1 Jan 2007
I received a call in Dec. of last year from a fellow I recently had as a guest in my lodge. He had visited with his family for a weekend of hog hunting here at the Buck and Boar. It was Mr. Wayne Holt with Hornady Mfg. He was looking to line up a hunt to field test a new cartridge that was going to be available later in 2007. Of course I told him I would be delighted to host the hunt. He said there would be six or eight shooters and that we would iron out the details later. I thanked him for the call and went on about my day. Had I known the details I probably would have ……..I don’t know, but I think I was better off like it was. I had guided hundreds of successful hog hunters over the years and had much larger groups in camp, never a cartridge manufacture testing a round, but how much different could that be.
A few weeks and several e-mails later this hunt started taking the shape of something a lot different than business as usual. Terry Palmer here at B.H.M. told me he heard Mr. Steve Hornady was planning on flying in to participate. I couldn’t help but to think this might get interesting, how I had no clue, but you could feel it. Wayne Holts had told me in a previous conversation he thought we should plan on hunting with bay dogs and I agreed knowing it would increase shooting opportunity. Wayne is a South Carolina native and no stranger to hunting with hounds. Those old nocturnal boar that survive the still hunting pressure can be located with a good pack of bay dogs and we both new it. The fact that there were numerous hogs on my place that fell into that category just made it even sound like a better idea! That’s what you need if your testing a new round, big targets and plenty of them. I was starting to like this bullet testing business!
Two days or so after I found out Mr. Hornady was flying in, Wayne e-mailed me the guest list, I had to sit down. It looked like the VIP list at the National All-Pro Outdoor Writers, Hunters, Shooters and Re-loader’s Awards Banquet. Dick Metcalf , world renowned outdoor writer, and technical editor of Shooting Times, Mark Keefe , editor-in-chief of American Rifleman, Richard Venola, editor of guns and ammo, Bill Battles, editor of On Target Mag. , outdoor writer and photographer James Guthrie, and CEO and V.P. of B.H.M. Pam and Terry Palmer.
I left my former profession for the hunting industry in pursuit of a less stressful life. The pressure of the rat race had found me. I felt like the primer in a belted magnum as the bullet starts down the barrel. As soon as I quit hyperventilating, I got up off the floor. Excitement and terror shared my space. The power of the pen can make you or break you, knowing this I realized this hunt could lead to feast or famine. We (my staff and I) put 100% into every hunt, so the feeling I had to do all I could for this hunt was unfounded. Many aspects of hunting are not controlled by the hunter or the guide, they are influenced by chance, luck, and the good Lord. I could only hope there were no missed chances, lady luck would be on our side and we would be blessed and highly favored. That is where I found my peace.
I came to the realization Hornadys new 450 round must be an awesome cartridge. My logic for this was simple, immunity from the power of the pen is granted to no one. Hornady invited these guys to the table and that would be a hell of a gamble unless you were holding a royal flush. They were.
The majority of the guest would be flying into Columbia, SC. The rifles, ammo and support gear would be sent via UPS a few days prior. I arrived at the lodge one night accompanied by Dwayne Wes singer (my hunt master) and Todd Dillon (my dog trainer). We were dead tired after a full day in Charlotte attempting to recruit some business out of those NASCAR guy’s with a friend of ours, bull rider Tony Mendez and Tommy Lee. (That’s another story, but a good one).
The UPS truck had paid us a visit! We were tired yes, but we must have looked like kids at Christmas when we closed in on the stack of cardboard packages we discovered. Dwayne is a bullet connoisseur, former marine sniper, reloder extroidener, I just call him a bullet freak! He went after the small heavy box that no doubt housed the ammo while Todd and myself proceeded to find out what the six rifle shaped boxes would reveal. When the fiasco was over and the dust cleared we were looking at six Bushmaster Rifles complete with state of the art red dot optics and slings that were not run of the mill shoulder straps. Dwayne’s box contained four hundred rounds of proto-type Hornady 450 cartridges that were twice the size of ammo I would associate with an AR-15 type firearm. Big bore performance for the AR platform. The length matches the 223 Remington at 2.250”. The cartridge fires Hornadys 0.452” 250gr. SST Flex-tip. The polymer tipped SST bullet eliminates tip deformation and initiates expansion over a wide range of impact velocities. By simply switching uppers, you can turn America’s most popular semi-automatic firearm from a predator popper into a big bore that a big boar does not want to deal with. Standard AR-Type 30 round magazines are fitted with a blue single stack follower to give the magazine a nine round capacity. The muzzle-velocity is around 2200 FPS give or take depending on barrel length. Thanks to the AR type gas operating design the recoil is user friendly enabling the shooter the ability to keep the target in the field of view for an accurate follow up shot.
