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The Survivor Cartridges

By Matthew Cameron

Why is it that some cartridges, often over 100 years old, continue to take a large variety of game when many others have fallen by the wayside, victims of a more modern age? Others have limped along and finally faded into obscurity despite the fact they were decent useable cartridges, merely affected by public whim.

 

Any list is a product of a single author’s thoughts, other shooters might have different ideas on what should be included. Some cartridges started life as black powder rounds and were converted to smokeless propellant. Others were initially military rounds that still survive.

 

Here's my list, in no particular order except projectile diameter, for the sake of convention!

 

.22-250 REMINGTON

If there was a cartridge with a troubled, long drawn out background this cartridge might win the prize! In essence the case is a .250-3000 Savage necked down to accept .224 calibre projectiles with a slightly steeper shoulder angle. Perhaps its birth occurred in 1934 under the guiding hand of one Harvey Donaldson.

 

Some dispute this claim and suggest that others worked on the same idea in the late 1920s. It is acknowledged that by the mid-1930s a man called Bushnell Smith was loading such cartridges for commercial sale.

 

By 1935 a gunsmith by the name of Gebby registered the trade name Varminter for this Savage case necked down to fire .224 calibre projectiles.

 

In addition several other gunsmiths of the era also had their fingers in the pie so to speak; perhaps typical of any number of cartridges that were originally “wildcats.”

 

Based on the .300 Savage necked down, the .22-250 Remington is a very good varmint round with projectiles from 40gr to 65gr in weight. Many hunters have also used it successfully on deer using the more heavily constructed projectiles.

 

Remington “legitimised” the cartridge in 1965. I have owned two, a Ruger No. 1V and the second still in use, a Savage Long Range Precision Varminter.

 

I've always had a soft spot for the .22-250, in hindsight I regretted selling the Ruger. At the time I was seeking better accuracy than the Ruger was averaging, about 1” for three shots at 100 yards, but groups were inconsistent. I loved the rifle and the single-shot action.

 

“If there was a cartridge with a troubled, long drawn out background this cartridge might win the prize!”

 

It was some years before the Savage appeared on the scene. The bull-barrelled Savage is the best performing factory rifle I've owned. With a 1:9 twist barrel it will handle a variety of projectiles from 40gr to 65gr with sub ¾ MOA accuracy for ten or so different load combinations.

 

Needless to say it is a superb long range varmint combination.

 

.243 WINCHESTER

I am not sure that Winchester was aware of the consequences when they released this particular Genie out of the bottle in 1955 via the Model 70 bolt action rifle.

 

Virtually it is nothing more than the military .308 case necked down to accept .243 calibre projectiles, but aside from the .223 Remington it may be the next most popular centrefire round worldwide.

 

Its appeal covers the field from varmints to deer, and in the latter is was a success while its more or less ballistic twin, the .244 Remington, was not.

 

A selection of .243 Winchester loads - a versatile round with projectile weights between 55gr and 105gr.

 

The difference was a simple matter of barrel twist. The Winchester round was intended for a 1:10 barrel while Remington stuck with 1:12. Winchester won the argument because the 1:10 twist stabilized heavier projectiles better.

 

The .243 is a very useful cartridge worldwide with projectiles ranging from 55gr in weight to 105gr. This covers a lot of territory. Mild of recoil, easy to reload and seemingly unfussed about primers or powder, it continues to have a wide following.

 

Remington eventually altered the barrel twist to 1:10 and renamed their cartridge the 6mm Remington but it was too late, the Winchester horse had bolted!

 

“The .243 is a very useful cartridge worldwide with projectiles ranging from 55gr in weight to 105gr. This covers a lot of territory.”

 

Personally we have used the cartridge from rabbits to pigs and foxes in Australia. The main projectiles we use are 85gr for varminting and 100gr of various types for heavier animals, the 55gr Nosler Ballistic Tip is a recent addition; it's a very good round for foxes providing you do not want the skins!

 

I think it would be fair to say that the cartridge has well and truly exceeded Winchester's expectations.

 

.25-06 REMINGTON

This is merely the .30-06 case necked down to accept a .257 calibre projectile. The date of birth was sometime prior to 1920. The gunsmith A.O Nieder gets most of the credit with the original cartridge using 87gn projectiles.

 

It should be noted that in relative terms only faster burning powders were available at that time. As usual several other gunsmiths were working on the same idea.

