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Examining .30 caliber magnums

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Examining .30 Caliber Magnums

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Timely article... I just sent off a check for my newest hunting rifle - a .35 Rem!
Mr. Stanton,

The only shortfall of your important article is that not enough hunters will see it compared to the masses that will read over and over the hype for the latest thing nearly burning more grains of powder than the bullet it propels. The evergrowing "cult" of long range big game shooting is devoid of ethics and realism. True long range shooting belongs in only two places: the range and the battlefield. I agree that we owe our great game animals and the ethos of the hunt far more.

I would not be forthright if I did not state that I classify the new generation of short magnums separatly from the larger cased "over" bore magnums. I wish them great success, since they are simply bringing the many advantages of short actions to proven existing velocity levels. They also promise some exceptional medium bore offspring, rather factory or wildcat.  

You also state the fact that most game is shot witin one hundred yards, often well within, and we have reason to suspect that much of the game shot with even these exagerated long range rifles and cartridges will be as well. How many wounded animals will there need to be for the "long range cult" to learn which bullets can perform at the impact velocities of the largest of these cartridges at short range. Bullet failure at near range caused by the unrealistic quest for long range perfection is no less a shame than the poorly placed long range shot.

Great Article
Thank You,
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I couldn't agree more.  i really wish folks would by more .308 or 30-06 and shoot more then buying gadgetry and hype.  I use to carry a full blown 338 win mag with all the goodies and shot my last few animals at 40 yards.  So I switched and now use pistols and a 45-70 and keep my 30-06 for times when needed.   I am finding the older I get the more my Dad really knows.  So let's shoot more and leave the barrel burners to the battlefield and range.
Mr Stanton
 I wish you had been around about 50 years ago when I was going through  my early shooting days. Back in the late 40's and 50's the only thing was to shoot faster and farther than any one else. I remember the day when I stood with a bleeding nose ,a swollen lip and a whooper-dooper magnum in my hands and I asked "When am I going to enjoy hunting again?" Oh I"d killed my quary, but at a h--- of a price.It was then that I went back to my 30-06 and decided tha a magnum was not for me. You have made a very excellant arguement against the BIGGER AND BETTER crowd.
     Couldn't agree with you, and Fireplug, more. I also see a benefit to the short magnums, since they develop velocities just a little higher than a heavy 30-06 but in a short action. Some people deride the advantage of a short action rifle but I like them. They balance different, and I think the balance and feel of a rifle are of the utmost importance, far outweighing bolt throw, increased potential accuracy or any of the other advantages of a short action. I like a rifle with a slight weight-forward balance, but I don't want to have to carry a very heavy or extremely long rifle to acheive this. A short action helps.
          Just my ramblings!          IDshooter
Well said ID.  I'll second that notion.
I agree for the most part with the article. My first, and likely last, elk was taken with my old 30-06 with Nosler partitions at a range, according to the guide's laser rangefinder, of 340 yards (also confirmed later by trajectory tables). The bullet went through the ribs, both lungs and smashed the shoulder on the farside. Yes,  I'm real proud of that shot.
However, to make the shot I had to hold over his back a bit, and I wonder what would have happened if it was struck on the near shoulder.
Anyway, I recently bought a Ruger #1 in 300 Weatherby. Why? Not for power, but for flatter trajectory, and to me there's a mystique to this round that makes me want to master it. It's almost as old as I am so it can't be considered as new, and I believe Ross Seyfried when he says it's the best of the 30s.
       Sure can't argue with your choice 'cause you got the shortest action of all! And I believe trajectory is the only reason to use that much speed, because I think any .308"  bullet going fast enough to penetrate and expand will kill properly.  ID
Am I the only one who is bothered that the magnum rifles usually hold 3 cartridges in the magazine while the rifles in .308-.30/06 usually hold 5?

I do think that these trends are extremely good marketing, and trying to goad a gullible public into an undue feeling of confidence in these rifles capabilities.  Guys that choose equipment based on what they erad in ballistic charts, will eat them up.  And....most likely end up putting a $40 scope, shoot soft bullets, and zero them for fifty yards.  That is until they develop a rabid case of the flinchies.

Having said that, I have a rig that i consider a speciality rig, for hunting the fields behind pappaw's.  Its a Rem sendero 7mm rem mag, and i handload a 140 grain nosler ballistic tip over a nosler max dose of RL22.  It has a 6-18x vaible, a harris bipod, and the trigger has been worked over slightly.  This thing is heavy, and except for pap's and busting paper way out yonder, it doesn;t get much play.  It is a heck of allot of fun, although its not extremely flexible.

