Straight-wall car­tridges

More hunters are turn­ing to the old­est me­tal­lic car­tridge de­sign for deer and other game

Outdoor Life - - CONTENTS - by BRAD FITZ­PATRICK

THROUGH­OUT THE MID­WEST and other parts of the coun­try, deer hunters are swap­ping their slug guns and muz­zleload­ers for ri­fles cham­bered in straight-wall car­tridges thanks to changes in leg­is­la­tion that make th­ese rounds le­gal to use. For decades, states such as Iowa, In­di­ana, Ohio, and Michi­gan pro­hib­ited the use of tra­di­tional bot­tle­neck cen­ter­fire car­tridges for deer, cit­ing safety con­cerns in ar­eas with high hu­man-pop­u­la­tion den­si­ties. But the limited range of straight-wall car­tridges makes them ideal for th­ese places.

CAR­TRIDGE OP­TIONS

On the low end of the straight-wall power spectrum are pis­tol car­tridges. That list in­cludes the .357 Mag­num and .44 Rem­ing­ton Mag­num. Most pis­tol-cal­iber ri­fles are lever ac­tions like the Mar­lin 1894 and Winch­ester 1892, but there are other choices: Ruger of­fers its light, handy 77/357 and 77/44 bolt guns cham­bered for th­ese rounds, and there are semi-auto and sin­gle-shot op­tions as well. The .357 and .44 Mag­nums are in­ex­pen­sive to shoot and pro­duce mild re­coil, but their ef­fec­tive range is limited. Larger pis­tol cal­ibers such as the .454 Ca­sull, .460 S&W Mag­num, .480 Ruger, and .500 S&W Mag­num of­fer a straight­wall pro­file with more punch and a flat­ter tra­jec­tory than the .44 Mag­num (some bor­der .45/70 Gov’t bal­lis­tics) and are an ideal choice for deer-size game at mod­er­ate ranges.

The .444 Mar­lin, .450 Mar­lin, and .45/70 are rimmed straight-wall ri­fle car­tridges that are most com­monly cham­bered in lever guns such as the Winch­ester 1886 and Mar­lin 1895, though there are sin­gle-shot op­tions like the Ruger No. 1 and Winch­ester’s 1885. As the chart below shows, th­ese ri­fles shoot flat­ter and hit harder than pis­tol-cal­iber straight-wall car­tridges. Also, their rel­a­tively slow bul­lets min­i­mize meat dam­age.

Bal­lis­ti­cally, the .450 Bush­mas­ter is close to the .45/70 in terms of ve­loc­ity, tra­jec­tory, and en­ergy, and there are many af­ford­able ri­fles in both bolt­gun and semi-auto con­fig­u­ra­tions. As long as you keep your shots to a rea­son­able dis­tance, the .450 Bush­mas­ter pro­vides plenty of wal­lop for re­ally big animals such as elk, but like the other straight-wall .44/.45 ri­fle car­tridges, it produces sig­nif­i­cant re­coil. The .450 Bush­mas­ter is le­gal in most straight-wall-only states.

THE NEW KID: 350 LEG­END

Winch­ester’s new 350 Leg­end is a straight-wall case with a .378-inch rim di­am­e­ter (same as a .223 Rem.) and mea­sures 1.71 inches in length, mak­ing it le­gal in states like Iowa, In­di­ana, Ohio, and Michi­gan. Fir­ing .357-inch 150-grain Winch­ester Ex­treme Point bul­lets at 2,325 feet per sec­ond, the 350 Leg­end is ef­fec­tive on deer-size game to 250 yards, and gen­er­ates more en­ergy than a .30/30 load from a 20-inch bar­rel. In ad­di­tion to its rel­a­tively flat tra­jec­tory (for a straight-wall car­tridge, anyway), the Leg­end of­fers two other ad­van­tages over its straight-wall com­peti­tors. First, re­coil is ex­tremely mild—20 per­cent less than a .243 Winch­ester— mak­ing the 350 Leg­end one of the light­est-kick­ing deer ri­fles avail­able. Sec­ond, am­mu­ni­tion is af­ford­able, cost­ing as lit­tle as $15 a box.

BE­YOND THE MID­WEST

Straight-wall car­tridges will never re­place bot­tle­neck am­mu­ni­tion, but they do have a place in the hunt­ing mar­ket, even for those who live in states that don’t re­quire their use on big game. Th­ese car­tridges are ef­fec­tive out to 200 yards or more and will tackle game up to and in­clud­ing elk and moose. Plus, they give hunters an ex­cuse to tote a clas­sic lever gun afield dur­ing fall.

A hunter dropped this white­tail with a sin­gle-shot .45/70 Gov’t.

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