On Internet sporting rifle forums, frequently statements are made in the form of questions like the following: “Why try to make a 308 Winchester’s ballistics into 30-06’s ballistic capabilities? Why not just buy a .30-06 to begin with?” There are several such arguments against trying to improve on what the rifle is believed to be capable of in a traditional sense.
The suggestion is that rifle shooters should be happy with what is deemed “normal” for particular cartridges, often implying SAAMI factory ballistics, or familiar ballistics, whether handloads or factory. That should satisfy any normal thinking hunter or shooter.
Moreover, there’s more than a subtle hint that there’s something very wrong with any attempt to improve on what they believe is “normal”. They’re not only content with “normal” but see it as a perfect standard or companies wouldn’t adhere to regulated SAAMI psi! So any attempt to improve on “perfection” is abhorrent to them! “So if you think you really, truly NEED ballistics that’s more powerful than perfection, then go ahead and do whatever will cripple your shoulder and blow your ears off, while wrecking your good enough rifle as it is!” – sort of thing… a not so subtle insinuation that “you” have no right to affront their judgement as to ballistic perfection!
Why improve a rifle’s ballistics?
1> Because it’s possible: What several shooters and hunters fail to realise, or understand, is that some modern powders permit increases of around 200 fps, or more, over “old” factory ammo, or even good handloads within SAAMI standards. Perhaps that’s less so for some relatively new, “hot magnums”, but even then it’s highly possible that improvements could be made in accuracy, not only from work done on the rifle itself, but from select handloads. Then some pre-21st century rifles and cartridges have experienced significant improvements in both accuracy and downrange ballistic performance by the use of modern projectiles and powders. There’s no denying that fact!
< I don’t know of any factory load for the .458 Win Mag that has EVER produced velocities that might be expected from a .300 Win Mag. But the corrected to MV of this load from my Ruger No.1H in .458 Win Mag was 2979 fps/5911 ft-lbs from a 300gr TSX over a dose of H4198. And that was not exceptional for that particular load.
2> Because it’s practical: Any improvements in life’s experiences enhances a sense of satisfaction and joy! Why not therefore in a rifle’s ballistic potential? And it just might make a difference in field success!
3> Because it’s proper: It’s the right thing to do. None of us are driving old classic cars or trucks because they work better! Ford’s production lines has never had 1932 Ford coupes at one end and turbo-charged GT Mustangs at the other! An evolution over the past century has taken place at Ford. The same for rifles and their ballistics! If new bullets and powders safely improve results, let it be! It’s the proper thing to do. Even Col. Whelen would approve of better ballistics for the .35 Whelen if he’d had the gun powders of today, since it was his goal to get the best it could safely offer in his day. Since Remington made that “wildcat” into a legitimate cartridge in 1988 by having SAAMI adopt specs for it, pressure was set at 52,000 CUP, not like its parent cartridge (.30-06) at 50,000 CUP. Since corporations and SAAMI have gone over to PSI based on piezo, 52,000 CUP is now 62,000 PSI , the maximum average pressure (MAP) for the 35 Whelen.
<I’ve tried this (new to me) propellant in my new .35 Whelen under the 225gr Nosler Partition. Results were excellent!
4> Because it’s popular: Not much would be going on at ranges and on forums if we all were mandated to keep “the status quo”!
5> Because it’s productive: It keeps related industries humming! In addition to all that, it keeps interested people, interested!
6> Because it has new and fresh potential: Has any handloader ever been truly satisfied with just a single load for his rifle? NO! He must tinker, try new powders, primers and bullets! Then there’s this matter of bullet seating – how close to the lands for better and best accuracy. We must fiddle with 1/10th to 1/2 grains of propellant, up or down, to get that finest degree of accuracy and velocity a rifle is capable of! What better thing to do… stay home, watch TV, drink beer, get fat and lazy?
NO! It’s off to the range for endless testing of those minute improvements! And then… the final test in the hunting fields!
<Results from two 225gr Nosler Partitions over 65 grains of CFE223 in my new .35 Whelen at 50 yards. Center to center is 0.30″. MV not recorded but estimated at 2700 fps. Case head expansion was less than any of the other eight fired on the same day. I’ve now loaded ten of the 225gr AccuBonds over 66 grains of CFE223 and will report on results.
