While certainly one of the most useful all-around cartridges, yet for obscure reasons it remains “the ugly step-sister” to the .338s which currently seems the darling of the mid-bores. But it was not always so.
In Auckley’s HANDBOOK FOR SHOOTERS & RELOADERS – Vol.1, pg 463, he makes this statement regarding the introduction by Winchester of their .338 magnum: “It is somewhat of a mystery why this odd size bullet was selected when so many fine .35 caliber bullets have been available for so many years. Certainly there could be little ballistic advantage. This can be seen by comparing the ballistics of the new .338 Winchester Magnum with those of any similar .35 Magnum cartridges.”
How different in our time from the situation in P.O. Ackley’s day! In his era .35 Magnums were “in” and he found it strange that Winchester opted to use the “old .33 Winchester bullet size” instead of .333″ that wildcatters had been using for some time. And that introduction by Winchester in 1958 as the .338 Winchester Magnum Alaskan seemingly changed the perception by both hunters and handloaders that this new magnum would forever be superior to .35-calibers. So bullet manufactures followed rifle makers, and then Weatherby introduced their .340 Wby Mag in 1960, leading ultimately to a proliferation of various competitor versions of .338 magnums, including the .338 Lapua.
And that is a very short version of many details involved as to why the .35s have continued to play a catch-up game to the .338s.
But, despite the competition, various versions of the .35 Whelen have remained strong among the cognoscenti. It is perceived as one of the best among mediums – and with good reason in my view.
< Some bullets tested in my .35s.
Let’s face some facts: The .35s have better expansion ratios than .338 magnums or those based on the same .30-06 case. Given the same amount of powder at the same psi and barrel length, the .35 Whelen will exceed the .338-06 in MV by about 100 fps for 250s. This result is the product of physics. Many have claimed the opposite for their .338-06s. Yet there is a huge “BUT” involved if that claim be true! They have had to be using the best powder for the application, a longer barrel and higher psi! Real, non-prejudiced results for the .35 Whelen happens when the best powder is used, the same length barrel, same psi, and the same bullet weight and construction. 2700 fps from certain new powders and 24″ barrels are now realised at standard psi for particular 250gr bullets from the .35 Whelen cartridge. That is the equal of original claims for 250s from a 24″, .338 Winchester Magnum! Of course, since the original claims for the .338 Win Mag, the standard MV has been reduced to 2660 fps for factory 250s. We know, however, that the .338 Win Mag has also attained new status from safe handloads employing better powders. 2800 fps is now safely possible from certain 250s and 24″ barrels, so the .338 Win Mag is still about 100 fps ahead of the .35 Whelen using identical bullet weights. Still, the .338 WIN gets that from (SAAMI) 64,000 psi, whereas the .35 Whelen attains 2700 fps from (SAAMI) 62,000 psi. Expansion ratio (again) is the key.
That I could attain an average of 2710 fps from the 250gr Speer GS in my .350 Rem Mag with a 22″ barrel was great, but no mystery. It, again, was a combination of factors: Expansion ratio, the right powder and bullet, chamber and barrel. That load would shoot better than I could… into 3/8″ when I was shooting as well as it deserved.
As previously written in my blogs, I’ve owned .338 Win Mags: one with a 20″ barrel (SAKO FS) and another with a 26″ barrel (Browning A-Bolt that later became a .340 WBY). Back in those days, after a lot of work, I managed to extract up to 2715 fps from the 250gr Sierra BT in the SAKO FS. Most 250s made the factory claim of 2660 fps. The 26″ Browning surprised me at 2841 fps from the 250gr Hornady and RL-19 before it was rechambered to a .340 WBY. Then, I had helped our second son develop handloads for his Rem 700 in .338 Win Mag. It had a 24″ tube and made 2735 fps from the 250gr Hornady SP Interloc. That was in using around 73 grains of IMR 4831 and magnum primers. In general, I found RL-19 best overall for the .338 WIN and RL-22 best for the .340 WBY in using the 250s or heavier bullets.
