The 35 Whelen – A Manly, All Business Rifle Cartridge

By Major Van Harl USAF Ret

98 Mauser bolt action rife chambered in 35 Whelen
98 Mauser bolt action rife chambered in 35 Whelen
AmmoLand Gun News
AmmoLand Gun News

Wisconsin –-(Ammoland.com)-  Frank Ehrenford, the lever action rifle designer of exceptional natural firearms ability and aptitude, has cost me a lot of money over the past forty years with his advice on what gun, in what caliber he thought I really needed to own.

My model 98 Mauser bolt action rife chambered in 35 Whelen is one of those remembered expenses taken on at the suggestion of Frank.

In 1922 then Col. Townsend Whelen took the official US military rifle cartridge 30-06 which is a .30 caliber diameter bullet and expanded the case out to .35 caliber. He named this new cartridge 35 Whelen and it has been used to hunt almost every type of game large and small around the world. The problem was none of the ammunition manufacturing companies made factory produced ammo in 35 Whelen or made store-bought rifles in this efficient and impressive cartridge. A 35 Whelen rifle owner had to make all their own ammo by hand.

I was in the process of building my 35 Whelen rifle just as I was getting married and planning to take my new bride to Alaska for our honeymoon in 1978. I got the rifle put together in time to drive out of Colorado and head to Alaska, but I had no ammo to shoot should I run into something large and brown in the woods of the 49th state. So I did what any new young husband would do, I took my ammunition reloading equipment with me on my honeymoon drive to Anchorage.

After setting up our two-person, very small tent that my new bride and I spent our first days of marriage in, I broke out the powder, primers and bullets to make 35 Whelen ammo. We were in Dawson Creek, British Columbia, our last stop before we headed north on the Alaska Highway. I was at the picnic table making ammo as fellow campers would walk by and ask me what I was doing. The local RCMP Mountie who made a regular pass through the campgrounds in the evening in Dawson Creek stopped to see what I was doing. We talked guns, big game, the dangers of driving the Alaska Highway and unknown (at the time) to the Constable, about the 35 Whelen cartridge.

Ten years later I was back in Alaska stationed there with the Air Force. I made that winter drive from lower 48, to Anchorage with my 35 Whelen sitting next to me in my truck. You go nowhere in Alaska without a firearm. When I built my 35 Whelen rifle I kept it under seven pounds and I did not put a big bulky scope on it to just get in the way.

How was I to know I was ahead of the times with what became known as a “Scout Rifle”?

Now rifle manufacturing companies make these handy long guns for thousands of dollars. In 1987 the ammo industry started making 35 Whelen ammunition ( http://tinyurl.com/obpra56 ) . For five years where ever I went in Alaska my 98 Mauser/35 Whelen was with me to include some the thickest alders you could imagine. I was in places that if my rifle and ammo failed me I was not going to get out alive.

Buffalo Bore Ammunition (buffalobore.com) has an excellent 35 Whelen cartridge in production (42B/20). They use a 225 grain TSX, Barnes bullet that is moving out at 2800 FPS. It is recognized as one of the most dependable and deadliest bullets you can load in a 35 Whelen. It will stop anything in North America.

There is a lot of what I call new “designer cartridges” out there in the gun manufacturing world. No doubt some of the alleged ballistics will make that “new” round and the rifle you would need to buy to shoot it in, quickly pass through your credit card and into your hands shaking with naive excitement.

The 35 Whelen was an effectively used big bore rifle cartridge for 65 years before there was even any factory ammo to shoot. You had to really understand the capabilities and be willing to expend the effort that goes into personally making and test shooting your own ammo to hunt with a 35 Whelen. Buffalo Bore has taken the work out of the process and has produced some outstanding ammo.

In today’s world where youth and newness is wanted, I desire the antique. I choose an 1898 designed rifle, with a 1903/06 rifle cartridge case and a new and improved 1922, 35 caliber round of ammunition, owned and fired by an old man (me) who wants to dispatch anything with one shot. I don’t think my smart phone has a 35 Whelen app, but then again I will never be able to stop a grizzly or a “walker” by texting to my down range target.

