In my former blog (Moose-size game cartridges compared – P1, July 6/20) three common cartridges for moose-size game were discussed, being the 7 Rem Mag, the .30-06 and the .300 Win Mag.
As mentioned at the end of P1, the next three to be compared in ballistics would be (in this order) the .340 Weatherby Magnum, the .375 Ruger and the 9.3 x 62. These would normally be considered as “Mediums”.
The .340 Weatherby Magnum:
This was a favorite of two famous gun writers and hunters of different eras: Bob Hagel and Ross Seyfried, both of whom had more than enough experience in the development of handloads as well as using it in various game fields of the world to qualify as genuine experts — even if they might have been a bit prejudiced. To briefly sum it up, they both felt that it was one of the best cartridges for large soft-skinned game that might exceed a ton. Of course, distance is a factor to be taken into consideration, as well as other physical conditions. Bob Hagel suggested it was better than the .375 H&H for any North American game such as giant moose and brown bear, and Seyfried wrote that it was good for game to 3000 lbs at “long range”. No doubt, they both had an influence that led to my own acquisition of a Browning X-Bolt in .338 Win Mag that was converted to .340 Weatherby shortly after the purchase of the Browning. Indeed, that was the motive for acquiring the Browning.
However, before conversion to the .340, I put nearly 200 rounds of .338 Win Mag handloads through it to establish a base line. I was surprised by those initial results. I’d owned a couple of Browning A-Bolts stainless in LH previously, and they both had 26″ barrels that were fast! From the unmodified .338 Win Mag with it’s 26″ stainless tube and action, I was able to attain a high of 2842 fps (corrected to MV) from the Hornady 250gr SP, and very, very accurate to boot! All that from a “book load”. I began to have second thoughts about my project to have it re-chambered to .340 WBY. Nonetheless, I had a famed gunsmith from Peterborough do the work, and it included the long Weatherby “free-bore”.
In all, I put about 1000 rounds of handloads through that rifle over the next ten years, after which it was sold. But it did take the first year to learn its potential — what powder and primer in particular after trying all the so-called favorites. Also, I only fired a single shot from a factory 250gr that had been given to my son, Phil, by a friend who was an enthusiast of the .340. The Hornady bullet from the Weatherby case recorded about 2850 fps. By then I knew the .340 was capable of much more.
<The moose taken with my .340 WBY.
I won’t go into more details over the developmental process, but as stated it involved trial and error re: primers and powders. Cases were fire-formed, once-fired .375 H&H Remington brass given to me at our range by a non-handloader going to Africa on safari. The only Weatherby case ever used was that one mentioned – the one factory load. The Remington .375 H&H cases were superb, and I never lost one in fire-forming. Then, they were good for many, many “hot” loads” until the necks became work-hardened and manifest slight cracks. Of course, none of those were used in hunting. Once my hunting load was established, I used the once-fired, then fire-formed cases for my hunting load, which was:
The 250gr Nosler Partition at a ten year average of 2997 fps (I called it “3000” fps) and about 5000 ft-lbs at the muzzle. Average accuracy with that load over the decade was 1.25″ for three at 100 yds. Recoil in the 8.75 lb rifle was 54 ft-lbs. The powder was RL-22 and the primer was WLRM.
Here is the ballistic profile of that load that took an 1100 lb bull moose at 165 yds.
Bullet: 250gr Nosler Partition
BC = .473
SD = .313
MV = 2997 fps/4986 ft-lbs/140 MTE
100 = 2799 fps/4349 ft-lbs/122 MTE
200 = 2608 fps/3775 ft-lbs/106 MTE
300 = 2424 fps/3261 ft-lbs/92 MTE/2300 lbs optimum game weight*
400 = 2248 fps/2805 ft-lbs/79 MTE/1975 lbs optimum game weight
500 = 2079 fps/2399 ft-lbs/67 MTE 1675 lbs optimum game weight
600 = 1917 fps/2040 ft-lbs/57 MTE 1425 lbs optimum game weight
*My numbers suggest a somewhat less optimum game weight than Ross Seyfried, but more than enough for the largest game in North America to at least 500 yards. But if a 3000 lb bison is the target (who has ever shot in our time a 3000 lb bison?) then don’t shoot past 100 yards! Then, the discussion becomes how many shots at 500, which is ridiculous since that would never be allowed under today’s highly regulated bison hunting. But for Alaska-Yukon moose by residents without an outfitter, 500 yards isn’t out of the question.
