The .35 Winchester

By Chuck Hawks

The .35 Winchester cartridge was introduced in 1903 in the Model 1895 lever action rifle. It was intended as the medium bore cartridge to complement the big bore .405 Winchester and the small bore .30-40 Krag in the Model 95. Like the .405, the .35 Winchester is based on a necked-up .30-40 case. At one time the bolt action Remington-Lee rifle was also chambered for the .35 Winchester.

The .35 Winchester was eventually superceded in the Winchester line by the .348 Winchester, which was later superceded by the .358 Winchester. .35 caliber cartridges have had a checkered history in North America.

The .35 Winchester uses a rimmed, tapered, bottle neck case with a small 15 degree 19 minute shoulder. The rim diameter is .539 inch, the base diameter is .457 inch, the shoulder diameter is .412 inch, and the case length is 2.41 inches. The overall cartridge length is 3.16 inches. The correct bullet diameter is .358 inch, the same as the .358 Winchester and .350 Remington Magnum. Pressure should be limited to 45,000 psi. Winchester Model 95 rifle barrels in .35 Winchester caliber had a 1 turn in 12 inch twist.

Due to its rimmed case, the .35 Win. never experienced the headspacing problems encountered by the rimless .358 Winchester and .35 Whelen. In killing power the .35 Winchester is in-between the .35 Remington and the .35 Whelen.

Winchester factory loads drove a 250 grain soft point bullet at a muzzle velocity (MV) of 2195 fps with muzzle energy (ME) of 2650 ft. lbs. The .35 Winchester proved capable of humanely taking most of the world's thin-skinned game at moderate ranges. It has sufficient killing power to make it a good 100 yard elk and grizzly bear caliber. Although never particularly popular, it remained in the line until 1935, when the Model 95 rifle was discontinued. In the UK, Kynoch offered factory loaded ammunition for the .35 Winchester into the beginning of the 1960's.

Reloaders with serviceable .35 Winchester rifles can make reloadable cases from .30-40 Krag brass. The neck of .35 Winchester brass formed from .30-40 cases will be a little short, but this will not cause a problem. Because of its box magazine, the Model 95 can use bullets of any shape, including spitzer bullets, and it is not necessary to crimp the case mouth. Loading data can be found in old editions of the Lyman Reloading Handbook and also in Cartridges of the World. Medium burning rate powders such as IMR 4895, IMR 3031, IMR 4064, and IMR 4320 are good choices for the .35 Win.

My old 43rd edition of the Lyman Reloading Handbook shows the following data for jacketed bullets.

  • 47.0 grains of 4320 gives a 200 grain bullet a MV of 2225 fps, and 52.0 grains of the same powder gives a MV of 2475 fps.
  • 46.0 grains of IMR 4320 can drive a 220 grain bullet at a MV of 2150 fps, and 51.0 grains of 4320 can achieve a MV of 2395 fps.
  • 45.0 grains of IMR 4320 can achieve a MV of 2045 fps with a 250 grain bullet, and 50.0 grains of 4320 can drive 250 grain bullets to a MV of 2295 fps, 100 fps faster than the Winchester factory load.

The ballistics of a 250 grain Hornady Interlock RN bullet (BC .271, SD .279) at a MV of 2200 fps and ME of 2686 ft. lbs. are as follows (Hornady figures): 2054 fps and 2341 ft. lbs. at 50 yards, 1913 fps and 2031 ft. lbs. at 100 yards, 1652 fps and 1514 ft. lbs. at 200 yards. The trajectory of that load from a rifle using iron sights mounted 0.8" over the bore looks like this: +2.1 inches at 50 yards, +3 inches at 100 yards, 0 at 171 yards, and -2.8 inches at 200 yards. The maximum point blank range (+/- 3 inches) is 201 yards.

The 43rd edition of the Lyman Reloading Handbook also shows data for cast lead bullets.

  • A plain base cast lead bullet weighing 220 grains (Lyman #358238) can be driven at a MV of 1700 fps by 26.4 grains of Alliant 2400 powder, or at a MV of 1550 fps by 18.0 grains of #4227 powder.
  • A 250 grain cast lead bullet with a gas check (Lyman #358318) can be driven at a MV of 1660 fps by 26.0 grains of Alliant 2400 powder, or to a MV of 1965 fps by 40.0 grains of IMR 3031 powder. The latter was considered a standard load for the .35 Winchester.

The .35 Winchester is obsolete, but it is a good woods cartridge. Its rimmed case gives it the benefit of positive headspacing, a clear advantage over the .35 Remington, .358 Winchester, and .35 Whelen, all rimless cases of standard head diameter which attempt to headspace on their small shoulders. Among modern .35 caliber cartridges only the much more powerful .350 Remington and .358 Norma Magnums, with their belted cases, offer positive headspacing.

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