The .250-3000 Savage
By Chuck Hawks
The .250 Savage was introduced by Savage in 1915. The cartridge was designed for Savage by Charles Newton, the North American high velocity guru of the early 20th Century. Unlike many of Newton's designs, the .250 is a compact and economical cartridge whose modern appearance belies its age.
The .250 Savage is based on a rimless, bottleneck case with a 26.5 degree shoulder angle. It is 1.912" long with a standard .473" rim diameter. Its capacity is 45.54 grains of water. Maximum overall cartridge length is 2.515". The SAAMI maximum average pressure for the .250 Savage is 45,000 cup.
As originally factory loaded, the .250 Savage drove an 87 grain spitzer bullet to 3000 fps. This is why it was also known as the .250-3000. It was the first standard US cartridge to achieve that muzzle velocity. Savage designed it for the short action of the Model 99 lever action rifle, but also adapted it to their bolt action rifles, as did several other manufacturers.
The .250 Savage has traditionally been loaded closer to the maximum allowable pressure than the .257 Roberts by the big ammunition manufacturers. Today's factory loads catalog a 100 grain bullet at 2820 fps at the muzzle with 1765 ft. lbs. of energy. At 200 yards this bullet is still traveling at 2210 fps and delivers 1084 ft. lbs. of energy. The recoil energy from this load in a 7.5 pound rifle is only 8.6 ft. lbs.
The trajectory of the 100 grain factory load looks about like this: +2.7" at 100 yards, +3" at 125 yards, +1.6" at 200 yards, and -3" at 270 yards. The maximum point blank range (MPBR) +/- 3" is therefore 270 yards.
Common bullet weights available to reloaders are 75, 85, 87, 90, 100, 115-117, 120, and 125 grains. The Speer 87 grain .257" diameter spitzer bullet has a BC of .300 and a SD of .188; the Speer 100 grain Spitzer has a BC of .369 and a SD of .216. Usually, the .25 caliber 75 grain bullet is designed for varmints, and the 100 grain and heavier bullets are for larger game. The 85-90 grain bullets may be designed for either. Some bullet makers have both types available in these intermediate weights.
The .250 Savage does best with bullets of 100 grains and less. The long 117 and 120 grain bullets extend too far into the small case, considerably reducing powder capacity and thus velocity.
An interesting choice for big game is the Barnes 85 grain X-bullet, a controlled expansion design recommended for deer and antelope hunting that typically retains nearly 100% of its weight and penetrates well. According to the Barnes Reloading Manual Number One, this bullet can be driven to a MV of 3100 fps by 33.0 grains of H4895 powder; a maximum load of 37.0 grains of H4895 yields an impressive MV of 3264 fps. At a MV of 3100 fps the remaining energy of this bullet at 300 yards would be 936 ft. lbs.
At a MV of 3100 fps the trajectory of the 85 grain X-Bullet (BC .309) would be as follows (Barnes figures): +2.64" at 100 yards, +2.22" at 200 yards, 0 at 250 yards, and -3.77" at 300 yards. This load extends the MPBR of the .250-3000 to almost 300 yards.
The Barnes Manual also shows that with 31.0 grains of H4895 powder their 100 grain X-bullet can achieve a MV of 2792 fps. A maximum load of 35.0 grains of H4895 gave the same bullet a MV of 3003 fps. The MPBR (+/- 3") with a MV of 3000 fps would be about 286 yards. Kinetic energy is 1998 ft. lbs. at the muzzle and 1323 ft. lbs. at 300 yards. This is a very potent load for the .250 Savage that makes it the equal of the .257 Roberts +P.