The son of an aristocrat, it would come as a surprise to those around him that Townsend Whelen (1877-1961) would reject a safe and sedentary lifestyle. As a young teenager Whelen wanted nothing more than to learn how to shoot, how to hunt and to explore the wilds. Throughout his teenage years immersed himself in hunting and competitive shooting.
In 1895 Whelen enlisted as a Private in the Pennsylvania National guard. During the Spanish–American war of 1898 Whelen found himself promoted to regimental Sargent Major within a very short time, followed by a commission to second lieutenant. Unenthused with his position and having a passion for rifles and ballistics Whelen resigned and applied for service in the Regular Army. With a year to wait, Whelen embarked on a several month long hunt in British Columbia, Canada. During this time (1901), Whelen wrote his first hunting magazine article which would be followed by many more as well numerous books.
In 1902 Whelen was successfully commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Regular Army and became involved in the marksmanship training of troops. In 1921 Whelen’s interests were fulfilled when he was put in command of the Frankford Arsenal, also becoming the director of research at the Springfield Armory. In 1936, Whelen retired from the military as a colonel.
Outside of his military career Whelen had remained infatuated with hunting rifles and cartridges. And while the .30-06 had proven to be a very effective cartridge, Whelen believed there was a need for more potent cartridges for large bodied game while boasting good reach. Having had some experience with British proprietary big bores, Whelen felt that while the power of these was very good, accuracy was at times wanting. Furthermore, the price of these rifles and ammunition was exorbitant.
During 1919 and prior to his transfer into ordnance, Whelen began to experiment using Springfield and Mauser actions to build sporting rifles. His medium and big bore cartridges would be based on the .30-06 case design as a means to avoid any major action length alterations. During the same year and with the help of gunsmith Adolph Neidner, Whelen created his first cartridge based on the .30-06 case, the 38 Whelen. This cartridge was designed after a fashion to give similar hunting performance to the .375 H&H Magnum. The .38 used 275gr .375” Winchester projectiles intended for the .38-72 WCF. However; in 1923 Winchester discontinued production of .38-72WCF ammunition making the .38 Whelen obsolete.
As a side note, Holland & Holland eventually released their proprietary manufacturing rights for .375 H&H. Following this, U.S manufacturers began producing .375 H&H ammunition and component projectiles, leading to the birth (or rebirth) of the .375 Whelen.
In 1922 Whelen employed the help of Frankford Arsenal’s head machinist James V Howe along with Adolph Neidner to help create the .400 Whelen. This cartridge was based on the .30-06 case necked up to accept the .411” 300 grain 405 WCF bullet. The .400 Whelen was greatly criticized over the years for producing poor headspace. Rimless cartridges obtain headspace on the case shoulder, as a cartridge is fired the case shoulder prevents the case from travelling down the bore. The .30-06 case necked up to .411” caliber leaves very little remaining shoulder. It was claimed that the .400 Whelen shoulder was so insufficient that in some instances the strike of a firing pin was enough to drive the cartridge case forwards into the chamber. This historical issue was finally resolved thanks to the incredibly thorough research of the late Michael Petrov (Precision Shooting Magazine). Petrov findings showed that the original .400 Whelen had been carefully designed with a .458” case shoulder while later wildcats were made with the standard .30-06 shoulder unaltered at .441”. The later wildcats displayed headspace problems while the original rifles made for Whelen did not.
The .35 Whelen was introduced during 1923. This cartridge struck the balance for Whelen, having a wide bullet frontal area and high bullet weight - but with superior reach in comparison to his former cartridge designs. Whelen would go on to conclude that the .400 Whelen was more suited to heavy game while the .35 (.358” projectiles) made for an excellent all around hunting cartridge and was particularly well suited to large North American game.
Also during this time, another very important event occurred. A cabinet maker by the name of Seymour Griffin approached Whelen as to how he could venture into building custom rifles. Whelen arranged meetings for Griffin with himself, James Howe, James M Holesworth and James L Jerry. The result of these meetings was the forming of the famous custom gun building company Griffin & Howe in 1923. Those named here were the original company members.
During the 1920’s the .35 Whelen became a relatively popular cartridge. Although the .35 Whelen was proprietary to Griffin & Howe, its basic design became popular as a wildcat cartridge and was often dubbed the poor mans .375.
In 1935 when Holland & Holland released the .375 H&H from proprietary status, the .35 Whelen took a dive in popularity. Winchester adopted the .375 H&H chambering as part of its model 70 line up - a big game cartridge now available to the working man. The .35 Whelen lay dormant for several decades although wildcatters who used the cartridge continued to hold it in high regard, fortunately some of these people worked for Remington.
In 1987, Remington, a company renown for adopting wildcats, took a large risk and adopted the .35 Whelen as a chambering for their Model 700 Limited Edition Classic. The cartridge was also chambered in the fast handling model 7600 pump action rifle. Two factory loads were created featuring 200 grain pointed and 250 grain round nose bullets. To the surprise of Remington, the .35 Whelen became immediately and immensely more popular than initially anticipated.
Since this time the .35 Whelen has retained a modest but staunch following. Those who use it love it. Popularity has generally been limited by only a few factors. The first is a matter of reach. The Whelen simply cannot shoot as flat as modern magnums (e.g. .300 Win Mag). This has also been compounded by a lack of interest from bullet makers (or demand from hunters) towards the production of high BC .358” bullet designs. A second factor is simply hunter miss-perception. The .35 Whelen fires large projectiles and many hunters miss-perceive such bullet weights as being effective for big game only (and at close ranges), missing the wonderful virtues of this bore as a medium game cartridge. The same can be said of recoil - perceived by many as a hard kicker when in fact the Whelen can produce very tolerable recoil in appropriate rifle designs. The Whelen is much more than a woods rifle and from an accurate bolt action platform and with a light and crisp trigger and suitable projectiles, it can be utilized as an excellent all around rifle.
Fortunately, the popularity of the Whelen will never die away as long as there are game animals to hunt and the freedom to hunt them remains. Components are readily available and under continual demand. Remington still produce .35 Whelen rifles, the current M700 CDL stainless being a particularly handsome rifle, there for the taking.
The .35 Whelen also led to the development of the .35 Whelen Ackley Improved wildcat. This is perhaps now more popular than the original Whelen in custom built .35 caliber rifles. The AI version is not noticeably more potent than the original and it is fair to say that individual bore and throat dimensions can at times account for an equal amount of difference in velocity from one rifle to the next. Nevertheless the AI version is a very low wear / low trim case design and does maximize the capacity of the .30-06 case.
The .35 Whelen (and .35 Whelen AI) is an extremely versatile cartridge due to its ability to produce hydrostatic shock for fast killing on extremely light through to relatively large bodied game as well as producing deep and broad wounding.
