Confessions of a Magnum-Hater
It was all my father's fault. Like many things in life, it is convenient to blame our parents. But in this case, Mom got off
scott-free. She wouldn't know a Magnum from a mango.
How did I get started hating Magnums? Dad used the good 'ol .30-06. And what was good enough for Dad was good enough for me. It sure worked on skinny Ozarks whitetails. So there was no need whatsoever for silly belted cases and barrel-burning magnums in our house.
Why, just think of the waste of brass! Probably enough in that useless belt to make a .22 short or two. All the gun magazines contained dire warnings of case stretching and head separations when reloading magnums. OK, I'll let on that a few cartridges need that belt, or suspenders, or something. The .458 Win
Mag, for one, and I think that Henry Holland probably should be allowed to put belts on any cartridge that he saw fit, as he invented the whole thing.
So we stuck to 'regular' cartridges. Of course there were others that we kept around besides the '06. Groundhogs, a.k.a. woodchucks, were a scourge back when farmers grew alfalfa for hay. Dad had a ladder-rack on the pickup, which made a dandy bench-rest about 6 or 7 feet off the ground - perfect for looking over a lush hayfield. A .22-250 punched their ticket from about as far as you could hit them. Ah... the good
'ol .22-250. A non-magnum, sensible case design.
Out around the quarter-mile mark, the .22-250 started losing steam. This was in the days before plastic-tipped wonder bullets. So, Dad moved up in caliber. But not to a Magnum! Next groundhog rifle was a .25-06. Here's another practical, "regular," cartridge. Still no magnums in the house.
My first centerfire rifle was a Winchester M70, .30-06 of course. I don't know who was happier on Christmas morning, me or Dad. It sure is a good rifle and has accounted for itself over the years. I didn't have any need for a Magnum either.
Now, let's be perfectly clear on one thing. We're talking about Magnum rifle cartridges. Magnum handguns, well, that's another story. Dad shot IHMSA with one of several .44's, first a Super Blackhawk, then a Redhawk, and also a T/C (both standard and bull barrels). The .44 was just a good honest hard-working cartridge, so we could have it around. No fluff or frills. In fact let's not even call it a Magnum, how about just a ".44?" Everyone knows what that is, anyway.
My first handgun was a .357 Mag - er, let's just say ".357" since we all know what that is too. But my first big-bore was a .45 Colt, and we all know that it can do the work of a Magnum without the silly name.
I settled down and got married, still without any belted cases around. Her dad shot many deer and elk with a .280
Rem., and I took my first deer with the .280. So it looks like we're all going to get along just fine! Father-in-law had a .44 of course, but no problem with that, as discussed.
My '06 proved reliable on various game, including deer, wild hogs, coyotes, and
javelina. Still, I had the urge to try something else. Also, I could really use a backup rifle for longer hunts. My 6.5x55 Swede would have been OK, but was still pretty much as-issued, 29 inch barrel, iron sights, and all. A little cumbersome although it shot great, for being older than my granddad.
In my heart I lusted after a .25-06. Guess the nut didn't fall far from the tree. Anyway, about the time I finally convinced my wife that I needed another rifle in addition to the perfectly good one I already had, she arranged to get a surplus rifle from her dad. A rifle that she had in fact taken deer with, so this one would be a keeper. Yup
a .25 cal hole in the barrel... and a 57mm case to hold the bullet. A .257 Roberts.
I sure didn't know what to think of this at first. Well, I guess try it out and see. It worked better than I expected, even on the tough wild hogs. The 22 inch barrel made it handy. OK, further proof that Magnum rifles were just not needed around here!
About this time a friend got serious about sheep/goat hunting. He bought a lightweight takedown rifle with several interchangeable barrels - a
Blaser. The cartridges ended up being a .22-250 (good choice!), a .270 Win (hard to argue with that for sheep hunting), and a .338 Win Mag (with it's own bolt, of course).
