|February - March 2000
Volume 35, Number
The Remington Model 700 .250-3000 features a custo
You dont hear much about the
.250 Savage lately. Overshadowed by more modern short-action cartridges like the .260
Remington and the 7mm-08 Remington, the .250-3000 Savage seems to have settled in somewhat
of a purgatory state. In fact it almost seems like there is a conspiracy against the old
warrior. Factory ammunition is just about gone, the selection of rifles has dwindled
dramatically and even now its hard to purchase unprimed brass without a special
In its time and around the turn of
the century, the .250-3000 was the first cartridge to break the 3,000-fps barrier. Granted
it was with a lighter 87-grain bullet, but it did give the added press hype needed to
launch a cartridge into greatness. Naturally, when it comes to the history of this
cartridge, there are different and varied opinions. Most folks credit the .250-3000 to
Charles Newton when actually Harvey Donaldson got the .250 Savage on its feet. I came upon
this information while researching another project.
According to Donaldson in his tome
Yours Truly, it was his experiments with .25-caliber wildcats that paved the way toward
the Savage. Additionally two men, Mr. A.O. Niedner and Dr. Franklin Mann were also working
on the cartridge, but it was the data worked up by Donaldson that gave Newton the
incentive to develop the .250-3000. However, the fly in the ointment was the case.
Let me quote an interesting
paragraph from Donaldsons book. It reads, . . . you should understand it was
Newtons idea to use the .30 Krag case necked down to .25 caliber but when he took
that design to the Savage company, they told him it was not possible to use a case with
such a large rim in the Savage (lever gun) magazine. It was then old Harv suggested
the .30-06 case. In addition, he advised cutting it off to whatever length it would
comfortably fit into the Model 99 action, add a slight taper to the case and cap it off
with an easy-to-feed, 30-degree shoulder. The .250 Savage was born. At the time, the .250
Savage took off like a rocket. Hunters in all walks of life took to it like bees to honey.
In fact some of my closet friends in Maine still swear by this cartridge and continue to
harvest deer in the thickets of the pine tree state. For deer-sized game its simply
hard to beat. Ask any man who owns one.
Even Elmer Keith liked the little
.250-3000, and he proclaimed the .250 Savage as the smallest cartridge in power that
I have considered as a long range cartridge for our big game. He raves about the
.250 but for the side of lightweight bullets in the 87-grain class. He goes on to say he
has shot mule deer with the Savage but on the whole most took two shots. He also notes
that at 300 yards the 100-grain bullet is a better choice, but sadly much of the explosive
effect is gone. I would think so considering the velocity of the 100-grain bullet in
the .250 Savage.
Townsend Whelen had much praise for
the .250 but with some reservations. He goes on to boast that one of his friends used
the 100 grain bullet for many years on deer, sheep and goats in British Columbia with very
fine results. Whelen continues gloating over the cartridge but finishes up on sort
of a negative note saying he thinks that a well informed rifleman would hardly chose
this cartridge (the .250 Savage now) because the .257 Roberts slightly excels it in every
respect. Slightly excels all right. In recent editions of various loading manuals
and personal experience, the difference with a 100-grain bullet loaded with IMR-4350
between a .250 Savage and the .257 Roberts is 122 fps with the Roberts using roughly 21
percent more powder.
In Philip Sharpes massive book Rifle in
America, he dotes on the potential accuracy of the .250 Savage. Like everyone else he is
happy to report the .250 is splendid on varmints and deer, that essentially the .250
Savage is a 200 yard cartridge but has a considerably longer actual range. He should
have stopped there, as I have trouble with the next sentence. He goes on to say that
Peters (the old ammunition company) recommends the accuracy range of 700 yards but
it is doubtful it could be made to perform in a satisfactory manner at such ranges.
It seems even then folks were
starting to hallucinate about pushing the distance envelope without even considering that
such practices rarely present themselves and that the large majority of hunters -
especially back then with the rifle sights available - were not fully capable of taking
game at such long ranges with bullets in the 100-grain class traveling at around 2,700
fps. Even today with the super magnums we have, 300 to 400 yards is really stretching it
for anyone but really seasoned or veteran hunters.
