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Winchester’s XPR Renegade Long Range SR 300 WSM Part I Long range and well mannered

01/17/2021

While Winchester has been manufacturing bolt action rifles since the Winchester Hotchkiss in the late 1800’s. The Winchester Model 54, introduced in 1925, was the first mass produced civilian bolt action rifle. While I am an old guy… a birthday or two shy of carbon dating old, the only Winchester bolt action rifles that have passed through my hands over my life time have all been various Model 70s.

During my lifetime, the Winchester firearm brand has been under the control of four different corporate entities. The Model 70 has gone from mechanical art, to not so much art, and back to mechanical art again. The action has been control feed or push feed, but always one form of Model 70 or another. Times have changed, Winchester has changed and new generations of Winchester were and are inevitable.

 

Winchester XPR Renegade Long Range SR

Manufactured Viana, Portugal
Item # 535732255
Type Bolt Action – Short
Caliber 300 WSM
Mag Capacity 3 Round Detachable
Barrel Length 24″  5/8″-24 Threaded Muzzle
Rifling 1:10″
Weight – Actual 8 Lbs 8 Oz
Overall Length 44″
Stock Grayboe Renegade Composite
Hardware Finish
Perma-Cote Matte Black
Length of Pull 13 1/4″
Drop at comb 3/4″
Drop at heel 3/4“
Sights Clean
Scope Drilled and Tapped
Trigger – M.O.A. Adjustable 3.5 Lbs Nominal
Safety Thumb 2 Position
MSRP $1,069.99
Available in: 243 Win, 6.5 Creedmoor, 7mm-08 Rem, 308 Win, 270 WSM, 300 WSM, 6.5 PRC

The Winchester XPR Renegade Long Range SR is an evolution for the XPR rifle introduced in 2015. The XPR has always been an accurate rifle, but a heavy dose of personal Model 70 bias had prevented me from seeing it as something other than a lower cost Winchester rifle undermining tradition, both Winchester’s and mine.

I would guess that Winchester customers felt the same way in 1936 when the Winchester Model 70 came along as a replacement for the earlier Model 54.The difference today is that the XPR is produced alongside the Model 70, both refined firearms, but with the XPR offering a lower price tag for comparable models.

What makes this XPR long range?

A long range firearm reflects  a combination of mechanical accuracy and shooter accommodations. In the case of the Winchester XPR product line, mechanical accuracy is achieved through the combination of quality design, quality materials and quality manufacturing process.Yes, that is a lot of quality. Shooter accommodations, both application suitability and aesthetic preference, are packaged in twenty different models of XPR. The XPR Renegade Long Range SR is one model within this product line up, tailored to the long range shooter.

A purpose made stock

The Grayboe Renegade stock is designed for shooting from rifle rested or prone positions typical of long range shooting. The comb is high to support a noggin positioned to look down a scope’s optical centerline. The palm swell, near vertical pistol grip provides stability of hold and offers maximum leverage and control for a trigger squeeze. The low cut neck allows the thumb to be an active participant in the hold. The undercut buttstock allows a shooter’s free hand to micro adjust and steady elevation and duplicating the function of a bench shooter’s use of a bunny bag and hand squeeze.

The wide, shallow beavertail forearm is an ideal support surface when shooting from prone and it provides a stable surface when shooting from a rest, backpack or similar. The two swivel studs accommodate both shooting sling and bipod. The Inflex recoil pad deflects recoil motion away from the face and comes with additional spacers to adjust length of pull.

 

The stock provides aluminum pillar bedding for the action and an integrated recoil lug locks into the XPR action, preventing longitudinal movement and the barrel free floats. The Grayboe stock is a fiber filled, solid epoxy composite, but still scale checks at only 3 lbs 8 oz. There is no foam core or aluminum frame. Subsequently, the stock can be modified to accept things like an adjustable comb, flush cups for QD sling mounts. The barrel channel can be modified to suit a change in barrel contour or to glass bed. The stock works as is, but some folks like to tune to an individual preference.

Details matter

Long range rifles tend to have large and relatively heavy optics. Under recoil, a rifle moves back quickly, but the scope wants to remain where it is. In that millisecond before the scope accepts it is going along for the ride, the scope mount, rings and a collective of fasteners are place under a good deal of stress. The XPR receiver is tapped for large 8-40 size fasteners rather than the more common 6-48 fasteners. The Winchester ejection port is open top, however, a Picatinny rail to allow flexible scope positioning did not interfere with single round feeding or ejecting fat WSM cartridges.

Controls are convenient, beginning with the slide safety and bolt unlock, which parallel the bolt shroud. The two position safety indirectly blocks trigger movement and locks the bolt closed when the safety is engaged. The bolt release allows the bolt to be open to clear the rifle’s chamber with the safety engaged. The oversize bolt knob is handy; no fishing for a tucked in bolt handle/knob that is made for hiking through brush. However, the bolt knob is screwed in place and can be changed.

The Winchester M.O.A. trigger is a good one for precision shooting, which coincides with long range shooting. A third lever, an actuator, provides component geometry that doubles mechanical advantage of the trigger piece , shortens travel to half the distance of a conventional trigger and preloads the trigger components. The result is no pretravel, no creep and no overtravel. Pull is preset at the factory to 3.5 lbs, however, there is an adjustment range of 3 to 5 lbs. Two set screws at the front of the trigger housing set trigger pull and overtravel.

The bolt, like the receiver, is machined from bar stock and through hardened. When surface hardening was state of the art, a little use would wear through and friction was handled by base metal. The three lobe design results in a brief 60° lift, the full diameter body adds to the bolt’s rigidity and flutes prevents binding gunk build up in heavy use. The slick, corrosion resistant coating is nickel Teflon. Again, details, but the bolt can be disassembled without special tools…. that I have a tool box full of. The sliding extractor grips firmly and reliably. The ejector plops empties out without launching them into the next county.

 

A little better view of the stock contours from the bottom side.

I have given up changing trigger guards and floorplates and looking for metal magazines. I believe expensive, forged steel and deeply blued replacement pieces they have gone the way of tin toys, narrow whitewalls and maple trimmed rosewood forends and grip caps.,,, and bubble skirts on 1949 Mercury coupes… and the word “coupes”. The trigger guard and magazine are polymer, will not rust and will no doubt feed more reliably than metal pieces over the long haul. The magazine stacks cartridges straight up and down and serves them up from the center. The magazine holds 3 WSM rounds and magazines can be preloaded and stowed in jacket pockets… or shirt pockets… pants pockets work also.

Winchester XPR Renegade Long Range SR barrels, XPR barrels, are fashioned from chromoly steel, button rifled and thermally stress relieved for consistent accuracy over a wide temperature range. The XPR is secured to the receiver with a barrel nut. While the approach lacks the thrill of precision lathe operation and contribution to factory floor din, it is an easy way to achieve spot on headspace with skilled assemblers, a headspace gauge and a couple of hand tools. Yet another contribution to the XPR inherent accuracy.

The 24″ barrel has a sporter contour, rather than a boat anchor weight some manufacturers insist on hanging on anything listed as “long range”. The barrel, like the receiver and bolt handle are finished in Perma-Cote; high abrasion and corrosion resistance and non glare. The barrel has a target crown and 5/8-24 threads to accommodate a variety of muzzle devices. In this case a SilencerCo Omega 36M modular silencer.

