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The .35 Whelen Centerfire Rifle Cartridge: Lasting Power for Big Game By Layne Simpson

The hard-hitting .35 Whelen centerfire rifle cartridge, born a century ago as medicine for big game up to and including Alaskan-Yukon moose and brown bears, continues to deliver.Through the decades, numerous centerfire rifle cartridges have been here today, gone tomorrow flashes in the pan. The fact that the .35 Whelen has proven to possess an abundance of lasting power is a bit of a mystery considering it does not shoot as flat as a banjo string, pulverize large boulders at 1,000 yards, place bullets inside a quarter inch, or leap tall buildings in a single bound. What the .35 Whelen does do is reliably drop game ranging in size from whitetail deer to Alaska-Yukon moose at a level of recoil tolerated by the majority of hunters. I am never surprised to see rifles chambered for the old cartridge in hunting camps all across America and in a few other countries as well.
The .35 Whelen was made by necking .30-06 case to .35 caliber

In the early 1920s, James V. Howe developed the .35 Whelen cartridge by taking the .30-06 case before it had been necked at all and necking it to .35 caliber. (Shooting Times Magazine photo)


Townsend Whelen mentioned the development of the cartridge in a couple of his books. On page 185 of a reloading manual titled Why Not Load Your Own? (1957) he states, “This cartridge was developed by James V. Howe in 1922 and named for the writer.” Among the loads included was the Hornady 270-grain roundnose (no longer available) pushed to 2,375 fps by a maximum charge of IMR 4350. There was also a 300-grain roundnose bullet made by Fred Barnes at 2,350 fps.

To quote Whelen in another of his books, The Hunting Rifle, which was published during the early 1940s, “In 1922 Mr. James V. Howe and the writer developed the .400 Whelen cartridge. This cartridge was constructed by taking the .30-06 case before it had been necked at all and necking it down to .40 caliber. About the time we completed development of this cartridge, I went on a long hunting trip in the Northwest, and when I returned, Mr. Howe showed me another cartridge that he had developed. The .30-06 case was necked to .35 caliber to use existing .35-caliber bullets.

Customized Whitworth Model ’98 Mauser for .35 Whelen

For about the past 30 years, this custom rifle on a Whitworth Model ’98 Mauser square-bridge action has been Layne’s favorite .35 Whelen for hunting game ranging in size from whitetail deer to Alaska-Yukon moose. (Shooting Times Magazine photo)

Mr. Howe asked my permission to call this cartridge the .35 Whelen, but he alone deserves credit for its development.”

At the time, Colonel Whelen was commanding officer of Frankford Arsenal in Philadelphia where Howe was in charge of the machine shop tool room. An accomplished gunsmith and stockmaker, Howe left Frankford in 1923 and joined with Seymour Griffin to form Griffin & Howe, a shop that became widely known for building fine custom rifles, many on the 1903 Springfield action.

Whelen did play an important role in the creation of the cartridge. Among his many friends was Leslie Simpson, an American who was considered to be an authority on hunting the African continent. During one of their conversations, Simpson voiced his disappointment with the performance of his Winchester Model 95 lever action in .35 Winchester on lion and opined that a cartridge of the same caliber with a velocity of 2,500 to 2,600 fps in a bolt-action rifle would be ideal. Whelen mentioned this to Howe, and the rest is history.

John Eddy may have been the first hunter to use a rifle in .35 Whelen on dangerous game. In his book Hunting the Alaska Brown Bear (1930), he writes about taking three of the big animals during the 1920s. His rifle, built on a 1903 Springfield action and wearing a Lyman 48 receiver sight, was one of the first in .35 Whelen produced by Griffin & Howe. His ammunition was loaded with 250-grain bullets, but no mention is made of their maker.


.35 Whelen Accuracy and Velocity Chart

Through the decades, Remington has tamed more wildcats than any other company, and the .35 Whelen was added to the list in 1987 with the introduction of ammunition loaded with 200-grain Pointed Core-Lokt and 250-grain roundnose Core-Lokt bullets at respective velocities of 2,675 fps and 2,400 fps.

The limited-edition Model 700 Classic with a 24-inch barrel (produced only during 1987) and the standard-production Model 7600 slide action with a 22-inch barrel were the first rifles chambered for it. The Model 7400 and Model 750 autoloaders in .35 Whelen came later. Another bolt-action rifle in .35 Whelen that springs to mind is the Ruger Model 77. Also included are the single-shot Ruger No. 1, the single-shot Thompson/Center Encore, the single-shot H&R Handi Rifle, the single-shot CVA Scout, and the single-shot Traditions Outfitter. There have been many factory rifles chambered in .35 Whelen over the decades.