35 Whelen, Frank Ehrenford and Buffalo Bore, they are all strictly business.

Major Van Harl UASF Ret / [email protected]

About Major Van Harl USAF Ret.:Major Van E. Harl USAF Ret., a career Police Officer in the U.S. Air Force was born in Burlington, Iowa, USA, in 1955. He was the Deputy Chief of police at two Air Force Bases and the Commander of Law Enforcement Operations at another. He is a graduate of the U.S. Army Infantry School.  A retired Colorado Ranger and currently is an Auxiliary Police Officer with the Cudahy PD in Milwaukee County, WI.  His efforts now are directed at church campus safely and security training.  He believes “evil hates organization.”  [email protected]

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Publius
Publius
1 year ago

For some reason the .35 bore has not caught on as most want the new wiz-bang magnums.
The .358Win & .35 Whelen are similar devilments and neither are popular,. then there was the 356Win that fell flat on it’s face when it should have become a very popular all around north american big game rifle and round.
I guess it depends on who they hand one to and take on a hunting campaign to promote it

elkhunter
elkhunter
3 years ago

Few years late on this article, but had an old 30-06 that wasn’t getting much use re-bored to 35 Whelen for larger game specific hunts. Total gun weight with scope right at 8lbs. Love the power of the 35 Whelen and larger bullet options. Can go up to the 310g Woodleigh for the bigger critters, down to 225g Barnes or Nosler Accubond for longer range shots on medium game….or down to 180g for shots on deer….all in factory ammo if one desires. And recoil is reasonable enough to not have to bother with a muzzle break. I’m mostly using Nosler… Read more »

Sonny
Sonny
4 years ago

I have a remington 750 35 whelen and have killed deer and bear . I shot a moose in Maine also . This cartridge is an amazing bear thumper , with huge exit holes . Never gets the recognition it deserves. It puts them down!!!!!

Boom
Boom
4 years ago

I have purchased a custom ER Shaw Mark VII Rifle a few years ago, my first and only custom rifle. Bead blasted stainless, helical fluted, 24″ barrel, with a muzzle break, and a laminated stock. I am shooting 225 gr. TSX’s at about 3700 FPS. I am getting 3 shot groups the size of a quarter at 100yds. and silver dollar at 200yds. The terminal perfomance on deer is incredible. It simply flattens them. The bullet weights go from 150 grns., to 300. But i have found through handloading (I am being taught) that the 200 and especially the 225… Read more »

R. D. Naumann
R. D. Naumann
4 years ago

In the early 1990s I bought a scoped 1988 Rem. 700 Classics in 35 Whelen for $500 from a young man who was going through a divorce. It was an okay deal for him and a great deal for me. Since then I have hunted with it off and on over the years killing whitetail deer in Missouri and in Wyoming taking mule deer, antelope, elk and mountain lion. I agree with all the accolades given to this cartridge in the article and comments above. For the last many years my Whelen has worn an old Weaver K2.5 scope and… Read more »

wayne cespedes
wayne cespedes
4 years ago

I just bought a CVA Scout in 35 whelen. I cannot wait to take it out and shoot it, get ready for deer and elk season here in Utah. It is the stainless steel with real tree xtra camo synthetic stock and fluted barrel.

I am now un decided about scope power for it. I am interested in silver color. Any suggestions or comments would be appreciated.

Herman Rivera
Herman Rivera
4 years ago

Go reading it about time we talk about a real hunting round I been useing this round from 1972 and now it’s 2016 .i live in the catskill mountains of nys hunted deer ,black bear ,shot cow and pigs with this rifle it was a 270 ,I shot this 270 till the barrel was worn out ,I joined the Wittenberg sportsmen club In 1967 on the wall of our club hosts was a target with 3 bullet holes the size of a nickel signed by a club member at 100 yards ,35 whaelen being just 21 at the time I… Read more »

Anthony
Anthony
4 years ago

I just bought my first 35 whelan and was wondering…does anyone know if the Hornady superformance 200 grain will expand and leave a good blood trail ?

Joe
Joe
4 years ago
Reply to  Anthony

Superfomance knocked my scope loose. It’s no joke hits hard too. Won’t need a trail. What ever you shoot is dead in its tracks.

Jim Klatt
Jim Klatt
1 year ago
Reply to  Anthony

Hell yes! Helen Keller approved the 35 Whelen.
It leaves a bloodtrail a blind lady could follow.

