Over the weekend I had a talk with a relative who was interested in the possibility of rechambering his rifle to something a little more potent than the .30-06 it currently fires. I found myself recommending the .35 Whelen. His eyebrows darted skyward, amazed that I wasn’t recommending some sort of SuperTinyShortenedUltraPowerful Magnum.
Though I’ve never owned one, I have passing familiarity with the Whelen. It is just a good, effective caliber that’s not going to beat the shooter up nor destroy half the animal being shot. Someone once told me that it was “superbly balanced”, which I understood to mean that it occupied a serendipitous intersection of power, accuracy, and shootability. It’s capable of taking any North American game and doing so without excessive chamber pressure or throat erosion.
(The short-action version, the .358 Winchester, shares those same attributes and is one I’ve wanted for a while now. Someday I’ll find a Savage 99 in .358, though I’d settle for a Browning BLR.)
This is evidence that I’ve come full circle on rifle calibers. When I was younger and convinced that more power was the answer to everything, I thought fire-breathing Magnums were the way to go. As I’ve grown up and gotten some experience under my belt I’ve come to appreciate the cartridges that have been well tested over many years and lots of game: the .30-30 Winchester. The 6.5 Swedish Mauser. The .30-06. Yes, the .35 Whelen.
There are more, but you get the idea. As I said recently on my Facebook page: Sometimes newer is in fact better. Sometimes not. The key is knowing why.
-=[ Grant ]=-