The increase in frontal area makes the .35 Whelen noticeably superior to the .338” bore. When using the .338 bore, the hunter must at times be careful with bullet selection in order to avoid having a bullet that is too tough for the job at hand. The .338 bore excels on larger bodied deer but can on occasion be left wanting if lean animals are encountered. In contrast to this, the .35 bore firing bullets of the same weight displays far greater and much faster energy transfer. So much so, that we sometimes see bullet blow back as a result of hydraulic forces. In these instances, entry wounds may at times be as large as exit wounds. Furthermore, the .358’s can display this performance at mild impact velocities. The .358 is not wholly reliant on velocity in the same manner as the small bores. In plain terms, one cannot have a full understanding of terminal ballistics until one has studied this bore diameter and this cartridge in particular.
One of the major aspects of the .358 bore is that it is what I call ‘forgiving’ of shot placement. We should all practice to be good marksman. The man who says “it’s where you hit them, not what you hit them with that counts” speaks some truth. But this statement is flawed in that it is based on the expectation of absolute human perfection. Unfortunately, such an absolute cannot be obtained. We are as the saying goes, perfectly imperfect. So while we strive (and we should) to be good marksmen and women, cartridges like the .35 Whelen provide further assistance for those times when invariably, we will make mistakes.
I have tested the .35 Whelen under the most demanding of situations, dark and wet days, trudging through winter mud. I have deliberately tested it on adrenalized running boar. I have sat over gullies and sniped with it, my wife has used it as a general hack and it is one of her most favorite cartridges. In all of these areas, the Whelen performed admirably. As Whelen suggested, it also has reach. There were times when I hunted with the .444 and .45/70 ‘brush busters’, only to miss a chance on game across a gully face due to range and failing light. Had I had the Whelen in hand, each of these hunts would have been a success. The only consolation being that at least the .45/70 kept me fit, climbing up and down heavily forest gullies in each attempt to get close.
The .35 Whelen does its best work on light to mid weight game when loaded with 200-225 grain bullets, the 225 grain weight being versatile across a wide range of game and can tackle Elk sized animals with relative ease.
For added insurance on large bodied deer the Whelen can be loaded with either premium 225 grain bullets or conventional 250 grain bullets. Either work well. Furthermore, most premium bullets generally display good performance on lean game rather than cleaving to their energy.
When hunting large and heavy game, the Whelen is generally best loaded with a 250 grain premium bullet though some 225 grain premium bullets are suitable. Bullet weight simply is not enough on its own. And although some bullets such as the 250 grain Speer Hotcor have a very good reputation for deep penetration, this and others may (in my experience) come apart if hitting heavy round ball joints, particularly on bovines. Bullet construction is the key factor.
Generally speaking, the .358 bore produces a measure of hydrostatic shock down to impact velocities of 2200fps, approximately 400fps lower than the general threshold for small bores. The rapid transfer of energy travels as a shock wave up through the ribs, into the spine and then to the brain, disrupting electric circuitry, causing coma in a rapid manner. Hydraulic forces, generally dubbed hydraulic shock, are most violent at 2400fps (blow back) but remain vivid at 2200fps. Bullet expansion continues but gradually tapers off towards 1800fps, the sensible cut off point for the .358” bore.
Between 2200 and 1800fps shot placement becomes somewhat more critical in order to affect a fast kill. If shots fall back into the rear lungs, kills may be delayed depending on the type of bullet used. At 1800fps most .358” bullets begin to struggle with expansion. In order to affect a fast kill, shots must be placed into the forwards chest where resistance is highest.
The 225 grain Sierra Gameking makes for a good general purpose bullet in the .35 Whelen and makes for a good example of effective range. Loaded to 2600fps and sighted 3” high at 100 yards (scope height 1.6”), the 225 grain Sierra will be zeroed at 225 yards. At 300 yards bullet drop is 7.5”. In a 10mph cross wind the bullet will drift some 10”, necessitating some experience with wind reading if shooting to this range. As for the velocity cut off points, the Seirra breaks 2200fps at 175 yards. At 300 yards velocity is just over 1900fps and the Whelen reaches its limit at around 375 yards or 1800fps. To make a shot at 375 to 400 yards, one would need a dial capable scope as bullet drop is now quite severe, to the tune of 26” with a come up of 6 MOA. Windy days would also need to be avoided due to roughly 18” drift.
I mention these things for two reasons. The first is that the trajectory and wind drift of the Whelen is pretty much identical to the .308 Winchester firing factory soft point 150 grain ammunition (at true / real world muzzle velocities). In plain terms, the Whelen compares extremely well to the .308 Winchester when comparing basic hunting ammunition. The second reason is that there are .35 Whelen users who shoot to 400 yards. Some shoot even further. Of its extended range potential I will say this; although designed to expand at long ranges, the 225gr Sierra Gameking needs a great deal of body weight resistance to expand reliably at impact velocities below 1800fps. On large animals, it may expand reliably down to 1600fps. Beyond this impact velocity (500 yards if loaded to 2600fps), wounding is potentially extremely limited and wind drift severe.
Away from the extremes and inside 300 yards, the .35 Whelen is highly effective. In my experience, this cartridge is most effective in the hands of those who mostly hunt bush / woods, but with the chance of open clearing, gully, or river flat shots. This cartridge especially suits those who want a relatively deep penetrating cartridge but also one that is versatile across a wide range of game weights. I personally prefer this over the .358 Winchester for its extra reach and will choose some reach over portability as per my previous comments with regards to my experiences when using the .45/70 and having to pass up shots. This is only my personal take on .35 caliber cartridge selection and is dictated by the type of terrain I prefer to hunt in. Others may prefer the .358 Winchester or the .356 which can in a pinch, be stowed in a traditional back pack.
The current range of .358” projectiles is adequate for all hunting situations however new designs would increase this cartridge’s performance further. The discontinuation of the Hornady 250 grain round nose bullet is immensely disappointing as this was an extremely effective bullet in the Whelen. The Whelen can be very hard on 200 grain round nosed bullets yet can produced delayed kills with a pointed 250 grain bullet on lean deer. The 250 grain Hornady round nose was such that it shot with a relatively flat trajectory and hit hard both in close and at medium ranges. It is a shame to see this go. The 225 grain Nosler Ballistic Tip was also an excellent bullet. This did not produce exceptionally deep penetration on large game but it had great reach. Expansion was vivid across the velocity spectrum and in a unique manner it was common to find the jacket of this bullet approximately 3 to 5 paces on the offside of game. Sadly, this bullet has been replaced by the core bonded Accubond. The Accubond has the same high BC as the Ballistic Tip and it performs well on larger animals, but at the expense of flexibility. A core bonded bullet (unless it has a blunt profile like the Woodleigh Weldcore) can cleave to its energy. In the medium bores the Accubond can also prove to be neither fish nor fowl. Too soft for heavy, dangerous game, too stout for lean game - especially below 2200fps. These bullets are however well suited to large bodied deer species.
Perhaps I will awaken one day to find a .358 225 or 250 grain Hornady ELD-X. Perhaps on that same day I will also sprout wings and fly. Having said this, Hornady have made a great leap with their 200 grain Superformance load which boasts a truly flat trajectory and extremely high down range energy.