In any event, I think the final blow
for me came in a recent column by colleague Gil Sengel. He states in the August-September
1998 issue of Handloader (No. 194) that the demise of the .250 is really unfortunate
given the number of hunters who must be interested in our sport if it is to survive.
Gil hit it right on the money; but for those who might look the other way, there is no
better cartridge in terms of light recoil, accuracy and effectiveness with the range at
which most American deer hunters harvest their game every year.
With Gils comment in mind, I
was determined to build a showcase .250 Savage. Walking to my rifle rack, I spied a
Remington Model 700 in .250 Savage that was introduced to the shooting public in the early
1980s as part of Remingtons ongoing limited-edition classic series of rifles and
cartridges. While the stock on the rifle was run-of-the-mill production wood, I decided to
press this project farther.
I remembered a conversation with
Henry Pohl, now honcho of his own gun stocking firm, the Great American Stock Company
(3420 Industrial Drive, Yuba City CA 95993). Henry is from the old school; his
great-grandfather started the reputed firm of E.C. Bishop, an original on the American
scene when it came to stockmakers. While there, Henry built a fine rifle using a Mauser
action encased in a fancy piece of walnut chambered for the 7mm Mauser for me. At that
time they called it the Bishop Model 10, and I still have it in my rack.
Because we are dealing with a very
classic cartridge, I wanted a very classic stock. The Great American Gun Stock Company
lists what they call a Goudy classic stock; according to the literature and
later when Henry elaborated on the description, Gary Goudy actually built the original
patterns for this particular line of stocks. To add a little more credit to this whole
affair, the profile actually follows the same design he makes for all his custom rifle
customers. Naturally if you dont like this stock, the company has others in its
extensive catalog that will surely please your particular shooting tastes, all profiled in
many woods with states of completion from just inletted and profiled to completely
When the rifle arrived - usually 2
to 3 months for a fully dressed and completed stock with all the trimmings - the requests
I had laid out were followed precisely. The wood was fancy walnut, dark in tone with a
crotch feathering grain pattern on both sides of the butt section. Following this, the
grain structure turns into a fiddleback pattern as it makes its way toward the forend.
This should add to the integrity of the stock over the years, keeping a constant zero.
To spruce up the stock, I had asked
for an ebony forend tip with no spacer and cut to a 90-degree angle to match my other
custom rifles. Ditto on the pistol grip cap, in ebony also with no spacers. For
transporting the rifle in the field, flush-mounted QD bases were installed, and a Pachmayr
black pad was attached with a black spacer at my customary 13 1/2 inch length of pull.
Because the rifle had such an
outstanding grain pattern, a high-gloss finish was applied. A very elegant fine-line
checkering pattern in a fleur-de-lis style was added complete with ribbons by Mike Jenkins
(2295 Kathleen Way, Redding CA 96003). After Mike had received the stock, he was kind
enough to call for my input on the style and execution preferred. I told him he was free
to apply his artistic talent and experience. The layout fits the stock perfectly, and with
full coverage on the forearm, tang and pistol grip this rifle now took on the look of the
masters. To get it ready for the range and field work, Redfield bases, high-gloss Browning
rings to match the barreled action and a Bausch & Lomb 2.5-10x Balvar scope were
installed. With the trigger tweaked to 3 pounds and the scope bench sighted in, I moved on
to some handloading.
The only way to capture the versatility the
.250 Savage possesses is to load your own ammunition. Right now I believe Remington is the
only manufacturer to load the .250 Savage, and that presently only includes the 100-grain
load at around 2,800 fps. Thats great for deer and antelope hunters who either dont
have the time or interest to load their own, but for smaller game, varmint hunting and the
all-American accuracy nut, handloading is surely the only way to go.
