I have always thought highly of the 338 Win Mag and the 35 Whelen for hunting heavy game, like Elk and Moose. For me, the 35 Whelen is a very practical round, I experience the recoil to be about the same as my 300 with 225 grain loads and a little more of a push with the 250 grainers. While my box of Fail Safe 180 grain 300 Win mag states the round is good on bear and loin, I would rather use something larger if confronted by either of these beasts! I have shot large bears some years ago and I do believe 338 and 358 rounds are most effective on the largest bears, I once shot a loin with a 375, but so did Mrs. Charles O'Connor with a 30-06.
The 35 Whelen is a nice backup gun to take on either an Elk hunt, or hunting in brush country for white tail with my lighter 308, while the 308 will do the job every time, the big 35 will not do it less well and it will not tear up any more meat than the smaller round. The same seems true with open country hunts, the 270 can get the job done, but the 300 will do it just as well and while both of these seem to tear up more meat at short ranges, the 300 does no more damage than the 270 Win. I do use heavy bullets for caliber; even my 30-30 uses 170 grain pills exclusively! While I like the 35 Whelen,
I was surprised to read this.
“The .350 can drive a 250 grain bullet to a MV of 2500 fps. That load has a maximum optimal range on 1000-pound game (like a big Alaskan moose or brown bear) of 151 yards. It will kill farther than that, of course, but that is its optimum range. The .270 WSM has an optimum range of only 28 yards on 1000 pound game with its 150 grain bullet at a MV of 3150 fps. The 7mm Rem. SAUM and 7mm WSM have an optimum range of only 13 yards max with their 160 grain bullets at a MV of 2960-2990 fps. The .300 Rem. SAUM and .300 WSM, with their 180 grain bullets at a MV of 2960-2970 fps, have an optimum range of 117-123 yards on 1000 pound animals”
I wish Hawks gave examples using common rounds most hunters my age have used, rather than these new-fangled cartridges than I think will soon be as moribund as the 8mm Rem. Mag!
Hawks might have either never heard about hand loading and premium cartridge loads or he would know that the 35 Whelen can out perform the 35 Rem Mag any day and twice on Sunday! It is just a better round in all respects and is only eclipsed by the 358 Norma Mag which also stands in front of the 338 and uses basically the same volume magnum case. It also kicks like a 340 Weatherby!
“I use Winchester's "CXP" (Controlled eXPansion) scale to describe the various classes of game animals, so if you are not familiar with it, please read the article "The CXP Rating System for Hunting Cartridges." I have previously written fairly extensively about the subject of hunting bullets, and most of those articles can be found in the same place, the Ammunition, Bullets and Ballistics index page of the Rifle Information Page here on Guns and Shooting Online. Links to all of the bullet makers mentioned in this series are provided on the Guns and Shooting Online Links Page”
However, there is no supplied physics (other than mass X caliber diameter X sectional density) to base this system in that one can examine, so it comes down to educated opinion, not hard physics. As a numbers person, I would like better proof from both the fields of physics and biology.
This system seems no more scientific than the Taylor Knock Our formula. Therefore, I did some calculations and came up with these for our rifles.
270 Win with 140 grain at 3,000 = 16.6
308 Win with 180 grain at 2,600 = 21.1
7mm Rem mag 175 grain at 2,850 = 20.2
300 Win mag 200 grain at 2,850 = 25.1
35 Whelen 225 grain at 2,700 = 31.1
35 Whelen 250 grain at 2550 = 32.6
338 Win mag 250 grain at 2,700 = 32.6
Note: the TKO is about equal to the caliber recoil with the exception of the 308 win and the 35 Whelen, which are less, 17lbs and 25 lbs respectably.
Of course, these are knock out numbers at the muzzle, but then again, so is the muzzle energy that it printed out on ammunition boxes. The real deal would be to look at a ballistics book and find the energy at the point of impact and then use that velocity to determine with the TKO is at that speed.
Using the Taylor formula we can compare some of the closer calibers, such as the .338 with the .358 and using a calculator or this online comparison calculator at
At 200 yards, comparing the 35 Whelen with a 250 grain bullet with a 300 Win mag with a 200 grainer, it shows that at 200 yards the TKO of the Whelen is about equal to the 300 at the muzzle!
For the 338 Win mag the TKO is the same at muzzle but the energy highly favors the 338 at 4046 while the 35 Whelen comes in at 3609. The difference is a matter of how much one is willing to place emphasis on which figure. In all ways, the 338 wins out but the 35 Whelen has less recoil and can be used effectively as a deer rifle with Remington’s moderate 200 grain loads. The 338 mag is always a big game number in my opinion.
For fun I looked at the 375 H&H with the factory 300 grain; it comes out at 4330 ft.-lbs and a walloping TKO of 40!
Is all of this nonsense? That question has been discussed by many writers and so has the velocity argument and the terminal energy argument. The TKO while not being very scientific, is worth thinking about as a lose guide at best. However, there is some truth to an argument that suggests a big bullet will prove effectice on heavy game.
When it comes to recoil, the 35 Whelen will render about 22 lbs. With the Remington factory load, this is little different than a 30-06 with a 180 grain load at 20lbs in an 8 pound rifle. With hotter loads and heaver bullets, the Whelen will be on par with a 300 Win mag about 25lbs and the push will be slower. A 338 in a 9 pound rifle will kick out about 33lbs. If you think you might escape 338 rifle recoil with the new-fangled 325 WSM, forget it, at 32 lbs it is a 338 in an 8 pound rifle! I believe if you don’t need bullet weight over 200 grains, you don’t need a medium bore.
My best argument is nothing more than my own opinion, backed mainly by experience with some numerical facts thrown in for good measure. The 35 Whelen is, as Frank Barnes describes it, one of the “best balanced medium bore calibers available to the American hunter.” It has manageable recoil and can adopt itself well to most hunting situations.