I’m sure we’ve all had (or still have) cartridges, bullets and rifles that gave results way beyond designations or expectations. So in this space I want to nominate a few from my collections and experiences. This might inspire you to select a few from your experiences, and if you do, I’d like to hear about it.
CARTRIDGES: I’ve significant experience in handloading the following, and in several of them there were multiple versions: .22 Hornet, .223 Rem (3), .25-06, 6.5 x 55 (2), .270 Win, 7-08 Reminton, 7mm Rem Mag (3), 7mm Wby Mag, .30-06 (2), .300 Win Mag (6), .300 Wby Mag, .308 Norma Mag, 7.62 x 54R, .338 Win Mag (3), .340 Wby Mag, .350 Rem Mag (2), .35 Whelen (3), 9.3 x 62, .375 H&H (3), .44 Rem Mag, .45-70 (8), and .458 Win Mag (3). Also I developed handloads for friends and family in the following: .308 Win, .356 Win, .375 Win and .444 Marlin.
The cartridges that were capable of producing results better than prophesied from both factory claims and handloads were several, and a few of those were much better than what I’d hoped for. Sometimes that was due to the rifle (s), but mostly from a combination of the right powder (and right amount), best bullet for the application, and then the rifle itself. Some had longer barrels which aided, but others had relatively short barrels that didn’t seem to hinder them in producing unexpected results.
The cartridges that gave very satisfying overall results that were at the top of their game without a lot of fuss and bother were: .223 Rem, .25-06, 7mm Rem and Wby mags, . 300 magnums .35 Whelen, .356 Winchester and .375 H&H.
But those that produced the best results (often much better than either expected or forecast) were: the .270 Win (22″ barrel), 7-08 Remington (22″), the 26″ .338 Win Mag, the 2nd .350 Rem Mag (22″ barrel), the 9.3 x 62 (22.4″ barrel), the 18″ .44 Rem Mag, most of the .45-70s and two of the .458s.
< This was my “much loved” Ruger 96/44 in .44 Rem Mag. The stock was stained birchwood. It wasn’t long before the brownish stain began to disappear on the forearm and pistol grip where it was handled. I then painted it black with an acrilic paint that was supposed to resist outdoor weather and abuse. It soon started to come off. I sanded it, and covered it again with another black paint product. Same story. I’d already done a lot of searching for the “right” paint in several hardware stores, but didn’t want an orange or red looking rifle. Eventually, I came across what I thought would be a durable paint that would resist dings, scratches and the oils and sweat from my hands. Next was the color. What you see here is the result. It was called “Forest Green”, and it lived up to promises. It took all abuses without dings, scratches, dirt and sweaty palms just like it had freshly come from a factory! As you see it there, it was doing it’s job of protecting me from the bears while delivering their meals to the bait site. There, it was about 150 yards from the bait.
I should never have sold it! Today, it would be worth a small fortune! It was short, light, handy and powerful at close range. It had a rotary clip and was very fast in working the lever that only opened about 45* to eject a spent cartridge and load another. It was perhaps the best rifle I’d ever owned for its job! It usually got loaded with the Speer 270gr and 300gr, or the Hornady 300gr. MVs were: ~2000 fps for the 270s and nearly 1700 fps for the 300s. Those loads were from compressed loads of either WW296 or H110. Never was there even a hint of excess pressure during the decade long ownership period. Yes… I’m fully aware of those numbers exceeding “book” values. And brass lasted “forever”!
Without a lot of fanfare, here are some of those results from each of the very best, including an explanation or comment as to why they proved “best” in overall results, and in some cases were exceptional.
First up is a cartridge I’d never previously been impressed with, thinking there were others of its kind that were more desirable.
The .270 Winchester in a Rem 700 SS mountain rifle (22″): Using RL-22, everything was at least 100 fps faster than expected or predicted. +3000 fps from 150gr Hornadys, one of which flew through a standing 8-9 inch tree like it wasn’t there! This was an investment rifle that got traded for something else of greater value to me without loss of the cost. The rifle traded for was a M700 Remington BDL, 7mm Rem Mag with a left-hand action and a 24″ barrel. It was like new because it was rarely fired. The previous owner apparently didn’t like the recoil. Top velocity of that rifle was 2940 fps for 175s from a dose of RL-22.
Similar to mine.
