.50 B&M Alaskan: how to get the most from the lever-lover's "big fifty.".
The .50 Alaskan was the second of two cartridges designed during the 1950s by gunsmith Harold Johnson of Cooper Landing, Alaska. Both are on the .348 Winchester case. First came the .450 Alaskan, pushing a 400-grain bullet along at 2,000 fps at a chamber pressure level easily handled by the Winchester Model 71. For a time it was popular among brown bear guides who needed a close-range stopper for keeping their clientele healthy. Lever-gun stopping power moved to an even higher level when Johnson necked the .450 Alaskan case on up to .50 caliber. Having no .510-inch bullets on hand, he nibbled away at the 750-grain bullet of the .50 BMG until 450 grains remained. When pushed to maximum speed by "the .50," as Johnson called his creation, the bullet was good for stem-to-stern penetration on brown bear and moose from about any angle.
The .50 B&M Alaskan is a recent version of Harold Johnson's old cartridge. Created by William Bruton and Michael McCourry, it is the same as the original except it uses .500-inch bullets. The smaller diameter provides the option of using .500 S&W Magnum bullets for practice and for use on deer and such, then switching to tougher bullets from Cutting Edge and North Fork for larger, tougher game. McCourry has also used the Hornady 500-grain softnose a good bit and considers it big medicine for about anything in North America. The .50 B&M case is easily formed by slightly necking down Starline .50 Alaskan brass. Reloading dies are available from RCBS and Hornady.
The load data shown herein was pressure-tested by Michael McCourry and chronographed by me in two rifles. One was McCourry's Browning Model 71 with an 18-inch barrel built by SSK Industries. The other was my own Marlin Model 1895 MLXR with a 22-inch barrel, also built by SSK Industries. It has a Weaver V3 scope held to an SSK/T'SOB base by Warne quick-detachable rings as well as N.E.C.G. Masterpiece iron sights, No. 61 fully adjustable at the rear and No. 661 Banded Ramp up front. In addition to a fixed 3/32-inch silver bead, the front sight has a larger 11/64-inch white hinged bead that can be flipped up in front of the smaller bead for use when light is bad or folded down when not needed. English rifle builders of the early 1900s called it a night sight, and its bead was often carved from the tusk of a warthog because it does not turn yellow with age as elephant ivory is prone to do.
Lighter bullets in the .500 B&M Alaskan are fine for smaller game, but for the really big stuff I would want a sectional density of .300 or close to it, which calls for bullets in the 450-to 500-grain range. Given proper construction, a bullet of that weight would handle any game animal on the planet out to 150 yards or so, but beyond that it plummets to earth like a bowling ball. Which is OK since the cartridge will always be seen at its best when quickly applying the brakes to large and potentially dangerous game at iron-sight distances.
CHRONO/ACCURACY RESULTS BULLET BULLET POWDER CHARCE VELOCITY WEIGHT (CR.) (CR.) (FPS) SSK MARLIN M1895 (22-IN. BBL.) HORNADY FTX * 300 IMR4198 67.0 2,428 SWIFT A-FRAME 325 RL-7 66.0 2,251 CUTTING EDGE HP 395 RL-7 64.0 2,122 BARNES BUSTER 400 IMR4198 59.0 2,057 SIERRA JSP-SM 400 H4198 63.0 2,113 CUTTING EDGE CS 425 RL-7 62.0 2,080 NORTH FORK BONDED 450 RL-10X 63.0 2,022 HORNADY FP-XTP 500 RL-1QX 62.0 1,947 HORNADY FP-XTP 500 H4198 56.0 1,855 HORNADY FP-XTP 500 RL-7 58.0 1,876 CAST RCBS 500/400 SWC 400 IMR4198 50.0 1,986 CAST LEE C501/440 RF 440 RL-10X 54.0 1,822 SSK BROWNING M71 (18-IN. BBBL.) HORNADY FTX * 300 IMR4198 67.0 2,359 SWIFT A-FRAME 325 RL-10X 62.0 2,062 CUTTING EDGE HP 395 RL-7 64.0 2,015 BARNES BUSTER 400 IMR4198 59.0 2,041 SIERRA JSP 400 H4198 63.0 2,086 HORNADY FP-XTP 500 RL-7 58.0 1,834 BULLET ENERGY AVC. (ft.-lbs.) GRP (IN.) HORNADY FTX * 3,922 1.08 SWIFT A-FRAME 3,653 0.73 CUTTING EDGE HP 3,945 0.81 BARNES BUSTER 3,754 1.44 SIERRA JSP-SM 3,961 1.49 CUTTING EDGE CS 4,078 1.62 NORTH FORK BONDED 4,081 1.40 HORNADY FP-XTP 4,204 1.37 HORNADY FP-XTP 3,816 0.56 HORNADY FP-XTP 3,903 1.15 CAST RCBS 500/400 SWC 3,325 1,21 CAST LEE C501/440 RF 3,240 1.37 HORNADY FTX * 3,703 2.14 SWIFT A-FRAME 3,064 1.68 CUTTING EDGE HP 3,557 1.20 BARNES BUSTER 3,696 2.40 SIERRA JSP 3,861 1.32 HORNADY FP-XTP 3,730 1.55 * Shorten the case to 1.97 inches for this bullet for a cartridge length not to exceed 2.55 inches for the Martin rifle. Notes: Powder charges are maximum and should be reduced by 10 percent for starting loads. Starline cases and Federal 210M primers were used. Accuracy shown represents an average of three three-shot groups fired at 50 yards from a sandbag rest. Velocities are an average of nine rounds measured 12 feet from the muzzle.
WARNING: The loads shown here are safe only in the guns for which they were developed. Neither the author nor InterMedia Outdoors Inc. assumes any liability for accidents or injury resulting from the use or misuse of this data.
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|Title Annotation:||G&A RELOADS|
|Publication:||Guns & Ammo|
|Date:||Sep 23, 2012|
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