50 Beowulf vs 458 SOCOM – 2022 Honest Comparison

The .50 Beowulf and .458 SOCOM were designed in the same year 2001 and were developed for almost the same purpose. Converting an AR-15 or M16 into a hard hitting heavy caliber rifle. The difference was the intended use by civilians for the .50 Beowulf and the military for .458 SOCOM. However, both calibers are still obscure but surviving on the market. Take a detailed look at the data to compare these rounds and find out if one of these is for you.

50 Beowulf vs 458 SOCOM

A quick, side-by-side comparison of the .50 Beowulf and .458 SOCOM cartridges for their pros, cons and best uses. 

50 Beowulf

Photo credit: SteinelAmmo.com

458 SOCOM

Photo credit: SteinelAmmo.com

Pros

50 Beowulf

Quite economical compared to similar rounds

Big caliber with semi-auto capability in an SBR

Great for hunting big game at very short range

Quickly convert an AR-15 into a hard-hitting .50 cal rifle

Easy integration into the AR-15 platform using same mags

458 SOCOM

Suitable for SBR and lightweight rifles

Capable of being used in semi-auto rifles

Good range of ammo and reloading options

Amazing energy retention and trajectory out to 300 yards

Developed for the military SOCOM and adopted in low capacity

Designed for the M4/M-16 platform and can use same 5.56 mags

Cons

50 Beowulf

Rifles have to be a bit heavy

Less ammo and reloading options

Can be difficult to find on the market

Proprietary cartridge so lesser development

458 SOCOM

Ammo is quite expensive

Availability can sometimes be an issue

Prone to overpenetration in tactical applications

Best For

50 Beowulf

Good for AR-15 users who want a quick-swapping heavy caliber upper for occasional hunting or plinking

458 SOCOM

Great for AR-15 owners looking for a more versatile heavy caliber for hunting or tactical use.

50 Beowulf Overview

The .50 Beowulf (12.7×42 mm) was developed in 2001 by Bill Alexander of Alexander Arms. The sole purpose of this development was to bring a bigger caliber cartridge that could be fired from an AR-15 platform. This cartridge is the equivalent of a .500 S&W Magnum cartridge in appearance and possesses the power equal to a .45-70 government round.

This cartridge is proprietary and the rights for manufacture are jointly owned by Alexander Arms and Delta Firearms, whereas the .50 Beowulf trademark is owned by Alexander Arms. This round was developed to be a  hard-hitting short range ammo choice for AR-15 owners. A simple swap of the upper receiver can instantly convert an AR-15 from a varmint killing caliber rifle to a moose buster. 

Photo credit: youtube.com

The .50 Beowulf has almost the same rim diameter and can use the same bolt as the 6.5 Grendel round with a changed extractor. Both these rounds are put in the novel category of ammunition and have been quite dormant in terms of popularity over the years. A major contributing reason to this is the availability of more versatile and tested cartridges with the same performance factor.

This cartridge has not been too popular all along, but its compatibility with the AR-15 platform and the affinity of the masses towards short barreled rifles have allowed it to gain some traction recently. 

458 SOCOM Overview

The .458 SOCOM is a cartridge that got off to a rocket start but did not reach space and is lurking somewhere in the orbit. Designed by Marty ter Weeme of Teppo Jutsu and Tony Rumore of Tromix in 2000 and the company was contracted in 2001 to build the first rifle the next year. 

This cartridge gets its name from the prospective client it was designed for, the United States Special Operations Command. Weeme and a high ranking official of SOCOM were having a conversation when the topic of the ineffectiveness of the 5.56 NATO rounds on drug intoxicated Somali rebels came up. 

Photo credit: lundestudio.com

The need for a more potent and powerful round that could easily fit in the M4/M16 platform without much change was needed. That’s what ended up to be the .458 SOCOM. This cartridge was adopted in a limited capacity by some units of the United States Military but never saw wide-scale deployment.

Although the .458 caliber was not new for the military as it had seen some action in the Vietnam war, the .458 SOCOM was a short action round and saw some use as an anti-vehicle round at checkposts in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

Lately, this round has started to gain a lot of traction among the hunting community. Especially among AR-15 platform lovers. 

50 Beowulf vs 458 SOCOM: Cartridge Specs

Check out a quick side-by-side comparison of the cartridge dimensions and loading specifications for both these rounds. 

