.450/400 Nitro Express 3 Inch
Date: Aug 14 2014
Notes from the Lab: .450/400 Nitro Express 3 Inch
The .450/400 Nitro Express 3 Inch (aka .400 Jeffery Nitro Express) dates back to around 1902 and was designed by Jeffery. It was designed specifically for cordite and was never loaded with black powder. Standard loads contained a 400-grain bullet pushed to 2,100 fps, but actual velocities of vintage loads typically produce between 2,050 and 2,100 fps. It produced enough power for hunting all of Africa’s dangerous game, where it still has an excellent reputation. Although recoil is robust, it is easily controllable by an experienced big bore rifleman.
Many vintage best quality double rifles and single shots have been built for this cartridge; however, ammunition and cases have been costly and only available from a few sources. Hornady and Ruger worked together to offer new guns, ammunition, bullets and brass at domestic prices, which has spurred renewed interest in this cartridge.
Using a Ruger No. 1 with a 24-inch barrel, Hornady factory loads averaged 2,077 fps. Considering the large case, loads were also checked for powder position sensitivity, resulting in a 27-fps change (averaged for 5 shots each with powder forward, then with powder to the rear), which is outstanding. The Hornady 400-grain DGS loads often grouped 3 shots very close to MOA at 100 yards.
Using IMR-4831, IMR-7828, Alliant RL-19, Hodgdon H-4831, H-1000 and Vihtavuori N-165 powders, factory load performance can sometimes be duplicated. If loading for a double rifle, loads that produced between 2,050 and 2,100 fps will duplicate vintage factory loads and should "regulate" similarly.
A large rifle magnum primer is suggested to achieve reliable powder ignition, with the Federal 215 being used herein. A heavy crimp is suggested to help powders ignite consistently and prevent bullet movement in a second cartridge when fired in a double gun.
Standard bullet diameter is .410 inch, with Hornady DGS and DGX versions being used to develop the accompanying data.