I have never used it in a tree stand.  Its not a rifle that i would consider packing over mountins, or care to pack on an elk hunt.  I don;t use it to shoot when its windy, as when its windy i still hunt the firebreaks and log trails.  I don't take any shots less than 200 yards, as i think the bullett would be too destructive up close.  Mostly it is used to fill out the tag after i have a buck hanging, so pap can make some bbq jerky for my soldiers.(although lately, i have been requested not to do that anymore, as the flatulance is remarkable)

I know both fields, and have some dozer piles out there that serve as range markers, although to date, i have held dead on my three critters i have killed, (330, 305, and 275)  I have lots of confidence in it.

My point is, if a fellow can handle the recoil, and uses some judgement, i could see using a overbore rifle of some fashion as a special use item.

One man's opinion.

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whitehunter 35, i have argued this point many times. although i do not have a long range rig at this time. someday i will. halfbreed
Ah,Marshall you took many words right out of my mouth.
Often,I have said the same thing,all that is new isn't really after all.
Many of the younger people I know,when I tell them I have a wildcat (30/338),don't even know the term..
Many as you stated have really been around for years.
Most people nowadays think if it dont run 3000 fps or faster that for some reason it'll bounce off a deer skin.
If we're honest,many of us are "overgunned" for what we hunt.
The 30/378 I had many years ago as a wildcat,and I wore out a barrel in less than 1000 rounds,and this was "babying" it all the way.
I think as you stated our present day mainstream gun writers are sold out to the big guys,and they seem to promote "long range" hunting.They'll do a pretty write up on the latest gee whiz flash bang magnum and what a clean kill they got at 600 yards and everybody runs out to buy it thinking they can do it too,when most come away worse off than before.
Altho,I dont have a problem with magnums (pretty much immune to recoil),I only have two "magnums",the 30/338 and a 375 Holland,for the most part they arent necessary,and with the two I have and the 458 winnie I had,they can be downloaded,and made even more versatile.People seem to think they need every gain in velocity they can find,when it just aint so,I mean for years the Holland firm made the only readily available rounds referred to as "magnum" (300 and 375),and evrybody hunted with calibers and bullets that by todays standards would be considered inferior,yet they did a better job and were more ethical for the most part than most of us.
I'm just glad I don't have to have the "New and Improved Deer/Elk/Moose/Bear Slayers" that appear every year it seems.
Jus My Two Cents...
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Good article!
I shoot 2 of the magnum 30's, the Winchester and Weatherby. My reasoning when I bought them was to be able to load a heavier bullet for bigger game. I do not subscribe to the idea of shooting deer at 400+ yards, preferring to actually hunt instead of snipe. Most people I know should not try to make a 200 yard shot on varmints, much less a 300 yard or farther shot on deer or elk. The current emphasis on velocity comes at a cost in recoil that most people are not ready for. For example, when I take a magnum to a public range, shooters there always want to know what it is...I tell them and their eyes light up. If they are polite, I'll let them try a few shots. Most of them can't keep 3 rounds in the black at 100 yards using a rest. Then, they shake their heads and say "If that was my old 06, I'd put 'em all in one hole." Maybe so....until you look at their targets and see the shotgun pattern. Most won't work to shoot to that level of recoil, much less what a high velocity 30 or bigger will dish out. I think that in a couple more years we'll see a glut of slightly used "short magnums" for sale cheap as these folks blame the rifle/cartridge/bullet when they miss or make a poor shot instead of looking in the mirror.
Dang, you wouldn't guess this is a hot button topic for me, would you?
Good shooting,
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HP I think you are right about the used shorts in a few years,and I'll be the first to say I wont be in line to get one.
Most people cant hit well with anything if they admitted it.
Course out of all the "hunters" I know including myself,I can count on one hand how many of us shoot throughout the year.
Granted range time isnt a cure all,but it helps..The Practice that is..
I saw one guy at th range last year who "only bowhunted",and had a Mini 14 with iron he was sighting in "for his wife" to take deer hunting..sets a little target up at 50 yards shot it three times,said "that's good enuff",packed up and left..
Go Figure..
Good article. There are a few writers out there, such as John Barsness and Ross Seyfried who deplore the long range sniping trends that are being foisted on the public by marketing today, but more need to join the chorus.
I have 2 .300 WM's. One is a hunting rifle and one is a "tactical" rifle that is used for targets only. I have a personal maximum range for every weapon that I use for hunting, whether it is my recurve, or the .300. This maximum is based upon my own abilities, knowledge of which is gained through extensive shooting in competition and on the target range. After seeing what the wind can do at the 600 yd range in highpower competition, I will not consider a shot longer than 300 yds. at a game animal with any rifle regardless of "banjo string" trajectory. The guiding principle should be, get as close as you can possibly get, then 20 yds. closer.
I hunt primarily in FL and GA, but I have hunted in NV, CO and MT for elk and mule deer. In some locales you could get long shots, but after witnessing a fellow shoot an elk four times at extreme range before finally bringing it down, I swore I would never be guilty of that. Wounding an animal due to uncontrollable actions such as animal movement or deteriorating wx conditions is one thing, but to deliberately attempt to shoot an animal where even perfect conditions make it a difficult shot is, to my mind, an ethically criminal act. But, we see how much ethics are revered in our society these days. thanks for the article, it is on point.
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In Reply to: Examining .30 caliber magnums

