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Thread: 35 Whelen Barrel Length?

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    Default 35 Whelen Barrel Length?

    According to Nosler their 225 AB loading at 2750 fps in 35 Whelen shoots pretty flat to 400 yards and still carries more than 2,000 lbs energy. That seems pretty impressive especially for elk and moose.

    When I re-barrel my bolt gun to 35 Whelen, what length barrel? The barrel I have in mind is 24 inches and obviously 24 would bring out more of the cartridge, but a shorter barrel seems handier? 22 inches is only 2 inches shorter than 24 and it seems kind of silly cutting the barrel back only 2 inches. What about a 20 or 21 inch barrel- too short?

    If I cut back to 21 inches then perhaps should give up on the idea of longer range shots with the Whelen? I just find hand loaded to 2800 fps... a 225gr 35 non-magnum shooting to 400 yards impressive! With well placed shots that should really thump everything!

    Or, should I give up on the idea of shooting long with the Whelen and cut the barrel back?

  2. #2

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    Going from 24" down to 20" isn't likely to cost you more than 100fps. That's not enough difference to mean anything at 400 yards to anyone but a politician or ad man. You'll be happiest with whatever length makes your heart go pitty pat. Mine does the pitty pat when I have a field gun that's easy to carry and quick to handle for the closer shots. Long shots mean using a rest, and almost any configuration is going to work. I won't own a non-mag like the Whelen over 22", and depending on the barrel contour and stock would carefully consider 20". Next guy is going to have a completely different combo that pats his heart, but neither he nor I are going to be carrying and shooting the rifle for you.

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    Moderator Paul H's Avatar
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    Bottleneck rifle cartridges gain/loose 25-30 fps per inch of barrel for barrels 18" and longer, go shorter than 18 the loss is ~50 fps/inch. So going from 24-22 you loose 50-60 fps, going 24-20 you loose 100-120 fps.

    Build it the way the want it, a 225 @ "only" 2650 fps is still going to punch tags as far out as you can place your shots.
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    I'm in agreement with BrownBear and Paul H, in that barrel length doesn't make much difference even though my Whelen is 24". I'm taller than average and tend to build rifles that are longer than the average rifle. I use a 14" LOP and typically a 23-24 inch barrel and find that it balances and handles well so long as the contour is modest and the stock is in the neighborhood of 30-32 oz. A rifle that "feels" good in your hands will perform better in the field than a rifle that doesn't irrespective of what the barrel length is or the velocity it produces.

    I'd be fine with 21" barrel performance from a Whelen.
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    Cartridges like the 35 Whelen with a mild shoulder and tall powder stack only loose about 20-25 feet per second per inch of barrel removed. ( from 20- to 26 inch barrels)

    Think about carrying & shouldering balance,, plus accuracy. I have a couple 20 inch barreled rifles which are very accurate. I also have a couple which WERE accurate with longer barrels and like a moron I had them cut back... Now they stink.....

    Maybe start out with a 24 inch and see how it carries and shoots. If there is room for improvement then cut it back to 21 or 22 inches. If it points easy and shoots cloverleaf groups , then leave it alone.....

    You can always cut, but you can never add anything back.....
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  6. #6

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    Thanks for all the good advice. Because this will be done on a Savage 111 it will be a heavier rifle in the factory stock. By heavy I guess I mean normal average weight. One quickly gets spoiled with semi-custom lightweight rifles. But I want to get a taste of the 35 Whelen- get my feet wet. So the Savage conversion is an inexpensive route. If I end up loving the round, I might build a lighter 700 in 35 Whelen.

    While many shots at big game are well under 200 yards, 400 is my personal limit. Shooting further does not impress me much. I've done it. But when I research the Whelen, several say the 338 WM is better because it has a flatter trajectory. Again and again I read the Whalen is a medium range round. Well, I call 400 yards long and on paper the Nosler 225 AB looks rather impressive at 400 yards! If the Whelen is really only a medium range round, then perhaps the shorter barrel is called for.

    I think I'll stick with the 24 inch barrel length to help maximize the rounds performance. If I can bust milk jugs at 400 yards regularly, then I might consider a serious lighter rifle build. Perhaps that one would have 22" bbl? I've had good hunting experience with the 338 WM, but am now more attracted to the 35 Whelen as a possible go to rifle for all big game, near and far. Heck, if I keep talking like this I'll start the custom job!!!

