The BAR in 7 mm Rem Mag had a serious problem. In developing and shooting various handloads for it, I noticed the ejected cases were very hot — too hot to handle! These were book loads that fed and ejected in a normal fashion. From a bolt action, I’d always ejected the empty cases rather slowly, and never were they too hot to handle — they’d be slightly warm and that was it. I thought hot empties was very strange… That is until I started to reload those same cases, which I didn’t do immediately as I was still using new (unfired) brass for several sessions over a period of a few weeks — I was only going to the range once per week. During that initial period, using new cases each time, I adjusted loads downward thinking that the “book loads” must have been too hot for that rifle being a semi. Remember, I didn’t own a chronograph at the time so was guessing muzzle velocity.
The light came on when I started to reload some of the cases that were once-fired. Initially, in resizing, I thought it a bit strange that there was more resistance at the start of each case than I’d experienced with the .30-06, but passed it off as just “one of those things”. But creeping into my mind was a doubt about neck tension before resizing. I tried a BT bullet and it wouldn’t fall into the case! It was like the case had already been resized! I then tried several bullets with the same effect — they would only go into the case if the bullet seater was used in the press, trying several cases with the same results!
As good luck would have it, I’d picked up a Wolfe publication (Rifle or Handloader) when Wolfe himself still owned the business. There was a corner store in Halifax called a “Smoke Shop”, that had excellent magazines for shooting, hunting AND handloading. That particular edition had a lengthy article on the 7 mm Rem Mag BAR, and that’s why I’d bought it around the time of exchanging my .30-06 for the 7 BAR, but I’d not read the article until after the described problems. In that piece (a lengthy one — unlike most short pieces in gun rags today) the author (don’t recall his name) gave a description of the exact same problem I was experiencing! I couldn’t believe it! I mean, I did believe him, but it solved my dilemma. He went on to talk about his investigation of a problem that was being experienced not only in BARS in 7 Rem Mag but bolt actions as well! That brought about a change at SAAMI of CUP for that cartridge from 54,000 cup to 52,000 cup (Later writers gave other reasons.).
It seemed (according to that article) that a bunch of reamers sent to manufacturers, or made by them, had the wrong specs for the neck! And the same results I was getting was being experienced by many others.
Whatever the case, I now owned a new 7mm Rem Mag in a Browning BAR that I considered “dangerous”! What to do? To make matters worse, there was no gun smith in the Halifax region with the credentials to “improve” the neck situation of the rifle as any reamer that might have been available would only conform to what had already been done in manufacturing. The local “smith” wouldn’t touch it!
So it went back to the dealership where purchased with a full explanation. The shop manager was very apologetic, and said the best he could do to resolve the problem would be in a new M70 with a new scope to replace the faulty BAR with the new Leupold. Seeing that they didn’t have any Leupolds on hand, they’d have to be ordered from the USA — and that might take 6 months to a year for actual delivery. Since this was the gun department of a large Canadian Tire store in Dartmouth, and any orders of one-of-a-kind was rare or never, I’d be well advised to accept the finest scope they had in stock — which was a Bushnell 3 – 9 x 40mm. So I accepted a new M70 Winchester XTR in .300 Win Mag (closer to the ballistics of the 7 Rem Mag) with the new Bushnell mounted in place.
Then we moved back to Ontario without ever having fired the .300 Win Mag in Nova Scotia. We’d been in Halifax for four years and received a call to become pastor of a significant church in the Kawartha Lakes region of Ontario. When we left Ontario for Nova Scotia four years earlier it was with the intent to return once our “mission” was done there. So here in The Kawartha Lakes region we’ve resided since 1987. It’s been an ideal area for outdoor living, and hunting/fishing in particular.
This was a much larger church with several pastors and a Christian school, so I wondered how much time might be available as Senior Pastor for the pursuit of outdoor activities. Nonetheless, since it’s largely an agricultural – recreational – cottage country – vacation area, initially any concerns over that seemed unfounded. Along with a decent salary and benefits, plus a month’s vacation whenever suitable allowed possibilities for some hunting.
So my first vacation period that seemed “appropriate” was a full week in the second year of our tenure. I wanted to hunt a bear (for the first time), so that week was dedicated to such an adventure. By then the .300 Win Mag had been to the range a few times, but never hunted. It was mandated that after moving to a different province we must wait a full year before purchasing a hunting licence, or we could hire an outfitter as a non-resident prior to that. My wait was one and a-half years.
