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Remington's take on the .257 Weatherby Magnum
Hunting at 2,700 MPH
By Joe D'Alessandro Editor | RealGuns.Com
 

Imagine a fighter plane designed in 1944 that could still hold the top speed record in 2009. That is pretty much the story with the .257 Weatherby Magnum. Considering all of the cartridges that have faded over the years, their performance eclipsed by something newer, it is extraordinary that the .257 Weatherby is still  top dog in production .257" cartridge velocity.

The .257 Weatherby is one of those big benchmark cartridges used by manufacturers to identify how fast their cartridges almost are; i.e. the 25 WSSM almost duplicates the velocity of the .257 Weatherby Magnum. The problem is that the "almost" cartridges are typically slower and operating flat out whereas the .257 Weatherby has more potential to tap.

Years ago, it was not uncommon to find manufacturers, other than Weatherby, offering firearms chambered for this cartridge. Unfortunately, this has not been the case for some time, so it's good to see Remington add the .257 Weatherby Magnum to the list of available cartridges for their Model 700 CDL. This is actually quite a big deal.

Weatherby offers a number of version of the Weatherby Mark V in .257 Weatherby. The price tag is in the neighborhood of $1,500 - $2,000 through most price competitive gun shops. These are 26" barrel guns that will deliver published .257 Weatherby ballistics. OEM versions of Howa rifles are sold under the Weatherby Vanguard brand and priced between $399 and $900, however, none of these models have Mark V actions and barrel length is reduced to 24" which significantly diminishes the .257 Weatherby Magnum's performance.

The Remington Model 700 CDL has a 26" barrel and it is routinely priced in the $975 range. That's an excellent value; a well finished walnut and stainless steel firearm, the Model 700's inherent accuracy and the .257 Weatherby cartridge operating at full performance. The Remington is an interesting blend of scorching magnum cartridge performance and a very attractive traditional American sporter look.

Hardware and woodwork...subtle but substantial differences

In a side by side comparison, the differences between the Weatherby and Remington models are subtle, but more than a few. The trigger guard bow of the Remington is larger in diameter; top to bottom 1.25" for the Remington, 1" for the Weatherby. Additionally, the Weatherby floorplate release is at the bottom of the bow where there is greater opportunity for it to be depressed accidentally by a gloved hand. Both use aluminum for bottom metal.

The Remington's bolt is released for removal with the little tab just above the floor plate release. The Weatherby's bolt is released for removal by depressing the gun's trigger with the bolt in the aft position.

Bolts, the strength of marketing...

Both firearms are push feed, no giant Mauser claw dragging in the receiver, which only preclude shooting from the less than traditional upside down position. The Weatherby has its nine lug, interrupted thread breech locking approach, the Remington has its two opposing lugs. The Weatherby behaves like a three lug gun and unlocks with 54 of rotation. The Remington, as a two lug design, unlocks with 90 of rotation.

The Weatherby looks like a bank vault lock up, however, each of the nine lugs in this radial tri lug layout have an axial length of 0.150" so, in aggregate, each set of three lugs has an axial length of 0.450". Each lug on the Remington is a solid 0.450". Two sets of the Weatherby's lugs are 0.315" wide, however, on the row adjacent to the extractor, the lugs are 0.225". The Weatherby's total lug width is 0.855", the Remington's is 0.880". Current Weatherby Ultra Lightweight models have a six lug bolt rather than nine.

Both firearms utilize a 1/16" x 16 threaded barrel shank. The Remington front action ring that contains and supports the barrel threads is actually larger in diameter at 1.364" than the Weatherby Mark V at 1.348". Both bolts' faces enclose a cartridge's case head and they both tout their "three rings of steel" cartridge containment. The Mark V has a larger diameter bolt body and the strength of a column, vertical or horizontal orientation, is established by the smallest diameter. The Weatherby's bolt diameter at the lug section measures 0.715", the Remington's bolt body is uniformly 0.697" for an 0.018" difference. I will put myself out here by saying the diverging approaches are interesting, but for the most part, not significant.

