The .405 Winchester is an iconic cartridge in US history, being associated with President Theodore Roosevelt and his hunting escapades. Roosevelt is said to have called the .405 Winchester his “medicine gun” for hunting lions and other African big game. And while the cartridge was once thought to be obsolete, it found a newfound resurgence in recent years.
The .405 Winchester was originally chambered in the Winchester 1895 lever-action rifle, one of the first lever-action rifles to be able to use spitzer bullets. The 1895 was a large, strong rifle that became popular with many hunters, and the .405 Winchester became popular too. In its original loading, the cartridge featured a 300-grain bullet traveling at 2,200 feet per second, for about 3,200 foot-pounds of muzzle energy.
That performance made it more than adequate for African plains game and soft-skinned big game such as the big cats. In North America, the .405 Winchester would be more than adequate to take elk and moose, and wouldn’t be severely underpowered against bears. Modern powder developments allow handloaders to push the 300-grain bullets to 2,400 feet per second, for over 3,800 foot-pounds of muzzle energy, while 400-grain bullets can be pushed to 1,950 feet per second, for over 3,300 foot-pounds of muzzle energy.
When the Winchester 1895 rifle was discontinued in 1936, the .405 Winchester was thought to be obsolete, and factory ammunition disappeared by the 1950s. In 2001, however, the .405 Winchester was reintroduced to celebrate the centenary of Teddy Roosevelt’s Presidency. New rifles began to be chambered in the cartridge, and bullets, brass, and dies soon became available.
Most brass has subsequently been discontinued by major manufacturers, so shooters will have to hunt to find it. And in today’s climate, in which ammunition and reloading accessories are hard to come by, it can be difficult to find ammo to feed your gun. If you have a .405 Winchester, you’ll want to stock up on bullets and brass before they disappear once again.
Rifles chambered in .405 Winchester are likely to slip under the radar of most gun banners, and especially in lever-action guise can be quite effective for both hunting and defense. But without a steady supply of ammunition and accessories, you might want to choose a different caliber to rely on for your potential survival needs.