Depending on the hunting/shooting/rifle/firearms Internet forums we may visit, and the persons who frequent them, opinions on “Mediums”, or mid-bores will vary anywhere from .243 (6 mm) to whatever suits their fancy. Several forums have no guidelines in that regard. I recently visited the 24hr forum where the .270 Win was being discussed as a “medium”! It was apparent that the contributors were unaware that mid-bores and “mediums” were the same, and the .270 caliber has never been identified in literature or by “professionals” as a mid-bore, or medium.
Traditionally, any magnum-type .35, including the .35 Newton, has been viewed as a “medium”. Historically, when British Big Bores ruled in India and Africa, even a .40-caliber was considered a “medium” bore.
Having, therefore, (as explained in P1) commenced my own view of mid-bores or mediums at .35-caliber of the more powerful sort, I finally relented to include the more potent .338 cartridges as reviewed in P1. This time around we’ll take an overview of the more robust .35 cartridges, including best handloads. The standard is the same in kinetic energy at the muzzle as in .338-caliber, or nearly so.
From best handloads, I’ve personally attained 2635 fps from 250s in my 22″ .35 Whelen, so I include that one as the potential is there from a 24″ to 26″ barrel. So also from a 22″ .350 Rem Mag, which actually exceeded those numbers from the Whelen by 70 fps or so.
Others to be included, based on data from a few of my reloading books, are: the .358 Norma Magnum and the .358 STA (which also represents several “wildcats”). Nosler’s No.6 manual includes the .358 STA, but Hornady’s 9th and Barnnes’ No.4 do not, so I’d guess the STA has fallen from grace by the general shooting public that favors mid-bores. Nonetheless, I’ll include it as it does represent quite a few “out there” who use it plus several “cats” of its kind. At least that’s my informed thinking, though the .35 Whelen overshadows it by a wide margin in actual usage. Likely that’s due to the Whelen being plenty in “knockdown” power, also while being very practical in doing so.
The .35 Whelen: It has remained a favorite among the cognoscente since its inception in 1922, and was made legit by Remington in 1988. During the ensuing decades it was highly respected by those chasing the big bears of Alaska as well as their over-size moose. In the rest of the continent it found additional usage on deer, black bear, caribou, elk and likely anything else that one could shoot with a rifle. Handloading was the only game for those whose appreciation compelled them to make their own. Of course, the ubiquitous .30-06 provided the cases, just as it did for James Howe who created it in collaboration with Col. Whelen. Quality bullets were available in several weights and forms, but not in abundance. Same with powders.
Remington changed the rules when they made it legitimate in 1988 at SAAMI, and introduced both live ammo for hunters and brass cases for handloaders. Their factory product in ammo was in the form of a 250gr RN at a claimed 2400 fps, and a 200gr SP at a claimed 2675 fps. Soon protests arose from among the prospective buyers that Remington overlooked loading a good 250gr SP, that would be much better for shooting large game at a proposed 300+ yards. Some months went by, and finally Remington came out with a 250gr SP CorLoc at, again, a claimed 2400 fps/3197 ft-lbs. No one among the savvy .35 handloaders were ecstatic by such meager results. Even James Howe and Whelen himself were getting +2500 fps from 250s, which was considered a standard load for a 250gr. Why build a .358-cal cartridge based on the .30-06 case that would do little better in energy than the .30-06 itself? The raison-d’etre for the .35 Whelen was to give a decided improvement over the .30-06!
My experience with a .35 Whelen in a Rem 7400 (semi) was that with improved powders than was available in 1922, I could quite easily attain 2600 fps/3752 from its 22″ barrel without problems of any kind. The late Finn AAgaard did also from his custom 22″ .35 Whelen bolt action using the 250gr Nosler Partition over 60 grs of RL-15, the same load I used for 250gr bullets. Also 2345 fps from the 300gr Barnes Original in the Rem 7400 from a book load of BL-C2. Those are impressive results from a .30-06 case necked to .358″. And, by-the-way, that 7400 action was as strong as any bolt action I’ve ever used. Never a jam or failure to eject an empty case loaded to top safe pressures.
Experiences vary, of course, depending on several variables, such as: barrel length, condition and tightness of bore, factory produced or custom, powder used and amount, primer, lots of powder, personality of handloader and manual employed.
<(Well known back country. I was walking a familiar trail from where I took this pic. A moose on the far shore – about 350 yards – would easily be within range of a .35 Whelen.)
