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T H E A F R I C A N H U N T E R ' S B I - M O N T H LY B U L L E T I N

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The .470 Capstick


By Daniel McCarthy

As you look at a surplus military Mauser 98 and ponder what big bore to build, perhaps the .470 Cazpstick should be on the list. It was named in honor of author Peter Hathaway Capstick who was famous for his stories about hunting dangerous game in Africa. Art Alphin of the A-Square Company (www.a-squarerifles.com) designed the .470 Capstick to have the biggest diameter bullet and the greatest powder capacity that can be squeezed out of the .375 H&H parent case. It pushes a 500-grain .474 diameter bullet at a nominal velocity of 2400 f.p.s, making it a prime candidate for dangerous game hunting.
The Cartridge The .470 Capstick is a belted magnum with the same rim and belt size as a .375 H&H. The case has a length of 2.800 inches, and the overall cartridge length is 3.65 inches. A cartridge drawing is shown in Figure 1 for dimensions. The .470 Capstick will fit in the same length action as the .375 H&H and .458 Lott. Figure 2 provides a photo comparison of the .470 Capstick to the .375 H&H and the .458 Lott cartridges. Actually the .458 Lott is a good measuring stick for the .470 Capstick. The Capstick has a bullet that has seven percent more cross sectional area than the .458 Lott, which in theory would result in more shock transfer to game and a larger wound channel. As for powder capacity and velocity, they are similar, with the .470 Capstick having a slight edge in powder capacity and therefore a slight edge in theoretical velocity. However, for field use the .470 Capstick and .458 Lott should have identical performance because the differences between them are rather small. That being said, the differences in field results between the .458 Win. Mag. and the .470 Nitro Express should be nonexistent because both push a 500 grain bullet at 2150 f.p.s. But some people have noted an observable difference in the way it behaves with those two cartridges, possibly due to the greater cross sectional area of the .474 bullet. If desired the .470 Capstick can be used to create a ballistic twin to the .470 Nitro Express, pushing a 500 grain bullet at 2150 f.p.s. while generating low pressure. For those who remember the .475 Ackley, it is similar to the .470 Capstick except that the Capstick has a ghost shoulder which allows the cartridge to achieve excellent accuracy. Use of a ghost shoulder rather than a continuous taper on the case wall helps the cartridge to line up concentrically with the bore axis, contributing to accuracy. Figure 3 shows two sample groups shot with the .470 Capstick at 100 yards. The left group measures 1/4 x 3/ 8 center to center, and the right measures 3/8 x 3/16. I have not been able to achieve similar accuracy with the .458 Lott, and my theory is that lesser accuracy from the Lott is due to the continuous taper and lack of a ghost shoulder in the Lott case. Although it is possible to use 600 grain bullets in the .470 Capstick cartridge, the powder Figure 2 Photo of loaded capacity is not sufficient to rounds of 375 H&H, 458 Lott, push 600 grains at anything 470 Capstick cartridges. near 2200 f.p.s. without high pressure, so I do not think this is a suitable bullet weight for the Capstick. 500 grain bullets seem to be the best all-around compromise. With full power loads, recoil is significant but not difficult to control or become accustomed to. Recoil from the cast lead bullet load shown below is almost nonexistent. For plinking or light game hunting, 400 grain pistol bullets are a candidate, but they generate almost as much recoil as 500 grain bullets. The advantage of 400 grain bullets is that they are inexpensive and will open up quickly on light game. But in my rifle they also tend to hit at least six inches higher than the 500 grain bullets, creating an inconvenience for the hunter who wishes to use both bullets on the same hunting excursion. Some sample loading data for the .470 Capstick is as follows: The velocities were chronographed at 95 degrees Fahrenheit at 5000 feet elevation from a 26 Pac-Nor barrel. Before loading for the .470 Capstick, the reader is encouraged to consult the A-Square reloading manual Any Shot You Want for complete reloading data.

Figure 1 470 Capstick cartridge drawing.

