We will be taking a look at some old cartridges that I think should receive more recognition. I get it. We are being introduced to many new cartridges almost every year, and you are forgiven for thinking that new means good.
To be fair, the new cartridges are not bad, but I am saying that some old ones are not obsolete either. They are old, yes, but they have a respectable performance even by today’s standards. Some hunters and gun enthusiasts believe that some of these relics deserve a second chance to prove themselves to the new hunters, especially those who want a little bit of extra performance to help them anchor various-sized games.
With this in mind, I have here a list of six cartridges that I think you should at least try out once. Some of them might even be older than you. Let’s check them out.
Table of Contents
1. The .35 Whelen
If I have one chance to try and sell this to you in a sentence, I would tell you that the .35 Whelen packs more muzzle energy than the .30/06 or even the .300 Winchester Magnum. It can push a 200-grain bullet up to 2,900 fps (feet per second), which is enough to stop even a charging bear. Unfortunately, for some reason, the sales have not been groundbreaking but those who loved it, loved it dearly.
Nowadays, it might be difficult to find a brand-new rifle that chambers the .35 Whelen without modification. The problem is not finding the loads – there are plenty of them on the market. The trick is to find the rifle for it. If you can grab a good rifle for it, I guarantee you that you can anchor anything in North America.
2. The 307 Winchester
When you can hit targets from the other side of the football field, you would think that lever-action rifles would be falling out of fashion. Well, that is not true at all. There is just something about them that keeps people coming back for more. It could be sentimental, or just a gimmick that some people enjoy. There is nothing wrong with that.
In the 1980s, Winchester gave us the 307 Winchester cartridge for their 1894 Big Bore with side ejection so you can mount a scope up top. Just like that, the lever-action is no longer the 150-yard shooter anymore and hunters started using it for big-game animals such as moose and elk. Unfortunately, while the gun got some popularity, the cartridge did not receive much recognition since hunters usually opt for more modern options.
The thing is that with modern powder, the 307 Winchester can push a 150-grain bullet up to 2,700 fps. For comparison, this is about as good as the original .30/06 load. If you dig around a bit, you can still find a Winchester 94s in a fairly good condition, which you should consider picking up. But what I think we need right now is a more modern 94 in 307 Winchester. Maybe Federal will save this cartridge and include it in their HammerDown line. Who knows, but one thing for sure is that it is going to be forgotten if no one does anything soon.
3. The .30 Remington AR
As the name suggests, the cartridge is for the AR-15 platform and Remington brought it into public in 2008, bad timing. Everybody wanted an AR-15 but not for hunting, and the cartridge was for hunting. Early ads also mentioned that it had about 300-yard muzzle velocity and Remington even gave a blister-packaged complete upper receiver and mag so people can convert from an AR-15 in .223 Remington.
With this trainwreck launch aside, what is this cartridge really capable of? Well, it can push a 150-grain bullet to about 2,600 fps or 2,800 fps if you use a 125-grain bullet. Looking at the other AR-15 cartridges, you can immediately tell that this cartridge beats everything by a country mile. Considering that the AR-15 is still popular, the .30 Remington AR can still make a comeback and turn the AR-15 into a platform that hunters will ever need. Give it a try and maybe you will change your mind.
4. The .284 Winchester
If you look at this and think that this is the short magnum cartridge, you are absolutely correct. In fact, this is probably the first of its kind. It can push a 7mm bullet at over 3,000 fps. There is absolutely nothing wrong with it, and yet people are not really using it. Why?
Well, there are a couple of reasons. The first and probably the biggest one was that it was introduced for Winchester Model 88 and Model 100. Moreover, Remington’s 7mm Magnum came to the market about a year before it. Sadly, when people started to notice the .284 Winchester, Remington brought in the short-action 7mm-08, so chances are that you have never heard of this cartridge until now.
However, just because it is unheard of does not mean it is outdated. If you want a short-action rifle that can do just as well as long-rifle cartridges such as the .280 Remington or the .270 Winchester, then the .284 is the way to go. It has about 200 fps extra and has that flat trajectory. Winchester could have introduced this cartridge with their Model 70 bolt-action and the .284 would have been in a much better place. But that is not the case. Still, you can give this one a try.
5. The .264 Winchester Magnum
Recently, the 6.5 Creedmoor has gotten very popular in America, making it the first 6.5mm to be this popular. However, it is not the first 6.5mm cartridge. Even more interesting still, its muzzle velocity is not even the best compared to its older brothers such as the .264 Winchester Magnum.
How powerful was the .264 Magnum? Well, when Winchester released it, they claimed in the marketing that it makes a lot of noise and packs a mighty punch, and they were not lying. You get a 140-grain bullet capable of achieving 3,100 fps, which is nothing to scoff at. The Creedmoor pales in comparison when you look at the ballistic performance.
The downside here is that the .264 chews through your barrel after 1,500 rounds, but barrels are quite easy to replace and chances are that you are not going to fire all 1,500 rounds over the life of your rifle. It is one of the few cartridges out there that has a very flat trajectory that packs enough power to down big-game animals. You will wow the crowd if you bring it with you on the next hunting trip and the bang might silence the critics. Winchester definitely needs to bring this back and call it the 6.5 Winchester Magnum. With an improved twist rate, Winchester can make bank with this cartridge by riding on the success and popularity of the 6.5 Creedmoor.
Remington trimmed down the neck of a .30/06 to fire a .25-caliber bullet and called it the .25-06. It exploded in popularity as the best cartridges for varmints and big-game animals alike. What’s its performance? A 75-grain bullet can achieve a whopping 3,700 fps for small critters. If you are eyeing a larger game, a 120-grain bullet packs 3,000 fps. You would think that you would hear about something this powerful today, but it is now another forgotten cartridge. Why is that?
You see, the .25-06 gives something that many new hunters do not want. They need something specialized for their pursuits. For instance, if they are going after big game, they would pick up the 7mm Magnum or the .270 Winchester. If they want to pin varmints, the .22-250 Remington gives them just that without the strong recoil. What is the .25-06’s appeal in this market?
I would say that the best part of this forgotten cartridge is its flat trajectory and it is capable of anchoring both big- and small-game animals. So, this would be the perfect option for those hunters who want a cartridge that does it all.
And there you have it, folks. These are the six cartridges that I believe deserve a second chance in this day and age. Sure, they are quite old which is part of the reason why they are being forgotten. But I will say this again. Just because something is new does not mean it is going to be better. Sometimes, the old ones still do a good job and if that is the case, there is nothing wrong with sticking to them. Maybe you can try out some of these cartridges and you might perhaps contribute to the revival of some of these underappreciated cartridges.