Wednesday, December 14, 2016

35 Whelen in Exhaustive Detail

One of the best sources on the internet for cartridge information is Terminal Ballistics Research.  The site offers frank, non-industry-driven facts about the world's most common hunting cartridges.

Three cartridges I have fairly extensive hunting experience with are the 30-06, 35 Whelen, and 300 Winchester Magnum.  After reading the exhaustive information on each offered by Terminal Ballistics Research , I found that my real-world experience matched perfectly what was stated.  Its always a good sign when you read about a cartridge or rifle, and find that your real world experience matches that which is written.

Terminal Ballistics Archive:
 The .35 Whelen (and .35 Whelen AI) is an extremely versatile cartridge due to its ability to produce hydrostatic shock for fast killing on extremely light through to relatively large bodied game as well as producing deep and broad wounding.

The increase in frontal area makes the .35 Whelen noticeably superior to the .338” bore. When using the .338 bore, the hunter must at times be careful with bullet selection in order to avoid having a bullet that is too tough for the job at hand. The .338 bore excels on larger bodied deer but can on occasion be left wanting if lean animals are encountered. In contrast to this, the .35 bore firing bullets of the same weight displays far greater and much faster energy transfer. So much so, that we sometimes see bullet blow back as a result of hydraulic forces. In these instances, entry wounds may at times be as large as exit wounds. Furthermore, the .358’s can display this performance at mild impact velocities. The .358’s not wholly reliant on velocity in the same manner as the small bores. In plain terms, one cannot have a full understanding of terminal ballistics until one has studied this bore diameter and this cartridge in particular.
Away from the extremes and inside 300 yards, the .35 Whelen is highly effective. In my experience, this cartridge is most effective in the hands of those who mostly hunt bush / woods, but with the chance of open clearing, gully, or river flat shots. This cartridge especially suits those who want a relatively deep penetrating cartridge but also one that is versatile across a wide range of game weights.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Gravel Pit Rainbow Trout

The Pond at Sunset

There is a gravel pit near my home where I do a lot of my shooting. It's large enough to offer ranges of up to 400 yards with good high banks for safety.

One part of the pit is a lot deeper than the rest, and it used to form a sandy basin.  Decades ago the owner had dug an extra deep portion into the basin where he hit ground water.  Initially, there was only a small amount of water, but over the years the water table rose until it filled the deepest hole in the basin.  It created an 80 yard long by 20 yard wide pond within the basin.  For years it was a favorite swimming hole.

Then, amazingly, the water table began to rise even more until the pond overflowed and filled in the entire basin.  It formed a sand bottom lake 320 yards by about 80 yards.  Today, the average depth is about 5 feet, but the original hole where ground water was first struck is at least 12 feet deep.  That makes a 12 foot deep channel about 80 feet long in a 320 yard long lake.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Nikon Prostaff 5: 2.5-10x50

35 Whelen Remington 700

I recently decided to upgrade the rifle scope on top of my 35 Whelen.  The rifle is a Remington 700 classic.  I had originally topped it with a Nikon Prostaff 5 in 2.5-10x40.

My hunting experience with the scope had been very positive.  I had taken 3 moose and an elk with it, and the scope had proven outstanding in close-in circumstances, where quick acquisition of target was necessary.  The price point had been good, and overall I was completely pleased.

I hunt in Saskatchewan, Canada, where we are allowed to legally hunt from one half hour prior to sunrise, to one half hour after sunset.  In late October and especially in November, what this means is that we can hunt in very dim conditions.   For example, on a cloudy day in November in the thick timber, visibility from sunset to half an hour after is very low.  Hence, I decided to upgrade to a rifle scope that offered good low light visibility.  I should mention that the Nikon I already had was very good; but being the kind of person who is always trying to improve my hunting rig, I decided to go one better.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

35 Whelen Recoil: How Bad is it?

Those considering the purchase of a 35 Whelen often express concern about recoil.  How does the 35 Whelen compare to the 30-06, or the 338 Winchester Magnum, or the 300 Winchester Magnum?

Reading online forums isn't helpful because every possible answer to these questions comes forth.  I've even read comments from participants who suggest the Whelen kicks as hard as the 9.3 x 62; but of course upon questioning them, one finds out that these individuals haven't ever owned a Whelen.

I'll share with you my experience with 35 Whelen recoil and compare it to cartridges and rifles I am familiar with. This is not a scientific comparison by any means; just a comparison based on that good'ol fashion thing called experience.

My current Whelen is a Remington 700 Classic in the original wood stock.  The recoil pad is original, and in my opinion more than ample. The barrel is 22" in length with a 1:16 twist.  I have free floated the barrel and epoxy bedded the action.

