The .260 Remington: Its Potential in the Henry Long Ranger Rifle
By Gary Zinn with Chuck Hawks
When the Henry Repeating Arms Co. (www.henryusa.com) introduced its modern Long Ranger lever action carbine, we immediately saw the potential for it to be chambered for short action cartridges beyond the .223 Remington, .243 Winchester and .308 Winchester that were initially announced. The folks at Henry Arms also realize the rifle's promise and they told us it would be offered in additional cartridges in the future.
The Long Ranger design is amenable to chambering any modern, high intensity cartridge that does not exceed the .308 Winchester's C.O.L. of 2.810 inches and rim diameter of 0.473 inch. Therefore, any cartridge that is based on the .308 Winchester case is a potential chambering in the Long Ranger, as are some other short action cartridges not based on that case (e.g., the .223 Remington, 6mm Remington and .257 Roberts).
Our initial suggestion for an additional chambering was the .257 Roberts, as detailed in The .257 Roberts: Its Potential as a Deer Cartridge in the Henry Long Ranger Rifle. We feel the Long Ranger chambered in .257 Roberts will be an excellent choice for hunting deer and similar Class 2 game, since the cartridge has good range and killing power with very mild recoil.
Our second suggestion for inclusion in the Long Ranger was the .338 Federal, as explained in The .338 Federal: Its Potential in the Henry Long Ranger Rifle. The .338 Federal is a fine, general purpose, medium bore cartridge that combines a relatively flat trajectory with the power to harvest all Class 3 game.
Our third suggestion for a potential Henry Long Ranger cartridge was the .358 Winchester, in The .358 Winchester: Its Potential in the Henry Long Ranger Rifle. The .358 Win. is a medium velocity cartridge well suited for use in a fast handling carbine with a 20 inch barrel. It is one of the best woods cartridges ever devised for hunting a combination of Class 2 (deer and black bear size) and Class 3 (elk size) big game.
Choosing a 6.5mm cartridge for the Henry Long Ranger rifle
Beyond the cartridges already chambered in the Long Ranger and the three cartridges we have proposed, only the 6.5mm and 7mm bore sizes remain to be explored for possible inclusion in a family of Long Ranger rifles. North American shooters and hunters have finally embraced the 6.5mm/.264 caliber, which is becoming a hot item. (We like to think the many Guns and Shooting Online articles about the caliber over the years has had something to do with this.)
For a 6.5 mm cartridge, the choice comes down to the .260 Remington or the 6.5 Creedmoor. Either of these will fit in the Long Ranger action, but the equally capable 6.5x55 SE, with a maximum C.O.L. of 3.15 inches, will not.
The Henry company would not go wrong by chambering the Long Ranger rifle in either of these 6.5mm cartridges, since they produce very similar ballistics with the most common bullet weights. Our preference, though, would be the .260 Remington chambered in a Long Ranger with 22 inch barrel and 1 in 8 inch rifling twist rate.
Ultimately, this preference is based on ballistics data evidence that the .260 Rem., with a slightly larger case capacity, gets somewhat better performance with 140 grain or heavier bullets than does the 6.5 Creedmoor. We recommend the 1 in 8 twist, because it will stabilize 140 to 160 grain hunting bullets slightly better than would a slower twist.
The Performance of Selected .260 Remington Loads
.260 Rem. factory loads are currently offered by Hornady, HMS, Black Hills, Federal, Nosler, Barnes and Remington using 120, 129-130 and 140 grain hunting bullets. The cartridge is also capable of handling bullet weights up to 160 grains, so a heavy bullet handload is included in this performance summary, along with selected 120, 129 and 140 grain factory loads.
The specifications and external ballistics of these loads are summarized below. The +/- 3 inch maximum point blank range (MPBR) and zero distances are rounded to the nearest five yards. All muzzle velocity (MV) figures are adjusted/estimated for a 22 inch barrel length.
Chuck Hawks and I normally use the Guns and Shooting Online Rifle Cartridge Killing Power Formula to calculate downrange Killing Power Scores (KPS values). The formula uses downrange impact energy, bullet sectional density and bullet cross-sectional area to calculate the killing power of hunting loads at any range desired. (The cross-sectional area of a .264 inch diameter bullet is 0.0547 sq. in.) For a given load, the formula is:
KPS at y yards = (Impact Energy at y yards) x (sectional density x cross-sectional area), or simply:
KPS = E x (SD x A)
Based on research and experience, Chuck considers a KPS of 12.5 the minimum score for any deer cartridge, while I prefer a 15 KPS minimum for Class 2 game in general. A KPS score somewhere in the 30s is probably a reasonable figure for most Class 3 game, although less powerful cartridges/loads have long been used successfully.
Federal Fusion load w/120 grain SPBT bullet: SD .246, MV 2910 fps, MPBR 280 yards (zero at 240 yards)
I can vouch that 120 grain .260 Rem. loads are excellent for hunting Whitetail deer. I have owned a Ruger Model 77 Mark II rifle chambered in .260 Rem. since 2003. It has felled six or seven deer (I do not recall which), all with 120 grain loads. All have been one shot kills, with the deer down right where shot or moving only a few yards before dropping.
