The Weatherby Mark V Deluxe .257 W.M.
By Chuck Hawks
Roy Weatherby introduced the Mark V Magnum bolt action rifle in 1957. This ground breaking achievement was designed specifically for the high pressures at which the Weatherby belted magnum cartridges operated, and would elevate the Weatherby company to the status of a major player in the rifle business.
The Mark V Magnum action was designed for maximum strength, and indeed it was billed as the world's strongest action, a title it still claims today. The Mark V action has proven capable of standing pressures up to 200,000 CUP. At the heart of the design was the concept of three rings of steel surrounding the cartridge head: the recessed bolt face, contoured barrel breech, and front receiver ring. The Mark V receiver is made from a single chrome-moly or stainless steel forging and incorporates an integral recoil lug.
Instead of two massive locking lugs the Mark V Magnum's forged and machined bolt has nine small ones arranged in groups of three. The total shear area is much greater than with two conventional lugs, and the arrangement and spacing allows a short 54 degree bolt lift. This makes it easier for the bolt handle to clear a low mounted scope and permits faster operation.
The one-piece bolt body is fluted and there is a shroud at the rear of the bolt to prevent escaping gas from exiting from the rear of the bolt into the shooter's face in the event of a blown case. There are three gas escape ports in the side of the bolt to let gas escape in a safe direction.
The bolt face is smaller in diameter than the main body of the bolt, which is the same diameter as the locking lugs. This means less slop when the bolt is operated than with most other bolt action rifles. A Weatherby Mark V Magnum action feels smooth and precise compared to Mauser pattern bolt actions. It is a heavy action, but it exudes quality. The extractor is a flush-fitting claw at the front of the bolt, and the ejector is of the plunger variety in the bolt face. At the range you can single load cartridges directly into the chamber without running them through the magazine.
There is also a newer version of the Mark V action designed for standard (.30-06 size) cartridges. It is identical to the magnum action in virtually every way except that it is shorter, narrower, and lighter. Its bolt has 6 locking lugs arranged in pairs instead of nine lugs, but conceptually and in quality it is the same, with the same 54 degree bolt lift, and the other features described above.
The magazine floorplate of all Mark V Deluxe rifles swings open to dump the cartridges from the magazine without having to cycle them through the action. The floorplate latch takes a good bite on the floorplate to insure that it stays closed under heavy recoil, and the release is mounted in the front of the trigger guard.
Another nice touch is the two position safety that locks the bolt closed when engaged, a good feature that can prevent a snagged bolt from opening accidentally in the field. The safety locks the striker and disengages the sear. It is very quiet in operation. There is also a cocking indicator at the rear of the bolt so that the shooter can tell at a glance if the rifle is cocked.
The trigger is factory set for a release weight of four pounds and is commendably clean and free of creep. It is easily adjusted for weight of pull, without any disassembly, by means of a small Allen screw in the front of the trigger. It is also internally adjustable for sear engagement.
Weatherby Mark V magnum barrels are hammer-forged with application specific crowns. Rifles in .240 Wby. Mag. come with 24 inch barrels. At one time 24 inch barrels were also available for most other Weatherby Magnum calibers, but these have been discontinued. All barrels for Weatherby Magnum cartridges from the .257 to the .340 are 26 inches in length. The .378, .416, and .460 Magnums come with 28 inch barrels (measurement includes Accubrake). An Accubrake muzzle brake is standard on calibers .378, .416, and .460 Weatherby Magnum. It is optional for all other Weatherby calibers.
Standard (non-Weatherby) calibers are supplied with 24 inch Krieger Criterion barrels. These famous custom barrels are button rifled and use three different crown configurations.
The most distinctive feature of any Weatherby rifle is its unique Monte Carlo stock. Perhaps no other stock has so influenced modern rifle stock design. The Weatherby stock was designed specifically for powerful magnum calibers, and it handles magnum recoil very well indeed. Its comb slants down from back to front so that recoil moves the comb away from the shooter's face. Weatherby Deluxe stocks incorporate a cheek piece and a small amount of cast-off for quicker and more precise mounting. The butt area is generous, and the recoil pad is soft and of top quality (currently a Pachmayr Decelerator). The pistol grip has a fairly tight curve and a flared cap for maximum control. The forearm is cleverly shaped and tapers in three dimensions for a very secure grip under heavy recoil. The bottom of the forearm is essentially flat so that it is easy to shoot from a rest. The Weatherby stock became the prototype for all subsequent "California" style stocks. (From 1945-1995 the Weatherby Company was headquartered in South Gate, California. In 1995 Weatherby relocated to Atascadero, California.)
