Murphy, and others, Iím feeling a little brave, mischievous, or maybe foolish today. Lately, this forum hasnít been lively enough, so I thought maybe of taking your suggestion and starting a new thread!!!
The topic is: Limiting the scope of the discussion strictly to hunting, why choose one of the .308 magnums, including the belted and non-belted ones, instead of any one of the .338 Magnums?
It seems to me, that by using 200-210 gr .338 bullets, one could basically duplicate or exceed anything the 300s have to offer with 180 Ė 220 gr bullets, with the added benefit of using 225gr or 250gr or heavier with the 338, if the need was there. Adequate performance with 150 - 165 gr bullets or thereabouts, is obtainable with many non-magnumized cartridges.
There seems to be two distinct camps regarding the 300 Mags. We hear many stories of those completely satisfied with their version of the .308 Mag. Yet there are plenty of stories to the contrary, with data to back it up.
I hear hunting stories of how well the 300 Mag did on those long shots 300 yards +, but itís funny that I never hear the story said like --- ďMan that magnum performed at 250 yards just like my old 06 performed at 100 yards.Ē I donít recall hearing ďI should have brought my 06, and got closer.Ē
Why shoot at the big dangerous game at long range anyway? Big stuff + close range + high velocity = explosive trouble. Smaller game + close range + high velocity = explosive meat mangling.
Recently, I read a 23 year old US forest Service publication reporting the results of extensive tests using factory ammo (emphasis on FACTORY AMMO) available at the time, at close range, in a test medium, to rate the performance of various options as bear stoppers. It is my understanding this contracted test and publication was done by qualified persons, not by Forest Service personnel. None of the bullets tested were solids. Penetration, expansion and retained weight were the key factors in the rating. Pure computed muzzle energy was down-rated.
Naturally, the 458 WM (510 gr) was at the top of the list, followed by the 375 H&H (300 gr), 338 WM next (also 300 gr), and so forth. Interestingly, the 458 WM rated higher than the 460 Weatherby, which clearly has the higher muzzle energy. I think the 30-06, 180 gr., was 6th or so. Interestingly, the .30-06 with 220 gr factory stuff didnít rate as well because of fragmentation. Anyway, this was a pretty good objective test, in my opinion.
Most significantly, they rated the 300 Mag next to the 44 Mag rifle in performance. Strange, unless you focus on the key word of ďperformanceĒ being penetration, retained weight, and bullet diameter after mushrooming. As I recall, 180 gr .308 bullets were being tested. They were very generous and clinical in their explanation, saying something like: ďit appeared that the magnum velocity at close range exceeded the design specifications of the bullets testedĒ. They didnít test just one factory load either. The reason for failure to have penetration and retained bullet weight is simply because the bullet disintegrated. This also applied to the factory loaded Nosler bullet tested, although it did penetrate better than the other .308 bullets tested, only about 50% of its weight was retained by the time it stopped Ė with greatly reduced frontal area, and far less sectional density than it started with. Similarly, the 7mm Mag 175 gr factory stuff of the time almost didnít make the list, and they simply said it is not recommended as useful for brown bear, where a close encounter may occur.
I wonder: Where is any small magnum caliber used on brown bear not likely to end with a close encounter (by someone else if not the shooter), no matter at what range it started?
Although the tests were limited to factory ammo, perhaps the tests were actually representative of the cartridgeís real performance, whether factory ammo or premium hand loads are used?
Also, I remember many stories of where professionals in Africa would take great exception to any client showing up with any 300 Mag, for use on anything dangerous.
I have very reliable info of two recent situations of brown bears being shot with .308 Magnums, one a 300 H&H - 180 gr Nosler Factory load Ė two shots Ė local Alaskan charged while berry picking; and the other a 300 WSM - 165 gr something-or-other Ė one shot Ė non-Alaskan hunting bear with next-of-kin. The one shot twice with the 300 H&H was never found, although the blood trail was tracked by wildlife officers some distance. The other was found days later, a half mile away, after it was being fed upon by another bear and eagles. Of course there may be all kinds of rationalizations, but in both cases the bear went down and got right back up, then ran away. To me, going down indicates a pretty good hit.
Who among you think as I do, that real magnums start at .338?
Now, Iím curious of how much trouble Iíve started. Hopefully, itís all in fun.