SEVEN DEER CARTRIDGES THAT SHOULD BE MORE POP­U­LAR

THESE EX­CEL­LENT DEER CARTRIDGES NEVER CAUGHT ON BUT ARE KEPT ALIVE BY DED­I­CATED FANS.

Gun World - - Contents - By Pa­trick Meitin

These seven ex­cel­lent deer cartridges never caught on as they should have, but they are kept alive by ded­i­cated fans.

Iguess ri­fle cartridges are no dif­fer­ent than Hol­ly­wood ac­tors, cloth­ing fash­ion or au­to­mo­biles. The in­tri­ca­cies of why one car­tridge be­comes pop­u­lar and an­other fades into obliv­ion are of­ten just one of those mys­ter­ies with no quan­tifi­able an­swer.

Al­though ob­vi­ous mar­ket­ing blun­ders are some­times to blame, the many mov­ing parts of ri­fle and am­mu­ni­tion R&D, com­bined with dis­con­nected mar­ket­ing de­part­ments sim­ply not in synch (for ex­am­ple, the .250 Sav­age); awe­some cartridges rolled out in the wrong ri­fle mod­els or ac­tions (6.5 Rem­ing­ton Mag­num or .280 Rem­ing­ton); ri­fles in­tro­duced with flawed ri­fling twists (.244 Rem­ing­ton); or sim­ply the right round mar­keted for the wrong job (5mm Rem­ing­ton Mag­num Rim­fire) could all be rea­sons.

Of course, ev­ery ri­fle loony has their fa­vorite ob­scure ri­fle car­tridge, con­vinced some niche cham­ber­ing is the an­swer to their par­tic­u­lar shoot­ing needs. All the Weather­bys, Winch­ester Short Mag­nums or Ack­ley Im­proveds fit here— they are bal­lis­ti­cally awe­some but not ex­actly main­stream.

The real prob­lem with many failed cartridges is that they’re sur­rounded by read­ily avail­able op­tions with sim­i­lar ca­pa­bil­i­ties that have been around for­ever and are of­fered in a wide va­ri­ety of ri­fle and ammo op­tions (i.e., .270 Winch­ester, .308 Winch­ester, .30-06 Spring­field). Then, there are those rare in­stances when ri­fle and ammo man­u­fac­tures put their heads to­gether, com­mu­ni­cate ef­fec­tively and hit a home run, such as the 6.5 Creed­moor.

Still, there is no deny­ing there are cartridges out there that fill im­por­tant niches and im­prove on bal­lis­tics of more­pop­u­lar rounds in their class. But, for what­ever rea­son, they just never gained trac­tion. That is the topic here: seven deer-hunt­ing cartridges that should be more pop­u­lar but just never caught on.

6MM REM­ING­TON

In­tro­duced in 1955 as the .244 Rem­ing­ton (a necked­down .257 Roberts with the shoul­der an­gle in­creased to 32 de­grees), it was en­vi­sioned by Rem­ing­ton as a long-range/ windy-day varmint ri­fle, equip­ping Model 722 ri­fles with slow, 1:12 ri­fling. Winch­ester in­tro­duced its .243 the same year but had the fore­sight to un­der­stand that blue-col­lar shoot­ers might pre­fer a ri­fle suited to both varmint and deer-hunt­ing du­ties. So, Winch­ester in­cluded a 1:10 ri­fling twist to sta­bi­lize heav­ier bul­lets. The .243 Win. sky­rock­eted; the .224 Rem. with­ered on the vine.

Re­al­iz­ing its mis­cal­cu­la­tion, Rem­ing­ton re­branded the .244 as the 6mm Rem­ing­ton (what it’s known as to­day) in 1963 in the newly minted Model 700, in­clud­ing 1:9 ri­fling and the cur­rent 6mm Rem­ing­ton moniker. But it was too late; the .243 Win. had al­ready cap­tured the hearts of Amer­i­can shoot­ers.

That’s a shame, be­cause the 6mm is un­doubt­edly the su­pe­rior car­tridge. It has slightly more pow­der ca­pac­ity that im­proves ve­loc­i­ties by 100 to 150 fps, higher SAMMI pres­sures and a longer neck to bet­ter ac­com­mo­date long-for-cal­iber bul­lets. As ex­am­ples, loaded with a high-BC 95-grain Berger VLD Hunt­ing to 3,200 fps or a 100-grain Speer BTSP to 3,000, the 6mm pro­duces re­mark­able ac­cu­racy and deadly deer “medicine.”