In the .35 Whelen and .350 Rem Mag, RL-15 was the ticket. Today, there are other powders that work better ballistics in the Whelen at least.
Of course, as you know by now if you’ve been following my stuff, a 9.3 x 62 has replaced all other medium bores. It’s close to both .35s and .375s — about midway between. So best ballistics reflect that.
But the appeal of non-magnum mediums is fourfold:
1 – Less recoil for “magnum” effect!
2 – Less weight for “magnum” effect!
3 – Less cost for “magnum” effect!
4 – Better ballistics than could be obtained from a medium magnum at the same recoil, weight and cost!
A return to the .35 Whelen is apparent among many who’ve previously experienced medium magnum’s weight, recoil and costs!
And the general North American perception of the 9.3 x 62 is as an alternative to a .35 Whelen, .338 Winchester Magnum or even a .375 H&H.
Whatever the case, it should now be apparent to hunters, shooters and handloaders that some popular mid-bore, non-magnum cartridges can accomplish anything for which medium magnums had previously been chosen… with less work, pain and $$$.
I’ve no regrets over making my .338 Win Mag Browning into a .340 WBY. I learned a great deal from that experience. But in shooting a bull moose with it as a .340 Wby Mag, at about 165 yards, I’m quite sure that a .35 Whelen would have worked just as well at that range. In replacement of the .340, I chose a .350 Rem Mag that ultimately gave the ballistics mentioned above. In looking for another .35 Whelen, I came across a 9.3 x 62 on sale.
The first thing I did after purchasing the TIKKA in 9.3 x 62 was to compare potential ballistics with the .340 because of anticipation of using it on moose in the north of our province. Of course, my results from the .340 was a process over time… So also for the 9.3 x 62.
Rifle: A-Bolt Browning SS/LH converted from a .338 Win Mag to a .340 Wby Mag (26″ barrel)
Bullet: 250gr Nosler Partition
MV = 3000 fps/ 4995 ft-lbs/ 140 TE/ -1.75″
100= 2808 fps/ 4377 ft-lbs/ 123 TE/ +2.35″
200= 2625 fps/ 3825 ft-lbs/ 107 TE/ +2.02″
300= 2449 fps/ 3329 ft-lbs/ 93 TE/ -3.36″
400= 2280 fps/ 2884 ft-lbs/ 81 TE/ -14.5″
500= 2117 fps/2487 ft-lbs/ 70 TE/ -32.5″
Rifle: TIKKA T3 Lite in 9.3 x 62 (.366-cal), 22.44″ barrel.
Bullet: 286gr Nosler Partition
MV = 2640 fps/ 4425 ft-lbs/ 142 TE/ -1.75″
100= 2466 fps/ 3862 ft-lbs/ 124 TE/ +3.37″
200= 2299 fps/ 3357 ft-lbs/ 108 TE/ +2.75″
300= 2139 fps/ 2905 ft-lbs/ 93 TE/ -4.47″
400= 1985 fps/ 2502 ft-lbs/ 80 TE/ -19.3″
500= 1838 fps/ 2145 ft-lbs/ 69 TE/ -43.0″
The results of best ballistics (TE = terminal effect) from each is given to 500 yards, including emphasis on momentum, SD and cross-sectional-area (CSA) of each bullet. It turns out that the 9.3 x 62 is about the same as the .340 in real effect with all matters considered. But there are physical distinctions that might matter to some: The .340 was using 90.5 grains of RL-22 under the 250gr Nosler Partition for an MV of 3000 fps. The rifle was 46.5″ in length and 8.8 lbs ready. Recoil was 54 ft-lbs. In my 9.3 x 62, the load intended for moose in the “Far North” was the 286gr Nosler Partition over 70 grains of RL-17 for an MV of 2640 fps. The rifle is 42.44″ in length and 7.7 lbs ready. Recoil is calculated at 48 ft-lbs. Each rifle has a clip magazine that holds three. A fourth could be added with one in the chamber.
