridge. What I see in the .500/.416 NE is a double rifle cartridge with a performance level on par with the highly familiar .416 Rigby, yet available in the quick handling double rifles. The pair of 410-grain Woodleigh bullets – a soft point and a solid for the classic ‘right-and-a-left’ – has a high Sectional Density figure of 0.338, and will deliver the excellent performance that Woodleigh is famous for.
Available in Kreighoff and Heym double rifles, the Norma African PH ammo, loaded with those excellent Woodleigh projectiles, is one of the best sources of ammunition for this excellent newer cartridge.
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