| I was doing some load work with
a new batch of powder the other day and when I added up my shooting log for
the WSM, I was surprised to find it has now racked up 850 rounds down the
tube. I thought it might be a good time to give you a long term report on my
favourite deer rifle and the .270WSM cartridge in particular. After much
research and discussion with friends in the US, I purchased a Model 70
Stainless Classic not long after the WSM cartridges hit our shores. The
classic .270 Winchester has accounted for all sorts of deer and other big
game in every corner of the world, so the .270WSM chambering seemed a
natural choice to me for what I had in mind.
My stalking style is a little different as I lost most of the use of my left arm many years ago in a motorcycle accident, which means I rely on bipods and any available natural rests for a steady shot. In practice it is not so much of a problem for me but it does mean I rely on seeing the deer first and tend to favour shots at much longer range than the typical deer stalker. Up close and moving targets are much more difficult to manage with only one good arm than an undisturbed animal at longer range. Though I have snapshot a few close ones off the shoulder, it is my least preferred option and a hard hitting, flat shooting cartridge is exactly what I wanted. I also figured that given the typical conditions over winter in my neck of the woods, the stainless synthetic rifle would be right at home in the cold and wet hills of NE Victoria.
First of all let's clear up a few myths. Contrary to some reports, the WSM does not suffer from feed issues. Some bad press relating to feed problems with itís shorter cousin the WSSM is often and incorrectly attributed to the WSM. Having said that, my rifle did have a feed issue! The last round in the magazine was always hard to feed & chamber due to reduced spring tension in the magazine. I worked through the problem and it turned out to be the full length extractor claw on the Mod 70 having too tight a clearance to the bolt face, quite common on a few examples Iíve seen in various chamberings. Once adjusted to give a little more clearance, the last round in the magazine (with the least amount of spring pressure) easily slid under the extractor as itís supposed to do. The important thing to note here is the problem was a rifle and not cartridge related issue and easily fixed.
The controlled round classic action is by no means a butter smooth example of a bolt action, but it is rock solid and reliable. Iíve also heard the laid back comments of armchair experts like "WSM? It's all hype". Well I can only suggest these guys get out of the comfy chair and bang a few through the chrony and then shoot a few animals in the field. I can tell you that all the WSM's perform well up to and often beyond published figures. Very few standard cartridges obtain published velocities in my experience, however the WSM's without exception have met or exceeded them in every rifle Iíve shot. The WSM's were never designed to knock off the regular magnums, their purpose in life is to provide the same level of performance in a more compact short actioned rifle. This they do very well indeed with a typical 23" or 24" barrel.
| Factory ammunition is loaded hot
and stiff bolt lift is not uncommon. But you get that operating at around 65
000 PSI and the very heavy cartridge brass that sort of pressure demands.
Apart from one packet of Winchester factory loads when new, I have fed my
rifle a diet of full house reloads exclusively without any cause for
concern. There are also claims that by their design (short fat powder column
and shorter stiffer action), the WSM's are inherently more accurate than
conventional cartridges. Well, I don't know about that, certainly every WSM
Iíve fired has been very accurate but in my experience, accuracy is more a
function of things like high quality hand loaded ammo and the quality of the
rifleís barrel and bedding. My rifle shot well straight from the box, but
once I floated the barrel, bedded the action and lightened the trigger...it
was awesome! After my initial load workup with around 100 rounds down the
tube, average three shot 100m groups were around the 0.6" mark, with quite a
few absolute blinders thrown in during every session.
Reloading for this cartridge is very straightforward with just a few noteworthy exceptions. The brass is very thick and heavy duty so neck sizing is not really an option for a hunting rifle. Full length sizing is required as the thick heavy brass does not give the same amount of spring back that regular brass does. Case life does not seem to suffer from FLS every time either. I trimmed unfired Winchester brass to 2.090" when new and with the initial batch of test brass they did not need trimming again. Eight reloads later, none were over the 2.100" safe maximum length.
