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WINCHESTERíS SLEEPER..358 WCF..

by Paco

Seven years after I returned to the U.S. from 2 plus years in Africa the itch for the all around rifle I had over there got really bad. It was an old military Mauser converted from 9.3X57mm to a 62mm case. Basically like our 35 Whelen.

In 1968 reamers for the 9.3 were none existent, dies, bullets and such expensive, and the 35 Whelen reamers were hard to find and expensive to buy...at least for me at the time. But the gunsmith that was going to build my first custom rifle assured me the 358 Winchester would do it all. I figured it would be much like the original chambering in my African all around rifle, the 9.3X57...I had that opened to the 62 mm case only because where I was 30-06 brass was plentiful and the 57mm brass was not.

Using a commercial Mauser action, I had a 23 inch .358 barrel with a 1 in 10 twist mounted with a medium weight and taper....a good hunk of straight grain American walnut cut in a classic stock shape with a 13 and Ĺ inch length of pull. And it stayed a .358 Win until I ran into a BSA 24 inch rifle a few years later in .358 so I rechambered the custom rifle to 35 Whelen.

It might sound like at this point I had too much of the same thing a 358 Win and a 35 Whelen...but not really. The least I can say about 35 Whelen is that it is actually one of the finest all around cartridges to be developed. Itís basically in the class of medium heavy calibers like 338/06 and the 375/06. And the three of those are in a class, when compared to the African calibers in Taylorís classic book...AFRICAN RIFLES AND CARTRIDGES, that will take 95% of African game and 99% of everything in the North and South Americas.

Taylor talks of the 350 Rigby Magnum...which is a 60 grain cartridge case...like the Whelen...(pgs 148/150) and states on pg 150 that in the open the 350 Rigby mag will take the dangerous game of Africa. The 350 Rigby Mag and the Whelen are performance twins. With todayís powders and bullets the Whelen in 358...or338 and 375...is far above the African calibers of Taylorís time.....

It is easy to say that the .358 Win on the 308 case, is 15% below the Whelen...in power potential. But that doesnít really describe the assets of this neat cartridge. If you want to build a very powerful and compact rifle the .358 should be considered. The Browning leveraction .358 proves this....those that have one know. If I didnít have a number of 35 caliber rifles...and had the itch to build one it would run along these lines....a short bolt action, a straight taper stiff medium 20 inch barrel and a synthetic stock with a 50mm 6 power scope. Outside of game like the Big Bears of the North, elephant, cape buff, and such, I could hunt the world with it.

I know that just about every animal on earth, has fallen to the big bore handguns of today...so a rifle of the power potential of the 358 Win should easily take anything...and thatís true to a point. But the big bore handguns or even the 358 Winchester heavy loaded are not what I want if a cape buff decides he thinks I would make a good component of a mud hole. Or a angry brown bear thinks eliminating me will cure his pain in life. Iím not saying the 358 Win wonít take such game I just want to put it into real perspective.

Now saying all that, here is where I get into trouble. The Speer number 13 reloading manual shows the 180 grain bullet from a 30-06 at 2756 fps as the top load and the 358 Winchester 180 grain bullet at 2732 fps as the top load. Both easily give 3000 pounds of muzzle energy with many loads. But the 358 will do it with less powder, shorter actions, shorter brass, and shorter barrels than the 30-06. Is the 358 better than the 30-06? Are apples better than oranges? Thatís a matter of personal taste, not science....but I think so. Remember of course, I am sold out to the 35 caliber...and that colors my thinking.

In my 358 notes I show a load of 54.5 grains of H335 under the Speer 180 grain 35-Flat SP gives over 2850 fps! That is a top load...and it gives nearly 3250 pounds of punch. Using 54 grains of 748...and a 220 grain round soft nose bullet gives 2510 fps and over 3000 lbs of muzzle energy... suddenly gives you have a moose and big bear load that is exceptionally effective. Pushing the 250 grain Speer Grand Slam at 2400 fps with 44 grains of AA2015 gives a killing potential that is awesome on large game in the multi thousand pound class. And Barnes makes a .358/250 grain solid for those biggies that have very hard heads. And yes these are 358 Winchester loads...not the Whelen or the 35 Remington Magnum loads. All from my 23 inch barrel.

