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06/07/2020

 

Audio Prologue:

Apparently, there are places within these United States where large expanses of rolling plains, clumsy herd animals and hole creating prairie dogs intersect to wipe out a rancher’s only source of income; the herd. Surely you have seen splinted cattle, gimping along on a cattle drive with marked down price tags hanging from their horns.

In those areas, prairie dog populations are controlled with cartridges like the .22-50 BMG-AI matched with 36″ barrel rifles. Why would they not, as the average shooting distances is 1,200 yards!…!!.  In Maine, where cattle and sheep are mostly found in zoos, and modern ranchers raise peacocks and alpacas, varmints come in different forms.

Coyotes decimate our deer herds during periods of heavy snow fall and eat our pets as they recreate on back porches. Fox and skunk contract rabies at a substantial rate and opportunistically bite the hands of Mainer’s, both metaphorically and literally, who insist on feeding them. More common are the gray squirrels that snack on costly structures, and/our vegetable gardens and every grain of seed we plant.

So on my list of varmints are: coyotes that make it a habit of coming out of the woods and hanging out in populated areas, oddly behaving fox and skunk that are flashing teeth at pedestrians in broad daylight and any squirrel in the area of the homestead while I have a firearm in my hand.

A varmint eradication facilitator

Winchester Model 70 Featherweight

Manufactured Browning – Portugal
Item# 535200212
Type Bolt Action
Caliber 243 Winchester
Capacity 5+1
Barrel Length 22″
Rifling 1:10 RH
Weight 6 Lbs 12 Oz
Overall Length 42 1/4″
Stock Black Walnut Grade I
Barreled Action Blued Alloy Steel
Length of Pull 13 3/4″
Drop at comb 1/2″
Drop at heel* 3/4 “
Sights Clean
Scope Drilled and Tapped
Trigger Pull 3 Lbs. 11 Oz. Adj
Safety Wing Three Position
U.S. MSRP $1009.99

 

I do not own a Model 70 Winchester Featherweight in 243 Winchester at the moment, but only because I currently own a six pound Model 70 Compact with many of the same attributes. The Compact is in queue for a fancy black walnut stock… as it has been since 1998. The problem is that it is in frequent use and I cannot see taking it out of service for six months. Hmm… perhaps I should buy a Featherweight, get the benefit of two more inches of barrel length and time for fitting a new stock on the Compact?

Some of the attributes that make the Featherweight an ideal candidate are obvious. The smooth, controlled feed action, an adjustable super slick trigger, a swing safety for easy field operation, a very comfortable stock for good control and support, and just enough fancy stuff to instill pride of ownership.

The Model 70 Featherweight also has a 2.880″ long magazine well and a 0.175″ freebore behind the rifling that will accommodate significantly longer than 2.710″ maximum length cartridges. All of this combines to give the handloader more latitude in working toward maximum ballistic performance, velocity and accuracy.

In more tangible terms, the Winchester Model 70 Featherweight can easily accommodate everything from a 0.790″ long Sierra 55 grain varmint bullets to 1.352″ long 115 grain Berger Match bullets. The former seated deeply enough to  properly secure the bullet with case neck tension, the latter without deep seating and displacing useful case powder capacity.

Lightweights

Bullet Type Weight
Grains
Bullet
Length”
Cartridge
OAL”
Sierra BlitzKing PT 55 0.749 2.630
Hornady V-Max PT 65 0.842 2.600
Rem AccuTip PT 75 0.936 2.640

Joe, why are you including a Remington AccuTip where there are no mainstream reloading manuals available for us to put your handloads into context? In this case, the Remington AccuTip is actually a 75 grain Hornady V-Max, cleverly disguised with Remington green camo.

Warning: Bullet selections are specific, and loads are not valid with substitutions of different bullets of the same weight. Variations in bullet length will alter net case capacity,  pressure and velocity. Primer selection is specific and primer types are not interchangeable. These are maximum loads in my firearms and may be excessive in others. All loads should be reduced by 5% as a starting point for development where cartridges have greater than 40 grains in capacity and 10% for cartridges with less than 40 grain capacity following safe handloading practices as represented in established mainstream reloading manuals. Presentation of these loads does not constitute a solicitation for their use, nor a recommendation.

