THE GREAT .308 by Craig Boddington

In the 40-odd years I’ve been doing this (and something north of 5000 articles), I don’t think I’ve ever written an article in praise of the .308 Winchester. This is embarrassing and downright shameful! After the .223 (5.56x45mm), the .308 Winchester is the most popular centerfire cartridge in the western world. In part, this is due to its adoption and widespread use by NATO nations (as the 7.62x51mm). However, its popularity is also based on pure merit: It is accurate, powerful, and versatile; and easily adaptable to the full range of rifle actions: Pump, lever, bolt, semiauto, single-shot.

.308 may be slightly more accurate than the .30-06
On average, the .308 may be slightly more accurate than the .30-06, but it’s not magic; you still need to find the right loads. The bottom left group is getting there!

We all have our favorites and, just like bigotry, favoritism often isn’t grounded in reality. I prefer the .30-06 to the .308. I prefer the 7mm-08 Remington to the 6.5mm Creedmoor, and I prefer the 7×57 Mauser to the 7mm-08. I prefer the .270 Winchester to the .280 Remington, and I prefer the .300 Weatherby Magnum to the .300 Winchester Magnum. I could go on with my irrational idiosyncrasies, but all these cartridges (and many more) are awesome. Others with similar—or different—experience could turn my preferences around and make compelling arguments. There are many great choices, and differences of opinion make horse races.

It’s impossible to love all cartridges equally. I have used all of the cartridges mentioned (and many more). However, it is virtually impossible to acquire equal experience with a wide range of cartridges and, ultimately, we are all victims of our own experience. I’ve used, shot, and hunted with the .308 in a wide selection of rifles, including several action types. However, I have more experience with the .30-06.

Mossberg’s Linda Powell clung to her .308
On this blacktail hunt most of the group used 6.5mm Creedmoors while Mossberg’s Linda Powell clung to her .308

The .308 Winchester and I are of an age; we both came into this world in 1952. The .308 is based on the .30-06 case shortened (from 2.494 inches to 2.015 inches. I like to remind people that the .30-06 is the most powerful cartridge ever adopted by a major military. In shortening the case, the intent was not to create an emasculated cartridge. Rather, it was designed as a military cartridge that could be used in a shorter, lighter, and more efficient self-loading action than the long, heavy Garand. In initial testing it was called “T65” and adopted in 1954 as the 7.62×51.

Montana md Bud Boddington
Montana md Bud Boddington: Boddington and his Dad, Bud Boddington, with a nice Montana mule deer. Craig’s father did almost all of his hunting with this rifle, a restocked Winchester M70 Featherweight in .308 Winchester.


Note: This was two years after its civilian introduction as the .308 Winchester. Apparently, the Winchester engineers thought they had something, and indeed they did. The .30-06 is very powerful…but so is the .308 Winchester! In 1952, I’m not sure the burning efficiency of a shorter and relatively fatter case was widely recognized, but the .308 Winchester is an early and shining example. Despite its shorter case with 20 percent less powder capacity (65.1 grains for the .30-06; 52 grains for the .308), the .308 runs only about seven percent slower than the .30-06.

Match group .308
Not all .308 rifles or loads can produce 100-yard groups like this!

Obviously, figures lie and liars figure. It depends on the load, and who is doing the loading, but it’s in the ballpark to say that the .308 Winchester is about 93 percent of the .30-06 in velocity, at least with bullets up to 180 grains. With extra-heavy bullets case capacity starts to tell, and the gap widens. But, realistically, with the great hunting bullets we have today, how many of us actually hunt with 200 and 220-grain .30-caliber bullets, especially in .308 and .30-06 rifles? I submit that few game animals will notice that seven percent difference! I suppose the only excuse I can offer for my long neglect of the .308 Winchester: The .308 and .30-06 are so similar in performance on game that, in my mind, I separate them little. With more velocity and more energy, I suppose the .30-06 is a slightly better elk cartridge. However, both cartridges are fully adequate for elk and moose, and the .308 is plenty of gun for any deer that walks!