In brief, those were my experiences. The semi was sold after several hunts and much range time. The NEF single-shot in .35 Whelen was traded for a .45-70 single-shot. A few years later I went looking for another .35 Whelen in a new bolt-action and came home with a 9.3 x 62 (more on that later). So, I have high regard for it, and think it to be one of the most useful all-purpose cartridges when handloaded. The original factory 250gr RN proved to be much less than claimed when fired at the range (so I could get some empty cases). Ten averaged just under 2250 fps. That was because I wanted to go deer hunting with it before dies and brass arrived. Of course, the 250s would have been plenty for deer at woods ranges, but it was disappointing, nonetheless. After the deer hunt (I didn’t shoot a deer, but was close to doing so), I fired the other ten at the range, got my dies and was “off to the races” in developing handloads.
Today, there are cases and ammo available from several sources. At the very least, Remington, having legitimized the cartridge and producing rifles for it, has spurred new interest so that it appears more popular today than in its heyday! For North American hunting there is really nothing too big or dangerous that demands a larger bore or more power. Here, on our continent it has more than proven itself. But also in Africa, Asia and Australia. If it has a fault, I suppose one could blame it for being too unpretentious.
Some prefer lighter quality bullets in 200gr and 225gr. While that can’t be seriously faulted, keep in mind that for the largest and most dangerous, the 250gr was built. And a 250gr Partition brings out its best in my view. Depending on length of action and freebore, one may be able to stretch the COL by a meaningful amount, thereby significantly improving ballistics. I could do that in the clip of my 7400. I always seat bullets as long as the action and throat allows, just off the lands of course. I have never found that by tinkering with bullet seating in thousandths of an inch made any practical difference in accuracy for hunting purposes. But I have found that 1 or 2 tenths of an inch more room in the case due to increased COL, can improve ballistics by upwards of 150 to 200 fps, depending on the cartridge, bore, powder and barrel of course.
Then, there is a multitude of pistol bullets in .357″, many of which make good use for varmints and plinking.
Hail the .35 Whelen, long may it live!
The .350 Remington Magnum: Introduced by Remington in their short-action M600 with a 20″ barrel, it was the first belted cartridge to fit their short action. Case capacity was about 74 grs whereas the .35 Whelen was around 72, as compared with the .30-06 at 69. The short-action constrained COL to 2.80″ which meant that power space would be cramped when held to that COL.
In its overall relatively short package, it became a favorite for bear guides in Alaska and elsewhere where a short and handy “powerhouse” was suited to deal with wounded or troublesome bears at relatively close range.
I’ve owned a couple, both Remingtons. The first was one of Remington’s annual “Classics” with a 22″ barrel, the short action and very nice walnut. It was one of the best handling rifles I’ve ever owned. It never went bear hunting but it did for whitetails.
Unfortunately, I had trouble getting the expected results from 200s and 250s when using the powders suggested and available at the time. While I loved the rifle, I was disappointed with the ballistics — it never attained 2400 fps from 250s, so it got traded.
Many years later I purchased an M673 in .350 Rem Mag with the heavy laminated stock, short action and silly “rib” on the 22″ barrel. That rifle also started out as another “big disappointment” with handloads. That is, until I realized there was a problem with the chamber! Even the “weak” factory ammo was leaving tooling “rings” around the fired cases. I took it to my gunsmith, VonAtzigen, and he discovered the chamber had not been finished — it was roughed-out only, and undersized! He did an excellent job, and when finished it was polished like a mirror.
From that point on it’s performance was beyond belief! It had a stout 22″ barrel that gave exceptional accuracy and ballistic results that was about on a par with a same length .338 Win Mag barrel, depending on how each was handloaded. The .350 Rem was much more efficient than the .338 Win in that a faster burning powder gave optimum results, whereas the same powder in the .338 Win would have been a poor performer. In other words, the .338 Win needed about 10 more grains of a relatively slow powder for the same results.
The 250gr Speer GS was the star performer, with the 250gr Nosler Partition not far behind. The last three shots I fired in that rifle were the 250gr Speer GS that went into a perfect 3/8″ at 100 yards, leaving the muzzle at an average of 2734 fps over a charge of 62.3 grs RL-15 ignited by WLRM primers. COL was 2.82″. On a bitter cold (-11*C) breezy March day in 2005 at our range, I shot three 200gr Hornady SPs into .913″ at 100 yards. MV = 2975 fps corrected to MV. Powder was 65 grs RL-15, and WLRM primers ignited them.