50 Beowulf458 SOCOM
Bullet Diameter.500 in (12.7 mm)0.458 in (11.63 mm)
Neck Diameter.525 in (13.3 mm)0.458 in (12.32 mm)
Base Diameter.535 in (13.6 mm)0.541 in (13.74 mm)
Case Length1.65 in (42 mm)1.575 in (40 mm)
Overall Length2.125 in (54.0 mm)2.260 in (57.40 mm)
Case Capacity65.8 grains61.1 grains
Max Pressure33,000 psi (not SAAMI)35,000 psi (not SAAMI)
Typical Casing MaterialBrassBrass
Typical Bullet Weight (gr)300-400 grains250-350 grains

The .50 Beowulf and .458 SOCOM use a .50AE parent case and are almost similar in overall length and case capacity. However, the .50 Beowulf is a straight case, the .458 SOCOM uses a slightly bottlenecked case design. 

The .50 Beowulf uses a slightly larger diameter bullet of .500 inches, whereas the .458 SOCOM uses a 0.458-inch diameter bullet. This difference in size affects the outcome of the wound channel and a minor difference in hitting power, which we will discuss in the next sections. 

A big similarity between these two rounds is their compatibility with the AR-15/M4 rifle platform. Both these rounds can fit 5.56 NATO magazines. A 30 round mag can fit 10 of these and a 20 round mag can fit seven rounds each of these cartridges. 

Despite their large caliber, these cartridges have been designed to reliably shoot from a semi-auto platform. While the .50 Beowulf offers bullet weights in the range of 300 to 500 grains, the .458 SOCOM offers a more versatile selection ranging from 250 to 600 grains. 

It is also important to note that neither of these cartridges has been rated by SAAMI for pressure limits. 

Photo credit: lifeundersky.com

50 Beowulf vs 458 SOCOM: Ballistics

This ballistics section will cover the flight path, speed, and energy characteristics of the bullet when fired from the rifle. The ballistics data will help us understand if a cartridge is suitable for long/short range, big/small targets, and the level of accuracy it can deliver. 

This section will cover three specific points – the trajectory, velocity, and stopping power of these rounds. 

50 Beowulf vs 458 SOCOM: Trajectory

Let us first compare the trajectory characteristics of both these rounds. The rifles have been zeroed at 100 yards and use a 16-inch barrel which is the most preferred length for these cartridges. 

50 Beowulf

16” barrel/BC 0.200/300 gr Speer Gold Dot24” barrel/BC 0.210/335 gr Rainier Hollow Point16”barrel//BC 0.202/400 gr Hawk Soft Point
50 yds: 0.25“ High50 yds: 0.16“ Drop50 yds: 0.14“ Drop
100 yds: 0“ Drop100 yds: 0“ Drop100 yds: 0“ Drop
150 yds: 4.78“ Drop150 yds: 3.08“ Drop150 yds: 4.15“ Drop
200 yds: 15.35“ Drop200 yds: 10.10“ Drop200 yds: 13.20“ Drop
250 yds: 33.03“ Drop250 yds: 21.87“ Drop250 yds: 28.11“ Drop
300 yds: 59.05“ Drop300 yds: 39.35“ Drop300 yds: 49.33“ Drop
400 yds: 140.65“ Drop400 yds: 95.29“ Drop400 yds: 118.08“ Drop

458 SOCOM

16” barrel/BC 0.236/300 gr Barnes TTSX16” barrel/BC 0.232/350 gr JFN16” barrel/BC 0.259/400 gr Barnes TTSX
50 yds: 0.79“ High50 yds: 0.91“ High50 yds: 0.89“ High
100 yds: 0“ Drop100 yds: 0“ Drop100 yds: 0“ Drop
150 yds: 3.53“ Drop150 yds: 3.97“ Drop150 yds: 3.84“ Drop
200 yds: 10.31“ Drop200 yds: 11.59“ Drop200 yds: 11.13“ Drop
250 yds: 20.96“ Drop250 yds: 23.54“ Drop250 yds: 22.44“ Drop
300 yds: 36.18“ Drop300 yds: 40.63“ Drop300 yds: 38.47“ Drop
400 yds: 83.7“ Drop400 yds: 93.75“ Drop400 yds: 87.7“ Drop

Looking at the drop characteristics of both these cartridges, it is pretty much clear that neither of these is suitable for long range use. The case capacity, powder loads, and bullet types make these rounds good for use within 300 yards max. Perhaps more experts will agree that these rounds are suitable for use under 250 yards only. 