At this time the smoke was still in the air from the uneducated off the hip cheap shot Jim Zumbo made at the practicality of this class of firearm in the hunting world. This was not an attempt to remove that bullet because we sealed the deal on this hunt long before old Jim skinned his smoke wagon. Needless to say, what was about to unfold would turn out to be a text book example of the practicality of this rifle in certain hunting applications. Bushmasters foothold in the hunting industry will only be further fortified after teaming up with Hornady to arrange the marriage of the 450 SST to the Bushmaster Rifle, AKA “the thumper”.
The hunt would kick-off in three days and I had to restrain myself (Dwayne grabbed me one time during a weak moment) from attacking the Buck and Boar rifle range like a rabid Rambo on a mission. It would have been totally unprofessional to go dipping into the cookie jar, dang-it! When I did get my chance I was impressed. The recoil was much more loving than that of my 45-70 which was the closest thing I had to compare it to. I would like the chance to shoot the “Thumper” set up with a match trigger. The Bushmaster trigger felt like …..well, a Bushmaster trigger.
On a hog hunt like this, your part of the solution or your part of the problem! We had no problems! Scott Wessinger owns some of the finest dogs in the business, he would take charge of the hunt and let his dogs work their magic. With his team of two packs and two more from Mudsucker Bay Kennels we were going to turn up the hunting pressure and leave it there. The first morning we bayed five hogs. Two hogs were released after receiving an American pit bull ear ring. Three hogs fell to the 450 with three pass through shots. All were Buck and Boar average size, ranging from a buck fifty up to two. Everyone was waiting to test this round on a true Mack Daddy and we new it was just a matter of time.
The Bushmaster carried by Dick Metcalf would deliver the first true test. With five good hogs hanging in the cooler from day one, we dropped the tailgate in a primo-bedding area to kick-off day two. The pack of Mt. Curr’s jumped a bruiser that turned to square off with the dogs after a short three hundred yard dash. An average hog would normally run much farther and when bayed would be in the thickest cover possible. This was no average hog, with no fear for man or beast. The Three hundred pound pure Euro bayed in an old growth hardwood bottom and was a sight to see. The boars short run allowed Dick Metcalf and the crew to be on the scene pronto. With the hog’s attention focused on the dogs Mr. Metcalf shouldered his Bushmaster “Thumper” at thirty yards and struck the massive animal in the vitals with a 250 grain attitude adjustment. Hornadys 450 SST passed the test as the prehistoric looking beast went down, making little effort to recover. The bullet would later be recovered shaped like a mushroom with the jacket intact confirming a text book expansion. Weight retention was excellent after entering the left shield, penetrating the big boned animal to come to rest lodged in the right shield on the opposite side.
Later that day Mr. Hornady and myself opted to take post on a well used trail a mile down from a bedding area that the dogs would be released into. The Hornady 450 would soon be put to the test by their creator. The ability of the “Thumper” to allow rapid follow up target acquisition would also be tested for the first time. More than twenty hogs had passed us within range, some were good hogs, I was getting antsy! The 450 is not an average cartridge. It became obvious Mr. Hornady did not wish to test his new round on an average hog. Being selective paid off as he drew down on an alpha sow with body mass that equaled any hog we had hanging. Focusing the red dot on the hogs front shoulder, Mr. “H” fired three rapid shots sending the running hog to the ground in a cloud of dust. He lowered the rifle with a satisfied look in his eyes. I couldn’t help but think of how gratifying it must be, to do such a thing, and know your company made it all possible. Then he turns to me and says son” I love carrying this rifle! Short, handy, and no question, enough horsepower to get the job done!"
The ultimate test would come at the hands of Guns and Ammo editor Richard Venola. With the dog’s nowhere to be seen or heard, Richard found himself in the right place at the right time. Flanked by myself and Terry Palmer of B.H.M., Richard dropped down on one knee as a massive European boar headed straight toward us. Offering only a straight on head shot Richard put the 450 bullet just inside the boars left eye socket. Another three hundred pound beast fell to the new Hornady 450 SST. It was later discovered the bullet followed a path down the boars spine to be recovered from the left hind quarter. Ouch!
By the time it was said and done, eleven hogs fell to the 450 BUHMASTER, some were average, some were the kind most men dream of harvesting. The 450 BUSHMASTER is everything Hornady designed it to be. The Bushmaster Rifle proved to be an excellent host for this cartridge. It can best be put into Mr. Hornadys own words "there is simply nothing else commercially available that can give you a 250 grain bullet at 2200 fps in a semi auto. There's lots of powerful cartridges as well as semi autos but this is the only one you can buy with out some custom conversion and never-to-be-found ammo" thanks Steve. You have outdone yourself again, what’s next?
I must also thank Bushmaster, B.H.M., the Buck and Boar crew, lady luck and the good Lord. Now I have to mail these rifles back. I thought keeping my hand out of the cookie jar was hard to do!……………………………............... See you in Tusker City Baby!