If I accept the engineering philosophy behind the Mark V design, the work done in differentiating it from the typical twin lug set up is directed at resistance to bolt thrust, not containment of pressure, and bolt thrust is not a significant factor with the .257 Weatherby cartridge. Support for this comment can be found in Weatherby's decision to also chamber their twin lug bolt action Vanguard line for Weatherby cartridges through to the .300 Weatherby Magnum. I believe this makes the expensive Mark V action somewhat superfluous in a .257 Weatherby Magnum application. Basically, we have two manufacturers arriving at very strong actions from two different directions with no resonating note of strength superiority. More importantly, both bolts are pretty fancy. The Weatherby bolt is fluted, the Remington bolt is jeweled, both are vented to keep gases away from the shooters face and hands in the event of a fractured case or blown primer.

Taking stock...

The Weatherby forearm has a trapezoidal cross section, not unlike a varmint rifle, only more narrow. The Remington's stock is rounded, black capped and tastefully enhanced with cut 20 LPI checkering.

While the Weatherby stock looks wider, they are both approximately 1.50" wide. Both manufacturers float their barrels with contact limited to the risers near the forend tips as seen - above left. The Weatherby pressure point is 8 " from the front of the receiver, the Remington's is 7 . Interesting how the different lengths tune to the similar barrel harmonics. Maybe the benefit of limited contact is to remove effects of random and unintentional pressure points along the barrel channel?

Remington's wood stock is cleanly inletted and fully sealed, even on surfaces obscured by the installed barrel and action. Recoil is absorbed at the fastener locations, at contact surfaces, the action's recoil lug engagement, and support from two functional cross bolts. Weatherby did a nice job with their fiberglass stock. Generally speaking, fiberglass stocks are softer than wood and lack wood's resistance to stress and compression. Consequently, they are typically not seen on sporting rifles where they would take a repeated or very heavy beating from recoil. The solution for rifles chambered for magnum cartridges has been to embed a stout aluminum frame into the fiberglass and this becomes the platform for mating the barreled action to the stock. This is also the approach taken by Weatherby for their Mark V Accumark rifles. I was surprised to find that with designs and configurations so different, they both end up weighing 1 lb 13 oz.

Here we have a not so subtle difference. The Remington has a traditionally cut stock with little drop at the heel and little rise at the comb. The length of pull is 13 ", the drop at the comb where contact is made with the face is 1 /8" and drop at the heel is 1/8". The stock is capped with a Remington Super Cell recoil pad.

The Weatherby pull is 13 5/8", the drop at the comb is only " as the Monte Carlo is elevated 5/8". The drop at the heel is 1 ". The geometry is quite exaggerated. The practical difference to me is that the Weatherby stock design tends to redirect more of the recoil away from the shooters shoulder, but adds muzzle rise. The Remington comes straight back under recoil and the muzzle tends to remain on target.

People love to tell stories regarding ferocious Weatherby recoil and I do think it is humorous when someone tells a story about getting slapped around by a .240 Weatherby Magnum. I've owned and shot Weatherbys up to and including the .416 Weatherby and I have to say I have found the stocks, in regard to recoil management, very good. If you put a hundred foot pounds of recoil through a lightweight rifle, something not nice is going to happen, still I have never felt beat up after a range session with a Weatherby. Big Weatherby cartridge muzzle blast is a different story, but one that does not apply to the moderate .257 Weatherby round.

Years ago I had a problem with Remington M700 BDL recoil when chambered for magnum cartridges. I have not had such an issue with Remington rifles since I changed to the CDL type of product and other similar straight comb Remington models. I have shot heavy Ultra Mag versions and lightweight Remington mountain rifles where the recoil seems negligible, even when shooting from the bench. Subjectively, I like the more traditional lines of the Remington as The Weatherby look has been around too long and appears a little "tired" even though it is Weatherby's signature. More objectively, the straight stock design of the Remington is easier for me to more quickly and accurately place follow up shots.