Should a search for a .35 Whelen rifle prove unsuccessful, any good bolt-action rifle in .30-06 or other member of its cartridge family is a candidate for rebarreling. Reboring and rechambering the barrel to .35 Whelen is an option offered by JES Rifle Reboring in Cottage Grove, Oregon. In addition to bolt-action rifles, they perform the work on the Remington 760/7600 pump guns and 742/7400 autoloaders in .30-06 and .270 Winchester. I have seen a Browning BLR lever action and a Browning reproduction of the Winchester 1895 single shot so converted, but I do not know who did the work.

Through the years, I have hunted with several different rifles in .35 Whelen. One of the more accurate was a Remington Model 700 Classic that, among other things, accounted for a good elk. My handload for it pushed the Swift 225-grain A-Frame bullet along at 2,650 fps. Remington built a few Model 7600 carbines with 18.5-inch barrels, and I have used one of those along with Remington 200-grain factory ammo to take several feral pigs and a medium-size black bear.

35 Whelen Full-Length Resizing Die with a Tapered Expander Button

While unprimed .35 Whelen cases are available from several sources for hand-loading, they are easily formed from more readily available .30-06 cases by running them through a .35 Whelen full-length resizing die with a tapered expander button. (Shooting Times Magazine photo)

However, the .35 Whelen rifle I have taken to the field most was custom-built about 35 years ago by Butch Searcy. He began by modifying a square-bridge ’98 Mauser action to accept quick-detachable rings made at the time by Kimber of Oregon.

A quarter rib machined for the 22-inch Apex barrel has a folding adjustable sight, and the front sight, on a banded ramp, has a fairly large bead. To make sure 275-grain and 300-grain bullets made by Barnes in those days would stabilize, I requested a 1:12 rifling twist rate. Searcy also modified the bolt shroud for a Model 70-style safety and attached the front quick-detach sling-swivel receptacle out on the barrel. The barreled action then made its way to the custom shop of E.C. Bishop & Son of Warsaw, Missouri, for a niece piece of handcheckered walnut. A steel cross bolt just behind the recoil lug of the receiver reinforces the stock. A Redfield 1-4X scope in the Kimber rings took hunt-ready weight to 8.5 pounds, and on its very first outing, the rifle dropped a very good Alaska-Yukon moose and one of the best black bears I have ever spotted. Each fell to a single Swift 250-grain A-Frame leaving the muzzle at 2,475 fps.

Range of .35-caliber bullet weights

The 1:12 twist rate of Layne’s custom ’98 Mauser does a good job of stabilizing the full range of .35-caliber bullet weights: 1 Barnes 180-Gr. TTSX-FB; 2 Barnes 200-Gr. TTSX-BT; 3 Hornady 200-Gr. FTX; 4 Speer 220-Gr. SPFN; 5 Swift 225-Gr. A-Frame; 6 Speer 250-Gr. Spitzer; 7 Swift 250-Gr. A-Frame; 8 Barnes 275-Gr. PSN; 9 Swift 280-Gr. A-Frame; 10 Barnes 300-Gr. RSN; and 11 Woodleigh 310-Gr. Weldcore. (Shooting Times Magazine photo)


The ammunition is presently cataloged by Barnes, Remington, Nosler, Federal, Hornady, Buffalo Bore, HSM, DoubleTap, and Choice Ammunition. Among those loaded with 200-grain bullets, Hornady Superformance tops them all in velocity by a considerable margin. Rated at 2,920 fps, it clocked an amazing 2,962 fps from the 22-inch barrel of my custom Mauser. That load should be quite deadly on deer, but for use on moose, elk, and big bears, more strongly constructed bullets are needed. For hunting those big-game animals, Federal ammunition loaded with the 225-grain Trophy Bonded Bear Claw and Barnes ammunition loaded with the 200-grain TTSX are a couple of the better choices.

The .35 Whelen is an excellent candidate for handloading. Unprimed cases are available from several sources, or you can do as we all did when the cartridge was a wildcat and run .30-06 cases through a .35 Whelen full-length resizing die with a tapered expander button. In the old days, I used unfired match .30-06 brass available on the military surplus market, and its quality was excellent.