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    Moderator Paul H's Avatar
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    A good 35 is capable of sum moa accuracy. Both my 350 Rigby that was a re-chambered 35 whelen AI and my 350 rem mag have shot groups that were not much over 1/2".

    First handload through my 350 rem mag



    Third handload



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    22 inches is handy enough, and has enough Muzzle Blast, too.

    Average velocity loss or gain of 100 fps, is significant to me.

    You can make long shots no matter what your barrel length.

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    I agree with smitty, 22" barrel would be swell. 21 inches would be my personal limit with standard sized medium-bore cartridges and 20 inches for short action medium-bore cartridges.

  10. #10

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    One tip on shorter barrels. As I go shorter I make them heavier for better balance. Clipping a barrel is not a weight-saving devise in my book. The little extra weight out front goes a long ways toward steadying the rifle for offhand shooting. Nothing worse than a short, light barrel for offhand shots, especially when you're trying to wheeze your lungs out your nostrils.

    Another measurement for deciding how long to make your barrel. How far do you want it sticking above your shoulder when carried on the sling. Too long, and it's going to hang on every blessed alder you bend over to pass under. Not an issue in open country, but a stinker any time you're passing through brush. You can overcome a little bit by lengthening your sling, but in my experience there's such a thing as a sling too long and a rifle hanging too low for good control while carrying in rough terrain. I'm 6'4" with orangutang arms, but still find 24" too long for brush carry. At 22" the barrel is just low enough to avoid some hangups with the rifle on a sling that's not too long. But with a 20" barrel I can zip through the alders with a rifle on my shoulder and almost never a hangup.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BrownBear View Post
    One tip on shorter barrels. As I go shorter I make them heavier for better balance. Clipping a barrel is not a weight-saving devise in my book. The little extra weight out front goes a long ways toward steadying the rifle for offhand shooting. Nothing worse than a short, light barrel for offhand shots, especially when you're trying to wheeze your lungs out your nostrils.

    Another measurement for deciding how long to make your barrel. How far do you want it sticking above your shoulder when carried on the sling. Too long, and it's going to hang on every blessed alder you bend over to pass under. Not an issue in open country, but a stinker any time you're passing through brush. You can overcome a little bit by lengthening your sling, but in my experience there's such a thing as a sling too long and a rifle hanging too low for good control while carrying in rough terrain. I'm 6'4" with orangutang arms, but still find 24" too long for brush carry. At 22" the barrel is just low enough to avoid some hangups with the rifle on a sling that's not too long. But with a 20" barrel I can zip through the alders with a rifle on my shoulder and almost never a hangup.
    I agree with all of that, because I've confirmed it.

    I carried a 20" for many years. Now, I love 2 rifles with 26" barrels, but they ARE harder to pick through the buck brush.

    I'm willing to deal with it, because I like the rifles, so it's not caused me any problems so far.

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  12. #12

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    21 to 23 inches, take your pick

  13. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by .338 mag. View Post
    21 to 23 inches, take your pick
    When I was into the 375 H&H I once stopped into a gun shop in Fairbanks after a gold prospecting trip. The subject of what cartridge I thought was best for AK arose, and I spouted the 375! The shop owner returned with "not enough range for AK". I hardly could argue that point even though he bad-talked my baby! Though he made a point and that's when I went for a 300 Ultra Mag. I still like the 300 but settled back to the Win Mag.

    Later at a Washington State outdoor show I met... I think the owner of MPI stocks. He was at their booth and for some reason I brought up the 375 H&H and how it really was not a long range gun. He then said "let me show you my long range elk gun" and pulled out of a case a custom lightweight job- a 375 H&H with some 26 inch fluted barrel and some custom 250gr rounds. He handed me the 7 some pound with scope beauty and before I could react said... "I've shot elk some 500 yards with this gun- easy". I guess the 375 can be a longer range round after all.

