The inspiration for a new design in ammunition can come from many different sources. Sometimes designers are motivated by the idea that a cartridge could be "just a little more accurate" or could have "just a little more power," and the result can be a significant advancement in cartridge design. The inspiration for the .458 Lott was a near death encounter in Africa. Gun writer Jacques "Jack" Lott was hunting Cape Buffalo with a .458 Winchester Magnum. He shot the buffalo, but could not stop it before it injured him. He returned from Africa on a quest to find or develop a cartridge more suitable for taking dangerous game.
Lott examined all the available hunting cartridges of the time and was disappointed to discover that no other cartridge on the market rose to the power levels he needed. With no suitable alternatives, Lott produced his own .458 cartridge in 1971. The muzzle velocity of the .458 Lott is not substantially higher than the .458 Winchester Magnum, but due to the heavy weight of the bullet, the increase of the energy is significant.
The .458 Winchester Magnum fires a 500 grain bullet out the muzzle travelling at 2,100 feet per second, while the .458 Lott fires the same 500 grain bullet at 2,300 feet per second. This is not a dramatic increase in velocity, yet it generates a significant increase in foot pounds of energy. The .458 Win Mag has a muzzle energy of 5,084 foot pounds, and the muzzle energy of the .458 Lott is nearly 800 foot pounds more at 5,873 foot pounds.
The .458 Lott today is mostly used for hunting dangerous game in Africa, but it would also work well to take large game in North America and Alaska including moose, bison, large bears, and elk. Hornady and Federal, among other manufacturers, produce .458 Lott ammunition. Bullet weights are most commonly 500 grains, but bullets weighing between 350 and 550 grains are available in various FMJ configurations.
The .458 Lott is unlikely to become a popular cartridge for hunting game in North America, as the recoil is heavy, the price is high, and the power is excessive for game animals found here. For hunting Cape Buffalo, however, elephants or any other large and dangerous game, the .458 Lott is worth considering.