|Another WSM quirk is the tendency to coat the cartridge shoulder with soot if working under normal operating pressures with mild loads. The heavy cases need a bit of stick to expand and seal the chamber correctly and you can see the soot line retreat up the shoulder as you increase pressure. No big deal really, and a handy visual indicator to use with other signs during load work up. I like to measure case head expansion to gauge where I am with the loads as opposed to looking at primers. The WSM being a rebated rim design, allows for accurate case head measurement using a standard micrometer. A one thousandth of an inch increase in case head diameter is considered a sure sign of high pressure but I treat any detectable increase in case head diameter as a warning sign to back off. I've also dissected cases after many firings to visually check for brass wall thinning ahead of the web and Iíve not noticed any thinning at all and you can clearly see the heavy construction of the Winchester brass. I run full house loads in my rifle, that's why I got the WSM in the first place. Near max loads of WXR and RL-22 with 140 grain Nosler Accubond bullets at just under 3200 FPS are the sweet spot for this cartridge.|
|More importantly though, this also happens to be where I get the best accuracy and a number of WSM rifles I load for have shown that these things like to be poked along. The cases seem to handle near maximum loads well but I like to throw them after seven or eight reloads or at the first sign of loose primer pockets. The magazine box dimensions of the rifle are very generous and easily accommodate long bullets seated out close to the lands. Most of my load development is done during the warmer months to factor in the higher temperatures for safety's sake. Whilst the ballistics are impressive, it is in the field where this cartridge really shines. On game performance is spectacular and the rifle has been christened ĎBang Flopí for the way it just drops deer with one shot. I've yet to need a follow up shot on any number of Fallow including bucks, and at ranges out to almost 300m. The only test missing is a really big Sambar stag, though hinds are not an issue to date. Most of the animals were taken with a high shoulder or neck shoulder junction shot that I favour and the bullet has passed through on each occasion. So I've yet to recover one for a good look but I don't really care to be honest. Internal damage has been pretty severe and yes, a bit of meat does get spoiled but the animals don't run either. The .270WSM with these high BC 140 grain Accubonds is a very impressive combination indeed. As flat as most varmint rifles with a truck load more authority. These clean bullets also buck the wind so well that I am seriously considering building a heavy barrel long ranger in either this caliber or itís 7mm brother for the greater range of bullets. I was stunned when the 140 grain Accubond load punched through 12mm cast iron plate at 100m.|
| The other load I worked up when
I first got the rifle was using the 110 grain Hornady V-Max and AR2209
powder. At around 3450 FPS, it is a great varmint load that fairly
dismantles anything up to medium game at any range you care to hit them at.
This rifleís mission in life however is deer, so I've pretty well
standardised on the 140 grain Accubond for everything I need to do with the
.270 WSM. Recoil is sharp but not unpleasant, it's all relative to what
you're used to I suppose and I would liken it to a stiff .30-06 load.
The recycled truck retreads that Winchester fit to these rifles instead of a recoil pad is a joke and I rectified this by fitting a Pachmayr Decelerator recoil pad. The matte stainless metalwork is not bad in the bush but I have tried various camouflage finishes before biting the bullet and deciding to paint the rifle.
| I used camo tape and Bear Tooth
brand camo sleeves with varying degrees of success but both these systems
were flawed in that once they were wet, they stayed wet. Eventually I armed
myself with a selection of automotive paints, etch primer and a clear matte
all weather top coat. The rifle was stripped, degreased and the stock and
metalwork forward of the action was etch primed. A selection of ferns and
leaves from my garden were then used as natural stencils to apply the
various colours to the rifle. After a few days of curing, the matte top coat
was applied to seal and complete the job. I left the action and scope
unpainted and use a Bear Tooth camo scope cover to protect the 4.5-14x40
Leupold VX III. A camo cartridge holder slipped over the butt of the rifle
finished off the project. After several seasons I am very happy with the
wearing qualities of the camo paint job and when the time comes, it is easy
to redo the whole rifle.
I have not been disappointed with this cartridge or the rifle. The .270 Winchester has a long reputation as a great game getter and I see the .270WSM as just more of a good thing as it adds another 250 FPS with most bullet weights. I've shot both the .300WSM and the less common 7mmWSM on quite a few occasions as well, and they have all been very good shooters. The .300WSM is getting up there towards my tolerance for recoil, particularly in lightweight rifles like Browningís A-Bolt Stainless Stalker. The .325WSM is the only member of the short and fat family Iíve yet to become familiar with, but Iím sure that will change soon. It has recently been confirmed that the Mod 70 will be back in production thanks to FN USA.
|I was not sure what to expect in terms of barrel life from the .270WSM, particularly as I run near max loads. The throat was showing definite signs of erosion from around 400 rounds onwards, but the rifleís accuracy even after more than 850 rounds has not suffered from what I can tell. I would say that barrel wear (throat erosion) is about what I would expect with a .243 Win or .22-250 Rem. In any case there's no such thing as a free lunch and I look on a rifle barrel in the same light as the tyres on my car....they are a replaceable part designed to wear. I just cracked open a new batch of powder on the weekend so I loaded a few cautionary test loads and headed for the range in crazy gale force winds. Now the tube has had over 850 rounds through it and I've adjusted my bullet seating depths to a longer OAL, so I was interested to see how accuracy compared to when the rifle was relatively new.|
|I need not have worried as a composite group that I fired consisting of three shots with the 140 grain Accubond cut each other and another two shots using the Nosler 140 grain Ballistic Tip came in at 0.700" centre to centre for the five shot 100m group! Later that day out of the four three shot groups I fired using the Accubond bullets to check the new batch of powder, the average was 0.470"! ĎBang Flopí, like good wine is just getting better with age and the short and fat family are definitely here to stay.|
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