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.35 Whelen vs. .350 Rem. Mag.: Cartridge Clash

The gloves are off. Let's watch these two medium bores duke it out in this cartridge clash.

.35 Whelen vs. .350 Rem. Mag.: Cartridge Clash

In 1964, Remington decided to go out on a limb and alter conventional magnum cartridge design. The .350 Rem. Mag. was a short, wide offspring of the 7mm Rem. Mag. cartridge with a truncated neck. Shooters seemed to view the cartridge’s squatty design as a metaphor for its effective range. Remington capitalized on the “brush hunter” theme and chambered the new round in the Model 600 rifle, a combination that produced hefty recoil. Remington later introduced the round into the longer Model 660, which tamed recoil somewhat, and over the years it has been chambered in the Model 700 BDL, Model 700 Classic, 673 and Model 7—none of which were popular in .350.

The .35 Whelen’s SAAMI birth certificate makes it appear as though the cartridge emerged in the late 1980s, but that’s not true. Wildcatters have been necking-up .30-06 cases since the Jazz Age. Why? It is a powerful cartridge that doesn’t require an expensive magnum action. You could convert a .30-06 to .35 Whelen and get more energy, manageable recoil and a higher magazine capacity than you get from magnums. And, as time passed, better bullets and better powders made the .35 Whelen an even more versatile cartridge. Its mild velocities kept meat damage to a minimum on deer-size game, but handloaders could rev up their rounds for hunting moose, elk and even bear.

Hits and Misses

The .350 Rem. Mag. suffered initially because it was brutal to shoot when first offered for sale and didn’t shoot as flat as conventional magnums of the era. Still, it had merit then and still does today. The .350 Rem. Mag. is short enough to fit into compact rifles, and it is more efficient than the longer .35 Whelen. Handloaders can turn up the heat and make the .350 Rem. Mag. shoot faster than 2,700 fps. With modern powders and bullets, the potential of the .350 Rem. Mag. can be unlocked. In compact rifles, this round is powerful enough for a wide range of game—deer to elk to African plains game.

But the primary issue with it today is availability. If you can’t find an old Remington in .350 (or a Ruger 77, which was chambered in the round for a short while) you’re looking at a custom job or a high-end factory gun like Nosler’s excellent Model 48. Bullets are easy to find, though, and there are a number of modern powders that work well with the modern short, fat, fast cartridges—and they’ll work with the .350 Rem. Mag. Brass can be difficult to find, and loaded ammo is all but impossible to lay your hands upon. Currently, Nosler, the savior of many cartridges teetering on the edge of obscurity, is the only ammo manufacturer offering .350 Rem. Mag., a 250-grain Partition at 2,550 fps.

The .35 Whelen was a great non-magnum cartridge at a time when everyone wanted magnums. Walk into any rifle club, ask how many are fans of the .35 Whelen and every hand in the room will probably be raised. But then ask how many people actually own a rifle so chambered and the hands start to fall. We love it, but few of us are willing to plunk down the money to have one. That’s a shame, too, because the Whelen can move heavier bullets than a .30-06 with a similar trajectory curve but without a great deal more recoil. The cartridge can handle deer and certainly elk, although it’s handicapped at longer ranges.

However, in terms of popularity, the Whelen is a prom queen compared to the .350 Rem. Mag., with more than a dozen factory loads from major makers. Plus, you can find more factory rifles—or simply rebarrel your .30-06 or similar gun.

In terms of overall sales, neither of these cartridges is popular. Shame. Maybe we don’t know a good thing when we see it.




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