I only included data from short barrels like 16 inch because a 24 inch barrel is not very suitable for a round that has been made for the AR-15 platform and short range use. Additionally, the difference in the drop isn’t significant within the effective range. 

With a side-by-side comparison of comparable bullet weights, it is certainly very clear that the .458 shoots flatter than the .50 Beowulf. The drop characteristics of both these bullets within a range of 200 yards are great with respect to their heavy weights and will provide good accuracy. 

The difference in drop characteristics between these bullets out to 200 yards is insignificant. Although the .458 SOCOM still has a slight edge, you will not see a major difference. 

50 Beowulf vs 458 SOCOM: Velocity & Kinetic Energy

Comparing the .50 Beowulf and .458 SOCOM for speed and characteristics delivered some interesting data. Let’s understand this:

50 Beowulf

16” barrel/BC 0.200/300 gr Speer Gold Dot24” barrel/BC 0.210/335 gr Rainier Hollow Point16”barrel//BC 0.202/400 gr Hawk Soft Point
50 yds: 1,580 ft/s, 1,664 ft.lbs50 yds: 1,804 ft/s, 2,414 ft.lbs50 yds: 1,629 ft/s, 2,359 ft.lbs
100 yds: 1,387 ft/s, 1,282 ft.lbs100 yds: 1,639 ft/s, 1,994 ft.lbs100 yds: 1,473 ft/s, 1,929 ft.lbs
150 yds: 1,226 ft/s, 1,002 ft.lbs150 yds: 1,488 ft/s, 1,643 ft.lbs150 yds: 1,335 ft/s, 1,582 ft.lbs
200 yds: 1,105 ft/s, 814 ft.lbs200 yds: 1,352 ft/s, 1,357 ft.lbs200 yds: 1,216 ft/s, 1,315 ft.lbs
250 yds: 1,020 ft/s, 693 ft.lbs250 yds: 1,235 ft/s, 1,132 ft.lbs250 yds: 1,122 ft/s, 1,118 ft.lbs
300 yds: 957 ft/s, 610 ft.lbs300 yds: 1,140 ft/s, 964 ft.lbs300 yds: 1,050 ft/s, 980 ft.lbs
400 yds: 862 ft/s, 495 ft.lbs400 yds: 1,009 ft/s, 756 ft.lbs400 yds: 949 ft/s, 801 ft.lbs

458 SOCOM

16” barrel/BC 0.236/300 gr Barnes TTSX16” barrel/BC 0.232/350 gr JFN16” barrel/BC 0.259/400 gr Barnes TTSX
50 yds: 1,936 ft/s, 2,498 ft.lbs50 yds: 1,839 ft/s, 2,628 ft.lbs50 yds: 1,855 ft/s, 3,057 ft.lbs
100 yds: 1,782 ft/s, 2,115 ft.lbs100 yds: 1,687 ft/s, 2,212 ft.lbs100 yds: 1,718 ft/s, 2,621 ft.lbs
150 yds: 1,636 ft/s, 1,783 ft.lbs150 yds: 1,546 ft/s, 1,857 ft.lbs150 yds: 1,589 ft/s, 2,242 ft.lbs
200 yds: 1,501 ft/s, 1,501 ft.lbs200 yds: 1,416 ft/s, 1,559 ft.lbs200 yds: 1,469 ft/s, 1,916 ft.lbs
250 yds: 1,378 ft/s, 1,265 ft.lbs250 yds: 1,301 ft/s, 1,315 ft.lbs250 yds: 1,359 ft/s, 1,641 ft.lbs
300 yds: 1,269 ft/s, 1,073 ft.lbs300 yds: 1,202 ft/s, 1,123 ft.lbs300 yds: 1,262 ft/s, 1,414 ft.lbs
400 yds: 1,102 ft/s, 810 ft.lbs400 yds: 1,058 ft/s, 870 ft.lbs400 yds: 1,109 ft/s, 1,093 ft.lbs

All the loads taken here for comparison are supersonic for better accuracy and also optimal estimation of data. The heaviest loads from .458 SOCOM (`600 grains) are generally supersonic due to their weight characteristics. 

Factoring the data, it is clear that the .458 SOCOM is a slightly faster round than the .50 Beowulf. However, the difference is not too much right off the muzzle and shrinks uniformly as the range progresses. 

Both these rounds stay supersonic out to 200 yards, whereas the .458 SOCOM stays supersonic for another 100 yards due to its higher velocity. So it does have a slight advantage, and why not, afterall it was designed for the special forces. 