If sighted on at 300 yards, elevation at 100 is 3.6″ and -27″ at 500. Quite doable for a knowledgeable shooter.
Using the 250gr AccuBond (not available when I owned the .340) at the same MV would greatly improve on the above ballistics by about 100 yards!
It seems that hunters/shooters rarely consider the .340 anymore, in favor of other more recent innovations. Yet the .340 Weatherby hasn’t lost anything, but indeed has, itself, been improved by recent powders and bullets. The improvement from my Browning A-Bolt when a .338 Win Mag in factory form to a .340 Wby Magnum was 158 fps or 500 ft-lbs at the muzzle… Is that meaningful? That’s for each one to decide, but for myself I have no regrets for having improved ballistics by over 10%. For some, or several, reasons I never noticed the increase in recoil from 42 ft-lbs to 54 ft-lbs. It might matter today, but not then in my 60s. And it might matter to you…
The 250gr Partition wasn’t the only very good load in the .340. There were others that shot very well at around 2900 fps. Of course 225s, 210s and 200s would leave the muzzle much faster, but I saw no reason for them since this rifle was primarily intended as a moose “getter” at any potential range in the northern district of our province. And a 250gr Partition was the “optimum” choice in the early 2000’s. As I said… today I’d likely choose the 250 AccuBond.
But, in my mind, the .340 was a special rifle reserved for larger game at longer distances. At that it shines, so it never went hunting for deer or bear. I had others for those purposes and was satisfied with 10 years ownership when the itch came for something different. It was actually sold, not traded. Many years later — in fact about one year ago I saw it for sale again at the same dealership where I purchased my 9.3 x 62 in 2011. But it wasn’t there for long — it was sold which gave me a further sense of satisfaction that “my” rifle was still finding fulfilment.
The .340 Weatherby — long may it live! Ideal for Alaska, the Yukon and Africa!
The .375 Ruger:
This one I’ve never owned, borrowed, loaded for or fired, but I’m told it was to mimic the ballistics of the hoary .375 H&H but in a shorter, lighter and handier package. Apparently, that was the scheme of Ruger and Hornady who teamed together in it’s production and marketing — Ruger the rifle and Hornady the cases and bullets, which later became factory ammo from the Hornady enterprise.
I have, however, done my homework on the cartridge and its ballistics. Ballistics claimed are by Hornady on their website and Handbook of Cartridge Reloading. The case OL = 2.580″ and COL = 3.250 to 3.290″ depending on bullets employed. The standard barrel length for claimed factory muzzle velocities is 23″. Yet there is an alternate barrel length of 20″ for guides, outfitters and citizens of Alaska to favor use on the big bears in close brushy conditions where maximum MV is less critical due to the relatively short distances required for shooting a bear or finishing off one.
Overall, it seems to me that while the .375 Ruger may equal, or sometimes better, the .375 H&H when factory ammo for the Ruger is used in a 23″, and factory ammo for the .375 H&H is fired from a 24″, yet matters may be significantly altered when EITHER factory OR handloads are put to use in the 20″ Ruger and good handloads are used in a 24″ H&H. There are several variables, of course, but I’ve yet to be persuaded that the Ruger has any ballistic advantage over the H&H when each is handloaded. In fact, handload ballistics from a 20″ Ruger will definitely be less than those fired from a standard 24″ H&H.