During that period the M70 XTR in .300 Win Mag was traded for a SAKO FS in .338 Win Mag. I didn’t like the heft of the .300 as it would have been more suited to a .375 H&H. Because of its total weight — over 9 lbs with scope and 44-inches in length — I wanted something shorter and lighter… enter the .338 in the SAKO FS carbine at 40-inches and 8.6 lbs ready with scope, ammo and sling. The Bushnell scope from the .300 went onto the .338. And I must say that the Bushnell never failed, or gave a moments concern after hundreds of handloads through the .338 and then onto the M70 .375 H&H that came later. Bushnell, at that time, was made by B&L.
By the time of the bear hunt in the spring of ’89, I’d had a lot of handloading experience with the .338 from 200gr to 275gr, which also included 225s and 250s. I certainly had a few loads suitable for bear. By then, however, I had a thirst for a larger bore rifle and had been reading up on the revival of the ancient, but impressive .45-70, especially in the renewed 1895 Marlin. I wanted to give it a try on a black bear — my first!
That story has been told a few times in former blogs so I’ll not go there again in this piece, but the point I’m making is that the .45-70 was my introduction to Big Bores. Though other small bore, sub-medium and medium-bores have had a place in my handloading and hunting experiences, big-bore rifles have dominated my interest in hunting, handloading and shooting activities — especially in .458-caliber. That, of course, being the time-honoured .45-70 and formidable .458 Winchester Magnum.
Even though this has been the theme of many of my articles, once again (for those who have forgetful minds or are only now being introduced to http://www.bigbores.ca ), I’ll boldly affirm that no cartridge that I’ve made handloads for, small to large, has the versatility — when handloaded — as .458-caliber, and in the .458 Winchester Magnum in particular. That audacious claim can easily be justified — and has been! With a little ingenuity, yes that’s “little”, it can effectively be used on woodchucks to Woolly Mammoths (if they existed today)! And the .45-70 could do the same if you leave out the Mammoths!
All that has to do with the caliber (.458″), cartridge, bullets and powders readily available today — not even to mention the rifles — ahem, we do need rifles for such don’t we.
Since I’ve previously written extensively in justification of such claims, I desist from doing so again. However, the projectiles available in .458″ are nearly infinite, including moulds for making your own. Anything from 250gr to 600s can be fired from 1000 fps to over 3000 fps! (Not the 600 at over 3000!). I’ve owned a couple boxes of Barnes Originals in 600gr, and I’m unable to find the few unfired that remain. Those fired were done so in my Ruger #1 in .45-70 LT at 1900 fps – and that wasn’t max! I figure that a .458 WIN could improve on that by at least 100 fps. The problem with that bullet in the .45-70 Ruger was the rate-of-twist at 1 – 20. They were accurate at 100 yds but some made slightly eccentric holes in the targets. That twist rate couldn’t completely stabilize those long bullets. I believe that the standard 1 – 14 twist rate of the .458 Win Mag would. At one time I plugged the data into a program and that bullet would have been fully stable from a .458 Win Mag with a 1 – 14 barrel. The 600gr Barnes Original bullet had a 0.05″ jacket and a round nose. A 600gr at 2100 fps is doable from a 24″, .458 Win – I’ve no doubt!
Going on record, I’ve stated that a premium 400gr SP would be ideal for the .458 Winchester Magnum as an all-around choice. However, Barnes dropped their 400-X from inventory and failed to introduce it as a 400 TSX when changes were made to that format. The 400 X-Bullet was a favorite of several big game pros, including Phil Shoemaker who lamented its loss. Though I make no claim as a pro, I protested its loss as well, and still don’t accept Barnes’ rationale for doing so.
Others in .458 as some of my “likes” are included in the following pics:
<Img.1 – L to R: 3rd= 480gr Hor DGX; 4th = 450gr Swift AF; 5th = 405gr Rem; 8th = 350gr TSX; 14th = 300gr TSX.
<Img. 2 – L to R: 2nd = 465gr hardcast; 10th = 350gr Speer
In 9.3 x 62 I’ve stated numerous times that I prefer the Noslers: 286gr Partition and 250gr Accubond.
In .358 caliber: Nosler Partitions in 225 and 250gr; Hornady 250 SP, Barnes 225 X or TSX.
In .338 magnums: 250 Partitions
In .300 magnums: 200gr Partitions or Accubonds.
In 7 magnums: 175gr Partitions.
In 7-08: 162gr Hornady.
In .270 Win: 150gr Partitions.
In 6.5: 140gr Partitions.
In .25-06: 120gr Partitions
In .223: 53gr Hornady HP.
In .44 mag: 270gr or 300gr Speer.
In .375 H&H: depending on application, 300s.
In .30-06: 180s.
In .308 Win: 165s.
In 7.62 x 54R: 180s.
In .444 Marlin: 265s.
In .356 Winchester: 220s (plus a bunch of light pistol bullets)
In .375 Winchester: 220s.
And that’s all I know!