the thumper concept, in selecting a defensive hunting rifle


The Grumpy Grease Monkey mechanical engineer.
Staff member
I got asked by a friend if I thought purchasing a custom lever action in 500 S&W would be a good idea
,he found one locally listed for $1900 that cost the original owner $2600,
he stated he wanted a devastating (STOPPING RIFLE)
I simply pointed out that similar ballistics could be had from a marlin in 45/70 or browning lever action, chambered in 450 marlin
the 450 marlin BLR rifle, if properly loaded with 400 -430 grain bullets is devastatingly effective,
in fact its become a favorite rifle for many of the guys I hunt with.
I don.t remember anyone saying the hard cast bullets failed to exit or elk ran very far after impact.
the ideal stopping rifle throws a bullet of sufficient weight (mass and caliber) to drive lengthwise, completely through any animal,
and exiting leaving a devastating wound, while expanding to at least 1.5 times its original diameter.
obviously the ideal rifle changes with range and the animal your confronted with,
and it may make sense that the larger the animal, the larger and heavier the projectile ,
but thats only partly true as accurate shot placement, depth of penetration and destroying critical organs,
and a knowledge of the animals anatomy is FAR more critical

I suggested he buy a BROWNING BLR in caliber 450 marlin like I own,
if he shops carefully he can most likely find one under $1100, new
as it much less expensive and more powerful, and ammos cheaper.
big bore lever actions are very effective but are marginally limited in range ,
most have projectile velocity limits under 2300 fps with bullets of high enough sectional density to penetrate well consistently.
a 500 S&W in a rifle might sound impressive but its less powerful than a 450 marlin or 45/70 and much less than a 458 win or 458 lott

ok, most of us can easily spend decades hunting and never come close to having any need for a similar rifle ,
that might be required to stop a bear charge at bayonet ranges, under conditions
used to save our lives where we become the prey rather than the hunter.
you calculate power or muzzle energy with the following formula
bullet mass x velocity x velocity /divided by 450240= ft lbs of energy

most experienced hunters suggest you try to stay over 4000 ft lbs in a stopping rifle,
and limit shots to ranges where you can consistently and accurately place your shots.
(in a 4" circle) and you damn well better know the games anatomy and location of vital organs

that knowledge and your skill, may be required,\ to save you from being killed by some vengeful angry, animal.
as always consistent and accurate, shot placement is a required component in any hunting kill.
most choices are a compromise, more recoil generally slows your efficiency making a follow-up second or third shot.
and you might only get a single shot or at most two, at much closer ranges, so absolute dependability is critical.
reality is that most people rarely hunt any animal that might attack you ,with the desire and persistence to warrant/require the use of a "stopping rifle" here in America, but there are a few exceptions.
now if you hunt AFRICA or ALASKA and game like elephants brown bear, lions or cape buffalo,
your obviously going to have someone point out that the 458 win or 458 LOTT have a long standing record of being used successfully,
both throw a .458 diameter bullet, but the 458 win is generally loaded with a 510 grain weight at about 2100 fps while the 458 LOTT can boost velocity about 200-250 fps faster with the same projectile.
yeah, the 45/70 and 450 marlin can be loaded with a 400-450 grain projectile and both are well known and effective , but neither has the velocity to become a true stopping rifle.
, those velocities in any of the 458 caliber rifles, might seem a bit slow compared to other more common hunting cartridges, most of us are more familiar with like a 308 win, 30/06 , 270 win, 6.5 Mauser, or 7mm mag, but keep in mind most of the more common hunting cartridges throw a much lighter weight 130 grain-180 grain bullet at maybe 2400-3000 fps.
these may be lethal on deer or elk, and if it takes 20-30 seconds to drop a deer after bullet impact it might not be a huge problem ,
but that time lag, might be marginal or could be critical, if your rifle is asked to stop, a charging brown bear, or lion,
fully intent on shredding your butt, instantly at spitting distances.
producing a wound that will rapidly become fatal, or killing something vs stopping a determined charge ,
by extensively breaking larger bones and driving a projectile through several yards of muscle, destroying organs reliably require a bit more penetration, and you can't have the projectile turn into glitter on impact with a heavy shoulder bone or glancing off a skull, even once in a 100 shots, with a stopping rifle.
there's a second class, of rifles with a bit more velocity, the 375-416 class where the rifles trade off a bit of projectile weight for a bit more projectile velocity
the 416 Rigby, 416 Remington, 375 H&H and 378 WEATHERBY, these throw a 270-400 grain bullet at 2400-3000 fps,
you might, with careful selection and research ,get a very marginal reduction in recoil , and higher velocity, making the rifle better for a flatter trajectory, while still providing very respectable penetration.

