View Full Version : 50BMG for Hunting?

September 1, 1999, 10:47 AM
Do the 50BMG cartridges and the rifles that fire them have any hunting applications? Can it be utilized for big African game? Is it legal to hunt with it, and is it even appropriate for big game?
Thank you!

September 1, 1999, 12:49 PM
Well Barnes and Hawk make bullets that work in the bolt actions, just seen people shoot them at the range, talked with one guy a few months ago said he could drop deer with the Barnes 750 gr Soild out to 700 yards with his Barret auto loader.
Next time I have $4000.00 lying around I mite have to get a 50 BMG to try it out.

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September 1, 1999, 02:41 PM
Yes, people do hunt with these. You should check out Dan Lilja's website (www.riflebarrels.com) because he has a really good article on long-range hunting. In summary, common everyday cartridges (.338 Lapua, etc.) built on small single-shot bolt actions are good to 1,200+ yards in the right hands. Large ones built on the .50 BMG are good to 2,000+ yards in the right hands and under the right conditions. Besides the other manufacturers already mentioned, Hornady also makes the .510" A-Max.

David Curry

Long Path
September 1, 1999, 10:08 PM
David, I realize you were just quoting/paraphrasing, but when you say:
<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>In summary, common everyday cartridges (.338 Lapua, etc.) built on small single-shot bolt actions are good to 1,200+ yards in the right hands. Large ones built on the .50 BMG are good to 2,000+ yards in the right hands and under the right conditions. [/quote]
(additional emphasis is mine) , I have to take exception. Shots like that are so much more the exception than the rule, caveats must be made. For example, how do you accurately tell the range on a target 1200 yards away??? Laser range-finder? Well, that's interesting, because even the very best hand-held range-finders get a little iffy outside of 1000 yards, and tend to pick up other, more reflective objects, better than the sedate colors of your average game animal. You can't afford to be more than 25 yards off, and NO ONE can judge range to within 25 yards at over 800 yards.

Just now running down the .50 on the excellent Web Ballistic Computer at http://weber.u.washington.edu/~basiji/Ballistics/wbcIntro.html , I plugged in Barnes' published BC (1.07 !!)for their 750 g. Solid, and told the program to calculate, given a MV of 2900 (a bit brisk, probably...), and a zero of 500 yards. It says that, even then, your drop from 500 to 800 yards is 64.9"!!! If you think your target is at 900 yards, but it's really at 1000, you're off by no less than 42.2"! This with the highest ballistic coefficient I'm familiar with.

The only way this would be "sporting" would be if you had a known distance, carfully paced or projected, where the game would stand for enough time to carefully make the shot. Perhaps a scent lure, or, if your state allows them, a feeder. Or perhaps a watering hole, so long as you had exact distances to each side of the watering hole. I could only see this in bleak, open areas, where one was watching several known-distance spots, or cross-canyon spots. If the variation is as much as 20 yards, you could have a clean miss, or a wounded animal, with zero chance of a make-up shot.

I respect the game too much to pull these kinds of stunts. Just because a man may use his benchrest competition rifle to shoot 8" groups in 1000-yard Pennsylvania matches does not mean that he can guarentee kill-shots with the same rifle/load combo on ~900 yard shots on game. It doesn't even mean he can get close.

As to .50 BMG at 2000 yards, I've got to say bull. Please don't take this as a personal flame at you, it's intended to the man making the claim.
I'm a good rifleman. Maybe not benchrest quality, but probably better than most. I have a rifle that will reliably shoot .75 MOA, and I don't really need any better, because it's a fairly iffy thing that I would be able to shoot any better than that. I could possibly occasionally realize the improvement in accuracy if a 'smith could magically make my rifle a .5 MOA rifle.
Consider: If I could shoot a .5 MOA group at 2000 yards, I'd still have a 10" group!!

Consider: If I could shoot a .5 MOA group at 2000 yards, I'd be endorsed by a LOT of bullet, rifle, powder, and cartridge companies, because I'd be the best there was. FIND me official evidence that anyone has ever shot a 10" group at a mile and change! You can't.

Good rule of thumb is: If you can't hit a 10" plate 5 times out of 5 from that distance from the field position you use, it's too far for medium to large game.

Sorry for the long tyrade, I just get worked up over: (a) hunter irresponsibility (esp. by gun writers!!!), and (b) wild claims, inflated to suit (esp. by gun writers!!!).

Again, not a flame to anyone here.... :)

Will you, too, be one who stands in the gap?

September 2, 1999, 09:09 PM
Long Path,

No flame taken :) What you said is absolutely correct as long as you are restricting yourself to ordinary equipment and methods. I'm not a long range hunter, but I know a little of their techniques and equipment being an amatuer benchrest type.

