350 Legend vs. 450 Bushmaster vs. 45-70 Govt vs. 360 Buckhammer
Every year as the calendar creeps towards September, anticipation builds for the opening day of deer season. It’s that magical time of year when we can head to the timber and be one with nature.
Then comes the action-packed time of year, the rut, where there is nothing but pure chaos in the woods. That time of year can really have you questioning your sanity. Then in most states, right before late season gets here, there is a magical season tucked away. It’s one rich in history throughout the deer woods and camps across the country: Gun season.
This is a time of deer camp, friendship and fun. If you’re lucky enough to still have a tag in your pocket or maybe you saved one, this can be one of the best times of year to hunt— as long as you have the right gun for the job.
Up until a few years ago, many states only allowed the use of shotguns for gun week. This was great for busting through the timber on a deer drive or anything within 150 yards if you had a rifled barrel. But what about the guy who prefers to sit in his treestand and keep pressure off the deer while waiting for the right buck to walk by? Or the elderly person or young child who is unable to handle the recoil of a shotgun? The solution is straight-walled rifle cartridges. Sure, the argument could be made that it provides an unfair advantage, but the same can be said about crossbows. I’m not here to argue that issue. Actually, I’d like to convince you that you need a rifle this year for gun season. Let’s talk about a few good reasons why.
There are many benefits to straight-wall cartridges. First and foremost is the distance at which they are lethal. With the right ballistics calculations and a good scope, you can easily get out to that 200-yard range to ethically harvest a deer.
Next is the reduction in recoil. This is a big advantage over, say, a 12-gauge shotgun, especially for kids and people with shoulder injuries. These have all the knockdown power of slug guns without all of the recoil. Lastly, many of the straight-wall cartridges shoot flatter than a slug so carries more energy over longer distances. That is vital when taking those 200-yard shots while not sacrificing anything at close range.
Four to Discuss
There are several straight-wall cartridges available on the market today. I want to dive into four of them, with each having its pros and cons. They are the 350 Legend, the new Remington 360 Buckhammer, the 450 Bushmaster and the 45/70 Government.
For testing purposes, I used Remington ammunition. This allowed me to keep that element as even as possible across the board using only one manufacturer. As for the rifles, I used a mix of Henry, Bear Creek Arsenal and Savage Arms rifles. Each rifle was placed in a Caldwell Rock DLX combo for testing. This removed most human error and kept the gun rock solid in a rest.
Here are a few things to consider when selecting a rifle. The first is where and how you will be hunting. If you will be hunting from a treestand in more open areas, you will want to focus on a round that is capable of longer shots, like the 360 Buckhammer. Alternatively, the 45-70 would be a lot better choice for brushy cover hunting or deer drives.
You will also want to make sure that you will be able to get ammunition for your rifle. I know it sounds like a no-brainer, but some of these rounds can be harder to find than others.
After you make your decision on the rifle, I highly recommend getting a good scope. There are several quality scopes on the market like the Hawke optics strait-wall scope. This was designed just for this type of hunting.
Lastly, take time to learn your rifle. By that, I mean practice long- and short-distance shots. Learn what to do if a round jams up and how to take it apart. I know it may sound silly, but the last thing you want to do is have to figure this stuff out in the moment of truth, or even worse yet, miss a deer because you weren’t familiar with the capabilities of your rifle.
Let’s start with one of the most popular rounds to be purchased since straight-wall cartridges have been legal for hunting, and for good reason. The 350 Legend is accurate out to 200 yards and has minimal recoil compared to all the other rounds. It makes a great choice, especially for youth hunters. With a muzzle velocity of 2100 feet per second and a drop of 8.4 inches at 200 yards, this makes for a near-perfect deer rifle. The 350 Legend is also readily available and inexpensive compared to some of the other rounds. The fact that you can find several rifles chambered for 350 Legend is also a plus. You can find lever-action guns and single shot guns from Henry, bolt-action guns from OF Mossberg, or my go-to, an AR-15 platform rifle.
I personally set up a Bear Creek Arsenal rifle with a Crimson Trace scope for deer season. I chose this combination because the scope is matched to the round, and I love the fact that it is semi-automatic. After hunting with a bolt action for a few years it is great to have that follow-up shot if needed with minimal movement. And as far as ammunition companies go, there are several producers of the round.
Next up is the big brother to the 350 Legend, the 450 Bushmaster. This round has as much bark as it does bite. Not only does it pack a punch upon contact, but it also has considerably more recoil. The 450 Bushmaster can drop a deer dead in its tracks up to 250 yards then the round drops off dramatically in ballistics. It is also offered in several rifle platforms just like the 350 Legend.
I also chose to test this round out in a Bear Creek Arsenal rifle paired with a Hawke optics scope. The Remington Premier AccuTip round I was shooting was a 260-grain bullet traveling at 2180 feet per second. This round was built to take down the biggest game in North America.
The biggest downfalls of this round are the cost, the availability and the recoil. If you can find ammunition and can withstand the recoil (which is not terrible), this shines over some of the other bigger rounds for its ability to be shot out of a semi-automatic rifle like the Bear Creek Arsenal AR-15 platform. A great benefit to the Bear Creek Arsenal AR style rifle is that you can switch out the caliber of rifle by pushing out two pins and swapping out the upper receivers.
This round has definitely withstood the test of time, dating back to the plains buffalo hunting days, so it definitely deserves a mention. It is another hard-hitting and hard- kicking round. The Remington Core-Lokt round I was shooting was a 405-grain bullet shooting at 1600 feet per second. It has an effective range out to 200 yards before dropping off rapidly. This round is also capable of hunting most big game like bear, moose, hog, and of course deer. Besides the recoil and high cost, another downfall to the 45-70 is the fact that it can only be shot out of single-shot or lever-action rifles. If you’re anything like me though, taking the single-shot rifle out to deer camp is reminiscent of the old days. The nostalgic feeling just seems right in the deer woods.
The newest round on the list of straight-wall cartridges and the best all-around choice in my opinion for deer is the .360 Buckhammer. This hard-hitting light recoil round was built to capitalize on the success of the 350 Legend, but it’s on steroids. When Remington set out to make this round, they partnered with Henry Arms to develop a lever-action rifle for the round. When toting this gun around the woods, it’s reminiscent of past days; these guns are built like your grandfathers’ were built.
The .360 Buckhammer has less drop at 7.8 inches and carries more energy at 968 feet pounds out to 200 yards. It has a muzzle velocity of 2399 feet per second which is faster than the other rounds by over 100 feet per second. The only downfall to this round is that it is only available from one ammunition maker and rifle manufacturer (for now.) With that said, it is new for 2023, so supply issues could be a short-term problem.
I look for several other companies to start producing this round as time goes on because of its strengths over other strait-wall rounds.
If you’re in the market for a new deer rifle, I would definitely give this round strong consideration, I don’t think you will regret it.
As you can see, each of these straight-wall rounds has a time and place for use. Some are better for younger or older people. Some are better for guys who want the knockdown power of a shotgun yet want to take a longer shot if needed. With all the options on the market, you can surely find a straight-wall round that suits your hunting style for the upcoming season.