Why a silencer?

The silencer was invented to curb firearm report, at a time when population density was increasing. The initial ads showed family members target shooting at a backyard picnic where noise was minimized with the use of a silencer. Organized crime gave silencers a bad name, as they did for just about everything else they touched and Hollywood, as only Hollywood could or would, sensationalized the topic while ignoring a silencer’s primary use and benefit.

I use them all of the time these days. My ears love them, my distant neighbors love them and active area hunters love them. Only actors, politicians and the uninformed see the drama in their use. In this case, the Omega 36M went from 338 Lapua Magnum to this 300 WSM application and seriously dampened noise without shedding velocity. The Omega 36M is rated for cartridges from the 22 Hornet to the 338 Lapua Magnum at specified barrel lengths.

The SilencerCo Omega 36M is covered in detail in Part II and in standalone review, however, it is a great match for the Winchester XPR Renegade Long Range SR. Using SilencerCo’s quick attach/ detach ASR (Active Spring Retention) mount system, left to right: ASR Brake, Charlie ASR Mount, Omega 36M rear baffle module, front baffle module, and Charlie end cap.

The 300 WSM

Hard to believe the WSM cartridges are twenty years old. I’ve spent time with them and found them good cartridges. My favorite is the 270 WSM and the 300 WSM is a close second. For me, it isn’t so much that the cartridge is superior to other 300 Magnums, belted and beltless, but rather they seem to show up in exceptional rifles… like the Winchester XPR Renegade Long Range SR and in other rifles more compact than the typical magnum. With a 308 Win length, they can keep pace or exceed the corresponding 30-06 length belted magnums.

Handloads done, waiting for the Maine sunshine to go away

The 300 WSM case length and geometry adapt very well to the most recent VLD and ELD bullet designs, so that is where we will pick up in Part II and conclude with some live fire performance data. In the mean time, there is a snow shovel in the garage with my name on it.

 

Ruger’s Precision Rifle in 338 Lapua Part I One of a number of excellent calibers

01/10/2021

The best way to improve a skill is to work at mastering associated extreme challenges. Practicing with a 44 magnum revolver makes a 357 magnum revolver’s recoil mild by comparison and easy to control. Extending shooting distances while getting in practice, beyond those anticipated within a planned application, sharpens marksmanship skills.

Extreme long range shooting provides an opportunity to sharpen marksmanship skills by amplifying the product of errors originating with a shooter and/or gear. The amplification makes it easier to isolate and analyze each problem and render appropriate solutions. Refinement of shooting skills and gear improves performance in long range competition, but improvement also carries over into hunting, recreational target shooting and competing at more moderate distances.

Would it not be terrific to have routine access to a 1,500 meter rifle range with interim 50 meter target positions…. and a truck full of ammunition? Or, if you are like me, a 1,640 yard range as metric is not my natural language. Change comes slowly to some. Twice as slow for me.

The Ruger Precision Rifle

In long range shooting, when a bullet enters a transonic zone and transitions from supersonic to subsonic velocity, it becomes destabilized. During that event, the bullet’s ballistic coefficient diminishes as the bullet begins to pitch and yaw; bullet nose moving up and down relative to the line of slight and bullet nose moving side to side relative to the line of flight respectively.

The combination of a Ruger Precision Rifle and the 338 Lapua Magnum push the onset of the transonic zone out to 1,400 meters. The combination is a pragmatic solution to a math problem, an engineering group’s expression of what it would take to push a 250 grain bullet to 3,000 fps and with enough retained velocity to have an effective range in excess of 1,400 meters.

Not to be typecast, the Ruger Precision Rifle is also available in: 6mm Creedmoor, 6.5 Creedmoor, 6.5 PRC, 308 Winchester, 300 Winchester Magnum, 300 PRC, as well as the 338 Lapua Magnum, so the Ruger Precision Rifle by chamber choice can be tailored to a specific application and none of them are slackers. The approximate supersonic to subsonic transition range for popular match ammunition, expressed in meters, in order of cartridges listed: 1200, 1300, 1350, 950, 1300, 1500, 1400.

The ergonomically designed Ruger Precision Rifle provides a high degree of reliable mechanical precision, while the cartridge selection provides the optimal ballistics to the shooter’s preference and for the application to be served. The subject firearm is the Ruger Precision Rifle chambered for the 338 Lapua Magnum.

Real Guns has previously evaluated Ruger Precision Rifle versions in 22 LR rimfire, 5.56 NATO, 243 Winchester, 6.5 Creedmoor, 6.5 PRC, 308 Winchester, 300 PRC. The 6.5 and 300 PRC were the most rewarding to work with because of the newness of the cartridges and the project handloading component. The 338 Lapua version, even though a mature cartridge, offered many of the same opportunities.

Ruger Precision Rifle
Manufacturer Ruger, New Hampshire
Model # 18080
Type Bolt Action 70° Lift – Inline
Caliber 338 Lapua Magnum
Mag Capacity As Supplied 5 Round
Barrel Length 26.0″ 3/4″x24 thread
Rifling 1:9.375 5R
Receiver Material 4140 CM
Lower Magazine Halves 7075-T6 Type III Anodized
Weight – Nominal 15.2 Lbs
Overall Length 42.25″ – 45.75″
Folded Length 40.35″
Stock Folding, Adj. Comb & Pull
Comb Height Adjustment +0.75
Comb Fore/Aft Adjustment 3.5″
Length of pull 12″ to 16.2″
Sights None
Scope Mount 30 MOA Picatinny Rail
Trigger – Ruger Marksman Adj. 2.25 to 5.0 Lbs
Safety Reversible, Rotating – 2 Position
MSRP $2099
l

The Ruger Precision Rifle evolution

The Precision Rifle was a mid 2015 phenomena. Introduced as a in-line recoil path, bolt-action rifle, 1,000 yard hitter, in 308 Win, 6.5 Creedmoor and 243 Win. Others followed, each differing in configuration as an accommodation to caliber.

Date of Introduction Caliber Barrel
Length”
Twist
Rate
Nominal
Weight Lbs
2015 243 Winchester 26 1:7.7 11.0
2015 6.5 Creedmoor 24 1:8 10.6
2015 308 Winchester 20 1:10 9.7
2017 5.56 NATO 20 1:7 9.8
2018 338 Lapua 26 1:9.375 15.2
2018 300 Winchester Magnum 26 1:9 15.2
2019 6.5 PRC 26 1:8 11.0
2019 300 PRC 26 1:9 15.2

 

A mid 2016 upgrade to existing models, changed the configuration to a handguard without a Picatinny rail to provide more clearance for scopes with large objective lens bells and a wider flat for more secure bipod mounting.  Additionally, a Ruger Hybrid Brake was added, along with an upgraded anodized aluminum bolt shroud.

In Mid 2017, a 5.56 NATO version was added and the an AI magazine system was adopted.

At the tail end of 2018, 338 Lapua Magnum and 300 Winchester Magnum chambers were added to the Ruger Precision Rifle line up. These models also received a heavy contour barrel with a Ruger Precision Magnum Muzzle Brake and revised handguard.

