I loaded up a bunch of .308 Win for the Savage 99 yesterday. They’re light as 308’s go, they’re more like a hot 300 Savage. Why? Why not load these puppies up to the max? Why not hunt with a 300 WSSSSM or a SAUUUUUM?
Why? Why go to all that bother? Whitetail dear are not that hard to kill. The fact of the matter is that if you stay away from pushing the envelope, you do not have to worry as much about:
1) Recoil. It’s amazing what a 5% or 8% reduction from the maximum load does to recoil. Flinches are expensive to acquire and much more expensive to get rid of. I try to avoid the issue all together.
2) Expense. A lot of guys will tell you that you need premium bullets. I use Hornady now, and I used Remington Corelokts prior to that. I’ve never seen a deer that knew the difference.
3) Accuracy. Take any rifle, knock 5-8% off the maximum load and take it to the range. You can half the size of the spread in a hurry. This is a cheap quick fix to a lot of accuracy problems without the hassles of bedding, etc.
4) Safety. I’m an absent-minded professor type. I know I’m not the brightest star in the firmament. Do I want to trust my life to a guy like that loading the hottest possible loads?
I look at it a bit differently than most. To me, it’s a trade-off. I can cook hot loads that can bag a deer at 300 yards, and I’ll spend all summer at the range walking back and forth to the 200 yard backstop in the hot sun. Or I can cook up 50-150 yard loads and spend all September and October in the cool of the woods scouting for better spots to ambush deer. To me, a 25 yard kill beats a 200 yard kill– it’s certainly cheaper (in time, effort, and money), and to me it’s more fun. What’s more, I’m getting to know the deer a lot better.
Don’t think you have to have full-house loads with whitetail. Both my regular hunting ’06 rifles shoot reduced 165 grain loads. At 5-8% reduction from max they get very accurate. My .308 165 grainers are loaded to be nothing more than a hot .300 Savage (about 2600 fps). Using H4895, you can make very light shooting 30-06 loads that will be very accurate, cheap and fun to shoot, and they’ll still knock down deer.
So why didn’t I buy a 300 Savage? I’m just cheap, I guess. I fell in love with the Savage 99 last year. I will tell you that 300 Savage is the quintessential deer load, but there are few rifles being built for it anymore. On the other hand, everyone makes a 308 or a 30-06, and they’re the cheapest. I can also get cheap military brass for a 308 and enjoy years and years out of a set of those military case walls. In the end, I’ve got a slightly stronger rifle and stronger brass shooting 5 % off maximum load doing the same job a 300 Savage would be doing pumping it to the max and then some.
Here’s the recipe:
Take Nato 7.62 brass (this last batch was Lake City 88). EBay is full of these auctions. They’re stronger, but have less capacity. That’s okay. That’s a plus for what you’re trying. Tumble clean and then deprime and full length resize. It’s also mil brass. You’ll also need to swage out the crimp in the primer pocket.
Trim back to the minimum length the first time out for uniformity. You’ll hardly ever see these grow afterwards.
Use 150 or 165 grain SP bullets– Hornady Interlock or Remington Corelokts are fine. I orginally started with 150 grain Hornadys, but for some reason the Savage 99 did not like them. I had 165 grainers on hand and they worked just fine.
I’ve tried H4895, Varget, and BL-C(2). All performed well, but the Varget gave the smallest group. Start with the minimum load (-10%) and work up to where you’re pushing the bullet at just over 300 Savage velocity, and you’re getting a reasonable pattern at 100 yards. For me, the magic number was 2600 fps. If you don’t have a chronograph, figure it’s about 5-8% off the maximum.
Stop. Go no futher. Get away from the bench and go scouting.