I could see the forlorn muley’s head and antlers in the gap between a pair of flowering bushes. He was bedded down, the rest of his body stretched out flat behind the shrubbery. I probably would never have seen the buck without the sharp eyes of my hunting buddy, Dave Mattausch.
Though bedded, the buck remained alert. Every few seconds he raised his head to look around nervously before laying his head back down.
This was the last day of the season, so I wasn’t looking for a trophy. It was time to put meat in the freezer. (Shhh! Don’t tell anyone, this hunt was not in Texas.)
I watched the buck through my binocular for a while, then ranged the distance with my Bushnell Yardage Pro 1500 laser rangefinder—299 yards to the two bushes, 300 even, to the buck itself. The grassy terrain offered no cover for a closer approach, so I set up my Caldwell shooting bag and settled behind my rifle to take the shot.
The rifle was a Weatherby Mark V AccuMark chambered for Weatherby’s newest cartridge, the 6.5-300 Weatherby Magnum.
Newest cartridge? That needs some explanation because Roy Weatherby experimented with a 6.5mm cartridge in the 1950s, but decided not to standardize it at the time.
Then, in the 1960s LTC Paul Wright and gunsmith Alex Hoyer necked down the .300 Weatherby Magnum to 6.5 mm to create the 6.5 Weatherby Wright Hoyer. When the Pennsylvania 1,000 Yard Benchrest Club started hosting 1,000 yard benchrest matches in 1967, the 6.5 WWH won two of these first four contests in the hands of two different shooters.
Even today, many regard the 6.5 WWH as the best long-range hunting cartridge in existence. Now, in 2016, with the benefit of today’s high ballistic coefficient bullets and advanced propellants, Weatherby Inc. has introduced the 6.5-300 Weatherby Magnum as the fastest production 6.5mm cartridge available.
And FAST it is. Factory numbers claim 3,531 feet per second with a 127-grain Barnes LRX bullet. This bullet has a long sloping ogive with a polymer tip and a slightly longer boattail. This design gives the LRX very low drag properties. The polymer tip also helps start controlled opening of the X-Bullet’s four “petals,” which, the factory says will open properly at velocities as low as 1,600 fps.
When I took my 6.5-300 to the range to sight-in for my deer hunt, I set up my trusty Oehler Model 35P chronograph and was mildly (and pleasantly) surprised to see it record 3,589 fps with Weatherby factory loads.
The Weatherby shot comfortably inside an inch at 100 yards with a cold barrel, so I zeroed it two inches high and headed to the house.
Once home I booted up my desktop and Oehler Ballistics Explorer. I entered the ballistic coefficient, muzzle velocity, altitude and expected meteorological data. Sighted two inches high at 100 yards, my zero range was about 290 yards, with a mid-range trajectory of about 2 5/8 inches. It would be a bit under a half-inch low at 300 yards and a bit more than seven inches low at 400 yards. That, my friends, is pretty doggone flat!
I cranked up the Bushnell 4200 Elite 4-16x riflescope to a full 16 power, which brought the buck’s head into sharp relief. Although the bush obscured his neck, I had a good idea where to hold for a neck shot. The tiny flowering stems offered no real resistance, so I didn’t anticipate any bullet deflection.
With Dave spotting through his 15x Zeiss binocular, I pressed the butt firmly into my shoulder and assumed a proper cheek weld. Placing the Multi-X reticle about six inches right of the buck’s ear and where I estimated the center of his neck to be, I pressed the trigger.
At the crack of the shot, the buck simply rolled over. A hind leg came into sight, kicked once and was still. The 6.5-300 had done the job perfectly.
When we recovered the deer, we found an entrance wound that was almost hidden in the neck fur. The exit wound, however, was almost three inches in diameter. The bullet obviously had hit the spine and carried large vertebra fragments with it as it emerged from the opposite side of the neck.
Many hunters favor a neck shot because it usually anchors a buck in its tracks, while limiting meat damage to the less desirable neck roasts. However, I usually avoid it because a standing deer’s neck is rarely completely still, and it is a relatively small target. This time, the buck’s neck was laid out without moving for the most part—a relatively easy shot.
