The Ultimate Comparison: .50 Beowulf vs .458 SOCOM Bullets

Matt Johnson
Matt JohnsonPublished: February 23, 2023
The Ultimate Comparison: .50 Beowulf vs .458 SOCOM Bullets

The .50 Beowulf vs. the .458 SOCOM are two powerful cartridges that offer unique advantages for hunting big game animals. The .50 Beowulf is a heavy bullet round with high velocities. This makes it suitable for harvesting large North American game like deer, elk, bear and other animals. On the other hand, the .458 SOCOM has been designed as a hunting round specifically to take down larger game at a distance.

Both rounds deliver impressive stopping power and accuracy at short to medium ranges – but which one should you choose? In this article we’ll compare both cartridges in terms of their power, versatility, effectiveness on different types of animals, and more.

We'll not only provide you a good understanding of each cartridge, but also let you know what our experts think about these popular rifle cartridges based on real-world hand-on experience.

Feature.458 SOCOM.50 Beowulf
PurposeDeveloped for the military to provide more stopping power than smaller rounds. Often used for big game hunting.Developed for big game hunting and personal defense. It was designed to generate devastating stopping power at short to moderate ranges.
Bullet Diameter0.458 inches0.500 inches
Case TypeRebated rim, straightRebated rim, straight
BallisticsTypically fires a 250 to 600 grain bullet at speeds of 1,350 to 2,000 fpsTypically fires a 300 to 400 grain bullet at speeds of 1,800 to 2,000 fps
RecoilModerate to heavy, depending on the loadHeavy, comparable to a 12-gauge shotgun
RiflesAvailable in many AR-15 style rifles and some bolt-action riflesPrimarily available in AR-15 style rifles
Availability of AmmunitionCommercially available but can be hard to findCommercially available but can be hard to find

Breaking down the .50 Beowulf

  • Purpose: Big game hunting and personal defense
  • Bullet Diameter: 0.500 inches
  • Ballistics: Fires 300 to 400 grain bullets at 1,800 to 2,000 fps
  • Recoil: Heavy, comparable to a 12-gauge shotgun

Having fired thousands of rounds of the .50 Beowulf, I've got to say that it's one of my favorite rounds. The sheer power and accuracy are astounding and great for hunting. If you search around online on forums, you'll see that many others feel the same way.

The .50 Beowulf is one of the big bore AR straight-walled cartridges that has been gaining popularity among hunters and shooting enthusiasts for its incredible stopping power.

This cartridge was designed by Bill Alexander of Alexander Arms, LLC in 2001. It is designed as a close range, hard-hitting option for hunting and tactical applications.

The .50 Beowulf is an only SAAMI certified cartridge that fires a bullet ranging from 300 to 500 grains at a velocity of around 1,800-2,000 feet per second. It's based on the 12.7x42mm design.

One of the advantages of the .50 Beowulf is its wider and heavier bullets compared to other pistol bullets or even some rifle bullets. It has a slightly larger diameter bullet than the .458 SOCOM. This makes it incredibly hard hitting caliber with impressive terminal ballistics.

However, due to its heavier bullets, it has slightly more recoil than other big bore AR cartridges like the .458 SOCOM.

ProsCons
Developed for big game hunting and personal defenseHeavier recoil, comparable to a 12-gauge shotgun
Larger bullet diameter (0.500 inches) for devastating stopping powerLimited to short to moderate ranges
Fires heavy bullets (300 to 400 grains) at high velocities (1,800 to 2,000 fps)Less efficient for long-range shooting
Suitable for a variety of North American gameHeavier bullets may limit versatility

A closer look at the .458 SOCOM

  • Purpose: Developed for military, used for big game hunting
  • Bullet Diameter: 0.458 inches
  • Ballistics: Fires 250 to 600 grain bullets at 1,350 to 2,000 fps
  • Recoil: Moderate to heavy, depending on load

Another one of my favorites over the years is the .458 SOCOM. This big boy is a monster and there's a good reason it's become even more popular over the years.

The .458 SOCOM was developed by Marty ter Weeme of Teppo Jutsu LLC in collaboration with Chris Barrett from Barrett Firearms Manufacturing in 2000.

