|August - September 2001
Volume 36, Number
Typical fixed-sighted revolvers are represented by a Colt New Service .44 Russian/.44 Special and a Colt SAA .41 Colt. Custom work on the Colt SAA by Turnbull Restorations and engraving by John Adams Jr. Photos by Dave Scovill and Gerald Hudson.
The .300 H&H Magnum of 1925
qualifies as the first commercially successful .30-caliber magnum, the older .30 Newton,
though a good cartridge ballistically, having failed to gain widespread acceptance.
Originally, the concept of a large
case .30 caliber was to extend the range and flatten trajectory of big game bullets in
open plains and mountainous country. Increased killing power on large game seems to have
been a secondary consideration.
In the mid-1940s, however, Roy
Weatherby had other ideas. If velocities could be raised significantly, he reasoned, a
shocking effect such as to increase bullet destructiveness on soft skinned game animals,
along with a major disruption of the nervous system, would ensue with a consequent
enhancement of killing power.
To accomplish this, he expanded the
.300 H&H case, decreasing body taper and designing a double radius shoulder, thereby
enlarging its powder capacity. In 24-inch barrels, actual velocity (as opposed to claimed
muzzle speed) with 180-grain bullets from the Weatherby case showed a gain of around 300
fps over a .300 H&H, mostly due to a 16 percent increase in the powder charge.
Roy took one of his new rifles to
Africa where it proved deadly on large plains game, validating his contention, at least to
some degree. Of course, with the higher velocity, trajectories were also flatter,
assisting hunters in better shot placement at longer range.
As a result, the .300 Weatherby
Magnum attracted big game hunters around the world - and still does. Changes have been
made in Weatherby magnum rifles increasing their effectiveness, including a longer
standard 26-inch barrel with a steeper rifling twist rate of one in 10 inches rather than
the old 24 inches with a one-in-12-inch twist. It is to be expected that variations in
barrel length, amount of freebore and rifling twist can and will produce differences in
velocity as well as pressures.
This writer’s first .300
Weatherby Mark V was an early one made in West Germany with a 24-inch barrel and 12-inch
twist but, for all that, was tremendously effective, taking a bighorn ram and Rocky
Mountain goat at long range in the mountains of British Columbia.
So good was it that I acquired
another in the 1980s, prior to the change in barrel length and rifling twist. Produced in
Japan this one again has a 24-inch barrel. No matter, its quality is every bit as good in
all respects, perhaps even some better in stock wood graining and finish. Maybe it just
looks that way because it hasn’t been subjected to the rigors of mountain trails like
the first one.
Whereas .300 Weatherby rifles and
cartridges were originally proprietary, they have in recent years been adopted by other
makers - rifles from Winchester, Remington, Sako and Sauer; factory ammunition from
Federal, Remington, CCI-Speer and Hornady - moves sure to add to this caliber’s
popularity (though not used in these trials).
For almost 50 years the .300
Weatherby Magnum claimed the title of highest velocity .30-caliber commercial cartridge,
exceeding the .300 Winchester Magnum and (in my rifles, at least) equaling the ballistics
of the big 8mm Remington Magnum.
Recent hunting seasons, however,
have witnessed the introduction of several new competing calibers, real barrel burners.
Faster than our .300 are Weatherby’s own .30-378, the .300 Pegasus and Lazzeroni’s
7.62 Warbird. We also have the .300 Remington Ultra Mag and .300 Dakota, which are about
equal ballistically to a .300 Weatherby with 26-inch barrel.
Considering that a .300 Weatherby
with 180-grain spitzer loaded to a muzzle velocity of 3,100 fps and sighted 2.3 inches
high at 100 yards will strike only 3 inches low at 300, and 13.7 inches down at 400 yards,
it’s a fair question as to who needs anything flatter shooting?
That load delivers 2,908 foot-pounds
(ft-lbs) at 200 yards, 2,518 at 300 and 2,167 ft-lbs at 400 yards. By comparison, a
full-power .30-06 load with same 180-grain bullet has 2,170 ft-lbs remaining at only 200
yards. Think about those figures for a minute and ask yourself whether you need - or can
responsibly use - more long-range performance than that of a .300 Weatherby Magnum?
