The .300 Dakota

By Chuck Hawks

.300 Dakota
Illustration courtesy of Dakota Arms

Dakota Arms of Sturgis, South Dakota, USA manufactures a deluxe falling block single shot rifle, and several fine bolt action rifles. The late Donald Allen, who won the Distinguished Flying Cross as a USAF reconnaissance fighter pilot during the Vietnam War, founded the company. After his military service, Don Allen flew for Northwest Airlines for 26 years. Throughout his life Mr. Allen was an avid hunter and shooter, and he became a well-known custom gunmaker. He served as the first President of the American Custom Gunmaker's Guild and, in 1986, founded Dakota Arms. Don Allen died on May 17, 2003.

On June 13, 2003 Dakota Arms announced a merger with Nesika Bay Precision, Inc., a prominent Poulsbo, Washington manufacturer of competition rifles and bolt actions. Nesika will continue to operate as an independent division, but most operations were re-located to Sturgis in July 2003.

Dakota offers a line of proprietary magnum hunting cartridges designed by Don Allen and based on the .404 Jeffery case shortened to function in standard (.30-06) length actions. These come in 7mm, .300, .330, and .375 calibers. There are also two long (.375 H&H length) Dakota magnum cartridges, a .416 and a .450. Factory loaded ammunition for all of these is supplied only by Dakota.

This article is about the .300 Dakota. As might be expected, the .300 is the best seller in the Dakota cartridge line, and it uses standard .308" diameter bullets. The .300 Dakota uses a rimless, bottleneck case with a rim diameter of .545" and a case diameter at the head of .545". The case diameter at the base of the shoulder is .531", so obviously there is little body taper. The case is 2.55" long and has a sharp 32-degree shoulder angle. The cartridge overall length is 3.33".

Because the .300 Dakota has a larger rim diameter than the standard belted magnum cartridges, it requires a bolt specially manufactured or modified to match. No doubt this has limited the popularity of the .300 Dakota.

Due to its fatter diameter the .300 Dakota has about 15% greater case capacity than a standard belted magnum case of the same shape and length. This greater case capacity allows velocities higher than can be attained by the standard length .300 caliber belted magnums such as the .300 Winchester Magnum. In fact, the velocities achieved by the .300 Dakota are close to those of the long (.375 H&H length) .300 Weatherby and .300 Rem. Ultra Mag. So, of course, is the recoil.

According to the Dakota web site, .300 Dakota factory loads are currently offered with a 165 grain and two 180 grain bullets. The 165 grain and one of the 180 grain bullets are Swift A-Frames; the other 180 grain bullet is a CT Fail Safe. The 2003 MSRP of these .300 Dakota factory loads is about $70-$75 per box of 20. Dakota also offers unfired .300 brass to reloaders.

The 165 grain A-Frame bullet has an advertised muzzle velocity (MV) of 3200 fps and muzzle energy (ME) of 3751 ft. lbs. At 200 yards the figures are 2769 fps and 2809 ft. lbs. Trajectory figures published in the 2003 Shooter's Bible show that if this load is zeroed to hit 2.1" high at 100 yards it will impact 1.8" high at 200 yards and only 3" low at 300 yards. This is a fine load for hunting medium size (CXP2 class) big game.

The 180 grain A-Frame bullet has an advertised MV of 3100 fps and ME of 3840 ft. lbs. At 200 yards the figures are 2644 fps and 2794 ft. lbs. If this load is zeroed to hit 2.5" high at 100 yards it will impact 3" high at 150 yards, 2.3" high at 200 yards, and 2.9" low at 300 yards. The maximum point blank range (MPBR) +/- 3" is 301 yards. This should be a very fine load for large (CXP3 class) game.

The handloader has many more bullet choices, of course. Projectiles from 110 to 220 grains are commonly available, but for a case the size of the .300 Dakota the 165, 180 and 200 grain bullets probably make the most sense. The most popular bullet is the 180 grain spitzer, always a good choice for any .300 Magnum cartridge. Slow burning powders work best with 180 grain bullets in the .300 Dakota.

The Sixth Edition of the Hornady Handbook of Cartridge Reloading shows loads for their various 180 grain bullets at MV's from 2800 fps to 3200 fps. Winchester WMR is one of the more versatile powders for the .300 Dakota. 70.8 grains of WMR behind a 180 grain Hornady Spire Point Interlock bullet gives a MV of 2800 fps. 78.4 grains of WMR gives a MV of 3100 fps with the same bullet. The trajectory of the latter will be similar to that of the 180 grain factory load. These Hornady loads used Dakota cases and Federal 215 primers and were chronographed in the 26" barrel of a Dakota 76 rifle.

The .300 Dakota, like any .300 Magnum cartridge, makes the shooter pay a stiff price in recoil. In the case of a 180 grain bullet fired at a MV of 3100 fps from an 8.5 pound rifle, the recoil energy is about 28.3 ft. lbs. Few shooters will find that much kick enjoyable.

The .300 Dakota's other disadvantages, in addition to its considerable recoil, include its oversize rim diameter (requiring bolt alterations if it is to be used in standard magnum actions), the scarcity and expense of factory loaded ammunition and brass, and the scarcity and cost of .300 Dakota rifles. Because it is fatter than ordinary belted magnum cartridges, the magazine capacity of most rifles adapted to it will be reduced by one round.

To summarize its positive attributes, the .300 Dakota is a powerful, flat shooting, magnum cartridge suitable for use in rifles with standard length actions. With a MPBR of 301 yards (using a 180 grain spitzer bullet) it is well suited for hunting CXP3 class game at long range. Dakota rifles are uniformly of very high quality. And there is an excellent choice of .308" bullets available to the reloader.

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Copyright 2003, 2012 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.