In April 2019 both 6.5 PRC and 300 PRC versions were added. Both are configured with a 26″ barrel and Magnum Muzzle Brake, however, the 6.5 PRC has a medium contour barrel versus a heavy contour for the 300 PRC.

A couple of quick points…

The Ruger Precision Rifle’s mechanical components and assemblies have previously been covered extensively and exhaustively. For anyone interested in that level of hardware detail disassembled, please see, “A Ruger Precision Rifle In 6.5 Creedmoor Part I” which addressed the barrel nut system, handguard mounting, buttstock and hinge system, receiver extension, trigger, etc. etc.

The 338 Lapua and 300 PRC versions of the Precision rifle are fitted with a heavy barrel contour, 0.875″ muzzle diameter, and a Ruger Precision® Rifle Magnum Muzzle Brake.The brake is very effective in reducing felt recoil and controlling muzzle jump and the four set screws along the top permit refining the way a specific firearm/shooter responds to muzzle rise with removal of any or all increase down force on the rifle’s muzzle. I am old, so I have been misinformed that a shooter must learn the characteristics and personality of a firearm, then learn how to adapt to shoot it well. For those who are trying to tame a firearm to conform to their personal attributes and personalities… well, here ya go.

A great source of entertainment can be found in reading social media approaches to brake removal. People are torching the brake, soaking it in hot water, using an impact wrench, etc. An alternative is to open the manual to page 18 and following the simple instructions. With the rifle checked for empty and the bolt removed and facing the front of the brake, put a large screw driver or similar through the brake vents so the brake body can be held in place. Using a 1 1/6″ open end wrench… not 7/8″ indicated in the instructions, turn the jam nut clockwise about a quarter of a turn, just enough to take the pressure off of the threads. Use the large screw driver to turn the brake assembly counterclockwise and both the brake and jam nut will come off together. How to hold the rifle while loosening the brake/jam nut assembly? My approach is to lay the rifle flat on a clean carpeted floor, sit on it at the action, and unscrew the brake. Other than some irregular surface discomfort, butt wise, no damage to the firearm. Yes, it is amazing that I can expend 300 words obsessing over issues surrounding a muzzle brake.

The 338 Lapua Magnum and 300 PRC versions of the Ruger Precision Rifle receiver rails have a 30 MOA downward cant, as opposed to the 20 MOA cant on other versions. The intent is to bias toward a raised muzzle so a scope does not run out of elevation adjustment when long range shooting. The rail is secured with 8-40 fasteners to better stand up to heavy optics under recoil.

The folding buttstock serves a number of purposes. Because this is an inline recoil rifle with an extended action and a long bolt, there must be a way to move the buttstock out of the way when removal of the bolt is required. So Ruger put it on a stout, solid locking hinge so the buttstock can be folded out of the way. The Ruger Precision Rifle accepts AR standard buttstocks and grips.

The Ruger Precision rifle’s bolt is a push feed design with three locking lugs and a 70º lift. The bolt body is one piece and, like the rifle’s receiver, CNC from pre-hardened 4140 Chrome Moly steel. Dual cocking cams provide additional mechanical advantage, which reduces cocking effort on bolt lift. The body is full diameter, the same as the circumference of the lugs, for added strength.The bolt handle has industry standard 5/16″x24 threads, permitting the use of any from a broad selection of aftermarket tactical bolt handles.

Pull length and comb height and position are adjustable by lifting up on the quick release cam levers and sliding associated surfaces to position of preference. No, “Cant Adj” is not the same as “Can’t Adj”. The pad is recoil absorbing and it can be canted, rotated, left or right 9º. All of the camming latches and QD attachment points can be swapped to the opposite side to suit preference.

Prepping for handloads

Previously working with the 338 Lapua cartridge and a bolt action rifle, the emphasis for handloads was for target work and bullets were selected accordingly. As the 338 Lapua also makes for an excellent big game cartridge, I am leaning toward working up handloads with expanding bullets suitable for hunting. The Ruger Precision Rifle’s high degree of accuracy, weight and stability make it an ideal platform for handload development. As a starting point and point of comparison…

Best Zero Results – 338 Lapua 250 Grain Match
Near-Zero – yds. 20 Mid Range – yds. 184
Far-Zero – yds. 338 Max Ordinate – in. +6.0
Point Blank – yds. 346
Range
Yards 0 100 200 300 400 500 600 700 800 900 1000
Velocity – fps 3000 2838 2681 2529 2383 2241 2105 1974 1849 1728 1613
Energy – ft.-lbs. 4995 4469 3988 3550 3151 2788 2460 2164 1897 1657 1443
Momentum – lbs-sec 107 101 96 90 85 80 75 71 66 62 58
Path – in. -1.50 4.38 5.93 2.64 -6.08 -20.94 -42.73 -72.36 -110.93 -159.68 -220.10
Drift – in. 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
Time Of Flight – sec. 0.00 0.10 0.21 0.33 0.45 0.58 0.72 0.86 1.02 1.19 1.37

 

Best Zero Results – 338 Winchester Mag 250 Grain
Near-Zero – yds. 18 Mid Range – yds. 160
Far-Zero – yds. 293 Max Ordinate – in. +6.0
Point Blank – yds. 300
Range
Yards 0 100 200 300 400 500 600 700 800 900 1000
Velocity – fps 2660 2460 2270 2088 1916 1753 1599 1460 1334 1227 1138
Energy – ft.-lbs. 3927 3359 2859 2421 2038 1705 1419 1183 988 835 719
Momentum – lbs-sec 95 88 81 75 68 63 57 52 48 44 41
Path – in. -1.50 4.87 5.48 -0.66 -14.80 -38.43 -73.42 -122.03 -186.98 -271.50 -379.15
Drift – in. 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
Time Of Flight – sec. 0.00 0.12 0.24 0.38 0.53 0.70 0.88 1.07 1.29 1.52 1.78

A note on the ethics of long range hunting…

In 2019, J.C. Jarrell set the light Bench Rest 1,000 yard world record, 5 shots in the bullseye, a 2.83″ group. The following weekend, Jarrell put 10 shots inside of 6″, 6 of them inside 3″. Some time ago, I took a shot at a huge buck, 500 yards out… which turned out to be a relatively small deer at a much closer 275 yards. I was young, it was cold, I was hungry. I’ve since become much better at judging distances… and deer.

I do not know Jarrell… I don’t know a lot of people, but if he and I were in Alaska during hunting season, and stumbled on a herd of Caribou 600 yards out, I would not want to take a shot because I am not a skilled shooter at those ranges and I would not want to expend ammunition on a miss, or wounding an animal. Jarrell would have the credentials to attempt such a shot, I would not. In my opinion, it would be ethical for him to take the shot, it would be less than ethical for me.

The folks who burst into tears at the mention of a 300 plus yard shot, probably do not have the skill to take a 200 yard shot and are trying to judge all others by their level of limited competency. Often the same folks who pat the hide of a downed deer and thank it for giving itself up as food. Which is, of course, very silly because the deer did not volunteer to provide the hunter with a meal. If the deer could talk he would be cussing himself for being too slow to flee and would be telling our grateful hunter, “%##@&!!!”.