A number of powders are suitable for use in the .35 Whelen, and there was a time when I mostly used IMR 4064. It is still a good choice, but I have since burned more Reloder 15 than anything else. Accuracy is usually quite good, and shot-to-shot velocity variation is minimal. But as illustrated in various reloading manuals, many other propellants, including Varget, W748, Accurate 2460, and VihtaVuori N140, work quite well. Standard-force primers, such as the Federal 210 and CCI 200, deliver enough spark to ignite most powders, but the Federal 215 and CCI 250 sometimes deliver more uniform velocities with the various spherical propellants. This especially holds true when the ammunition is subjected to frigid temperatures during a wintertime hunt.

Factory-loaded .35-caliber rifle cartridges
Through the decades, a lot of factory-loaded .35-caliber rifle cartridges have been introduced, but due to the greater number of different factory rifles chambered for the .35 Whelen, it has proven to be the most successful: 1 .35 Whelen; 2 .35 Remington; 3 .358 Winchester; 4 .350 Rem. Mag.; 5 .35 Winchester; 6 .35 Newton; 7 .350 G&H Mag.; and 8 .358 Norma Mag. (Shooting Times Magazine photo)

When handloading for deer and other game similar in size, fairly soft bullets like the 200-grain pointed InterLock from Hornady and the 220-grain SPFN from Speer should be excellent choices. The Hornady 200-grain FTX can be used, but since it is constructed to expand at slower .35 Remington impact velocities, damage to the eating part of a deer might be a bit much.

Moving to the opposite extreme, if I were to take on a brown bear in the alder thickets of Alaska, my ammo would be loaded with the 250-grain or 280-grain A-Frame from Swift. Due to a thin jacket and a soft lead core, the 310-grain Woodleigh expands to such a large frontal diameter that it does not penetrate as deeply as the Swift bullets. And then we have bullets constructed to drive deep on moose and elk with a bit less recoil. They include the Barnes 200-grain TSX and 200-grain TTSX-BT and the Swift 225-grain A-Frame.

For a friendly practice load, cast the 204-grain Lyman #358315 from scrap wheel weights and drive it to a velocity of 1,900 fps or so with IMR 4227.

The 9.3x62mm Mauser is the .35 Whelen’s biggest competition among factory-loaded cartridges of its powder capacity, and worldwide, it is far more popular. I also have a rifle chambered for that one, have taken game with it, and am quite fond of it as well. But I have yet to meet a big-game animal that could tell which of the two cartridges sent the bullet it was shot with.







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6.5 Creedmoor vs. .308 Winchester BY DAVID E. PETZAL

The 6.5 Creedmoor and the .308 Winchester are two of the very best big-game cartridges, and both are more than capable at long range. But only one can win this showdown

Big Game Hunting Gear photo

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Because it is impossible to write enough about the 6.5 Creedmoor these days, my editors have asked me to compare it to the tried-and-true .308 Winchester, and I’ve agreed. Comparisons are not always odious. Gun writers depend on fees from cartridge comparisons to pay the mortgage and bribe officials at state agricultural and mining schools to take their kids. Some comparisons are fraudulent, for example, the .270 versus the .280. On paper, the latter has a slight edge. In real life, you could shoot every beast that has walked the planet Earth since the late Jurassic and not see a difference.

Some comparisons are both interesting and valid, on the other hand, and the .308 versus the 6.5 Creedmoor is one.

The .308 was worked up by U.S. Army Ordnance in the early 1950s for shooting people, and it has excelled at that and every other use to which it has been put. It was an immediate commercial success and perpetually rides near the top of the best-selling-cartridge lists.

The 6.5 Creedmoor was designed by Hornady for long-range target shooting, reached the market in 2007, and spent its first few years in comparative obscurity. It was made for a bullet diameter that American shooters had previously treated with massive indifference, and named for a long-vanished rifle range that hardly anyone remembers, or spells correctly.

But it was the right round at the right time. It arrived when long-range madness had arrived in its full fury, and it was very, very good at long range. Then the hunters caught on, and today there is hardly a bolt-action rifle that’s not chambered for the 6.5 Creedmoor.

Both the Creedmoor and the .308 are extremely accurate. Both are low-recoiling, “mild” rounds. Both are fine as wine in the summertime for hunting. Both are hugely popular. Is one better than the other? Let us compare.

The .308 Winchester

Barnes VOR-TX 308 Winchester

The .308 Winchester (or 7.62×51 NATO) was developed to replace the longer, bulkier .30/06. It’s one of the most successful military rifle cartridges of all time.

The .308 will shoot about as accurately as anything you can buy. It remains one of the rounds of choice in military-style competition, and in F-Class Tactical Rifle.