For about 60 years (1920s into the 1980s), the .30-06 was America’s most popular hunting cartridge, which carried the huge advantage of widespread availability. We have a lot more choices today, and the .30-06 hasn’t been our standard-issue military cartridge for 65 years. The .30-06 is still popular, but the .308 is more popular, in part because of its better availability in semiautomatic platforms.

Linda Powell Coues deer
 Mossberg’s Linda Powell used her Patriot .308 to make a long shot on this huge Coues whitetail. A .308 would not be Boddington’s choice for this kind of hunting, but confidence counts…as does straight shooting.

The .308 is often praised for its mild recoil, but I want to be careful about that because it is not a mild cartridge. In rifles of equal weight, it will kick noticeably less than the .30-06. However, because of its shorter and more efficient case, the .308 needs a bit less barrel to reach full velocity. So, with a shorter, lighter action and an inch or two less barrel, most .308s are lighter than .30-06 rifles. Reduce gun weight and recoil increases. The .308 may not be ideal for youngsters or shooters of smaller stature…especially in very light rifles!

Kyle Lamb AR10
 Retired Sergeant Major Kyle Lamb, elk hunting in the high country with his semiauto .308. That’s what he’s used to, and that’s what he carries!

The .30-06 and .308 are just two of dozens of great cartridges. It’s impossible to use them all and love them all equally, so it comes down to confidence in one’s choice. I’ve used the .308 quite a bit with perfect satisfaction…but I have more experience with and more confidence in the .30-06. I doubt this will change, but people I respect prefer the .308. My Dad was one of them; he did almost all of his hunting with an early M70 Featherweight .308, including moose and bear. My friend Kyle Lamb, retired special operations Sergeant Major, is a .308 guy, rarely abandoning his semiauto platform…and not minding the weight. Old industry friend Linda Powell, now with Mossberg, long with Remington, is a .308 lady. Pre-pandemic, in Sonora, she shot a fantastic Coues whitetail at some ridiculous range with her .308.

Another friend, Ron Silverman, is a die-hard .308 fan and has four rifles so chambered. Recently he told me why he uses the .308. “It is not the .308 per se that I like. I just got started on it over 20 years ago. I’ve learned the accuracy, drop, velocity, and energy with the .308. I know the recoil, I know what it does best, and what I dare not attempt. I have my pet loads; I’ve tested my data from fifty yards all the way out. With all the variables addressed, if something goes wrong, I can figure out the problem: Scope, bullet, powder, etc.

Kansas eight-pointer.
Boddington’s friend Ron Silverman with a nice Kansas eight-pointer. Silverman is the rare one-cartridge man; he has four .308 Winchester rifles. He knows the cartridge, practices with it, and shoots it straight.

And: I practice all the time with all my .308 rifles! I could be using the .270, .30-06, or .300 Winchester Magnum…in the final analysis, the round doesn’t matter to me. That I know, understand, and can deal with the variables of the .308 makes my life of shooting very easy. In the field I am confident. I could do the same things with a different cartridge but, like my father told me, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” Ron hunts with us in Kansas, and all his deer are well-shot, no tracking. He makes his .308s talk!

Byron Sadler and Boddington with a big-tusked Texas boar
Byron Sadler and Boddington with a big-tusked Texas boar, taken with a Blaser R8 with .308 Winchester barrel and AimPoint red-dot sight

BULLET DILEMMAS by Craig Boddington

Things are pretty simple right now: We shoot what we’ve got…or whatever we can get! This may not be as awful as it sounds: I don’t think there are any bad bullets on the market today. However, most bullets are better for some things than others and (at least in normal times), there are so many to choose from that it gets downright confusing.

 270_Group_1
Boddington’s old .270 Winchester groups exceptionally well with Hornady’s SST, an accurate fast-opening bullet excellent for deer-sized game. For larger game he’d probably shift to a tougher bullet…even if group size wasn’t quite as good.

