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  Remington 700 CDL in .35 Whelen

ShootingRemington 700 CDL in .35 Whelen
by Mike Hines

In my continuing effort to plug perceived gaps in my gun collection (at least that’s the excuse I tried on my wife) I had decided to get a “medium bore” hunting rifle. Obviously “medium bore” is a relative term but I use it as John “Pondoro” Taylor defines it in “African Rifles and Cartridges”, that is “A rifle the caliber of which is not less than .318” nor greater than .375”. (See note below.) Possible uses (maybe I should say hopeful!) include elk and bear hunting. A couple of obvious choices in this range of cartridges are the .375 H&H Magnum and .338 Winchester Magnum. But I wanted something a little different. I wasn’t as interesting in earth-shattering energy as I was in just a bigger, heavier bullet at “standard” velocities. I started looking hard at the .338-06 and .35 Whelen. These cartridges would give me the bigger bullet I wanted without belting me out from under my hat with recoil. The .338-06 would pretty much have to be a custom job while there were a few commercial .35 Whelens around. The .338 caliber seemed to have a better variety of premium bullets available though. Decisions, decisions…

While at a gun show a couple years ago I saw a new Remington 700 CDL chambered in .35 Whelen. I liked the looks and feel of the rifle and, after wandering around deliberating for a while, I bought it for $600. A local gun shop sold me a Burris Fullfield 2 scope, 3-to-9X with the “Ballistic Plex” reticle. Hornady dies, as well as brass and bullets were ordered from Midway.

The Remington 700 hardly needs any description. It is one of the best known bolt action rifles around. The CDL, or Classic Deluxe, has a satin finished walnut stock with a black fore-end tip and grip cap. I very much prefer this stock finish to the shiny one seen on some Remington guns. The 24 inch barrel also has a satin finish. The barrel twist is 1 turn in 16”. There is a two position safety, back is “SAFE” and forward is “FIRE”. This rifle has Remington’s new R3 recoil pad, designed to reduce felt recoil. Overall length is 44.5” and, with the scope mounted in Leupold rings, it weighs just less than 8 pounds.

The .35 Whelen cartridge is simply the .30-06 case necked up to accept .358” bullets. It was developed by James Howe in 1922 and named after Col. Townsend Whelen. The intent was to create a sort of “poor man’s” .375 H&H Magnum, a classic African cartridge, for use on large American game. I’ve read a couple articles detailing its use in Africa too. Remington finally made it a commercial cartridge in 1988. Although the .35 Whelen performance falls short of matching that of the .375 H&H it is a step up from the .30-06 and is in the ball park with the .300 Winchester Magnum.

Rifle bullet weights in .358” start at 180 grains and go on up to 310 grains. When looking around before buying the rifle I had overlooked the premium bullets from Swift and Woodleigh so that concern was covered. One interesting aspect of the .35 Whelen is that you can use .357” handgun bullets to make plinking loads. The Speer #13 reloading manual lists loads using the 158 grain .357 bullets that produce around 2000 feet/sec. These could be used for practice or maybe varmints. However, the slow twist that makes this possible might prevent me from using the heavier bullets in this caliber. Manipulating the Greenhill formula for calculating twist I come up with a “suggested” bullet length of around 1.2”. Velocities over 2000 ft/sec allow you to use a slightly slower twist. The Hornady 250 grain spire point bullets I have measure 1.26” long. Swift Bullets lists a 280 grain A-Frame as 1.345”. One of these days I might give them a try.

For my first loads I chose the Hornady 200 grain jacketed spire point bullets to use for whitetails. After looking in several loading manuals I saw that the fastest load used Hodgdon BL-C(2) powder, which I had on hand. Federal 215 primers would light off my first test loads. As usual I started with cases that were resized full length and trimmed to length. The powder charges were kept below maximum loads from the manual.

I was wondering what the recoil would be like so, before sighting it in, I fired a few rounds from the rifle to get a feel for it. I immediately noticed two things. First, this 700 had a terribly heavy trigger. I later measured it at about 8.75 pounds. It broke cleanly but was way too heavy for practical use. Second, that R3 recoil pad really worked! Felt recoil was quite manageable; maybe even less than my .280, which has a thinner rubber recoil pad.

The scope had been bore sighted using the proper tools at the shop where I bought it. This put the point of impact about a foot low and foot right at 100 yards. (Remember that if you think that bore sighting is “good enough” for hunting.) As I zeroed the rifle I also used a Chrony chronograph to check the velocity of my load. After I got the rifle zeroed I fired one 3 shot group to try to check the accuracy. I didn’t have high hopes for accuracy given the trigger situation.

I ended up chronographing eight rounds using the 200 grain bullets over BL-C(2). Actually I had chronoed more but I fat-fingered something on the printer and erased the other velocities. Anyway… The average velocity was 2638 fps with a standard deviation of 26.4 fps. Best of all, my last three shot group at 100 yards measured 0.8”! Considering the heavy trigger pull I was pretty pleased!

The ol’ PointBlank software was put to use once again. I used it to calculate the recoil energy at 27 ftlbs and recoil velocity at 14.9 fps. For comparison a “standard” .30-06 load with a 150 grain bullet would have 19.9 ftlbs of recoil energy and a recoil velocity of 12.8 fps in the same weight rifle. A .375 H&H with a 300 grain bullet would be more like 50 ftlbs of energy and 20.2 fps velocity.

This particular .35 Whelen load generates 3090 ftlbs of muzzle energy. Remember that this load is below maximum and the max load would be closer to 3500 ftlbs. The .30-06 would have 2700 ftlbs of energy at the muzzle while the .375 H&H shows 4500 ftlbs at the muzzle.

If you compare book velocities with the same weight bullet, 200 grains, they look something like this: .30-06 – 2550 fps, .300 Win Mag – 2850 fps, .35 Whelen – 2800 fps.

All in all I’m pretty pleased with this addition to the family. It is well balanced and just feels good in my hands. It’s a good looking rifle too. The R3 recoil pad sure works as advertised. The trigger has been replaced with one from Timney. The .35 Whelen cartridge has plenty of power and I was somewhat surprised by its accuracy. This rifle should get its turn in the woods this fall. Wonder if any of those Smokey Mountain elk could wander over this way…

Note: John Taylor was an African hunter and writer. He wrote about cartridges ranging from the .22 rim fires to the .600 Nitro Express. He defined cartridge classes as follows:
Large bore – A rifle the caliber of which is not less than .450”.
Large Medium bore - A rifle the caliber of which is not less than .400” nor greater than .440”.
Medium bore - A rifle the caliber of which is not less than .318” nor greater than .375”.
Small bore - A rifle the caliber of which is less than .318”.
Miniature – A rifle the muzzle energy of which is less than 1,500 foot pounds.
Magnum – A rifle the muzzle velocity of which is not less than 2,500 feet per second.

Posted by Pumpkinslinger on Monday, December 30, 2013 (16:52:41) (3779 reads) [ Administration ]
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