But it is hunters who likely account for the .308′s perpetual popularity. It was a hit from the first. There is .308 hunting ammo in such profusion and prolixity that just thinking about it gives you a nosebleed. You can shoot prairie dogs with a .308 (although it spoils a lot of meat), and African ivory poachers used to kill elephants with FN-FAL rifles loaded with 7.62 military ammo.

The most popular game loadings in the .308 today come with 125-, 150-, 165-, and 180-grain bullets, and of these, the 150s and 165s probably outsell everything else. In factory loads, the 150s depart at 2,800 fps; the 165s at 2,650.

Traditionally, the most popular competition bullet weight has been 168 grains, but I doubt that’s the case any longer. The new slug is either the 175-grain Sierra Matchking Boattail Hollow Point or the 175-grain Berger VLD Target. The 168s develop 2,650; the 175s in the real world about 2,550.

This reflects what cerebral trigger-pullers have known for some time: that the way to go for more range is through heavier bullets and higher ballistic coefficients, not more velocity.

The 6.5 Creedmoor

6.5 Creedmoor Superformance

Hornady’s rationale behind designing the 6.5 Creedmoor was that there are far fewer target shooters than hunters, but that target shooters burn up far more ammo, so he who comes up with a truly superior target cartridge will need a truck to cart his profits to the bank.

And that is what Hornady did. They wanted a round that had very little recoil, fired bullets of very high BC, was cheap and unfussy to reload, did not cost a fortune, was capable of extreme accuracy, could work through a short rifle action, and offered good barrel life. They got all of it.

How good is the 6.5 Creedmoor at long range? Permit me to quote from the Wikipedia entry on the subject:

“In October 2017, U.S. Special Operations Command tested the performance of the 7.62×51 NATO, .260 Remington, and 6.5 CM cartridges out of SR25, M110A1, and Mk20 sniper rifles. SOCOM determined that the 6.5CM performed the best, doubling hit probability at 1,000 meters (italics mine) increasing effective range by nearly half, reducing wind drift by a third and having less recoil than the 7.62 NATO rounds…”

Like the .308, the 6.5 Creedmoor is loaded in a migraine-inducing variety of ammo. However, its range of bullet weights is more limited, breaking down into two groups. The lighter weights run from 127 grains to 135; the heavier group goes from 140 to 147 grains. If you made a count, you’d probably find that 140 grains is the most popular weight.

The 6.5 Creedmoor is a round of modest velocity. With the lighter-weight bullets you get roughly 2,900 fps; with the heavier ones, 2,700. This is deceptive. The 6.5 Creedmoor, with 140-grain bullets, duplicates the trajectory of the far more powerful .300 Winchester Magnum out to 1,000 yards and beyond.

And so, let’s get to the comparisons.

Which is Better? 6.5 Creedmoor vs. .308 Winchester

6.5 Creedmoor Recoil vs. .308 Recoil

aiming a rifle using a shooting bagFor most shooters, less recoil means better accuracy. Natalie Krebs

The less recoil you catch, the better you shoot; it’s as simple as that. A 7-pound 6.5 Creedmoor firing a 140-grain bullet at 2,700 fps imparts just under 15 ft. lbs. of kick. The same weight .308 rifle shooting 165 grains at 2,650 fps turns up 19 ft. lbs. You can go up and down in bullet weights, and the results are going to be parallel between the two cartridges.

Winner: The 6.5 Creedmoor.

6.5 Creedmoor Accuracy vs. .308 Accuracy

rifle shooting shot groupsTwo nice groups produced by a .308 rifle shooting Federal Gold Medal with 168 grain, Sierra Match Kings. Natalie Krebs

They are two of the most accurate rounds in existence. At extreme long range, you could give the edge to the 6.5 Creedmoor.

Winner: The 6.5 Creedmoor.

6.5 Creedmoor vs. 308 in Price, Variety, and Availability of Ammo

boxes of rifle ammoWhile .308 has always been more plentiful and cheaper, the 6.5 CM is dropping in price and gaining in popularity. Dave Hurteau

The 6.5 Creedmoor rates high. On the other hand, the .308 probably has more ammo, of all varieties, prices, and types, loaded for it than anything but the .30/06 or the .223.

Winner: The .308.

6.5 Creedmoor vs. .308 for Effectiveness on Game

natalie krebs kneeling behind a bull elkThis bull elk was shot with a 143 gr. Hornady ELD-X Precision Hunter 6.5 Creedmoor. It ran about 50 yards and dropped. Aram von Benedikt

On paper, the .308 might get the nod because it can use heavier bullets. In the real world, since there’s hardly any difference in killing power between cartridges, that goes by the boards.