related info

there are larger bore lever actions that provide devastating power at closer ranges but none are STOPPING RIFLES,
but yeah they can be very effective at under 100 or so yards on larger game, especially like lions, bears elk etc.
these make excellent hunting rifles in skilled hands

one of my close friend's used a ruger single shot 458 win with handloads ,
these lever action are not stopping rifles but have proven results on elk for decades
(as have several marlin 45/70 rifles used with 400 grain hard cart bullets)
and another used a browning BLR in caliber 450 marlin both have provided excellent results on ELK and DEER
we have used mostly 405 grain remington and speer bullets and 350 grain hornady bullets at 1900 fps (marlin 450)-2100 fps (458 win ruger)

shooting wood never much impressed me, as a test medium,
as you get much better penetration in GAME,
a 405 grain hard cast zips through an elk and exits ,
even if larger bones are punched and broken in every case Ive seen.
keep in mind the heavier, 450-540 grain bullets from a 458 win or 458 lott penetrate even better
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The Grumpy Grease Monkey mechanical engineer.
Staff member


this 430 grain mold, hard cast gas check bullets have become a favorite ,
but I don.t suggest going much heavier or accuracy suffers from what Im told
(ive never used anything heavier in my BLR than 430 grain,
and 405 grain seem more accurate in my experience.)
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The Grumpy Grease Monkey mechanical engineer.
Staff member

I can assure many of this web sites readers that the Remington model 7600 slide action rifle in a chambering of 35 Whelan,
is one of the most sought after, and well respected options many of the older more experienced elk hunters I hunt with, and prefer to use.
and its been very much sought after among the hunters,
I have hunted with for 5 plus decades, especially when loaded with a 250 grain Speer bullets being preferred.
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The Grumpy Grease Monkey mechanical engineer.
Staff member

this Remington 35 Whelan pump action rifles, have become one of the most sought after rifles by the guys I hunt with,
(the 180 grain speer bullet is preferred for deer the 250 grain for elk)
and I've seen several professional outfitters that swear its the best option they have use for hunting elk in the steep aspen country I've hunted for decades.

it might seem funny but I purchased a rem 7600 in 35 Whelan, and many of the guys I hunt with,
had never even heard of the cartridge, but now 30 plus years later 6 of the guys I hunt with,
now own one, and won't sell it , as its become something of a status symbol of sorts, and several more of the guys are kicking themselves,

having had a chance to buy one, but passing up the opportunity when they were more easily located,
and they are constantly looking to purchase one used now that they are no longer available new!

yeah ruger and Remington sell bolt action 35 whelen rifles, but they are not as sought after.
between the browning BLR (lever action 358 win chambering) and the remington pump,7600 35 whelen, Id say almost all the guys I hunt with prefer one or the other for deer and elk in the thick aspen and timber out in Colorado,
both use the 250 grain speer bullets almost all the time
the 35 whelen pushes that bullet to about 150-175 fps faster, but the elk all react similarly, they either drop, or stumble around and drop seconds later, its basically come down to which action, lever or pump you prefer, both cartridges and rifles are 100% effective and lethal, and where I hunt shots over 250 yards are almost unheard of

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