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.250-3000/.250 Savage

History


The .250 Savage was designed by U.S wildcatter and cartridge designer Charles Newton for the Savage model 99 lever action rifle. 

The premise behind the .250 design was to utilize a light, small caliber bullet weight, driven at extremely high velocity (for 1915) with the belief that such a combination would be more effective than current deer hunting cartridges. It was hoped that the new cartridge would be a breakthrough in cartridge design.
During this time, hunters were already marveling at high velocity cartridges including the 30-30, .30-40, .30-06, the .303 British throughout the Commonwealth along with the 7mm and 8mm Mauser, nearly all of these being military derivatives.
 
Using a 25 caliber (.257") 87 grain bullet, Newton designed the new cartridge to break the 3000fps barrier. Newton also had a catchy slogan which he was determined to use - the .250-3000. Arthur Savage, founder of the Savage Arms company, wasn't so sure about the idea and believed a 100 grain bullet would be more suitable for deer. Ultimately, Newton was unable to drive the 100 grain bullet at the 3000fps slogan he wished to market and managed to persuade Savage to adopt the 87 grain load. The design was settled and in 1915 the .250-3000 was introduced. 

The .250-3000 became extremely popular for a time, then gradually lost favor. Hunters, not only in the U.S but throughout the world adopted the Savage for its advertised virtues but soon found the cartridge wanting. The lightly constructed 87 grain factory load would sometimes suffer bullet blow up on impact and fail to penetrate the onside muscle and bone of a variety of deer species. Wounding was often both narrow and shallow and game animals would run after being hit with well placed shots. To add to the frustration, many hunters found the light recoiling, fast handling and highly accurate Savage rifle extremely nice to use. Hunters were loathe to part with the Savage rifle but loathe to use the cartridge on deer.

Eventually, a 100 grain load was created for the .250 but by this time, the cartridge already had a bad rap. Nevertheless, a small portion of hunters continued to enjoy using the .250 on light bodied game, favoring the light recoil of the .250 combined with the desirable qualities of the Savage 99 rifle. As can be expected, the .250 was a great cartridge for training young hunters and it is in this last role that the .250 Savage has survived through to the present.

In main stream hunting circles, the final decline of the .250 occurred as a direct result of the 1950’s introduction of the .243 Winchester. The .243 fired identical weight projectiles but at higher velocities along with superior sectional densities for deeper penetration on game as well as higher ballistic coefficients producing greater down range energy.
 

Performance


The history of the .250 Savage speaks for itself with regards to performance on game. The .250 is a very mild powered cartridge and for best performance on game weighing above 50kg (120lb) is completely reliant on extremely careful shot placement. In its hey day, the Savage rifle was not designed to be fitted with a scope and even today, very few .250 Savage rifles feature scopes which compounds problems with exact shot placement accordingly.
 
Unfortunately, 87 grain .257” projectiles really do lack suitable SD’s and BC’s for hunting medium game, especially as ranges exceed 150 yards. 100 grain projectiles are much better suited to hunting light bodied deer but due to velocity limitations of the .250 Savage, wounds tend to be narrow and while kills out to moderate ranges can be considered clean, chest shot game will often travel long distances before expiring. 
 
This cartridge is much closer in performance to the .223 Remington than the .243 Winchester or .257 Roberts.  That said, the .250 Savage does of course duplicate the performance of the .243 and .257 when the latter are used at longer ranges. In like fashion, the 100 grain bullet produces fastest killing when either striking the CNS or to maximize wounding and bleeding, placed to strike the forwards locomotive muscles and bones of the foreleg. Readers are encouraged to read both the .223 and .243 texts in order to gain a thorough understanding of game killing with small calibers.
 

Factory Ammunition


Both Remington and Winchester produce 100 grain soft point loadings for the .250 Savage at an advertised 2820fps (24” test barrels) for realistic velocities in 22” barrels of around 2750fps. Both are adequate lighter medium game loads when used with care.
 

Hand Loading


Most hunters in the possession of .250 Savage caliber rifles tend to be hand loaders and of these, many develop loads specifically for use by young family members.

Powders in the W760, 4350, H414 range produce the best balance of high velocity versus low pressure for the now aging .250 Savage rifles. Using these powders, 85/87 grain bullets can be driven at just over 3000fps, 100 grain bullets to 2800fps and 117/120 grain bullets at 2600fps. In some instances, reloaders have been able to utilize modern powders to drive 100 grain bullets at 3000fps. Though it is only a 200fps increase, the difference in the field is noticeable. Nevertheless, 3000fps with a 100 grain bullet must be treated as an exception rather than the rule and reloaders must always be careful regarding older rifles.
Today, all .257 caliber projectiles under 100 grains are designed purely for varmints. It is worth noting, the original Winchester Western loads designed for and which failed on deer were of a similar construction. Sierra produce a 75 grain Hollow point and 87 grain soft point, Speer produce the 87 grain soft point and TNT hollow point while Hornady offer a 75 grain hollow point, the 75 grain V-Max and an 87 grain soft point. Nosler produce an 85 grain Ballistic tip and of the varmint bullet offerings, this is perhaps the most useful light game bullet for use on animals weighing between 40 and 60kg (90-130lb) out to moderate ranges.

