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.