« Get Trigger Happy: Meet Remington’s X-Mark Pro | Main | Just for Kicks »

October 27, 2006

This page has been moved to http://www.fieldandstream.com/blogs/gun-nut

If your browser doesn’t redirect you to the new location, please visit The Gun Nut at its new location: www.fieldandstream.com/blogs/gun-nut.

A Shovelful of Salt, Part III

Terry Weiland, who writes about guns for Gray’s Sporting Journal, has come out with a new book called Dangerous-Game Rifles, which is published by Countrysport Press, and is full of excellent information on rifles that will bankrupt you and scramble your brains both.

However, in his otherwise exemplary chapter on expanding bullets, there is the following:
“…In August, 2005—twelve years [after its introduction]—Winchester finally admitted that the Fail-Safe [bullet] was a failure and announced its replacement, the “Supreme XP-3...” Now that the Fail-Safe is on the way out the company is no longer reluctant to condemn both its accuracy and terminal performance.”

This is so wildly out of sync with what I know that I called Glen Weeks, who is in charge of Winchester rifle ammo development and read him the above quote.

“The only part that’s true,” he said, “is that we’ve stopped making Fail-Safes.”

The Fail-Safe is a complicated bullet that was difficult to manufacture and expensive to sell. Not enough people were buying Fail-Safe ammo, so it was dropped. Fail-Safes were not the most accurate bullets ever, but they were plenty accurate enough, and their performance on game, from my experience, was exemplary. I’ve used them in .270, .30, and .338, both here and in Africa, and regard them as the top of the heap for a controlled-expanding bullet. In fact, I just spent a bunch of my own money on six boxes of .270 WSM Fail-Safe loads which I found in a Bass Pro Shop near Denver.

My gun-writing colleague Ross Seyfried flatly says that the Fail-Safe is the best hunting bullet around. If any of you have Fail-Safe experiences, I would appreciate hearing of them.


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference A Shovelful of Salt, Part III:


JA Demko

Can anyone recommend a 3-9x variable scope that has long eye-relief for use on a .300 Savage? My aging eyes are such that the Redfield I have on it is mounted as far back as the objective "bell" permits and I still have to goose my head foreward to get a full field of view; particularly at 9x. The scope is properly focused and otherwise adjusted.

clay packer

I have a Leopold VX3 2.5 X 8 and love it. They make a VX3 in 3.5 X 10 with 3.5" - 4.5" of eye relief. Their VX2 has a 3X9 model with 3.7"-4.7" of eye relief. Maybe that helps.

Bucky Clark

I can't believe that Winchester dicontinued the Failsafes! These are the finest bullets in my opinion. I started using them 5 years ago and was very pleased with their performance. I've always thought they grouped well <1.50" and I've shot them in a 270 win. and 7 rem mag. Both mule deer that I've shot went down with one bullet. What more could you ask for?

Calvin Scott

Back in 1997 at Esher Lake, Pontiac county, I Shot a mature Bull moose from 100 yards distance accross the left shoulder-chest region, the bullet travalled through the the shoulder muscle breaking bones there and continued inside the rib cage destroying them like a chain saw cut and it exited out the far left side of the back romp printing out a 3/4 inch hole ...he went ten feet and drop down drawning himself in two feet of water. The Caliber: 30-06, 180 gr. WINCHESTER FailSafe!

Clancy Palleson

I use the 230 gr fail safe bullets in my 338 win mag Win acion with douglas barrel. I load 73.5 gr of R-19 with OAL 3.575. On a clean barrel it will take 10 to 12 rounds for the gun to foul and settle down. The gun will shoot 3 shot groups touching at 100 yds. Wish I had bought a truck load of these bullets.


I shoot a 7MM Remington Magnum, the first year they made the stainless synthetic. I've tried all kinds of different ammo in this gun and the Fail Safe's were far and away the best grouping. I've killed a mule deer at 320 yards and bull elk at 180 and 70 yards, all dropped in their tracks. If anyone knows where I can stock up on this ammo, let me know. I'm planning an Alaska hunt next year and my ol' Maggie will be the gun of choice.


I have used the Fail-Safe exclusively in all of my rifles since I've lived in Alaska. I've taken brown bear, moose, deer, goat, caribou, black bear and wolf with the Fail-Safe and most were taken with one shot. I know many guides and hunters in Alaska that will miss the Fail-Safe. I'm still haven't fopund a replacement for the Winchester Fail-Safe, at least in 338 win. mag.

Del in KS


Have you tried the Barnes XXX? They are very accurate in my Kimber 2506.


I've hunted moose for years, with calibers from 270 to 375 H&H, and my only instant "bang-flp" came with a 165 grain factory failsafe in 30-06 last year with my trusty M1 Garand. The bullet entered the chest on the running bull who was slightly quartering away from me, and broke the brisket bone right where it joins the neck bone, which also snapped the bull's neck instantly. The bullet then deflected downwards through the heart and exited just behind the front shoulder on the opposite side of me. I never recovered the bullet, but the bullet track was completely clear of any broken parts and the penetration on the shot was phenomenal. I was instantly sold on these bullets. My brother uses them in his .338 win mag as well, and after one hunt, that's all he'll use any more.

Jim in Mo.

Since Winchester discontinued the Fail Safe are you talking about their new 'e' bullet. Lead Free?
If your one of those foresighted people who stashed a lifetime supply of the old fail safes don't tell anyone, there are people including certain gunwriters who'll break into your house just for the bullets.

KLH in Pa.

I have used the 180gr FS's exclusively in my Browning ABoltII .300 WSM. Have shot countless whitetails and an elk with tremendous success......Bang/Flop. Accuracy is probably the most impressive of any of my hunting rifles as this gun will consistently place 5 shot groups @ 100yds that you can cover with a quarter. When I heard they were discontinued I bought 5 boxes of the 180gr FS's...enough to last me my lifetime. Just today, I was passing a sporting goods store and stopped in and picked up 2 boxes of the 230gr FS's for my .338 WM. I was BS'ing with the owner.....and he told me he would make me a deal on them so he discounted them $10 per box as he said he couldn't move them....so I ended up only paying $26.99 per 50 bullets!!! I just smiled and said I'll take all you have. Can't wait to load them up!

jim struck

i stupidly shot up all of my 338 fail safe ammo. i would really like to get my hands on some more. does anybody have a line on where i might find some?? my rifle loves the 230 gr. failsafe factory stuff!! thanks

George Gozelski

The Fail Safe bullets from Winchester in my opinion, were and still are, the VERY best hunting bullets ever devised! What most people fail to understand is that you need to drop down a bullet size (or two) with the Fail Safe and get your "bat speed" up there to allow the bullet to do what it was intended to do! You can't load a 180 Fail Safe into a .308 or a .30/06 and expect to get great results like if you had loaded it with the 150 Fail Safe instead. People, GET OVER IT! You don't need to load 220 grain bullets any longer into your .30/06! I will take any wager that a full house .30/06 with a 150 grain Fail Safe, will out kill, out penetrate and retain more weight than any 220 grain roundnose bullet! I have killed numerous animals with SMALLER THAN NORMAL BULLET WEIGHTS with HIGHER THAN NORMAL VELOCITIES with these bullets and death is like chain lightening! This is where the Fail Safes's shine! I have a friend who stated the 160 Fail Safe shot out of his 7mm-08 did not open up! Well DUH, dumb ass, figure it out! The 7mm-08 is a fine cartridge but you had no business loading those Fail Safe's into a cartridge that cannot generate enough horsepower to get out of its own way! Instead he should have loaded a ballistic tip or a sierra; not a fail safe! Accuracy? I have never seen a hunting bullet shoot "ONE HOLE THREE SHOT GROUPS BEFORE" like these! I have three rifles that can, and do it, on a regular basis! They are a stainless (new pre-64) .30/06 Winchester Model 70, a .338 Arnold Arms built on a pre-64 Winchester Model 70 and a a reworked Weatherby Mark V that used to be a .30/378 which has been re-worked into a lazzeroni Warbird! That Warbird is a hideous, evil weapon which shot its first and only loading of test bullets! They were/are the 165 Fail Safe's at around 3600 fps which shoot into one - tiny - little- hole at 100 yards! A neck shot bull elk at 360 yards was its only kill but it was spectacular! I am buying up ALL the Fail Safes I can get my hands on! George!

Our Blogs