Improving the .35 Remington
Date: May 01 2009
The .35 Remington has been chambered in lever, pump, semiautomatic and bolt action rifles. Short of custom guns, the only option you have for a new .35 Remington today is Marlin’s 336 lever action. That’s not really a bad thing; a lever action is probably the perfect home for the .35 Remington as it is loaded in factory ammunition. But, if you’re a handloader, you can substantially improve the ballistics of this cartridge if it’s chambered in a bolt-action rifle.
My first .35 Remington was a lever action, but recognizing that factory .35 Remington ammunition is only loaded to 33,500 psi, I wanted a bolt gun so I could bump it up a notch. Handloaders are like that; they are obsessed with improving accuracy and performance. Accuracy is generally the easy one to improve. With modern factory ammunition it’s hard sometimes to best the ballistics out of a box, at least by a margin that will mean anything in the field.
Some cartridges like the .257 Roberts and the 7x57 and 8x57 Mausers allow handloading enhancement, but more modern cartridges like the .243Winchester and .338 Federal don’t, at least beyond the point of using bullets not available in factory ammunition. In a modern bolt-action rifle, the .35 Remington can be loaded to pressures above 50,000 psi, just like the .358Winchester. The .358 has about 10 percent more case capacity than the .35 Remington, and if you put any theory into the notion that velocity increases at one-quarter the rate of case capacity (see Rifle magazine No. 163), a .35 Remington loaded to the same pressure with the same bullet as a .358Winchester should produce in the neighborhood of 2,400 fps. That’s about a 25 percent increase in velocity over factory .35 Remington ammunition.
My first .35 Remington bolt action rifle was a custom creation built by Melvin Forbes of New Ultra Light Arms (www.newultralight. com). The only place I could find any “hot” .35 Remington load data was, ironically, here at www.loaddata.com, which had been taken from Handloader No. 98. I tried almost every load listed, and the best performer I found was 35 grains of Reloder 7 with a 200-grain Remington Core-Lokt PSP bullet. Out of the New Ultra Light Arms rifle with a 22-inch barrel, this load generated 2,275 fps.
That was not quite 2,400 fps, but the load was very accurate and was used to take several whitetails. The problem I was running into with this and several other loads was case capacity after a bullet was seated, especially the longer bullets like the Nosler Partition and Ballistic Tip. Also, my only means for pressure data was guessing. After a bit I lost interest in the project and sent the rifle back to Melvin to be rechambered in .358Winchester. (For what it’s worth, even though the .35 Remington case has a rim diameter of .460 inch, it will work fine with a bolt designed for a case rim of .473 inch, like the .243, .308 or .358Winchesters.)
The rifle was fine in .358, but what I really missed was being able to fire factory .35 Remington ammunition that has very minimal recoil, is easy to find and usually not that expensive. Sure, you can download a .358, but sometimes it’s nice to shoot ammunition you don’t have to build. I decided to try this hot .35 Remington idea in a bolt gun one more time, but this time I took a different approach.
Charlie Sisk at Sisk Rifles (www.siskguns.com) is almost always willing to tackle whatever hair-brained project I have in mind, so when I explained to him I wanted to build a rifle for a .35 Remington improved cartridge, he suggested we call Dave Kiff. That’s after he finished laughing and asking why I just didn’t build a .358 Winchester. Of course, I explained to Sisk that the .35 Remington Improved would still allow the use of factory .35 Remington ammunition, which is much easier to come by than Winchester’s once a year run of .358 ammunition and brass. Charlie, like all who are addicted to rifles and ballistic minutia, then saw the light.