458 1 1/2" Military Round

This is my second inquiry on this cartridge. Hoping that someone knows about it. It was invented by Frank Barnes, Cartridges of the World - fame, and used on experimental bases by our military in Vietnam. Factory ammunition was produced for it, however in 1984 or 1985 all remaining ammunition was destroyed. Does anyone have an original round that they can post a photo of? Does anyone know what the head stamp said or how they were packaged? Enclosed is a photo of a ‘made to specifications’ round that I loaded to original specifications standing next to a .458 Winchester Magnum.

The only information that I’ve seen was in COTW, and I assume was written by Frank Barnes hisself. If it was actually Frank who wrote it, the narrative would have considerable value, unlike much of the crap in COTW later editions. I assume that’s where you got your information also.

Since the cartridge started life as a wildcat in 1962, I would label it as such. I have one that is headstamped “BARNES AMMO” which I assume was made from the old Barnes cylindrical brass. Since there were shooters who actually used the cartridge for things such as Silhouette, I would suspect that there are other headstamps out there.

I have never seen one of the GI experimentals or prototypes. At least I don’t think I have. Not knowing what the headstamp was makes it difficult. I hope that yours is appropriately marked somehow. HWS III will probably shed more light on them. I would guess that they are very rare, assuming any of them survived.

It’s interesting that we never seem to learn from the past. Witness cartridges such as the 458 SOCOM, 499 LWR, and 50 BEOWULF.


What would have been the military use for this round- by whom and when, and in what weapon?

Viet Nam jungles. Silenced and sub-sonic. Special made bolt-action rifles.

Frank Barnes is the only one I know of that has an original round, as you said [sadly] they were destroyed. It seems very few, If any of this limited production round made it into collectors hands.


I think that these are slightly different, Ray. As has been said, the round in question was a very specialised subsonic one, for use with suppressed manually-loaded rifles. The ones you mention were not primarily designed as subsonic (although the .458 SOCOM at least is available in such a loading) but typically have an MV of around twice the speed of sound and are usually fired in semi-automatic AR-15 platforms. Their principal purpose is to provide authoritative short to medium range stopping power against large animals, humans, cars or boats (the USCG tested the .499 for the latter purpose).

The Silent Sniper System is covered in Peter Senich’s “The Long-Range War”. The modified Winchester M70 was ridiculously bulky.

He shows a round from the Woodin Lab that is headstamped W-W Super 458 WIN MAG.

As for Frank Barnes, I believe that the 6th Edition was the last one that was all his. He died before completing the 7th Edition.

Frank Barnes’ last COTW was #6 or #7 but many of the cartridge descriptions in the current editions are still his work. Over the years we’ve learned new information that he didn’t have access to which makes some of his descriptions look like crap but I can say the same thing about early issues of The Cartridge Trader, The International Cartridge Collector and the IAA Journal. It doesn’t mean those pioneers didn’t know anything, only that they didn’t know everything.

There’s no excuse for some of the stuff in the current issues written by modern day writers. They should know better.

Daniel, the W-W headstamp dates from the early 70s, doesn’t it? That would make the W-W 458 WIN MAG headstamped cartridge for use in VN a borderline call.

Can anyone fill in the missing info??


It looks like Senich was quoting directly from test reports. According to Senich, the US Army Limited Warfare Laboratory began the Silent Sniper System program in August 1967. AAI was contracted for the conversions and ammo. Two rifles and 2,000 rounds were delivered on the initial contract. Testing at Aberdeen began in November 1968. After much debugging of the rifle and ammunition, six improved rifles and 9,000 rounds of ammunition were ordered. In February 1971, the LWL sent five rifles to the 23d Infantry Division Sniper School in South Vietnam. Of those, two were sent into the field on an experimental basis. The evaluation in the RVN ended in May, and the final report was released in November 1971.

What was the main point for ending the evaluation with no success?


You are correct. I should not have made such a comment. I know very little about those 3 big cartridges except what I’ve read in your article of a few years ago. The 11.63 x 33 Belted was for an entirely different purpose.


The Silent Sniper System was simply unpopular with the troops who evaluated it. The rifle was big and bulky, and all of the bugs in the design were not worked out. Snipers were not confident of being able to make hits at ranges out to 250 meters and beyond. Most just wanted to drop the program and use XM21 sniper rifles with the add-on Sionics sound suppressor.

In Italy we usually use large caliber cartridges with bullets launched at low velocities instead of high velocity numbers like the 7 mm remington magnum to hunt boars in the woods,due to the fact that an heavy bullet is less deviated by branches and leaves.Maybe this was another purpose of the big 458 1 1/2 , in the thick vietnamese jungle