    Most see the 35 Whelen as a medium range round. I just have to wonder if with the right length barrel/load the 35 could become long range? I sure like the 21 inch barrel idea, but would I realistically have to limit shots to 300 yards- or less? Not that that would be bad and really sort of suits the Whelen. Perhaps I should give up on the idea of 400 yard shooting with the Whelen in favor of a more portable rifle? Only then a 9.3X62 makes just as much sense? It sure would be interesting to build a lightweight 35 Whelen with 26 inch tube! Oh no- the gears in my head are starting to turn now... 700 action, Shilen trigger, custom fluted bbl...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cabochris View Post
    When I was into the 375 H&H I once stopped into a gun shop in Fairbanks after a gold prospecting trip. The subject of what cartridge I thought was best for AK arose, and I spouted the 375! The shop owner returned with "not enough range for AK". I hardly could argue that point even though he bad-talked my baby! Though he made a point and that's when I went for a 300 Ultra Mag. I still like the 300 but settled back to the Win Mag.

    Later at a Washington State outdoor show I met... I think the owner of MPI stocks. He was at their booth and for some reason I brought up the 375 H&H and how it really was not a long range gun. He then said "let me show you my long range elk gun" and pulled out of a case a custom lightweight job- a 375 H&H with some 26 inch fluted barrel and some custom 250gr rounds. He handed me the 7 some pound with scope beauty and before I could react said... "I've shot elk some 500 yards with this gun- easy". I guess the 375 can be a longer range round after all.

    Most see the 35 Whelen as a medium range round. I just have to wonder if with the right length barrel/load the 35 could become long range? I sure like the 21 inch barrel idea, but would I realistically have to limit shots to 300 yards- or less? Not that that would be bad and really sort of suits the Whelen. Perhaps I should give up on the idea of 400 yard shooting with the Whelen in favor of a more portable rifle? Only then a 9.3X62 makes just as much sense? It sure would be interesting to build a lightweight 35 Whelen with 26 inch tube! Oh no- the gears in my head are starting to turn now... 700 action, Shilen trigger, custom fluted bbl...
    For hunting, I would "give up on the idea of 400 yard shooting" with any rifle.

    If I wanted to shoot to 400 yards, the velocity I would loose from the shorter barrel, wouldn't make that impossible, would it?

    Supposedly, Bear Guides use 375 H&H for power, and RANGE. I don't understand that cartridge being "not enough for Alaska". I've had no personal experience with 375, but IMO, that shop owner was "fulla beans".

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cabochris View Post
    Most see the 35 Whelen as a medium range round. I just have to wonder if with the right length barrel/load the 35 could become long range? I sure like the 21 inch barrel idea, but would I realistically have to limit shots to 300 yards- or less? Not that that would be bad and really sort of suits the Whelen. Perhaps I should give up on the idea of 400 yard shooting with the Whelen in favor of a more portable rifle? Only then a 9.3X62 makes just as much sense? It sure would be interesting to build a lightweight 35 Whelen with 26 inch tube! Oh no- the gears in my head are starting to turn now... 700 action, Shilen trigger, custom fluted bbl...
    The truth about shooting at any distance (near or far) is that rifles are rarely the weak link and most shooters can't/won't admit that. Will a Whelen cleanly take moose at more than 400 yards? I know for certain that they can and will and do it easily. Does that make it the greatest 400+ yard moose rifle available? Hardly. The advantage to the Whelen is terminal performance similar to a .338 WM in a lighter package with less recoil. I've killed deer, moose, caribou and several brown bears with mine and its performance belies its paper ballistics (irrespective of a 21" or 24" or even 26" barrel). It's at least as effective as I am and that's all I can ask.......
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    Moderator Paul H's Avatar
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    Most shooters don't have the skills to place shots much beyond 200 yards, so a "long range" rifle is useless in their hands, or worse yet gives them the false sense of their abilities.

    Whether you're talking a 30-06 pushing 180's @ 2700 fps, a 35 whelen pushing 225's 2700 fps, or a 375 H&H pushing 270's 2700 fps, you have rounds that have close to the same trajectory and if you are capable of placing your shots you have enough terminal performance to drop game at well past 400 yds.

    A muzzle velocity of 3000 fps or 3300 fps doesn't mean you can ignore drop. Once you get to 300 yds and beyond, you better know exactly how far far is, and have a means of accurately compensating from drop. I'll put my money on the guy with an -06, lazer, turrets and a drop chart he worked out with his load over the guy with 7mm sooper pooper who says it shoots so flat he doesn't have to hold over every time.
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    If you have a tenuous grasp of reality, Alaska is not for you.