For game weighing up to a maximum of 80kg (180lb), the most consistent performing projectiles are the 100 grain conventional bullets. The mild velocity of 2800fps minimizes the risk of bullet blow up which opens up a wide range of choices. The higher muzzle velocities of 3000fps are not overly harsh on 100 grain projectiles either, all of today’s projectiles are designed to be launched from the spectacular .25-06 at velocities in excess of 3300fps.

Soft projectiles such as the 100 grain Hornady Interlock Remington’s Core-Lokt are both reliable performers in the .250 Savage. That said, the Nosler 100 grain Ballistic Tip and Sierra GameKing both produce wider, faster bleeding wounds. 

Speer produce three styles of 100 grain projectile, the extremely soft BTSP, a hollow point and the more consistent 100 grain Spitzer. The BTSP and hollow point are much more akin to varmint projectiles than light medium game projectiles and neither should be used on game weighing more than 40kg (90lb).
Premium 100 grain projectiles include the Swift Scirocco and A-Frame, the Barnes TSX and Nosler Partition. Of these, the Nosler Partition, as old as this design is, is still the best choice for heavier deer. The Partition has an extremely soft front core and gives not only fast but also full expansion at low impact velocities and energies. 

At the heavier end of the scale, 110 to 120 grain projectiles leave the muzzle of most .250 Savage rifles a little too slowly to impart wide, fast bleeding wounds. That said, the more frangible designs can make for a decent close range woods load. These include the 115 grain Nosler Ballistic Tip, the 117 grain Sierra GameKing and 117 grain Hornady SST. Penetration with all of the above loads is generally deep at low impact velocities and at point blank ranges, bleeding is fast yet with minimal meat damage. Stouter choices include the 120 grain Speer Hotcor and the 115 and 120 grain Partition projectiles. Both, when fired at 2600fps, are capable of tail to chest penetration on lighter deer species. In this respect the .250 Savage compares very favorably with the .30-30. 
 

Closing Comments


The .250 Savage was an important step in the development of the modern hunting cartridge. From the .250, ballisticians and hunters were able to learn about velocity versus bullet weight and velocity versus bore size in the pursuit of effective game killing. Thousands of deer were taken with the .250 up until the late 1950’s but make no mistake, many hundreds of animals suffered overly slow kills.  
 
For several of today’s hunters, the .250-3000 holds classic appeal and there is no doubt that the Savage 99 was a fine rifle, both aesthetically and in function. Light bodied game are still harvested with the .250, often by youths under the watchful eye of an experienced parent. The .250 can either produce consistent or abysmal results. The hunter can maximize performance by setting game weight limitations as well as being vigilant in angling shots to destroy not only vitals but also locomotive muscle and bone. 
 
Suggested loads: .250 Savage Barrel length: 22”
No ID   Sectional Density Ballistic Coefficient Observed  MV Fps ME
Ft-lb’s
1 FL 100gr Remington PSP .216 .285 2750 1679
2 FL 100gr Win Silvertip .216 .258 2750 1679
3 HL 100gr Hornady Interlock .216 .357 2800 1741
4 HL 100gr Nosler Partition .216 .377 2800 1741
5 HL  100gr Sierra GK/Bal Tip .216 .355/.393 2800 1741
6 HL 100gr Sierra GK/Bal Tip .216 .355/.393 3000 1998
7 HL 120gr Speer SP/ Partition 260 .405.391 2600 1801
 
Suggested sight settings and bullet paths           
1 Yards 100 179 212 250 300      
  Bt. path +2 0 -2 -5.4 -11.5      
2 Yards 100 177 209 250 300      
  Bt. path +2 0 -2 -5.8 -12.3      
3 Yards 100 186 220 250 300      
  Bt. path +2 0 -2 -4.4 -9.7      
4 Yards 100 187 222 250 300      
  Bt. path +2 0 -2 -4.3 -9.5      
5 Yards 100 204 238 250 300      
  Bt. path +2 0 -2 -3 -8.2      
6 Yards 100 242 270 300 325      
  Bt. path +2.5 0 -2.5 4.4 7      
7 Yards 100 175 208 250 300      
  Bt. path +2 0 -2 -5.8 -12      
 
No At yards 10mphXwind Velocity Ft-lb’s
1 300 13 1833 746
2 300 13 1833 746
3 300 8.5 2118 996
4 300 8 2151 1028
5 300 9.2 2073 954
6 300 8.1 2253 1127
7 300 8.6 2000 1066
 
Note: Load No. 7 trajectory can be used to plot 115gr Nosler BT and 117gr Sierra.
 
 250 savage final.jpg

 
  Imperial Metric 
A .473 12.01
B 4.69 11.91
C 26deg 30’  
D .414 10.51
E .286 7.26
F 1.512 38.40
G .275 6.98
H 1.912 48.56
Max Case 1.912 48.56
Trim length 1.902 48.31

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