The .450 Thumper That Could and Did!

Guest Blog by Jonny Noyan, First Defense Firearm Instruction & California Predator Control Team

 

“JN…do NOT look at those teeth! Stay focused on that little red illuminated dot in middle of the crosshairs. Just don’t EVEN THINK ABOUT LOOKING AT HIS CUTTERS!!!” That was all I needed to hear to know we found, “The One.” That one trophy boar that I had been dreaming of all these years was finally in front of me.

450 Thumper HogThe story begins with a project. I had in mind to build a new hunting rifle in anticipation of this year’s annual trek to the hills of Hollister, California. All my life I’ve been around and used firearms. I shot my first hog around 10 years ago on a ranch in Santa Maria using a traditional bolt action chambered in .308. Later, I was exposed to some fast paced, high adrenaline hunting. I was in love!

I’ve always been intrigued by Eugene Stoner’s creation, the AR-15. I decided it was time to build my own version, an accurate, reliable hog hunting firearm. As for caliber, I was impressed by Tim LeGendre’s .45 Professional that evolved into the .450 Bushmaster. Jeff Cooper nicknamed this round the 450 Thumper.

After much internet research and consulting with friends and gun shops, the building began.

Introduced in 2007 by Hornady and Bushmaster and nicknamed “The Thumper”, the .450 Bushmaster is one of the most radical cartridges ever chambered in the battle-proven AR platform. A .451 diameter 275gr lead free projectile capable of delivering nearly 2700 ft. lbs of energy into the hog of my dreams? I was excited!

My Bessey/Noyan Customs build list included: Lower – •LRB Stripped Lower Receiver – custom tapping on trigger guard pin holes and upgraded pins for added strength.
•Spikes Tactical LPK – Trigger work by Jeff Bessey. •Magpul Enhanced Trigger Guard •ATI Buffer Tube Kit •Upgraded Spikes ST-T2 heavy buffer •Noveske QD Endplate with Magpul MS3 QD Sling – Coyote Brn •Magpul CTR stock – Foliage Grn •Magpul MOE pistol grip – Foliage Grn •Magpul BAD Lever •CA Compliant Bullet Button •EasyMag Tool made by Jeff Bessey.
Upper – •450 Bushmaster 20″ barrel upper (carbine length gas system) *Upgrades •AP Customs Carbon Fiber Rifle Length Hand Guard -MOE rail 9 slot at 6 o’clock position, 5 slot at 9 o’clock????? •Magpul RSA (on 9 o’clock rail) •GG&G Bipod adapter (on 6 o’clock rail)????? •Badger Latch Charging Handle *Optic • Leupold VX-R 2-7×33 Ballistic Firedot reticle •Burris PEPR 30mm AR mount. -Sighted in ~1.5in high at 100 yds

As the late spring trophy hog hunt approached, the rifle was complete, the custom reloads tested and everything zeroed. All I had to do was complete my mission on the wild boar hunt of a lifetime.

450 Bushmaster Dead HogIt was great being back on the ranch, meeting up with Matt Mcgrew, of Mcgrew Guide Services. In the first two days, we passed on four or five nice boars with 3” tusks, all worthy of being wall hangers, just not the monster I wanted. After spooking a hog after an hour-long stalk, I was discouraged and concerned about being too selective.

As much as I fought it, I was ready to give in and get a good meat hog, saving that trophy boar for next year. I headed back to my room to get a little sleep. I was the only one of four hunters who had not harvested a hog, let alone a trophy. The pressure was on! Sleep wasn’t easy that night.

It was the last morning and we planned to wake up an hour earlier and hit the road for a long drive to the south. Matt had located some big boars there. My alarm was set for 3:15 AM. Or so I thought. At 4:58 I awakened when Matt knocked on my door. He opened the door and said, “You still asleep? We gotta go brother!”

I cannot repeat the expletives I uttered, but my eyes opened wide and I put it in high gear. Four minutes later, I was in the jeep with Matt and his dogs Missy and King (aka The King of Cali), and off we went. With an hour’s drive ahead, I poured some coffee to wake up, still in a daze with my heart racing from oversleeping, knowing I had cut a good hour and a half off the last day.

