The .358 Winchester: Its Potential in the Henry Long Ranger Rifle
By Chuck Hawks with Gary Zinn
When the Henry Repeating Arms Co. (www.henryusa.com) introduced its modern Long Ranger lever action carbine, Guns and Shooting Online Editor Gary Zinn and I 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 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.
One of the nice things about the Henry Long Ranger is that, even in carbine form, it is not a lightweight rifle. The .308 Henry Long Ranger with a 20 inch barrel reviewed by Guns and Shooting Online weighed 8.75 pounds (empty) with a Leupold VX-R 2-7x33mm scope and mounts. It has the mass to be offered in medium bore cartridges without kicking the shooter's hat off.
While the initial version of the Long Ranger is a carbine with a 20 inch barrel, we wrote we would like to see the .338 Federal introduced in a rifle (22 inch barrel) version of the Long Ranger, to take advantage of its relatively high velocity and also to dampen recoil and muzzle blast. The .223 Remington, .243 Winchester, .257 Roberts and .308 Winchester are also relatively high velocity cartridges with good long range potential. They would also profit from inclusion in a Long Ranger with a 22 inch barrel. (We would actually like to see the .257 and .308 offered in both 20 inch carbine and 22 inch rifle Long Ranger versions.)
Our third suggestion for a potential Henry Long Ranger cartridge is the subject of this article, the .358 Winchester. 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. Its relatively fat, heavy bullets at medium velocity, especially if flat or round nose design, get through brush, twigs and minor obstructions about as well as a woods or brush country hunter could ask and considerably better than small bore, high velocity bullets.
The .358 Win. handles 180 grain, 200 grain, 220 grain, 225 grain and 250 grain bullets quite well, but it is the 220-225 grain bullets that I prefer for hunting Class 3 game. (Of course, a .358/220 grain bullet in the lungs will also make deer into venison pretty effectively.)
The .358 is a very efficient cartridge and it really slaps animals down at woods ranges. Although only about 1/4 inch longer than the .35 Remington, it operates at higher pressure and is much more effective.
I handload the 220 grain Speer FP bullet at around 2400 fps, which is easily obtainable with several powders. This is a bullet I have used since the middle 1960s in both the .350 Rem. Mag. and (more recently) in the .358 Winchester. I can guarantee it has plenty of penetration.
The old 200 grain Winchester Silvertip factory load (since discontinued) seemed to expand more readily than the 220 grain Speer Hot-Cor bullet. You should have seen the hole the former blew through a 100 pound feral hog. You could literally shove your fist through the exit wound in the rib cage.
The Performance of Selected .358 Winchester Loads
.358 Win. factory loads are currently offered by Hornady, Buffalo Bore and Doubletap using 180, 200 and 225 grain bullets. The Winchester Super-X 200 grain Power Point factory load was recently discontinued, nearly at the end of the Obama inspired ammunition shortage. As this is written (Spring 2017) the ammunition manufacturers are finally beginning to catch up with demand, so I hope it will be reinstated.
Most .358 Winchester fans are also reloaders, so to illustrate the performance of the cartridge I am going to use two factory loads and a handload:
The first factory load is the Hornady Custom line offering with a 200 grain InterLock Spire Point bullet at an advertised muzzle velocity (MV) of 2475 fps from a 24 inch rifle barrel, corrected to 2435 fps for a 20 inch carbine barrel.
The second factory load is the Buffalo Bore Premium Supercharged .358 Win. offering using a 225 grain Barnes TSX bullet at an advertised MV of 2500 fps from a 22 inch barrel, corrected to 2480 fps for a 20 inch barrel.
The reload uses a 220 grain Speer Hot-Cor Flat Point bullet at a MV of 2400 fps from a 20 inch barrel.
Load specifications and external ballistics of these three loads are summarized below. The +/- 3 inch maximum point blank range (MPBR) and zero distances are rounded to the nearest five yards.
Gary Zinn 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 .358 inch diameter bullet is 0.1007 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 my research and experience, I consider a KPS of 12.5 the minimum score for any deer cartridge, while Gary prefers a 15 KPS minimum. A KPS of around 32 is probably a reasonable figure for Class 3 game, although less powerful cartridges/loads have long been used successfully.
Hornady factory load w/200 grain SP bullet: SD .223, MV 2435 fps, MPBR 230 yards (zero at 195 yards)
Buffalo Bore factory load w/225 grain Barnes TSX bullet: SD .251, MV 2480 fps, MPBR 240 yards (zero at 205 yards)
Reload w/220 grain Speer FP bullet: SD .245, MV 2400 fps, MPBR 225 yards (zero at 195 yards)
All three of these loads are adequate for Class 2 animals to well beyond their MPBR. The 200 grain Hornady factory load is adequate for Class 3 game at its MPBR, while the 220 grain Speer reload and 225 grain Buffalo Bore factory load retain adequate killing power for Class 3 game beyond their MPBR, always assuming you get the bullet into the vitals. However, neither Gary nor I ever recommend shooting beyond the MPBR of one's cartridge and load.
The most potent of the three loads is the Buffalo Bore 225 grain TSX offering. Buffalo Bore unequivocally states their .358/225 grain TSX load:
"Can be used on ANY North American big game at ANY angle. The 225 grain TSX out penetrates typical 250 grain premium partition .358 bullets, but gives the higher velocities, lower recoil and flatter trajectories of a 225 grain bullet. If you desire the flexibility of taking very large and dangerous NA big game at raking angles or at straight away shots, this TSX load delivers."
The Henry Long Ranger Carbine
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, only one other production rifle (a lightweight model that kicks pretty hard) is currently offered in .358 Winchester caliber.
Given these facts, a Henry Long Ranger Carbine in .358 Winchester makes a lot of sense for the woods hunter. (Note that it is suitable for both right and left handed shooters.) Here is how I 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."
Powerful medium bore cartridges like the .358 Winchester generate more recoil than standard (non-magnum), small bore cartridges on the order of the .308 Winchester. This is a fact that cannot be denied and I am convinced it is why very few medium bore cartridges have ever become popular with North American hunters. (The .338 Win. Mag. is the only medium bore to appear in top 10 selling cartridge lists.)
The .308 Win. and .358 Win. cases have essentially the same powder capacity, but the .358 typically shoots heavier bullets, which results in increased recoil. Still, the .358 is a relatively moderate-kicking medium bore cartridge, as the following figures for recoil energy in 8.5 pound rifles from the Expanded Rifle Recoil Table show (In order of increasing recoil).
With 200-220 grain bullets the recoil energy of the .358 is similar to that of the popular .30-06/180 grain load. With both bullet weights the .358's recoil is less than the 20 ft. lbs. often cited as the maximum the average shooter can stand over time without developing an accuracy destroying flinch.
The Henry Long Ranger with a 20 inch barrel 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. Both the .358 Winchester cartridge and the Henry Long Ranger carbine are naturals for the woods and brush country hunter of Class 2 and Class 3 game animals.
Copyright 2017 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.