7mm-08 Remington in a M70 Winchester Featherweight. I got a real bargain on this one. Someone with ten thumbs tried to free-float the barrel, finally leaving it at a gun shop I frequently visited. The young manager tried to pawn it off on me for $450 during three visits to his shop. Well, he did lower the price to $400 on my second trip south to Toronto. Still… “No thanks”. On the 3rd stop-in his shop, as I was heading for the door… “How about $350?”. I didn’t quite make it to the door handle, turned, and said, “Deal!”. After a couple of hours work on the stock, some cleaning of the wood and metal, it became a Cinderella! And, it was a shooter, digesting anything I fed it except the top “recommended” fuel… After trying several propellants, I got a hint from “somewhere” (that I just now don’t recall) to give IMR 4064 a try… Well, whatever the books say, and whoever wrote the “books” missed the mark – at least for Cinderella! I was getting results that could have been suited to a .280 Rem!
It was another investment piece, and I had no intention of keeping it but it went buck hunting that fall loaded with the 162gr Hornady BT at ~ 2800 fps. I came within seconds of pulling the trigger on a great buck on the wrong side of the main dirt road, waiting till it crossed to my side. It crossed to my side (I couldn’t legally shoot across the road) but was spooked by hunters in a pickup that came close to hitting it. It disappeared in brush below me and when it emerged it was hitting about 40 mph as it crossed the trail I was on. I did a followup but never caught up.
The rifle was traded (as planned) for the nearly new .270 discussed briefly above without $$ exchanged.
< This traded for the .270
A 26″ barrelled .338 Win Mag in a Browning SS A-Bolt LH. I’ve told that story too many times already. The goal was to rechamber it to a .340 Wby Mag, which happened about a year after I took ownership. In the meantime I handloaded it as a .338 Win Mag. Results were stellar, to the point of nearly calling off the rechambering plan. A load of H3100 behind the 250gr Hornady SP Interloc went into 3/4″ at 300 yards! That was one of those rare days when “it all comes together”. I never duplicated that, but came close a couple of times. Plus, a good load of RL-19 fired that same bullet at 2842 fps. The gun was magical!
<The .338 Win Mag rechambered to the .340 Wby
A second .350 Rem Mag. This was the model 673 with the laminated stock, 22″ barrel and useless steel “ventilated rib” on top. The first was the 700 Classic in that chambering. That one should have been kept. It was handsome, relatively lightweight with nice walnut, and perfectly balanced. The main fault was a lack of good reloading data – and that was mostly the result of it’s image from the past… a short and handy “powerhouse” for relatively modest ranges. So most manuals met those expectations – so did the Remington factory ammo. The highest MV published for a 250gr was around 2400 fps, so the manuals mimicked that. In those days I tended to respect the limits of the manuals, but I was disappointed with those results, though the rifle itself was a beauty. However, the short action didn’t give much (or any) room for going beyond the manuals when handloads were limited by both the short case and short action!
The M673, however (after my gunsmith sorted out a rather serious problem of the chamber being undersize from lack of finishing) proved to be all that I expected, and more! Plus, I’d learned a whole lot more about venturing with handloads.
Incidentally, today’s handloads for the .350 Rem Mag and the .35 Whelen are where they should have been from the beginning. The Whelen was hamstrung because of a false belief that CUP and PSI were the same thing in pressure. The .350 Rem Mag was hamstrung by a poor understanding of how it COULD be loaded and SHOULD have been loaded to attain 63,000 psi.
Check this out: BARNES #4: 20″ barrel = 2943 fps from their 200gr TSX, and 2764 fps from their 225gr TSX using TAC powder. Meanwhile, Remington is still producing a factory 200gr load advertised at 2675 fps from a 20″! Barnes’ load of the 200 TSX from a 20″ beats that by 268 fps! And Nosler #6 shows 2571 fps for their 250gr from a 22″ barrel. The actual results of Remington’s 250gr RN in my “Classic” with a 22″ barrel was 2247 fps average for 10 shots! (I wanted the brass for reloads). Though I don’t have Nosler’s latest, I understand the results are still better.
My outcome from the M673 (22″) = 2710 fps (average) from the 250gr GS from a compressed load of RL-15. The last load fired from that rifle went three into 3/8″ (.375) at a hundred at 2738 fps corrected average. When I think how cheated I was by paying attention to those miserable manual results and factory ammo at the time of the 700 Classic, I fume inside!
< A work day for the .350 Rem Mag. It was loaded with the 250gr Speer Grand Slam at +2700 fps.
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