In order to make my comments a bit more relevant and accurate I will only consider factory ammunition in my comparisons.  I will be comparing the Whelen shooting 225 grain Nosler Accubond factory ammunition and Remington 250 grain PSP Ammunition.

The rifles which I'm going to compare the 35 Whelen to are firearms I have owned and fired a lot.  These include a Weatherby Mark V in 300 Win Mag (wood stock); a Browning A Bolt 7mm Rem Mag (synthetic stock); a Browning A Bolt II in 7mm Rem Mag (wooden stock); a Remington 700 BDL in 30-06; and a Sako Hunter in 338 Win Mag with KDF muzzle break. All of these rifles had decent recoil pads, including the 700 BDL onto which I had attached a Packmayr Decelorator.

  • Weatherby Mark V in 300 Win Mag (Wood Stock) using factory 180 grain ammunition definitely recoils sharper than the Whelen.  This, despite the fact that the Weatherby Mark V has a Monte Carlo stock and more weight. Even the Remington 250 grain Whelen loads kick less than the Weatherby. 
  • Browning A Bolt and Browning A Bolt II in 7mm Rem Mag using 150 grain ammuniton both recoiled more sharply than my 35 Whelen.  In fact, both rifles compared very closely to the Weatherby Mark V.  The synthetic stock A Bolt recoiled harder than the Weatherby Mark V.  The Whelen delivered less recoil ... hands down. 
  • Remington 700 BDL in 30-06 using 180 grain ammunition delivered very similar recoil to my 35 Whelen.  I found that 180 grain Remington Core Lokt ammunition kicked more sharply, but with less "push" than the Whelen.  Whelen 250 grain Remington Core Lokt ammunition delivered more "push" but with less sharpness.  It was almost as if recoil was delivered over a fraction of a second longer ... if that makes sense. 
  • Sako Hunter in 338 Win Mag shooting 225 grain ammunition gave the greatest recoil, hands down, even with the muzzle break.  None of the above rifles kicked as hard, in either sharpness or overall push. 
I have worked up reloaded ammunition that had the 35 Whelen kicking every bit as hard as the Mark V 300 Win Mag, but it took maximum powder charges and 225 grain TSX bullets to do so.  I didn't use these hot loads for hunting though, as they were inaccurate in my rifle.

I'm not sure why my 35 Whelen recoils about the same as my 700 BDL 30-06.  Logic would suggest that the heavier 35 caliber bullets would cause more recoil.  It could be that the reduced shoulder  on the Whelen works to mitigate recoil.  The result though, for whatever reason, is that my 35 Whelen gives 30-06 levels of recoil.

It is when reloading that the 35 Whelen comes into it's own. It can be pushed close to 338 Win Mag stopping power out to 300 yards but with considerably less recoil.  If your Whelen likes 250 Grain Nosler Partition bullets, you'll have a 300 yard moose and elk killer without the punishing recoil of the 338 Win Mag, but with comparable trajectory and power. 

For those who may be concerned about 35 Whelen recoil, let me make it simple.  If you handle 30-06 recoil well, you will handle 35 Whelen recoil well. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Four Outstanding 35 Whelen Rifles

A number of firearms manufacturers offer rifles chambered in 35 Whelen.  Some companies do occasional runs, but the ones featured below offer the Whelen on a regular basis.

The four we feature are outstanding rifles, each provided in styles and models with stellar reputations. 

The Remington, Nosler, and Montana rifles each chamber 35 Whelen in only one of their models (as far as I can tell), while Cooper Firearms chambers a number of rifle types in 35 Whelen.

Click on the title of each for a link to the company homepage:

Remington Model 700 CDL SF:

model 700 CDL

Montana Rifle Company AVR/SS:

AVR/SS 35 Whelen

Cooper Firearms:

35 Whelen

Nosler M48 Brush Country:

35 Whelen Nosler M48

Sunday, April 3, 2016

The 35s: The Good, Bad, and the Ugly

I keep coming across firearms writers who love the 35s, and who try to make the case that there are a few 35s worth considering.  I also find it interesting that more often than not, the 35 Whelen figures prominently.