As we headed out, the sun rose behind a peak at the far southeast section of the ranch. With highs in the mid 90s, the hog spotting window was short. They would head for the hills to bed down for the day around 9 AM.

Five to seven minutes out, Matt spotted a very nice trophy boar. The beast was not exactly “the one” but it was the last day with five hours left to hunt. This had to be it or I go home empty handed. As we began our stalk, wind in our faces, the hog never knew we were there. While still about  200 yards off, the hog suddenly spooked! Then we saw them. Two coyotes saw us, got spooked, ran towards the boar and scared him off. Heading back to the jeep, we saw hogs across the road grazing in the pasture. The sounder included about 10 sows with piglets and two boars.  Without a word, Matt started precisely moving in, each step as deliberate as the next. The man knows his land and certainly knows his hogs.
As we got within 175 yards, Matt and I chose the best of the bunch. With more than 40 eyes on us, we knew it wouldn’t be easy. Every step closer was as carefully planned as a chess move. As we approached, we saw the better of the two was indeed the trophy boar I had been looking for and dreamed about for years!

I needed to get within 150 yards to make that one clean kill shot. Using any cover we could find, including the jeep and a fallen tree limb, we made it under the shade of a large tree within 100 yards of the beast. Matt set up shooting sticks and I got my rest. From here, if a shot presented itself, I knew I could put the bullet where it needed to go. While waiting for a clean shot, the smaller boar rushed over to fight the bigger one. Instead of standing his ground, the bigger boar ran into a ditch and simply disappeared. I immediately felt totally defeated.

Hog Kill 450 BushmasterSuddenly, that huge beast reappeared heading right for us. Ninety yards. Eighty yards. Seventy yards. He stopped to to eat. Still on my rest, ready to shoot, he simply wouldn’t present a decent shot. Deep breaths in and out, I knew I had to stay calm, remain focused and do my part.

All Matthew kept saying was, “do not look at his teeth!” I knew what that meant…they were white and huge! As the boar remained facing us, Matt took two small slow steps to my left and gestured a little movement. I mounted that Thumper solidly on my shoulder and instantly acquired the brain stem of the boar with my Leupold VX-R Firedot reticle. The boar turned his head just enough for a shot to fly. Slow press, clean trigger break and THUMP, as the 450 Thumper does. One shot, one little twitch, and he was dead.

“YES! YES! YES!!! We got him!” I said as Matt and I started the celebration. The moment I got up to the boar, I knew I had just harvested “The One!” For me, it was a true trophy. I looked over at Matt for his reaction. With all the trophies he’s found for clients, seeing the smile on his face, the high fives, the hugs, and the wow’s from both of us, I knew I had harvested the boar of my dreams!

 

My perseverance for a true trophy paid off. The Barnes XPB 275gr. lead free bullet performed flawlessly with perfect expansion and we discovered a 30 caliber hole on the opposite side of the entry. We took our pictures, dressed him out, loaded him onto the jeep and headed back to the lodge where the jeep’s noise awakened the rest of the group. Running outside, they were shouting, “What’s wrong?! What happened?! Why are you back?!”

Confused by our early arrival, their eyes locked onto the beast in the jeep, and it was obvious why we were back. With a little smile I calmly said, “We got him.”

Handshakes, high fives, hugs from all, they congratulated me and as Big Game Wayne said, “Well, you took the gamble, kept at it, and got yourself a true trophy monster boar. Well done!” My big bonus was a trophy boar weighing in at more than 300 lbs. with close to 5″ cutters! I couldn’t have written a Hollywood script this good. For me, this was the ultimate hunting experience. I was with my friends on a beautiful ranch, hunted hard for 3 days straight with the new 450 Bushmaster I’ve always wanted to build. It worked better than I could have hoped for. Whether it is the caliber choices, the accuracy and reliability or that ever so important follow up shot, the AR platform has proven to be a winner in the hunting field. That’s why I love to hunt with my AR!
This was the boar I’d been waiting for and dreaming of for almost a decade of hog hunting. I look forward to trying to top it. Will it ever happen? Only one way to find out! As many hunters will tell you, the kill is just a bonus when you’re hunting. This one was a VERY big bonus after a great weekend at the ranch. I couldn’t be happier with the result. Be patient & HUNT HARD!!!

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