Printer Friendly

Despite years of attempts to establish big-game cartridges that fall between .30 caliber and the ever-popular .375 H&H, this virtually wide-open category remains the rifleman's no-man's land.

History has shown that one of the most difficult jobs one can give a firearms/ammo manufacturer is that of coming up with a successful (read that popular) big-game cartridge between the .308 and .375 calibers. It's sort of a ballistic no-man's land.

Between the .22 and .30 calibers there exists a difference of only .084 inch. That's les than a tenth of an inch variation between our more-or-less standard bore size for plinking and varmint shooting, the .224, to the .30 caliber do-everything bore which most concede is all that's necessary for hunting any North American animals and 95 percent of the rest of the world's game. To put it more graphically, the thickness of 80 pages of this magazine separates the bullet diameter of a .222 Remington from a .300 Wichester Magmun.

Though .084 inch is not much of a jump in actual size, it's a rather well-populated span, one in which we find the 6mm's (.243), the .25s (257), the 6.5mm (.264), the .270 (.277) and the 7mm's (.284). The largest jump is the .020-inch separating the .22 from the 6mm's, and the .024-inch that stands between the 7mm's and the .30s. Still, there's not much room, or need, for any new calibers in between. I mean, what would a .230 or a .295 caliber do that an existing one doesn't?

Once we get above .30 caliber the gaps are fewer and farther between on the way to the "big bores." And let's face it, there are only two big bores: the .375 and .458 Magnums.

Several years ago, 1977 to be exact, it looked like there might be some new life infused into the over .30 category with the announcement of the 8mm Remington Magnum. There certainly seemed to be room for a potent cartridge in that broad span between the .30s and the .375 H&h which had, since 1958, been dominated by one cartridge, the .338 winchester Magnum. However, with Remington's announcement in late '83 that the 8 Mag would be dropped from the Model 700 BDL line it was obvious that this latest attempt to break the over-.30 barrier had come a cropper. As we'll see later, when we take a closer look at the Big 8, if there was one cartridge that had a chance of establishing itself, it was this caliber.

Before going any further, let's distinguish between big-game cartridges and those that are merely over .30 caliber. Regarding the former, I'm talking cartridges that are suitable for the taking of elk, moose and the big bears under all ranges and conditions. Such a rifle would also be viable for all of Africa's soft-skinned game, including the cats. Given those parameters, we're looking at a rifle/cartridge combination that could be used effectively on, and is recommended for, all but three species worldwide; rhino, buffalo and elephant.

Today only two cartridges fall into the range between .083 and .375 that meet the criteria of both power and availability; the .338 Winchester and .340 Weatherby Magnums. However, I feel that, while obsolete, the 8mm Mag and .358 Norma Mag should be included.

As for the other category of over-.30s, we have an assortment of currently loaded commercial cartridges, the .32 Special, 8mm Mauser, .348 Win., .35 Rem., .350 Rem. Mag, .356 Win., .358 Win. and the .375 Win. Of those, the defunct .350 remington Magnum is the most potent, with the .356 and .358 Winchesters taking second and third place, at least in factory-loaded form. Actually, in a good, strong bolt action a handloaded 8X57mm would best both of Winchester's .35s, but in its Winchester, .358 Norma and 8mm Remington appeared, when most component bullets were either of round-nosed persuasion and/or were light in weight relative to diameter (low section density). With the coming of the higher velocities imparted by the belted magnums and the heavier, more streamlined bullets disigned especially for them we found that bullets of medium or large caliber could be made just as streamlined and shoot just as flat s smaller ones. Case in point: Sierra's .338 250-grain spitzer BT, this game slug (not a macth bullet) has a ballistic coefficient of .596, which is considerably higher than Sierra's 130-grain .270, 160-grain 7mm or 180-grain .308, all BTs and farmed for their flat-shooting characteristic.

So much for any inherent inferiority in large caliber slugs. As long as ballistic coefficients and velocities are roughly comparable, so too will be the trajectories out at practical ranges... even out to 500 yards, which is well beyond practical range. I emphasized "velocity" because therein lies our first problem. To take full advantage of those highly efficient bullets--at least to the degree that we do with the smaller calibers--they must be pushed at magnum velocities.

Let's say for the sake of argument that to get realistic yet true magnum-level performance from the calibers in question, here's what we're looking at:

Assuming a scoped bolt-action rifle of 9 pounds, we're dealing with 36 foot pounds of recoil. Considering a .30-06 of the same weight nudges us only 21 pound's-worth, it's not hard to understand why most hunters shy away from the medium-bore magnums. It's not just a matter of recoil, because, let's face it, if a guy really feels he wants or needs that extra power, he should be willing to shoot frequently enough to get used to the added jolt. There's also the question, "Do I really need that extra power?" Except for those with definite plans to hunt our big bears and/or Africa, most nimrods will answer "no" to that question.

And for the African-bound hunter, the advice invariably is, "Bring a .375." It's not only because the .375 is respected, nay, revered, by just about every African professional as being the ideal large antelope and cat rifle, but also because the use of anything smaller on buffalo or elephant is against the law in most countries.

Then too, the .375 has readily available factory ammo in a choice of round-nose and spitzer soft points as well as solids--something which can't be said of the other smaller rounds in question. And for African hunting the importance of solids can't be overemphasized. The typical African-bound American hunter bent on bringing just one rifle will usually opt for a .375; if bringing two, it's either a .375 or a .458 and a 7mm or 300 Magnum in probably 60 percent of the cases. What it frequently boils down to, then, for the prospective "medium magnum" buyer, is the the perception that "they're too much for most hunting here and not quite enough for over there."