In summation, if a hunter has made his bones putting 5 shots into a 2.83″ group at 1,000 yards, he can make his decision to take a long shot within his range of competency. If you are like me, stick to smaller deer and shorter distances and lie like a rug when you tell the “longest shot” story.

The 338 Lapua in context… Which distortion of history would you like?

Yes, the 338 Lapua cartridge is a product of military origins, as are the 45-70 Government, 30-40 Krag, 30-06 Springfield, 308 Winchester, 5.56 NATO disguised as the 223 Remington, etc., etc.. They are all cartridges that have all been used for sniping, automatic weapons of the day and for general issue small arms, however, all have also made the successful transition to civilian applications.

As a young man, the 338 Winchester was the round that was too heavy for deer, but just about right for elk and big bear. It was also quickly discounted for use on any lesser game and slapped with the label of too hard of a kicker for most. Oddly enough it is still described in such a fashion. The 338 Winchester is based on a shortened and necked down version of the 375 H&H.

The 340 Weatherby is consistent with Roy Weatherby’s “more is always better” approach in that it is based upon a full length 375 H&H. Perhaps because it was affixed to the expensive Weatherby Mark V it never really achieved rock star status. It was chambered in the Mark V Sporter, a really good package for under $1,600, but ammunition is expensive, even for the reloader and velocity is only 100 – 125 fps greater than the 338 Winchester Magnum.

The 338 Lapua is based on a shortened version of the 416 Rigby. While the case head is 0.007″ larger in diameter than the Weatherby body above the belt, it is also 0.200″ approximately shorter than the 416 Rigby, which surrendered a good deal of powder capacity.

The 338 Remington Ultra Mag was, unfortunately, a part of a very high performance group of then new cartridges which included the 7mm Ultra Mag, 300 Ultra Mag, 338 Ultra Mag, and the 375 Ultra Mag. They were introduced just as Winchester was convincing the gun buying public that short was better. The 338 RUM is a terrific cartridge. I’ve owned them as a heavy barrel target rifle and as a shop built sporter on a Remington 700 action. The big down side is action length required and the lack of room for heavy bullets without surrendering case capacity.

The 338-378 Weatherby is a bucket full of smokeless powder and able to propel a heavy 300 grain bullet in a convincing fashion. I found shooting my Weatherby Accumark… invigorating and it remained so for the ten years it was actively put to work. It just seemed there was more work that could be done with 137 grains of powder held by each round.

My point is, don’t get caught up in the “What are you going to do with that ginormous 338 Lapua? It is meant for use as artillery and dinosaur culling!…!!” Is not. It is a moderate selection for perforating at 1,000 yards.

338 Magnum Cartridge Comparison
Date of Origin Bullet Diameter “ Case
Capacity
H2O
SAAMI Pressure KPSI Parent Case
338 Winchester Magnum 1958 0.338 86 64.0 375 H&H
340 Weatherby Magnum 1962 0.338 100 62.5 375 H&H
338 Lapua Magnum 1983 0.338 108 65.0 416 Rigby
338 Remington Ultra Magnum 2002 0.338 110 65.0 404 Jeffery
338-378 Weatherby Magnum 1999 0.338 137 63.8 378 Weatherby
*CIP registration 4400 bar

An now, a short brake

Yes, I know “break”. So some bullets will be selected, powder will be sought and primers will be secured. Hopefully, they will play nice together and some handload data will be the result. I like the hardware. It is beefy, aesthetically pleasing and well done on assembly. If I am bouncing around, I apologize. I am not a long range shooter by inclination, but there is a potential even for me with the Ruger Precision Rifle and I am trying to decide which version.

It might be that it is a rifle that is good for handload development; consistently accurate so one less variable in the process to worry about. It could be a challenge for me to engage long range shooting, to learn more about the influence of nature on shots at a distance; wind, temperature, varied elevation, and the dogged persistence of gravity. So I am writing, but mostly thinking aloud. Be back soon.

Winchester Model 1892 Carbine Part II An appropriate diet of 357 Magnum handloads

11/29/2020 Quite a week for getting things done. The area light on the shop would only dimly glow blue, a very small firefly in a very large bottle, was repaired with a simple bulb change. The ballast on this fixture is not replaceable. If it had failed it would have meant swapping out with a…

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Winchester’s Model 1892 Carbine Part I Another baby Browning

Not going for melodrama here, but raking leaves in New England is worse than a Sisyphus bout with inclined, repetitive boulder rolling. The beautiful fiery red and golden leaves of autumn, drop dead, turn a very ordinary brown and begin to fall, and continue to fall, for a couple of months until the trees are barren. Leaves fall in the woods, they fall on the lawn, they fall in the garden, they definitely fall in the gutters and, then, they must be removed.

My wife and I dump leaves into a shredder, we run them over with a lawn mower, we blow them around with a leaf blower, we rake them until the lawn and gardens are rid of them and they are piled high behind the woodland treeline. Then we go inside and have dinner, as the wind kicks up and returns every single leaf to its exact original position and orientation. It is 762 B.C. all over again. In the morning, I’ll walk outside with a cup of coffee in one hand, shake the other fist at the sky skyward to express my displeasure with nature, before resolutely beginning raking anew.  Yes, “anew”. No, not “a gnu”.

Short of a cooperative black hole, nothing will stem the incoming tide of leaves moving from woods to lawn. However, I do wonder why the tide never goes out, moving the leaves from lawn to woods. All we can do is wait for heavy snow. It won’t solve the problem, but it will hide the problem, and isn’t effectively hiding a problem as good as a solution?

I am struggling with what to write that is worthy of this really nice firearm. A Winchester wrapped in nostalgia with performance potential to spare. So I am just stalling. I spent the past half hour trying to decide if I like Lucinda Williams’s 1988 version of “Change The Locks” or the 1996 Tom Petty version and I am wondering if anyone else still uses a mechanical pencil. Are you hungry, or is that just me?

I like Tom Petty, but Williams is just so much more….” And I love mechanical pencils and I do like Lucinda Williams, and Zombie Bob has more than earned a spot on my desk, holding a pencil at the ready. OK. You guys are no help, so I’ve mentally cracked my knuckles, adjusted my chair and I will poke at this keyboard until something comes out of it…

History. I’ll take “Things not taught in schools anymore” for $200, Alex

The Winchester Model 1892 represents only one of a number of Winchester’s Thomas Grey Bennett and Browning’s John Moses Browning collaborations. T.G. Bennett’s forte was manufacturing. Browning’s forte was exceptional, manufacturable firearm designs. Their working relationship was based on mutual respect, allowing it to endure for nearly twenty years.

As the story goes, Bennett needed successor for the Model 1873 successor, a scaled down version of Browning’s Model 1886 design, chambered for cartridges similar in size to the 44-40 WCF. Bennett created the incentives of bonuses to encourage Browning; $10,000 for design delivery in three months, $15,000 for delivery in two months. Browning countered with $20,000 if done within 30 days, and proceeded to meet that objective.

