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The big .33 Nosler: the reign of the VLD.



RIFLES AND SCOPES have been evolving at a breakneck speed over the past 10 years. What was top of the line 10 years ago is pretty pedestrian in the capability department given the contemporary rifle-shooting landscape. Scopes have better image quality, tracking and durability. Good rifles have become less expensive, and expensive rifles can do things that used to be impossible.

In addition to the newfound riches in rifles and optics, ballistic calculators and apps make it possible to reliably hit targets at much greater distances than previously thought possible. When combining the new rifles and scopes, rifle shooters must work to remain as capable as this new equipment.

The weakest point in all this awesome gear used to be our cartridges. Those hadn't changed much, if at all. It wasn't until Nosier came along with their new family of cartridges that riflemen could truly take advantage of all the industry breakthroughs from the last 10 years.

Very Low Drag (VLD) All of the rifle and optic advances from the past decade made it possible for riflemen to hit targets farther and farther away. This has been driving bullet manufacturers to produce bullets with higher and higher ballistic coefficients (BCs) to take advantage of the new rifle and optic capabilities. It doesn't make much sense to shoot a short, fat bullet a long distance because the projectile lacks the aerodynamics necessary to retain velocity as it travels downrange. It'll quickly decelerate and get blown off course.

Now is the reign of the VLD. Competitive shooters, recreational steel shooters and long-range hunters all seek these bullets to minimize wind deflection and retain velocity to help the bullets have as flat a trajectory as possible. The problem is that few cartridges were designed with the longer, sleeker bullets in mind. Stuffing a new VLD in an older cartridge usually means the package is too long to fit in the action length intended for the cartridge or the combination doesn't want to feed reliably from internal or detachable box magazines.

This is where the family of Nosier cartridges reigns supreme. I asked Mike Lake, the designer of the whole family, what criteria he used when creating these cartridges. "I wanted a big, beltless magnum that was designed from the start for use with VLDs, and I wanted them to fit in standard-length (long) actions," Lake said. Rarely are so many good ideas contained in a single sentence.


Stuff a VLD bullet into an older rifle cartridge and there's a fair chance the bullet's long nose will sit back inside the case neck. Bullets that put the nose, or ogive, inside the case neck can't be used for that cartridge because they'll have insufficient neck tension.

Nosier designed each of their cartridges (the .26, .28, .30 and now the .33 Nosier) to hold the longest VLD bullets without placing the ogive near the cartridge neck. No matter what VLD you might fancy, it'll fit in the Nosier case.

Not only will that bullet fit, the loaded cartridge will measure no longer than 3.34 inches, the maximum length for cartridges used in standard long. While it is possible to fit longer 3.6-inch cartridges into a standard-length long action, the additional quarter-inch requires action modification to feed reliably. Then there's also the problem of getting the case on the 3.6-inch cartridge to play well with VLD bullets, which it won't.

Its Roots The parent case for the Nosier family is the .404 Jeffery. The rim has been rebated slightly to give the standard magnum case head diameter of .532 inch. This gives Nosier the largest beltless case possible with which to form cartridges.


The next step for each of the Nosier cartridges was to manipulate shoulder location and neck length to allow each caliber's VLD bullets to fit in the case without the ogive touching the case neck. A comparison of the .28 and .30 Nosier cartridges -with the venerable 7mm Remington Magnum and .300 Winchester Magnum, respectively, does a good job illustrating just how poorly each of the older magnums work with VLD bullets.

The 7mm Remington Magnum is slightly shorter than the Winchester magnums or the Nosier family so it has a shorter case that fits VLD bullets well but at the expense of case capacity There's a ton of room to grow for the 7mm Rem. Mag. case. It could push bullets a lot faster while still fitting well in a regular long action and feeding from detachable box magazines.

The .28 Nosier got everything right that the 7mm Rem. Mag. got wrong. The Nosier case is longer and the shoulder is pushed farther forward, optimizing the amount of powder that could be put behind any 7mm VLD bullet. The case was kept just short enough to allow for a long case neck without touching the VLD ogive.

The .30 Nosier had to go in the opposite direction to correct the mistakes made with the .300 Winchester Magnum. The .300 Win. Mag. has a longer case, a shoulder that is slightly farther forward and a shallow, 2 5-degree shoulder angle that puts the neck/shoulder junction much farther from the case head than the .30 Nosier. This makes the .300 Win. Mag. difficult to keep to standard lengths with VLD bullets. Seating a VLD deep enough in the .300 Win. Mag. to stay below the 3.34-inch SAAMI maximum length means the ogive is dangerously close to the case neck, and much of the bullet will be sitting below the neck/ shoulder junction eating up valuable case capacity.


The .30 Nosier uses a fatter case to get more capacity than the .300 Win. Mag. ever thought about having and moves the shoulder a hair toward the case head. The .30 Nosier also has a sharper shoulder angle to move the neck/shoulder junction away from the case mouth to free up valuable space. That newfound free space allows for a long neck that still has a shorter overall case length than a .300 Win. Mag. VLD bullets have plenty of space to keep the ogive away from the case neck without busting the 3.34-inch maximum overall cartridge length.