When I was a kid, we mostly hunted with Remington Core-Lokts or Winchester Power-Points in factory ammo. In handloads, primary choices were Hornady, Sierra, and Speer, all fairly simple lead-core bullets. The only “premium” hunting bullet known to deliver extra penetration was John Nosler’s Partition, introduced in 1948, back then also the exclusive province of handloaders. Polymer tips, bonded cores, and homogenous-alloy bullets were unknown!

Name any bullet, and you can find shooters who swear by it…and others who damn it. Not everybody liked the Nosler Partition, but it was considered the hot ticket for game larger and tougher than deer. When I got ready for my first African hunt, I hadn’t yet used any Partitions. Following conventional wisdom, I loaded up 180-grain Partitions in my .30-06. The spectacular performance I saw on about 15 head of plains game, large and small, was unforgettable.

Win_ 300 _200gr_ ELD-X
Boddington Jarrett .300 Winchester Magnum shoots 200-grain ELD-X so well with factory ammo that a handload as accurate was elusive. Old standby IMR 4350 turned in a .407-inch five-shot group, bottom left. The velocity isn’t quite what he wants, so that’s another dilemma needing a compromise.

Today we have many choices, but the Partition is still produced…and still a good bullet. In 1948, the only other option for ensuring better penetration was to increase bullet weight! The .30-06 “made its bones” with 220-grain bullets; the 7×57 with 175-grain bullets; the early 6.5mms with 160-grain bullets, all round-nosed. Today’s long and heavy-for-caliber “low drag” bullets complicate the issue, but few of us hunt with extra-heavy bullets today. Because: With modern hunting bullets, we don’t need extreme weight to ensure performance. And: In any given cartridge case, the heavier the bullet, the less velocity.

Which brings us back to my previous column: The accuracy and velocity that we Americans crave. Obtaining both in equal measure is usually a compromise! There’s no predicting what bullet or load a certain rifle will shoot best. Right now, availability sucks, but we have such variety in factory ammo that you could spend a fortune trying loads in popular cartridges…and never discover the best combination for your rifle. Handloaders can experiment infinitely, but it’s always a compromise: Accurate enough…and fast enough. As you work up handloads, it’s common to discover that the best groups are obtained long before you approach “maximum.”

.264@129-grain
There’s no telling exactly what bullet or load a given rifle will shoot best. Boddington was working up loads for his .264. He knows the rifle shoots AccuBonds well, but he expected the best groups from Berger. At the range, the winner on this day was 129-grain Hornady Interlocks he’s had on the shelf since the Sixties. You never know until you try!

Reality: You never know what works best until you try! I would always expect the best groups from “match” bullets, but I’ve seen finicky rifles that seemed hopeless until, in frustration or on a whim, they turned in spectacular groups with old round-nose bullets! So, the search for optimum accuracy in a given rifle is almost never exhausted. We hunters complicate things greatly by seeking the “perfect” bullet for the game we’re hunting.

Let’s simplify things: There are no perfect hunting bullets. Fortunately, there are lots of good choices and no “bad” hunting bullets. It’s more a matter of understanding the expansion and penetrating properties you want, in relation to the size of your game.

recovered bonded-core bullets
eight recovered bonded-core bullets. Right, recovered homogenous-alloy bullets. Copper bullets cannot expand as much as bonded-core bullets but, with less expansion, they will deliver deeper penetration. Neither type is always this “pretty” when recovered…it depends on impact velocity and what they encounter!

Most bullet manufacturers offer “match” or “target” bullets, engineered for maximum accuracy without thought to terminal performance on game. No manufacturers recommend match bullets for hunting, but because they are often the most accurate, some hunters use them anyway, especially at long range (where accuracy matters most). Sometimes they work well, but because they were not designed for terminal performance, they can be erratic on game. I have seen match bullets expand prematurely and fail to penetrate; and I have seen them pass through showing almost no expansion. So, this is a major compromise when choosing game bullets: The projectiles likely to be the most accurate (and produce the flattest trajectories) are probably not the best choices for hunting.

“Match” or “target”
“Match” or “target” bullets are not designed to provide consistent terminal performance in the game. Berger (center) marks their packaging as suitable for hunting. Most bullet-makers assume all other bullets will probably be used by hunters, so design accordingly.

Hunting bullets are a complex subject, and divisive: Everybody who’s shot a deer is an expert, and if there’s a problem the bullet is always the culprit, never shot placement! 

On the California Central Coast, we have great hunting for blacktail deer and feral hogs. By law we must now hunt with “unleaded projectiles.” In rifles, this means: Barnes “X”-series, Hornady GMX, Nosler E-Tip, etc. Some barrels shoot these homogenous alloy bullets extremely well…and some do not. This complicates the normal accuracy variance present with all bullets.

Randy Brooks, inventor of the Barnes X bullet
Randy Brooks, inventor of the Barnes X bullet, and Boddington with a Colorado bull, taken at 350 yards with a single 180-grain Barnes X from a .300 Winchester Magnum. All homogenous-alloy bullets are “penetrators;” the larger the game, the better they work!

Let’s understand the design. The “copper-alloy” bullets have a hollow nose cavity surrounded by a notched or “skived” tip. Upon impact, the nose peels back in petals, with expansion limited by size and depth of the nose cavity. These vary (and some also have polymer tips), but the homogenous alloy bullets are penetrating bullets. They will retain near-complete weight, and will usually exit, but the wound channel is limited by the amount of expansion.

I’ve taken a lot of game with Barnes X and GMX bullets. For me, the bigger the animal, the better they work! They are impressive on feral hogs, but on our small-bodied blacktails they tend to punch through and exit. They work, but more tracking is often needed. American hunters are big on the “behind the shoulder lung shot” because it is surely fatal, offers the largest target, and ruins little meat. I tell my California hunting buddies to borrow a chapter from African PHs, who always recommend a “center shoulder” hold, breaking heavy bone and disrupting the major vessels at the top of the heart. A little more meat is damaged, but usually less tracking! 

goodbullets
There are lots of good bullets…and few (if any) “bad” bullets. It gets confusing, but the idea is to figure out what performance characteristics you want for the game you are hunting.

The opposite of a pass-through with minimal damage is worse: Premature expansion with a nasty surface wound. This will not happen with a homogenous-alloy bullet. But it shouldn’t happen with any bullet marketed as a hunting bullet. Except: Velocity is the great enemy to bullet performance. At moderate velocities: 6.5mm Creedmoor, 7mm-08, .308, .30-06, there are no bad bullets, and anything other than excellent bullet performance is unusual.

Add several hundred feet per second in velocity and things can change. I love polymer-tipped bullets: They don’t batter in the magazine, and have better aerodynamics than an exposed lead tip. However, the polymer tip always initiates expansion, mitigated by thickness of jacket and bullet weight. Accuracy is often excellent! I like Nosler’s AccuTip and Hornady’s SST…for deer-sized game. For larger game, or at high impact velocities, I prefer to mitigate with core-bonding. Tipped-and-bonded bullets include: Federal Trophy Tip, Hornady InterBond, Nosler AccuBond; and Swift Scirocco.

California boar with a 139-grain
Donna Boddington took this big California boar with a 139-grain GMX from a 7mm-08. With “unleaded bullets” required by law for all hunting, California hunters are learning to use shoulder/heart shots with the deep-penetrating all-copper bullets.

With lead core chemically bonded to jacket, a bonded-core bullet will expand much more than is possible with any homogenous-alloy bullet. The bonded-core bullet cannot retain quite as much weight; some lead will wipe away during penetration, but retention is still high. Homogenous-alloy bullets usually retain over 95 percent of their weight. Bonded-core bullets will be in the high 80s into the 90s…and everything else may be 60 percent or less. This is not a problem: The larger wound channel created by bullet expansion is what puts game down faster.

You can’t have it both ways: Unless you’re hunting pachyderms with “solids,” bullet expansion is good. But expansion creates more resistance, and must limit penetration. In my younger days I followed the school that wanted both entrance and exit wounds. Back then, only the Nosler Partition reliably exited! Today, I’m happy to have the bullet expend all its energy inside the animal, not against trees on the far side! However, an exit wound is prima facie evidence of adequate penetration! Absent that, you must have a bullet tough enough to absolutely penetrate deep into the vitals!

Alabama whitetail
This Alabama whitetail dropped in its tracks to a 130-grain SST from a .270 Winchester. Boddington believes the polymer-tipped lead-core bullets are excellent for deer-sized game, usually yielding dramatic results.

These are bullet dilemmas…but not so complex, with multiple solutions. In January ’21 I hunted whitetails in Alabama with friend Gordon Marsh, proprietor of this site. Gordon lucked into a very accurate Ruger No. One in .270 Weatherby Magnum (a rare No. One chambering). His rifle produces one-hole groups with 130-grain Barnes TSX. This rifle likes homogenous-alloy bullets…at extreme velocity (3400 fps!).

I used a .270 Winchester, loaded with 130-grain Hornady SST about 400 fps slower, good groups but nothing like the accuracy of Gordon’s rifle.  A buck presented himself at 225 yards, and I flattened him, down so hard he bounced. The bullet exited, good expansion but no mess.

130-grain TTSX
Gordon Marsh used a 130-grain TTSX for his Alabama buck, the bullet was pushed very fast from a .270 Weatherby Magnum. Despite good shot placement, the buck ran 100 yards into the woods and required tracking. This can always happen, but isn’t uncommon with extra-tough bullets employed on medium-sized game.

Next day, Gordon shot a similar buck, about 150 yards. Good blood on the food plot, exit wound obvious…but not much sign where his buck entered the woods. We found him 125 yards into thick timber, perfect shot placement…and almost no blood trail. Nobody has hunted with all the great bullets we have today. I’ve used many and have favorites, but it depends on what the gun likes, what I have (or can get), and what I’m hunting. 

If we were talking elk, moose, or Cape buffalo it’s a different discussion. But, in the large world of shooting deer and hoping not to track them into thick stuff, I’m convinced we would have found Gordon’s buck quicker if he’d used a bullet that expanded more…even if it wasn’t quite as fast, or produced groups as tight!

ACCURACY AND VELOCITY By Craig Boddington

This old Savage 99 in .300 Savage passes the “paper plate test” easily. Provided the terrain doesn’t require long shooting, older rifles like this should put meat in the freezer with no problem.
This old Savage 99 in .300 Savage passes the “paper plate test” easily. Provided the terrain doesn’t require long shooting, older rifles like this should put meat in the freezer with no problem.

American rifle shooters have long been obsessed by accuracy and velocity, demanding more of both than is really necessary. Mind you, neither are bad things, although it depends on what you’re doing. In target shooting, accuracy is everything, although shooting disciplines and target sizes vary widely. In hunting, let’s be honest, the vital zone of a deer-sized animal is not a small target, and it’s exactly the same size at 40 or 400 yards. If you can consistently hit a volleyball or a ten-inch paper plate you should have venison for the freezer. That vital zone looks smaller and, for sure, becomes harder to hit as distance increases, but it’s still a large target.

This is the level of accuracy that you simply must have for a serious varmint rifle, in this case Boddington’s Ruger No. One in .204 Ruger. Groups like this probably aren’t essential for most big-game hunting…but they build a lot of confidence!
This is the level of accuracy that you simply must have for a serious varmint rifle, in this case Boddington’s Ruger No. One in .204 Ruger. Groups like this probably aren’t essential for most big-game hunting…but they build a lot of confidence!

Obviously, different situations require more or less accuracy. I shoot the occasional coyote on the Kansas farm, and we wear out the armadillos because they dig up the yard, but an annual prairie dog shoot is my primary varmint hunting. A prairie dog is about three inches from back to belly so, that’s the window you must hit, and we do some of our prairie dog shooting beyond 400 yards. A one-inch group at 100 yards, what we call “Minute of Angle” (MOA) can be expected to naturally disperse to four inches at 400 yards…without taking into account wind and wobble. One MOA accuracy isn’t good enough for prairie dog shooting.