Talking about energy, these .50 cals, and .459 cal bullets were purposely designed to deliver a humongous amount of energy at close range. The .50 Beowulf delivers about 2,500 fpe of energy at the muzzle, whereas the .458 SOCOM delivers about 2,800 fpe at the muzzle. 

If you closely compare the energy characteristics of both these cartridges, the .458 SOCOM again has a big edge over the .50 Beowulf. The low grain bullets are pretty much inadequate for bigger targets, but bullet weights above 330 grains are decimating out to a range of 200 yards carrying an average of 1,500 fpe of energy. This much energy is considered to be the theoretical minimum for taking down big Class 3 game like elk and moose. 

50 Beowulf vs 458 SOCOM: Stopping Power

The stopping power of a bullet describes its ability to stop/kill a target by causing maximum damage upon impact. This damage is calculated on the basis of a couple of factors which are penetration and fragmentation. 

Generally, bigger bullets will create bigger wound channels and may seem to cause much more damage. However, the bullet’s mass to cross section area ratio (Sectional Density) plays a factor here. Learn about this and more in this section. 

50 Beowulf vs 458 SOCOM: Momentum & Sectional Density

A brief comparison of the momentum characteristics of these bullets out to a range of 400 yards. 

50 Beowulf

16” barrel/BC 0.200/300 gr Speer Gold Dot
Sectional Density: 0.171
24” barrel/BC 0.210/335 gr Rainier Hollow Point
Sectional Density: 0.191
16”barrel//BC 0.202/400 gr Hawk Soft Point
Sectional Density: 0.229
50 yds: 67 lb-s50 yds: 86 lb-s50 yds: 93 lb-s
100 yds: 59 lb-s100 yds: 78 lb-s100 yds: 84 lb-s
150 yds: 52 lb-s150 yds: 71 lb-s150 yds: 76 lb-s
200 yds: 47 lb-s200 yds: 64lb-s200 yds: 69 lb-s
250 yds: 43 lb-s250 yds: 59 lb-s250 yds: 64 lb-s
300 yds: 41 lb-s300 yds: 54 lb-s300 yds: 60 lb-s
400 yds: 36 lb-s400 yds: 48 lb-s400 yds: 54 lb-s

458 SOCOM

16” barrel/BC 0.236/300 gr Barnes TTSX
Sectional Density: 0.204
16” barrel/BC 0.232/350 gr JFN
Sectional Density: 0.238
16” barrel/BC 0.259/400 gr Barnes TTSX
Sectional Density: 0.272
50 yds: 82 lb-s50 yds: 91 lb-s50 yds: 106 lb-s
100 yds: 76 lb-s100 yds: 84 lb-s100 yds: 98 lb-s
150 yds: 70 lb-s150 yds: 77 lb-s150 yds: 90 lb-s
200 yds: 64 lb-s200 yds: 70 lb-s200 yds: 84 lb-s
250 yds: 59 lb-s250 yds: 65 lb-s250 yds: 77 lb-s
300 yds: 54 lb-s300 yds: 60 lb-s300 yds: 72 lb-s
400 yds: 47 lb-s400 yds: 52 lb-s400 yds: 63 lb-s

The term Sectional Density (SD) describes the mass to cross-sectional area ratio of an object. The higher the SD, the more penetration will be caused by a bullet. According to the general rule of thumb, SD less than 0.220 is good for varmints, an SD of .220 to 0.270 is good for a medium sized game like deer, and an SD above that is good for Class 3 game. 

Looking at the data, the .50 Beowulf cartridges should use at least a 400-grain bullet to be considerable for a medium-sized game. On the other hand, the .458 SOCOM bullets above 350 grains are great for deer and heavier game. The heaviest .458 SOCOM bullets (550 gr+) can handle the biggest of game animals roaming the planet. 

The next factor to consider is the momentum of the bullet. It describes the degree of energy transfer from the bullet to the impacting object. The higher this number, the more tissue damage. Again, the .458 SOCOM is the clear winner as far as momentum is considered. Although, the difference between these two is not too much, and both these rounds are great within 250-300 yards. 

50 Beowulf vs 458 SOCOM: Use Cases & Effective Range

Both of these are fairly new cartridges on the market when compared to the other venerable options proving their mettle for decades. However, there are some situations where these rounds are really good. 