The Big Nosier The newest Nosier cartridge is the .33 Nosier. It, like the other Nosier cartridges, is based on the .404 Jeffery and adheres to the same principles established and vetted by the .26, .28 and .30 Nosier.

The .33 Nosier has a fatter case than the .338 Winchester Magnum, and it holds more powder. The shoulder is in the same location for the two cases but the .33 Nosier has a sharper shoulder angle so the neck/shoulder junction sits closer to the case head. This is why the .33 Nosier will work better with VLDs than the .338 Win. Mag.

The additional case capacity of the .33 Nosier makes it about 200 feet per second (fps) faster than the .338 Win. Mag. when used with bullets of the same weight. Surprisingly, the .33 Nosier is within 50 fps of the .338 Lapua Magnum (at least with the 225-grain bullets 1 tested).

Getting .338 Lapua Magnum-like performance out of a cartridge that fits in a standard long action, uses a standard .532 magnum bolt face and plays well with VLD bullets is a very big deal. Previously, shooters who desired this performance had to go to true magnum actions with .588-inch bolt faces. True magnum actions are heavier, more expensive, difficult to find and have limited aftermarket support.


The .33 Nosier is the ideal cartridge for long-range hunters and will likely supplant the .338 Lapua Magnum in this shooting demographic. The .33 will handle any hunting VLD currently in use with the long-range hunting crowd, push it to near identical velocities as the Lapua Magnum and do it all without requiring esoteric equipment.

The .33 Nosier will also likely help grow the long-range hunting crowd because old hunting rifles will only need a new barrel to take advantage of this cartridge. Any old 7mm Rem. Mag. or .300 Win. Mag. can make the transition with a new barrel. The action won't need any work to feed reliably with the .33 Nosier, nor will it need to be hogged out to accommodate a longer cartridge.

Getting it Done. I recently took the new .33 Nosier on an elk hunt in northern Utah. I used Nosler's M48 Liberty rifle with a 26-inch barrel, and it tipped the scales at 8 pounds, 15 ounces with a Leupold 2-12X VX-6 sitting up top. That's about as light as I want to go on an unbraked rifle chambered in .33 Nosier.

There was a gang of us on the hunt, four of whom were carrying rifles in .33 Nosier. The guide that helped me had previously identified a beautiful mature bull elk and had patterned him out well. We wound up chasing that bull for a couple of days before my guide turned to me early one morning and, eyes wide in excitement, hissed, "It's him! It's him!"

The 225-grain AccuBond hit the center of the bull's shoulder, traversed his chest, destroyed both lungs, broke the far shoulder and then stopped just under the hide on the far side. Never have I seen an elk die so quickly. All four knees buckled, and he dropped straight to the ground. Two-hundred and thirty-seven yards separated me and my bull.

All four .33 Nosier hunters took nice bulls at ranges from 237 yards to 408 yards. Every animal died with alacrity after the single application of 225-grain AccuBond by way of a .33 Nosier. One animal took a single step before collapsing.

Elk are tough animals to kill, so it surprised me to see how effectively the .33 Nosier put them down. I guess it shouldn't have, considering the two-plus tons of energy the .33 Nosier generates at the muzzle.

A natural consideration for such a powerful cartridge would be the recoil and how manageable it might be. The stock Nosier uses on the M48 rifle does an excellent job minimizing felt recoil, but there's only so much good stock design can do for a cartridge that generates this much energy.

Accuracy testing the .33 Nosier was uncomfortable, mostly because I shot from a bench and leaned forward into the rifle. A seated position like that doesn't allow the upper body to roll with the recoil, so we take a bit of a beating. It's a sub-9-pound rifle (counting the scope) with no muzzlebrake, and it wants to move around when fired.

Hunting with the .33 Nosier is awesome. Recoil in the field was never an issue because I concentrated way too hard on my crosshairs and elk to notice anything else. The .33 Nosier is a big cartridge, but few things are more comforting that knowing with absolute certainty that you brought enough firepower. I'd feel confident hunting everything in North America and almost everything in Africa with a .33 Nosier.

Accuracy for this cartridge is exceptional, which is expected from Nosier. One of the Nosier secrets for such consistent accuracy is that the chamber specs for each cartridge only allow for an additional .0005-inch freebore diameter. In the case of the .33 Nosier, that means the .338-inch bullet, when chambered, sits in a hole that measures .3385. There's only .00025 clearance on each side of the projectile, so those nice, long VLD bullets don't have a chance to yaw prior to engaging the rifling.

As shooters become more educated on cartridges and what to look for, the Nosier family will do increasingly well. No one offers a better solution for pushing VLDs fast for long distances than Nosier. The new .33 Nosier is the biggest of those cartridges and stands to reinvent long-range hunting with .338- caliber bullets.

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Author:Beckstrand, Tom
Publication:Guns & Ammo
Date:Nov 24, 2016
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