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TOP THREE AR CARTRIDGES

By

Craig Boddington

The two most popular actions in the U.S. must be John Browning’s Colt 1911 pistol…and Gene Stoner’s Armalite 15, long shortened to AR15 (which does not stand for “Assault Rifle”). Dozens and dozens of large and small firms make (and have made) firearms based on these actions. All self-loading actions have sharp limits on the size of cartridges they can accept. The .45 ACP cartridge was developed for and around the Colt 1911. Browning and his team must have done a good job because, 110 years later, the .45 ACP still rules the 1911 world. Although easily adapted to 9x19mm (and expanded to 10mm), the Colt 1911 frame has spawned few other pistol cartridges.

AR15 Rock River groups: Boddington’s “ranch rifle” is a left-hand Rock River AR in 5.56mm. It has served well from varmints to deer, and both availability and choices in ammo are strong suits of the .223/5.56mm.
AR15 Rock River groups: Boddington’s “ranch rifle” is a left-hand Rock River AR in 5.56mm. It has served well from varmints to deer, and both availability and choices in ammo are strong suits of the .223/5.56mm.

The AR15 action is also not new. Developed in the 1950s, it is fast approaching retirement age. Formal acceptance of the AR15 and its “final” cartridge by the U.S. military came in 1963. That cartridge was “Cartridge 5.56mm Ball M193, already released to the public as the .223 Remington. Then and now, the .223 is a great cartridge. It is not as inherently accurate as the .222 Remington, but the military specs required more velocity. This led to the .222 Remington Magnum…which led to the .223.

Old-timers (including me!) lamented the loss of the M14 and its 7.62x51mm (.308 Winchester), more powerful and offering greater range…at cost in rifle and ammo weight and recoil. Right or wrong, the deal was done, and for decades the AR15 platform and the 5.56mm/.223 Remington were inextricably linked. However, there has been much recent development in “AR-compatible cartridges.

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SHOT AT DEER- BY CRAIG BODDINGTON

Across the country, it’s deer season! For some the best of the season is behind us, but for most American hunters the best part of the season is yet to come. This depends on where you live, depending on the season. Which, in turn, depends on local weather, deer densities, and management goals. Limits are based on the same! My friends in the Deep South tend to have amazingly long and lavish seasons, usually with multiple bucks allowed and lots of doe tags.

Brad McCarty 2019: Brad McCarty took this old, downhill buck from a Texas-style tower blind in Boddington’s largest food plot. At about 175 yards, this was one of the longest shots of 2019’s charmed season. Using a 6.5mm Creedmoor, his buck was down on the spot!
Brad McCarty 2019: Brad McCarty took this old, downhill buck from a Texas-style tower blind in Boddington’s largest food plot. At about 175 yards, this was one of the longest shots of 2019’s charmed season. Using a 6.5mm Creedmoor, his buck was down on the spot!

In the West and Midwest, we’re usually not so blessed. Deer densities are lower and the populations are more fragile. A “one-buck” license is more common. Whether you’re in South Carolina (where, uniquely, some counties still have no limit on bucks). Or, in Kansas, where we are a strict one-buck state, it makes sense to make every buck tag count. But it really doesn’t matter: The odds are with the deer! Whitetail or mule deer, there is no hundred-percent deer hunting in North America!

Dan Guillory 2019: Dan Guillory’s 2019 Kansas buck was the best of the season. Although genuine tracking was not required, this buck probably ran the farthest of any 2019 buck…despite a perfect lung shot with a 7x57.
Dan Guillory 2019: Dan Guillory’s 2019 Kansas buck was the best of the season. Although genuine tracking was not required, this buck probably ran the farthest of any 2019 buck…despite a perfect lung shot with a 7×57.
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PIG POWER by Craig Boddington

Just after sunset we came around a bend in the trail. The pig was standing in deep shadow under an oak, good-sized, solitary, probably a boar. That’s about all we could tell, and that was enough. Donna’s shot looked good, but the pig rolled into a little depression just out of sight. Donna and our rancher friend, Tony Lombardo approached and immediately backed up…fast!