This straight-walled cartridge has a bullet diameter of .458 inches which allows it to fire heavier bullets up to 600 grains at higher muzzle velocity than the .50 Beowulf. It also has a flatter trajectory and less bullet drop at longer ranges than many other big bore AR cartridges.

One downside of the .458 SOCOM is that it has less efficient bullet design than some other similar cartridges like the .450 Bushmaster or even the .50 Beowulf.

It uses jacketed hollow point bullets that are not as effective as expanding bullets for terminal ballistics on game animals.

ProsCons
Developed for military use, offering significant stopping powerModerate to heavy recoil, which may be challenging for some shooters
Versatile for big game huntingLess efficient bullet design compared to some similar cartridges
Fires a wide range of bullet weights (250 to 600 grains) at high speeds (1,350 to 2,000 fps)Can be hard to find commercially
Better for longer-range shots than .50 BeowulfMay be overkill for smaller game animals

Comparing the factory ammo of the .50 Beowulf and the .458 SOCOM.

Both cartridges have various loads available from different manufacturers like Buffalo Bore, Alexander Arms, etc., with bullet weights ranging from 250gr to over 600gr.

However, there are differences between them when it comes to choosing factory ammo.

Side By Side .458 SOCOM and .50 Beowulf

The primary difference between these two cartridges' factory ammo is their efficiency in terms of ballistics and terminal ballistics performance on game animals.

The jacketed hollow point box for both calibers offers excellent penetration but not enough expansion when compared side by side.

That's not to say these bullets aren't effective on large game animals, but there are better options on the market.

Regardless, we'll breakdown and compare each of these phenomenal rounds in various areas.

Bullet diameter.

The most significant difference between these two calibers is their diameter bullets; while they're both considered "big bore" rounds, they use different diameter bullets: The Beowulf uses a larger (.499-.500) bullet while Socom uses a smaller (.458) one.

For those that know a thing or two about hunting rounds, you know that the diameter isn't always the factor in deciding a hunting round.

This is an obvious difference, but this diameter will affect the other performance variables that we're about to discuss.

Muzzle velocity

While both rounds offer high muzzle velocities (around 2k fps), SOCOM's lighter bullet allows for faster speeds (upwards of 2200fps). This allows for a flatter trajectory and less bullet drop at longer ranges.

On the other hand, Beowulf's heavier bullets offer more energy but are slower in muzzle velocity due to their weight (around 1800-2000 fps). This will sacrifice some of the accuracy you'd get with a faster speed.

Ballistics

Socom offers flatter trajectories thanks to its efficient design. It's specifically tailored towards long-range shots allowing hunters/shooters better accuracy over greater distances.

Depending on the load, Beowulf's heavier bullets can offer better energy retention and deeper penetration at longer ranges. However, they are more prone to wind drift when compared to SOCOM's lighter but faster bullet.

Fortunately, many scopes on the market can help you offset wind effects at range.

Terminal ballistics

Beowulfs' wider and heavier projectiles lead to more devastating impacts on game animals - making them ideal for short-range hunting situations where you need raw power over precision shot placement.

One thing I particularly like about this round is its ability to remain balanced when shooting in windy conditions.

On the other hand, SOCOM's lighter and faster bullets offer better accuracy at longer ranges but don't offer as much power on impact due to their design. You're more likely to get an exit wound with SOCOM due to the high velocity, but it won't provide as much knockdown power as Beowulf does.

Recoil

Due to their heavy projectiles & high velocities, both rounds produce substantial recoil energies; however, SOCOM produces slightly lower recoil energies because of its lighter projectile weight- making it easier on shooters and hunters who might be sensitive or inexperienced with firearms.

Honestly, if you're an inexperienced hunter I wouldn't recommend either of these rounds. Both will deliver higher recoil that even a skilled shooter might have a tough time handling.

Accuracy

Both rounds offer exceptional accuracy within their respective ranges/uses; however, because Socom was designed specifically with long-range shots in mind -and thanks to its efficient design- it tends towards better accuracy overall when compared to Beowulf.