 

The .25-06 is an effective, flat-shooting round for open country hunting.

 

The commercial release of the .257 Roberts cartridge in 1935 did nothing to assist the struggling .25-06 to see the light of day. The cartridge attracted further interest however after WW2 when slower powders became available to propel larger projectiles (117gr).

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Again Remington “legitimised” the cartridge in 1970, and initial loads concentrated on projectiles weighing from 87gr to 117gr and 120gr.

  

Our family owns a .25-06 Savage Axis with a 3 x 9 scope on top. It's a more than adequate pig rifle which was why it was purchased. It’s okay in the swamps and has long enough legs to tackle any animal foolish enough to break cover and head out into the open.

 

Initially 47.5gr of AR2209 propelled 117gr Hornadys for 3-shot groups of around an inch. More recently 100gr Gary Little Protector Points at just over 3000fps provide the same accuracy.

 

Once considered the cartridge for hunting Pronghorn antelope in the USA, we have found the round to be uncomplicated to load and shoot.

 

6.5x55

Sometimes erroneously known as the 6.5x55 Mauser. The only relationship is that it was introduced in Mauser rifles - there's nothing in the Mauser archives to suggest otherwise.

 

The brainchild of a Military Commission consisting of Swedish and Norwegian members, the cartridge has always had a name for being accurate since its inception in 1896.

 

From a hunting point of view is has, in my opinion, never received the recognition it deserves, probably because of the American's (former) reluctance to acknowledge anything metric.

 

All this has changed in the past few years, now 6.5 calibre cartridges abound in the USA. It is acknowledged that they are accurate, which anyone outside the USA could have told them! My Tikka T-3 chambered for the 6.5x55 is an absolute delight in the field.

 

The classic 6.5x55 is a great medium game hunting cartridge.

 

Shooting either a 140gr or 160gr custom Protector Point projectile from Brisbane bullet-maker Gary Little it has dropped every pig it was aimed at. The long projectiles seem to penetrate deeply and are obviously opening up to cause massive internal damage.

 

Did I forget to mention their accuracy? The only other projectile I use is a 140gr Hornady soft-point. All three have produced three shot groups of less than 0.80 of an inch, some under 0.050 of an inch consistently; it is certainly the most accurate hunting rifle in the family gun safe.

 

It probably would not win any prizes in the velocity stakes, all are modest loads using AR2209 and AR2217 powder. However, the overall result is that when pigs or deer are the target, it’s the first rifle I reach for.

 

.270 WINCHESTER

Would this cartridge have had the same following without the influence of Jack O’Connor? I believe that it would have prevailed on its own reputation; the word balance comes to mind. My personal .270 rifle is an ancient Husqvana from the mid-1960s.

 

To my knowledge I'm the rifle's third owner. More than 30 years ago we developed loads of 54gr of AR2209 propelling a variety of 130gr projectiles, although for the last ten years we have used Gary Little's 130gr Protector Points.

 

In the intervening period we have tried many other powders and projectiles including some up-market varieties, but always the 54gr AR2209 x 130gr load prevailed.

 

The .270 Winchester is known for its 130gr loads but it also digests 140-150gr loads successfully.

 

The rifle simply is comfortable with the load and I would class it as very flexible. It is not fussed by powder selection or for that matter projectiles; we also had good results with Nosler Ballistic Tips in both 140/150gr weights.

 

I would not even hazard a guess on just how many pigs it has dispatched. It was achieved good work with anyone who has ever used it.

 

The .270 Winchester is nothing more than a .30-06 case necked down to accept .277 calibre projectiles, but note that if it's formed this way it is a touch short. Developed by Winchester it was released to the public in 1925 and gained further popularity after WW2.

 

“Would this cartridge have had the same following without the influence of Jack O’Connor? I believe that it would have prevailed on its own reputation; the word balance comes to mind.”

 

Modern slower powders and better projectiles have made a good round even better. The fact that it will handle most American big game has probably assisted to keep it popular. Cartridges of this calibre are nominated by some Australian States as a minimum deer rifle for some species.

 

With premium projectiles it is not all that far behind the .30-06 and like that cartridge it will handle most Australian animals except Asian Water Buffalo.

 

7MM REMINGTON MAGNUM

Released to the general public in 1962 this 7mm round was one of those cartridges that were actually the result of a long line of experiments dating back many years.

