Girish Mahajan (Editor)

.500 Black Powder Express

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Neck diameter
.535 in (13.6 mm)

Place of origin
United Kingdom

Bullet diameter
.510 in (13.0 mm)

Case type
Straight walled, rimmed

The .500 Black Powder Express was in fact a series of Black powder case of varying lengths that emerged in the 1860s.



The cartridge was offered in several case lengths including 1½-inch, 2-inch, 2¼-inch, 2⅝-inch, 3-inch and 3¼-inch,several were successful and endured others lasted only a short period.

The 3-inch and 3¼-inch .500 BPE cartridges have survived to the current day as the .500 3-inch Nitro for Black and the .500 3¼-inch Nitro for Black, the same cartridges loaded with mild loadings of modern smokeless powder, carefully balanced through trial to replicate the ballistics of the Black powder version. The two cartridges offer almost identical ballistic performance to each other, and are very similar to the .50-140 Sharps.

Parent case

In the 1870s the 3¼-inch cartridge was necked down to .45-inches to create the .500/450 Magnum Black Powder Express which in turn, when loaded with cordite, became the .500/450 Nitro Express.

Nitro Express loadings

The 3-inch and 3¼-inch cartridges were later loaded with smokeless cordite to create the .500 Nitro Express, with the 3-inch version becoming the most popular.


The .500 BPE was considered a good cartridge for medium-sized non dangerous game and can still be used for such.

The .500 BPE was never highly regarded for hunting in Africa, yet it was a popular cartridge in India, considered a good general purpose rifle cartridge popular for hunting tigers. Jim Corbett was a user of a .500 BPE rifle prior to switching to a .400 Jeffery Nitro Express double rifle, shooting cordite Nitro for Black loadings this rifle was used to dispatch the first man-eater he shot, the Champawat Tiger.


.500 Black Powder Express Wikipedia