.458 Lott

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The .458 Lott is truly at home in Africa. Ammunition is no problem for this load – a number of big brand names produce Jack’s beloved .458 Lott.

I could feel the rich African dirt filling my flared nostrils. The musty smell signalled a heartening return to a land of great wonder. We were in the heart of elephant country on the edge of Kruger Park, on a mission to dart a big elephant bull for a radio collar replacement. As I watched the vets and game guards milling around, I was drawn to the lead warden with rifle slung over his shoulder. This was the first time I had seen a .458 Win, and it lead me to look into the .458 Lott.

The Lott was designed in 1971 by the knowledgeable and affectionately described ‘gun nut’ Jack Lott. Based on a blown out and shortened .375 H&H case, it was noticeably longer than its predecessor, the .458 Winchester Magnum. Jack Lott definitely had the inadequacies of Winchester’s .458 in mind when he set about producing a new calibre, and wanted to ensure that the same lacklustre performance was not repeated. A close encounter with a Cape buffalo in Mozambique encouraged him to produce the perfect big game calibre.

Having sustained injuries during the altercation, Jack wanted something more powerful. The original issues were that the cartridge was too small to produce desired velocities and the powder clumped in the compressed charge.

Deciding there was no issue with the .458 calibre, Lott established that he needed to design a new case to launch the bullet at greater velocities to increase down-range energy. With the blown out .375 case trimmed to 2.8in, Jack achieved a 0.3in increase in case length over the Winchester. This allowed greater powder capacity and removed the need for such a compressed load.

A major benefit was that any rifle chambered in the new .458 Lott would also be able to fire the original .458 Winchester. This meant that any rifle chambered in the Winchester could quite easily be re-chambered to the more modern calibre with very little work. The only occasional problem was that the longer calibre did not fit the magazine, which required mag-well modifications. At the time, ammunition had to be custom made, so the advantage of being able to use the old .458 Winchester as a back-up undoubtedly added comfort.

The Lott version of the .458 grew in popularity. Recognition of the improvements soon came about, with A-Square beginning to load ammunition in 1989. In the 1970s Winchester was forced to resolve the powder clumping issue: the load of the .458 Winchester was reduced to remedy the problem (resulting in even lower exit velocities and widening the gap between the two cartridges). No doubt this helped the Lott further. Eventually, the calibre was standardised by SAAMI specifications. According to its records, this was issued on 06/04/1998. Although the standardised spec dictates a gradually tapering case, some manufacturers loaded a marginally improved version with a ghost shoulder to aid greater bullet retention under heavy recoil.

The Brno ZKK 602 was chambered to take the .458 Lott, and the calibre became imbedded in the world of African big game hunting. Today it is a standard used to compare all other calibres.

The .458 Lott is truly at home in Africa. Ammunition is no problem for this load – a number of big brand names produce Jack’s beloved .458 Lott. The table below shows the performance comparison.  BP


Calibre Bullet MV (fps) ME (ft/lbs) Drop at 100yds with 50yd zero
458Win Barnes Banded Solid 2050 4667 -0.8
458Lott Barnes Banded Solid 2300 5875 -0.3
470NE Barnes Banded Solid 2150 5133 -0.7
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