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July 27, 2007

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The .35 Whelen -- Who's Your Daddy?

The last question on my most recent quiz asked if is true that Col. Townsend Whelen was the inventor of the .35 cartridge that bears his name. The answer was listed as false, that it was actually gunsmith James Howe, who named it in honor of the Colonel.

However, a reader who had gotten the previous 14 answers right and was upset about this question e-mailed me and claimed that he had seen a statement by Whelen himself, claiming parentage of the cartridge.

More support comes from Phil Sharpe's Complete Guide to Handloading, which was published in 1937. Sharpe was a contemporary of Whelen's and says flatly that Whelen was the inventor, although he doesn't elaborate. The most recent edition of Cartridges of the World states that recently uncovered evidence indicates that Whelen was "intimately involved" with the development of the cartridge.

Most likely it was a collaboration, but in the meanwhile, until our reader can find Whelen's statement and quote it, I will take either answer as correct.


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Apparently, Col. Whelen was a modest man who did not care who got credit for a good idea. Did he leave behind a collection of unpublished works? What happened to his papers? Dave, thanks for this mental exercise. Let this also be a lesson to you as you develop the POP line of cartridges. Good luck and have a nice week end.

Clay Cooper

Full story at


Seymour Griffin, a cabinetmaker by profession, had a great love of guns for as long as he could remember. In January of 1910 he purchased his first Springfield rifle. This was just after President Theodore Roosevelt returned from his African safari and had written the classic book, African Game Trails. In the book, Roosevelt praised the Springfield rifle and said that with a proper sporting stock it would be ideal for a lot of the game in Africa.

Section of the old work shop
(Click to enlarge)

After reading Roosevelt's book, Seymour Griffin dismantled his Springfield rifle and began looking for a well-figured piece of French walnut so he could try his hand at custom stocking. He found one for $5.00 at Von Lengerke & Detmold, which was located at 23rd Street and Broadway. He spent several weeks carefully inletting and shaping the stock until he came up with what he felt was a very good-looking sporter stock.

For the next thirteen years Seymour Griffin did his best to satisfy as many gun lovers as he could, while still holding down another job. Although there were no companies in the United States making bolt action sporting rifles, Fred Adolph, Sedgley of Philadelphia, and Louis Wundhammer of Los Angeles, had started to rebuild Springfield rifles. The limited supply of these new sporters and the appearance of many articles in the sporting press stimulated the demand. Col. Townsend Whelen, whom Seymour Griffin considered the foremost authority on all types of rifles, sporting and military, wrote some of these articles.

Section of Showroom
(Click to enlarge)
In April of 1923 Col. Whelen suggested to Seymour Griffin that he could improve his custom rifles by joining forces with someone who was an accomplished metal worker. The person that Whelen recommended was James V. Howe, who was the foreman of the machine shop at the Frankford Arsenal in Philadelphia, and who had in 1922 designed the .35 Whelen cartridge (a 30-'06 case necked up to accept a .35 caliber bullet).

In May of 1923 Seymour Griffin got together with James V. Howe, Col. Townsend Whelen, James M. Holsworth, and James L. Gerry; and Griffin & Howe was born.

Four months later, on October 2nd, 1923, James V. Howe severed his relationship with Seymour Griffin, and went to work for Hoffman Arms Co.

Advertisement (Click to enlarge)

In 1925 Griffin & Howe introduced its .35 Griffin & Howe Magnum caliber, which was based on the Holland & Holland .375 case. At that time Griffin & Howe was offering custom rifles at $175.00 for standard actions, and $240.00 for calibers requiring magnum actions.

In 1927 the famous Griffin & Howe side mount was introduced.

In February of 1930 when James Holsworth left the company. Griffin called on his good friend and sportsman, Anson W. Hard, who agreed to take over Holsworth's interest. On March 17th, a new entity was formed and the name changed to Griffin & Hobbs, Inc.

On September 1st, 1930, the company became a 100% subsidiary of Abercrombie & Fitch Co. and the company name was reverted back to Griffin & Howe, which was done on October 1st, 1930.

In December of 1932 Griffin & Howe moved from the loft at 234 East 39th Street to 202 East 44th Street, which had been fitted out as a showroom with adjacent manufacturing facilities.

Just as President Theodore Roosevelt was the inspiration for the founding of Griffin & Howe, famous customers have been an important part of the Griffin & Howe tradition. Ernest Hemingway was a valued customer of the company and during this period Griffin & Howe were also pleased to have Clark Gable, Jack O'Connor, and Gary Cooper as customers.

Check from Hemingway
(Click to enlarge)
When the .22 Hornet caliber was developed, Griffin & Howe was a major factor in the development of the new cartridge.

When World War II started it became impossible to get material to make sporting rifles. The company decided to take on whatever defense work that could be had. The first order was for 5,000 parts for the triggers on anti-aircraft guns. Before the war was over Griffin & Howe made nearly 40,000 of these trigger pawls. As part of the war effort, Griffin & Howe also made more than fifty different parts for various airplane factories, and was very happy to be selected to supply the Griffin & Howe side mount for the Garand infantry rifle. During the war the Springfield Armory placed an order for 36,000 of the G & H mounts. By the time the war ended Griffin & Howe had delivered 23,000 of these mounts.

G & H December 1925 (Click to enlarge)

In May 1945 after the war ended the company disposed of all the special machinery not used in the manufacture of army equipment and began to produce big game rifles again.

Again the famous, including Robert Ruark, Dwight Eisenhower and Bill Ruger, continued their tradition of dealing with Griffin & Howe.

Joe Sovenyhazi , one of Griffin & Howe’s longest employees relates some funny stories from earlier days with the company. One is about the famous engraver, Joe Fugger, who just before his retirement showed up for work one day as all of the other gunsmiths were punching out in the evening. He was chewing on an ear of corn and was sure in his own mind that it was early morning!

Another story related by Sovenyhazi happened while the company was located on 13th Street. The building had a central courtyard, which was open to the street on one side. Griffin & Howe had set up a chamber in the courtyard to test fire rifles. Local drunks and winos also used the courtyard to sleep off a tough night. One morning a gunsmith went down to the courtyard to test fire a rifle. One drunk protested loudly that the noise was disturbing his sleep and that it had to be stopped. The gunsmith told him that it was his job to test fire the rifles, and if he complained again he would shoot him in the rear end. No further complaints were forthcoming.

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Clay Cooper

The 35 Whelen may be no 375 H&H


Talk about a Moose gun, WOW!

Clay Cooper

I know of a lot of wildcat cartridges that are severely overlooked such as the 243-06 (6mm-06), .264-06 (6.5-06), .338-06 and the 35 Whelen or 35-06. I would prefer the 264-06 over the 280 Remington (7mm-06)


As a long time user and abuser of the 35 Whelen, I demand a Congressional Hearing to settle this matter.

Clay Cooper

The reason the 35 Whelen never caught on, round nose bullets were the only available bullets at the time.

Thos. B. Fowler

Thanks for the information about Col. Whelen....I too would like to know what happened to his estate papers and things? He was a real gentleman, a generous soul, as I recall. May his tribe increase among us.

Tom Fowler


"I demand a Congressional Hearing to settle this matter."???
They'll take 2 years, spend 5 Million Dollars and find nothing, as usual.


"Most likely it was a collaboration, but in the meanwhile, until our reader can find Whelen's statement and quote it, I will take either answer as correct."
Dave you goin into politics or something??

Ralph the Rifleman

I wants me one of those .35 Whelens...

ps-Dave is running for office??


if he is running i'll vote for him

WA Mtnhunter

If the .35 Whelen is so out of favor, then why does Remington chamber it in the 700 CDL and new 750 autoloader? Federal had to bring back the 225 grain Trophy Bonded loading after dropping it from the 2006 catalog. I got mine in 1989, a 1988 vintage 700 Classic with a nice stick of wood. It now wears an Ebay 700 BDL wood stock and a Limbsaver recoil pad to preserve the original stock and my shoulder at the range.

I ditched a .338 Win Mag because of the recoil and blast.

The reason it never achieved it's due is that we have been caught up in magnum mania for the past 50 years or so.

My .35 Whelen has accounted for several deer and elk, the latest elk shot clean through at 264 yards (lazer RF). If that isn't adequate, I don't know what is. Every year I say that I'm going to hunt with my Weatherby. But that old .35 Whelen ends up in the truck.

I could care less if the Colonel "invented" the .35 Whelen or not. I think it is fitting tribute to a great rifleman and sportsman.

Just because Al Gore invented the internet, that doesn't make it all bad!

Will Becker

A very good article.I don't own a 35 Whelen,butI do own a 30/06 Springfield sporter given to me by a good friend.it's interesting to know the 30/06 is grandfather to so many diferent cartridges.Col Whelen must have been a great man to have known.