Winner: A dead heat.

6.5 Creedmoor vs. .308 for Barrel Life

If you’re strictly a hunter, this is a minor factor. If you shoot a lot, or in competition, it’s important. The best estimate for a .308 is 3,000 rounds. For a 6.5 CM, it’s 2,000 to 2,500 rounds. This is first-class, competition-type accuracy.

Winner: The .308 by a nose, although it’s close enough that you can consider it a tie for all practical purposes.

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6.5 Creedmoor vs. .308 for Ease of Handloading

handloading rifle ammunitionBoth cartridges are great choices for hand loaders. Hornady

Neither cartridge has any tricks of the trade, quirks, peculiarities, or hidden pitfalls. The 6.5 Creedmoor has an advantage in that it will accommodate very long bullets without their intruding into the powder space.

Winner: The 6.5 Creedmoor.

Read Next: 6.5 Creedmoor, The New King of Ammo

6.5 Creedmoor vs. .308 for Performance At Long Range

aiming a rifle while testing ammoWith its high ballistic coefficient, the 6.5 Creedmoor is hard to beat at long range. Natalie Krebs

My definition of long range is the same as the NRA’s—800 to 1,200 yards.

Using the excellent Berger Bullets Ballistics Calculator, let us compare a 140-grain Berger VLD bullet (MV 2,650 fps, G7 BC, .304) from a 6.5 Creedmoor, at 1,000 yards, with a .308.

Long-Range 6.5 Creedmoor Ballistics

  • Velocity: 1,370 fps
  • Bullet drop: 348.59″
  • Wind drift, 5 mph from 9 o’clock: 39.18″

Long-Range .308 Ballistics (175-grain Long Range BT, G7 BC, .262, MV 2,650 fps):

  • Velocity: 1,203 fps
  • Bullet drop: 386″
  • Wind drift, 5 mph from 9 o’clock: 48.53

Winner: The 6.5 Creedmoor.

6.5 Creedmoor vs. .308 Performance at Mid-Range

man aiming a hunting rifleAny hunting rifle chambered for 6.5 Creedmoor or .308 Winchester should perform well at mid-range. Natalie Krebs

Let’s dial back to a sane distance, say, 500 yards, and switch from target bullets to hunting bullets.

Mid-Range 6.5 Creedmoor Berger Classic Hunter Ammo Ballistics (135-grain Hunter Hybrid bullet, 2,696 MV, G7 BC .303 at 500 yards):

  • Velocity: 1,954 fps
  • Bullet drop: 56.88 inches
  • Wind drift: 5 mph from 9 o’clock, 8.34

Mid-Range .308 Berger Classic Hunter ammo Ballistics (168-grain Hunter Hybrid bullet, 2,675 fps MV, G7 BC .251, at 500 yards):

  • Velocity: 1, 824 fps
  • Bullet drop: 60.53″
  • Wind drift: 5 mph from 9 o’clock, 10.41″

Winner: The 6.5 Creedmoor.

And the Winner Is…

6.5 creedmoor hybridge berger hunter ammoTopping off a magazine with 6.5 Creedmoor Federal Premium ammunition. Federal Ammunition

Read Next: Why the 6.5 Creedmoor Might Be the Best Factory Rifle Cartridge Ever

So, who wins? It looks like the Creedmoor. But if you take away the target shooting, or the 500- to 1,000-yard element, it’s a tossup. Currently, I own zero rifles chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor. I have six .308s in varying configurations and am not about to swap them for Creedmoors. Over the years I’ve probably owned 10 .308s, and when I wore a green suit and got free ammo provided by the Government (not to mention $85 per month), I carried a 7.62 NATO.

Does this mean I’m prejudiced? Yep. The 6.5 Creedmoor is every bit as good as they say it is, but I’ve had 50-plus years of shooting with the .308, and it’s never failed to get the job—any kind of job—done.

But my eyes are fixed on the past, and yours, presumably, are on the future, so you decide. Or buy one of each.

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A Winchester model 71 deluxe. The King of the Lever guns

The .348 Winchester will  settle the hash of almost anything on 4 or 2 legs in the lower 48 easily. The only problems of this round is a. finding it and b. paying for it in the forms of LARGE AMOUNTS of money and some mighty stout recoil. Grumpy

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5.7x28mm vs. 22 Magnum

Ammo You have to be kidding, right!?!

Shooting and discussing the Browning A Bolt rifle in .25 WSSM


Mystery Deer Cartridge is Dying

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15 Year old Sanchia Stijdom shooting a .450 Rigby