As for brush busting, I have always been somewhat dubious about this subject. Any high velocity bullet will deflect if striking material at angles less or greater than 90 degrees. Nevertheless, we could say that heavy .358” bullets have a greater chance of penetrating through obstacles and then into game, provided such obstacles are hit squarely. At angles other than 90 degrees, mild impact velocities can help to limit the degree of yaw. So in these instances, we may see some improvement in performance over the faster small bores. The .358 bore can also prove to be superior to the small bores when taking raking shots but is still somewhat dependent on bullet construction or bullet weight. The 200 grain Hornady bullets (as an example), are not exceptionally deep penetrators (though wounding can be so severe as to anchor game all the same). But if we increase bullet weight, we can see an improvement over the small bores. Further to this, we can in some instances achieve deeper penetration without having to adopt a premium bullet. If we combine all of these aspects, we find that the .358 bore does have some abilities as a brush buster so long as we remain realistic as to what this actually means.
With regard to rifle selection, in a rifle that is fitted correctly to the shooter and with a scope of generous eye relief, the .35 Whelen can be pleasant to shoot (though the Superformance load can prove to be a handful). In a poorly fitted rifle or where a short eye relief scope is used, the .35 Whelen may be extremely unpleasant to use. The Whelen does produce high action to stock torque and recoil is enough to fracture inferior stock and bedding materials.
The .35 Whelen has over the years been available in both pump and semi-automatic Remington actions. Many of these rifles are prized by their owners following successful hunts which have created a great bond. There are unfortunately some negatives to these rifle designs. To begin with, the triggers on these rifles are often heavy and creepy and cannot easily be altered. The forend assemblies do not allow for great accuracy - some rifles are accurate and some are most definitely not. And while the argument to these basic issues may be that such rifles are not designed to be used at long ranges and with great accuracy, one could equally argue that with an accurate rifle featuring a very user friendly trigger, there would be less need for follow up shots. As suggested, the .35 Whelen is forgiving, but this should not be an excuse for poor or so-so rifle accuracy. Hang a milk jug of water from your index finger to mimic heavy trigger pull and see just how straight you can hold your aim. Digging even deeper, both the pump and semi rifle must be carried loaded, they cannot be half cocked or cycled quietly when woods hunting. The rifles are also somewhat bulky and heavy and do not always handle as nicely as a slick bolt action. The point I wish to make here is that each of these things undermine the true potential of the .35 Whelen. The colonel himself intended this to be a cartridge with both reach and punch. Why put limitations on it. I am all for those who have an affinity with the pump and lever action rifles, such bonds are not easily broken. But for those just starting, I would suggest investigating the Whelen in such a way that its range potential is fully utilized.
The Whelen does its best work from a 24” barrel, though 22” barrels are common for the sake of portability. Slender forends are also common whereas a wide forend rifle can prove more user friendly. One of the slickest factory rifles on the market at this time of writing is the Montana Extreme Vantage rifle. The all weather model features a carbon fiber stock, stainless metal work, an adjustable trigger, a 24” 1:12 twist barrel and wonder of wonders - open sights. All of this based on the Winchester M70 type action. I could not think of a better factory rifle and even if the hunter loses interest in the .35 Whelen, this is a great investment platform for future custom builds.
If building a Whelen the hunter will need to find some balance between portability and reach. My personal take on this is that if you are leaning towards the .35 Whelen and not the .358 Winchester, then you want reach. And if its reach you want, do not cut below 24”. Although the .358’s can make use of fast burning powders, they do not have quite the same efficiency as, for example, the .308 Winchester loaded with H4895 / ADI 2206H burn rate powder. The velocity loss when docking does tend to be pronounced.
Custom rifles should be fitted with a good straight line stock with some meat to the forend, good optics and a good trigger. This can (as an option) be taken even further with a varmint style stock such as the original Remington Sendero stock, made by HS Precision (PSV-029). This stock has a good sized forend, good recoil properties, but is not overly bulky as is often the case with modern varmint or tactical stocks.
The .35 Whelen works well with all barrel twist rates including 1:12, 1:14 and 1:16. Remington utilize the 1:16 twist rate for their rifles however the common 1:12 twist rate found on custom rifles is good for all .358” caliber bullets traveling below 2900fps. This is my preferred twist rate for all of the .358’s although the 1:14 twist has merit for those who wish to shoot 200 grain bullets in the magnums. Those who are extremely unsure when building a custom rifle, may prefer to sit on the fence with the 1:14 twist rate if this is available to them.
As for barrel thickness, a .358” can be finished at .800” at the muzzle (either 24 or 26”) and still weigh the same as a traditional medium weight sporting rifle thanks to the wide bore. This makes for a balanced weight in both the Whelen and magnums, soaking up plenty of recoil. With a muzzle diameter of .650 to .700” a .358” can be classed as a being of a light carry weight, though not in the same manner as the ultra-lights we see these days for those who like to be punched into next week, complain about cartridge power and then adopt underpowered cartridges as the antidote to poor body strength. At these muzzle diameters, the Whelen does have to be held tightly but recoil is still manageable at the bench and less noticeable under field conditions. For those wanting a light
weight carry rifle (not ultra-light), I would suggest .675” as being most suitable.
Remington currently produce two loads for the Whelen, the 200 grain Corelokt at 2675fps and 250 grain Corelokt at 2400fps, both are pointed bullets. True velocities form a 24” barrel tend to average 2600fps and 2370fps respectively while 22” barrels yield around 2530fps and 2340fps.
The 200 grain weight may appear to be very heavy (to those unfamiliar with the .358” bore) but this bullet weight in the .358” caliber has a relatively low SD, dumping energy in a very rapid manner. The 200 grain Corelokt is best suited to light to mid weight deer. The Core locking mechanism generally works well with this particular bullet design and opens up to produce an extremely wide frontal area but just manages to hold together. The result is both extremely wide wounding at close to moderate ranges along with adequate penetration from varying angles. This bullet will handle much heavier game but is not as versatile as Remington’s heavier bullet if tackling heavy bodied animals from various angles. The Remington load does not however boast truly high velocities. In a very general manner, this load does its very best work inside 150 yards yards. Beyond this range more attention must be placed on shot placement in order to retain its spectacular performance. Maximum range for the Remington 200 grain load is around 250 to 280 yards with good shot placement and attention to wind drift. Once in a while the Core-Lokt projectile is also available as a hand loading component and such offers should be utilized as this is a very good projectile (BC .294).
The 250 grain Corelokt is ideally suited to larger bodied, non-dangerous game. Velocities of this load tend to be less effected by barrel length than the 200 grain bullet. Again, we see the same good performance as the 200 grain bullet, though in this case, the heavy pointed CoreLokt does need some body weight resistance in order to maximize its energy transfer potential. If used on light framed game, this bullet may be less forgiving of shot placement than the 200 grain bullet, however a wide free bleeding exit wound will cause death after a short run and tracking is made easy. In any case, this bullet is much better suited to larger bodied game. It does however have its limits and on bovines this bullet, like other conventional bullets, cannot be expected to hold together if heavy round ball joints are struck. As for effective ranges, the 250 grain bullet breaks 2200fps at around 75 yards and 1800fps at 275 yards. It is therefore important to keep shots well forwards at anything beyond basic woods ranges.