44 hog: This ugly hog was taken in a wild melee with dogs using a Smith & Wesson .44 Magnum. A big, open-sighted revolver is a great choice for hound hunting where shots are sure to be close, but not versatile enough in many situations.
44 hog: This ugly hog was taken in a wild melee with dogs using a Smith & Wesson .44 Magnum. A big, open-sighted revolver is a great choice for hound hunting where shots are sure to be close, but not versatile enough in many situations.

The first shot was fine, but the pig didn’t accept that and was almost on top of them before it dropped to a quick second shot. It was not exactly a close call, but several exciting seconds! In fading light, we hadn’t appreciated that this was a really good boar, burly and heavy, with four inches of thick, sharp tusk showing above the gum line.  

AG110923: A good-sized Texas porker, taken with a Winchester Model 71 in .348. Big-bore lever-actions are dramatically effective on hogs and fun to hunt with, but the aperture sight on this rifle limits range and, more importantly, becomes almost when the light goes.
AG110923: A good-sized Texas porker, taken with a Winchester Model 71 in .348. Big-bore lever-actions are dramatically effective on hogs and fun to hunt with, but the aperture sight on this rifle limits range and, more importantly, becomes almost when the light goes.
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THE VERSATILE LEVER-ACTION? By Craig Boddington

The lever-action is part of our heritage, as American as apple pie, motherhood, and John Wayne. In rifle tastes, many of us have gravitated to super-accurate, flat-shooting rifles; others to adaptable, fast-shooting (and also accurate) semiautomatics. I’m okay with these, but as I grow older, I find myself circling back to lever-actions! 

A very good blacktail buck, taken with a Winchester M88 in .308 Winchester. Though not designed for lever-actions, the .308 has been chambered to a number of lever-actions…and there are few things that can’t be done with a .308.
A very good blacktail buck, taken with a Winchester M88 in .308 Winchester. Though not designed for lever-actions, the .308 has been chambered to a number of lever-actions…and there are few things that can’t be done with a .308.

The Winchester 1894 and Marlin 336 alone account for ten million rifles! The majority of these, thus the majority of lever-actions, were chambered to .30-30. Although mild by today’s standards, the .30-30 remains a fine deer cartridge! 

No lever-action is an extreme-range platform. Depending on which action or model, lever guns are hampered by some combination of pressure limitations, action length, two-piece stocks, tubular magazines, and sight restrictions. Over time, many of these problems have been solved, or at least mitigated: All Henry, Marlin, Mossberg, and Savage lever-actions can easily be scoped, as can all Winchester 1894s since 1982, when “Angle Eject” came in. Historically, blunt-nosed bullets with poor aerodynamics had to be used in tubular magazines. Hornady’s Flex-Tip bullet with compressible polymer tip solved this, instantly improving ballistics. 

Boddington used a Winchester M88 in .358 Winchester to take this Shiras moose on a tough-to-draw Wyoming permit. Although definitely not fast, the little .358 is a powerful cartridge that hits hard with little recoil.
Boddington used a Winchester M88 in .358 Winchester to take this Shiras moose on a tough-to-draw Wyoming permit. Although definitely not fast, the little .358 is a powerful cartridge that hits hard with little recoil.
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Why not a .270?

Here’s a riddle: What cartridge is faster, more powerful, and shoots flatter than a 6.5mm Creedmoor…with similar recoil? And, is chambered to more rifles, with a wider selection of factory loads and component bullets? 

270 lineup-light: Left to right: .243 Winchester, .260 Remington, 6.5mm Creedmoor, 7mm-08, .270 Winchester. All of these are great deer cartridges, but the .270 is far and away the fastest, most powerful, and most versatile of the group.

At the moment, it’s not true to say that everybody wants a 6.5mm Creedmoor. Right now, everybody wants whatever is ideal (or marginally suitable) for defending the hearth and home against virus-ridden zombie hordes. But I have to believe both happy and sane times will return, and we’ll spend more time thinking about hunting seasons past and looking forward to seasons ahead. I assume the Creedmoor Craze will continue, and everyone who wants a new hunting rifle will be longing for that amazing phenomenon, the 6.5mm Creedmoor. 