During the 50 years that followed, over a million examples of the Model 1892 were produced. Initially, the Model 1892 was offered in 44-40 WCF, 38-40 WCF and 32-20 WCF. In 1895, the then new 25-20 WCF was added. In 1936, and for two years that followed, the Model 1892 was chambered for the 218 Bee on special order.

The Model 1892 was produced with barrels as long as 30″, the Musket, and as short as 14″, the Trapper. Special order barrel lengths went as long as 36″. Tubular magazines were available in 1/2, 2/3 and full length. There were round barrel and octagon barrel options and rifles customized in various grades to suit. Not only was the Model 1892 a success in America, it was also well received in South America, Australia and the Far East.*

The Model 1892, at least in carbine form, was produced until 1941. However, derivative models such as the Models 53 and 65 continued on through 1947. Limited edition appearances of the revived Model 1892 occurred in 1997 and in 2006, resurrected for distributor and show specials. Full modern production resumed in 2011.

Some of the early limited production runs came from the Winchester facility in Connecticut, like my 90’s vintage 45 Colt Winchester Ranger that was sold through the western U.S. Big 5 retail chain. However, in 1995 Winchester Model 1892 production began at the Miroku firearms company in Kochi, Japan. In 2006, after the Connecticut Winchester facility closed, Miruku became the sole producer of Winchester lever action firearms for special runs and then continuous production.

 Chambers, then and now…

Cartridge Bullet
Weight
Rated
FPS
Max
CUP (K)
.44/40 WCF 200 1190 15
.38/40 WCF 180 1160 16
.32/20 WCF 115 900 16
.25-20 WCF 86 1673 16
357 Magnum 158 1600 45
44 Magnum
240
1350
40
45 Colt 255 915 14

The first four cartridges were included at some point within early production. All were originally black powder, all are bottle neck rimmed design and all were chambered in rifles and handguns. Interesting that none seemed to suffer from the cartridge setback in revolvers issue experienced by cartridges like the 22 Jet. But then, the 22 Jet bottleneck form is much more pronounced and chamber pressure was 37kpsi +/-. More than twice the level of the old black powder cartridges. More later, on why the 357 Mag was not chambered in the last stages of Model 1892 production. The 44 Magnum did not come along until 1956. The 45 Colt cartridge carried the wrong brand for promotion and the 44-40 WCF already outperformed the then very anemic 45 Colt.

All of the modern chambers are for straight walled and rimmed cartridge. By SAAMI standards, the 357 Magnum and 44 Magnum are comparatively high pressure. The 45 Colt pressure reference is misleading as the cartridge is commonly loaded at or near 44 Magnum pressures by specialty ammunition companies in the absence of a SAAMI homolgated 45 Colt +P version.

Mighty Mouse

I used the term Mighty Mouse to infer that the Winchester Model 1892 is very compact, but also very strong, but I am not sure if anyone still remembers Mighty Mouse. With a presence from 1942 through 1961, and only two minor attempted revivals since, too many people may be wondering what muscular rodents have to do with firearms. My point is, the Model 1892 is a very tough firearm. Based on the large, stout Model 1886 design chambered for cartridges like the 45-90 WCF, the Model 1892 is more than enough gun for any of its historical and current chambers.

The rectangular breechbolt rails ride in close fitting slots cut into the thick interior receiver walls. The breechbolt runs on bore center and is controlled in all directions. Longitudinal movement is controlled by the lever when being cycled, and locked into battery by twin locking bolts engaging the breechbolt when moved into battery. It is a great deal of mechanical containment for what are essentially moderate power cartridges.

Semi-Buckhorn rear sights and Marble Arms gold bead front sight are a combination that works well for the Model 1892 and its intended applications. The sights are dovetail mounted with a 0.040″ rear half aperture and a 0.125″ front bead.Windage is drift adjustable and elevation is adjusted with a rear sight stepped… elevator.

The Model 1892 is not drilled and tapped for optical peep sights. However, various aftermarket suppliers make adapters that replace the rear sight with a peep sight or mount for red dot and optical sights. There are also gunsmith fit sights and scope mounts.

The open sights, even with my diminished eyeball IQ are good for 100 yard shots on deer. The “U” notch rear and front bright bead make for solid critical alignment. Their battery will not die at an inopportune time, their reticle won’t fall and their adjustment will stay put.

Hammers that rebound and safeties that slide…

The Model 1892 has a rebounding hammer, a mechanism intended to prevent the hammer from making contact with the gun’s firing pin unless the trigger has been intentionally depressed. For relics like me, there is a missing familiar “click – click” when cocking the hammer. That has been replaced by just one click and either full cock and fully rearward, or rebound hammer position, down, but not resting on the firing pin as seen below.

The normal rifle carry position is the hammer in the rebound position (inset) with the tang safety on. After chambering a round, the hammer can still be lowered from full cock to rebound position by following the detailed procedures outlined in the product user’s manual. The tang safety is smooth, but positive in actuation and a welcome alternative to a Frankenstein, cross bolt through the neck safety.

The 357 Magnum

 

Winchester Model 1892 Carbine

Origin Japan
Manufacturer B.C. Miroku
Item # 534177137
Type Lever Action
Caliber 357 Magnum
Mag Capacity 10
Barrel Length 20″
Rifling 1:18.75″
Nominal Weight 6 lbs
Overall Length 37 1/2″
Stock Black Walnut
Hardware Blued Steel
Length of Pull 12 3/4″
Drop at comb 1 1/8″
Drop at heel 1 3/4″
Sights R – F Semi-Buckhorn – Post
D&T for Scope No
Trigger Pull 5 lbs. 7 oz.
Safety Tang – Sliding
MSRP $1,069.99

Elmer Keith and cohorts seemed to make a habit out of stuffing way too much powder in revolver cartridges. However, a big personality and many places for his thoughts to be heard, often resulted in major manufacturers making his forward thinking into product. In this case, the 357 Magnum was the manifestation of Elmer Keith and Phil Sharpe pushing the notion of high pressure 38 Special loads and S&W’s Major Wesson’s desire to make a safe product.

The factory cartridge was introduced by Smith & Wesson for revolver applications in 1935. Finessed and developed by Winchester for Smith & Wesson, the hot loaded 38 Special became the high pressure and longer 357 Magnum. As is often the practice, extending a case is done to prevent chambering the high pressure loads in a lesser cartridge chamber, not to gain powder capacity. Case length went from the 1.155″ length of the 38 Special to the 1.290″ case length 357 Magnum. At the same time, chamber pressure was increased from the 17 kpsi of the 38 Special and 20 kpsi of the 38 Special +P to the 35 kpsi of the 357 Magnum.

So twelve years lapsed from the time of the 357 Magnum’s introduction until the Model 1892’s production came to a close, during which time the chamber could have been added, but was not. The omission could have been concern over the 357 Magnum’s high 35kpsi chamber pressure. The omission could have been due to contractual agreement restrictions between S&W and Winchester. Omission could have been due to a lack of market interest in a rifle chambered for the 357 Magnum which was primarily associated with handguns.

A late boomer

Back in those days, “New” did not sell as well as it does today. Firearms were used more routinely for putting food on the table and keeping real and metaphorical wolves away from the door. “Reliable!”, “Dependable!” and “Available Everywhere!” made for better advertising keywords/key terms than “New and but not found at your local general or hardware store”.