.260 REM­ING­TON

I’ve no way of ex­plain­ing the lack­lus­ter sales of the for­saken .260 Rem­ing­ton (by hunters, if not tar­get shoot­ers), other than Amer­i­cans’ early aver­sion to 6.5mm cal­ibers (note the .264 Win. Mag.). Noth­ing more than a necked-down .308 Winch­ester, the .260 was a pop­u­lar wild­cat in U.S. high-power cir­cles be­fore Rem­ing­ton stan­dard­ized it in 1997. If of­fers an ideal com­bi­na­tion of low re­coil, huge ac­cu­racy po­ten­tial and bul­let op­tions with high bal­lis­tic co­ef­fi­cients.

It is the bal­lis­tic twin of the newer and more-pop­u­lar 6.5 Creed­moor (al­though it gen­er­ally lacks the fast ri­fling and in­cludes lower SAMMI pres­sures). Loaded with high-BC 140-grain bul­lets, the .260 Rem­ing­ton ex­pe­ri­ences less wind drift and de­liv­ers more en­ergy at 300 to 400 yards than the .300 Win. Mag. loaded with generic 180-grain soft­points (run the num­bers through a bal­lis­tics cal­cu­la­tor. You’ll be sur­prised). Launch­ing a 120-grain bul­let up to 2,850 fps and a 140-grain to 2,700, the .260 is a real deer-killer that hunters should flock to—al­though it’s re­gain­ing pop­u­lar­ity with PRC tar­get shoot­ers.

LOADED WITH HIGH-BC 140-GRAIN BUL­LETS, THE .260 REM­ING­TON EX­PE­RI­ENCES LESS WIND DRIFT AND DE­LIV­ERS MORE EN­ERGY AT 300 TO 400 YARDS THAN THE .300 WIN. MAG. LOADED WITH GENERIC 180-GRAIN SOFT­POINTS ...

6.5X55MM SWEDISH MAUSER

The 6.5 Swede has been around since 1894. It is a big-game fire­brand in Europe that just never caught on in a big way in the States. This is un­for­tu­nate, as when cham­bered in mod­ern ri­fles (of­fered by Rem­ing­ton, Winch­ester and Ruger at var­i­ous times), the Swede of­fers a high de­gree of ac­cu­racy po­ten­tial in a mild-man­nered pack­age. Its lack­lus­ter ac­cep­tance early on might be ex­plained by the rel­a­tive lack of fac­tory ammo for the round for many years—al­though Amer­i­can man­u­fac­tur­ers soon worked to fill those gaps, and im­ports from com­pa­nies such as Norma helped feed for­eign ri­fles.

I stressed mod­ern ri­fle above, be­cause many M94, M96 and M38 Swedish mil­i­tary ri­fles are float­ing around. While they’re gen­er­ally well made, they are old—the rea­son SAMMI max­i­mum pres­sures re­main at 46,000 CUP/45,000 psi for the 6.5 Swede. These old ri­fles are ca­pa­ble of fine shoot­ing, but hand­loads should be worked up care­fully. In mod­ern arms, the Swede al­lows push­ing 120-grain pills to 2,750 fps and 140-grain pro­jec­tiles to 2,550. For close-range work in thick veg­e­ta­tion, a 160-grain round­nose launched to 2,300 fps is a real deer-thumper.

7-30 WA­TERS

There is ob­vi­ously noth­ing wrong with the il­lus­tri­ous .30-30 Winch­ester, a car­tridge that, for many years, held the dis­tinc­tion of felling more deer than all other rounds com­bined. Yet, car­tridge tin­ker­ers have long strived to im­prove on .30-30 bal­lis­tics.

Es­teemed gun writer Ken Wa­ters de­vel­oped the 7-30 dur­ing the 1970s to pro­vide lever-ac­tion, tubu­lar­magazine shoot­ers with a flat­ter tra­jec­tory and higher ve­loc­i­ties. The car­tridge is cre­ated by neck­ing down and blow­ing out the shoul­ders of a .30-30, re­sult­ing in a shorter neck and 5 per­cent more pow­der ca­pac­ity. U.S. Re­peat­ing Arms cham­bered Model 94 ri­fles for the round in 1983; but, be­ing the only .284-cal­iber tubu­lar-fed ri­fle avail­able, bul­lets re­main rather lim­ited. Op­tions in­clude Speer’s 130-grain flat­nose. Nosler and Hor­nady op­tions dis­con­tin­ued but are of­ten dis­cov­ered as old stock in mom-and-pop sport­ing goods shops. Cast-lead bul­lets of­fer an­other op­tion. T/C Con­tender and En­core sin­gle-shot hand­guns and ri­fles al­low the use of pointed bul­lets— mak­ing a deadly deer-hunt­ing op­tion.