Bryce Towsley penned a piece in NRA American Rifleman several years ago, where he gives a synopsis of the 35s covering those which deserved to die ... and those which are under apprecieated.  As usual, the 35 Whelen figures large:
I own several rifles in this cartridge and all my .35 Whelen rifles are accurate. With the best loads, my Remington Model 700 is one-hole accurate. With a 200-grain bullet the .35 Whelen actually shoots a bit flatter than the .30-’06 Sprg. with a similar 180-grain bullet. The .35 Whelen is accurate, hits hard, penetrates deep, shoots flat and recoils mildly. Why the public abandoned it so quickly is a mystery to me.
Too read the whole piece visit American Rifleman.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Reloading Barnes 225 Grain TSX .358

This is my hunting load for 35 Whelen fired in a Remington Model 700 Classic; 22 " barrel with 1:16 twist:

  • Bullet - Barnes 225 Grain TSX 
  • Powder - 57 grains of IMR 4064
  • Case - Remington
  • Primers - Winchester Magum Rifle Primers   ** chose magnum primers because I often hunt in temps below minus 20 Celsius (-4 Fahrenheit)
  • OAL - 3.340"

Barnes TSX 35 Whelen
.358 Barnes TSX
I found that under 57 grains the groups opened up and over 57 grains they opened up.  The bullets are seated about 0.04" off the lands.  If I got any closer the cartridges were a bit too tight in the magazine box and didn't load smoothly.

The group size at 100 yards is just under an inch.  At this time my velocity is unknown, but the rifle kicks noticeably harder than with any factory ammo I have, including 250 grain bullets. I'm thinking that I'm between 2700 and 2800 fps. There is no sign of stress on spent cases.

I like to think that somewhere, at this very moment, a bull moose and bull elk are emerging from winter in fine shape and just may find their way into my cross hairs this coming fall.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

35 Whelen Factory Ammunition

Nosler 35 Whelen

One of the complaints about the 35 Whelen is that there isn't a good choice of factory ammunition.  I'm not sure that that's the case.  Sure, Whelen ammunition isn't available in the vast array of choices as offered by, for example, the 30-06.  But, there are a number of outstanding choices of 35 Whelen factory ammunition.

If I had a complaint, it would be that there isn't a good choice of budget ammunition for the Whelen; but that can be countered with the argument that the 35 Whelen is not the kind of rifle one spends a lot of time with, plinking.  And, should anyone be buying "budget" ammunition for hunting when the goal is clean and lethal kills?

The following is a list of factory ammunition available in 35 Whelen:

Federal Premium:
Remington: High Performance Rifle 250 grain PSP

Remington: Core-Lokt 200 grain

Barnes: Vor-TX TTSX 180 grain

Nosler Handloaded Custom: 
  • 200 grain Accubond
  • 225 grain Accubond
  • 225 grain Partition
  • 250 grain Partition
Nosler Trophy Grade: 225 grain Accubond

Hornady: 200 grain SP Superformance

Buffalo-Barnes Premium: 225 grain TSX 

Doubletap Ammunition:
  • 180 grain Barnes TTSX
  • 200 grain Barnes TSX
  • 225 Grain Swift A-frame
  • 250 Jacketed Soft Point
  • 310 Grain Woodleigh Weldcore 

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Remington Model 700 Classic: My First Ever Bedding Project

My Favorite: Remington M700 Classic in 35 Whelen

The Remington M700 Classic in 35 Whelen is an accurate rifle; but it is a one shot deal.   The stock is light and thin and has a pressure point at the forend, so the zero moves after the first two shots.  Two shots are generally enough to heat the barrel and begin to change the harmonics.

Remington Model 700 Classic
Ready for Bedding
What this means is that if you let the barrel cool completely after placing a shot, the accuracy is outstanding for the next shot.  But, the barrel must be cooled all over again.

Another issue with the rifle is that the zero moves over time or with extreme weather changes. This is typical of wood stocks which have not been free floated or properly bedded.

My own M700 Classic grouped minute of angle with just about any factory ammunition I put through it.  But, it only did so out of a cold barrel and it seldom held it's zero from season to season.

In an attempt to make the rifle more consistent I free floated the barrel by filing down the pressure point and opening up the barrel channel to make sure there was absolutely no contact with the barrel.  This solved the changing point of impact when the barrel warmed up.  I now had a rifle that would shoot consistently even out of a warmed up barrel.

35 Whelen Reborn: As a Primitive Weapon

CVA Scout 35 Whelen
The CVA Scout in 35 Whelen is considered a "primitive" weapon in some US states.
Those of us who use the 35 Whelen to efficiently kill moose and elk never think of it as a "primitive" cartridge ... what with 225 grain Barnes TSX bullets exiting the muzzle at up to 2800 feet per second with a crushing force of over 3300 foot pounds of energy, the Whelen is right up there with the 338 Winchester Magnum.

Yet, an interesting twist in primitive weapons seasons in some US states has breathed new life into the Whelen.  It turns out that in States like Louisiana and Mississippi the 35 Whelen qualifies for primitive weapons season if it is used in a single shot rifle with specific qualifications.