Compounding the “New” problem was the fact that the 357 Magnum was factory loaded only with a 158 grain cast bullet, causing the 357 Magnum to develop a reputation for barrel leading. In the late 60’s general availability of jacketed bullets eliminated that handicap and the 357 Magnum passed into wide acceptance and popularity. By then, the Model 1892 had long since gone out of production*.

But Joe, the Model 1892 does not look like a survival rifle…

The Winchester Model 1892 is a perfect companion for a 357 Magnum revolver as, together, they can cover a lot of ground. Where a 4″ barrel revolver is compact, and easy carry, the 20″ barrel rifle increases power and, subsequently, range. Like the rifle, the revolver has good power, Like the revolver, the rifle is compact and light in weight. Both utilize the same compact, light to carry cartridge, drawing on a common resource inventory.

Yes, I do own firearms that defy ammunition supply or require manual cartridge fabrication. Both wildcat cartridges and cartridges that were, and remain, a good idea but never achieved popularity. Personally, I do believe the 8x56R Mannlicher Hungarian will be making a strong comeback… possibly pulling along the 7mm-30RG wildcat. But what happens if I find myself without brass stock, forming tools, a machine shop and ten hours to produce each round?

When planning for emergencies and concerns over supply shortages, having two firearms that share the same ammunition, especially a popular type of ammunition and common reloading components, offers a major advantage. Of course, that is as long as the cartridge can get the job done. In Maine, the job would be self defense and putting food on the table: small game, wild turkey, black bear, deer, and moose.

 

Cartridge Bullet
Grains
4″ MV
FPS
4″
ME
ft/lbs
20″ MV
FPS
20″
ME
ft/lbs
Barnes XPB 140 1397 607
1878 1097
Remington SWC 158 1310 602
1801 1138
HMS Bear Load 180 1180 557
1593 1015

The 357 Magnum would not be my first choice for medium and large game hunting, but if I needed something that was easy on hardware, easy to feed and would be used up close, the 357 Magnum would definitely work for me. The 140 grain Barnes expands, but holds together at both handgun and rifle velocities. The Remington 158 grain is not hard cast and will expand and penetrate on deer size game. The 180 grain hard cast exhibits minimal expansion, but penetrates deep and will break bones.

There are seventy seven factory loads for the 357 Magnum, representing twenty brands, to choose from. Within that population, there are fourteen types of bullet, in weights from 55 grain to 180 grains. For the handloader, there are sixty one bullets, a composite from fifteen manufacturers; cast, composite, jacketed, and monolith construction. Bullet weights range from 93 grains to 200 grains.

The Winchester Model 1892 and the 38 Special

The Winchester Model 1892 is stamped 357 Magnum only. The Winchester manual states only used ammunition as marked on the firearm’s barrel.  Yes, handguns chambered for the 357 Magnum routinely digest lower pressure, smaller of stature 38 Special ammunition, but those revolvers are loaded by hand, or with a speed loader, and empties removed by ejector. The Winchester must move the ammunition from its tubular magazine to a carrier in the receiver, then as the lever is closed, the ramped carrier raises the nose of the bullet to the opening of the chamber as the bolt moves to battery and chambers the round.

The cartridge sits on the carrier at an upward angle to the bore centerline. Closing the lever, the bolt pushes on the cartridge rim and pushes the cartridge forward and upward. Right – The longer 357 Magnum bullet enters the chamber before the cartridge rises high enough to bump the chamber opening and the bullet ogive guides the cartridge into the chamber as the bolt drives it home.  Left – Some shorter 38 Special cartridges will rise to intersect the chamber wall before the bullet enters the chamber, blocking the cartridge from entry.

Officially, the Winchester Model 1892 is a 357 Magnum only. Unofficially, it is possible to pick and choose ammo that will work reliably.

Left to right – Winchester 38 Special 130 grain FMJ target ammo will hang at the meplat and Remington 38 Special 110 grain JHP will do the same. Hornady Custom 38 Special 158 grain XTP with a more sharply tapered ogive feeds without a hitch. HSM Bear Load 180 grain also feed cleanly.

Personally, I do not shoot 38 Special ammunition in my 357 Magnums and I do not own, at the moment, any 38 Special firearms.

Additionally, I do not often shoot factory ammunition. Subsequently, it is easier to use 357 Magnum brass universally and light load if I feel the need for this type of cartridge. Which solves the 38 Special / 357 Magnum issue.

Overall Impressions

The Winchester Model 1892 feels like a Winchester built in the 1950’s… and that is a good thing. The action is slick in operation, ejection is positive and filling the tubular magazine is a straight forward process. Additionally, the straight cut stock and forearm are slender and unadorned with caps. By comparison, my recently produced Model 1895 Marlin’s stock is bulbous and overly decoratively checkered, the action is rough and I leave half of my thumb in the loading port at the range. My old Marlin, 1957 is closer to the Winchester in weight, form and finish. Winchester did a good job of keeping the Model 1892 close to the original.

The days of angle eject are gone, but ejected empties fly over the head with plenty of room to spare. The receive is not drilled and tapped for a scope or peep sight but, as noted earlier, there are aftermarket sights and mounts designed to fit into the rear sight dovetail that will accommodate any type of metallic or optical sight. As an honest rifle, and hunting within range of the rifle – cartridge combination, what comes on the rifle will easily get the job done.

For all intent and purposes, the rifle is recoil free. It is also light and well bounced, making tracking to a moving target realistic. Noise levels are low… a nice change of pace after a 280 AI project. Trigger pull measured 4.5 lbs with minimal creep. The Model 1892 is a lot of fun to shoot, as suggested by the empty ammo boxes laying around. So I am going to grab that empty brass, assemble some handloads and see if we can’t wrap up a Part II.

 

The Strange Case of the Missing 7mm/06 Ackley Improved Part II Starring a Ruger Von Hawkeye, P.O. Ackley and some pretty impressive numbers

I’m pretty sure, we won’t be seeing the substance of “Practical Dope on the Big Bores” popping up on a blog any time soon. The book was published at a time, 1948, when dedicated enthusiasts routinely created wildcat cartridges, made their own bullets, experimented with powder types, and poked and tweaked combinations to serve their personal applications. Ackley, to his credit, was one of those folks, one of many. There were over two dozen 280 Improved and wildcat type cartridges of record, with at least a third based on the 30-06 Springfield case and predating the 280 Remington by a couple of decades.

My intention is not to diminish the accomplishments of P.O. Ackley. In fact, it was his work that fueled my interest in firearms. He had the rare ability to create and communicate, which has served all firearm enthusiasts. Perhaps the 280 Ackley Improved cartridge, a Nosler rather than Ackley invention, is more of a tribute to Ackley and to his contemporaries. People whose ingenuity and persistence have left us with so many choices in firearms and cartridges and a varied and colorful history to build upon.

Historical Backdrop*

My 1959 copy of P.O. Ackley’s 1959 book, “Handbook For Shooters and Reloaders” is heavily notated with the fountain pen scribbling of a fourteen year old. Mostly kinetic energy calculations for all of the big cartridges being assessed for my forthcoming African Safari. Never made that trip. Never met Ackley and could not tell you if he was a good guy or a bad guy, except by reputation, but he created a positive backdrop for firearms based on innovation and ingenuity.