 

Eventually Remington bit the bullet so to speak and released the cartridge which has since become popular world-wide. It handles projectiles anywhere from 120gr to 175gr without any problems.

 

It is a very popular round in North America mainly for Elk and the various bears, but it takes care of just about anything it is aimed at! From my limited exposure to the 7mm Mag so far it is obvious that the modern slower powder and projectiles have made a good cartridge much better.

  

Personally we have had very good results with AR2225 powder with both 140gn Nosler AccuBonds and 162gr Gary Little Protector Points, both projectiles producing sub-MOA groups.

 

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Interestingly enough the downrange performance of both projectiles is almost identical, the reduction in speed almost being overcome by the additional B.C of the larger projectile.

 

The 7mm Remington Magnum has achieved world-wide acceptance since its release in 1962.

 

While it may well be a suitable round for big elusive deer like sambar, my personal requirement was a long range load for animals feeding out in open country.

 

One of the bigger .30 calibres might provide better overall performance but some of the newer .284 calibre projectiles have further increased the 7mm Mag's versatility.

 

.30-30 WINCHESTER
It is claimed that this cartridge has killed more deer than any other two cartridges in history, which may well be correct. Initially paired with Winchester’s 1895 model lever-action rifle it was the first sporting round developed using the then new smokeless powder.

 

It was originally known as the .30 Winchester Centre Fire. The initial projectile was a flat-nosed 160gr type that was quickly changed to 170gr.

 

The .375 H&H flanked by two .30-30 Winchester cartridges.

 

One of our shooting groups continues to use the .30-30 with great effect in rough country, and any pig or deer hit with a modern flat-nosed projectile will not move very far, if at all.

 

Most .30-30 rifles are carried in bush or scrub. Like its big cousin the .45/70 it simply works at the moderate ranges it was designed for.

 

.30-06 SPRINGFIELD

First issued by the US Government in 1906 is probably one of the most widely used and popular sporting cartridges in the world despite beginning life as a military round. The military ammunition has changed often. The various weapons using the cartridge stretched from WW1 to Vietnam.

 

Because of the vast amount of surplus military brass the cartridge became very popular within sporting ranks; it was also the basis for numerous wildcats, initially the .25-06 Remington and .270 Winchester mentioned above. Each of these became very effective cartridges in their own right.

 

The .30-06 has been popular for over 100 years and is still used on thin-skinned game world-wide.

 

As a round suitable for hunting the .30-06 was commercially loaded with projectiles from 110gr to 220gr, and all manufacturers continue to offer rifles in this calibre.

 

It is in fact a very adaptable round suitable, with the appropriate projectiles, for most of the world’s thin-skinned game animals. The 220gr load is excessively heavy for deer but any 165gr or 180gr load is very effective.

 

“First issued by the US Government in 1906 is probably one of the most widely used and popular sporting cartridges in the world despite beginning life as a military round.”

 

In the hunting field it has lasted for this period of time simply because its effectiveness. It’s not difficult to reload and the range of projectiles available to the handloader exceeds that for any other cartridge.

 

The .30-06 is powerful, versatile, flexible and will handle a very wide range of animals, what more could you ask for?

 

.45/70 GOVERNMENT

This is a real old timer that dates from the black powder days, specifically 1873. Initially firing a 405gr projectile of ,458 diameter propelled by 70gr of black powder, the following comments ONLY apply to modern rifle actions.

 

Normally using a 300gn flat-nosed or hollow-point projectile this cartridge, coupled with a modern 1895 design Marlin rifle, has few peers for hunting in scrub or tight bush.

 

The ability to deliver a second shot; rarely required if the first was in the right place, will usually stamp expired on any animal hit. Our rifle usually shoots the above mentioned projectiles by Hornady or Sierra propelled with a reasonably mild load of AR2207, producing around 1900fps.

 

The big, heavy calibre .45/70 cartridge is without peer in thick scrub or bush.

 

The rifle is normally sighted in to be exactly on target at 100 yards. Beyond 100 yards the trajectory becomes a bit of a rainbow.

 

We have loaded the odd 350gr projectile but have always returned to the 300gr versions as the rifle appears to be comfortable with it. Note that there are other loads available for earlier less stronger rifles.

 

As a family we often hunt with a .45/70 equipped hunter on one side paired with a hunter equipped with a flatter-shooting rifle like a .270 or a 6.5x55 - to account for animals encountered out in the open where longer shots are required.

 

Shoot safely,

 

Matthew

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