Compensating for bullet drop is the easiest part of long-range shooting. First, you definately can not use an off-the-shelf laser range finder - you need to save lots of money and buy a military surplus optical range finder. Next, you either need a contour map of your hunting area or the equipment necessary to take an elevation reading from where you are to where your game is. You can then calculate how many clicks you need need to count off on you scope in order to acheiver a dead center hold. You probably will need a special scope like a Night Force or US Optics with as many clicks as your going to often use. This part, like I said, is easy, but expensive and tedious.

Compensating for wind and mirage, as far as I am concerned, is voodoo magic. This is why I do not shoot at game at these distances. Besides, it is a pain to long distance hunt: you need a bench, a 50 lb. benchrest-like gun, a computer, a load with a standard deviation of hopefully less than around 15-20 fps, etc, etc. It probably requires over $10,000 to get started, which is another reason why I am not doing it. Plus, I'm not good enough :)

However, if someone who practices constantly, has the right equipment, and can almost always place a bullet in the vitals at the distance at which he/she is shooting, why not? The .50 BMG guys can do under 4" groups at 1,000 yards.

Anyway, I mostly agree with you. I don't think that hardly anyone should be attempting this stuff. I totally agree with you that there are a bunch of irresponsible writers out, but there are still a few really good ones like Finn Aagaard.

David Curry

September 2, 1999, 09:27 PM
One of our local Game Wardens just bought a .50 BMG, single shot bolt action. He plans on shooting an elk with his. The guy is one heck of a long range shooter and he has more damn charts, graphs, etc. taped to his stock than you can believe.

There is a trend of limiting the overall weight of rifles in some states in an effort to effectively outlaw rifles like the .50 BMG. Some folks believe such firearms encourage folks to attempt unethical and unrealistic shots at ridiculous ranges. Could be some merit to that I suppose. Then again, it is legal to buy a "normal" rifle like a .270 model 70 the day before season, bore sight it, then go out and gut shoot everything in sight. Kinda tough to legislate smarts...

September 3, 1999, 10:15 AM
That bit about guys who boresight their rifle and then go hunting is not only scary, it is so true! My father-in-law is an anasthesiaologist (I'm *not* a doctor, so I probably misspelled this) and the hospital where he works often pays for a deer lease for the doctors and their guests to hunt. I've seen some these guys do all of the following:

1. Use what ever ammo someone else has when you run out---no need to resight.

2. If you miss a deer, set up milk jug 100 feet away when you get back to camp and if you can hit it, it's not the gun.

3. Borrow a spare rifle from a friend and never fire it becuase "it oughtta be sighted in."

It's not because they are doctors that they do these things, it's probably because most of them only hunt because the hospital provides a free opportunity.

David Curry

Art Eatman
September 3, 1999, 12:44 PM
I read in one of the huntin'/fishin' mags that Montana had outlawed the .50BMG for game.

Anything else aside, the issue of variable wind speed "way out there" means that what might have been a good hit can turn into a wound low in the guts. Whatcha gonna chase with, a helicopter?

Dunno. The whole damned idea sounds bad to my own notions of hunting ethics...

$0.02...FWIW, Art

Long Path
September 3, 1999, 11:28 PM
David, Sambonatur, et al: The topic of the thread is morphing, so I'm going to post my response on a new one entitled "What IS "long range hunting" to you?".

It's always a pleasure...

Long Path
September 4, 1999, 12:03 AM
David: I'm really glad you took my rant well-- I note that my tact chip was not fully enabled...

In re: drop. I agree that carfull attention to terrain features, use of triangulation, shooting asmuths to distant points, and a very high end optical range finder help. It is true that a man who knows his trig and who has a good engineer's compass and a very high res contour map can plot the distance of yonder tree at 1100 yards to within a few yards. How many do, though? I mean, I paid attention in PreCalc when we went over that aspect of sins, cosins, etc, just so I could do such things, and I'm afraid I'd have to crack my books for a week before I'd be bold enough to do it. (Art, are you out there? :) )

I've always been interested in the subject of Long Range Hunting, but I just don't think that you should EVER take any benchrest rifle, even the .50 BMG, out in the field and expect better grouping than TWICE what you shoot at the range. If you can consistantly shoot 8 MOA at 1000 yard ranges (and are thereby World Class), then you can expect roughly 16" spreads in the field at 1000 yards. That's incredibly accurate, for the field, but it's not good enough to hunt with. Try backing off to 600 or 700.

