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Choosing the best hunting rifle

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Friday, Sept. 26, 2003
 

There is little doubt that the 30-30 remains the "king" as far as calibers that have accounted for the most deer taken in North America, The old reliable "thutty-thutty" makes an adequate "woods" caliber, especially when chambered in the short, light lever-action carbines such as the Winchester 94 and Marlin 336. However, some hunters, perhaps believing the 'bigger is better," opted for such "deer anchors' as the 35 Remington.

When the 35 was introduced in 1906, it was offered in semi-automatic rifles such as the Remington Model 8 and later, Remington's Model 141 slide-action. Marlin soon jumped on the bandwagon by chambering its 336 for the 35.

Some feel that the 35 Remington has better 'knock-down' power than the 30-30, and since it drives a 200-grain slug at the same velocity the 30-30 pushed its standard 170-grain load, perhaps this is true. Although some factory cartridge loadings were offered in a 150-grain version, the heavier bullet offered more "shocking' power or better terminal ballistic performance and was by far the better and more practical choice for the 35. Anyone equipped with a 35 Remington and hunting in thick woods will find the 97-year-old cartridge a real venison getter at ranges out to 150 yards.

I believe that we would be remiss to not mention another once popular, but now almost obsolete woods cartridge, the 348 Winchester, introduced in 1936 in Winchester's strong and reliable Model 71. The 348 will drive a 200-grain pill about 300 fps faster than the 35 Remington, and will even drive a 250--grain bullet 100 fps faster than the old 35. Today, Model 71 Winchester rifles in 348 are prized collectors items. when firing a 200-grain bullet the 348 has a mid-range trajectory of 3.6-inches, making it perfectly capable of taking whitetails out to 200 or perhaps 250 yards.

The 348 was pushed to the back shelf about 20 years after its advent by Winchester's 358, essentially a 308 necked up to 35 caliber. This 35 caliber powerhouse was offered in Winchester's famous Model 70 bolt-action and model 88 lever guns. The 358 is adequate for almost any North American big game and is a terrific whitetail rifle. On paper, 358 ballistics show a slight edge over the older 348. Ammo for the 358 is readily available at most sporting goods stores but ammo for the 348, while available, is most often a special order item.

Before Winchester developed either the 348 or the 358, Col. Townsend Whelen's name became attached to a 35-caliber "wildcat" dubbed the 35 Whelen. Developed by the Griffin and Howe gunsmithing firm, the 35 Whelen is a 30-06 necked up to 35 caliber. Since its development in 1922, the 35 Whelen was strictly a wildcat cartridge, until sometime in the late 1970s or early 1980s when it was offered as a factory cartridge and several commercial rifles were chambered for in, including Remington's Model 760 Gamemaster. The Whelen cartridge is a real powerhouse 35. It drives a 200-grain bullet at 2,675 fps from the muzzle and delivers a kinetic energy of 3,177 foot-pounds. While factory cases are readily available, many reloading companies offer dies that will neck standard 30-06 cases up to 35 caliber.

Two more noteworthy 35s are Winchester's 356 and the somewhat awesome 350 Remington Magnum. In 1980, Winchester brought out its Model 94 XTR angle eject in the new 356, so designated to avoid confusion with the 358. In actuality, the 356 is little more than a rimmed version of the 358 and will out perform the 35 Remington while nearly equalling its 358 cousin in ballistic performance.

Back in 1965, Remington showcased the 350 Remington Magnum. the cartridge was first offered in Remington Model 600 bolt-action rifle. Early model 600 sported short, 18-inch barrels and the rifles produced the most gosh awful muzzle blast one could imagine. In 1968, Remington attempted to remedy the muzzle blast problem with its Model 660 sporting a 20-inch barrel. For a short time Ruger chambered its popular Model 77 in 350 Magnum. Whatever any of the 35s will do, the 350 does it better -- at least on paper. The 200-grain 350 load streaks out of a 24-inch barrel at 2,710 fps with 3,261 foot pounds of energy. A true powerhouse that has fallen by the wayside.

if you favor the 35s, you might consider Winchester's 356, or 358, or the 35 Whelen. And if you come across a good old Marlin 35, don't pass it up. The 35s live up to their reputation as true "deer anchors."

 

 
 


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