John J. Woods writing for Mississippi Sportsman explains:
Of course, in Mississippi the allowed weapons during the "primitive" season include archery gear, crossbows by special or general Permit, and primitive firearms. It’s the later category that seems to get all the attention these days, especially the centerfire cartridge, single-shot, exposed-hammer, breech-loading firearms of .35 caliber or larger.
Some of the rifles that qualify the 35 Whelen for primitive weapons seasons are as follows:

* I think that only CVA has manufactured a 35 Whelen configuration for 2016. 
  • H&R Handi-rifle 
  • CVA Scout
  • Rossi Wizard
  • Thompson Center Encore and Pro-Hunter
For some of us it's hard to wrap our head around the notion that a rifle capable of killing a moose stone dead at 300 yards with little difficulty is considered a primitive weapon.  If careful ranging is done, the Whelen will do the deed at 500 yards. But hey, if it brings the 35 Whelen to the attention of a whole new group of hunters, I'm all for it.

Increased use of the 35 Whelen will inevitably lead to more rifle configurations being offered and more factory ammunition options as well.

There is a reason why the 35 Whelen didn't go quietly into the night along with so many other wild-cat cartridges ... it's just too effective and versatile to become extinct.

35 Whelen: Simple All Business Cartridge

Hits like a freight train out to 300 yards but doesn't require a magnum action or bolt face!

 In a January 2014 piece, Major Van Harl USAF Ret discussed his 35:
For five years where ever I went in Alaska my 98 Mauser/35 Whelen was with me to include some of the thickest alders you could imagine. I was in places that if my rifle and ammo failed me I was not going to get out alive. 
Read the whole thing at Ammoland.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Lightning Strikes Twice

The young bull moose died 15 yards from the end of my 35 Whelen muzzle.
The young bull died 15 yards from the end of my 35 Whelen muzzle
In describing the 2015 hunting season the best description I can think of is ... "the freezer is full".

It all began in September, and it was a slow start.  My hunting partners (a friend and my son) and I spent many days trying to score on an elk.  For the most part it was uneventful with lots of miles walked, lot's of calls set up, and many more hours watching the edge of a hay meadow that has generally produced year after year.   In short, there were hardly any elk around.  The few bulls that called were more interested in moving their harems away at the first hint of another bull in the area.  Neither cow calls nor bull calls produced more than a few replies which quickly faded into the distance. The wet fall made it impossible to chase calling bulls because we kept running into swamps and huge beaver ponds. The elk season ended and I can sadly say that I contributed zero to elk depletion.

Mid October found us back in the woods, but this time hunting moose. We set up a call about a mile from where we had been lucky in last season. I generally do the calling and my son and friend set up down wind.  We sneaked in and were set up at first light.  I gave a soft cow moan and almost immediately a bull answered on my upwind side.  For the next 10 minutes I could hear the occasional twig snap, but I could tell that this fellow was not coming in hard.  He came to within about 100 yards but stayed in very heavy cover.  No amount of coaxing calls would pull him out.  After an hour I gave up on him and we moved on.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Why the 35 Whelen

35 Whelen Model 700 Classic
I'm a fan of modern tack-driving rifles, especially the various composite stocks firmed up with bedded actions, pillars, and free floated barrels which deliver shot after shot of accuracy in all manner of conditions. That's why I've surprised myself to have a new favorite rifle which is anything but "modern".

A while back I purchased a Remington 700 Classic in 35 Whelen. The rifle was likely first sold in 1988, the year the classic delivered 35 Whelens to the shooting public. Classics were sold for a number of years chambered in only one caliber for that year. 1988 was the year of the Whelen.

I've read that the 1988 Classic was one of the best sellers; but who knows if that's true. Nevertheless, it was notable in that it was one the few attempts by any major manufacturer to popularize the 35 Whelen. The attempt by Remington had very modest success. It seems that the magnum craze was just getting up to steam, and most hunters who wanted the horsepower of the Whelen opted for brutes like the 338 Win. Mag.

The 35 Whelen: Still Standing

35 Whelen is a powerful medium bore cartridge
I always find it interesting that so many hunters and shooters who have discovered the 35 Whelen not only appreciate it as an efficient killer of big game, but also are drawn to it's history.

Robert Boatman explains: "The .35 Whelen is still standing there, as good as it ever was, even though I would venture to say that a shocking number of American hunters have never even heard of it. It was this country’s first and perhaps best attempt to design an international cartridge, not only for North American elk, moose, bear, boar and bison, but also for Africa’s big antelope and other plains game including the eland which is the size of a horse, and the big cats of all continents, counting the tiger before he retired from the game and the jaguar before he left the Amazon and headed north to the Rio Grande. The actual fact is, the .35 Whelen has been used quite successfully on Cape buffalo and elephant as well."

 You can read the whole article HERE.