<(The M673 was toted for bear and the load was that 250 gr Speer GS.)
These were my ideal loads for that rifle after it was properly finished by the gunsmith: Remington brass, WLRM primers, RL-15 and COL @ 2.82″. Average for 3 shots.
200 Hornady SP; 65 grs RL-15; MV = 2975 fps/3930 ft-lbs (.913″)
225 Sierra BT; 63 grs RL-15; MV = 2850 fps/4058 ft-lbs (1.1″)
225 Nosler Partition; 62 grs RL-15 = 2820 fps/3973 ft-lbs (1.16″)
250 Speer GS; 62.3 grs RL-15 = 2710 fps/4076 ft-lbs (.625″)
I’d climbed that rugged mountain and then traded it. If I’d obtained those results from my first Remington “Classic”, it would have been kept as it was lighter and much better handling than the M673. And was prettier to boot.
The M673 was traded for an 1895 Marlin GG in .45-70 with the infamous ports and an 18.5″ barrel. After less than a month’s use, I couldn’t tolerate the noise from the ports and turned it in at the same dealership for another Marlin Classic in .45-70 with a 22″ barrel. That was in April/2005.
The 358 NORMA MAGNUM: With a case having about the same dimensions as the .338 Win Mag, which it followed by a year, the .358 NM is ideal in case capacity for the bore size. A product of Sweden for the American market, it failed to catch on because it was a cartridge without a rifle. Cases, ammo and dimensions were made available but rifles were not immediately at hand from Europe, so it was then a matter of custom work.
I’ve owned a .308 Norma Magnum, but not the .358, which was the same case necked down from the .358. Other than some wildcats, it was the most powerful commercial .358-caliber on the market. In my view, it’s a slightly better cartridge than the .338 Win Mag in that it must have a larger bore rifle for firing, thereby increasing its expansion ratio resulting in better efficiency — less powder for the same energy results, or the same amount of powder for greater results. Another way of stating that is to say that where a .338 Win will easily fire a 250gr at 2700 fps, a .358 Norma will fire a 250gr at 2800 fps, other things equal such a barrel length and psi. It’s a simple matter of efficiency from a larger bore that is 12.5% greater in cross-section-area.
Yet the .358 Norma is market strapped by not being produced in America. Still, for the handyman, it’s no big deal to use .338 Win Mag brass. And there are lots of good to excellent bullets available on this side of the pond, the same as for the .35 Whelen and .350 Rem Mag; plus all the powders that will bring the best from any rifle so chambered. I think H4895, RL-15 & RL-17 should make the reloader sing happy songs! IMR4350, or their ilk, will do no better than RL-17 in my thinking, and perhaps less. Primers should be of the magnum sort.
It should be a little more effective on the big stuff than a .338 magnum. I’d use it with a 24″ barrel to ensure best performance. It doesn’t need a 26″. A 22″ tube will result in ballistics similar to the .350 Rem Mag.
The .358 STA: Many wildcats have appeared in times past that basically shaped the mold for this creation by author Layne Simpson. It’s the 8mm Remington necked to .358″.
Basically, it’s the .375 H&H case necked to .358″ and blown out. Or, another way of saying it is: It’s the .375 Weatherby (itself a .375 H&H blown out with straight walls) necked to .358-cal.
Whatever. It was not a new creation as the .375 H&H case has been the basis for many “cats” and others that became “standard” cartridges such as the Winchester series of magnums, plus Remingtons, including the likes of the .350 Rem itself! But many entrepreneurs had used the basic .375 H&H case necked down to .358″, blown it out to create their own .358 magnum. So Simpson’s STA (Shooting Times Alaskan) was simply endorsed by SAAMI as a legit cartridge. Of course, Layne Simpson, at the time, was on the staff of SHOOTING TIMES magazine.
The point I’m making is that a .358 magnum of 3.65″ COL has been around “forever”! There are still many out there that will do the same things as the STA since they fathered it!
Ballistics: a 250gr at 3000 fps/5000 ft-lbs at the muzzle of a 26″ barrel is the standard fare for anything big and mean. Basically the same results as from my .340 Wby Mag. But an increase of 12.5% cross-section-area of a 250gr might give slightly better results — or not!
There you have it…
For .358 caliber.
Personally, my choice would be the .35 Whelen or the .350 Rem Mag. Can’t imagine I’d need more from a .358-caliber.
Next: the 9.3 mm’s(.366-cal). As a medium, it’s now my choice. Why?