The .350 Remington Magnum and .35 Whelen

By Chuck Hawks

For many years a wildcat, the .35 Whelen is simply the .30-06 case necked up to accept standard .358 inch diameter bullets. It appeared in 1922 and was named for gun writer Townsend Whelen, who contributed to its design. The idea was to provide a powerful medium bore cartridge that would work through standard (.30-06) length actions. In those days a magnum length bolt action for the .375 H&H was prohibitively expensive for all but the wealthiest shooters. The cartridge survived as a wildcat until 1987, when Remington legitimized it as a factory cartridge.

Interestingly, it was another Remington .35 medium bore, the .350 Remington Magnum, that sparked renewed interest in the .35 Whelen. The .35 Whelen had pretty much died out after the 1958 introduction of the .338 Win. Mag.

The .350 Rem. Mag. was introduced in 1964. It was based on a 7mm Remington Magnum case shortened enough to work through a short action rifle and necked-up to accept .358" bullets. The .350 Remington was the world's first true short magnum cartridge and it proved to be decades ahead of its time. It was temporarily discontinued in 1997, but reintroduced in 2003 after the later WSM and SAUM lines of short magnum cartridges proved successful.

The .350's belted magnum case is 2.17 inches long, its shoulder angle is 25 degrees and the maximum overall cartridge length is 2.8 inches. These dimensions allowed Remington to chamber the new cartridge in their short action Model 600 and Model 660 bolt action carbines. The .350 Rem. Mag. cartridge made these the last word in a lightweight, handy, powerful rifle--if the shooter was willing to put up with the hefty recoil.

Unfortunately, not too many shooters were and the .350 Mag. carbines were discontinued after a few years. Jeff Cooper wrote a very favorable article about them after they were discontinued and they have become something of a cult classic. For several years after the carbines were discontinued, the cartridge was available in the M-700 bolt action rifle. Ruger has also chambered for it.

Back in 1964 I was selling guns and sporting goods and I special ordered for myself one of the very first Remington Model 600M carbines in .350 Mag. There was no reloading data on the new cartridge at that time, so I had to work up my own loads, starting with reduced .35 Whelen loads. It was a fast handling and accurate little rifle and the penetration of the 220 grain Speer bullet at a MV of about 2,500 fps was astonishing.

The short, fat .350 Mag. case had almost identical capacity to the .35 Whelen case and should have been the final death blow to the older cartridge. However, it worked out the other way around. Every gun magazine reviewed the new cartridge when it was introduced and compared its performance to the .35 Whelen wildcat. Everyone said that it would not do a thing the older .35 Whelen couldn't do just as well, forgetting that the whole point of the .350 Magnum was to offer serious medium bore performance in a short action rifle. Somehow the result of all of this was to poison the .350 Mag. and resurrect interest in the .35 Whelen. There matters stood until 1987, when Remington announced that it would offer rifles and ammunition in .35 Whelen.

By 1988 the .35 Whelen was offered in the Remington Model 700 bolt action, 7600 pump action and in 1989 it was added to the 7400 autoloading rifle. Ruger chambered their Model 77 bolt action for the cartridge and H & R chambered their single shot rifle in .35 Whelen for a short time. However, the .35 Whelen never really caught on with mainstream shooters, probably due to its considerable recoil and a general lack of interest in medium bore cartridges by U.S. shooters. By 1996 the cartridge was no longer available in over the counter factory made rifles. Remington will still build a .35 Whelen rifle (or a .350 Mag. rifle) on the Model 700 action in their Custom Shop on a special order basis.

The performance of the .35 Whelen and the .350 Rem. Mag. are very similar. Maximum permissible pressure for the .35 Whelen is 52,000 cup; it is 53,000 cup for the .350 Mag. The Speer No. 13 Reloading Manual shows the following, in 22 inch rifle barrels:

  • The top load listed for the .350 Mag. with the 180 grain bullet is 60.0 grains of BL-C(2) powder, and it gives a muzzle velocity (MV) of 2,942 fps.
  • The top load listed for the .35 Whelen with the 180 grain bullet is 65.0 grains of H335 powder, and it gives a MV of 2,891 fps.
  • A maximum load of 62 grains of #748 powder gives the 220 grain bullet 2,664 fps in the .350 Mag.
  • A maximum load of 63 grains of #748 powder gives the 220 grain bullet 2,560 fps in the .35 Whelen.
  • A maximum load of 57 grains of #748 powder gives the 250 grain bullet 2,484 fps in the .350 Mag.
  • A maximum load of 57 grains of #748 powder gives the 250 grain bullet 2,350 fps in the .35 Whelen.
  • The .35 Whelen is factory loaded by both Remington and Federal and the .350 Magnum is factory loaded by Remington. Either will suffice for all North American big game animals at reasonable range, including moose and the great bears.