Federal currently produce two loads for the Whelen. Federals light weight load features the 200 grain Fusion bonded bullet at an advertised 2800fps for 2730fps in 24” barrels and 2660fps in 22” barrels. Federals heavy load features the 225 grain Trophy Bonded Bear Claw at a true 2600fps from a 24” barrel and 2540fps in 22” barrels.
The 200 grain Fusion bullet is rather tough, doing its best work at close ranges where impact velocity and resistance are high. The core bonding of this bullets combined with a narrow meplat lifts the hydrostatic shock cut off point of this load to approximately 2400fps. To this end, shots made inside 75 yards can result in fast killing of medium game while shots taken past 75 yards need to be carefully placed in the forwards chest cavity to avoid dead runs. This load should not really be used past 150 yards. It is however a much needed load in some ways. The Fusion load boasts very high energy transfer at close ranges with good penetration and has great merit for hunting large bodied deer species at close to medium ranges. Were it heavier, it would not be so effective.
The 225 grain Federal load is somewhat unique. This bullet expands to a relatively large diameter while its solid rear core retains momentum, smashing through heavy bone and producing a wide severe wound channel through vitals. The SD of this bullet is neither high nor low, about the same as a vicious 130 grain .270 caliber projectile. Yet the construction of the TBBC enables it to be used on truly heavy game without issues. Readers should note that in my research I have found 2600fps to be the hydrostatic shock cut off point for bovine sized game when hunting with medium to large bores. This in essence, appears as predictable upscaling of what we see with the small bores when used on deer. This load does not produce enough velocity to initiate hydrostatic shock but it can be used with great effect at impact velocities above 2200fps in order to ensure maximum wounding potential relative to this type of bullet design. This equates to a range of around 150 to 175 yards which is ample for this type of hunting.
If the 225 grain TBBC is used on light game, its tough design can be somewhat of a hindrance. Shot placement is therefore important, especially below impact velocities of 2400fps. If used on light game, it is best to keep shots well forwards and limit ranges to no more than 175 yards.
Hornady currently produce one load for the .35 Whelen. Using a blended variation of their Superformance powder (or possibly Leverevolution powder), the current Superformance factory load launches the 200 grain Interlock at a true 2900fps from 24” barrels and around 2830fps in 22” barrels. For those who want to know how the .358 Norma Magnum performs, this load pretty much duplicates the magnum chambering.
Unfortunately, the 200 grain Interlock is a soft bullet with a low SD. It works well on light game when driven at magnum velocities but loses some versatility across varying body weights. This load is best suited to lighter bodied deer species, breaking 2200fps at just over 200 yards and 1800fps at around 375 yards. The 200 grain Interlock can be used for rear lung shots on large game where bullet disintegration is of little consequence, but should heavy bone be encountered on game weighing 90kg (200lb) and above, full disintegration may lead to somewhat shallow penetration. This load could therefore be best described as being ideal for light to mid weight deer species while being an effective open country extended range load for the Whelen. Once initial velocity is shed and impact velocities fall to 2400fps (around 150 yards), the Hornady load is better able to deal with larger Elk sized game at varying angles. This load will for as long as it exists receive mixed feedback. Some will love it for its ability to produce spectacular kills and adequate penetration, some will loathe it due to shallow penetration, all depending on ranges, game weights and shot placement. Much of this could be avoided if Hornady developed a 250 grain ELD-M or X bullet.
Please note, the 200 grain Hornady does generate a great deal of recoil. This can negatively affect accuracy in two ways. The first issue is recoil torque to the rifle versus poor bedding (or simply a lack of steel based epoxy bedding). The second issue is shooter ability. In plain terms, this load produces too much recoil versus the generally poor shooting technique prevalent among both professional and amateur shooters these days. For those who wish to overcome such problems, my Practical Guide book series can be used to achieve optimum results without having to strap your rifle to a frame or use other various training wheels.
Barnes currently produce one load for the Whelen featuring their 180 grain TTSX at a true 2900fps from 24” barrels, losing around 50 to 70fps in 22” barrels. This bullet weight was a wise choice for Barnes as earlier loads had a tendency to display delayed killing. The Barnes load is well designed in that this bullet meets a great deal of resistance on impact, creating very wide wounding. As for penetration, if we compare the traditional 225 grain Nosler Partition (a bullet many are familiar with) to the 180 grain Barnes, both end up with about the same retained bullet weight after penetration. The initial light weight of the Barnes can therefore be exploited for velocity generation. Performance cut off points are much the same with this bullet as they for homogenous bullets in the small bores. In this case, we see best performance above 2400fps (around 150 yards) with a pronounced drop in performance below 2200fps (around 225 yards), hence why a light bullet was adopted for the factory load. Within these ranges and with some care towards shot placement if shooting beyond 150 yards, the Barnes bullet can tackle a very wide range of game body weights including Elk sized game. If used as an all-around load to 300 yards, forwards shoulder shot placement is very important.
As a side note, the Barnes is often quoted as producing very low meat damage in various reviews. I would tend to argue this point, having used the Barnes in the Whelen under harsh conditions, taking shots from varying angles. The Whelen excels under difficult conditions, taking angled snap shots. A Barnes bullet can be equally useful under such conditions - but is no way kind to the carcass. If the gut is breached when shooting at quartering on or away angles, the massive hydraulic forces of a Whelen / Barnes load used at close ranges will spread gut tissue throughout the carcass, in some cases entirely due to the deep penetrating qualities of the Barnes bullets. It would be foolish to think otherwise when employing such power.
Nosler produce two loads for the .35 Whelen featuring the 225 grain Partition at an advertised 2725 and the 250 grain Partition at an advertised 2550fps. Both loads tend to produce velocities of 2600 and 2400fps respectively.
The 225 grain Partition performs exceptionally well in the Whelen. It can tackle a wide range of game up to the size of Elk and larger. Its one limitation however, is that it can suffer bullet blow up if used on heavy game. Apart from this one caveat, the Partition is an otherwise excellent all around bullet. The front core of the Partition is relatively soft and its SD is not so high as to cause the Partition to cleave to its momentum, adding flexibility to this load if very lean animals are encountered. Wound channels are generally very broad with often wide exit wounds. Cut off points are the same for this bullet as they are for most of the .358” bullets, showing best performance above 2200fps (200 yards), remaining capable to ranges beyond 400 yards (1800fps), provided the hunter can hold his aim, understands bullet drop and can read wind at such distances.
The 250 grain Partition has a higher SD and lower potential impact velocities than its 225 grain counterpart, all leading to greater penetration without risk of tumbling and eventual jacket core separation. The 250 grain bullet is quite simply reliable in its ability to generate maximum potential wounding along with adequate wounding on large and heavy bodied game. The one limitation with this bullet is that it can carry too much momentum for use on light game, especially at extended ranges. But if shots are kept forwards, the Partition will render large internal wounds on small and lean animals. From a muzzle velocity of 2400fps, the 250 grain Partition breaks 2200fps at 100 yards and 1800fps at 340 yards.
