The .280 Remington

By Chuck Hawks

.280 Rem.
Illustration courtesy of Hornady Mfg. Co.

Designed in the 1950's, and also known at various times in its history as the 7mm-06 (a wildcat) and the 7mm Express, the .280 is Remington's response to the .270 Winchester. The .280 is based on a necked down .30-06 case.

The .280 Rem. uses .284" bullets, instead of the .277" bullets used in the .270 Win. To prevent accidentally chambering a .280 round in a .270 chamber, the shoulder of the .280 case was moved slightly forward; the shoulder angle remains the same. Visually, it is hard to tell the two cartridges apart, but they are different and not interchangeable.

Development of the .280 was spurred by the fact that the very popular .270 Winchester sometimes caused functioning problems in the Remington autoloading rifles of the time. These problems were ascribed to the 52,000 cup pressure to which the .270 was commercially loaded. Therefore, the .280 was loaded to a slightly lower 50,000 cup standard.

Since the .280 is based on a full length .30-06 case, any rifle action that can chamber the .30.06 could also be produced in .280 Remington, .270 Winchester, 25-06, etc. As it has no ballistic advantage, the .280 has had a difficult time competing in the marketplace with the established .270. When the .270 was introduced in the 1930's, it filled a real need. When the .280 was introduced 20 years later it added nothing new. As a hunting cartridge, the .280 can kill anything the .270 can kill, but the reverse is also true. .270 Winchester ammunition is more widely distributed and the Winchester cartridge is chambered in a far greater number of rifles.

The sales of .280 rifles and cartridges remained in the doldrums all through the 1950's, 1960's and 1970's. Finally, Remington tried changing the cartridge's name to see if that would stimulate sales. Americans were becoming familiar with European metric cartridge designations, so Remington tried renaming the .280 the "7mm Express Remington." In the event, the name change did nothing for sales, but it did serve to confuse the shooting public. A few years later, Remington reverted back to the old name and the cartridge again became the .280 Rem. The .280 and 7mm Express are completely interchangeable and all rifles marked 7mm Express Rem. can shoot all .280 ammunition and vice-versa.

The .280 is a fine cartridge that essentially duplicates the performance of the .270 when loaded to the same pressure. Like the .270, the .280 is probably at its best with bullets weighing between 130 and 150 grains. A bullet weighing around 140 grains is a good all-around weight for medium size big game hunting.

When introduced by Remington, the .280 was offered with 100, 125, 150 and 165 grain bullets. The 100 grain bullet was for varmint shooting and was soon discontinued. The 125 grain spitzer bullet at 3,190 fps was designed to compete with the popular 130 grain .270 load. It was available for many years, but it has also been discontinued. The 150 grain spitzer bullet at 2900 fps was intended to compete with the .270 bullet of the same weight and velocity. For years it was the mainstay of .280 factory loads. The 165 grain RN bullet at 2,820 fps was Remington's idea of a brush load for the .280, designed for hunting in thick woods. I think Remington felt the 165 grain bullet would give the .280 an advantage over the .270, but it has never been very popular with .280 owners.

Remington .280 factory loads are currently offered with two different 140 grain spitzer bullets at a muzzle velocity of 3,000 fps and a muzzle energy of 2,797 ft. lb. One is a pointed Core-Lokt and the other is an Accu-Tip. The 139-140 grain bullet has become the most popular weight for the .280 and is offered by most ammunition manufacturers. Remington also loads a 150 grain pointed Core-Lokt bullet at 2,890 fps and the old 165 grain RN bullet at 2,820 fps is still available.

When a scoped .280 rifle is zeroed to put the Remington factory load using the 140 grain Accu-Tip bullet 2.6 inches high at 100 yards it should hit about 3.0 inches high at 150 yards, 2.2 inches high at 200 yards and 3.0 inches low at 298 yards. Set up this way the .280 is about 300 yard antelope and deer rifle.

Reloaders with .280 rifles can take advantage of many different 7mm bullet weights. However, they are likely to find that 139-150 grain bullets are the most useful for big game hunting. According to the Speer Reloading Manual No. 13 their 145 grain spitzer bullets can be driven to a MV of 2815 fps by 54.0 grains of IMR 4831 powder and 2975 fps by 56.0 grains of IMR 4831.

It is worth noting that the newer 7mm Rem. Short Action Ultra Magnum has no ballistic advantage over the .280 in rifles with 22 inch barrels and the milder kicking .280 is a more suitable cartridge for use in lightweight rifles. The .280 is a viable choice as an all-around rifle cartridge and it is included in my article on that subject. Anyone who finds him or her self in possession of a fine rifle chambered for the .280 Remington cartridge certainly has no great need for a .270 Winchester or a 7mm Rem. SAUM.

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Copyright 2001, 2013 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.