    One Remington factory load for the .35 Whelen gives a 200 grain Pointed Soft Point (PSP) bullet a MV of 2,675 fps and muzzle energy (ME) of 3,177 ft. lbs. At 200 yards velocity is 2,100 fps and the energy is 1,958 ft. lbs. These figures are for a 24 inch test barrel.

    The trajectory of the 200 grain PSP bullet at 2700 fps in the .35 Whelen is as follows: +2.8" at 100 yards, +3" at 125 yards, +1.0" at 200 yards, and -3" at 254 yards. The maximum point blank range (+/- 3") is thus 254 yards.

    The other Remington factory load for the .35 Whelen gives a 250 grain PSP bullet a MV of 2,400 fps and a ME of 3,197 ft. lbs. At 200 yards velocity is 2,005 fps and the energy is 2,230 ft. lbs. These figures are also for a 24 inch test barrel.

    The new Remington factory load for the .350 Magnum, which uses a 200 grain Core-Lokt bullet, claims a MV of 2775 fps. (The old 200 grain factory load advertised a MV of 2710 fps.) The muzzle energy of the new load is 3419 ft. lbs. The trajectory of that load should look like this: +2.7" at 100 yards, +3" at 125 yards, +1.3" at 200 yards, -3" at 260 yards, and -7.3" at 300 yards. The maximum point blank range (+/- 3") is thus 260 yards.

    The discontinued Remington factory load for the .350 Mag. gave the 250 grain PSP bullet a MV of 2,410 fps in a 20 inch test barrel. The ME was 3220 ft. lbs. We can only hope that another load with a heavier bullet will be forthcoming from Big Green. The 225 and 250 grain Nosler Partition spitzer bullets would seem to be viable choices.

    According to the fifth edition of the Nosler Reloading Guide handloaders can drive the 225 grain spitzer to a MV of 2535 fps with 55.0 grains of W748 powder and a MV of 2700 fps with 59.0 grains of W748. The 250 grain spitzer can be driven to a MV of 2374 fps by 54.0 grains of W748 and 2571 fps by 58.0 grains of W748. One would think that Remington could achieve similar performance in a factory load.

    One interesting alternative for the reloader is to turn either cartridge into what Jack O'Connor described as an ideal brush and woods cartridge using reduced power handloads. The .350 Mag. is probably the better choice for this, as its shorter case keeps the reduced power charge closer to the primer. In .35 caliber O'Connor suggested a 225 grain flat point bullet at a MV of 2400-2450 fps. In a .350 Mag. case 51.0 grains of H322 powder will drive a 220 grain Speer flat point bullet at a MV of 2428 fps from a 22" rifle barrel. The Speer technicians used Remington cases and CCI 200 primers when developing this load. The trajectory is such that the bullet can be zeroed to strike dead on at 200 yards, giving a maximum point blank range of 234 yards. The recoil energy of this load is around 20 ft. lbs.

    It seems that the new short action magnum cartridges, such as the .300 WSM and .300 Remington SAUM, have renewed interest in the .350 Rem. Mag. Remington realized that their line of short magnum cartridges would be enhanced by the inclusion of a powerful medium bore caliber. For 2003 Remington announced not only a new .350 Mag. factory load, but also a new rifle in which to shoot it. The Model 673 bolt action carbine was based on the Model Seven short action and strongly resembled an improved version of the original Model 600M carbine. The Model 673 rifle came with a 22" barrel and was offered in .350 Remington Magnum and .300 Rem. SAUM. Remington now offers the .350 Mag. cartridge in their popular Model Seven rifle.

    Remington is to be commended for giving the .350 Magnum another chance. I, along with many other enthusiasts, have been calling for the re-introduction of the .350 and now it is back.

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    Copyright 2001, 2012 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.