Other factory loads include those made by Buffalo bore (225 grain TSX and 225 grain Sierra BTSP) and Double Tap (225 grain A-Frame and 310 grain Woodligh). I have not unfortunately been able to test these loads. Hand load notes for these bullets can be found ahead.
The .35 Whelen and its AI counterpart are easy to hand load for. Brass can be made from .30-06 cases with ease while other components are readily available.
Regarding powder burn rates, the Whelen performs well with a variety of powders. H4895 / 2206H can be used as a general do all powder. Varget / ADI 2208 and 4064 can be useful if chasing maximum velocities with 250 grain bullets. For those who wish to shoot 275 grain bullets and heavier, the optimal burn rate is between Varget / 4064 and the slower 4350 / ADI 2209. This includes H380, RE15, N202 and N203. I have not tried Leverevolution or Superformance burn rate with these bullet weights but suspect one or the other may prove extremely useful, offering 4350 or H4831sc / ADI 2213sc burn rates, but with the load density of H4895 / ADI 2206H. Careful experimentation may allow 275 to 280 grain bullets to be driven at up to 2400fps and one may be able to drive the 310 grain Woodleigh at over 2200fps.
As for the 4350 burn rate. Hodgdon (ADI) and IMR are not ideal as all around powders as these fill the Whelen case to mid neck level before any noticeable velocity gains are made when loading lighter weight grain bullets. This burn rate only has merit when shooting the heaviest of bullet weights but as previously explained, is not quite as useful as the few powders which sit between the mid to slow burners.
Most Whelen and AI rifles have generous freebore. Traditional Whelen reamers have a freebore length of .250" while custom and AI versions can be found with shorter freebore lengths of .150". This puts the average at around .200". In any case, the hand loader cannot seat close to the lands (another reason why it works well with a wide range of burn rates and does not suffer pressure spikes). When hand loading for the Whelen, readers will notice that the case neck is very long. The hand loader has a choice of seating bullets flush to the base of the case neck for what I call optimum control and concentricity of ammunition - or seating out into the case neck if experimenting with bulky slow burning powders. Seating depth can therefore be manipulated as a means to increase case capacity or as a decrease to fill air space and tighten velocity spreads. Having said this, one cannot seat out into the neck and expect to be able to use more fast burning powder. The closer one seats to the lands, the higher the pressure will be without a reduction in powder burn speed.
If seating out into the case neck, do keep in mind that your brass will develop a ‘donut’ ring where the heel of the bullet sits after repeated loads. This can cause some problems with reloading if cases are used repeatedly. Also, be aware that if the hand loader seats too far out of the case, the projectile may bump and bend easily. So while the Whelen may look darned sexy with its bullets seated out, it can be best to seat flush with the bottom of the case neck for practical purposes.
Realistic full power velocities from a 24” barrel include 2900fps with 180 grain bullets, 2700fps with 200 grain bullets, 2600fps with 225 grain bullets and 2500fps with 250 grain bullets. Heavy 275 to 280 grain bullets can be driven at around 2300fps while the 310 grain Woodleigh can be driven at up to 2100fps. As previously mentioned, careful powder selection can allow for improved velocities (100fps) with heavy bullets.
From a 22” barrel, velocity loss is typically 70fps however in practice, most hand loaders push the envelope to some degree and with careful load development the difference is more like 50fps as an average. Typical velocities include 2850fps with 180 grain bullets, 2650 with 200 grain bullets, 2550 with 225 grain bullets and 2450fps, 250 grain bullets. Heavy bullets tend to lose a greater amount of velocity and slow powder experiments may not yield ideal results due to a lack of barrel length for optimal burning. Velocity loss may therefore be anywhere from 50 to 100fps in comparison to the slightly longer 24” barrels. Ordinarily, such a velocity difference would not mean a great deal, but in this instance, a tough 275-310 grain bullet traveling below 2200fps loses a great deal of wounding potential. A much easier option in this instance is to simply select a light but stout bullet design.
Individual rifles and Ackley Improved variations may on occasion produce higher velocities than listed here, however it is much more common to hit safe working maximums at the velocities listed. Hand loaders are also urged to avoid chasing velocity at the expense of accuracy. If your rifle, (whether 22” or 24”) shoots a 225 grain bullet best at 2500fps or a 250 grain bullet at 2400fps due to its unique bore dimensions, so be it.
Before we discuss projectiles, please understand this; projectile performance varies with age. The older the projectile, the more it will have naturally annealed, while the core may have become somewhat powdery. It is quite common to come across such old projectiles for the .358’s at auction because this caliber suffers from fad buying. Rifles are purchased on a whim, tried but not fully utilized and then cast aside. Generally speaking, if the projectile packet is sun bleached and completely faded, the projectiles will be akin to varmint bullets. Those who shoot the .356 Winchester should take note of this because these projectiles can be quite useful in low velocity rifles. But in the Whelen, aged projectiles can cause a great deal of disappointment. That said - results can go either way. Ahead I describe the 250 grain Interlock as being too tough for light framed game but too soft for heavy game and best suited to larger deer only. Yet an aged 250 grain Interlock can perform very well on lean game - or abysmally on larger bodied deer. Therefore, these factors must always be taken into consideration.
For hunting light game under 60kg (130lb) the .35 Whelen can be loaded with .357 magnum bullets which in many rifles produce excellent accuracy over short ranges. Loads can either be reduced to produce youth loads with low recoil, giving excellent performance on lighter game or loaded to full velocities to increase range. Hornady’s 158 and 180 grain XTP bullets can be loaded to between 2200-2400fps for a light game load. Results on game are reasonably consistent with the XTP bullets producing clean kills and some room for error. Top loads are capable of launching the 158 grain bullet at around 3100fps and the 180 grain bullet at 2900fps. While it would be natural to expect spectacular results with the XTP at these speeds, these bullets do not produce outstanding results and wound channels are much the same as at lower velocities but with less and sometimes unreliable penetration.
Hornady .358” projectiles include the 200 grain round nose, 200 grain spire point, 200 grain Flex Tip (FTX) and the 250 grain spire point, all being Interlock designs.
When used in the .35 Whelen, the 200 grain Hornady Round nose bullet suffers a great deal. Energy transfer at close ranges is immediate and absolute. Wounds can display bullet blow back but also bullet blow up, depending on game size and shot placement. This bullet is best suited to light framed game only. In truth this bullet is much better suited to the smaller .358’s.
The 200 grain Spire point makes for a good general purpose deer hunting bullet in the Whelen. This and the FTX perform in a similar manner, generally losing around 50% weight, rendering very broad wounds including wide exit wounding. Neither bullet is suitable for very large game or for heavily raking shots. From a muzzle velocity of 2700fps, the Spire point breaks 2200fps at around 160 yards and 1800fps at 310 yards. The BC of the FTX is not much higher than the original spire point (.300 versus .282) and to this end, effective range considerations are much the same. Having said this, those who intend to push the Whelen to 400 yards may want to consider the FTX. Please understand that at 400 yards, the FTX is traveling at round 1600fps and from a 225 yard zero, drops by approximately 27” with around 22” wind drift in a 10mph cross wind. The FTX also needs a good deal of body weight to expand between 1800 and 1600fps. To be used successfully at this range, the hunter must adopt suitable long range optics and have a good understanding of both drop and wind drift. The same applies if attempting to push the .358 Winchester to ranges between 300 and 350 yards with this bullet design.