I mentioned before that if any cartridge had a chance of establishing itself as well as stimulating interest in the over-.30s in general it was Remington's Big 8. Essentially nothing more than an "improved" .375 H&H case, the 8 Mag held about ten percent more powder and was fully .350-inches longer than the 7mm Remington Mag case and .025 inch longer than the .300 Winchester Mag.

Rather than buck the well-entrenched .300 Wichester and Weatherby Magnums, Remington chose to go with the much neglected 8mm (.323) bore. Ballistically, it was a good decision. For one thing, the case was too big for a .30 caliber. Nor did they want it to be a "me too" cartridge by joining the existing .338 and .340 Weatherby.

In light of Remington's phenomenal success with their 7mm Magnum and the fact no one was doing anything in the .32 caliber category, who can really blame them for figuring the 8mm was the right choice?

If there's a better long-range elk rifle than the 8 Mag loaded with a 200-grain bullet at 2,900 feet per second (fps), a realistic velocity for the handloader as attested to by the Hornady and Sierra manuals, I don't know what it is. Yet it didn't sell... at least not well enough for Reminton to keep it in the line.

As for the .338 Winchester, it's been kinda comfortably perched mid-way between the .300s and the .375 for over 25 years. Whatever the .338 can do, the 340 Weatherby can better by 100 to 12k fps. Together, these two capture most of the interest of those shooters looking for something in that in-between category. But even together we're not talking any huge numbers. Both are fairly popular calibers with Alaskan residents who account for the largest single market for these two potent rounds.

As for the execellent and highly versatile .35 caliber, with Norma's dropping of the .358 Magnum from its line of factory ammo, this potent middle magnum became even more of an orphan than the 8 Mag since factory ammo for the latter will at least be available for many years to come. Interestingly enough, as good as the .358 Norma is, and the fact it was available for over 20 years as a factory load (a 250-grain semi-spitzer bullet at 2,800 fps for 4,320 foot pounds of energy), it always took a back seat in popularity to the .35 Whelen among dyed-in-the-wool gun cranks.

At one time I would have attributed the 35 Whelen's popularity to the fact that it worked nicely through surplus '98 Mauser and .03 Springfield actions without alteration, all that was needed was a rebore job or a new barrel. The Whelen is often referred to as a "poorman's .375." But then the .358 Norman also fits standard-length actions and since when did the few extra dollars to open the bolt face and rails to accommodate a belted magnum deter the kind of guy who would own a wildcat?

Of the three calibers under discussion here the .35 has the poorest selection of suitably heavy bullets. When Remington's .350 Magnum was current, Hornady offered its 250-grain slug in both a spire point and round nose configuration. Remington's excellent 200- and 250-grain spitzers were also available a conponents to handloaders. No more. And Hornady has long since dropped its heavier spire point. A 250-grain bullet is as close to the perfect weight as you'll get in a big .35 caliber cartridge.

As for lighter bullets, the choice is also dismal. Nosler makes no .35 caliber projecties; Sierra one--a 200 grain round nose; Hornady in both a 200-grain RN and spire point, and Speer 180- and 200-grain flat points. That's it. Total. There are, of course, additional choices offered by our two excellent, custom bullet makers, Barnes and bitterroot, in 250-, 275- and even 300-grain weights.

I think that in the final analysis, the difference between the way things are and the way they are perceived goes a long way in explaining why the middle magnum game has been such a tough one to make a go of. Both on paper and in the field the 8 Mag, the .338 and .340, and the .358 Norma are tremendously capable rounds. In fact, one can make as convincing a case for these calibers being closer to that mythical allaround rifle as any others. Sure they're more gun than necessary for 90 percent of the world's game and they're not fun to shoot from a bench, but reciol in the 35 to 38 foot-pound class is hardly the kind that has blood gushing out your nose and ears after one shot; it's not much more than the jolt you get from a 12 gauge with magnum loads. For the experienced rifleman who keeps his hand in by shooting at least a few rounds every couple of weeks year 'round, these guns present no problem.

What it really boils down to is that the power generated by these middle magnums is really necessary for only a handful of animals worldwide. And when going after them, it makes good sense to go with something bigger yet, especially when game laws and the availability and selection of factory ammo are prime considerations. In light of the actual necessity for these cartridges and the relatively small number of hunters requiring them, the collective market is rather small; small enough that no major gunmaker can realistically expect to sell more than a few hundred guns per year. When those kinds of numbers are judged against 7mm, .30-06 or .300 Magnum sales, it's no wonder the middle magnums look like losers; they are... But only in a business sense.
COPYRIGHT 1984 InterMedia Outdoors, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1984 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Sundra, Jon
Publication:Guns & Ammo
Date:Jul 1, 1984
Previous Article:Play it safe and update your reloading library.
Next Article:Allen Fire Arms' Henry rifle a rapid fire replica!

Related Articles
Remington's limited edition classic.
Holland's .375 the world's greatest big bore.
Reloading; premium game bullets.
New powder gives rifle shooters hyper-magnum power.
A Winchester with a BOSS? How about a new magnum cartridge from Remington? Just wait!
1996 will be a magnum year for centerfire rifle ammo.
Suntory dismisses Asahi complaint over brand name.
Sell enhanced pistols, fast-loading revolvers.
Belt up! A shooter's top 10: the best belted rifle cartridges ever developed.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2016 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters