Questions you Shouldn't Ask
Date: Jan 31 2006
A rough guess is that 20 percent of the questions I field from loaddata.com subscribers concern data for a wildcat rifle the inquirer recently purchased. About half of these are easily answered, since the “wildcat” in question is actually simply an “improved” version of a standard cartridge. Some of these are listed in standard loading manuals or on loaddata.com, but many aren’t. I’ve already done a column on this problem, so you could look up the long version. The short version goes like this:
Use loading data for the standard round. Watch the chronograph carefully as you shoot. When you get about 100 fps over normal muzzle velocities for the standard cartridge, stop adding powder, because that’s about all any improved round gains over the standard round.
Now let’s look at wilder wildcats, the ones formed by necking cases up and down, or by actually reforming brass in a special die. Often rifles chambered for such rounds can be purchased at pretty low prices, because most shooters don’t want to mess with them.
There’s a reason for this: These days there’s almost no reason for 99 percent of the wildcats invented, as some factory round will easily do the same job – which is also probably the very reason the guy wants to sell the rifle. He paid $2,500 for somebody to make it and $150 for custom dies, but he’s found that the factory rifles and $30 dies he owns do the same job. Oh, and he’s pretty sure the barrel’s starting to wear out as well.
My advice is that unless the rifle is chambered for a fairly common wildcat such as the 6.5-06 or .25- 284, with a reasonable amount of load data available through common sources, forget it. Unless, of course, the rifle is built on an FN Mauser or pre-64 Winchester Model 70 action and the guy’s asking $400. Call me and I’ll buy it.
Oh, but this wildcat is far superior to any factory round. Right.
An example might be the .30- 338. This came to life as soon as the .338 Winchester Magnum arrived in the 1950s, partly because most people thought Winchester would soon introduce the identical cartridge to the public. Wrong. Instead the .300 Winchester Magnum was slightly longer, I’d guess at least partly so it couldn’t be chambered in old Mausers and ’03 Springfields chambered for the .30-338.