Saturday, April 05, 2003

.25-35 Winchester Research

I've been doing some research on the .25-35 Winchester known in Europe as the 6.5x52R. Apparently, I'm one of the few users others just don't have much to contribute. Chuck Hawks has a good short write-up on the cartridge. I would still like to learn more about actual experiences in the use of this cartridge so if you have used it feel free to write.

We do know that it is (was?) used in Europe for Roe Deer in drillings and combination guns. Here in the states it was chambered in the Winchester Model 1894 and Marlin chambered a proprietary "copy" of it called the .25-36 Marlin in their guns. Also, Remington thought enough of its commercial viability to chamber a rimless version (with a different case shape) in their Model 8 auto-loader and Model 14 pump action rifles. While the Marlin is more on line in ballistic performance with the European version known there as the 6.5x52R, it's 117 gr. bullet going about 2000 fps in that cartridge. That's compared to 2250 fps for the same bullet in the Winchester version or 2350 fps in some loadings of the Remington rimless version. Now it seems that the only new made guns are in the form of Thompson Center Contender barrels. Many have apparently been made by the custom shop.

Ken Waters points out that the .25 Remington was touted as an "expert's" cartridge and loaded with 87, 100 and 117 gr. bullets including some full metal jacketed. One of the uses touted for this round was the shooting of geese on the water! In any case it is a mild recoiling round that can take whitetailed deer with care and be loaded as a small game cartridge equal to the .25-20 Winchester. I believe that it could also be a fine eastern coyote cartridge for use at ranges to 175 yards or so.

If you've been following my posts and/or my topics on Accurate Reloading, you've seen that I've had an interesting journey with this particular Contender barrel. Produced by the custom shop, it is 21" long, standard taper, high lustre blue, and drilled only for the scope mount. I've mounted a Swift 1.5-4.5X scope in Weaver mounts and rings. All up weight mounted with the Rynite stock is only 5½ pounds! I purchased it second (?) hand from Ron Sable (I would include a link but his page doesn't seem to be working!) and as usual, it was exactly as described. I don't think it was ever fired much and it is in really good condition (aka NRA fine). FYI, another good place to look for Contender (and Encore) barrels is Ed's Contenders. Ed is a fine gentleman and has a wide range of barrels. Even if you don't see want you want, call or send and e-mail and ask. Please be patient, Ed has at least 2 other jobs and is often out of town.

Of course when reloading one must start somewhere. After I have gun or barrel in hand I generally look at the game I expect to use the particular cartridge on and then seek appropriate bullets. For the .25-35 Hornady makes THE 117 grain round-nose (curiously, factory ammo is all flatnosed!?!) which is, by all accounts, an excellent bullet. Remington also produces an 86 grain bullet intended for the .25-20 Winchester that has a second cannelure which allows one to use your .25-35 seating die set to load both these fine bullets despite the length difference. Both of these bullets are easily obtainable from Midway if you've got difficulties getting your local shop to order for you. There was one other bullet that interested me and that was the Hornady VMAX, a 75 grain, .257" BT type bullet that I thought would be the cat's meow!

My original intent was to take the VMAX and load it with 34 gr. BL-C(2) to about 2800 fps. This part worked out well, I was able to go to the 34 gr. maximum load without signs of excessive pressure and attained 2832 fps average velocity at 10' from the muzzle. So far so good. Accuracy with cases from the same lot is better than factory ammo, averaging right around 1" at 100 yards compared to the factory ammo's (both the Winchester and Sellier and Bellot (S&B) 6.5x52R load) 1 3/4" at that same distance. Unfortunately, there always seems to be a complication, Murphy being alive and well in Virginia.

With the scope mounted and zeroed for the factory ammunition, I attempted to fire my first groups with my handloads consisting of Winchester brass, the 75 gr. Hornady VMAX, 34 gr. Hodgdon's BL-C(2) and a CCI 200 Large Rifle primer. Velocity was, as noted, 2832 fps, a considerable step up from the 2000-2250 fps of factory ammo. At 50 yards bullet strike for this load was a full 10 inches higher than the factory ammo and I don't even have an idea as to where it struck at 100 yards since it was completely off the target backing (but into the berm). Well I didn't want to re-zero, but soon discovered that I was still going to be 3 inches high at 50 yards and the scope had no remaining adjustment. This was a disappointment but never one to give up I tried shimming the rings and base to bring the groups into a usable distance from the point of aim. I was only able to move bullet strike down an additional inch and was uncomfortable with the amount of shim material being used. I was also unhappy that I would not be able to shoot the factory ammo with that sight setting. Indeed, I was not going to be able to zero the rifle with factory ammo with the shims in place. So, out came the shims and this load will be abandoned.

I am now working on the Hornady 117 gr. round nose bullet. Maximum velocities come with 27 gr. of BL-C(2) and the same CCI 200 primer and are averaging 2350 fps or so. This is about 100 fps faster than the Winchester factory but beats the "anemic" 6.5x52R S&B load by 300 fps, a substantial amount. I suppose I should pause and make a couple of comments about the factory ammo.

The Winchester ammo is of the usual high quality we've come to expect from this manufacturer. Brass is good quality and reloadable, it is fairly accurate and dependable. No barn burner but a good solid performer. S&B ammo is a somewhat different story.

While the quality seems to be pretty good and accuracy is pretty good, the brass leaves something to be desired. Out of 2 boxes, 2 cases have had splits in the shoulder/neck region on the first firing. One seldom sees such a propensity for splitting in US made ammunition. This bothers me, and I'm sure it would bother you. Obviously the pressure is not very high, it has to be rooted in the quality of the brass. I'd not use this brass for maximum effort loads and will in fact be using it for loads with the Remington .25-20 86 gr. which I intend to move at about 1800 fps.

Now this should be a useful load, firing a fairly light bullet at very moderate velocities it should be a very mild recoiling round in even this light gun. This will make it a good training cartridge as well as a light but effective groundhog gun and it shouldn't be too destructive of rabbits and squirrels. With any luck I'll be able to get it to shoot to the same point of aim as the 117 gr. bullet load to 100 yards. My first powder to try will be the IMR SR4759. I am hoping that 12-14 gr. will do the trick. SR4759 is often a good powder to use for "reduced" loads where you want to maximize loading density.

That is about all for now. I'll post the results of future work here as well.

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