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GUNS Magazine May 2010 - Page 22
HANDLOADING • JOHN BARSNESS • ENdURING PoWER The .300 Winchester Magnum. he .300 Winchester Magnum appeared in 1963 when Winchester T firearms and Winchester-Western Ammunition were parts of the same company. The year is considered a fateful one by most Winchester fans, because it was the last year the “pre-’64” Model 70 was produced. In 1964 the rifle was changed in several ways to make it more profitable (Winchester had been losing on every Model 70 sold for several years), but their rejuvenation plan didn’t work, because few shooters liked the new Model 70. Some didn’t like the new cartridge either, especially older shooters who hated the relatively short case neck, mostly because it meant heavier bullets “intruded” into the powder space. This supposedly cut into the new round’s ballistic potential, though in reality powder space is powder space, even when it occurs around a bullet’s base. Apparently the same shooters hadn’t noticed heavier bullets also protruded well below the long neck of the .300 Weatherby Magnum. Springfields. A large part of the shooting industry revolved around such rifles, including semi-inletted, unfinished stocks that could be home-fitted to 98 Mausers and ’03 Springfields, in part thanks to the miracle of epoxy bedding. Winchester-Western was well aware of this huge market, so designed all three of Winchester’s original belted magnums to fit in a .30-06-length magazine. At the time the hunting world was going magnum-crazy, partly because of Roy Weatherby’s cartridges—and Roy Weatherby’s skill at public relations. Not everybody could afford a Weatherby rifle, but garage gunsmiths could afford to buy a surplus Springfield and rechamber it to .300 Winchester Magnum, and fit a Weatherby-style stock from Fajen or Herter’s. This is the Winchester designers put together; a .300 Magnum as close to a .300 Weatherby as possible, but only as long as a .30-06. The round simply had to have a belt, because all magnums did back in those days. Can you imagine the reaction if the .300 Winchester Magnum appeared today? Of course it wouldn’t, because nobody puts “useless” belts on new magnums anymore, just as nobody sporterizes 1903 Springfields in their garage. Sporterizing Craze However, there was an excellent reason for the long body and short neck of the .300 Winchester Magnum. Even in 1963 many shooters were still buying low-priced military-surplus rifles and converting them to sporters. I started hunting big game in the mid1960s and the majority of my father’s hunting buddies carried “sporterized” military rifles, including two guys who’d restocked and otherwise modified 1903 Enduring Somehow though, the .300 Winchester Magnum survived both its design and the post-64 Model 70, becoming the most popular .300 Magnum in the world. This was largely because any company that made a bolt-action .30-06 could make a .300 Winchester Magnum. Plus, in 1963 the round’s only competitors were the just-about-dead .300 H&H and the expensive .300 Weatherby, both far too long to fit in .30-06-length magazines. Oh, and the “foreign” .308 Norma Magnum, a round a few rifle loonies drag out now and then as the No. 1 exhibit of what the .300 Winchester Magnum should have been, because the .308 Norma has a longer neck. Of course, this also means it has less powder room, irrelevant to technical nitpickers. this6-pointbullelkwastakenwitha.300WinchesterMagnumat75yards,butthecartridgewill alsoreachouttomuchlongerranges,makingitamongthemostversatileroundsforbiggame hunting. 22 WWW.GUNSMAGAZINE.COM • MAY 2010