I was curious about the rifle and he invited me to the range. Shot the .270 first - did I mention that this rifle was lightweight? It kicked quite a bit more than my '06. As for the .338 - well it must have been dusty that day because my eyes were watering after the first (and last) 3-shot group - a nice triangle of about 3 inches at 100 yards. That thing could kick! Lightweight .338s are NOT a good idea, in my opinion
He seemed to like it though - even took the .338 deer hunting just to make sure that sure that he could handle it OK if a moose or grizzly showed up. Guess what a .338 does to a whitetail? Let's just say that you don't waste much time tracking them. And he ended up using it quite successfully on several hunts.
Something got the wheels turning in my head. I remembered that my father-in-law had a Ruger 77 .338 Win
Mag. He'd bought it for some reason, took it to the range once, but had never hunted with it. His description of the recoil was "not too bad." Huh. Well, I was running out of different rifles to shoot pigs with. I talked him into bringing it the next time he came down. Why not... it could be entertaining.
It sure was quite a bit heavier than the Blaser. Maybe this thing wouldn't tear your arm off. I put a 3x9 Leupold scope on it and headed to the range. Bought a box of Remington 225gr. ammo, which was both the cheapest ammo and lightest bullet weight I could find.
For the first shot at 25 yards, I didn't hunker down behind it. Sat up straight and put my elbows on the bench, with my head away from the scope. BOOM! Not too bad... and on the paper.
At 100 yards, I set the rifle on sandbags in my usual bench-rest fashion. Bag under the
forend, another bag under the buttstock, with my left hand squeezing the rear bag to control elevation. Three shots
and darn if my allergies weren't acting up again, making my eyes water. On the plus side, group wasn't too bad.
Time to try something else. After a scope adjustment, I decided to firmly grip the forend with my left hand, and see how that went. Much better
. recoil down to a manageable level, and a ¾" group right where I wanted it. 7 rounds fired and time to shoot a pig.
Pig hunting is a combination of big game and varmints. That is, you can eat them, but they're a pest first and foremost. So, pretty much anything goes in Texas. There are basically no restrictions on shooting them, as long as you are in an area where discharging a firearm is not illegal. Went to a friend's property with a surplus of pigs. We watched a baited area with no luck until dark then decided to cruise around in an old Willys jeep with no doors or roof and the windshield folded down - a road-hunter's delight.
With a million-candlepower spotlight, a group of sows and piglets was spotted around 9:00pm. We had stopped the jeep far enough away from another baited area to avoid spooking them, but still close enough to get a shot off. About 80 or 100 yards, I guess.
The pigs were ahead of us and a little to my right as I sat in the passenger seat of the jeep. My buddy held the light and waited for my signal. I got my rifle and earmuffs and got ready - feet braced against the floorboard and the door sill, elbows on my knees. I made darn sure that my left hand had a FIRM grip on the forend
The light was on and I could see at least 6 or 7 pigs. They were mostly facing us, quartering to my right. The crosshairs settled on one of the larger ones, and I started to squeeze the trigger...
The slap of the bullet came on the heels of the shot. I did not even lift the bolt. "Let's go," I said, and off we headed to the bait. Funny, I didn't notice much recoil.
The 225 gr. Cor-Lokt hit a sow in the neck in front of the right shoulder, then went through the spine and left shoulder. The left shoulder was dog food, at best. No doubt about it, .338 cal bullets can sure make a big hole
So... I had to admit, this "Magnum" did OK. In fact, just between us, it's kind of grown on me a little. I've even come up with a set of dies to reload it
. mostly for my friend, of course
he shoots his a lot. I've still got 12 cartridges left in the box and figure that will last me for a while. If I do my part that's 12 more gut piles, and what more can you ask of a rifle or cartridge?
It is hard to overcome old prejudices, though. The "Magnum" part of the name still bugs me. I'm thinking, though, that perhaps we just need to rename it. Like the .44, "the .338" pretty well says it all, don't you think?
Me and the .338 can get along just fine.
write to Mike