A little less conversation, a little more action...

The Remington's action is tubular whereas the Weatherby has a flat bottom at the front of the receiver and an integral recoil lug much like a Winchester Model 70. Generally, it is easier to keep mechanical parts in alignment along a longitudinal axis when they are a series of concentric cylindrical parts as opposed to aligning parts of varying geometric shapes and mass. Weatherby has a three shot group accuracy guarantee of 1", which is less than exciting for a premium production rifle. It's like saying, "Buy this expensive suit. It will almost fit". I have not had a Weatherby that could not be handloaded and tweaked to much better performance than as delivered, so I am not suggesting they are inherently inaccurate. Remington's tend to shoot tight groups right out of the box, even with factory loaded ammo. I have a 7mm Remington Magnum M700 BDL that is...seven or eight hundred years old and it still shoots sub MOA three shot groups.

The Weatherby trigger assembly is secured to the action with threaded fasteners. The X Mark Pro Remington trigger is pinned in place. The Weatherby safety blocks the firing pin. The Remington safety is part of the trigger assembly and blocks the sear. Both safeties are two position; on and off. The Weatherby trigger is adjustable for pull, not creep; creep is a gunsmith adjustment. The new Remington trigger is not owner adjustable. That said, the contact finish on the Remington is like glass, there is no creep and pull is light from the factory. Personally, I'd like to see pull made adjustable. Call me a renegade or a trigger libertarian, but I would just like to know that trigger pull is my choice and not..."the man". Really...even if I would leave it the way it was received.

The barrel and action of the Remington is stainless steel. Unlike their stainless steel Vanguard product where both barrel and action are manufactured from stainless Weatherby Mark V Accumarks have a stainless barrel and carbon steel receiver which gives them a bit of a saddle shoe appearance. Don't know what a saddle shoe is? Google it and shed some light on your obviously cloistered existence. Current Weatherby Ultra Lightweight models have a blued carbon steel barrel and receiver. All current Weatherby production barrels utilize button rifling, Remington barrel rifling is hammer forged. In the not too distant past, hammer forged rifling was a bullet point for Weatherby marketing. In reality, barrels made with either process can perform exceptionally well when done properly.

Obligatory Table of general information you can just as easily
find on the respective manufacturer's website...

Specification Remington Weatherby
Overall length 46 " 46 5/8"
Weight Lbs 7 5/8 6 *
Barrel Length 26" 26"
Twist 10" 10"
Magazine Capacity 4 3
MSRP $1,092 $1,879
The Remington CDL is a standard weight rifle, the Weatherby is an Ultra Lightweight.
A standard Accumark Mark V .257 Weather weighs 8 Lbs.

So then his cousin's, brother's uncle Sal, married...

At the onset of the piece, this piece, I noted the .257 Weatherby was a 1944 design. In fact, .257 Weatherby ammunition has been in continuous production since 1948 and one of the three early Weatherby cartridges, a group that also included the .270 Weatherby and 7mm Weatherby Magnums. The .257 Weatherby was one of the original factory short magnums. The .375 H&H full length magnum was parent to the .300 Weatherby, also in full length form. The .257 Weatherby, .270 Weatherby and 7mm Weatherby magnums were based on the same .375 H&H case, only shortened to .30-06 length. This reduced case capacity to something more reasonable for this collection of bore sizes and it made the rounds more adaptable to something other than expensive magnum length Mauser, Enfields and similar size actions.

In the early days, handloaders broke out the H570 or 5010, bought bullets from Fred Barnes or Vernon Speer and prepared to prepared to shoot all of that pesky rifling out of their rifle barrels. Additionally, with velocity king in the Weatherby camp, light bullets, read that as "fragile bullets", ruled the day. This meant game could be dropped and ground into hamburger simultaneously and listed as "death by excessive irritation from superficial wounds". Not anymore... 