Weatherby's wood stocks are reinforced with a steel bar in the pistol grip, and steel pins are located throughout the action mortise and epoxied in place to increase structural integrity. The Mark V Deluxe model, the quintessential Weatherby rifle, features a select Claro walnut stock with a rosewood forearm tip and grip cap set off by line spacers made from thin slices of maplewood. The pistol grip and forearm are checkered in a French skip-line point pattern, and there is a maplewood diamond inlay in the pistol grip cap. A durable high gloss finish shows off the wood to maximum advantage.
It is a strikingly handsome stock, but the careful observer will also note that the inletting and bedding are very precisely done. There are no wood to metal gaps, and the barrel is not free floating. Although they are showpieces, Mark V Deluxe rifles are made to be hunted. The signature stock is not only attractive but is also eminently practical, as has been proven in game fields around the world.
The standard stock dimensions for the majority of Weatherby magnum calibers are 13 5/8 inches length of pull, 3/4 inch drop at comb, 3/8 inch drop at Monte Carlo, and 1 3/8 inches drop at heel. The .378, .416, and .460 Wby. Mag. calibers have a length of pull of 13 7/8 inches, drop at comb of 7/8 inch, drop at Monte Carlo of 3/8 inch, and drop at heel of 1 3/8 inches. The stocks for the .240 Weatherby Magnum and all standard caliber rifles are similar to those for the majority of Weatherby Magnum calibers, but have 1 1/8 inches of drop at heel. This variation in stock dimensions illustrates how Weatherby fine tunes their stocks for different applications.
The Mark V Deluxe is offered in standard calibers .22-250 Remington, .243 Winchester, .25-06 Remington, .270 Winchester, 7mm-08 Remington, .280 Remington, .308 Winchester, and .30-06 Springfield. Of course, the Deluxe is also chambered for the line of Weatherby belted magnum calibers, including the .240, .257, .270, 7mm, .300, .340, .378, .416, and .460.
Cartridge capacity is 5+1 for most standard calibers (and the .240 Wby. Mag.), 3+1 for Weatherby Magnum calibers from .257 to .340, and 2+1 for the .378, .416, and .460 Weatherby Magnums. The overall length of Mark V Deluxe rifles is 44 inches for all calibers with 24 inch barrels, 46 5/8 inches for all calibers with 26 inch barrels, 48 5/8 inches for .378 and .416 Wby. Mag. caliber rifles, and 48 3/4 inches for .460 Wby. Mag. caliber rifles.
In the early years the Mark V rifles were manufactured by J. P. Sauer and Sohn in Germany. Subsequently, and for many years, they were produced in Japan by Miroku, who has also made fine guns for Browning and Charles Daly. In 1995 production was moved to the United States. Regardless of country of manufacture the standards of quality, assembly, fit, finish, and accuracy have remained at the same high standard. Suggested retail price for a Mark V Deluxe rifle began at $1649 for standard calibers in 2002.
Many options are available for Mark V rifles through the Weatherby Custom Shop. These include engraved floorplates, receivers, and bolt sleeves (patterns 6/3/1); custom stock checkering or carving; inlays in the forearm, buttstock and grip cap; a selection of recoil pads or a checkered butt with a skeleton buttplate; damascened bolt and magazine follower, and other options. They will also completely refinish (both wood and metal) a customer's used rifle at a relatively modest cost.
Weatherby is the only company to offer an accuracy guarantee on a production rifle. Weatherby guarantees that every Mark V rifle will deliver 1.5 inch or smaller three shot groups at 100 yards from a cold barrel using Weatherby factory loaded ammunition. As a practical matter, most Mark V rifles will deliver considerably smaller groups right out of the box.
I was a teenager when I first saw a Weatherby Mark V Deluxe rifle, which happened to be a .257 Weatherby Magnum. I thought it was the most beautiful rifle I had ever seen. Such a rifle was, of course, way out of my price class.
