Is the 35 Whelen the Perfect One Gun Arsenal?

by | Feb 1, 2018

I’ve been mulling an idea around in my head for many, many years. I’ve wanted to hunt all of the traditional big game animals of North America, but I wanted to add to the challenge by achieving the goal by taking all of them with just one gun. I would hunt them exclusively by means of tracking and/or still-hunting. None would be hunted from treestands or blinds of any kind. This goal would include taking a big woods whitetail buck, an elk, a moose, a black bear, a caribou, a grizzly/brown bear, a mule deer, an antelope, and a ram and/or a mountain goat – all with that same one rifle. In pursuit of this idea, over the last decade I’ve experimented with many styles of rifle and action type, and I think I have come quite close to creating the nearly perfect one-gun arsenal; my “Green Machine” as people like to call it. It’s a highly customized ’92 Remington Pump action 7600 in 35 Whelen with a Leupold 1x4 scope cerekoted in olive drab green, wearing synthetic stocks, and modified to fit my length of pull and neck length, etc. It is as near the perfect North American one-gun specimen as can be made. But some of you might think otherwise. Let me make my argument here:

The 35 Whelen is about the best all around caliber out there. While not nearly as popular as its parent cartridge the 30’06, it is easy to reload, has some great factory ammunition now being made by Hornady, Remington and Barnes, and has an effective range for most all big game out to 400 yards. It also has enough power to deal with a grizzly charge (with the correct bullets of course) and has tame enough recoil that anyone can learn to shoot it well. As a tracking platform for whitetails or mulies, it is an absolute hammer. Running shots are probable when tracking, and the margin needed for a possible raking shot is there with the Whelen. A Barnes 200 grain ttsx going 2600 feet per second out of the short 20″ barrel of my custom Remington can plow through some serious bone and sinew if needed. Being that the casing is a 30’06 necked up to .358 caliber, you get an increase in powder capacity for the same grain bullet weight when compared to the ’06’s .30 caliber pills. This increase in bullet diameter coupled with the slight increase in velocity without a great increase in recoil gives the Whelen the qualities of a genuine brown bear cartridge. The cartridge case capacity coupled with a 250 grain Nosler Partition is an effective combition for any game in america. Even with the heavier Nosler bullet (250 grains) the drop from line of sight at 300 yards when loaded to 2400 feet per second is nearly identical to the 200 grain projectiles loaded at 2600. A versatile round for sure!

Now, I’m not saying there are not other rounds out there that can accomplish this same one-gun task. There are. The 350 Remingon Magnum is one. The 30’06 is another. And the 45/70 is another if the round is flying out of a strong action lever gun or single shot. However, for a one-gun arsenal I have yet to find a better combination that allows for quick shooting (pump action), a wide range of bullet selection (180 -250 grains), a large diameter bullet (.358 caliber), a flat trajectory (good for 400 yards with the proper loads), and some real insurance should a grizzly decide to eat you.

If you know me, it’s no surprise I’m a fan of both the Marlin lever gun and the Remington pump series of rifles. Some of you may have even attended my “Understanding the Tracker’s Rifle” seminars that I give at many of the outdoor shows under the Big Woods Bucks Team banner and I always have a few of my favorite Marlins and Remington’s on hand for the audience to look at and examine. While I’m fascinated by guns in general, my real passion are guns that are easy to carry. I find my romance for firearms cools rather quickly when I handle a gun that is unwieldy and awkward in the hand. Maybe that’s because I’m predominantly a tracker and a still-hunter, and for those in this camp, heavy and ill-pointing rifles are a serious hindrance. The mountains and the big woods demand a certain level of comfort in the hand, and over the years I’ve found both the Marlin lever action and the Remington Pump action rifles to be the best tracker’s rifles out there. Of course this is my opinion, as many folks enjoy other styles, makes and models. With all that said, my 35 Whelen Green Machine checks all the boxes required for a one-gun solution. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t sound off on my runner up choice for such a goal – and it might surprise some of you. In runner-up position are any of my Marlin 45/70 models. But that’s a story for another day!

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