The .450 Nitro Express is a dangerous game hunting cartridge that originated in the United Kingdom.

Designed in 1898 by John Rigby, it has the distinction of being the very first "Nitro Express" cartridge ever created.

Design Details[edit | edit source]

The .450 Nitro Express was based on the .450 Black Powder Express case with a 70 grain (5g) cordite load with a 480 grain (31g) jacketed bullet. It has a muzzle velocity of 2,150 feet per second with a muzzle energy rating of 4,909 ft-lbf (6,656 J).

Early cartridges used the black powder case that was designed for a chamber pressure of around 22,000 PSI and not the 34,000 PSI that the cordite load generated. Casing extraction proved difficult, especially in warmer environments such as Africa and India, where the cartridge was mainly used. To resolve this technical problem, a reinforced casing was introduced and Kynoch made a reduced load to lower the case pressure.

Another issue laid in the sensitivity of cordite, as loads developed in the cooler British climate performed differently in the tropical heat of Africa and India, leading to excessive chamber pressures. The manufacturers responded by developing "tropical loads" with reduced amounts of propellant.

To combat these intitial problems, Holland & Holland created the .500/450 Nitro Express while Eley Brothers developed the .450 No 2 Nitro Express. Both of these cartridges offered similar ballistic performance to the original .450 Nitro Express. By the time that they were introduced, the .450 Nitro Express' early problems were resolved, and it quickly became the most popular and widely used round for hunting elephants.

History[edit | edit source]

Supplantation[edit | edit source]

Following the British Army banning .450 caliber ammunition in India and the Sudan in 1907, Rigby adopted Joseph Lang's .470 Nitro Express as their standard NE double rifle cartridge. By the time that the ban had been lifted, .470 Nitro Express had supplanted the .450 Nitro Express as the most popular elephant cartridge, along with Mauser's Gewehr 98 bolt-action rifles providing a more economical alternative to the expensive double rifles required by the Nitro Express cartridges.

Service in WWI[edit | edit source]

Even though it was designed mainly as a civil cartridge for hunting dangerous game animals, the .450 Nitro Express had seen military service in the British Army during World War I.

In 1914 and early 1915, German snipers were engaging British positions from steel plates that could not be penetrated by .303 British ball rounds. In response to this threat, the British War Office had purchased sixty-two big game hunting rifles, forty-seven of which being .450 caliber rifles, which were then issued to regiments of the British Army, with some officers having supplied their own rifles.

On one notable occasion, Richard "Dickie" Cooper had brought down three Albatros D.III aircraft from Jagdstaffel 15, the squadron of which WWI ace Ernst Udet was a member, using a Holland & Holland double rifle chambered in .450 Nitro Express. He was recorded as saying: "I aimed well ahead of the leader. He came down like a pheasant, as did the one that followed, and I had time to reload and fire again at the third before he passed over - he also crashed."

External Link(s)[edit | edit source]

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