The 1959 edition reflects a modest Ackley, with more than two-thirds of the articles written by Ackley’s contemporaries and with credit for handload data shared with five industry sources. Ackley’s comments were even handed, even when directed at his own improved mechanical progeny, ranging from. “No real improvement” and “Too overbore” to “good improvement”. No outlandish claims, no overstated performance and a lot of credit to other wildcat and improved cartridge producers.

No 280 Ackley Improved cartridge appears in the 1959 edition of Ackley book, only the factory 280 Remington and Ackley’s 7mm/06 Ackley Improved and a few similar cartridges created by others. The greatly expanded 1962 edition of Ackley’s “Handbook For Shooters and Reloaders Part I” lists the 7mm/06 Ackley Improved on page 393 and the 280 Remington Improved, RCBS credited, on page 395. The Ackley case is slightly shorter, has a bit more body taper, the body is longer, the neck is shorter, and the shoulder angle is 39.80° compared to 32.62° for the 280 Remington Improved. In the 1959 edition, Ackley credits the .285 OKH (O’Neill, Keith and Hopkins) as the standard 7mm/06. This cartridge also carried over to the 1962 edition.

So what is the difference within this group of 7mm cartridges? Variations in body taper, shoulder angle, neck length and case capacity: 7mm/06 Ackley Improved 67.5 grains, 280 Remington Improved 67.4 grains, 280 Remington 68.6 grains,  285 OKH 70.8 grains. The differences are not immaterial as there are currently retail die sets for: 280 Remington, 280 Ackley Improved 30° shoulder, 280 RCBS 30° shoulder, 280 Ackley Improved 40° shoulder, 280 Ackley Improved, 7mm-06, and 7mm-06 Ackley Improved 40° shoulder. What to do? What to do?

SAAMI has a standard version of the improved 280 Remington with the nomenclature 280 Ackley Improved which appears to be a melding of the best aspects of all of the “improved” cartridges. The standard 280 Remington with 140 grain bullet, based on a 24″ test barrel, is rated at 2,985 fps. The 280 Ackley Improved cartridge, with the same test circumstances, is rated at 3,260 fps. Looking at the historical versions of Improved and Ackley cases, how did we get to this SAAMI cartridge?

Nosler submitted a version of the 280 Ackley Improved to SAAMI and received certification in 2014. The SAAMI version is a slightly different banana in the bunch. The case is longer than Ackley’s 7mm/06, the body is longer, less taper increases shoulder diameter, shoulder angle is 40°, and the neck is shorter. As a result, the SAAMI 280 Ackley has a 74.0 grain capacity. To further boost the Improved version’s performance MAP pressure is 65kpsi compared to 60kpsi for the standard 280 Remington.

Wow! With all of that crazy ammunition must be hard to find.

The 280 Ackley Improved is an “improved” cartridge, so standard ammunition, in this case the 280 Remington, can also be safely fired. There are approximately 18 factory loads for the 280 Remington and 12 factory loads for the 280 Ackley Improved, so 30 factory loads that are compatible with the Ruger Hawkeye African 280 AI. The difference between standard and improved 280 ammunition, which is why the Ackley Improved exists. Federal Premium 150 grain ammo  is rated 3,075 fps for the 280 Ackley Improved and 2,890 fps for the same in 280 Remington, or a 185 fps difference.

I realize we live in a disposable society that routinely junk cars, computers and major appliances where failure is followed by a greater effort than a two minute head scratch, however, handloading is alive and well.As a young guy withe an interest in firearms that far outstripped a financial accommodation, I don’t think I shot a round of 243 Winchester or 25-06 Remington were not casehead stamped, respectively, 308 Winchester and 30-06 Springfield.The 280 Ackley Improved can be made from any 30-06 Springfield cartridge or 30-06 Springfield derivative.

Lots and lots… and lots of bullets

The 280 Ackley Improved, like the 280 Remington, is suitable for any medium to large North American game. In support of those applications, fourteen manufacturers produce a total of one hundred seventeen 0.284″ bullets, in weights from 100 grains to 197 grains and in many different types. No, I am too old and too slow to work one hundred seventeen bullets into a project. Six is my limit.

The six bullets selected are all lead core jacketed, but there is also a good selection of monolithic copper hunting bullets. The 120 grain Sierra is heavy enough and tough enough in construction for deer hunting, antelope hunting and probably coyote hunting. The 175 Grain Remington PSP is tough enough for very heavy bodied game. My favorites are the 140 grain Remington PSP and Speer 160 grain to the extent I also load them in both my 7mm Remington Mag and 7x57mm Mauser.

So why are the Berger VLD bullets present? I like flat base bullets because they conserve case capacity and they are all I need for the shooting distances that exist in my world. Still, I realize there are those who plan tail end shots on chipmunks at 500 yards and very low drag profile bullets are popular for that application.

There is the obvious VLD aerodynamic component, but there is also the refined construction that allows full expansion at longer distances, even after velocity has been shed. However, they still expand without fragmenting a closer distances. Sounds almost magical? Yes. I like flat based bullets and shooting at targets local to my zip code.

A very attractive cartridge that goes well with a very attractive Ruger

Once fired Federal nickle plated brass was used for the final chronograph data collection, however, fire formed 280 Remington and 30-06 Springfield brass were also used during some aspects of the process. If I don’t get too lazy, I will wet check all to see if, or to what degree, case capacity varies. Lee Precision dies were used for assembly, including a collet crimp die. Lee was selected because they were readily available and, unlike some other manufacturers, they do not pretend that the 280 AI is a “special” cartridge and attempt to 2x mark up the price.

For folks with Hornady headspace gauges and similar, even with the revised shoulder angle, the 280 Ackley Improved has the same 0.375″ headspace diameter at the datum point and can use the standard Hornady 0.375 gauge bushing as also used for the 280 Rem and most of the other 30-06 based cartridges… and the 6.5 Creedmoor… and the 30-30 WCF… and the 300 H&H Magnum. Someone please stop me from listing.

 

Improved Versions of the 280 Remington
Dry Weight
Grains
Wet Weight
Grains
Grains H2O
Capacity
Federal AI (New) 204.6 278.2 73.6
Federal 280 Ackley Improved 204.8 279.5 74.7
Made from 280 Remington 203.0 277.7 74.7
Made from 30-06 Springfield 198.4 272.0 73.6
Brass Source Once Fired, except as noted.
Standard Remington 280 capacity 68.6 grains H2O

I took the plunge, broke out the gear and checked spillover full volume as posted on the table above. The nominal H2O capacity for the 280 Remington is 68.6 grains. Nominal capacity for the 280 Ackley Improved is 74.0 grains*. Made from brass was Remington manufacturer.

