But there are, of course, other Big Bores that could serve for the same general purposes though they are not as popular, nor do they have the great versatility of the .458 Win Mag. I believe all that has been adequately covered here in previous articles.
Nonetheless, let’s delve into that theme once again. The most popular after the .458s are the .416s. They do have a solid reputation in Africa against DG and could serve admirably for some of the plains game, and the likes of moose, bear and elk in our neck of the woods.
I’ve written my thoughts on the .416s a few times in the past, and have confessed an interest in them. But for myself they would only serve to conflict with .458s as there is only so much money and time that can be dedicated to the sport of hunting and shooting. So, it would have to be one or the other, not both and, for myself. Since the .458s – the Winchester version and the .45-70s – have consumed an inordinate amount of time and money, and there is still far too much to be learned and experienced from them, so I can’t imagine myself getting involved with what I’d consider a “runner up” in a .416 “Whatever”.
Yet, there are quite a few who have them. For what reason? A good portion of it is nostalgia. “Nostalgia – a longing for something far away or long ago or for former happy circumstances”. – New World Dictionary of The American Language. Then the belief that they “kick” less. How much? Mostly they’re not sure, but think that must be the case since they shoot smaller-bore, lighter bullets. But most burn more powder than the .458 Winchester. For example: The .416 Rigby is an oldie that has a greedy appetite for gun powder — right on the heels of the .416 Weatherby. The .416s Remington and Ruger are both on a more stringent diet but produce the same work. Since I have a rather strong pragmatic bent, I’d choose one or the other of the latter two. But alas, they also come short of the .458 Win Mag’s abilities that consumes still less, or no more, of the propellants that make projectiles happy.
Since historically I’ve gone into considerable detail in this regard, I’ll not do it again except to say that whatever your Big Bore might be, love it, shoot it, and don’t for goodness sake let it feel lonely.
Others still – that is very few “others” — like something “different”, so being somewhat jaded (bored) with their current lonely collection, they opt for a 450 – 400, a 404 Jeff, or a “Whatever”, hoping for a relationship that will last longer than most marriages! (By the way, my wife and I celebrated our 62nd anniversary in June.)
Ho-hum… get a life and buy a .458 Winchester, explore its vital features, take it to a dance… er, safari, and live happily ever after! Then you won’t have to get cramps and headaches over the schizoid, lamb duck, inefficient rifles you’ve been feeding for the past half-century.
Then there are the Mediums: This is where the action is… or where most of it should be. Mediums are thought to be more than .30-caliber and less than .40-caliber. The craze over the 6.5s (.264- cal) will ware thin sooner than later, I believe. People get caught up with “new” toys. “New”! .26-cal goes well back into history! Why is .26 better than .27, .28, .30, .32, .33, or .35? Tell me, please! Don’t bother though, you’d be wasting your breath… I promise I’d NOT be impressed.
Outside the mega-blasters, I believe the following to be the best of the MEDIUMS: .338 Winchester Magnum; .340 Weatherby; .35 Whelen; 9.3 x 62 and the favorite .375 H&H.
“Best” as in common, reasonable ballistics, price, and handloading components. There are a few others that try to compete with these but have, or are, failing in their attempts.
For example: there are several relatively “new” .338 magnums that have come on the scene over the last few years, but really they only “do” what either the .338 Win Mag or .340 Weatherby have already “done”! The .35 Whelen has been around almost as long as the .375 H&H and the 9.3 x 62. What one of these three will do, or has done, the others live on the same street and go to work in the same places.
What the 338 Lapua can do, the .340 WBY has done! What the .375 Ruger can do, the .375 H&H has done! Etc. But for the Lapua and Weatherby you need a long barrel of 26″ to make them sing. The .338 Win Mag and the .375 H&H can make good music from 24″ pipes! The .35 Whelen and the 9.3 x 62 don’t miss the high notes if sung through 22″ tubes. And so on…
Frankly, I’d be happy with any one of them when used on the fauna mostly known as big game across our great lands. Yet, I think now I’d pass on the Lapua and the .340 since they do require at least 26″ barrels to make them efficient.
My nominations would be three of the five mentioned at the outset: .338 WM, .35 Whelen or the 9.3 x 62. Why not the .375 H&H? Just because the H&H stands close to the true Big Bores and can do most of what they do. I (personally) see it as sort of a competitor with the Big Guns! Hunters who don’t want to deal with the recoil of a .458 Win Mag, for example, will often settle for the .375 H&H. And with the “new” projectiles, they often succeed just as well. But, I think it’s important to keep in mind that they are most often backed up by a PH toting a Big Bore! Nonetheless, those who go to Africa these days often take only one rifle, and in a majority of cases that will be a .375 H&H. Question: If they didn’t have a PH backing them with a Big Bore would the .375 still be their cartridge of choice?