Those ballistics pretty much explain
why this cartridge has been so highly acclaimed as a big game round. If deeper penetration
on large, heavy-structured game is wanted, premium controlled expansion bullets of 200
grains are readily available to serve the purpose. Personally, if I felt a need for more
power than the .300 Weatherby provides, I’d look to a larger caliber with heavier
bullet, rather than seek still higher velocities in a .30 caliber.
Recoil is a subject always raised in
discussions of the .300 Weatherby. While it is substantial - even excessive for many
shooters - my dislike of it stems chiefly from the velocity of its recoil rather than the
foot-pounds force. The rifle comes back so fast, rolling with the punch quickly enough to
reduce the blow can be difficult. For me, the slower-recoiling .375 H&H Magnum, though
actually heavier, seems less formidable. Still, when shooting at game, especially from a
standing position, it will hardly be noticed.
Water capacity of Weatherby .300
Magnum cases is 92.7 grains as I measure it to the base of the neck. Thats 11
percent greater than a .300 Winchester Magnum and explains why this large case is not well
suited for reduced loads. Although possible to some degree with a careful choice of
powder, it simply leaves too much space unoccupied in the case. This condition will exist
to an even greater extent in still larger .300 magnum cases.
With all the negative criticism of
belted cases one hears these days, a bit of fresh air is called for. If a shooter will
reload only cases initially fired in his own rifle, exercising care when partially
resizing not to set case shoulders back from their fireformed location, belted cases will
then headspace on their shoulder (as with a rimless cartridge), ignoring the belt. If this
is made a standard procedure, belted cases will last longer and give no more trouble than
a rimless at equal pressures.
A particularly silly claim in favor
of the new big rimless cases over belted brass appeared recently. This fellow was
extolling the advantages of new rounds based on the .404 Jeffery rimless case, arguing
that they take up less room in the magazine than belted cases. I assume his comparison was
to our standard belted cases from .300 magnums to a .458 Winchester.
Somebody please hand that writer a
micrometer if he cant just see that our popular belted cases are smaller rather than
larger, even if measured over the belt, than across the base of a .404 or the new magnums
based on that large rimless case. Indeed, some rifle builders list magazine capacity as
five rounds of .375 H&H Magnum or four rounds of .404. That pretty well says it.
One more note on .300 Weatherby
brass: Cases should be checked for length after resizing prior to reloading, since in
addition to stretching in firing, some full-length dies will cause further lengthening,
though this is less likely to occur if the die is backed off for partial sizing.
Consider 2.825 inches as maximum
case length. When found in excess of that, trim back to 2.815 inches or just 2.81 inches,
and chamfer case mouths.
In our 1971 test series, Federal 215
Large Rifle Magnum primers were used with complete satisfaction, but this time I wanted to
try CCI 250 Large Rifle Magnum caps as they have given such good results in other large
cases, again with no problems. Complete ignition of the large loads of slow-burning
powders in this long case is necessary to assure uniformity of combustion and accuracy.
Realizing the .300 Weatherby is
first and foremost a cartridge for taking large game, the selection of proper bullets is
of utmost importance. The question as to a game animals size, weight and toughness
is, of course, primary but hardly the only consideration. The range at which the shot is
likely to be taken and, therefore, the bullets remaining velocity and energy
likewise places demands on the bullets construction.
If bullets are too thinly jacketed,
they are apt to disintegrate prematurely, especially if velocity is high and the animal
close; too heavily jacketed and it may zip right through without sufficient expansion.
For soft-skinned smaller species,
standard softnose bullets of proper weight have done well for me, but when a tough old
settler with wide beams or a shaggy bruin is the target, the modern premium big game
bullets of controlled expansion are worth their higher cost.
My choice has long included the
ever-reliable Nosler Partition bullets, along with Speers Grand Slam and Hornadys
InterLock, and Ive yet to have one of em let me down so will continue to use
them. Lately, though, theyve been joined by the versatile Swift Scirocco .30
calibers. Its newest 165-grain design is stoutly jacketed and a real speedster in the .300
Weatherby, a fine long-range bullet.