Lymanís 3589, is the original mold number...not sure what it is today, probably something like 358009. But it is a round nose at around 280 grains in weight. I cast these bullets from magnum shotgun shot with 5% tin added...cast hot and dropped directly into water.

The ones Iím going to use for hunting I size and lube...then place them standing in water up to just above the shoulder and run the butane torch over the noses ...doesnít take much...at the first sign of color change take the flame off...Let them cool slowly and the temper in the noses is gone for good expansion ...yet the body is hard and will take high pressure and velocity without fouling....pushing these from the 358 Winchester cartridge at 2400 fps is a snap with H335, AA 2015, or 3031...accuracy is very fine. Muzzle energy is almost 3600 lbs....a 30-06 has to work very hard to get even close to that kind of power.

One of the great loads from the 358 is to take the Remington 150 grain spire point bullet...over 52 grains of ReL#15 and 3100 fps...(my..my we are in 270 Win country)...WHY do they call this a woods caliber???? With my 3+ inch zero at 100 yards ...by actually shooting it is still 2.4 inches high at 200 yards...1.5 inches down at 300 yards and a little over a foot at 400 yards.....woods round my butt! At the muzzle this bullet carries 3000 lbs of energy and at 400 yards it still has almost a 1300 lbs of punch and at 500 yards still near 1000 lbs. As I said it is versatile, powerful, and can be a light rifle for 95% of the game of the world.....what else could we ask for. Jim Taylor and I once stood on a very high foothill shooting over to the next very high foothill with my 356 Winchester 94 Big Bore leveraction...loaded with my special 358 loads.....Jim was amazed that he was able to hit smallish rocks with ease...well past 500 yards. Why is this round such a sleeper?????

And the great 358 Winchester cartridge and chambering is a real sleeper. It was written up in all the gunzines from 1955 thru the 1960s...but it was constantly referred to as a Ďbush caliberí or a Ďwoods caliberí...stating the effective range was around 200 yards on the outside. Who writes this crapola?

The same thing happened to the 307 and 356 Winchester cartridges and chamberings, in the 94 Big Bore Levergun...one of the strongest mind sets in the gunzine writing business seems to be...leveractions = brush guns!!!! Leverguns are of limited power and range...leverguns can kill really big game like moose and the big bears only at very limited distance.....!!!!

One of the great African hunters was John ĎPondoroí Taylor. In his book AFRICAN RIFLES AND CARTRIDGES in a chart section after pg.196 John rates the velocities and muzzle energy/and energy of bullets out to 300 yards...on each of the African calibers from the 256 thru the 600. In the chart he rates the 235 grain 375 H&H bullet at 2800 fps and itís 270 grain bullet 2650 fps. These are velocities for the most part of British ammo loaded with cordite and it was temperature sensitive, so it was loaded down for African hunting by the British ammo makers....but these are the loads from 1913 to the 1950s that dropped elephants and such by the thousands.

John Taylor calls the 375 the greatest all around rifle cartridge for African hunting of game, up to the size of elephant, rhino, hippo, cape buffalo and many other very large, and hard to stop animals. And great it is.....and on pg.146 thru 150 in his book, he talks about the very well known cartridge in Africa but not well known in the U.S. The 350 Rigby Magnum. Is this some belted banger on the H&H case? No it was basically a 35 Whelen of the times. Pushing a 225 grain bullet at 2600 fps.... John states very clearly that the 350 Rigby magnum will do what the 375 H&H will do on big game. Itís just that John wanted the solid 270 grain bullet weight of the 375 in the thick brush when he was after elephant. And he wished that Rigby would come out with a heavier bullet for 350 R/Mag. (Donít confuse this mag labeled round with the smaller 350 Rigby..nonMag) Whatís all this got to do with the 358 Winchester round?

We can with modern powder and bullets get to within 15% of the British loaded 375 H&H...and get right beside the 350 Rigby Mag with todayís 358 reloaded Winchester cartridge. I have pushed the 220 grain 358 Speer bullets over 2500 fps(50 grs A2520 @ 54,000C) and the Barnes 250 grain solid over 2400 fps (49 grs A2520 @ 55,500C). Would I shoot an elephant with a suitably loaded 358 bolt action? I would rather use a 35 Whelen with the Barnes 250 grain solid at near 2700 fps....but if the .358 Win was all I had, and the shot was decent..not only would I...but I have. With handloads in the 9.3 x 62mm when I was in Africa in the 1950s. Loads that put the 9.3 in the same killing levels as the old 35 Whelen, 350 Rigby Magnum, and the British loaded (cordite) 375 H&H.

Lets see ............ the gun writers tell us the 358 is a brush cartridge.   Well,  when it is loaded with commercial ammo at warm 35 Remington level velocities....it might be. So now, I know some will go to their reloading manuals and say Ďwait Pacoí...the best loads I can find with the 250 grain Barnes bullet from the Barnes book out of the 350 Remington magnum is only 2500+ fps!!!...how can the smaller 358 Win do 2400+ fps?

Itís a lesson in pressure again...most reloading manuals keep the 358 at about 47,000 to 50,000 CUP on the very top end...but usually below even that. The pressure in the 375 H&H and other belted mags can run as high as 57,000 to 60,000 psi. Do you think the actions on the belted magnum bolt rifles like Winchester Mod.70 or Remingtonís 700 or Rugerís 77, are any less strong than their non belted bolt actions? All made from the same steel, same manufacturing processes, etc.....

Do you think the brass of the 358 Winchester case is less strong than the brass of a 7mm Remington mag for example. The belted mag cartridges may be thicker in some places like the base...but it is the same kind of brass and since science tells us when all else is equal, the smaller cylinder is the stronger cylinder...the 358 case makes up for the added thickness of the larger belted mags. I have 358 Winchester brass that has gone thru 40+ loadings and is still going strong...and my favorite load with the Speer 180 grain FlatSP...pushes 55,000 psi and sends that fine bullet over 2800 fps. The Speer manual #13 gives a load of 52 grs of H335 and a load of 45 grs of ReL#7 that pushes it well over 2700 fps. Somebody want to check the velocities for the 30-06/180 gr bullet? Has that ever been called short range?

My Lyman mold 3589 drops a 290+ grain cast bullet with a gas check...with ApacheBlu lube and ReL#7 or A2520 I push that over 2350 fps, giving more than 3550 ft.lbs of muzzle energy. The 250 grain solid at 2400+ fps gives 3200 ft.lbs of energy....all light for elephant in the thick stuff...but they are not brush loads..nor is the 358 Winchester a brush/woods cartridge. Now these are heavy loads. I donít use them on deer or black bear or sumsuch...but the power and potential is there if needed.

I wrote in my first book on leverguns that using a Remington 150 grain spire point .358 bullet (developed for the 350 Remington Mag round) in the 356 case from the 356 Winchester Big Bore I could get an 8 to 10 inch actual drop at 400 yards. The Winchester rep at the time, nearly called me a liar...but looking at my face...I guess he thought better of it....saying something else like ..."Iíd really have to see that..." Something to smooth out his near faux pa.

But pushing that 150 grainer at over 3000 fps and setting the scope at five inches high at 100 yards will do it (five inches @100 set on the bottom post of my duplex scope site). I set my guns usually at 2Ĺ to three inches high at 100...Even at 3 inches @100 yrds...the drop is around 15 inches at 400 yards....actual firing not computer generated. But just to show the 356 was not a hyper Ďbrush guní as the gunzines were spouting...I ran those tests at five inches @100yrds. Didnít do much good, the round still died and so has the 358 Win.

I donít see much difference between the 358 and the 356 WinBB rounds when handloaded to 55,000psi or so. The expansion ratio for a 35 caliber makes the 20 inch Winchester 94BB barrel very effective and with minimal fps loss in comparison to the 308 barrel bore.....I get the same jazz about my velocities in the 356/358 when folks compare to the listed loads for the 350 Rem mag.