Ray
Ray
4 years ago

I also built a 35 Whelen up on a Styer built 98 Mauser dated 1912 action. Extremly Accurate.
After dropping the first deer so fast I thought I Missed, I have been 100% sold on this caliber.
Every time, it drops em without another step. NO tracking, No draggin up hill, just right there on the spot.
If your wanting to collect meat, you can’t shoot a better round.
Ray

Reagan Russey
Reagan Russey
4 years ago

I have lived in Alaska for 38 years and used everything from .270 to 45-70 for taking caribou, black and brown bears and moose. I have a Remington 7600 in 35 Whelen that I bought new in 1986 and had it electro Nickle plated to make it able to handle the wet Alaska climate. Both the rifle and caliber are fantastic. It performs as well or better than anything else I have ever used. I have taken multiple caribou, moose and bears with it and love it. Before fantastic factory ammo was available I had to handload using 250 grain… Read more »

Ed Smith
Ed Smith
4 years ago

I own 2 – a Ruger Hawkeye and a Nosler……..The Hawkeye didn’t shoot well until a trip to Hill Country Rifles, but both are accurate and make a serious impression on whatever you are shooting – Nilgai, hogs, Scimitar Horned Oryx, etc – without thumping the shooter too much…..Love this caliber.

Big game hunter
Big game hunter
4 years ago

I have hunted almost every large North American game. For years I used 338WM for largest game like elk, moose, bison, caribou. It was on one such trip for elk in Wyoming I either lost / misplaced / or just forgot my ammo. I did not realize this until we were loading up and leaving the truck to head a field. My buddy had his Remingtom 700 in .35 Whelen. With no ammo I was faced with a decision, use his rifle, or sit this hunt out. I choose to use his rifle. That was 1988. Long story short, I… Read more »

The Goose
The Goose
4 years ago

35 whelen/338-06 two fine rounds that don’t get the attention they deserve from manufacturers.

robert. b
robert. b
4 years ago

I have been thinking about getting a whelen for a while now and the more I read about them the more I don’t understand why more rifle makers are not building them.They sound like a perfect choice to me I cant wait to have mine built.

StromBusa
StromBusa
4 years ago

You guys aren’t helping to talk me out of a Whelen…..

John B.
John B.
5 years ago

I really really like my .35 Whelens. In 1990 I put a Douglas barrel in .35 Whelen on my “Winchester Classic” .270 bolt gun. Barnes 225 grain triple shocks are great. For cast, with a gas check, I use 245 grain wheel weight slug (SAECO MOLD) at about 2300fps. I also built another .35 Whelen on a VZ24 action, 18″ barrel carbine. I really really like it too. Also, no problem with brass, ever. ’06 right through the .35 dies and BAM! you got .35 Whelen. Works great. I live in Boise City & my .35 can kill deer, elk,… Read more »

Bill T
Bill T
5 years ago

15 years ago put together a Douglas barrel ,composite stock,2.5x8x36 Ruger 77 in 35 Whelen. I shoot the 200 gr for Deer out to about 250 yards and hand load 225 gr for every thing else. 4 to 5 animals every year. One shot each every time. It is absolutely the last word and crushes what ever it hits. The goal is to kill quickly. The 35 Whelen does a dam fine job at that…

Charles
Charles
5 years ago

Yep. Get between mama bear and her cubs in an Alder thicket and find out
what pre-senility incontinence is like. Quick reaction, steady nerves and reliable
firepower of your own creation will bring you home.

Keep it coming Major Van Hart.

Caroline
Caroline
6 years ago

‘I was in places that if my rifle and ammo failed me I was not going to get out alive.’

What a load of nonsense. Makes for exciting reading, I guess, but spare us the melodrama.

Paul Ames
Paul Ames
3 years ago
Reply to  Caroline

If you haven’t hunted Alaska there are quite a few places out in the islands that the gunshot is a dinner bell for a very large brown creature. I have personally found the skull of a hunter that never got out, my dad was a guide there in the fifties and sixties, and I have hunted there most of my life

Dan M
Dan M
6 years ago

I bought one of the new single shot CVA Apex guns in 35 Whelen last year. It is legal to hunt Primitive here with such a gun. When you drop the hammer on one of these, you know immediately that you have just fired a big gun.

ElderAmbassador
ElderAmbassador
6 years ago

I finally got my 7.62 x 39mm American (.308 bore) built and now for my, probably, last custom Mauser I’m working on a 35 Whelen. Thanks for a great story!

Mike Scott
Mike Scott
6 years ago

Great article that mirrors my own belief. My RIFLE is an old 1903A3 that has been sporterized but left in 30-06 because in my heart I know if has and will do anything I ask of it. I can find ammo anywhere and most of all I trust it. Thanks for letting us know about your 35 Whelen. I sure read about them when I was a kid.