Bullets are always a hard choice,
but weights from 60 grains (only from Hornady) to 75, 87, 90, 100, 117 and 120 grains are
available from Barnes, Hornady, Nosler, Sierra, Speer and Swift. In all probability the
.250-3000 is very handy with weights from 75 to 100 grains, so that puts it into the
varmint to deer class - exactly where it belongs. On the extreme end of the scales, the
lighter 60-grain bullet is a flatnosed affair from Hornady, and while it will reach 3,600
fps, my gut feeling is that just because of its design parameters I would find it limited
in my particular hunting circles. On the other hand, the 120-grain bullet would be more
practical at closer ranges than the 100 grain thereby making it popular with the wooded
areas of the eastern part of the country.
Since the .250 Savage is what most
call a medium-sized case, propellants on your shelf from H-4198 to IMR-4350 will find
favor. According to the masters, the Savage seems to thrive on IMR-3031 (many say this is
the propellant), H-380, IMR-4064 (veteran writer F.C. Ness was fond of this one) and
W-760. Primers are standard CCI 200s with CCI 250s doing the chores on such powders as the
newer AAC-2520, H-380 and W-760. At the bench, standard reloading practices apply and
nothing out of the ordinary ever surfaced.
Checking my shelves, I found an
ample supply of Winchester .250 Savage brass. Resizing all, then cleaning with a liquid
medium, case length was then checked. Although most came out of the box below the maximum
of 1.912 inches, they were all trimmed to 1.902 inches.
Bullets were pretty straightforward
with examples from Hornady, Sierra, Speer, Remington and Swift in all major weights
getting the nod. To bring the testing up to a bakers dozen, I added a few
reduced loads with 12.5 and 14.5 grains of SR-4759 plus the one factory load that was
topped off with Remingtons 100-grain pointed softpoint.
Reaching for an elderly set of
Pacific Durachrome dies and chucking them into an even older Pacific press for the sake of
nostalgia the process began. I havent seen too many new Savage loads with newer
powders like Accurate Arms 2520, so I picked three for the popular 75-, 87- and 100-grain
bullets. IMR-3031 was a favorite of some of the old-timers as was IMR-4064, so it was
added to the pile. Overall length of the cartridge with the bullet seated never went over
the maximum of 2.515 inches, and all dummy rounds chambered without incident.
Only one load out of the 10 tried
went over 2 inches: 38.0 grains of AAC-2520 over a CCI 250 Large Rifle Magnum primer.
While the velocity was the highest of the day, the obvious tradeoff was accuracy, but for
close quarters on smaller game that really represents no problems.
On the whole, velocity stayed in the
3,000-fps range for bullets in the 75-, 87- and 90-grain class with accuracy hovering
around 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 inches at 100 yards. For varmint or small game hunters, any of these
loads will deliver the goods with aplomb on all but the smallest of vermin at longer
distances. Velocities were all very close showing that powder match to case capacity were
right in line with the overall parameters of the .250 Savage.
For deer hunters, the 100-grain
offerings and above showed their net worth with IMR-3031 with groups that averaged under
1/2 inch with more than one shooting session. The veterans were right on when they said
IMR-3031 powder was the propellant for the .250 Savage. Another traditional powder,
IMR-4064, showed its stuff with 1 1/2-inch groups, and Accurates AAC-2520 brought
three shots down to under an inch. The Swift 120-grain bullet with its additional weight
slowed things down a bit to around 2,400 fps with an appropriate drop in accuracy. If I
had my druthers for deer at moderate ranges, the 100-grain bullet would be first choice.
A few reduced loads, courtesy of the
Speer book, were included that are great for plinking, hunting small game or just
educating newcomers to a big game rifle like the .250 Savage. They are extremely easy on
the shoulder, very accurate at 50 yards and, when loaded with a small tuft of cotton
tamped lightly over the SR-4759 powder charge, are amazingly consistent in the velocity
Finally a Remington factory load
topped off with a 100-grain bullet showed that handloading can increase accuracy over the
long haul. All cases were checked for pressure signs, of which there were none; all
ejected smoothly, and to simulate field conditions, all three rounds that made up the
groups were fed from the magazine - not single-shot style.
The .250 Savage combined with a rifle that
shoots well and feels good, thanks to a custom stock, still has a place in American
shooting circles. While other cartridges like the .25-06 Remington or .257 Weatherby might
overshadow it from time to time, the .250 Savage is still a classic cartridge worthy of