Handload Data

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 – 280 Ackley Improved 65kpsi
Firearm Ruger M77
Barrel Length 24.00″
Min – Max Case Length 2.525″ +0.000″/-0.012″
Min – Max COL 3.136″ – 3.330″
Primer CCI 250
Bullet Diameter 0.2845″ +0.000″/-0.0030″
Reloading Dies Lee Precision
Bullet Type Bullet Weight
Grains
Net H2O
Grains
Capacity
COL” Powder Type Powder Charge
Grains
Muzzle Velocity
fps
Muzzle Energy
ft/lbs
3 Shot
100 Yd
Group
Sierra Pro-Hunter
120 70.2 3.200 RL 17 60.5 3456 3183  0.7
Sierra Pro-Hunter 120 70.2 3.200 IMR 4350 60.5 3306 2913 0.9
Sierra Pro-Hunter 120 70.2 3.200 Win 760 60.5 3346 2984 0.6
Berger VLD Hunting
140
66.4
3.330
RL 19
60.0
3131
3048
 0.5
Berger VLD Hunting
140
66.4
3.330
Hybrid 100V
56.0
3054
2900
 0.7
Berger VLD Hunting
140
66.4
3.330
RS Hunter
60.5
3141
3068
0.8
Remington PSP 140 68.4 3.290 RL 22 63.5 3182 3148  0.8
Remington PSP 140 68.4 3.290 Norma MRP 64.0 3272 3329  1.0
Remington PSP 140 68.4 3.290 RS Hunter 61.0 3056 2904  0.9
Speer SP 160 66.4 3.300 RL 19 59.5 2981 3158  0.6
Speer SP 160 66.4 3.300 IMR 7828 SSC 60.5 2974 3143 0.8
Speer SP 160 66.4 3.300 Norma MRP 60.0 2896 2980  0.6
Berger VLD Hunting
168
64.6
3.330
RL 22
59.0
2839
3007
 0.5
Berger VLD Hunting 168 64.6
3.330
Hybrid 100V
52.8
2775
2873
 0.7
Berger VLD Hunting 168 64.6
3.330
RS Hunter
56.0
2806
2938
0.3
Remington PSP 175 65.6 3.285 RL 22 58.0 2745 2929  0.6
Remington PSP 175 65.6 3.285 Hybrid 100V 52.5 2680 2792 0.9
Remington PSP 175 65.6 3.285 IMR 7828 SSC 58.0 2756 2952  0.7

Notes: Someone once posted that I do not make notes available. I don’t know what that means, outside of the quantification noted. So I now try to end with some pithy comments to appease people who always want more.

The first three 120 grain loads really do get the same change weight with three different powders. Not a typo.

Hybrid 100V, which I thought would be the star going in, was lackluster going out. Just add more powder? Not really, as more left a very detailed tattoo of the bolt face on the case head.

Both RS Hunter and Norma MRP worked well. If it wasn’t maximum velocity, they both delivered good accuracy. IMR 7828 SSC is a great powder and, I suspect, I should use it more… considering I have about 80 lbs in reserve for 30-06 length belted magnum use.

What might they look like in flight?

Best Zero Results – 120 Grain Sierra
Near-Zero – yds. 30 Mid Range – yds. 158
Far-Zero – yds. 276 Max Ordinate – in. +3.0
Point Blank – yds. 293
Best Zero : Range 0 – 500 yards
Yards 0 50 100 150 200 250 300 350 400 450 500
Velocity – fps 3456 3294 3138 2988 2843 2702 2565 2433 2305 2181 2061
Energy – ft.-lbs. 3182 2890 2623 2379 2153 1945 1753 1577 1415 1267 1131
Momentum – lbs-sec 59 56 54 51 49 46 44 42 40 37 35
Path – in. -1.50 0.81 2.33 2.96 2.61 1.19 -1.42 -5.35 -10.76 -17.79 -26.66
Drift – in. 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 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 0.36 0.43 0.49 0.56

 

Best Zero Results – 140 Grain Remington
Near-Zero – yds. 29 Mid Range – yds. 153
Far-Zero – yds. 269 Max Ordinate – in. +3.0
Point Blank – yds. 286
Best Zero : Range 0 – 500 yards
Yards 0 50 100 150 200 250 300 350 400 450 500
Velocity – fps 3272 3144 3019 2898 2780 2665 2553 2444 2337 2233 2133
Energy – ft.-lbs. 3328 3071 2834 2611 2403 2208 2026 1856 1698 1550 1414
Momentum – lbs-sec 65 63 60 58 56 53 51 49 47 45 43
Path – in. -1.50 0.90 2.42 2.98 2.51 0.92 -1.90 -6.05 -11.66 -18.85 -27.80
Drift – in. 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
Time Of Flight – sec. 0.00 0.05 0.10 0.15 0.20 0.25 0.31 0.37 0.43 0.50 0.57

 

Best Zero Results – 168 Grain Berger VLD
Near-Zero – yds. 26 Mid Range – yds. 138
Far-Zero – yds. 245 Max Ordinate – in. +3.0
Point Blank – yds. 262
Best Zero : Range 0 – 500 yards
Yards 0 50 100 150 200 250 300 350 400 450 500
Velocity – fps 2839 2766 2695 2625 2555 2487 2420 2354 2290 2226 2163
Energy – ft.-lbs. 3006 2854 2709 2569 2436 2308 2185 2068 1955 1848 1745
Momentum – lbs-sec 68 66 65 63 61 60 58 57 55 53 52
Path – in. -1.50 1.14 2.65 2.96 2.01 -0.27 -3.96 -9.13 -15.86 -24.26 -34.41
Drift – in. 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
Time Of Flight – sec. 0.00 0.05 0.11 0.16 0.22 0.28 0.34 0.41 0.47 0.54 0.61

Clearly, the 280 Ackley Improved represents a very flat shooting rifle – cartridge combination. Above or below line of sight by no more than +- 3″, even a 168 grain heavyweight is point blank at 250 + yards, yet the cartridge is not a velocity scorcher that will convert bullets to grit inside of 100 yards. Very important in places like Maine where deer are notorious for hiding behind trees twenty yards away and thumbing their antlers at hunters.

Last words?

The more I shot the Ruger Hawkeye Africa, the more I came to appreciate its features. The stock geometry and rifle weight mitigated recoil and made shooting the rifle accurately, easier.

The bolt throw was really slick. None of that “Ran over a rut in the road” found in Mauser types at half stroke. I like the longish barrel and adjustable metallic sights. A relatively tight group at hundred yard was possible even with my time worn eyes.

I like the intuitive and very positive horizontal swing safety and I liked the operation of the hinged floorplate when dumping ammo. The LC6 trigger is very clean and with no creep and minimum overtravel.

I really like the 280 AI cartridge. Good shooting in factory form, it also gave me a handloader’s opportunity to work up load data and case form. The 280 Ackley Improved is significantly lighter recoiling than my 7mm Rem Mag, easier on brass and it consumes less powder for not a lot less velocity.

The subject rifle, like most African Hawkeyes is really pretty. It is hard to grumble about a good shooting rifle that also looks good. Nice gun.

* Sources: Handbook for Shooters and Reloaders 1959 – Ackley, Handbook for Shooters and Reloaders Part 1 1962 – Ackley, Handloader’s Manual of Cartridge Conversion – Donnelly, Design and Forming Custom Cartridges – Howell, The Gunsmith’s Book of Chamber Prints – PT&G, Practical Dope on the Big Bore” by F.C. Ness