As mentioned in the .358 Winchester text, some hunters complain that when used at extended ranges, the original 200 grain Interlock appears to be very stout. Again, readers are reminded that below 2200fps, the .358 bore loses its ability to produce hydrostatic shock. Hydraulic wounding also decreases and this effects many bullet designs throughout the calibers as velocities fall below 2200fps. The fast expanding FTX does show some improvement at lower impact velocities. Apart from this consideration, the antidote is to aim forwards to strike bone.
The 250 grain Hornady Spire point deserves some consideration. This is not an ideal all around bullet for the Whelen. It is too stout for lean game but too soft for truly heavy game. With these considerations addressed, when launched at reasonable velocities in the .35 Whelen it can make for a good large bodied deer load, being adequate for Red stag, Sambar or Elk. Unfortunately, Hornady have discontinued their most versatile Whelen bullet - the 250 round nose. This bullet could tackle a both light and large bodied deer, its frontal area ensuring maximum trauma. Personally, I was happy to use this bullet to 250 yards. It hit hard and animals stayed down.
Speer bullets include the 180 grain flat point Hotcor, the 220 grain flat point Hotcor, the 225 grain Trophy Bonded Bear Claw, the 250 grain soft point Hotcor and the 250 grain Grand slam. As I have written previously, this last is a bullet I seldom write about after past bullet failures.
While designed for lower velocity cartridges, the Speer flat point Hotcor bullets are in a league of their own. These bullets work well in the Whelen and just as well in the magnums. The flat points deliver maximum energy on impact while the very light core bonding enables excellent penetration. The 180 grain FP can be used in a very generalized manner, tackling small to relatively large bodied deer. From a muzzle velocity of 2800fps, the Speer breaks 2200fps at around 160 yards and 1800fps just inside 300 yards. The 220 grain bullet is ideal for large bodied deer from most angles. Loaded to 2600fps, this bullet breaks 2200fps at around 135 yards and 1800fps at 285 yards. Do however keep in mind that between 2200 and 1800fps, shot placement is somewhat more critical with these lightly core bonded bullets than with non core bonded designs. At low impact velocities, the Speer bullets need some resistance in order to achieve best results.
The .225 grain TBBC is as already mentioned in the factory ammunition section, a highly effective heavy game bullet in the Whelen. It may not have great weight, but makes up for this via excellent bullet construction. This bullet is not suited to all-around game work, nor is it suited to lower impact velocities with a noticeable drop in performance below 2200fps. Load fast, get close, break bone.
The 250 grain Speer Hotcor has received great feedback over the years and rightly so. This bullet is often viewed as a budget premium bullet design. The big Hotcor is a little too tough for light game, doing its best work on large bodied deer through to very heavy body weights. The Speer will generally exit large bodied deer and plains game and while exit wounds are not generally extremely wide, this bullet tends to create wide internal wounds and a decent blood trail. It seems that there is little this bullet cannot achieve, its ability to penetrate aided by mild impact velocities. Some go as far as to say that there is no need for premium bullets in the Whelen thanks to this Speer bullet design. The Speer does however have its limits on very heavy game. On Bovines, the Speer will not generally suffer bullet blow up, but it can shed a great deal of weight when attempting to pass through heavy round bones. Under these extremes, the Speer can on occasion fail to reach vitals. Aged bullets are especially prone to failure. Apart from these extreme considerations (follow up shots generally ensure a rapid conclusion), the big Hotcor performs admirably and is deserving of its reputation.
Like other .358 bullets, the 250 grain Hotcor works best at impact velocities above 2200fps or 150 yards from a muzzle velocity of 2500fps, steadily tapering off in performance thereafter. At longer ranges, the mild core bonding can inhibit performance on lean game, while large body weights help promote expansion out to 1800fps (over 350 yards). Those who predominately hunt game weighing around 150kg (330lb) and heavier would do well to consider the 250 grain Speer as their general purpose bullet.
Sierra offer two projectiles for .358 users, the 200 grain Round nose Prohunter and the excellent 225 grain GameKing.
For those who wish to study the .35 Whelen thoroughly as part of a terminal ballistics self learning process, I suggest some experimentation with the round nose Sierra. This is now the only reliable mass produced round nosed conventional
bullet available to hand loaders in lieu of the 250 grain Hornady round nose Interlock, while also being tougher than the 200 grain round nose Interlock. The Sierra bullet is best suited to light to mid weight deer, boasting excellent energy transfer and adequate penetration. From a muzzle velocity of 2700fps and sighted between 2 and 3” high at 100 yards, the Sierra round nose has an effective range of just under 200 yards (1800fps). This bullet can be used to accurately study the effect of the meplat in comparison to other conventional bullet designs, displaying unique results. Hydrostatic and Hydraulic shock can also be studied accordingly along with impact velocity parameters, all the way to 1600fps. This research perspective aside, the Sierra Prohunter makes for a very good woods snap shooting load, offering much room for error should game move as shots are taken.
Understanding the 225 grain Sierra Gameking
Sierra make two styles of hunting bullet, the frangible Gameking and the controlled expanding Prohunter. The Gameking has a boattail and either soft point or to promote even greater fragmentation, a wide and weakened hollow point. This bullet is designed to deliver maximum energy transfer and trauma within the target. The Gameking is a deliberate design.
The Prohunter is designed to give deeper penetration. It has a flat heel and a soft nose which may be either round or pointed. This bullet performs as it was designed, but is somewhat more reliant on high impact velocities if it is to render a wound as wide as the Gameking.
Throughout my research the reader will find comments on the performance of the Gameking. At times I have cited this as producing less than desirable penetration. As a younger hunter I lost both pigs and deer when using light weight Gameking bullets. The reader must however understand that while I may write about penetration limitations, this is not necessarily reflective of a bad bullet design. Matching bullet weights to game weights is a key factor of which I have taken a great deal of time to study and pass on to readers over these past years. To be successful, hunters must have realistic expectations. As a young hunter I had no realistic expectations. I hunted with a 6.5x55 Swedish Mauser rifle and expected the Gameking to penetrate extremely well because people had told me that the 6.5 could tackle Moose. I did not look closely enough at bullet design.
The .358 caliber 225 grain Gameking is a wonderful bullet. Its frangible nature enables it to deliver vast amounts of energy and create huger trauma at mild impact velocities. This bullet carries great weight but with a low sectional density. If its sectional density or weight were higher, the jacket would have to be thinner in order to retain its versatility.
The Gameking can be used on a wide range of game. Some even use it for Moose without issues. But again, expectations are key. On light to medium game, the Gameking may ‘appear’ as being controlled expanding due to very gradual weight loss and on raking shots it is at times possible to recover a nicely mushroomed projectile. If this bullet strikes major bone on the same light to mid weight game, it may come apart, however the remaining fragments carry great weight and the bullet will perform – again as it was designed and to the letter.