The latest two victims of my .260 came last fall. I loaned my rifle, with two boxes of Federal Fusion 120 grain cartridges, to my eldest nephew for use by his twelve year old grandson. The boy took his first deer with the rifle and load and the following day his father got one using the same rifle and cartridge. They fired one shot each. My nephew, who was unfamiliar with the .260 Rem., was impressed with its mild shooting, yet deadly effective performance. (He is a long time .270 Winchester man, but may be rethinking this.)
The .260 will handle heavier loads, but I see no need to use anything but 120 grain loads with suitable bullets on light to medium weight Class 2 game.
Hornady Superformance load w/129 grain SST bullet: SD .264, MV 2890 fps, MPBR 285 yards (zero at 245 yards)
Hornady Superformance loads are designed to get the most performance possible out of selected cartridge/bullet weight combinations. This load is an example. A 129 grain 6.5mm bullet driven at nearly 2900 fps from a 22 inch barrel is a hot load, with a KPS 18 percent greater than the 120 grain load above at 100 yards and 22 percent greater at 200 yards.
This load has plenty of power for use on all Class 2 game. The 100 yard Hornady HITS score of this load is 919, which nudges into the Class 3 game category. (A HITS score of 901 is the baseline for Class 3 or large game in the HITS system.) Thus, a 129 or 130 grain .260 Rem. load is arguably suitable for lighter Class 3 game (over 300 pounds). I am not pushing this; if I were hunting Class 3 game with a .260 Rem., I would stoke it with 140 grain or heavier bullets.
Federal Vital-Shok load w/140 grain Sierra GKBT bullet: SD .287, MV 2710 fps, MPBR 270 yards (zero at 230 yards)
Chuck Hawks considers loads with 140 grain bullets to be the .260 Rem. money loads and I concur. First, the .287 sectional density of this bullet weight implies deep penetration, even on thick bodied, heavily muscled creatures. Further, the HITS and KPS scores of this load indicate Class 3 suitability, at least within about 100 yards. The 100 yard HITS score of the load is 1017, comfortably into the large game range on the HITS scale, while the KPS values of this load run roughly a point higher than those of the 129 grain load above.
I have thought long and hard about what the numbers indicate, and I can see no reason why a load with this bullet size, weight and power would be inadequate for hunting Class 3 game up to, say, roughly 600 pounds (e.g., elk). Never try to stretch a shot beyond the MPBR of the load, though. Better yet, keep the shooting distance within the far zero range.
Reload w/160 grain Hornady RN bullet: SD .328, MV 2560 fps, MPBR 240 yards (zero at 205 yards)
Currently, no one is offering a .260 Rem. factory load with 156 to 160 grain bullets. I list this reload as a nod to the road tested, heavy bullet loads in the 6.5x55 SE, which can be duplicated in the .260 Remington. I went straight to the Hornady Handbook of Cartridge Reloading (9th ed.), where four powder charges are listed as getting 2600 fps MV with a Hornady 160 grain RN bullet. This velocity was with a 24 inch test barrel, so I adjusted it to 2560 fps for a 22 inch barrel.
The 100 yard, 200 yard, and MPBR KPS values of this load are in the neighborhood of those for the 140 grain load summarized. The 100 yard HITS of this load is 1186, which along with a very high SD of .328, says that this heavy 6.5mm load is a pile driver at moderate ranges.
In Scandinavia, the 6.5x55 SE is the equivalent of the .30-30 Winchester or .30-06 in North America; i.e., these are cartridges that savvy hunters have been using to shoot anything worth shooting for over a century. 6.5x55 loads with 155 to 160 grain bullets have long been popular with Scandinavian hunters and have been used routinely to hunt critters as large as Scandinavian moose and even polar bear, both of which are normally shot at fairly short range.
Lapua lists a 155 grain 6.5x55 load with a stated MV of 2559 fps from a 29 inch barrel and Norma has a 156 grain load at 2560 fps MV (barrel length not stated, but I would bet 24 inches). I conclude that similar heavy bullet loads in a .260 Remington with a 22 inch barrel would be effective on Class 3 game weighing up to 900 pounds or so. Just do not try to shoot a moose in the next county or township.
6.5mm bullets weighing 155 grains (Lapua), 156 grains (Norma) and 160 grains (Hornady, Woodleigh) are available to the reloader. I already mentioned that the Hornady Handbook lists four recipes getting 2600 fps MV with 160 grain bullets from a 24 inch barreled .260 Rem. and the Hodgdon Reloading Data site also lists several loads that approach that velocity. Anyone who is a competent reloader can build a heavy .260 Rem. load.
Reduced recoil load
I would be remiss if I did not mention that Remington offers a .260 Rem. Managed Recoil load (140 grain Core-Lokt PSP bullet, MV 2360 fps). This may be a reduced power load, but it still gets a quite respectable MPBR of 235 yards, with Class 2 game killing power at that range. By comparison, a Remington standard power factory load with a 140 grain bullet at 2750 fps MV has a MPBR of 270 yards. The reduced load is only 13% shorter in range than the full power load.