Short Range K.O Punch

Both these cartridges were exclusively designed for short range use. The .50 Beowulf was designed to quickly convert a coyote-killing AR-15 into a ‘thor’s hammer’. Essentially being capable of penetrating objects like auto glass and thin armor. The round is no doubt very good at that while maintaining the design integrity of the AR-15 rifle.

The .458 SOCOM was a special round crafted for special forces to tackle drug-high hostiles. This round punches a bit harder and the heaviest bullets retain a lot of energy out to 400 yards. Both these rounds are great for short range (<200 yards) combat engagements and defense in the woods.

Hunting vs Combat vs Home Defense

The .50 Beowulf is useful for hunting down deer with heavy bullets (>400 grains) within a range of 250 yards, whereas the .458 SOCOM is a more versatile round that can take down any game out to 300 yards with heavy bullets. 

Photo credit: lehighdefense.com

As far as tactical combat use is concerned, the .458 SOCOM is a clear winner because it was designed for that and features such characteristics like we compared above. The .50 Beowulf has earned a reputation as a hard-hitting hunting round and is popular mostly because it can be easily integrated into the AR-15 platform. 

As both these rounds are intended for short range, hard-hitting use, a person might think of using these for home defense. In my opinion, these rounds should never be used for home defense. Not unless you live alone in a cabin out in the woods or have thick brick walls around. That’s because these bullets will cause overpenetration and have significant recoil energy. 

Any Scope for Competition Use?

It rather depends upon the choice of the shooter and if the competition rules allow using these heavy calibers for short range use. Neither of these rounds is great for any competitions, despite being semi-auto rifle cartridges. 

Miscellaneous Uses 

Being hard hitting big bullets with immense amounts of energy and capable of being fired from an AR-15 with only the swap of the upper receiver. These cartridges are also suitable contenders for use in prepper rifles or any other uncommon scenarios (like a truck gun or guide gun). However, keep into consideration the high recoil force. 

50 Beowulf vs 458 SOCOM: Costs, Availability, & Compatibility

Take a look at the feasibility of owning either of these cartridges.

Sometimes Pricey, Sometimes Rare

Before you choose either of these cartridges, I must inform you that neither of these is SAAMI approved, so very few manufacturers make them. Additionally, the supply-demand factor also comes into play. The .50 Beowulf is a less popular round and is a bit rare to be found in gun shops with a price tag between $1.75 to $4 per round. 

Photo credit: scoperadar.com

The .458 SOCOM is a more popular cartridge due to its military history and is a bit more occasional on gun shops, but not too much. It is more expensive and can be found at a price between $2.75 to $4.5 per round. 

Great Compatibility and Aftermarket Options

Both these rounds were designed for use in the AR-15 platform with the simple swap of the upper.

These cartridges can fit into a regular 5.56/.223 AR-15 magazine at almost one-third its capacity. Additionally, the AR-15 is a popular platform and has literally a ton of upgrade and accessory options available.

Bottom Line

As far as popularity is concerned, the .458 SOCOM has an upper hand due to its acceptance by the military and slightly better availability of ammo/rifles. Taking into consideration the ballistics data, both these rounds are extremely hard-hitting with heavy grain bullets within 250 yards. However, the .458 SOCOM is ballistically a better round with a flatter trajectory, more energy & its retention, better penetration, and higher stopping power. Although that comes at a higher per round price. 

Additionally, the .458 SOCOM is clearly more popular than the .50 Beowulf with more ammo and reloading options. The .50 Beowulf is great for AR-15 users who want to slap a heavy caliber upper for plinking or occasional hunting.

People Also Ask

Clear a few of your doubts and learn a couple of new facts about the .458 SOCOM and .50 Beowulf cartridges.

Does The Military Use 50 Beowulf?

No. The United States or any other military in the world does not use the .50 Beowulf. It is a proprietary cartridge that can be easily assimilated with the AR-15 platform and fires a .50 cal bullet. However, its use is only limited to hunting applications and that too by a very slim number of users.

What is 458 Socom Good For?

The .458 SOCOM is an amazing hunting and combat round. If surroundings allow, it can also be used for home defense applications. This round is extremely good at penetrating thin armor and will incapacitate a charging hostile high on drugs with just one or two shots.

Do Special Forces Use 458 Socom?

While the widespread use of these cartridges among the infantry or special forces was never seen. It is true that some special forces teams did and do use this cartridge occasionally depending upon the type of mission. Although the cartridge has not been officially adopted for large scale use probably due to mag capacity limitations.


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