Nonetheless, we’ll give the .375 Ruger it’s best “shot” when used for “moose size game”. My Hornady, Nosler and Barnes manuals show loads for the two most popular bullet weights (there are others) of 270 grs and 300 grs.
Hornady tests are from the 20″ barrel and show a max for the 270gr at 2700 fps, and the 300s at 2550 fps.
Nosler used a 26″ test barrel (To my knowledge, Ruger has never made a 26″, .375 Ruger — it’s either 20″ or 23″. So their ballistics for the 260gr and 300gr are skewed in favor of a custom rifle, not a Ruger product.) So I’ll not give a profile of those results. If you have a 26″ custom .375 Ruger, use a ballistics program to calculate results to 500 yds.
Barnes#4 manual also used a non-standard barrel length of 24″, I think to make it comparable with the .375 H&H 24″ barrel. But still, that muddies the puddle because a Ruger rifle NIB will NOT have a 24″ tube, but a 20″ or 23″.
But I’ll use their ballistics and knock off 25 fps. Incidentally, even as a 24″, the ballistics are no better than the 24″ Wiseman test barrel of the H&H, and the barrel for the Ruger tests was also a Wiseman.
BC = .326
SD = .274 (similar to a 180gr/.30-cal.)
MV = 2837 fps, -25 fps = 2812 fps/4740 ft-lbs/143 MTE
100 = 2539 fps, -25 fps = 2514 fps/3789 ft-lbs/114 MTE
200 = 2282 fps, -25 fps = 2257 fps/3054 ft-lbs/92 MTE
300 = 2040 fps, -25 fps = 2015 fps/2434 ft-lbs/73 MTE
400 = 1814 fps, -25 fps = 1789 fps/1919 ft-lbs/58 MTE
500 = 1607 fps, -25 fps = 1582 fps/1500 ft-lbs/45 MTE
There’s little doubt that such a common load for the .375 Ruger does NOT represent its best potential. But most shooters/hunters will be ignorant of that fact (or not care) as most of their shots will be far less than 400 yds, perhaps less than 300 yds. For those ranges: 300 to 400 yds it lacks not much, but evidently falls far behind the .340 load above, and, as we shall see, does so as well against my 9.3 x 62 load coming up.
But all that to prove one single point: the cartridge designation, or name, doesn’t insure it will be superior in actual use to those assumed to be inferior. In actual fact, if advanced handloads are involved in the latter, and inferior ones employed in the former, the roles could actually be reversed in application.
If I were to choose a .375 Ruger as an all-purpose rifle, where a moose-hunt might involve a shot at 400 to 500 yds (possible in the north of Ontario) or not at all on a DIY hunt, it would be one with a 23″ barrel loaded with the 260gr AB at full power — about 2850 fps/4690 ft-lbs at the muzzle and 2010 fps/2332 ft-lbs at 500 yds/68 MTE — 1700 lb optimum animal weight.
Recoil about 48 ft-lbs from an 8.75 lb rifle loaded for the hunt. The data used here is based on the Nosler Reloading Guide 6.
And for those who may want to know: The .375 H&H would give the exact same performance from a 23″ barrel and a custom rifle weighing 8.75 lbs ready.
Would I exchange my 9.3 x 62 for either of those two?
The 9.3 x 62 “Mauser”:
I used quotation marks for the 9.3 x 62 as often that’s how it’s designated by some authors because its originator, Otto Bock, a Berlin gunsmith in 1905 created it to be used in the famed 1898 Mauser.
The original ballistics are hard to come by as I’ve read several conflicting reports from those who claim to know. Whatever the case, more recent European loadings are also variable, so the North American load of a 286gr at 2400 fps seems close to a “normal” load based on CIP standards.
Yet, some reported loads are less and others greater.