The 7-30 Wa­ters pro­pels jack­eted 130-grain FN bul­lets from the muz­zle at 2,300 to 2,400 fps and a 135-grain cast pill (Ly­man #287346, #2 al­loy) to 2,200 to 2,300 fps. Both loads make deadly deer rounds in handy, fast-han­dling lever guns.

THE 6.5 SWEDE HAS BEEN AROUND SINCE 1894. IT IS A BIG-GAME FIRE­BRAND IN EUROPE THAT JUST NEVER CAUGHT ON IN A BIG WAY IN THE STATES.

.284 WINCH­ESTER

In­tro­duced in 1963 and in­con­ceiv­ably cham­bered in Winch­ester’s Mod­els 88 (lever-ac­tion) and 100 (semi­auto), the .284 Winch­ester was well ahead of its time—in­clud­ing a steep shoul­der, re­bated rim and short, fat body (like the Rem­ing­ton Ul­tra Mags that fol­lowed). It al­lowed greater bal­lis­tic po­ten­tial than pre­vi­ously avail­able from short­ac­tion ri­fles while us­ing stan­dard bolt faces. The 7mm bore di­am­e­ter pro­vides ex­cel­lent bal­lis­tic co­ef­fi­cients and a wide se­lec­tion of bul­lets. How­ever, the .284 feeds best on 120- to 150-grain bul­lets, launch­ing the for­mer to 3,000 fps and the lat­ter to 2,800 fps. As a com­mer­cial car­tridge, the .284 Winch­ester is nearly ex­tinct and is more pop­u­lar to­day as the par­ent case for wild­cat rounds such as the 6.5-.284 Norma. I con­tend that the lever-gun and au­toloader launch doomed the car­tridge, which is a much bet­ter fit in an ac­cu­rate bolt ri­fle (such as those of­fered by Brown­ing and

Ul­tra Light Arms).

The .284 Winch­ester is markedly su­pe­rior to the much more pop­u­lar 7mm-08 Rem­ing­ton and falls only 100 to 150 fps short of the 7mm Rem­ing­ton Mag­num. As a re­sult, its ob­scu­rity is dif­fi­cult to ex­plain. The only real draw­back of the round is that its over­all length lim­its the use of heav­ier bul­lets, which in­trude into pow­der space, mak­ing 150- to 160-grains a re­al­is­tic top end—a small price to pay for short-ac­tion ca­pa­bil­i­ties. In a cus­tom bolt-ac­tion ri­fle, it would be a tough one to beat.

.280 REM­ING­TON

A car­tridge with awe­some po­ten­tial, the .280 Rem­ing­ton has suf­fered from a chaotic ex­is­tence. The 1957 in­tro­duc­tion of the car­tridge in an au­toloader

(Model 740) and then a pump (Model 760) no doubt started the down­hill slide, in­clud­ing the need to down­load fac­tory ammo to ac­com­mo­date those weaker ac­tions. In 1979, the mar­ket­ing ge­niuses at Rem­ing­ton be­gan a series of in­ex­pli­ca­ble name changes: from .280 Rem­ing­ton to 7mm-06 in 1979 (not to be con­fused with es­tab­lished wild­cats by the same la­bel) to 7mm Ex­press Rem­ing­ton (eas­ily con­fused with the 7mm Rem­ing­ton Mag­num) a few months later—and then back to .280 Rem­ing­ton once more. This is a clas­sic case of bum­bled mar­ket­ing throt­tling a great car­tridge. Many in the shoot­ing pub­lic un­der­stand­ably threw up their hands.

Cre­ated by neck­ing down the .30-06 Spring­field, tech­ni­cally, the .280 fills a nar­row gap be­tween the .270 Winch­ester and .30-06. But, in re­al­ity, it does more than the .270 through wider bul­let weight se­lec­tion while of­fer­ing su­pe­rior bal­lis­tic co­ef­fi­cients than the ’06 with same-weight pills.

In stout bolt guns, the .280 can be loaded with bul­lets weigh­ing from 120 grains (at 3,100 fps) to 175 grains (at 2,600 fps). How­ever, it seems to do its best work with 160- to 162-grain pills

(at 2,750 fps), some with BCs of up to .625. Run­ning those num­bers through a bal­lis­tics cal­cu­la­tor, you’ll find the .280 Rem­ing­ton edges out the .30-06 in a 300- to 400-yard drop and 10 mph wind drift with like-weight bul­lets launched at iden­ti­cal speeds. The pop­u­lar .270 Win. sim­ply pales in com­par­i­son to the .280 Rem­ing­ton. The .30-06 can shoot heav­ier bul­lets, mak­ing it more ver­sa­tile on the heavy end. But for deer hunt­ing, the .280 is dif­fi­cult to beat.

