.50 Beowulf | The Most Fun AR-15 Caliber

50 Beowulf ammunition

Gearing up to take your AR-15 to the range? Have you thought at all about going “big bore” – as in the .50 Beowulf?

If you’re looking for a sheer adrenaline rush every time you pull the trigger, know that every round isn’t created equal.

The most common choice is an AR-15 in the standard .223/5.56 NATO. It’s sufficient when it comes to stopping power, you can shoot it accurately to about 300 yards and best of all, it’s inexpensive, allowing you to get more practice in without going broke.

But there are many other calibers out there for the AR-15, and even though I love .223 ammunition, I’d be lying if I said it was the most fun to shoot. That honor goes to a round with some serious stopping power – the .50 Beowulf.

Note: this article about originally ran in August 2017. Since we’ve seen some new caliber comparison articles pop up recently it seemed like a good time to republish this. We’ll periodically update this article with links to pertinent information on other publications. 

The Numbers on the .50 Beowulf

A 400-grain .50 Beowulf cartridge hits 1,800 feet per second, making it one of the slower AR-15 cartridges.

Ammunition ballistic performance of the .50B cartridge

It hits with a mammoth 2,878 foot-pounds of kinetic energy, and it drops 50 inches by the 300-yard mark. This is definitely a short-range round intended for close-quarters combat, as its maximum effective range is about 200 yards, and it’s more fun to shoot between 50 and 150 yards.

What Makes the .50 Beowulf the Most Fun Round

First, a few words of warning about shooting .50 Beowulf rounds from an AR-15 – it will be very loud, meaning you better not forget to put your hearing protection on. Expect the recoil to be heavy, as well.

Of course, the noise and the recoil are both part of the fun. Shooting is always an exhilarating experience, but that’s even more true when you’re firing shots that can punch a hole in a truck.

If you just want a gun to shoot at the range, an AR-15 in .50 Beowulf will provide plenty of excitement, and you’re sure to get people’s attention while you’re there. You may have people coming up to you asking what you’re shooting.

A (very) big bore AR 15.

If you’re planning to go big game hunting in the near future, this round is an excellent choice. You won’t find many if any, animals that can survive getting hit with one of these cartridges.

The obvious drawback with this caliber is that unless you’re fortunate enough to have a limitless ammunition budget, you won’t be able to shoot as much. Prices for these cartridges are steep: over $1 per round and can even be over $2 per round, depending on what you choose.

One way to save a little more money for that ammunition is by choosing a more affordable AR-15 model. And one of the benefits of going with .50 Beowulf is that you can still use the same magazines that you would with .223/5.56 NATO ammunition; you’ll just have a much lower capacity.

The only parts you need to swap out to turn an AR-15 chambered in .223/5.56 NATO to one in .50 Beowulf is the barrel and the bolt carrier group. You can also simply purchase an upper receiver to swap onto your lower and make it easier.

Finding Your Favorite Caliber

I’m obviously a fan of this .50 version, but what’s nice about the AR-15 is that you can find a caliber to fit what you want to do with your rifle.

If you want top-tier performance from a short-barreled rifle and less noise when you fire your gun, .300 BLK rounds will be just what you need. For long-range shooting, 6.5 Grendel and 6.8 SPC are both effective to almost 500 yards.

Personally, I prefer other rifles for long-range shooting, and when it comes to the AR-15, I appreciate pure power. That’s why when I want to have fun and I have some cash to spare, I go with .50 Beowulf.

Find your favorite caliber?


.50 Beowulf ammunition

If you’re looking to learn more about this cartridge, check out John McAdams’ article on The Big Game Hunting Blog.

50 Beowulf, 450 Bushmaster, and 458 SOCOM compared (from an article by John McAdams on The Big Game Hunting Blog).

McAdams compares the 50 Beowulf, 450 Bushmaster, and 458 SOCOM in his article.

50 Beowulf, 450 Bushmaster, and 458 SOCOM compared (from an article by John McAdams on The Big Game Hunting Blog).

“…hunters desiring a big bore AR…have three mainstream choices: the .450 Bushmaster, the .458 SOCOM, and the .50 Beowulf. All three cartridges are solid performers and there is quite a bit of overlap in their capabilities. That being said, each has different strengths and weaknesses that you should be aware of…” John McAdams

.50 Beowulf ammo from a shotgun?

Well…why not?


50 Beowulf Ammo vs. Level III armor plate


.50 Beowulf AR 15 firing full auto?

Yes please.

  • Chinequal

    Heard problems with ar15 magazines. Where as the 458 SOCOM uses standard AR mags.

    • Troy To You

      Well, I’m late to comment, but .50 Beowulf runs fine out of a standard AR mag. Works like greased butter for me.

      • Chinequal

        Good to know

  • Omer Woodruff

    Thanks ! I always like learning something new ! Sold guns for years but bone problems limit me a bit these days . Love your articles !

  • Russell Good

    It’s always amusing to here people talk about big bore AR cartridges as powerful. And refer to stopping power. I shoot cartridges that push 300-500 gr bullets 2300-2700 fps. That is powerful and enough velocity to start talking actual stopping power. 😉

    • Broseph

      What cartridges would those be?

  • ShooterTutor

    Note to the gent in the video… It was NOT designed to go through engine blocks*, yada, yada. Bill Alexander the designer of the cartridge has stated that the design criteria was to see just how large a cartridge could be put through an AR15/M16. It was that simple. It also will drop anything walking on North America as a byproduct of that. There’s no need to try to “pad the resume” of the cartridge by making false claims, it’s enough to know that it works quite nicely on soft targets. It also works for chopping down trees (I’ve done it).

    *Velocity is magical for that and Bill Alexander would have known that.

  • Randy Donk

    For long range, you mention 2 medium range rounds, and leave out the only true long range AR15 round, the .224 Valkyrie. but I will admit the Beowulf is fun, in the same manor that the 500 S&W mag is, they are both a solution without a problem.

    • Troy To You


      (Yes, I know other calibers work for bears too, no need to list them)

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