Saturday, January 30, 2016

The 7WSM.... An Unloved Cartridge Bargain.

I must admit that in years past, I was never a fan of the 7mm bore. I had mostly .30 calibers and a couple of .270s. It was a prejudice that really wasn't grounded in anything...just a notion floating around in my brain. I've written a couple times now about the 7-08 and how we've found good success with it. I've also written a couple of times about inexpensive rifles that just perform far beyond what their meager prices should warrant.  I've also written about the innate Scot's thriftiness that I've inherited... little did I know that all three of those things would come together in a rifle.

I was perusing one of the community yard sale boards and came across a rifle. A Winchester Stainless Classic. The asking price wasn't out of line, but it was chambered in the red headed stepchild of the WSM family...the 7WSM. Same concept and case as the rest of the WSMs...basically a 7mm Remington Mag in a short action- 140gr@3200, 150gr@3100 and 160gr@3000fps. On the ammunition market, the 7WSM has proven about as popular as the clap.

I've truly enjoyed the .300WSM but the7WSM in this rifle simply left me cold. I just ignored it.

After seeing the rifle hang around for a bit and the owner drop the price a couple of times...I thought that the rifle had potential as a donor for a custom .300WSM at some future date. So I called the owner and basically said something to the effect of, "I have no interest in a 7WSM. I'll give you $400 for the rifle so I can take it apart for a project." I was a little surprised that he bit, and I was the owner of a "new to me" Winchester.

When I got the rifle home I cleaned it and discovered that it likely didn't have more than a couple boxes of ammo down the bore. Everything internally was essentially new and the exterior only had a couple of handling marks. Big whoop- when I'm done, it will have a bunch of handling marks. The trigger was a horrendous 10lbs or more and the hot glue that Winchester puts on the adjustment nut was still there. The black plastic stock had no bedding and full contact with the barrel channel. The trigger was easy enough to fix since it was the old style "Pre '64" trigger that everyone loves- a nice 3.5lb pull was easily achieved with a lighter and two open end wrenches. The stock would require a lot more to fix but I thought- what the heck, I'll shoot it "as-is" and see what it will do.

I rounded up a one piece DNZ scope mount and mounted an older Zeiss Conquest 3-9x40 that I had laying about. The scope put the rifle at 8.5lbs on the nose. I took it to the range.

Three rounds downrange did this-

That's three rounds of 140gr Winchester "Ballistic Silvertip" at 100 yards.  Fired off a shaky folding table over a backpack stuffed with a jacket.

1.25"....that'll kill stuff as far as I'll shoot at it.

I'm thinking that I can work with this one and get it to group better by using a better bench and working on the bedding but that's largely just an ego booster. In the field, this gun over a pack from the top of a pressure ridge would kill a caribou from a very long way off.

Not bad for a $400 rifle wearing a used scope. If you can find one, not such a bad deal when compared to what else you can buy at that price.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

.300 Winchester Short Magnum....15 years of Short and Fat.

We've just seen the end of S.H.O.T., the Shooting Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show. In the U.S., this is the most likely venue for new product introductions from almost everyone in the industry. While I greeted the offerings this year with a giant yawn- consisting mostly of AR variants and pieces parts- this wasn't always the case.

Way back in 2001, the folks at Winchester introduced the .300 Winchester Short Magnum in the midst of what some folks have called the Second Magnum Craze. The introduction followed the typical Winchester playbook- great hype in a full court press of magazine articles and a marketing blitzkrieg. One could not open a sporting or shooting magazine without reading an article extolling the virtues of the "Short Magnum".

Most of it was pure baloney.

Claims of reduced recoil in the form of "reduced ejecta" sounded just science-y enough to be plausible. Claims of velocities exceeding the well established .300 Winchester Magnum were everywhere you looked. Hyper-ventilation over the joys of a shorter bolt throw were shouted from the heavens. We were treated to a plethora of dead critter photos in print, apparently only possible from the new cartridge.  In those days, Winchester was a behemoth in the industry and new guns and ammo sold pretty well.

It didn't take long for the ever-cynical shooting community to unleash its own torrent of hyperbole. I was told point blank by a savvy rifleman that the cartridge was doomed to obscurity and cash spent on such a rifle was practically flushed. Work with a chronograph soon revealed that Winchester's data had a bit of "blue sky" in it as well (not the first time for that one either) and most folks with production guns with 24" barrels were getting 2900 fps and a bit of change with the 180gr bullets, far short of the promised 3100 fps. Most folks who pulled the trigger on one got belted with enough recoil to make claims of "reduced recoil" sound like the complete rubbish it is. According to a number of Internet Bwanas, the rebated rim practically guaranteed your mauling at the paws of charismatic megafauna when your gun jammed. Some early rifle had feeding issues that did nothing to alleviate those concerns either.