On heavy game, the Gameking will shed a great amount of weight either gradually or rapidly. As long as this bullet does not arrest within round ball joints, the core and its cluster fragments can render a wide internal wound. This bullet is not ideal for bovines but can be used to take head or neck shots. If chest shots are taken, I would suggest an immediate follow up shot before ‘waiting it out’.
With this understanding, I hope the reader can set realistic expectations and not send letters of complaint to Sierra when their bullets perform exactly as designed. If anything, we need more heavy projectiles of this type which are ideally suited to mild impact velocities. We already have enough tough premium bullets to choose from including some designs which in the absence of very high velocity or high body weight resistance, pencil through game, resulting in very slow kills. So please, try to understand - before passing judgement. With realistic expectations we can make the most of each individual bullet design and also, retain the ability to choose various bullet designs to suit our needs.
As an all-around load, the 225 grain Sierra Gameking allows the .35 Whelen to be used successfully out to 300 yards and to 400 yards with care. I thoroughly suggest that the Gameking be utilized as a go-to load and given the greatest attention when performing initial load development. If a hunter can develop a load with the Gameking, then learn how to shoot this accurately at various ranges, he or she will develop a much greater unity with the rifle. This helps avoid the trap of buying a rifle, only to have it become yet another passing fancy. After a time with this load and getting to know the rifle, other loads may then be experimented with. This builds great skills on a solid foundation.
The extreme limitations of the Gameking are as follows. On very light game, the Gameking can at times fail to impart shock, regardless of its frangible nature and the abilities of the .358 to produce hydrostatic shock at lower impact velocities than the smaller bores. Having said this, dead runs tend to be short and exit wounds very wide. Shot placement also has an effect. At the opposite extreme, we have as already mentioned, its limitations with regards to penetration on heavy game.
To be clear, Elmer Keith would not have liked the 225 grain Gameking. He much preferred a 275 grain bullet. Early jacketed bullets were generally very soft and a heavy bullet of this nature would generally create very deep but also very broad wounding. Keith was however disappointed when the bullets he used shed any great amount of bullet weight loss and was quick to adopt tough premium bullet styles as these came along. Heavy and tough bullets are extremely useful on heavy game, but their tough construction can display poor results at low impact velocities on lesser body weights. At low impact velocities, a tough bullet may cleave to its momentum and ultimately fail to create a broad disproportionate to caliber wound due to poor hydraulic or mechanical forces. In such instances, game may run a very long way before expiring.
Keith certainly placed greater emphasis on penetration than on wounding and I will admit that I have in the past felt much the same, especially after early failures. However this approach can be taken too far and inhibit effective ranges along with game weight flexibility. This is something Keith was possibly well aware of which inspired him to adopt ever more potent magnums as a means to try and balance cartridge performance versus his style of hunting. Keiths formula was in one sense relatively simple, make it wide (width of wounding), make it fast (effective range and also wounding), make it heavy (penetration) and make it tough (penetration). The only sticky point was recoil. His nemesis, Jack O’Connor, felt that this approach was entirely too extreme. When the .350 Remington Magnum hit the market, O’Connor was quick to point out its flaws - citing that the rifle was too light and simply could not be shot accurately which in this case was quite true. The nylon stock material lacked rigidity (bedding surface) and could not handle this level of recoil. On the other hand, if O’Connor were alive today, I am sure that he would feel as though he had been placed in the Keith camp by default with so many of today’s shooters complaining about gun recoil, noise and weight.
Hand loading continued
Nolser .358” bullets include the 225 and 250 grain Partition along with the 225 grain Accubond. As discussed in the factory ammunition section of this text, the .358” Partitions are tried and true designs. Personally, I have burned through several boxes of the 225 grain Partition on wild pigs. As mentioned, the 225 grain partition is great for use on game up to the size of Elk while the heavy Partition suits larger bodied game. The frontal section of the Partition is identical in malleability to the Gameking. The only difference between the two 225 grain bullets, is that the GameKing sheds more weight which can be useful as a means to enhance energy transfer at longer ranges. By the same token, the Partition bullet is the superior when it comes to angling shots on large bodied deer. Apart from these differences, internal wounding is identical and as luck would have it, both will often shoot to a similar POI.
The Accubond is a tricky customer. This bullet has replaced the wonderful 225 grain ballistic Tip, an immensely vicious bullet design that rivaled the GameKing. This bullet was well suited to hunting a wide range of game and exit wounds on mid sized animals were generally around 3” in diameter. The newer core bonded bullet offers greater penetration, but does its best work at impact velocities above 2200fps. The Accubond needs a good deal of body weight resistance to ensure full energy transfer but lacks the fully tough nature of the Woodleigh Weldcore when it comes to tackling heavy game. Still, there is a place for the Accubond. This bullet works well and is favored by those who use it on Elk and bear, while being equally good on large bodied red stag and boar. Its high BC also helps keep velocity above 2200fps out to 200 yards but having said this, it does not boast a higher BC than the original Partition. If this bullet past 200 yards, it is imperative to keep shots well forwards in order to promote expansion. Those who use the Accubond on large animals will find that wounding remains vivid down to 1800fps. On lean animals or with rear lung shots, bullet expansion may be severely limited and game may run a long way before succumbing to blood loss.
Barnes bullets include the 180 grain TTSX, the 200 grain TTSX, the 200 grain TSX and 225 grain TSX. These bullets must be driven fast for best results and shots kept forwards, driven though major bones. Dead runs are common if shots fall behind the shoulder, even though internal wounding can be extremely broad. One has to wonder how game animals manage to run after such a vast level of internal wounding. Further to this, I cannot understand the all too generalized claims of less meat damage after using these bullets for bush hunting. With broadside meat saver shots, meat damage may be limited. But when hunting ‘the thick stuff’ and taking angled shots (a forte of the Barnes bullet), meat spoilage is pretty much a given. If hunting heavy game, the 225 grain TSX is a good option for the Whelen, boasting much higher potential velocities than the now obsolete 250 grain X while still retaining as much weight as other premium bullet designs after impact.
Swift make three A-Frame bullets in the weights 225, 250 and 280 grains. All are best suited for use on very tough game. The design of the A-Frame is similar to the Partition but with core bonding. This makes quite a difference, particularly in the 225 grain bullet weight. The 225 grain Nosler is not always reliable on heavy game while the A-Frame, though it loses a good deal of SD, holds its weight and penetrates well. The loss in SD (generally at higher impact velocities and not really relative to the 250 and 280 grain A-Frames) can be very useful in that it ensures energy transfer and therefor trauma.
