More on medium-bore calibers, including some favorites

In last month’s column, we launched into the “medium bore” calibers, which include some quality ammunition and some ingenious modifications in the firearms themselves.
We pick up where I left off…
I have already professed my general dislike for anything with Weatherby attatched to it but the .340 Weatherby Magnum is my exception.
If you can honestly handle the recoil, I don’t believe there is another factory cartridge better suited, all around, for elk hunting. It hits with 5,000 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle and shoots very flat.
To put this in perspective, it has almost twice the power of the old standard 30-06 loads. The .338 Lapua and .338 Remington Ultra Magnum also fall into almost exactly the same ballistics class as the .340.
One of the .340’s advantages is that it is still a standard magnum case, not the giant, oversized, 416 Rigby-based case that Weatherby builds its .378 and .460 class cartridges on, as well as the Lapua.
For that reason it can be built on most standard magnum actions. In fact most .338 Win. Mags. can basically be rechambered to it. I have done that to many Winchesters, Remingtons, Weatherbys, Brownings, Howas, Sakos and probably others I have forgotten.
I would never use anything but premium/tough 250-grain or heavier bullets in these cartridges, or the larger 338-378 Weatherby Magnum, on game.
Although these larger cases only add 200-300 feet per second to the Winchester’s velocity, they are doing it with a 250-grain bullet and that, my friends, is a substantial increase.
The great old .348 Winchester is the sole member of its bullet diameter. It was brought out as an improved replacement for the .33 WCF. For all intents and purposes, it was the only chambering in Winchester’s Model ’71 and the only rifle it was chambered in as well.
This rifle/cartridge has a cult following and rightly so; it’s a well-handling, close-in, thumper for larger and/or dangerous North American game.
Another caliber that hasn’t taken America by storm are the various .358s.
The smallest was the .351 Winchester Self Loading. As the name implies, it was actually .351-inch diameter and was made for semi-automatic rifles. These rifles were much more popular as early-20th century “assault rifles” on both sides of the law, but luckily mostly with the good guys. Prison guards and Border Patrol agents were the biggest proponents.
Part of the appeal was the low recoil of the straight-walled, almost pistol-sized, cartridge and the availabilty of high-capacity magazines. Neither of these aspects endeared it to hunters though and as more appropriate combat rifles came along the .351 and its .401 WSL brother fell by the wayside.
The .35 Remington first came on the scene in a similar way by its creator as a self-loading rifle in 1908. However it has found its enduring form chambered in Marlin’s fine lever actions.
I would always pick Hornady’s LeverEvolution ammo in this caliber, as it is loaded with a tubular magazine-safe “flex-tip” pointed bullet and uses Hornady’s “superformance” powder technology to gain somewhat higher velocities than its competitors’ round or flat-nosed loads.
The .358 Winchester is nothing more than the venerable .308 Win. necked up. This makes a very efficient design that is at its best with 200-grain bullets, which is the the only weight available in the only factory load you can buy.
I have a very short-barreled (16-inch) rifle in .358 and if I ever get around to hunting with it, I will probably try 225-grain bullets, but only because I tend towards heavy bullets.
As a contradiction to that, the only loads I have ever shot through this rifle are .357 158-grain JHP bullets intended for the .357 S&W Magnum. They are not especially accurate but when they hit a varmint like a nutria or jack rabbit, the results are quite dramatic. These bullets can also be useful in the .35 Remington and are tubular magazine-friendly as well.
The great old .35 Whelen is next in line. It was not designed by its namesake, Col. Townsend Whelen, but instead named in honor of him.
The Colonel was quite the outdoorsman and rifleman in the first half of the last century and certainly deserved the honor.
This cartridge was conjured up by necking the 30/06 up to take .358 bullets and has obviously been around for a long time but was not offically made a “factory” round until Remington legitimized it in the mid ’80s.
I have noticed many shooters labor over whether they should build a rifle in this classic or the newer .338/06.
Although I don’t own a 35 Whelen or a 338/06 Ackley, I would recommend the .35 version every time. It simply has more power than its smaller-diameter counterpart and that is really what most hunters looking into these two calibers are really striving for: efficient stopping power; and the Whelen just provides more.
Probably one of the best options in the medium bores came on the magnum scene in 1959, the .358 Norma Magnum.
This product of Scandinavian moose hunters is just about perfect for its specific purpose on either side of “the pond.” You can look at it as a 7mm Rem. Mag., or better yet, a .338 Win. Mag. necked up to .358.
Actually, its real father was the .308 Norma Magnum, a cartridge intended to fill the gaping .30 caliber hole Winchester didn’t see fit to fill until 1963. This .35 caliber magnum cartridge has almost all of the power of the vaunted .375 H&H Magnum, but it will fit into actions that the longer H&H simply can’t, such as most Mausers and Rugers, to name a couple.
I think so much of this caliber that the very first rifle I ever built was in .358 Norma Magnum, one of my all-time favorites.
That almost rounds out the medium bores but I decided to include one more bullet diameter that Americans don’t really seem to know about yet, and it’s a shame.
I almost left this caliber for the big bores, as many African countries permit its use on dangerous/deadly game, as it is very well thought of on the Dark Continent.
The 9.3mm or .366 caliber is uniquely European. Until recently, there were no U.S.-built rifles in this caliber and very few imports as well.
There’s not a lot for me to like about Europe in general, but the 9.3mm is one exception. This unique diameter was originally used in European drillings (three-barreled combination rifle/shotguns), usually as a rimmed 9.3x74mm but also as a 9.3x82mm.
As the Europeans really started to colonize Africa, the need arose for a much more affordable rifle for the common man that was capable of dealing with the large native beasties. Side-by-side express rifles and drillings were simply priced out of reach of the average colonist/farmer.
The idea arose to build a rifle on the standard Mauser ’98 pattern rifle in a caliber substantial enough to deal with African game. The 9.3mm diameter was chosen as an efficient compromise and to make matters simple the basic 30-06/8mm Mauser case diameter of roughly .473” was used.
This turned out to be a brilliant solution to the problem and a huge number of 9.3x62mm, and its slightly longer and fatter cousin the 9.3×64, are still carried in the long grass every day.
This oddball is gaining in popularity by U.S. hunters as evidenced by Ruger’s introduction of the ancient 9.3x74mm in its No.1 rifle, Hornady factory loads in that cartridge, and the ever-growing number of bullets available to handloaders who fancy this European import.
Virtually all of the available bullets in this caliber are exceptionally good.
The only one I don’t particularly care for is the Speer’s 270-grain offering as it is a weird hybrid that’s not really a spire point and not really a round nose.
I would probably be happy with any 250- or 286-grain bullet in any of these cases, but of course I’d lean towards the 286s as it’s my proclivity.
That leaves the true big bores for a future article.
– Jeff Hutchins owns and operates Rangemaster Gun Works in Lebanon. He writes regularly for Lebanon Local.