  17. #17

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    Exactly why I'm attracted to the 35 Whelen- similar to a 338 Win Mag with less recoil. (I must say the 338 would be my 1 gun pick and with a well stocked rifle recoil is not an issue at all- for me). Since I do not have the luxury of hunting out of my back yard, when I hunt and a decent shot presents itself- I'm going to want and take it... like the last guided hunt day on a big Alberta moose running at over 400 yards. I had passed on several smaller bulls and that was my last chance and now I know a 300 Win Mag/180 FailSafe will take moose at 400!

    I would much rather shoot closer, but for a long shot situation I most likely wouldn't engage with certain lesser cartridges- and why I won't hunt with them as they just don't have the range when/if needed. For me I know my 300 and 338 do. And since I'm most interested in elk and moose, whatever gun I choose has to be able to make at least a 400 yard effective shot on bigger animals.

    The Nosler 35 Whelen AB loading shows more than 2000lbs energy at 400 yards- plenty in my book for moose/elk- especially with a 35! Obviously a factory 24 inch test barrel was used. There's my concern... perhaps a shorter BBL in the 35 Whelen might make 400 yard shooting questionable for me? Since I'll be boring out a 30-06 with 22 inch BBL, I guess my first 35 Whelen will be wearing a 22 tube. Eventually I'll find out if I can consistently hit milk jugs at exactly 400 yards with it- that's how I practice 400 yard shooting. I can do this with my 338 shooting 210 Noslers and I'll be rather happy if I can do the same with the Whelen 225s!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul H View Post
    Most shooters don't have the skills to place shots much beyond 200 yards, so a "long range" rifle is useless in their hands, or worse yet gives them the false sense of their abilities.

    Whether you're talking a 30-06 pushing 180's @ 2700 fps, a 35 whelen pushing 225's 2700 fps, or a 375 H&H pushing 270's 2700 fps, you have rounds that have close to the same trajectory and if you are capable of placing your shots you have enough terminal performance to drop game at well past 400 yds.

    A muzzle velocity of 3000 fps or 3300 fps doesn't mean you can ignore drop. Once you get to 300 yds and beyond, you better know exactly how far far is, and have a means of accurately compensating from drop. I'll put my money on the guy with an -06, lazer, turrets and a drop chart he worked out with his load over the guy with 7mm sooper pooper who says it shoots so flat he doesn't have to hold over every time.
    Good advice there.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nitroman View Post
    Good advice there.
    Yes- but the faster the velocity the easier it is to place shots at longer distances. Also less wind drift. Now I realize in the field and at 400 yards... a bit less velocity with the Whelen might not matter much. On the other hand modern components have kind of changed the Whelen from a mid-range to long range round. Only I believe with the Whelen every bit of FPS helps. Because one could make the case for a 22 inch barrel over a 24 or 26. But then why not suggest a 20 inch or 18? Where does one draw the line on acceptable velocity loss and still shoot long range?

    The more I research the Whelen, the more I like it. After reading a recent Hand Loader article I believe by Brian Pierce on the 35 Whelen, I'm now fully convinced the Whelen is a 400 yard big game gun. With that in mind I would prefer a 24 in barrel. Reaching 2800fps with a 225 NAB would be my goal, which I believe is attainable.

    Unfortunately if I have the Browning A-Bolt bored-out, I'll have a 22 inch barrel. Most likely I'll still do this, but another reservation is will my 06 barrel be too thin for accuracy bored-out to 35? At this point I want to get my feet wet with a 35 Whelen. I suppose later I can build another Whelen on a 700. That would be a fun project- a lightweight Whelen with 24 to 26 BBL!

  20. #20
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    I've held off commenting since I don't own a 35 Whelen.

    I wanted one for years, but settled on the 9.3x62. Neither are long range cartridges. Energy at 400 yards don't counter the rainbow trajectory at that range. If you are talking 250 yards, it fits the bill. If you are talking longer distances, the cartridge you really want is the 338-06. It has much better ballistics than the Whelen and has lots of bullets to fit the bill. The 9.3x62 is what the Whelen should have been and the 338-06 is what it SHOULD be - great bullets with much better (and realistic) ballistics.

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