The heavy 280 grain Swift bullet deserves careful consideration. Best results are obtained with careful load development, working towards high velocities. If this bullet is adopted and simply loaded by the book, results may be disappointing. As an example, Alliant suggest a maximum load of 54 grains RE-15 behind the 250 grain Speer for the paltry muzzle velocity of 2284fps. Reloaders are urged to back off loads by 10% and work up to this maximum point in incremental steps. There is no data for the 280 grain bullet weight but common sense dictates that when interpolated, the maximum powder charge is 51 grains (remove 3 grains powder for 30 grains bullet weight) for a velocity of perhaps 1950fps. It is fair to say that RE-15 is one of the best powders for the Whelen and especially for heavy bullets. And I while I cannot condone any loads above book maximums, I will say that those who wish to utilize the heavy A-Frame (or Woodleigh) need to think outside of the box. Those who are unwilling to experiment should simply adopt a lighter premium bullet.
Woodleigh bullets (Australia) include the 225 grain round nose, the 225 grain Protected point, the 225 grain FMJ, the 250 grain round nose, the 250 grain Protected point, the 275 grain Protected point, the 310 grain round rose and the 310 grain FMJ. Along with this Woodleigh produce the 225 grain Hydrostatically stabilized solid.
The Woodleigh is yet another favorite of mine for the .35 Whelen. The Protected point has a tougher nature (via its form) and BC’s are generally a full point above their round nosed counter parts. The 225 grain Protected point BC is as an example, rated at .372 while the round nose bullet sits at .263. On the other hand, the round nose bullet most definitely delivers very high trauma across a wide range of game and also as velocity falls away. The round nose is also very tough in its own right and has never let me down with regards to penetration, even during torture tests, pushing these bullets well beyond their design parameters. Based on these factors, my personal preference is the round nose bullet.
Both the 225 and 250 grain bullets can tackle large bodied game. The light bullet can be especially useful as a general purpose bullet and also for use on large game in rifles that do not boast great speeds with medium to heavy weight bullets. That said, the 250 grain bullet does offer superior performance, especially if it can be driven fast and the hunter stalks close. The 275 to 310 grain bullets are to my mind, best suited to the heaviest and most dangerous of African game. Hand loading these bullets to high velocities is unfortunately tricky for the traveling hunter as it is hard to determine whether fast loads will be safe if traveling from a cold climate, to the warmer African environment (something an Australian hunter may not have to worry about!). In any case, mock heat tests are very important if loading the heavy Woodleigh’s to high velocities.
Woodleigh bullets are designed to produce reliable expansion down to impact velocities of 1800fps. That said, performance does tend to be more dramatic at impact velocities over 2200fps or in a very general manner of speaking, at ranges inside 150 yards. Below 2200fps, it is important to try to aim forwards and break bone. Woodleigh bullets really shine when used in this manner.
The Hydrostatic solid is akin to the Keith style wadcutter. Please note that Woodleigh’s use of the word hydrostatic has no bearing on my use of this old industry term. This bullet produces wide hydraulic wounding at relatively high impact velocities combined with deep penetration. A light bullet weight also helps ensure impact velocities remain high, at least out to short ranges. These bullets are designed to be used on the toughest of game.
In conclusion to this hand loading section, my hopes are that hunters continue to support this caliber. There is also room for new bullet designs, particularly soft but heavy bullets suitable for extended range work. A thin jacketed high BC bullet weighing between 225 and 250 grains would increase the flexibility of the Whelen and magnums. Field experience leads me to believe that the terminal performance of such a load could well prove superior to that of anything which could be produced for the .338 bore.
The heavens open
Since writing and publishing this and the 9.3 and .375 medium bore articles, another bullet manufacturer has been brought to my attention - Hawk bullets. When the reader sent me the link, I thought here we go again, another 100% weight retaining slow killing whiz bang. But I was in for a surprise. Hawk have been in business since 1987 and although many of us may have not heard of them (especially outside of the U.S), they have some great conventional bullet offerings. The wonderful aspect of Hawk is that they not only attempt to match bullet weights to game weights, but also offer jackets of varying thicknesses. This is an absolute boon for any hunter wanting to obtain maximum energy transfer on medium game with heavy bullets, especially for those mourning the loss of the Hornady round nosed bullets.
In the below table, I would like the reader to first look at the flat points, listed in the middle. Note the 225 grain Flat Point with a jacket thickness of .025". Now if you look to the Round Tip list, note the 225 grain .030" jacket, the type of bullet you might use on White Tail deer. Above this the .035" jacket. The photo on the left shows a recovered .35" jacketed bullet from an Elk. Looking further into the lists, we see the 250 grain, 265, 275 and 300 grain bullets with heavy .050" jackets. The letter c denotes that these are custom orders, c4 denoting a minimum 4 box order (50 projectiles per box). Those who have my book - The Practical Guide To Long Range Hunting Cartridges, can make comparisons between the jacket thicknesses listed by Hawk versus those described in the book. The potential outcomes will be obvious.
This method of bullet manufacture is most certainly a potential logistical nightmare for the bullet maker and is not the sort of thing that works within franchised 'one size fits all' marketing, but by goodness it is a great thing when a company puts this much effort into their customers and for the sake of the game animals hunted. A business like this come from the heart. If you are looking to experiment with a soft fast expanding bullet, these bullets may just suit your needs.
My wife (and research partner) Steph fell in love with the .35 Whelen (AI variation) due to its combination of tolerable recoil and hard hitting performance. Put simply, this cartridge delivers, especially when housed in an accurate bolt action rifle. I should however mention that the more complaints we hear on the subject of recoil and rifle weight, the more my wife leans towards the .358 Norma Magnum while adding extra sand bags or water bottles to her pack in rebellion to current trends. Perhaps I am lucky that Elmer Keith were not alive today as a romance may have ensued.
The Whelen is certainly a fine cartridge. It offers us the basic trajectory of the .308 Winchester but with a wider frontal area and a generally heavier pay load. It works exceptionally well as a woods cartridge where raking shots may have to be taken, but has reach when we need it. The Whelen can also be forgiving if we make a mistake. That said, the Whelen cannot overcome major accuracy issues and certainly cannot overcome the habits of fools. To obtain good performance, we must start with a sound platform. Rifle bedding issues must be addressed and triggers smooth while ammunition should be selected based on a combination of optimum power, bullet construction and accuracy. Shooting technique must be sound while the hunter also needs to have a thorough understanding of bullet drop and wind drift - if the Whelen is to be fully exploited at range. One cannot simply zero a .358 caliber rifle to strike dead on at 100 yards and hope to hit the mark at 250 yards or beyond.
* Duplicates mild hand loads in 22” barrels with 225 and 250 grain pointed bullets.
**Hot load RE-15. Note also Woodleigh 275gr has a BC of .450.
Note that when sighted 3” high at 100 yards, the trajectory of most loads could be roughly summarized as being dead on at 220 to 250 yards, a fist width low at 275 yards and a hand span low at 300 yards, then very roughly a foot low at 325 yards.
Load 1 wind drift at 300 yards = 11.4”. Velocity = 1991fps.
Load 5 wind drift at 300 yards = 11.8”. Velocity = 1878fps.
Load 7 wind drift at 300 yards = 7”. Velocity = 1933fps.
Load 9 wind drift at 300 yards = 9.4”. Velocity 1955fps.
Please note that P.O Ackley did not (as far as I am aware) experiment with a .35 Whelen improvement. The .35 Whelen AI does nevertheless follow his basic approach.