.270-general purpose: Left to right: .270 Winchester, 7mm-08, 7mm Remington Magnum, .30-06, .300 Winchester Magnum. All of these are acceptable elk cartridges, with the .270 and 7mm-08 good minimal choices, but fully adequate at moderate ranges.
.270-general purpose: Left to right: .270 Winchester, 7mm-08, 7mm Remington Magnum, .30-06, .300 Winchester Magnum. All of these are acceptable elk cartridges, with the .270 and 7mm-08 good minimal choices, but fully adequate at moderate ranges.
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UNDERSTANDING THE .17’S By Craig Boddington

Legend has it that the .17s originated in Australia, during a time when they were overrun with non-native foxes, in pestilence plenty, but still with value on the fur market. The advantage to the .17 was, on fox-sized animals, the tiny, frangible bullet, pushed fast, would enter, do its work…but not exit, leaving the pelt intact except for one tiny hole.

The African Cape fox is similar in size to American foxes. All of the .17s are excellent for this class of game because the light, frangible bullets rarely exit and do little pelt damage. The rifle is a Marlin in .17 HMR, the rifle Boddington keeps handy on his Kansas farm.
The African Cape fox is similar in size to American foxes. All of the .17s are excellent for this class of game because the light, frangible bullets rarely exit and do little pelt damage. The rifle is a Marlin in .17 HMR, the rifle Boddington keeps handy on his Kansas farm.

The idea migrated to North America in the 1960s, with American wildcatters developing numerous .17-caliber cartridges on various small cases. In 1971 Remington necked down the 223 Remington case to create the 17 Remington. It is still the fastest factory cartridge, propelling a 20-grain bullet at 4250 fps.

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In Praise Of Older Rifles By Craig Boddington

In this Wholesale Hunter Blog Craig Boddington discusses older rifles and compares the quality and value of older rifle Vs newer ones.

Crown recut: This inexpensive Remington .30-06 turned out to have a lop-sided crown, right group. We re-cut the crown at the range, a simple process (if you have the tools). Using the same factory ammo, it turned into a real tack-driver, center group.

Modern factory rifles are amazing, complete, reliable, and more accurate than ever before. In today’s dollars, basic bolt-actions, are more inexpensive than ever before. There are dozens of good models under $600, and some excellent new bolt-actions available for little more than half that. Almost invariably, most basic bolt-actions wear synthetic stocks, free-floated barrels, rust-resistant metal, and push-feed actions. No problem, they work and shoot well. And, of course, I shoot them, hunt with them, and write about them.

This custom .270 Winchester by Joe Balickie, on a left-hand Carl Gustav action, groups pretty well with everything…but it really likes the 130-grain GMX, top right. Naturally, that’s what Boddington uses to hunt with this rifle
This custom .270 Winchester by Joe Balickie, on a left-hand Carl Gustav action

However, my personal tastes run much more to good old walnut, mated and carefully fitted to blued steel. These features are available in new rifles of all action types. But you’ll pay more for them. It comes down to manufacturing costs. Synthetic is less costly than wood…and requires less hand-fitting and final finishing. Other action types, whether lever, semiauto, etc., are generally more expensive than basic bolt-actions; and controlled-round-feed (Mauser-type) bolt-actions are costlier than push-feed actions. Again, manufacturing costs: Number of parts, raw materials, and both machining and assembly time. Just the way it is!

A vintage .300 Savage on the California Central Coast. Rifle choices are somewhat regional; the Savage 99 was extremely popular on the West Coast and are seen on most used-gunracks. Used Marlins may be more common in the Upper Midwest.
A vintage .300 Savage on the California Central Coast. Rifle choices are somewhat regional; the Savage 99 was extremely popular on the West Coast and are seen on most used-gunracks. Used Marlins may be more common in the Upper Midwest.
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