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The Rifles. Currently factory rifles in .470 Capstick are available from A-Square, from the Winchester Custom Shop and from Fuchs Fine Guns (www.jagdwaffe.com). However, that short list should not disappoint the reader because there are many options for building a nice custom rifle in .470 Capstick. Any action that can handle the .375 H&H is a suitable candidate. The easiest conversion is a CZ550 that came from the factory in .375 H&H, .458 Win. Mag or .458 Lott. All that has to be done is to replace the barrel with another in .470 Capstick. Barrels are available from Lothar-Walther (www.lothar-walther.de) and Pac-Nor (www.pacnor.com). A second recoil lug must be added to the underside of the having a lower profile, or if the follower is milled to shorten it. Another option, and the one which I prefer, is to rebuild a surplus military Mauser 98 action to be a .470 Capstick dangerous game rifle. This is a very involved project and includes replacing the magazine box bottom metal, spring and follower and opening up the receiver to match it. Further, some machining of the new magazine box may be needed since no one makes a magazine box expressly intended to hold four rounds of .470 Capstick. Proper feeding is not easy to accomplish and requires a big bore expert such as Dennis Olson of Plains, Montana to radically modify the rails and ramp. A picture of a Mauser 98 in .470 Capstick is shown in Figure 4. The stepped configuration of the feed rails of that rifle is shown in Figure 5. The stepped feed rails plus a modified feed ramp achieve smooth feeding of flat nosed solid bullets in this rifle. Any of these routes can result in a very functional and very accurate dangerous game rifle. The authors personal preference of a Mauser 98 action is not the route for persons seeking a budget-oriented rifle or for persons who do not have access to a gunsmith who is a genuine big bore expert. Frankly speaking, there are not a lot of gunsmiths who know how to get a big bore to feed properly, making the CZ550 conversion very attractive because there is so little to do. In the Field The .470 Capstick is designed for use as a dangerous game cartridge, but it has proven very useful on light game as well. The key is to select a bullet suitable for the game. If a bullet designed for use on Cape buffalo is used on whitetails, it undoubtedly will not expand. For light game, Hawk bullets which expand quickly or 400 grain pistol bullets may be best. When the .470 Capstick is loaded with a 500 grain bullet to a muzzle velocity of 2300 f.p.s. and sighted in three inches high at 100 yards, it is only about a foot low at 300 yards, giving it more effective range than many cartridges which are popular for deer and elk hunting. I have lobbed .470 Capstick bullets into game at that range, so it cannot be too difficult. Another consideration in choosing a bullet for hunting is the velocity window of the bullet. For example, the 500 grain Woodleigh soft point

barrel and inletted into the forearm of the stock. The second recoil lug will spread recoil that the stock is exposed to across a wider surface area to avoid splitting the stock. Glass or steel bedding is recommended. Some minor polishing or adjusting of the ramp and rails may be needed, and then the rifle is ready to shoot. The advantage of the CZ550 conversion is that they typically hold five rounds in the magazine box plus one in the chamber, and very little work is typically needed to get them to feed. A Winchester Model 70 Classic (claw extractor) can also easily be converted to .470 Capstick. In addition to the steps above, the magazine box spring must also be replaced with one that has a traditional Zshape instead of the curly-Q style that the factory provides. The W i n c h e s t e r conversion may only hold two cartridges in the magazine box unless you purchase an extra deep magazine box and bottom metal from Sunny Hill (through www.brownells.com), Williams Firearms ( h t t p : / www.williamsfirearms.com/ ) Jim Wisner (http://
www.wisnersinc.com/)

Figure 4 Surplus military Mauser 98 action (1940) built into a 470 Capstick rifle.

Figure 3 Target with two different three shot groups fired from a 470 Capstick rifle at 100 yards. The left group of three was shot using 500-grain Woodleigh soft points on top of 90.0 grains of Reloader 15 powder. The right group of three was shot using 500-grain Woodleigh soft points on top of 85 grains of IMR 4064 powder. This kind of accuracy can be attributed to fine gunsmithing and to the ghost shoulder on the .470 Capstick, which helps to center the cartridge in the chamber and leads to an inherently accurate cartridge.

or Ted Blackburn (801 373 3526). Use of an extra deep magazine box necessitates replacement of the stock with another stock having greater depth of wood. Alternatively, it may be possible to fit three rounds in a model 70 conversion with the factory magazine box if the follower is replaced with one II

Figure 5 Feed rails of Mauser 98 rebuilt to feed 470 Capstick. Note the stepped configuration of the feed rails, which when combined with modifications to the feed ramp, facilitate feeding of flat nosed solid bullets. is designed to expand at .470 Nitro Express velocities (2150 f.ps.), and if pushed to the 2400 f.p.s. potential of the .470 Capstick, the Woodleigh will tend to expand very quickly and sacrifice penetration. Figure 6

