Guest Post by Todd Woodard, Editor, Cartridges of the World.
With Thanksgiving only a few days away, the question of how to best kill a whitetail or mule deer intrudes on many hunters’ minds, since during the holiday break we might get a chance to walk a few draws or sit in a stand. What we shoot in these times afield is important to us. There are millions of deer hunters with tens of millions of rifles that are used for deer hunting, and cartridge discussions are some of the most entertaining camp talks I’ve had over the years.
Because I’m the editor of Cartridges of the World, when friends or acquaintances get hot for a new rifle, I’ll naturally get some questions about what it might be chambered in. All too often, I see custom rifles set up for a variety of magnums that their owners can’t shoot worth a hoot, and it makes me sad for folks to be overgunned and under-accurate. More than most, I admire the judgment of my dentist, who hunts with a lever-action Winchester Model 88 in .243 Winchester at his lease outside Fredericksburg, Texas. He has tailored his set up for the distances he shoots (>300 yards) and the deer he encounters. Just like picking the right bit for the dental drill, he has picked exactly the right hunting tool for his conditions.
The cartridge advice I usually dispense is to stick with what’s known and proven. The .30-06 Springfield is a fabulously accurate and varied cartridge that can be found in almost every sporting-goods store ever opened. Ditto that with the .30-30 Winchester, the .308 Winchester, and the .270 Winchester, among many others. But what’s known and proven doesn’t have the sizzle of what’s new, flashy, or offbeat.
So for the sake of discussion around the dinner table next week, I selected 10 rounds from the 14th Edition of Cartridges of the World that are exotic enough to mark their owners as being in the vanguard of rifle shooting, but which offer the convenience of loaded rounds being available for them.
The 6XC is a development of well-known rifle competitor David Tubb. It is intended for the AR-10 rifle, as well as bolt-action rifles, such as the Tubb 2000, that utilize the AR-10 magazine. The 6XC case is in improved version of the 6mm International, a cartridge created during the early 1960s by avid benchrest shooter Mike Walker. Walker worked for Remington at the time, and the 40X target rifle built in the custom shop of that company has long been chambered for his cartridge. Whereas the 6mm International is the .250 Savage case necked down with no other change, the 6XC is the same case necked down and blown out to the Improved configuration with .015-inch of body taper and a 30-degree shoulder angle. When loaded with match-grade bullets of extremely high ballistic coefficients, such as the 105-grain Berger, 107-grain Sierra MatchKing, and 115-grain DETAC, the 6XC bucks wind as well as cartridges of larger caliber, but its lower level of recoil makes it easier to shoot accurately. Currently, only Norma and DTAC offer loaded ammunition for the 6XC Tubb.
The .25-45 Sharps cartridge was developed by Michael H. Blank of the Sharps Rifle Company (SRC). The modern Sharps Rifle Company specializes in AR-15 styles of rifles, and that is the platform the .25-45 Sharps was developed for. The goal was to provide optimum ballistic performance from the .223 Remington (5.56 NATO) case. Blank felt the best all-around option was a .25-caliber bullet of 100 grains or less and ultimately settled on a .223 Remington case necked up to .25-caliber with a case length of 45mm and a shoulder angle of 23 degrees. Federal manufactures a factory load for the .25-45 Sharps, under the Sharps name. The cartridge does have merit, with its performance being close to that of the 6.5 Grendel with a similar weight bullet. With modern, lightweight, mono-metal bullets, like the Barnes 80-grain Tipped TSX, the .25-45 Sharps should be a very effective deer and hog cartridge that offers very mild recoil from a bolt rifle or an AR-15.
Cartridges of 6.5mm-caliber have never really caught on among American hunters, but some have gained a good bit of ground with long-range target shooters. The 6.5-284 Norma and .260 Remington are excellent examples. The .260 Remington has become popular not only among those who use bolt-action rifles, but among those who shoot AR-10 rifles. In that rifle, the .260 works fine with most hunting bullets, but when loaded with extremely long match bullets, such as the Sierra 140-grain MatchKing and Hornady 140-grain A-Max, they have to be seated quite deeply in the case in order to keep overall cartridge length compatible with its magazine. Engineers at Hornady solved that problem by developing a shorter cartridge called the 6.5 Creedmoor. Maximum length of the case is 1.915 inches, compared to 2.036 inches for the .260 Remington, but since the 6.5 Creedmoor case has a bit less body taper combined with a sharper shoulder angle, its gross capacity is only about five percent less.