I took this buck at 300 yards, but the 6.5-300 Wby Mag is capable of kills at much greater distances. However, even with a potent chambering such as this, matters get difficult at a rapid rate. Although, the Barnes LRX bullet drops only a bit over seven inches at 400 yards, it is nearly three feet low by the time it reaches 600 yards.
At that range, the 6.5-300’s bullet is traveling at better than 2,400 fps, which is somewhat faster than a .30-30 bullet at the muzzle.
If you harbor thoughts of shooting a deer at 1,000 yards—forget it! Despite the fact that the 6.5-300 still has more than 1,800 fps velocity at 1,000 yards and sufficient remaining energy to kill a deer, the bullet has dropped more than 14 feet (assuming you use the same zero I used).
A rifle capable of one inch groups at 100 yards theoretically will shoot 10-inch groups at 1,000 yards. That is roughly the size of the vital area on most-deer sized game.
But wait—it ain’t that easy. Shot-to-shot variations in muzzle velocity can add several inches to vertical dispersion, and a barely perceptible five mph wind can add 2 1/2 feet of horizontal dispersion. These variables and others can increase the size of your 1,000 yard shot group to more than twice the diameter of a basketball hoop.
So, why do you need a 6.5-300 Weatherby Magnum? There are three reasons, actually.
1 – It shoots nearly laser flat to 400 yards with deadly effect—Holdover? Fuggedaboudit!
2 – The new, improved Weatherby Mark V Accumark is second to none as an accurate, dependable production hunting rifle.
3 – You can’t own an X-15 rocket airplane. You can’t date the current Miss America (Your wife would kill you). But you CAN own a rifle chambered for the fastest 6.5mm production cartridge on the planet. Yeah!
—by Stan Skinner
—BY STAN SKINNER
TACTICAL GEAR REVIEW
Accurate ranging is vital when shooting at long range. Laser rangefinders make it easy to know your target’s distance, but they aren’t always the quickest to use if you have a fast moving, sudden appearing, or multiple targets. The new SilencerCo Radius changes all this with a rifle-mounted rangefinder.
The Radius mounts on any rifle’s picatinny rail. With a quick zeroing process, it momentarily or constantly ranges anything that you aim at. It does not calculate ballistics information, so that part is still up to the shooter. The Radius screen easily rotates to any 90-degree angle allowing the user to mount it at any needed angle on their rifle. You power on the device by either holding down the button on the device itself or by the included wired remote that you man mount close enough to your shooting hand. Double tapping the same switch activates the constant ranging function giving you a reading every second while a single tap will take a single reading.
The Radius includes a visible laser in order to be able to easily zero the ranging laser to your aiming reticle on your rifle’s optic without any need to fire a shot. This can be done from 20 to 100 yards. You just match the Radius’s visible laser to the offset of your optic and barrel. For instance, since I mounted my Radius at 3 o’clock on my LaRue OBR, I matched the laser to read three inches at 4:30 from my center reticle at 100 yards.
SilencerCo includes a grid target and reflective tape to make this easy, but at the same time, I found it easy enough just to just estimate the distance with my mil reticle. The red visible laser is not to be used as an aiming device. It also includes a threaded blocking piece in order to comply with Texas hunting regulations.
In addition to streamlining the ranging process, the Radius also provides a more stable ranging experience when coupled with a rifle. I brought along an older Nikon handheld rangefinder to confirm accurate readings and I found my handheld device to be shaky and more difficult to use than just pointing my rifle at intended targets. The Radius also displays secondary readings in smaller numbers to allow you to feel more confident in your readings. For instance if you were ranging a smaller and farther target a bit closer to you with a large reflective background you might actually need to use the secondary reading if you think it’s the correct range.
Although the Radius will add a bit of heft to your rifle at 18 ounces, it boasts an impressive ranging capability of one mile on a reflective target and 1,000 yards on a non-reflective target. One day at dusk I consistently ranged a treeline at 1,300 yards.
The Radius streamlines long range shooting because it combines ranging with aiming. You could easily engage multiple targets in a fast-moving competition or use it at night on a thermal hog hunt where you lose all depth perception. Since setup is so easy it’s not a problem to move it to other rifles in just a few minutes.
The Radius retails for $999, and you can find a dealer and more information at www.beyondhuman.com.
—by Dustin Ellerman
—BY DUSTIN ELLERMANN