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shows a 500 grain Woodleigh soft nose fired from a .470 Capstick into a kudu at less than 20 yards with about 2350 f.p.s muzzle velocity. The recovered bullet weighed exactly 400 grains and measured 1.02x 0.72. The Woodleigh soft nose was designed to expand at the lower velocities of the .470 Nitro Express, and the fact that it held together at all in the .470 Capstick is testimony to the Woodleighs toughness. Penetration was just over three feet. The author s favorite .474 bullet, the 500 grain GS Custom flat nosed solid, penetrated through the elephant shoulder and reached more Figure 6 Expanded Woodleigh 500-grain soft nose than six feet into bullet fired from 470 Capstick into a kudu at less the elephant than 20 yards at about 2350 b e f o r e stopping. Muzzle velocity was just over 2300 f.p.s. and the bullet was not defornmed when recovered (see Figure 7). This is first class performance, but many of the other bullets discussed below are excellent choices as well. Among solids, in general the flat nosed designs will typically transfer more shock to the animal, penetrate more deeply, and cut a cleaner hole in the animal for more rapid bleed out compared to round nose bullets. Bullets, Etc. There are many bullets available that can be used in the .470 Capstick, as shown in the table. Previously, Bridger Bullets offered exceptionally accurate brass flat nosed solids in .474 diameter, but they are no longer in production. However, the basic design could be replicated by someone with an appropriate lathe and half-hard brass bar stock. It is also noteworthy that the driving band bullet designs, such as GS Custom, North Fork and Bridger, engrave on the rifling with very little pressure, allowing them to be loaded with a greater powder charge Figure 7 Recovered 500 grain for greater peak velocity. The other GS Custom flat benefit of this design is nosed solid that it does not tend to recovered from an foul the barrel, in elephant after being contrast with the Barnes fired from a 470 Trophy Capstick at just over X-bullet, Bonded Bearclaw, and 2300 f.p.s. The Swift A-Frame which foul some barrels very quickly. Cases for the .470 Capstick are available from a variety of sources. Properly headstamped brass can be purchased from Huntingtons (www.huntingtons.com), A-Square, Quality Cartridge (http://owlnet.com/quality/) and Dieter Horneber (http:/ /www.huelsen-horneber.de/). Or .375 cylindrical brass can be used

Figure 8 Some of the bullets available for the 470 Capstick, from left to right: 500 grain Woodleigh soft point, 500 grain Woodleigh solid, 500 grain Trophy Bonded Bearclaw softpoint, 500 grain Trophy Bonded Sledgehammer solid, 500 grain GS Custom flat nosed solid (the authors favorite), 500 grain North Fork flat nosed solid (prototype), 550 grain Bridger flat nosed solid, 500 grain Barnes solid, 600 grain Barnes soft nose, 500 grain Hawk soft point, 500 grain cast lead, 400

(available from Huntingtons). Alternativey the reloader can fireform his own brass from .375 H&H, .416 Remington or .458 Lott brass. Dies for the .470 Capstick may be purchased from Redding (www.reddingreloading.com), RCBS (www.rcbs.com) or CH4D (www.ch4d.com). And for the shooter desiring factory ammunition, ASquare, Superior Ammo (www.superiorammo.com), Safari Arms (www.safariarms.com) and Quality Cartridge support the .470 Capstick with dangerous game ammo. Conclusion For those who like the road less traveled, the .470 Capstick may be a nice alternative to some of the more mundane factory big bore offerings. It can be used to duplicate either the .470 Nitro Express or the .458 Lott, but offers greater frontal cross sectional area than the .458 Lott. Accuracy with the cartridge is excellent, and an inexpensive six shot repeater can be made from the CZ550 in a simple rebarreling project. Alternatively, a Model 70 or a Mauser 98 can be the basis of a .470 Capstick rifle. The trajectory of this cartridge is better than you may expect, and the field performance is excellent. It may be worth a look. WARNING - Hand loading is potentially dangerous - The loading data and methods contained in this article are offered as a reference only, and relates to an individuals weapon and experience. While it may be safe in that weapon, it may not be in others. Neither the author, nor Publishers are responsible for the use or abuse of this data, or the consequences thereof.

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