.338 FED­ERAL

As far as I can dis­cern, the .338 Fed­eral is the only car­tridge to bear a Fed­eral head­stamp. In­tro­duced in 2006, the .338 Fed­eral is noth­ing more than a .308 Winch­ester necked up to .338 cal­iber. This cre­ates an ef­fi­cient com­bi­na­tion, pro­duc­ing en­ergy lev­els a touch above the .30-06 Spring­field and sim­i­lar to the 7mm Rem­ing­ton Mag­num (even though it’s not as flat-shoot­ing) but with much less re­coil and in­clud­ing handy, short-ac­tion com­pat­i­bil­ity. Yet, it is a car­tridge few deer hunters have heard of.

That’s a pity, be­cause the .338 Fed­eral serves as a ver­sa­tile, heavy-cover deer round. It han­dles fast, 180-grain pills launched to slightly fewer than 2,800 fps up to heavy, 225-grain bul­lets chug­ging along at 2,400 fps. Light-bul­let bal­lis­tics com­pare fa­vor­ably with the .30-06 in terms of downrange drop and wind re­sis­tance. Mov­ing up to 200 to 210 bul­lets—some in­clud­ing high BCs and heav­ier, slower, 225-grain num­bers—the .338 Fed­eral be­comes what some deer hunters have la­beled the best white­tail brush gun around. The .338 Fed­eral is also great for bear, elk or moose when used at av­er­age ranges. GW

The au­thor’s picks for seven ex­cel­lent deer cartridges that should be more pop­u­lar in­clude(left to right):6mm Rem­ing­ton,.260 Rem­ing­ton, 6.5x55mm Swedish Mauser, 7-30 Wa­ters, .284 Winch­ester, .280 Rem­ing­ton and .338 Fed­eral.

The .280 Rem­ing­ton par­ent case is the .30-06 Spring­field, which spawned manyuse­ful cartridges, in­clud­ing the .25-05 Rem­ing­ton, .270 Winch­ester, .280 Rem­ing­ton, .338-06 A-Square and .35 Whe­len. The .280 Rem­ing­ton (mid­dle)is flanked by the .25-06 (left) and the .30-06 par­ent case. The 6mm Rem­ing­ton. There are darned few 6mm cartridges to be­gin with, but the .243 Winch­ester won that bat­tle long ago. The 6mm Rem­ing­ton re­tains ded­i­cated fans and is re­gain­ing pop­u­lar­ity with the long-range shoot­ing crowd.

The .260 Rem­ing­ton is mak­ing some­what of a come­back with long-range and PRC shoot­ers but just never caught on with deer hunters. This is a pity, be­cause this round of­fers ex­cel­lent bal­lis­tics in a mild-man­nered car­tridge.

While the 6.5x55mm Swedish Mauser is a main­stay with Euro­pean big-game hunters and tar­get shoot­ers, it never re­ally caught on in a big way with Amer­i­can shoot­ers— de­spite be­ing an ex­cep­tional car­tridge.

I The 7-30 Wa­ters. Ken Wa­ters, gun tinker of some note, de­vel­oped the 7-30 Wa­ters look­ing to im­prove on .30-30 Winch­ester bal­lis­tics in tubu­lar­mag lever guns. He was suc­cess­ful, but the rel­a­tive lack of flat­nose 7mm pills has held the car­tridge back.

The .280 Rem­ing­ton.Cre­ated by neck­ing down the .30-06 Spring­field, the .280 Rem­ing­ton fits squarely be­tween the .270 Win. and .30-06. A wider range of bul­let weights makes it su­pe­rior to the .270 and high bal­lis­tic co­ef­fi­cients in same-weight bul­lets bet­ter than the ’06.I

The .284 Winch­ester was well ahead of its time, pro­vid­ing bal­lis­tics for­merly un­avail­able in short­ac­tion ri­fles. To­day, it is nearly ob­so­lete, serv­ing more of­ten as the ba­sis for var­i­ous necked-down wild­cat rounds.

I The .338 Fed­eral is the only car­tridge bear­ing a Fed­eral head­stamp. A .308 Win. case necked up to .338 cal­iber, it’s a highly ef­fi­cient and ef­fec­tive car­tridge that shoots 180- to 225-grain bul­lets— per­fect for hunt­ing deer in thick cover.

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