Presently, for really big stuff, my
choice would be either a Hornady 180-grain Spire Point InterLock or Speer Grand Slam of
same weight at longish ranges but, inside 200 yards where deep penetration is sought,
would favor Noslers 200-grain roundnose Partition. For elk in timber where flat
trajectory isnt needed, a 220-grain roundnose or semispitzer is worthy of
Back in 1971 the two powders, both slow
burners, Id found best suited to the .300 Weatherby were Hodgdons H-4831 and
Norma 205, the latter now gone. This time, in addition to such regular old numbers as
IMR-4350 and IMR-4831, it was determined to try the newer Reloder 19 and 22, Accurate Arms
XMR-3100 and IMR-7828 - again all slow burners - plus, of course, a rerun with the old
My plan was to approach maximum
charge levels, but in view of the fact that some modern rifles of this caliber may lack
Weatherbys freeboring, which has a direct effect on pressures developed, most of our
listed loads are slightly below maximum and in no event do they exceed those shown by one
or more recognized manuals.
Freeboring or long throating has the
effect of lowering pressures, so if this factor isnt present in your .300 Weatherby,
the better part of valor would be not to exceed my listed maximums!
Now with that cautionary note said,
my advice is still to start with loads at least 5 percent below those given here. Better
to work up than have to back down. Also, if your barrel is 24 inches, dont be
surprised when velocities fail to equal those obtained from 26-inch barrels, those longer
tubes making a considerable difference, especially with very slow-burning powders.
As the fastest burning of the
powders in this series, IMR-4350 wasnt paired with bullets heavier than 180 grains
(though usable with all weights) because of its tendency to increase pressures more
rapidly as compared to the slower burners, particularly with heavy bullets. Also, while
somewhat cleaner burning, accuracy with IMR-4350 didnt average as small as with the
slower burners in our rifle.
IMR-4831 was the first step in our
progression toward slower-burning powders and while not greatly different from IMR-4350
with 150- and 165-grain bullets, its action with heavier bullets was noticeable to the
extent that it was compatible with even the 200- and 220-grain bullets and is preferable
as an all-around powder in the .300 Weatherby, in my view.
Next up is RL-19, about the same
degree slower burning than IMR-4831 as the latter differs from IMR-4350. So again I used
slightly heavier charges. Seemingly not as popular with most authorities in the .300
Weatherby as its slower sibling RL-22, it is nevertheless a fine powder if not overloaded.
Do not exceed our listed loads of RL-19.
With Accurate Arms XMR-3100 we get
into the realm of really slow burners, and various barrels will begin to demonstrate an
individual preference, one way or the other, as to accuracy and/or velocity. Barrel
lengths of 26 inches show the slower burners to best advantage, though XMR-3100 does well
in this 24-inch barrel.
My loads of RL-22 are about maximum
in the test rifle, registering our highest velocities with 180- and 200-grain bullets, and
Id start a bit lower with another rifle. Even rifles of same make and caliber react
differently, as did my earlier .300 Weatherby that had accepted some loads I decided not to duplicate in this one.
Load levels with RL-22 and Hodgdons
H-4831 (not its new Short Cut H-4831) are much the same, and I must say these
two powders appeal to me as being about the best all-around in my rifle, covering all
weights of bullets from 150 to 220 grains, enabling a handloader to standardize on a
single powder, changing only the loads.
The slowest burning - IMR-7828 - by
contrast, was not used with bullets lighter than 180 grains, hence is primarily coupled
with heavy bullets where it performs its best.
A favorite all-around .300 Weatherby
load? Thats hard to pin down to a single combination of bullet and load, but let me
just say - based strictly on my rifle - a 180-grain Speer Grand Slam with 80 grains of
either H-4831 or RL-22. In another rifle, Id try 78-grain loads first before going
to 80. This further presumes bullets seated to the overall loaded lengths listed do not
contact the rifling origin as that would increase pressures.
Once the handloader has determined
which bullet, powder and load functions best in his rifle - and doesnt exceed
allowable pressures for that specific rifle - he should shoot often enough to become
accustomed to its recoil. The hunting field is no place to find hes recoil-shy!
Nor is it the time to discover that
handloaded rounds wont feed from the magazine and chamber readily, so before leaving
on a hunt best be sure to run each and every round from the magazine to the chamber.
The .300 Weatherby Magnum needs no improvement
in its role as a top cartridge for our large North American game. With properly strong
bullets well placed it offers hunters considerable advantages when ranges are long. Thirty
years use has only increased my respect for it.