Cost and availability

Both rounds can be found relatively easily online/in-stores; however, due to their niche nature & specific purposes (be they short or long-range hunting), prices may fluctuate depending on manufacturer/bullet weight/etc.

As of writing this, I'm seeing that .50 Beowulf is selling for around $1.75 to $2.00 per round on AmmoSeek. Even with shipping, I wouldn't expect to pay more than $2.00.

The .458 SOCOM round is running slightly higher than the Beowulf at around $1.90 to $2.10 per round.

This is pretty typical for pricing between the two bullets. You'll almost always see the SOCOM round around 5-10% more than the Beowulf and that's due to the limited availability between the two.

FAQs about the .50 Beowulf vs. .458 SOCOM

You probably have a good idea of which round you'd prefer, but you might also have some questions as well. That's why we're here to help. We've put together this quick FAQ to give you a bit more information.

What is the .50 Beowulf good for?

The cartridge designers developed the .50 Beowulf cartridge to enhance stopping power at short- to medium-range in comparison to the standard 5.56x45mm NATO round. With its heavy bullet, it's a great option for hunting big game such as deer, elk, and bear. But that's not all - the .50 Beowulf also has unique applications in law enforcement and military settings. 

What do you hunt with .50 Beowulf?

The .50 Beowulf is a powerful cartridge that has the ability to harvest every big game animal in North America. This means that the .50 Beowulf can easily take down deer, elk, bear, and other large animals.

Can I use .50 Beowulf for hunting elk?

Absolutely! The .50 Beowulf cartridge can be a great option for hunting elk, but it's important to keep in mind that the minimum kinetic energy required for harvesting an elk is 1,500 ft-lbs. With the .50 Beowulf, this translates to an effective range of around 100 yards. So, if you're confident in your shot placement and within this distance, go ahead and give it a try! However, as with any hunting decision, it's important to consider factors such as terrain, distance, and personal skill level before choosing a specific cartridge. 

What is .50 Beowulf comparable to?

The .50 Beowulf cartridge is similar in power to the Bushmaster and SOCOM cartridges. Developed as a big bore round for the AR-15 platform, it delivers impressive stopping power and accuracy at short to medium ranges. Its heavy bullets and high velocities make it an excellent choice for hunting and self-defense situations where penetration is key. However, due to its size and weight, it may not be suitable for all shooters or applications. Overall, the .50 Beowulf offers a unique combination of power and versatility that sets it apart from other cartridges in its class.

What is .458 SOCOM good for?

The designers primarily engineered the .458 SOCOM cartridge as a hunting round, and it excels at taking down large North American game animals like moose, elk, and bear. Its heavy bullet delivers an impressive amount of energy that can take down these big game animals quickly and humanely. While the round is also suitable for wild pigs and deer, it may be overkill for smaller game animals weighing less than 100 pounds. Overall, the .458 SOCOM offers hunters a powerful option for taking on some of the biggest game in North America.

What's more powerful: .450 Bushmaster vs. .458 SOCOM?

With the .450 Bushmaster you'll get a slightly flatter trajectory, but a little less stopping power than the .458 SOCOM. Both are very similar and great for hunting big game, but you'll find the .458 SOCOM barely nudges out the .450 Bushmaster in terms of power.

What is better? .458 SOCOM vs. .50 Beowulf?

Ultimately deciding what's "better" will depend solely upon your intended use case.

If you're looking for something that packs an incredible punch against large game animals at close ranges - then perhaps we'd recommend going with the wider/heavier projectile offered by Beowulf. However if you're looking for something more suited to those longer range shots (accuracy & trajectory wise) then we'd say the SOCOM is the better choice.

At the end of the day, you can't go wrong with either of these cartridges as both offer incredible performance and impressive ballistics. It all just comes down to personal preference and intended use case. Both will take down whichever game you're going after.

Matt Johnson

Matt Johnson

Master Outdoorsman

Matt is a seasoned outdoorsman with expertise in fishing, hunting, and wildlife. With a Master's degree in Wildlife Science, he combines his passion for nature with conservation efforts, sharing his knowledge through his writing for Fish and Game Report.

We may be compensated through the links you find on this page.

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