Welcome back. Today, I’ll continue with Light Big Bores.
So far, we’ve given an overview of the .35 Whelen and the .350 Rem Mag, and a rationale for including them in this segment of Big Bores. Much more could be said in regard to these two remarkable cartridges but we will conclude with some further observations before moving on the .358 Norma Magnum.
It has already been pointed out that the .35 Whelen and .350 Rem Mag are severely restricted in performance by factory ammo. Should the prospective buyer not be a handloader, then I would suggest something else for large and/or potential DG. But when handloaded to top performance these two are transformed into outstanding achievers.
There are excellent components available for handloading from numerous American and offshore manufacturers of bullets, cases and powders. But for the .350 Rem Mag, I believe that Remington is the sole producer of cartridge cases, though the experienced innovative handloader can “create” brass from .338 Win Mag or 7mm Rem Mag brass. Of course, .30-06 brass can easily be “necked-up” to .358″ , which is how the .35 Whelen got started to begin with. And .30-06 brass is made by everyone who loads for that commercial favorite.
Regarding powders for both: Start and stop with Reloader 15 for 225 to 250-grainers. For 200’s, try a slightly faster powder for best performance, and I’ve found H414 to work best with the 300-grain Barnes (no longer available, but Woodleigh makes a 310 gr and Swift a 280 gr ).
Excellent bullets can be had from most of the manufacturers, but my recommendation is the Nosler Partition in 225 gr and 250 gr for most N.A. game and African plains game. Reserve the Swift or Woodleigh for Brown bear or the African cats. In my experience, the Barnes-X or TSX’s are simply too long, being mono-metal, and eat too much powder space from the already limited capacity of both cartridges. And this impedes muzzle velocity as well.
If I had to choose between one or the other of those two, I would probably flip a coin. In nit-picking though, there are slight advantages to each. The .350 Rem Mag has slightly more “boiler-room” in its case and so will drive bullets up to 250 grs from a 20″ tube about the same speed as the Whelen will from a 22″ barrel, all else being equal. Perhaps some of that effect has to do with a shorter column of powder burning more efficiently. Another fact in favor of the .350 Rem is it’s initial design parameters mandating a short action. In some ways that may seem somewhat counter-productive, but keep in mind that is what also contributes to the .350 Rem being a “powerhouse” in a short-compact package, which cannot work for the .35 Whelen because of it’s longer case and action.
The main features in favor of the .35 Whelen are it’s standard-length action and the plethora of .30-06 brass which can be used by a simple run into a .35 Whelen die. Also, Remington’s 700 series rifles have “long” actions accompanied with long throats which allow bullets to be seated long in the .35 Whelen. This, in effect, gives the cartridge case greater capacity for powder for the long heavyweights which may allow it to surpass the .350 Rem with bullets heavier than 250 grs. So, the bottom line for me is that if I intended to mostly use longer, heavyweight bullets (including the very long 200gr Ballistic Tip) I would choose the Whelen. If I wanted a shorter, lighter, more compact package, I’d go with the .350 Rem.
Let’s move on now to the .358 Norma.
“The Big Swede”, as gun writer Jon Sundra appropriately named his custom .358 Norma Magnum, shoots the same bullets as the .35 Whelen and .350 Rem Mag, only 150 to 200 fps faster with equal length barrels. Does that make a difference? Well, it might under a certain set of conditions, such as a longer shot on large game out at 400 to 500 yds. One thing it will do is fire a 300 gr at 2500 fps, which the other two cannot. They top out at between 2250 and 2350 fps with the same slug. Of course, range is a factor in bullet impact speed from any cartridge!
The .358 Norma Magnum was created by Norma, and came out of Sweden in 1959, a year too late for ready acceptance by American hunters because the .338 Win Mag arrived on the scene the previous year. It’s main rival would be the new .338 Winchester, and the Norma being a foreign cartridge not manufactured in the States with no domestic rifles would have a difficult time for acceptance, if not survival! Such has been it’s history despite being a better all-around design than the .338 Winchester.
We’ve not finished with the .358 Norma, and we still have the .358 STA and 9.3mm’s to consider in upcoming blogs within the framework of Light Big Bores.
But, that’s all for this time. I hope you’ll come around again next week to see why the .358 Norma is perhaps the ultimate choice in .358-bore as a commercial cartridge. And why the .358 STA is included even though few hunters choose it.