The main effect of the reduced load is to drop recoil from 15.2 ft. lbs. (standard load) to 10.4 ft. lbs. (both in an 8.0 pound rifle). This 32% reduction in recoil makes the .260 feel similar to a .243 Winchester load with a 95 or 100 grain bullet, but the .260 is shooting a deep penetrating, highly lethal, 140 grain bullet.
This load is effective for anyone who is recoil sensitive and prefers a larger caliber bullet than .243 for deer and pronghorn hunting. Using Managed Recoil loads in a .260 Long Ranger rifle would be an excellent way to start a beginning hunter, as they would have the option of moving up to full power loads should they later have the opportunity to hunt larger or tougher animals.
Without getting into detailed numerical ballistic comparisons, here is my summary of the performance range of the .260 Remington. Loaded with 120 grain bullets, it will pretty much do what the .257 Roberts +P or the .25-06 Remington can do with 117 to 120 grain bullets. Using 129-130 grain cartridges, the .260 is arguably a "light" version of the legendary 130 grain .270 Winchester load. The .260 with 140 grain loads performs close to the 7mm-08 Remington with the same weight bullets and moves the caliber into the "all-around" category. Finally, a .260 hand loaded with 155 to 160 grain bullets will perform well on even large Class 3 game at moderate distances, despite its small bore size. (The secret being the very high sectional density of these bullets).
Chuck Hawks and I corresponded quite a bit about this article. In one of his e-mails to me, he summarized the .260 Remington cartridge very nicely:
"I think the .260 Rem. and the 6.5x55mm SE may be the best Class 2 game cartridges (and Class 3 in a pinch) ever invented. The 6.5s are more versatile than the .30-30 (a great cartridge in its own right) and kick less than pretty much any other cartridges worthy of an occasional Class 3 hunt. They combine long range capability, light recoil and excellent killing power."
The Henry Long Ranger Rifle
Despite the current interest in and commercial promotion of long range shooting, most North American big game animals are still shot within 100 yards and the accuracy of the average hunter in the field has been demonstrated to fall off drastically beyond about 150 yards. Although dozens of brands and hundreds of individual rifle models are offered today, no lever action rifle has ever been offered in .260 Remington.
However, a Henry Long Ranger rifle in .260 Remington makes a lot of sense for the savvy hunter. (Note that it is suitable for both right and left handed shooters, unlike bolt guns.) Here is how we summarized the Henry Long Ranger in our recent Guns and Shooting Online review:
"The Long Ranger is an ideal woods rifle, as it has a fast, smooth, rack and pinion action with a six lug, front locking, rotary bolt. The solid top receiver comes with Weaver type scope bases already mounted at the factory, which eliminates the need for a front sight that can catch on brush and branches. Detachable, steel sling swivel studs and a contoured, effective recoil pad are standard equipment."
"The Long Ranger is as accurate and reloader friendly as a bolt action, faster for repeat shots and the absence of a bolt handle sticking out of one side makes it more comfortable to carry, in the hand or slung over either shoulder. It balances between the hands and points naturally. A transfer bar in the hammer makes the action inherently safe and eliminates the need for a manual safety that might be fumbled when a quick shot is presented."
Recall that we want a .260 Remington Long Ranger rifle with a 22 inch barrel (for ballistic performance). I really like my Ruger bolt action .260 and Chuck likes his Remington bolt action .260 Mountain Rifle, but we agree the nimble handling, fast cycling Henry Long Ranger, set up as indicated, would be an even better hunting rifle for most purposes.
The .260 Remington, 6.5mm Creedmoor and 6.5x55mm SE generate virtually identical recoil with same-weight bullets at the same velocity from rifles of the same weight. The larger significance of this versatile, flat shooting, non-magnum trio, where recoil is concerned, is that they generate the lowest levels of recoil to be found among modern cartridges that can legitimately be considered "all-around" (suitable for both Class 2 and Class 3 game with proper loads and bullet placement).
To estimate the recoil of the .260 Rem. loads featured in this article, I browsed load data tables to find powder charge weights that would produce the indicated velocity in each bullet weight. For a firearm weight, I relied on the Guns and Shooting Online review of the Henry Long Ranger in .308 Winchester caliber. The rifle, fitted with a Leopold VX-R 2-7x33mm scope, weighed 8-3/4 pounds. Plugging the bullet weights, MVs, powder charges and firearm weight into a recoil calculator yielded these results for the .260 Remington loads.
For comparison, here are estimated recoil levels for two very popular cartridges and loads, also in 8-3/4 pound rifles.
As my nephew remarked after seeing the .260 Remington in action, "It doesn't kick much."
The Henry Long Ranger is comfortable to carry, handy and allows a quick repeat shot when needed. This modern lever action rifle was specifically designed for short action (.308 length) cartridges. The versatile .260 Remington cartridge, chambered in the Long Ranger rifle, would be a new ball game for hunters of Class 2 and (occasionally) Class 3 game animals.
Copyright 2017 by Gary Zinn and/or chuckhawks.com. All rights reserved.