During most of my formative youth there was a considerable back-lash from the more conservative gun writers against the "California" (read Weatherby) school of stock design. They were pushing what has become the modern classic stock, also a fine and attractive style, and lighter rifles with shorter barrels. So it happened that for about 40 years I never owned a Weatherby rifle.
Not long ago, however, my interest in owning a Weatherby Mark V Deluxe rifle was rekindled. Long and sometimes painful experience has taught me that magnum rifles need to have some weight to dampen recoil. Short barrels rob magnum calibers of the high velocity that is their reason for existence, and greatly increase muzzle blast. Weatherby owners, who ought to know, had been saying for decades that the Weatherby stock design was very functional and handled recoil better than traditional stocks. Certainly longer barrels and more weight made sense for magnum rifles. I began to think that maybe the folks at Weatherby knew what they were about.
At some point I decided that I should find out for myself, and I started looking for a good deal on a used Mark V Deluxe rifle in .240, .257, .270, or 7mm Weatherby Magnum caliber. (I wanted an ultra-long range rifle with which to experiment and I insist on a wood stock.) It took some time, but I eventually found the rifle I wanted at a price I could afford and it happened to be a .257 Magnum, just like the very first Weatherby rifle I had ever seen. It showed signs of having been hunted quite a bit, but I figured that was what it was intended for and the bore was in good shape.
I quickly mounted a Weaver Grand Slam 3-10x40mm variable power scope on the Mark V Deluxe using a Leupold base and rings. The fully multi-coated Grand Slam is just about my favorite current scope. Its optics are bright and sharp with good contrast, and protected by a rigid one piece tube. The four point Micro-Trac elevation and windage adjustments click in 1/4 MOA increments, can be turned with the fingers (no coins required) and are very accurate. The large, rubberized, power control ring is easy to turn even when wearing gloves and the magnification numbers printed on it are angled back toward the shooter's eye. I especially like the fast European style focus. Weaver really got these Grand Slam scopes right. They show the influence of some serious time spent in the field using scopes under real world conditions.
My first trip to the range with my new (to me) Weatherby Mark V Deluxe proved two things: (1) everyone was right, the stock does handle magnum recoil very well and (2) the accuracy guarantee was for real. My rifle will consistently group three shots with the Weatherby factory load using the 120 grain Nosler Partition bullet at 3305 fps into 1 1/2 inches or a little less at 100 yards. The first three shot group I fired with the Weatherby factory load using the 100 grain Hornady Spire Point Interlock bullet at 3602 fps measured 13/16 inch at the same distance. This is superb performance for a magnum hunting rifle by any standard. As expected, functioning of the rifle has been flawless in all respects.
By the way, in my experience this comparative bullet performance is typical. By which I mean that while the Nosler Partition is perhaps the best all-around killing bullet ever designed, it has never been as accurate in any of my rifles as bullets of more conventional construction. In fact, this Weatherby .257 shoots Nosler Partition bullets better than any of my other rifles.
To shoot the tightest groups it is necessary is to let the barrel cool down after every shot. This is true of any rifle, of course, but especially true of a Weatherby Magnum rifle. The friction of the bullet being accelerated to ultra high velocity, combined with the large volume of powder burned, heats up the barrel very quickly. As a rough comparison, one shot from my .257 Weatherby seems to produce as much heat as three shots from my Browning .243. There is a price to be paid for ultra high velocity, and it is not entirely financial.
I have covered the .257 Weatherby Magnum cartridge pretty thoroughly in my article about the cartridge, so I have little to add here. It is a very flat shooting number, even with the long 120 grain bullets, and may well be the best of the ultra-long range hunting cartridges for medium size species of big game.
On the subject of recoil I can testify that the .257 Weatherby kicks a lot less than I had expected. Large capacity magnum cases with very little body taper and sharp shoulders have a nasty reputation in the recoil department, and for good reason. However, my impression is that the weight of the Mark V Deluxe rifle combined with the well shaped Weatherby stock really does minimize the effect of recoil. I find the 9.5 pound Weatherby more pleasant to shoot from a bench rest than a 7.5 pound Ruger M77 in .308 or an 8.75 pound Winchester Model 70 in .270.
"The World's Strongest Bolt Action" really is the stuff of legend. The Weatherby Mark V Deluxe may well be the finest production rifle in the world.
RIFLE REVIEW SUMMARY
Copyright 2002, 2012 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.