Are Great Deer Rifles Fading Into History?

BY Herschel Smith
3 months, 2 weeks ago

Opinion by Rick Windham:

I have picked up several classic rifles at gun shows. They are rifles I read about as I grew up dreaming of big game hunts. They are chambered in calibers that may not be totally forgotten, but they are off the radar of most younger hunters. For example, I was in an antelope camp a couple of years ago and there was a younger hunter (early 30s) in the group. Most of the other rifles in camp were calibers like .243, .308, 7mm Mag, but I had a .264 Winchester Magnum. The guy looked over my rifle and made all the appropriate comments on its looks and feel, but as he handed it back to me he said. “A .264 Win Mag, huh? Never heard of that caliber.”

It caused me to think about the other proven cartridges that may be fading into history. There is nothing wrong with them, it is just that they are not the cartridges hunters read about in today’s gun magazines.

I first thought about the .270 Winchester. Jack O’Conner, one of the most famous gun writers for Outdoor Life Magazine, constantly wrote about the .270 and the hunts he had with it. He made the .270 famous. Ask someone you know who owns/shoots a .270 why they chose this cartridge. I bet a lot of them with mention Jack O’Conner — but he died 41 years ago. A couple of generations of shooters have grown up without O’Conner and his writings and the .270 is fading away.

There are other calibers that are fading into history. Calibers like the Savage .250-3000, the .257 Roberts, 7×57 Mauser, 8×57 Mauser, .35 Whelen and to some extent the .30-06 Springfield. Most of these calibers are just overshadowed by marketing and the hype surrounding newer calibers like the .224 Valkyrie, 6.5 PRC, .338 Federal or the .350 Legend — to name a few.

The .25-06 is another fine cartridge that fits into this discussion and the category of almost forgotten deer rifles. I look for rifles like this for two reasons: I don’t want them to become the has-beens of hunting traditions and because they are not highly sought after, you can find some really good deals.

Read the whole thing.  I have several thoughts in response.

First of all, I really love the .270 Winchester, and I don’t really think it’ll ever go out of style for bolt action rifles.  It’s fast, powerful, and flat-shooting.  It’s also got a fairly stiff kick given that it’s a necked-down 30-06 cartridge.  But given that it isn’t a plinking gun, that’s not really a problem.  It’s readily available just about everywhere.

But it’s a long-action cartridge, so it won’t readily fit into a semi-automatic rifle without re-engineering.  I think part of his objection may be that many of the firearms in use for hunting now are semi-automatic guns and thus use more short-action cartridges.  If he simply prefers long action cartridges, then good.  But if his objection is merely that guys shouldn’t be using semi-automatics for hunting, I disagree and he needs to bring his views in line with current thinking.

Besides, I don’t really think that bolt action rifles are going out of style.  Long range precision shooting is growing as a sport, and a whole host of very nice guns (and new cartridges to go along) have been engineered for that purpose.

But I grok where he’s going with the proliferation of cartridges.  The 6.5 Creedmoor isn’t good enough – we need a 6.5 PRC too.  And the 300 Win Mag isn’t good enough – we need 300 PRC too.  Maybe we do, for very specific applications, but I’ll likely never push my cartridges to that extreme.


Comments

  1. On February 11, 2019 at 8:38 am, ragman said:

    No, they are not fading away. However, I do see younger guys trending away from rifle hunting. Almost all of the young men I know bow hunt and they are very proficient. Also smokepoles(muzzies) are becoming popular. I hunt in Jawja and yes, my old Model 70 is chambered in ‘06. Bottom line is shoot whatever works for you. But get out in the woods, put some rounds downrange and enjoy the shooting sports while we still can.

  2. On February 11, 2019 at 10:56 am, revjen45 said:

    1) “It’s also got a fairly stiff kick given that it’s a necked-down 30-06 cartridge.”
    I once had the opportunity to shoot virtually identical MkX M98s in .270 and .30-06 side by side. The .270 had a lot less recoil.
    2) A rifle in .30-06 that shoots 1 – 1 1/2 moa works just as well now as it did 50 years ago.

