I’ve been looking for a sambar rifle that’s powerful enough to put ’em down with a rear end raking shot, but don’t see the need for a magnum. After a lot of soul searching I am inclined to choose the .35 Whelen. What do you think of my choice? Can you tell me a bit about its history? What is the best powder for reloading? Can you suggest a couple of loads for sambar?
– David Rathbone
The .35 Whelen was designed by the custom gunsmithing firm of Griffin & Howe back in the early 1920s and named after Colonel Townsend Whelen. It remained a wildcat for some 65 years before Remington finally adopted it as a factory loaded cartridge. With bullets ranging from 200 to 300 grains the cartridge achieved some early success on game the size of moose with an effectiveness that noticeably surpassed its parent cartridge. Deep penetration is the most noticeable virtue of bullets weighing 200gn and more. Greater velocity retention over long ranges (as long as round nose bullets which have low ballistic coefficients are avoided) is also part of the heavy bullet’s capability. Initially, Remington loaded round-nose bullets which severely handicapped terminal ballistics. Today, they are loading 200, 250 and 286gn pointed soft-point bullets with muzzle velocities of 2675, 2400, and 2360fps respectively. The .35 Whelen can be handloaded to somewhat higher performance levels with 200 and 225gn bullets, but bullets heavier than 250gn result in too much velocity loss. The .35 Whelen is capable of taking most big game under reasonable hunting conditions. It is suitable for sambar at ranges out to say 250 yards. When sighted in for a 200yd zero with the 250gn PSP bullet it drops 12 inches at 250. I’ve gained best results with 225 and 250gn bullets using Reloder 15. A charge of 58.5gn driving the former at 2725fps and with 57gn getting the heavy bullet out at 2475fps. My loads were developed using standard large rifle primers; magnum primers only increase pressures without any velocity gain.