Thatís the short mag round they developed for the 18 inch barreled rifle Remington produced, called the mod.600...then later the model 660 with a plastic rib. Those 350 Rem/Mag loads were also kept at the 47,000 to 50,000 cup levels because the rifle was very small. But you chamber a 350 Rem Mag in a modern bolt action like the fine Ruger mod.77 (Ruger made a limited run of these) and load it to itís full potential....and you can within 3 to 5% of todayís fine 375 H&H ballistics with ease. Thatís a 375 H&H 235 grain bullet at 2950 fps from a 24 inch barrel, using 85 grains of 380...or 2950 fps with 80 grains of ReL#15....But the well chambered 350 Rem/Mag from a 24 inch barrel will push the 220 grain 358 slugs over 2900 fps. My 35 Whelen Imp...will also do about the same.....so we realize the 358 isnít the only under loaded round.

Because of itís small size, the 358 Winchester makes for one fine cast bullet cartridge....13.5 grains of Red Dot, Green Dot, PB, Unique, and SR 7625 will give from 1350 to 1450fps with a 200 grain bullet. I like the 358430 Lyman round nose at 195+ grains for any small eating animal that I donít want to tear up...this is basically a medium 357 magnum handgun level load. Lyman makes a tapered 200 grain plus bullet, numbered 358315 that I never could get good accuracy with at any decent velocity....it looks like a rifle bullet, but doesnít act like one for me.

The all time great cast .358 bullet for me in rifles is the 3589 Lyman (itís now numbered 358009) it is a listed 280 grain very blunt roundnose. It drops at 290+ grains from my mold and at 2350fps gives well over 3500 ft.lbs. of muzzle energy (51 grs A2520). Someone asked if I would use cast bullets on large thick skinned game animals. Been there, as so many others have. I used cast bullets in the 9.3 Mauser much more than jacketed, in Africa. Todayís handgun hunters have taken just about everything Africa has to offer, with cast bullets. Cast bullets were used first on everything...man, animals, in wars, hunting, everything....jacketed bullet use didnít become common until we were well into the 20 century.

Heavy cast bullets can be pushed as fast, or nearly as fast as heavy jacketed bullets. If they are cast fairly hard and the noses after sizing and lubing are de- tempered they make exceptionally good hunting bullets. The 358 caliber has a plethora of bullet weights and shapes to choose from. And of course the commercial casters offer a large selection of types and weights and designs to make the most picky shooter happy.

The latest Lyman chart shows 13 different 358 designs from 115 grs to 280 grains....RCBS shows 9 from 148 grs to 200 grs....CBE shows 40 in their product book from 80 grs to 300+grs. CBE made a special 358 bullet up for me that was in the Keith short nose design at 335 grs. The mold is gorgeous, made from pure brass...two cavity...drops perfect bullets. This company is a real find...they are in New South Wales, but donít let that bother you their turn around order time is shorter than some American companies. (CBE P.O.BOX 269 MENAI CENTRAL N.S.W. 2234 tellíem Paco sent you). You should at least send for their catalog if you are a caster......And of course NEI has as many as CBE....

If you canít find your perfect bullet weight and design...NEI will still cut a cherry and produce a mold to your own design...I have a few of those. The heaviest 35 caliber mold I have is a custom Hock 350 grainer of my design from back in the 1980s. Built especially for my 35 Whelen, rarely does this bullet stay inside any animal harvested with it. It and the CBE 335 grainer are really too long for the 358 Winchester....taking up too much powder space inside the cartridge case. But even at 1600 to 1800 fps and 2500 ft.lbs from the 358 Winchester round they are still fairly powerful and fun to shoot.

I cast them medium soft in the body for this velocity, and completely soft in the noses...they will roll a coyote every time. They will make steaks and chops and roasts out of big deer, black bear and elk...and they will punch completely thru a 1000+ lb feral bull with a side shot thru the ribs. And because they are so long in body, their trajectory isnít as bad at these low velocities, as I first thought they would be.

But the 358 Winchester cries for the 250 gr to 300 grs bullets in jacketed or cast for heavy game and 180 to 220 grs for the medium game...the 150 to 165 grs for small stuff. And with proper reloading it is a far better and much more powerful and longer range cartridge than it has been given credit for.....try it, I think you will like it.

 

 

 

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