Gary's Gun Notes #49

Our favorite time of the year is finally here and in this area a lot of nice elk and deer are being taken. Our seasons out here in Arizona start a bit before more of the eastern ones. When I was a kid I always looked forward to Thanksgiving because our main rifle hunting seasons started the weekend after Thanksgiving. I am not sure exactly when they are these days but still about the same I imagine.

This is also the time of year we get our first snow and although we have just had a couple of dustings, it won't be long. Last year was a horrible year with not one bit of snow until March, then we got 3 feet in just a couple of weeks. A good year for us here is 12 to 15 feet of snow but we have been in a long drawn out drought for the last several years and the average has been well below that.

I have had several guys call who are looking into buying a good long range handgun for deer and antelope and wanted to know which calibers would be best. That is a tricky question and normally when I answer it I get a silence on the other end that tells me this is not what they either expected to hear or wanted to hear. But for an encore handgun with a barrel length of 13 to 15 inches plus the brake, forget the big super magnums. Forget the WSMs and the Ultras and the maxis and all that. 

A short handgun barrel will only burn a certain amount of powder. In most cases this figure is around 60 grains of powder and all the rest is blown out the end of the barrel to go up in a bright flash when it hits the oxygen. So if you figure an average of 60 grains of powder that can be burned, then look at the loading data for cartridges like a 300 Weatherby..80 grains, a 7mm Weatherby 75 grains, a 338 magnum, 75 grains, 8mm magnum, 75 grains, and so on. And I didn't even get into the Ultra Mags and WSMs and so on. 

So if you are shooting a 300 Weatherby magnum with a 150 grain bullet in front of 80 grains of 4350 (an average load) that does 3300, and you are shooting it in a 14 inch barreled encore (14 plus the brake for a total of 16 overall) and you lose 28 fps per inch (that's the average loss per inch) so your barrel is 12 inches shorter than a rifle barrel. Let's see, you have 12 times 28 or a loss of 336 fps on the average plus wasting a lot of powder per shot. And lets say you have a 30-06 encore barrel shooting a 150 grain bullet using a maximum of 57 grains of 4350 and doing 2900 fps. You are burning all the powder plus getting the same velocity that the guys shooting the 300 Weatherby are getting. Get my drift?

And there are other calibers that will do even better in a short barreled encore. A 308 uses 50 grains of 4350 with a 150 grain bullet and does almost the same as the 30-06. Much more efficient than the 300 Weatherby, it won't beat you to death and you don't have to buy $50 a box ammo or waste 20 grains of powder every shot with your reloads. A 270 is excellent for antelope and deer as is the 25-06 and the 257 Roberts, the 6mm, the 243 and so on. An antelope and a mule deer or a whitetail deer do not have armor plating and do not have brass balls and eat small children for breakfast. With a decent hit just about anywhere in the vitals with any of these cartridges out of a handgun, they will fall. They might do that little 30 yard heart shot run but they will go down. Plus you won't have destroyed 20 pounds of meat and that is part of the reason you are out there, remember? Well, at least that is one of the reasons you give your wife. 

Now that I have you all pissed off, let's carry on to another subject that is similar but a bit different. That is using too small a cartridge on an elk or moose or snuffaluffagus or whatever. A friend e-mailed me a picture of a big elk his kid shot this week. The animal was big and was shot with a 243. Now as far as I am concerned, he should be banned from ever hunting again. To be a hunter you need to respect the animal you plan to hunt. True, his kid placed the bullet in the heart and the animal didn't run far, but more often than not a perfect shot is not offered to us. Often we have to run that bullet thru bones and several feet of muscle to get to the vitals and a 243 is not up to that. 

A hunter that has any sand to him at all takes the animal into consideration and does all he can to make sure that animals death is quick and humane. This past weekend a big 6x7 bull elk walked across my front yard and stopped about 10 feet from our cars. He stood there, not moving for over an hour while I watched him. I walked out to take his picture and he walked another 20 feet over into the neighbors yard. I could tell he was sick by the way he walked. He stopped in front of the neighbors house and just stood there. I called the game and fish at about 10:30 and they got there about 4 pm. During this time I got a good look at him. He had lost a lot of weight, probably 50 pounds or more and was really bony in the rear end. I got a closer look at him thru some binocs and the problem was apparent. He had either been shot in the gut or had an arrow in his gut, real low. The cartridge or the arrow didn't have enough punch to go all the way thru 3 feet of gut. There was a hole on one side and a big lump on the other. He had apparently been shot a couple of weeks before that and the hunter didn't follow him up and finish it. 

The game and fish guy got there and he came to the same conclusion. He darted him and winched him into the truck and took him out to a field somewhere and put him down. This bothered me a lot. Not that the animal died but that he was wasted, and wasted by one of us, a hunter who didn't do his homework well enough to have been in that field. And that comes right back to the 243 on elk. It is not right, it is not humane and absolutely shouldn't be allowed. I didn't answer that e-mail as it was none of my business but my respect for him dropped several points. 

I have had a bunch of calls about the 3 new calibers we have come up with and when they will be ready. They are the new 455 GNR, 257 GNR and 440 GNR Magnum. I still haven't received my dies from Hornady yet. I assume they are just behind. I have a revolver built in the 455 GNR, an encore in the 257 GNR and a Marlin rifle in the 440 GNR Magnum, so I am ready to do the initial testing and then will forward an encore barrel in each caliber to Sean Harper along with the dies. Sean is a fanatic about reloading and load testing. He has a chronograph and can do all the pressure testing for me that I simply don't have time for. 

While on the subject of Sean Harper, he has finished some load testing on the 375 GNR recently. That is the cartridge that is the 445 Super Mag necked down to 375. It should be an excellent cartridge putting a 200 grain bullet out of a 10 inch barrel at 2200 fps or so. That gives us a TKO of 23. A 300 Win. magnum, for instance, with a 200 grain bullet has a TKO of 21. So the 375 is looking good. 

Another reloading note here. Andy Rowe, who bought Cartridge Performance Engineering a while back has a new 356 GNR load he showed me a day or two ago. It uses the 180 grain jacketed soft point bullet from Hornady. It is too long for the revolvers but should be great in the contender or encore. Andy will give you the load if you are nice. 

This our time of year guys. Get out and enjoy it.



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