|Posted on Sun, Oct. 10, 2004|
Rev up your cartridge
Winchester offers power, accuracy for deer, elk hunters
By Art Lander Jr.
HERALD-LEADER OUTDOORS WRITER
In this column last October, an article featured four 7mm cartridges that are suitable for deer and elk hunting in Kentucky.
This article focuses on the 7mm WSM (Winchester Short Magnum), and a value-priced, bolt-action hunting rifle, the Winchester Super Shadow, which is chambered for this potent new centerfire cartridge.
Here are some observations:
Unveiled in 2003, the 7mm WSM was made from the old .404 Jefferey case. It holds a magnum-sized charge of powder, but its short, "fat" design makes the 7mm WSM inherently accurate with both heavy and light powder charges. The 7mm WSM is like driving a high-performance car. The acceleration and top end speed are there if you need it.
This makes the 7mm WSM very versatile, and a good choice for hunting white-tailed deer and elk, in the terrain found in Kentucky. It's a long-range, flat-shooting cartridge, well suited to hunting deer over crop and forage fields, or elk over reclaimed coal mines, where shots are often taken down mountain hillsides or across wide valleys.
The 7mm WSM can be loaded with a wide range of bullet weights, with 140 to 160-grain yielding the best results, although I did shoot some tight groups, and had good hunting success on deer with the 120-grain Nosler Ballistic Tip bullet.
The Winchester Super Shadow is a full-size rifle with a 24-inch barrel, that maximizes the cartridge's ballistic potential. Lightweight (6 pounds, 12 ounces compared with the 7-pound, 8-ounce Winchester Model 70 Featherweight), the rifle is well-balanced, and has a black synthetic stock that resists warping in extremely cold temperatures, or when wet from rain or snow.
The stylized stock has an ergonomic grip, with a textured (oval dot) pattern on the fore stock, and a slim wrist and slim stock butt. The Super Shadow has an overall length of 433/4 inches, and a 131/4-inch length of pull, which means it will fit shooters of small stature.
The bolt and barrel have a non-reflective black matte finish, and the rifle has a beefed-up rubber butt pad to help cushion recoil, which is needed when heavy charges are shot through this rifle.
To reduce rifle weight, the hinged floor plate is replaced with a blind magazine that holds three loaded cartridges.
The bolt action is smooth, and the controlled, round push-feed design of the bolt weighs less and has fewer moving parts than the bolt on the Model 70 Featherweight rifle, which has a claw extractor.
The Super Shadow is a functional hunting tool at an attractive price ($554), but if you are a stickler for detail, you might find fault with the cosmetics of this rifle.
Parting lines are visible where the stock is molded, and the finish of the metal work on the bolt is rough. The rifle also has excessive trigger pull and tight barrel to stock fit on the fore stock, but a competent gunsmith can correct those minor problems with just a few minutes work. "Floating" the barrel and adjusting the trigger pull down to about two pounds will make the rifle shoot much more accurately.
In the past year, I reloaded with three powders and three bullet weights, using Winchester brass (trim-to length 2.090 inches), CCI 250 large rifle magnum primers, and a Lee reloading press and dies. The test telescopic sight was a Kahles American Hunter 2-7x 36mm, fitted to the rifle with Leupold rings and bases.
After breaking in the rifle, I worked up a reduced load for target practice, using 29.4 grains of Accurate 5744 powder, and 145-grain Speer boat tail bullets (case overall length 2.800 inches). The load develops a velocity of about 2,050 feet per second and is remarkably accurate with minimal recoil. This is a good training load for young shooters.
Last deer season, my hunting load was 53.6 grains of Hodgdon Varget powder behind a 120-grain Nosler Ballistic Tip bullet, with a case overall length of 2.860 inches. This load, which I used to take an adult doe at 145 yards from the center of my clover field, develops about 3,100 feet per second velocity (at the muzzle), and 2,500 foot pounds of energy, more than enough power for clean, humane kills at reasonable distances. My best three-shot group at 100 yards measured 5/8 inches.
This fall's hunting load uses 57.2 grains of Hodgdon 4350 powder behind a 140-grain Sierra boat tail bullet. At overall case length of 2.825 inches, the velocity is about 2,800 feet per second, with 2,500 foot pounds of energy. I've shot 1/2-inch, three-shot groups with this load.
This rifle and cartridge combination is an excellent choice for the deer and elk hunter. Accuracy is good, even with fast-burning powders and light bullets at the lower end of the reloading data, which is not always possible with other magnum cartridges.
This is a high-performance, long-range cartridge and isn't a good choice for deer hunting in the woods, where shots are at close range.
The Super Shadow is a rugged and dependable rifle, but it certainly won't win any beauty contests.