In Reply to this fine article by J. Marshall Stanton, I am sharing a very insightful article by
Mr. Chris Bekker of Zimbabwe that supports Mr. Stanton's arguments from Mr. Bekker's hands-on experience in Africa that deserve to be considered by those considering
.30 caliber magnums. Just passin it on.....

jt fusselman


By: C. Bekker

The 375 H&H dates back to 1912 and the British wanted a long range calibre and designed it around the very same case, necked down to a .308 calibre during 1920.
In 1935, Ben Comfort won the prestigious 1000 yard Wimbledon Cup with his 300 H&H which led to Winchester chambering for the calibre in 1937.

It is now 80 Years later and the 300H&H is still the most practical and useful magnum in the .300 calibre range. It offers the handloader and hunter more versatility and benefits; for example:-

a) It is the most efficient powder burner of all the .300's.

b) It does not require a 26 inch long barrel as it uses less powder.

c) The taper of the case body and the gentle shoulder makes it a smooth & reliable feeder.

d) It is the least likely to have a sticky bolt problem when pressures get high on a hot day.

e) Operating pressures are lower and therefore there is less strain on the gun and case life is better.

f) Its long neck makes it easier to reload it with heavier bullets, like 200 & 220 grainers.

g) Additional and unnecessary velocity of faster magnums is more destructive on the bullet.

h) It has lower recoil than the faster magnums as velocity gets squared in the energy calculation.

i) Longer barrel life by virtue of lower operating temperatures - throats get eroded.

j) More versatile with the 220 grainer for shorter ranges like in the Bushveld.

The only real justification of the .300 magnums is their ability to push 200 & 220 Gr bullets at adequate velocities for hunting of big game, like Gemsbok and Kudu at long range and that makes the 300 H&H the clear winner as its case has a longer neck which makes it easier to reload with the heavier bullets than its rivals.
If you wish to shoot 180 Gr bullets in your 300 H&H, you might as well stay with your 30-06 as the extra velocity will do you no good.
A 200 grain bullet has a sectional density factor of 301 which is preferable over a 180 grain bullet which is only .271. To punch hard enough at longer ranges one needs more initial momentum -i.e., mass and velocity and that is why the 30-06 is falling short. Also, a 200 gr bullet has a better ballistic coefficient, mainly through its better sectional density rather than through form, and thus retain velocity better and the 200 gr bullet is ideal for the 300 Magnums. When the 220 grainers are used, velocity is lower and the flat trajectory is then compromised to some degree. However, if your hunting distance is more like 200 yards, the 220 grainer with a sectional density of .331 is even better yet.

Well, I have given ten good reasons why the 300 H&H is the top 300 Magnum.
It is really sad that Winchester stopped making this British calibre, when they introduced their 300 Win Mag in 1963.
The main reason being to wring out a little bit more velocity. For example, if we take Federal ammunition we will see that the 300 Win Mag gives 2,960 fps against the 2,880 fps of the 300 H&H with a 180 gr Nosler Partition bullet - a mere 2.8%. The point is why shoot a 180 grainer if the we can shoot a 200 grainer that can run at 2,800 fps in both calibres with handloads?

The 7 mm Magnums cannot shoot heavier bullets than 175 grains and therefore fall short to compete with the 300 magnums. Bullet mass is more important than velocity for hunting bigger game like Kudu or Eland or even Gemsbok at long range.

Flatter shooting magnums are really of no use as the improvement is marginal even at 300 yards - a mere 2 inches at 300 yards, at game the size of Kudu? It is a question of at what distance you zero your rifle.
The latest and supposedly greatest 300 Magnum, is the new 300 Ultra Remington Magnum, that shoots a 200 grainer at 3,025 fps - all
conventional bullets will fail as the forces imparted to the bullet, forward and rotational, are way too high and thus the only reliable hunting bullets will be premium grade bullets.