 

Cartridge – 243 Winchester
Firearm Winchester M70 Featherweight
Barrel Length 22.00″
Min – Max Case Length 2.045″ +0.000″/-0.020″
Min – Max COL 2.450″ – 2.710″
Primer CCI 200
Bullet Diameter 0.2430″ +0.000″/-0.0030″
Reloading Dies RCBS
Bullet Type Bullet
Weigh
Grains
Net H2O
Grains
Capacity
C.O.L.” Powder
Type
Powder
Charge
Grains
Muzzle
Velocity
FPS
Muzzle
Energy
Ft-Lbs
100 Yd
3 Shot
Group”
Sierra BlitzKing 55 52.1 2.630 H414 49.0 3788 1753 0.5
Sierra BlitzKing 55 52.1 2.630 H380 46.5 3556 1545 0.8
Sierra BlitzKing 55 52.1 2.630 Varget 45.0 3750 1718 0.6
Hornady V-Max
65 50.8 2.600 Re16 46.0 3531 1800 0.3
Hornady V-Max 65 50.8 2.600 Superformance 51.5 3711 1988 0.5
Hornady V-Max 65 50.8 2.600 H414 48.0 3663 1937 0.7
Remington AccuTip 75 50.3 2.640 Re16 45.0 3355 1875 0.5
Remington AccuTip 75 50.3 2.640 H414 45.5 3435 1965 0.2
Remington AccuTip 75 50.3 2.640 Norma 204 47.0 3214 1721 0.4

H414 ran a little warm, Norma 204 ran a little cool. Where there is lower velocity in any given bullet weight for a specific powder, the next few tenth grain increments yielded no appreciable increase in velocity. Charges listed represent the lowest charge required to secure velocity. So what does this all mean? From the Real Guns® Ballistic Calculator

Sierra BlitzKing 55 Grain
Near-Zero – yds. 41 Mid Range – yds. 133
Far-Zero – yds. 216 Max Ordinate – in. +1.5
Point Blank – yds. 241
Best Zero : Range 0 – 300 yards
Yards 0 50 100 150 200 250 300
Velocity – fps 3788 3473 3180 2908 2651 2408 2179
Energy – ft.-lbs. 1752 1472 1235 1033 858 708 580
Momentum – lbs-sec 30 27 25 23 21 19 17
Path – in. -1.50 0.24 1.25 1.40 0.52 -1.59 -5.22
Drift – in. 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
Time Of Flight – sec. 0.00 0.04 0.09 0.14 0.19 0.25 0.31
Hornady V-Max 65 Grain
Near-Zero – yds. 42 Mid Range – yds. 139
Far-Zero – yds. 229 Max Ordinate – in. +1.5
Point Blank – yds. 257
Best Zero : Range 0 – 300 yards
Yards 0 50 100 150 200 250 300
Velocity – fps 3711 3513 3325 3145 2974 2808 2648
Energy – ft.-lbs. 1987 1781 1595 1427 1276 1138 1012
Momentum – lbs-sec 34 33 31 29 28 26 25
Path – in. -1.50 0.22 1.23 1.46 0.81 -0.83 -3.57
Drift – in. 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
Time Of Flight – sec. 0.00 0.04 0.09 0.13 0.18 0.23 0.29
Remington AccuTip/Hornady V-Max 75 Grain
Near-Zero – yds. 40 Mid Range – yds. 131
Far-Zero – yds. 217 Max Ordinate – in. +1.5
Point Blank – yds. 245
Best Zero : Range 0 – 300 yards
Yards 0 50 100 150 200 250 300
Velocity – fps 3435 3277 3126 2980 2838 2701 2568
Energy – ft.-lbs. 1965 1788 1627 1479 1341 1215 1098
Momentum – lbs-sec 37 35 33 32 30 29 28
Path – in. -1.50 0.31 1.31 1.42 0.55 -1.40 -4.54
Drift – in. 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
Time Of Flight – sec. 0.00 0.04 0.09 0.14 0.19 0.25 0.30

Like virtually all calibers, in the lighter end of the bullet weight ballistic coefficients tend to be less than slick. As an example, the Sierra 55 grain BlitzKing cranks out just under 3,800 fps in muzzle velocity. However, it flies about as well a big dogs face sticking out of a car window traveling a 100 miles per hour. By comparison, a 115 grain Berger VLD has a BC of 0.597.

The examples expressed in tablular form above are based on a point blank range where the bullet does not rise or fall greater than 1.5″. Where the fastest bullet, the 55 grain Sierra, has a point blank range of 241 yards. The slower 65 grain bullet has a 257 yard point blank range. Even the heaviest bullet, with the lowest muzzle velocity out distances the 55 grain Sierra. In any event, they are all solid 300 yard performers.

Versatility

For 99% of the varmint applications I encounter, the 7 lb 22″ barrel Winchester Model 70 Featherweight and replace my 11 lb 26″ barrel 220 Swift. Report is a bit on the loud side, recoil is virtually nonexistent. From a handloader’s perspective, bullets are inexpensive, brass is long living and powder consumption is modest. Any of the spring and summer shooting I can get in will only sharpen my skills for shooting the same rifle during deer season in the fall.

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