  3. On February 11, 2019 at 12:46 pm, BAP45 said:

    I think a lot has to do with selection and availability too. A lot of the older cartridges are harder to find and then at places that do carry it there is often only one or 2 loadings. So picking something like 0.308 means you will pretty much always be able to pick some up no matter where the hunt is and have plenty of options in it too.

  4. On February 11, 2019 at 3:31 pm, Gryphon said:

    At the Gun Shows here in Virginia, I still see a lot of older, Mil- Platform Rifles that have suffered “Sporteriztion” form back in the 50’s and 60’s when Surplus WWII European Bolt-Guns could be had for under $100. I’ve seen Mauser 98’s in .270 and even ’06. My Father had been given a DWM Mauser converted to .220 Swift, Bent-Bolt and Scope, with a Fancy, Hand-Carved Stock filled with various Game Animals. He was an Architect, and got it from a Construction Contractor who Built several Buildings He designed. That kind of Gunsmithing is rare today, in relation to the Tacticool ‘builders’ with the Sci-Fi Modular stuff and More Weight in Accessories than the Gun itself.

  5. On February 11, 2019 at 3:42 pm, Furminator said:

    Rifles such as 270, 30-06, 7 mag, 300 win are generally good for most situations. The newfangled cartridges like 224 Valkyrie, 6.5 CM, 28 Nosler, yada yada yada are generally superior in specific circumstances but at some cost such as recoil, price, or obscurity for general use. Ask 10 hunters who own a dozen hunting rifles and 8 of them will tell you they have one go-to gun, the rest are mostly fancy safe queens.

  6. On February 11, 2019 at 6:20 pm, Mike said:

    The .264 Winchester Magnum is still a premier long-range hunting caliber, there are no flies on it.

    I guess I’ll just have to limp along with my Remington 700 BDL 30.06 deer rifle until I die. Same for my coyote rifle, the Remington Classic in .17 Remington. I’m having a custom rifle built using an even Older Caliber – 6.5×55 SE. Sometimes….’older’ still gets it done :)

  7. On February 12, 2019 at 12:07 pm, Pat Hines said:

    My first Ruger M77 was a round top (now long discontinued), long action, 24 inch barrel in 257 Roberts. The round top actions didn’t have the milled locations for Ruger scope rings, you had to buy a base for rings. Loved that rifle, still do, it’s sitting in my gun safe now, over 40 years old. It was very accurate, more so because I hand loaded for it. From gophers, to mule deer, and one black bear, it worked. Because it was a long action, I could load the bullets well outside the case which permitted more powder and velocity. I even went so far as to candle my loads, where you carbon up a bullet to see how far out you can load it so it’s just shy of touching the rifling. That’s supposed to enhance accuracy, too. I equipped it with a Redfield Widefield 3-9x scope, one of the best at the time, it worked too.

  8. On February 12, 2019 at 3:41 pm, Pat Hines said:

    @Mike,

    There’s no flies on the 6.5×55 Swede, it’s primary problem in the past was the somewhat weak military actions and that milsurp rounds were almost always made with round nose bullets. Just make sure you’re not shooting rounds loaded to modern, .308 pressure levels, out of pre-1900 Swedish Mausers. Make sure your cases, if you handload, are new ones from Hornady or Lapua.

    The 260 Remington, 6.5 Creedmoor, and 6.5×55 are all very close in performance when modern rounds are used for each; spitzer boat tails are factory loaded for all I think.

    Last, I’ll soon take delivery of some 6.5 Creedmoor from Federal Cartridge, loaded with 130 grain Berger bullets, with a very high B.C..
    https://www.federalpremium.com/products/rifle/gold-medal/gold-medal-berger/gm65crdbh130

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You are currently reading "Are Great Deer Rifles Fading Into History?", entry #20562 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Ammunition,Firearms,Guns and was published February 10th, 2019 by Herschel Smith.

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