No one doubts that the .50 BMG has the power down range, it's just the question of consistency in placing it there humanely. Yes, there are a couple of guys that have recorded 4" groups with .50's at 1000 yards. But they don't do it consistantly, and they don't have to account for range estimation nor resighting. Remember that the finest scopes and adjustable mounts in the world don't ALWAYS give you exactly, precisely 1 mil per click or .1 MOA per click, and then return to where they were before. The best get really, really close, at best. If you're click-click-clicking away on your adjustable mounts before you make that shot, the fact that you haven't actually taken a sight-in shot for the distance you're about to shoot is going to weigh in your mind. And it should.

Art Eatman
September 4, 1999, 06:14 PM
As you can tell from other threads and my posts, I have a hangup about clean kills.

I know what CAN be done with the Big 50 if everything goes just right--but I'm always planning for the what-ifs when it all goes to garbage. I work on the assumption that if you're shooting at a fella, he must be a bad guy, so I'm unconcerned about where he's hit.

I got respect for critters, so when the word "hunting" is used, my personal definition of "perfection" comes in. Perfection is that package of skill, cartridge-energy, and bullet placement such that the critter never knows there was a problem. Range is thus a factor, as has been commented on above.

So it seems to me that if you have lotsa time to setup your benchrest gun on your portable benchrest, and have your superb rangefinder all dialed in, you're off to a good start. You've gotten Longpath to get the rust off his Trig, got your computer's trajectory tables all wired in, and your anemometer is all hooked into your laptop.

You got an anemometer out at 1,000 or 2,000 yards? "What if"?

A number of years ago, I knew guys who would go to Colorado with 7mm Rem Mags, rangefinders, spotting scopes and such, and two or three would sit and glass an opposite hillside at 600-800 yards. They'd spot a resting elk, and start shooting. The spotters would call corrections. I asked about success rate, compared to "wounded and got away". Well, too many got away...

So I guess that if you wanna shoot five-gallon buckets of dynamite or such, come on down and I'll supply the dynamite...But I'm just real uncomfortable about "hunting" at these ultra distances...


Long Path
September 4, 1999, 07:34 PM
I couldn't have said it better, myself.

(Checking with a friend to see when we can fly in to Alpine in her Comanche and rent a car to drive down to the 1st Annual Terlingua Tri-Nitro-Tolulene Distant Bucket Blowup Bash [the TTNTDBBB 1]....)

Will you, too, be one who stands in the gap?

Josh D
September 4, 1999, 10:32 PM
Carlos Hathcock used an M2 Browning to hunt people at 2500 yards :)

Don't turn around, uh oh oh, der kommisar is in town, uh oh oh!

Art Eatman
September 6, 1999, 01:52 PM
Hey, Long Path, we got airfields down here! Lajitas is 4,400 feet, paved; the Terlingua International Air Strip is very smooth caliche, 3,300 feet. (Top off tanks in Alpine; no fuel down here.)

Whaddaya think this is, boonies? :)

Later, Art

[This message has been edited by Art Eatman (edited September 06, 1999).]

Rocky Road
September 6, 1999, 02:10 PM
Agreed as to White Feather hurting people at 2500 yds with a .50 BMG---
But we must distinguish between situations and purposes here. GSGT Hathcock was about the business of his country and his service, shooting at enemy soldiers. Disrgard for the moment whether or not this was a "righteous war." The man was doing his duty. That said, the decision was made that his targets needed to be shot. What matter WHERE that particular NVA or VC soldier was hit? Or, actually, if the guy standing NEXT to him was hit, instead. If he was hit in the leg, mission accomplished.

(One school of thought is that a WOUNDED enemy soldier is a better result than a dead one. The one takes at least two others out of service, rendering air and evacuating him. The other is merely a problem for Graves Registration and a sad letter from the CO. Not to mention the demoralizing effect of a groaning or screaming comrade. Please note that I mean no disrespect toward the enemy soldier merely doing his job or following orders.)

We hunt game animals for many different reasons. But I trust there's no one on this forum who believes that it is a good thing to merely wound a--anything on the game lists-- rather than make a clean kill. And there's no game animal that SHOULD be caused to suffer to demoralize its companions. I, personally, can make a case in my own mind --and whose mind matters more, to me?-- that it is SOMETIMES more morally correct to gut shoot a human being than a whitetail deer that I just want to eat.

I am a newcomer to this forum and I feel the need to say how much I respect the opinions and sentiments of most of those here.

---The Second Amendment ensures the rest of the Bill of Rights---

September 6, 1999, 09:59 PM
Rocky Road, welcome aboard! I think that your point about drawing a distinction between the goals of hunting (clean kill of intended target) versus those of war (any hit of any target around) is important. Well said!