The .26 Nosler, the first cartridge to bear the Nosler family’s name, was designed to take advantage of inherently accurate and high-BC 6.5mm (.264-caliber) bullets. Based on a shortened .404 Jeffery case, the .26 Nosler case is non-belted, thus, it headspaces off of the shoulder to further enhance accuracy. Bob Nosler, CEO and president of Nosler, Inc., said this is a quintessential deer, antelope, and long-range target cartridge. The case is necked down to 6.5mm with a 40 degree shoulder. The rim is rebated to .532-inch, so a belted magnum bolt face requires no alteration. The Trophy Grade Ammunition load No. 60110 fires a Nosler 129-grain AccuBond Long Range bullet at 3,400 fps out of the muzzle. Zeroed at 350 yards, the .26 Nosler has a point-blank range of zero to 415 yards. Loaded with the 129-grain ABLR, the .26 Nosler retains as much velocity at 400 yards as the .260 Remington produces at the muzzle.
.300 AAC Blackout
The intent behind the .300 AAC Blackout was to offer a .30-caliber cartridge that would function in AR-15 rifles without a reduction in magazine capacity, that was also compatible with the standard bolt, and that would offer both supersonic and subsonic performance. The .300 AAC Blackout was developed by Advanced Armament Corporation (AAC), a subsidiary of the Freedom Group, and is almost identical to the .300 Whisper that was originally developed by J.D. Jones. Another way of looking at the .300 AAC Blackout is as a standardization of the .300/.221 Wildcat cartridge. AAC standardized the case dimensions and submitted the cartridge to SAAMI, which has established the cartridge with a maximum average operating pressure of 55,000 psi. Hunters can expect performance on game to be similar to the 7.62×39 or the .30-30 Winchester. Much of the appeal of this cartridge is its subsonic performance, but there is some contention that optimum performance from an AR-15 is unattainable with either supersonic or subsonic suppressed loads. It is also arguable that a single twist rate offers optimal stabilization with both a 125-grain bullet at 2200 fps and a 220-grain bullet at 1050 fps. AAC suggests that a 1:8 twist be used, and most commercially offered rifles will come so equipped.
.325 Winchester Short Magnum
After introducing its Short Magnum family of cartridges in 2,000, Winchester recognized the need for another cartridge capable of launching 200-grain bullets (and heavier) with high inherent accuracy, energy capable of stopping the largest North American game, and lower perceived recoil. After considering different calibers, Winchester engineers determined the .325-caliber provided the best performance using the Short Magnum case. Released in 2005, the .325 WSM cartridge delivers similar energies as the .338 Winchester Magnum using a smaller case.
In addition to delivering excellent ballistics, the .325 WSM also exhibits exceptional accuracy. Initially, Winchester fielded three loads for the .325 WSM; a 200-grain Nosler Accubond CT, a Winchester 220-grain Power-Point bullet, and a 180-grain Ballistic Silvertip. Hunters can expect delayed, controlled expansion and deep penetration through thick, tough skin and heavy muscle tissue and bone, with ballistic coefficients ranging up to .477 for the 200-grain Nosler bullet.
.375 Allen Magnum
Kirby Allen of Allen Precision Shooting (APSRifles.com) made the .375 Allen Magnum for big-game hunting, but the round’s larger bore diameter also makes it suitable for extreme-range target shooting. Like its smaller-caliber brother the .338 Allen Magnum, the .375 Allen Magnum is extremely effective for big-game hunting at long range. With the larger frontal area and heavier bullet weight, this round is suitable for the heaviest animals, especially elk, moose, and other big game at long ranges. With the weight and diameter of this bullet, the .375 Allen Magnum will easily take big game at any supersonic range, assuming the hunter has the ability to put the bullet through the vital area. Even if bullet expansion is minimal, the .375-caliber projectile is effective at cleanly killing big game because of its large frontal area and subsequent large amount of tissue displacement. Fully formed custom brass is available from APS with rifle orders. Rifles for this round are long and relatively heavy, starting around 16 pounds. For more information, check the website or e-mail Kirby Allen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Adapted from Cartridges of the World, 14th Edition, copyright Gun Digest Books. Reprinted with permission. Paperback, 688 pages, available December 19, 2014. Click here to preorder.