Today, the .257 Weatherby is considered to be a well behaved cartridge, one that offers handloaders lots of powder and bullet options for serious work and very high quality factory loaded ammo for those who don't want to spend twenty or thirty thousand dollars on handloading gadgetry. Yes, you can still scorch 'em if you prefer, 87 grains at over 3,900 fps, however, the right 117 grain bullet at  3400 fps can stop good size game a long ways off. I've hunted with and handloaded the cartridge for some time and I've never been disappointed by its performance. In fact, it seems to operate outside of its numerically expressed performance. .257" bullets don't have a particularly high sectional density, nor do they have a great ballistic coefficient, but game doesn't seem to notice. And no, the .257 Weatherby isn't almost the same as the .25-06 Remington, unless you live in a world where 300 fps doesn't matter...but thank you for raising the issue.

Bang, Bang...Bang - Live fire impressions

Before mixing and matching components and  handloading, it seemed appropriate to break out the chronograph to see if there was any difference in muzzle velocity between the two firearms. The ammunition was Weatherby 87 grain soft points sourced from a common lot. The Weatherby  averaged 3,875 fps and the Remington 3908 fps.  There wasn't much of a spread within these populations. Both velocity readings are actually a bit faster than factory published ballistics, but not enough to suggest the chronograph placement was too close to muzzle blast and picking up gases pushed ahead of projectiles. I do not know why the Remington was consistently slightly faster than the Weatherby. Any suggestion of degree of free bore, bore finish or chamber tolerance might seem insightful, however, it would also be without any factual foundation. In any event, while the Remington was faster, the degree of difference wasn't of great consequence.

Both rifles fed and extracted rounds reliably. Both actions are slick and positive in operation. Both magazine floor plates engaged and disengaged positively. Both rifles were a great source of hand warmth after just a few of rounds. Neither rifle put out much in the way of recoil, both have quality recoil pads. I think the both the Remington Super Cell and Weatherby's Decelerator, make the biggest recoil whiners into focused shooters. Accuracy data was left for Part II, combined with handloading information. Outfitted with slings and relatively large optics, the Remington came in at 9 lbs 9 oz and the Weatherby at 8 lbs 12 oz. The scopes weigh about as much as the rifles.

What's rounder, an orange?

In terms of suitability for application such as hunting, the differences are mostly philosophically driven and centered around the traditional versus synthetic mind set. In terms of form, fit and function, I think the Remington has a moderate edge in accuracy, an edge in magazine capacity and clearly an edge in aesthetic appeal. A synthetic stock will always be a thing of utility for me, while walnut - cut checkering and a clean finish will always represent gun making craftsmanship. I wouldn't hesitate in taking the Weatherby hunting in a harsh environment, without concern for stock dings and scratches. However, I would enjoy carrying the Remington more as a statement of what I appreciate in firearms. It is not as though it is too pretty to take hunting.

I elected not to make a comparison to the Weatherby Mark V Deluxe walnut stocked, blued hardware model because it is several hundred dollars more expensive than the Ultra Lightweight and Accumark models. The Deluxe, like the standard weight Accumark, weighs 8 Lbs bare and it is not a rifle that most people would take out for serious rough country hunting. Even though the Remington is walnut stocked, it has a tough satin finish, it's hardware is all stainless and I could see myself hosing mud off of it in preparation for more conventional cleaning.

The greater issue? Value. I could not reconcile the $900 difference in price between these two rifles, especially since the Remington produced the same or better performance. It's a lot of money. I could buy the Remington, pay for a Texas hog hunt and still have money left in comparison to a Weatherby purchase.

Next up in Part II is handloading the .257 Weatherby cartridge and some live fire results from both rifles.

Remington's take on the .257 Weatherby Magnum
Remington's Take on the .257 Weatherby Part II

Weatherby. The Man. The Gun. The Legend. By Grits Gresham and Tom Gresham

 

 

 
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