Mine was purchased on May 31, 2011 after a futile search for another .35 Whelen to replace the one I’d sold. But I did spy a couple of 9.3 x 62s at one of the major enterprises I did business with. Being somewhat aware of its nominal ballistics, and something novel, it intrigued my interest so I travelled for an hour to that gun emporium for a look-see ( perhaps the largest in Canada). One of the 9.3 x 62s had already been sold, so one remained. It was a Tikka T3 Lite with a dark-blue finish on metal parts (except the bolt handle in stainless) and the stock in black polycarbonate. Barrel was 22.44″. There was another rifle that intrigued me also: a .338 RUM in stainless metal and a grey-black laminated stock supporting a 26″ barrel, and I was aware of its potential ballistics. It was also slightly used. Both were handled side by side — the Tikka T3 and the Remington 700. It was no contest, the Tikka in 9.3 x 62 went home with me.
Why the 9.3 x 62 over the evidently faster and more powerful .338 RUM? Cost wasn’t a factor as the going price was similar for each. But the sticker on the Tikka had been lowered from $850 to $650, so that did help swing the balance in favor of the 9.3 x 62.
But there were six central reasons for choosing the 9.3 x 62: First: I went looking for another .35 Whelen. Second: I didn’t want another rifle with similar ballistics to the .340 WBY. Third: Cases for the .338 RUM were not readily available and they couldn’t be made from any other cartridge case, whereas in a pinch 9.3 x 62 brass could be formed from .35 Whelen or .30-06 cases. “In a pinch”, but not recommended as the case head of the 9.3 x 62 is significantly larger. Fourth: I considered the .35 Whelen a more “general-purpose” round in a 22″ barrel format than the 26″ barrelled .340 Weatherby, so the 9.3 x 62 was also viewed as appropriate for game hunting of any size and disposition — which had a long African history as verification. and…
Fifth: Perhaps most important of all, there is nothing in soft-skinned game that one could successfully hunt globally with a .338 RUM that could not effectively be taken at 500 yds/metres by premium loads in the 9.3 x 62. (Ya, I know yards and metres aren’t the same – 550 yds = about 500 metres.) And that’s well beyond 99% shooting of most game.
Sixth: Finally, all matters considered – availability and cost of handloading components, handiness of rifles and recoil will ALWAYS favor the 9.3 x 62 over a .338 RUM. PLUS, when the 9.3 x 62 is given its best handloads, the .375 Ruger’s potential distance from the 9.3 x 62 in effectiveness is reduced to zero!
Let’s see, based on the following evidence:
BC = .482
SD = .305
MV= 2631 fps/4395 ft-lbs/141 MTE
100= 2452 fps/3817 ft-lbs/122 MTE
200= 2280 fps/3300 ft-lbs/106 MTE
300= 2114 fps/2839 ft-lbs/91 MTE (2275 lb optimum game weight)
400= 1956 fps/2430 ft-lbs/78 MTE (1950 lb optimum game weight)
500= 1806 fps/2070 ft-lbs/66 MTE (1650 lb optimum game weight)
The ambient conditions for all cartridges and loads are: 45*F/+7*C; 1150 ft elevation and 56% RH
None of the loads listed for the three cartridges would prove inadequate for the intended purpose. The .340 WBY and 9.3 x 62 are basic equals in MTE, and both are superior to the .375 Ruger load at distance. But as pointed out, in the use of a 23″ Ruger and max velocity of the 260 AB it’s pretty much a “wash”.
So which would I choose today? I’ve no reason to change the choice I’ve made. The recoil of the 9.3 x 62 load is about the same as the .375 Ruger load, but the Ruger is about one pound heavier. If my TIKKA were as heavy as the Ruger the recoil in ft-lbs would be about 43 ft-lbs instead of 47. The .340 Weatherby at 8.75 lbs had a recoil in KE of 54 ft-lbs as mentioned, but I never noticed it at the bench because I was shooting heavy loads from my Ruger #1 in .45-70 LT that generated about 70 ft-lbs. It’s largely a matter of what we get used to.
Still, I wouldn’t recommend any of the loads above to a novice of heavy-magnum loads.
Next up: BIG BORES for moose-size game…