In correspondence with the late John Wootters, he said to me that he didn’t want to have to depend on a PH if matters turned sour. That reflects my sentiments as I’ve mostly been solo when I squeezed the trigger on big game.
In sum, I believe the .375 is more of a specialised cartridge in a North American hunting context for the likes of the large and dangerous fauna of Alaska, as an example of that impression, though I did tote mine (an M70) for black bear and moose in our province. On the other hand, the .35 Whelen has proven its worth in harvesting any N.A. fauna from whitetails to giant moose, with grizzly/brown bear thrown into that mix. As well, it has had great success on other continents dealing with similar size game. And it has done it in burning about 80% of the fuel required for the .375 H&H or .375 Ruger! And considering the differential in “kick” between the .35 and .375 — about 32 ft-lbs vs 42 ft-lbs, or 3/4s the recoil of the H&H, make mine a .35 Whelen that will do basically the same things in N.A. as the H&H. Or better still — in my view — the 9.3 x 62, which is the .35 Whelen, plus! It’s called “expansion ratio”: the ratio of the case capacity to bore volumn. The larger the bore in relation to case capacity makes a cartridge more efficient than another of a smaller bore in relation to case capacity. Straight-wall cartridges are therefore the most efficient (most potential KE for amount of powder burned). Next are relatively large bores with minimal shoulders. That’s what makes a 9.3 x 62 nearly as “powerful” as a .375 H&H, and more powerful (handloaded) than a .338 Winchester Magnum that burns more powder to attain less energy or momentum when a “faster” powder is used in the 9.3 x 62. And why the .340 Weatherby (.338-cal) has up to 700 ft-lbs more KE at the muzzle than the .300 Weatherby, though they share the same case — the .300 necked to .338. Equally so for the .35 Whelen over its parent, the .30-06. When each is handloaded to the same psi the .35 Whelen has a 600 ft-lb advantage when each employs their best powders and bullet weights.
Oh yeah… I know the .338 Win Mag is also very popular, and with the proliferation of bullets from 180gr to 300, what’s there not to like? Yes, it can do whatever you need to have done on this continent, and several others as well, from medium to large game. But it too needs at least a 24″ tube to attain any meaningful advantage over the .35 Whelen. I’ve owned a few, so ought to know. In my experience (and view), the Whelen is handier, burns less fuel and can do 100% of what the .338 Win can do — or was intended to accomplish — and it’s been around much longer. In shooting 225s, which seems to be the favorite weight projectile for the .338, reduce the barrel length to match the typical .35 Whelen at 22″, and any meaningful distinction in effect on an elk or moose between the two will be in bullet placement and perhaps their construction. As stated — it takes less propellant to accomplish the same effect. In other words, it’s more efficient — and the 9.3 x 62 is more efficient than the .35 Whelen. All of which is due to larger bores. The larger bore of .358-cal over .338-cal gives it a 12.6% larger cross-sectional area than the .338. That amounts in a practical advantage of using a lesser amount of a faster burning powder in the .35 Whelen to get the same or similar results as the .338 WM of the same barrel length. Less powder burned also means less recoil. So while I have good thoughts in favor of the .338, I prefer the .35 Whelen.
As y’all know by now… I went looking for another .35 Whelen and came home with a 9.3 x 62… and have never looked back! But, if all I had for hunting purposes for the rest of my days on Planet Earth was a .35 Whelen using home-brewed ammo, I’d shed no tears. From my experience, it will easily make 2600 fps firing excellent 250 grainers from a 22″ barrel. And that’s plenty for anything North America has to offer, including the “big bears” and the giant moose of the Yukon and Alaskan variety.
There are other pluses for the handloader: Cases can be formed from the ubiquitous .30-06 brass, and there’s an abundance of good to excellent powders and bullets available “off the shelf”. Woodleigh makes a 310gr for the likes of buffalo, and Swift a 280 for overweight fauna. Given the chance, I’d use it on Cape buffalo without qualms, where legal. Then, there’s a myriad of pistol bullets for varmints and practice. Do you want to make your own? Lots of moulds out there too.
So my nomination for a single BG medium rifle for N.A. is the .35 Whelen… unless you already have a 9.3 x 62, which has superior factory ammo and slightly more potential for the handloader.
Yet, I’ve already chosen the 9.3 x 62 as a minimum for ALL big thin-skinned game and the .458 Winchester Magnum as the OPTIMUM!
Til the next on .458 Winchester Magnum “Updates”.