In those days, you could log into your favorite forum or BBS (remember that!) and read pages of technical minutiae from both sides and when Winchester introduced their follow on family of short cartridges in .270, 7mm, and .325,  as well as Remington's competing "short mags".... things kinda went tilt. Suddenly the market had a glut of cartridges that all, pretty much, did the exact same thing.

What both sides of the debate missed was pretty much everything.

I came along to the .300WSM in 2006, when I (somewhat reluctantly) purchased a rifle I was in love with. My rifle was a lightweight.... a 6.5 pound rifle for carrying into high and rocky places.  I wanted something with enough oomph for the odd grizzly or moose and with enough reach for Dall sheep and caribou over open country. Ammo was fairly expensive compared to .30-06 fodder, but in all reality- most hunters just don't shoot their rifles all that much and with recoil numbers in the 25-29 foot pound range...don't really want to.

A string of dead critters later and the .300WSM did not disappoint. Since then, every big game animal I've taken with one exception has been with the cartridge. I've now had 3 of the WSM family and just recently purchased a Winchester 7WSM for eventual custom work. My favorite rifle shoots 180 grain bullets into 3/4" at 2925fps with boring regularity. None of the WSM rifles I've had exhibited feeding issues and every one of my acquaintances who have WSMs do not regret the purchase. They just happily head to the field and kill stuff.

While it may sound like I'm a fanboy, I'm not. The cartridge is, what it is- nothing less or more. A very effective cartridge that gets near .300 Win Magnum performance in a handy sized short action rifle. It's now 15 years old and pretty near ubiquitous on sporting good retailer's shelves and cataloged by almost everyone making guns and ammunition. I expect that it will not be teetering on obsolescence any time soon. It's not magic either- it's just a brass bottle for holding gunpowder and a pretty good one at that.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Ballistic Chit-Chat.... Anecdotal Evidence Pt.3

The last couple of years I've posted some results of the terminal performance from the cartridges I've seen used this hunting season in a effort to add to the collective body of knowledge.

You can find the previous versions HERE and HERE

So in the similar vein to previous year.

300WSM/ 180 Accubond- I took four animals this year with my pet Nosler .300WSM and the 180gr Accubond bullet. The first was a small cow caribou shot at a estimated 40 yards, one shot- bang, flop, DRT. Couldn't be more pleased. Despite nearly full muzzle velocity at impact the bullet did not fragment. Caribou number two was a middling bull shot at a laser ranged 255 yds. One shot broadside and the bull collapsed in a heap. Everything forward of the diaphragm was soup. No bullet fragments were found. Caribou three was a large cow shot at a laser ranged 345 yds. I shot twice and hit both times in the low lungs. One of the shots shattered the breastbone. Again, no fragments or bullets recovered and minimum meat damage. The fourth animal was a unique experience- a wolf shot at an estimated 20'. Shot twice- once too far back and once in the nose that exited below the pelvis- pelt damage made my taxidermist smile at his hourly rate. Not recommended for that purpose- but the encounter wasn't exactly planned (or even desired). The 180AB might be the best general purpose bullet for the 2800-3100fps .300s like the .300WSM, .300WM, .300RSAUM, .300RCM, .300H&H and high performance .30-06s.

300WSM/ 180 Federal Soft Point- this is most likely a conventional Speer soft point bullet. Two shots at a middling sized cow at a laser ranged 250yds. Both showed good expansion and the caribou expired  on the spot. This is a good economic load for open country shooting at deer, caribou and similar critters.

338WM/ 180 Accubond- I saw two caribou shot with this load this year. Both large bulls. One was shot at truly long range- 400+ yards that needed substantial follow up. The tough Accubond in .338 didn't really expand well. The second was shot at 80 yards. The hunter fired three times although he first hit was totally fatal. No fragments found, even on wound channels that contacted bone. The tough Accubond is perfect for this cartridge.

7-08 Remington/ 140gr Federal Fusion- this load accounted for two caribou. One a middle sized cow at 100 yards. One and done. Good expansion and exited. The second was a small bull shot at 55yds. Two shots- the first a quartering to that hit slightly high, contacted the spine and tracked under the backstrap and put the bull down. The second was a finisher shot at point blank a few moments later. The first bullet was recovered as shown below. These expanded very well at closer range with higher impact speeds which validated my theory from last year's longer range disappointment. These would do very well at typical deer ranges on deer sized animals. For longer ranges, I'd think a softer or faster bullet would do better.