The meat hunter does not like bloodshot meat and hence impact velocity is important so that a lot of meat does not go to waste - impact velocity should not be higher than around 2,200 fps and thus the 300 Ultra Remington Magnum will bruise a lot of meat when game is shot between 200 to 300 yds.
Look at this table for a comparison:- (200 gr bullet, BC = 0.556)

300 H&H MUZZLE 200 YDS 250 YDS 300 YDS 350 YDS
Velocity - fps 2,700 2,384 2,308 2,233 2,159
Bullet Drop Z=200 0 -3.2 -8.1 -14.7
Wind Drift @ 10 mph 4.1 5.9 8.2

300 Ultra Rem Mag MUZZLE 200 YDS 250 YDS 300 YDS 350 YDS
Velocity - fps 3,025 2,602 2,522 2,443 2,365
Bullet Drop Z=200 0 -2.5 -6.2 -11.3
Wind Drift @ 10 mph 3.5 5.1 7.0

The 300 H&H is ideal at hunting distances between 250 and 350 yards - at 350 yards the Ultra Rem Magnum is roughly doing the velocity that the 300 H&H is doing at 200 yds and it would cause more meat damage as the impact velocity is too high and shots beyond 350 yards are less common and more risky in terms of accuracy, bullet drop and last but not least the wind drift all of which get progressively worse the longer the shot. If shots are common at 300 to 350 yds then one should rather zero the rifle at 300 yds to minimize hold over.

Hopefully, the above table will convince you to rather limit your shots to 250 yds and hence avoiding wounding your animal and a consequent long follow up. Second shots only cause more meat damage and the adrenaline will make the meat tough after a chase.
The vital zone area is only about 10 inches for a kudu in diameter and you have to land the bullet there or else may regret it!
Mother nature has already moved the bullet at 300 yards 8.1" and 5.9" away from where you aimed in terms of bullet drop and wind drift.
In addition, if you can shoot a 1" group @ 100 yards, then that becomes 3 inches out at 300 yards - that is the practical reality.
So, this inaccuracy should be added to the bullet drop and wind drift factor - you get the picture? I have not even mentioned the fact that hot loads, that cause more recoil, could cause the hunter to flinch.
Shot placement is of vital importance for one shot kills.

The 300 H&H is making a strong come back in South Africa due to all the negatives associated with the faster magnums. Generally speaking, people that have used the 300 Win Mag with 180 Gr bullets at 2,960 fps are not impressed - it is too fast for big game at the distances that they are shot at.
I now wish to stack the 180 grain bullet up against the 200 grainer so we can see if there is a real benefit to shoot the faster and lighter bullet.
Let us use typical velocities for the 300 H&H in both loads and let us use Speer Spitzer bullets of which the details are as follows:-

180 Gr 2,850 Fps BC = .462
200 Gr 2,700 Fps BC = .556

Bullet Drop - in inches 100 Yds 200 Yds 300 Yds 400 Yds
180 Gr Bullet 4.2 5.0 0.0 -11.7
200 Gr Bullet 4.6 5.4 0.0 -12.4
Wind Drift - in inches
180 Gr Bullet 0.7 2.9 6.7 12.4
200 Gr Bullet 0.6 2.6 5.9 10.9

The 200 grain bullet only drops 0.7 of an inch more than the 180 grainer at a distance of 400 yards. Most people battle to shoot a 0.7 inch grouping at a 100 yards! As far as wind deflection goes, we see that the heavier bullet is superior by 1.5 inches at 400 yards.
So, in my opinion, there is absolutely no gain to be had by shooting a 180 grain bullet at a faster velocity, as it gets negated by the better ballistic coefficient of the 200 grainer.
At 300 yards, there is practically no difference at all.
Sure, the 300 Remington Ultra Magnum would shoot flatter than the 300 H&H and I would bet that most Americans would opt to shoot the 180 grainers at 3,320 fps in preference to the 200 grainers at 3,025 fps as they have been conditioned to believe that more velocity will give them the edge - perhaps so for distances beyond 400 yards.

300 H&H rifles are scarce and must be custom built if you want one.
I believe Dakota Arms in the USA are still making the this old British calibre.
If you cannot kill your quarry with a 200 grainer at 2,700 fps then your hunting skill need some honing or you need to take up fly-fishing instead. In fact, my favorite load with the 200 gr bullet is at 2,600 fps as I limit my shots to 250 yards, there is less strain on my rifle and I make it easier for my bullets to perform as unnecessary energy placed on the bullet is destructive on the bullet.

The gun world media conditions us to believe that we need faster and faster magnums as the time passes by. My contention is that Remington has now created a Mona Lisa with a moustache with their Ultra Magnum!
In closing, I wish to go back in time ... it was 1939, the chill of war already settling like a cold, damp fog over Europe when John Taylor wrote the first lines to his book:
"It is an astonishing thing how little the average sportsman in Africa knows about the rifles he uses. It is only a trifling exaggeration to say that all he really does know about them, is that a bullet comes out of the end that has a hole in it!"

Today, more than 60 years later, these famous words seems to fit the American manufacturers as well ... as they are the ones who supply the gullible novice hunters with their latest and greatest rifles.

Chris Bekker ([email protected])

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