The advantage of the .340 was in trajectory. It’s comparative negatives were it’s length, weight and recoil. Though, at the time, I never noticed any of that as negatives. I shot it well from offhand at 165 yards and bullets went exactly where intended.
< The bear was 6′ from nose to tail and the 286gr Partition penetrated 30″. The bear was field dressed where it died. My partner, Ken, was 3 Km at another site and heard the shot. He radioed asking if that was my shot and did I need help. I responded positively and in about ten minutes he arrived. We hung the bear overnight in the same tree as my stand. Early the next morning he took this pic, following which the bear was skinned and the 286 Nosler fell to the ground from the right flank near the hip.
My current 9.3 x 62 has been used on three bears: Twice from tree stands at 68 yards and 85 yards. The other was the first. It involved the final killing of a bear that had been wounded by a young friend. That load was the 286gr Hornady at about 2400 fps. At his first shot from a tree stand to my right, he hit the bear in a leg. The range was 135 yards to the bait on the edge of thick bush. The bear immediately headed into the bush and I fired my first shot at a fast disappearing bear — in fact when I fired his quickly disappearing butt was all I saw. But that frightened the bear (the Hornady never hit it!) and it came running back in our direction not knowing where the fire was coming from! I waited for my friend to shoot again… Nada! He never fired a second shot the whole time the bear was by then almost hobbling through the long-thick grass toward the tree line we had our stands in! I was unfastening my safety harness and yelling at him to “SHOOT!!” When I landed on terra firma, I was still yelling at him to “SHOOT!” He didn’t, and the bear made it through the tree line into the pasture of the other side. I then could see the bear about 50 yards beyond the tree line, struggling in the tall thick grass — and slowing. I said, calmly, “Ben, shoot the bear!” He fired two more shots from his .300 Win Mag and hit another leg! I asked him to shoot again… he said something in a whisper… I asked with some indignation, and loud enough that the bear could hear, as well as any neighbors, “WHY ARE YOU WHISPERING?” “I’m out of ammo….” was his meek reply! Then… I chased after the bear that was still plowing through the tall grass like a porpoise in the ocean! I fired another shot while running and missed! Then the bear stopped… I fired again and that was that. I fired a total of three 286 Hornadys and the last connected and finished the job on a bear with two broken legs.
Did someone mention “recoil”? That… believe me, wasn’t even a thought… the last thought went something like this: “Is this cripple finally dead!?”
The other two were clean, one-shot kills, though each bear ran off for 20 yards or so. The first of those was the “moose load”, and the second a 250gr Nosler AccuBond at around 2700 fps. The recoil of each was fast but not punishing from tree stands, and they hit where aimed. Both were body, non-shoulder or CNS, hits. The 286 Hornady did take out at least one lung and several inches of spine before going off somewhere into the bush. No bullet fragments were found. The 286 Partition was a frontal shot when all I could see was the head above the grass. I aimed below that and hit the chest frontally and that bullet stopped in the right flank retaining 73% of initial weight. The 250gr AccuBond was from the treestand to the bait setup at 85 yards. The bear was on top of the bait in a barrel, angling slightly away. The bullet hit high in the back about mid-body, taking out lungs and heart before exiting between chest and left front leg. The loss of blood was massive for about 20 yards where he died in mid-stride. I was very impressed with the results from the 250gr AccuBond, and the Hornady worked very well also. The Partition simply did what was expected. < The 286gr Nosler Partition retrieved from the right flank of the bear shown above.
I see no reason why my experiences from the mid-bores cannot be replicated by knowledgeable and dedicated handloaders of the same. They are good enough for anything to be hunted in North America, including the “big bears” plus most things in the rest of the world.
Til the next…