.458 Socom: Born of Beer and BBQ
Article Posted: July 19, 2013
The Reverse Engineering of the .458 Socom (Special Operations Command) Cartridge
Most new cartridges are the result of field reports written by soldiers that cite the failures of a cartridge they've tested in action. The reports are read by lab rats who, after vetting the reports and data, attempt to modify the existing cartridge and eliminate the shortcomings documented by soldiers.
Implicit in the process is the notion that soldiers understand what cartridges don't work well in a given situation, but aren't capable of imagining -- let alone designing -- one that does.
But, the 458 Socom is proof otherwise. The story goes, a group of special forces soldiers were standing around telling stories at a bbq over beers. No surprise ballistics was the topic of conversation, stopping power in particular.
Though undocumented, it's easy to speculate as to what occurred. Someone in the group undoubtedly said something to the effect of, "when shot within 25 yards of the target, there is nothing with the stopping power of a .45 caliber pistol." What followed was probably another soldier saying, "true, but the casing is too short. There's nothing behind the bullet. The trajectory of a .45 looks like an underhand volleyball serve."
Anyone's guess, but maybe it was the tight-lipped guy of the group that rarely spoke that quietly stated the obvious, "so put something behind it," and took another sip of his beer. While it's all speculation, what followed was the development of the .458 Socom, one of today's most intriguing cartridges.
The "Ele-mints" Gun
If your dad ever corrected you by explaining that there's no such thing as an elephant gun, and you argued and cited your scout master as the source of your information, and he busted up into a fit of laughter asked you between slaps of his knee what kind of rifle you owned, "a neighbor's-cat gun?" -- after all these years -- you can you can crack his ribs with another howler.
Tell him about the ele-mints gun: a cartridge designed for close quarters combat... and hunting elephant sized varmints. With modifications to accommodate a .458 Socom, an AR-15 goes from using the same caliber cartridge popular among recreational varmint snipers to a weapon with unparalleled mid-range knockdown power.
The AR-15 was originally designed to fire .223 cartridges. It can be modified to fire a thicker cartridge, but the chamber can not be modified to accommodate a longer cartridge. For that potential and around that limitation, the .458 Socom was developed. The cartridge has the length of a .223 shell with a diameter of that of a .45.
Another way to think of the design of the cartridge is as a .45 pistol shell with an additional 16mm of length, that much more powder behind the bullet.
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To see the .458 Socom in action, checkout the following You Tube video:
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