Trials with the .35 Whelen
Dr. John Woods 10.30.14
When the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks permitted the use of centerfire, single shot rifles for the primitive weapons deer season, the whole face of deer hunting changed in Mississippi.
The analysis of that move proved two things. First, it killed the sales of black powder guns, and second, it greatly increased the interest in hunting the primitive seasons. Gun dealers sold more of the new “primitive” weapons than they ever sold in black powder rifles.
Initially, the minimum for the new primitive rifles had to be at least .38 caliber, but there were only a few rifles that met all the criterion. A couple years later the rule was adjusted to allow rifles in .35 caliber. This in effect added only one new choice, the .35 Whelen, which was the only .35 available in the approved primitive weapons configurations. But, boy howdy, what a choice that was.
The short course on the .35 Whelen is that it is simply a 30-06 necked up to .35 caliber. Recent research confirms that arms tinkerer Colonel Townsend Whelen was instrumental in development of the round.
It started as a wildcat cartridge that was finally awarded a factory chambering in 1987. I know it was chambered in the Remington Classic 700 Limited Edition at one time. Its popularity has waned over the years, but it is now immensely popular in Mississippi and should be equally useful all across the country.
Remington originally loaded the .35 Whelen with 200 and 250 grain soft point bullets, generating a muzzle velocity between 2400 and 2675 fps. The energy rating ran 3177-3197 foot pounds. The Whelen kicked at both ends, but it was useful for nearly all North American big game.
Most recently, Hornady ammunition has brought out a new load in the Whelen. Theirs uses a 200 grain soft point GMX bullet in their Superformance line of ammo. Its muzzle velocity is listed at 2920 fps, so it is pretty hot. Sighted in at 2-inches high at 100 yards, it will hit zero at 200 yards and 9-inches low at 300 yards.
Some could argue the .35 Whelen is too much gun for white-tailed deer, but such things are usually quite subjective. The Whelen is indeed a thumper, but then my all time personal favorite for deer is the 300 Winchester Short Magnum. Go figure. Trust me, if the shooters do their part, the .35 Whelen is great for Magnolia deer, as I was soon to discover.
As a gun enthusiast and avid deer hunter, I have rarely relegated my choices to the selections off the rack. The .35 was not available in many “approved” rifle models, save the rather lightweight H&R break open version. I had already heard the horror stories from deer hunters that had traded theirs back to dealers for something that kicked less.
So, I not only opted for the Thompson/Center Encore single shot as the basis for my own personalized “primitive” weapon, but I also created it from the action up. I ordered the stainless steel frame from one source and then found a stainless 28-inch, fluted barrel online from another source. I did not like the factory synthetic stock that came on the frame, though it is a good one. It’s just not my taste.
I searched and searched until I ran into the Arthur Brown Company, which specializes in T/C barrels, stocks, and accessories. They market a beautiful brown laminated wood thumbhole stock and I had to have one.
After the essentials were assembled, I added a Game Reaper (a one piece scope mount with integral rings for the Leupold Vari-X II scope), specifically a 3-9x50mm version in a matte black finish. I have to admit that black scope against the stainless rifle and brown laminate stock is quite an eye appealing package. But would it shoot?
As is common with things at my age, I went to the range to discover the rifle was shooting all over the paper. Hmmm, I forgot to boresight it. So I took it home, fixed that, and started over. Next round at the range I put a whole box of ammo through it for the practice, sighting it in for two inches high at 100 yards. It does kick, but not offensively.
During the opening weekend of the new early primitive season, I took the first deer in camp with the .35 Whelen T/C. It was a convincing hit at a tad over 100 yards with complete terminal effect.
When all is said and done, my trials with the .35 Whelen have been highly successful. I liked the setup so much that I used it all season long last year. I highly recommend others try the .35 for deer hunting. I think you will find it is a great choice. Check with your local gun outlets and ask to see one. Take your checkbook.