Life indeed would be boring for some of us if we thought perfection had been attained! Fresh challenges have been ordained by The Almighty for our learning and development, as well as for our humility in discovering that we are not God!
Impatience is the enemy of progress! The best bullets of today didn’t just happen overnight! Think about it! John Nosler developed the Partition bullet back in 1948 because of the failure of a typical cup-and-core bullet on a moose hunt in Canada. While the Partition bullet has experienced some upgrades since, it still remains one of the best “premium” bullets available today. Yet it too has undergone fine tuning depending on caliber and bullet weight. For example: The partition has been moved more towards the nose with sturdier jackets in the nose section for heavy and potentially dangerous game. These are in calibers usually intended for large and tougher animals that may also be hazardous and difficult to kill. But Nosler hasn’t rested on its laurels, AccuBonds with bonded lead cores in tapered gilding metal jackets with heavy boat-tailed bases, are customised for each caliber and bullet weight.
I have some 225gr Ballistic Tips in .358″ loaded in some (then) new .30-06 cases intended for my long gone .35 Whelen in a Rem 7400. There are eight of ’em setting pretty in a Remington carton originally for twenty .30-06 new cases. They’ve yet to be fired! Those 225gr BT bullets with the white poly-carbonate tips look identical to the 225gr AccuBonds in .358″ that I purchased just a few days ago… but internally they’er hugely different!
< The cartridge on the left contains a Nosler 225gr Ballistic Tip, the one on the right a Nosler 225gr AccuBond. The 225 BT bullet is seated into a new .30-06 case necked-up to .358″, with a standard 3.34″ COL. The 225gr AB is seated in a 2x used .35 Whelen case at 3.45″ COL. The slight “bump” in the neck of the 35 Whelen case is due to partial re-sizing of the case. The load for the 225 BT is over 25 years old and contains ? grains of RL-15 powder. The 225 AB load on the right is one of ten for testing in my new .35 Whelen single-shot. It contains 66 grains of CFE223 that will be ignited by a WLRM primer.The .35 Whelen case on the right is slightly longer than the necked-up .30-06 case on the left, yet still well within specs after 2x firing. There was no need for trimming.
The 225gr BT bullets will be pulled from their cases and the powder dumped, then reloaded with fresh propellant.
In my thinking, the AccuBond version is a much tougher bullet that will still kill whitetails, but not come apart on moose! If the 250gr AccuBond is any indication from my 9.3 x 62 in the killing of a six-foot black bear, then I have no reason to think that the 225gr AccuBond in .358-cal is less than an improvement on the former, non-bonded, 225gr Ballistic Tip.
In addition to Nosler’s progress from humble beginnings to its present status as one of the top innovative bullet manufacturing companies in the world, there are several others, just to name a few: Hornady, Barnes, Hammer and CEB. Monometal bullets are fast replacing lead-core bullets for a number of practical reasons: ecological and easier to manufacture in meeting the expectations of dealers and clients. In lead-core bullets, even though bonded, more is involved in the process than a simple piece of copper rod being turned into minutely machined copper bullets.
< In a tough test media, L to R, the 500gr Speer African GS retained 310 grains (62%); the 350gr Hornady FP Interloc lost its core; and the 350gr Barnes TSX on far right retained 100% – more than the 500gr Speer at 310 grains!
Today’s bullets shed little weight, or none at all, in deep penetration to vitals from small to large beasts, and often make an exit wound. Few are retrieved as examples of performance. Therefore it’s a sane practice to go lighter in bullet weight per caliber than in former generations. While I have some 250gr as well as several 300gr Barnes Originals in .35-caliber, I’m now focused on the development of a good load for those 225gr ABs as I believe they’ll perform excellently on anything I intend or happen to shoot with my .35 Whelen. Reports are out there…. all the way to 800 yards on caribou from .35 Whelens! It looks like close to 2900 fps from those 225s is possible from the Whelen… but my objective is 2700 to 2800 fps with good accuracy of MOA or better… The current load, however, may exceed 2800 fps. I’m hoping to test them before my next blog so a report can be given.
The scope has been moved forward 1″ on the Traditions OUTFITTER G3 in .35 Whelen for a better balance and appearance.
The goals for this rifle, when realised, will mean vastly improved ballistics over traditional concepts for the venerable .35 Whelen!
Til the next…