Up-To-Date Loads for the .25-35 Winchester
Date: Aug 01 2011
The number of rifles chambered in .25-35 Winchester that are still in use is amazing. About every two months, I meet someone who says they possess their family heirloom Winchester lever-action Model 1894 .25-35.Once in awhile, a Savage 1899 .25-35 also shows up. European drillings and single shots also appear now and again, although usually under the name of 6.5x52R. My .25-35 is a Winchester Model 1894 carbine made in 1909 that my grandmother kept on her Montana homestead.
I like to shoot the Winchester for fun and to honor the old days, but I’m also interested in keeping my loads moving with the times, so I always keep an eye out for new powders and bullets to keep the .25-35 singing.
Three relatively new powders for the .25-35 are listed in Hodgdon’s 2011 Annual Manual for use with jacketed bullets. Benchmark and IMR-8208 XBR don’t offer any improvement in velocity with 60- to 117-grain bullets over established powders in the little .25-caliber cartridge. But I thought perhaps the two propellants might provide some benefit in accuracy. According to the Hodgdon manual, though, its new LEVERevolution powder provides a gain of nearly 200 fps with 75-grain bullets over other powders listed in the manual.
The price of powder and jacketed bullets is increasing nearly as fast as the cost of gasoline, so I’m always looking for ways to keep my .25-35 running on
the cheap. Cast bullets are one approach, and 115-grain bullets cast from an NEI 115.257 GC mould are good ones. The roundnose design of this bullet feeds slickly in my lever action, and accuracy is on par with jacketed bullets – and all for a few cents apiece. The Hodgdon manual lists loads for a 90-grain cast bullet with Trail Boss, Titegroup and Clays. I interpolated those loads and came up with Trail Boss and Titegroup loads for the heavier 115-grain NEI bullet. The 7.5 grains of Trail Boss I settled on nearly fills a .25-35 case. With 6.5 grains of Titegroup I can shoot over 1,000 loads from a pound of the powder. Those two loads are about like the old days of 39.9¢ per gallon gasoline.
Speaking of cheap, as in free, I recently came into about 10 pounds of H-4831. I’ve been loading it in the .30-30 with cast bullets, and it has worked well. I figured the .25-35 is just a small .30-30, so H-4831 should also work in it. I started with 27.0 grains and then increased the charge to 29.0 and 30.0 with the NEI 115-grain bullet. Velocity was 1,856 fps with 27.0 grains and 2,060 fps with 29.0 grains. The higher speed is about the maximum bullets casts from wheel-weights shoot accurately.
Bullet choice is rather limited for .25-35 rifles with a tubular magazine, because the bullets must have a round or flat nose to be safe with the bullet nose pressing against the primer of the cartridge in front of it in the magazine. Available jacketed bullets include the Hornady 60-grain flatpoint, Speer 75-grain flatnose and Hornady 117-grain roundnose.
The Hornady 60-grain flatpoint and Speer 75-grain flatnose designs are intended for the .25-20 Winchester, but they cycle fine through my Winchester lever action even with a short cartridge length of 2.30 inches. However, the two bullets fed rather haltingly through one of the limited Winchester Model 94s that were made in 2005.
A 117-grain bullet is the standard for the .25-35. The only one manufactured today is the Hornady roundnose. As far as I know, that bullet weight is the only one that has ever been offered in .25-35 factory loads.