Friday, July 20, 2007

.264 Winchester Magnum

If you crawl around gun shops long enough you get the inside track on some deals. My favorite counterman has told me that there is a rifle in hock that I might be interested in. It is a Remington 700 Sendero, with that good Remington fluted barrel, mounted with a Leupold 3X9 VariXII scope. He tells me that the rifle will be out of hock by the middle of August and that if I want it, he can guarantee me a very good price on it.

Well, hell. Decisions, decisions.

The .264 Winchester Magnum is one of four magnums (.264, .300, .338, and 458) introduced by Winchester during the late 1950s. It was designed as the ultimate long distance big game cartridge. In its most standard load, it throws a 140 grain bullet at 3100 fps with a muzzle energy (ME) of 2850 ft/lbs. This is good ballistics, but it takes 77 grains of powder for that velocity. It isn't a terribly efficient loading, yet it is certainly a flat-shooting cartridge and uses those wonderfully efficient 6.5 mm bullets.

The .264 Winchester Magnum has a reputation as a barrel-burner. With the powders available when the cartridge came out, I don't doubt that it had trouble with barrel erosion. With the good powders available today, barrel erosion shouldn't be much of a problem. In the old days, the barrels started burning out somewhere past 1000 rounds. If I buy this rifle, I probably won't shoot it more than 20 rounds per year. Even if I shoot 50 rounds per year, it would be 20 years before I'd need to rebarrel it. One of the kids would probably have it by then.

The 6.5mm cartridges never really caught on with American shooters, yet the bullets routinely offer good ballistic coefficients and great downrange performance. Guys who like the 6.5 like them a lot. Remington recently anointed a 6.5 wildcat, making it a factory cartridge based on the .308. They call it the .260 Remington and my sister-in-law used one to take a nice deer last year.

However, my .30-06 shoots a 150 grain bullet at almost 3000 fps using 52 grains of my surplus 4895, for a ME of about 2800 f/p. Sighted 3" high at 100 yards, it's just 4" down at 300 yards. 300 yards is the outside limit of the range that I'm going to pull the trigger on a game animal.

Any deer hit with a 6.5 bullet at 2850 f/p versus a .30 bullet at 2800 f/p ain't going to know the difference. It won't matter a whit to the deer.

Yet the question remains. Do I want that Sendero? In the end, it'll really boil down to the price. Sometimes, a good deal is hard to pass up. Then again, I might just save my pennies and wait on the next deal to come around the corner.

What do y'all think?


Matt G said...

When the Sendero came out, I wanted one so badly, I got a second job to get one. I even made my log-in name at The Firing Line "Long Path," which is basically what Sendero translates out to be. At the time, the hottest caliber it came in was the .300 Winchester Magnum. I bought mine in stainless fluted. The very first group out of the barrel was .73" with a cheap Simmons scope. I worked up a very hot 180g load at 3120fps that would give me right at 3/4 MOA, if I did my part. I got in a tight for money, and sold that rifle to the former sheriff a year and a half ago-- he wanted a beanfield rifle. I had bought it as such, but lost my beanfield (actually a one section winter wheat field, with the biggest deer you've ever seen on it.).

That Sendero was a fine rifle. You can do some neat things with the longer barrel, if you reload (and I know you do.). Also, with the weight, it won't kick a bit, even with hot loads-- makes a great rifle for the kids to pop deer with. (They weigh 9 lbs before the scope, mounts, rings, and sling.)

I've never the old .264 round, but I love that range of bullet for deer-- I've killed more deer than I can right off recollect with a heavy-barreled .257 that I love.

With the long barrel and slow powders, you ought to achieve respectable accuracy without eroding the throat too egregiously. That's what we've done with the aforementioned .257. Yes, we could load 100g spitzers to over 3000fps and attain good accuracy... for awhile. But why not just load 'em with slow powders to 2800 or 2850, and conserve that great bore? 30 years later, it's still the family go-to rifle for deer, and we call it the "mini-Sendero."

Dan said...

Depends on the price. One heck of a good rifle. Could be shot as is, rebored to 7 mag or even rebarreled.

30-06 rules in my opinion but a deal on a gun is how most of us would react. I say get it if you want it.

HTRN said...

Like others have said, it depends on the price. One of the things that does make it worth while, is that 26" barrel. Winchester went from a 26", to a 24" for the 264, and the gun lost ALOT of velocity.. Made the 7 mag even more appealing.

Yeah, a deer won't know the difference, but the wind will - a 140 grain bullet has some serious BC - the 142VLD SMK has a BC of just under .600. To beat that in a .30 caliber match king, you'd have to use either the new 210VLD, or heavier. and to get those up above 3000 ft/sec, you're talking RUM, .300 Lapua, etc.

The one thing I don't like is the fluted barrels, they can introduce some wierd harmonics, and quite frankly they attract dings like a magnet.

My advice? Ask if the dealer has a borescope and if so, examine the bore closely. If it isn't shot and and is a fair deal, grab it.

Matt G said...

Mine didn't seem to suffer any dings, and I carried it elk hunting two seasons in Colorado, hog hunting, deer hunting throughout TX...

Is it stainless? They have the benefit of being the same color all the way through.

If it's not 26", then what's the point? It's not a Sendero, in my humble opinion. I agree with HTRN about the wind. Higher velocity means greater ability to get there before the bullet can drift much.

Rebarrelling makes it kind of cost-prohibitive, for a "good deal" rifle. The cost of a rebarrel will likely increase the cost of the rifle by 30% or more.