Clay Cooper

With over 40 years in competition shooting and hunting, I see that the biggest problem today with the 35 Whelen, if? Remington, Winchester or another manufacture would chamber this round. To get the full potential out of this cartridge you would have to reload your own ammunition. The reason for this is there are other 35 Whelens (customized etc.) that will have questionable abilities to withstand chamber pressures of 52,000 psi without going to critical mass of self-destruct. Because the action isn’t heat-treated properly or the barrels bore diameter is less than recommended. I have a Western Auto 30-30 with a .307 diameter bore instead of .308 and I must reduce the powder charge to compensate. Ammunition manufacturers would have to degrade the 35 Whelen’s cartridges performance to take this factor in. If you reload for one of the 06 cartridges like the 30-06, you would know this to be true. You can push a 150-grain at 3100fps in a good bolt gun. “DANGER” this is a bolt gun load only, PERIOD! Unless they role the shoulder a little forward like the 30-06 Improved to prevent it from chambering in older 35’s, I just don’t see it becoming a hot item on the market anytime soon. I sincerely hope and pray I’m wrong!

Be nice if there was a ballistic tip available. My dream bullet? Hornady 200 and 220 grain SST! I know, not yet! Back in 2000 I wrote Hornady about coming out with a .338 diam 250-grain soft point boat tail for Alaska hunters. I went on to describe the problems as well as the reloading Sierras Game Kings, 338 diam 250 grain spbt. The bullet core will separate from the jacket, practically every time. One in and two holes out! Steve Hornady wrote back saying the market didn’t knead one. Years later they came out with a soft point instead. Sure like to take those kinds of folks to Alaska and really show them what’s it all about! Stretching the Sportsman’s ability and equipment beyond max. To find out new record breaking self-limits are truly possible! Knowledge and the proper training is the key!

Clay Cooper

Hey Steve Hornady

How about a .338 250 grain SST!



I don't think there have ever been any bum 35 Whelen’ s produced, especially since it's always been either a custom made gun or built commercially on Remington actions.

I have found the old Speer manual loading data, although pretty much stuffing a ’06 case, very safe pressure wise. .35 caliber bullet selections has always been good

I feel one of the strong points in the 35 Whelen, and also with the 338-06, for a medium bore is I can get very good velocity and faster handling with a 22” barrel [2700+ fps with my handloads]. 338 Mag and the 358 Norma Mag comes in 24 and 26 lengths.

Any whoop, medium bores will never be a hot item with USA hunters. There's very few animals on North America needing something larger than 30-cal.

Clay Cooper

Mark visit


By shortening the barrel you loose velocity. In your case you lost about 40 fps and a larger blast. A 30-06 with a 24 inch barrel with a 150 grain, 52,000 psi chamber pressure will have a muzzle pressure of 12,000 psi at the muzzle. The longer the barrel the more fps and less blast. That is why the magnums should not be less than 24 inch barrel. 26 inch is ideal.

Clay Cooper

By the way, a 30-06 or 35 Whelen will do anything in the hands of a competent shooter as good as anything else.

WA Mtnhunter

Regarding the .35 Whelen factory loadings, I think the Remington factory loads are a little on the low end. The Federal 225 gr. TB clocks an average of 2623 fps on the chrony 15 feet from the muzzle from my rifle. That should be an honest 2650 fps muzzle velocity. Nosler advertises their 225 gr. Partition Custom Loads at 2725 fps. I found that shooting a box of them through my 22 inch barrel yielded about the same velocity on the chrony as the Federal loads. I think they were 6 fps average faster. Nosler must be using a 24 inch test barrel.

I have poured over various loading manuals and can't find much data to support substantial velocity increases over the loads mentioned. The new Nosler 225 gr. Accubond should produce higher downrange velocity than the Trophy Bonded or Partition. I have not tried 200 gr. bullets except the Remington factory loads, which don't group as well as the 225 gr. TB. I think the 225 or 250 gr. bullets are the best reasons for using the .35 Whelen. If a lighter bullet is desired, why not just go with the .30-06 with 180 or 200 gr. bullets with higher sectional density? Just my two cents worth.


I’ll buy the 40 fps loss to keep the 22” barrel on my 35 Whelen. The 40 fps difference within 275-yards is mute.

Ditto on Remington loading the Whelen conservatively. I dug up loading data from old Speer Manuals and copied 35 Whelen loads from an O’Connor article. These two sources recommended:

60-grains of IMR 4320 with a 225 grain bullet for 2700+ fps…..I get 2715 fps. I use the Serria 225-grain boat tail gamekings exclusively.

These sources also recommended with a 250-grain bullet 59-grains of IMR 4320, or 58-grains of IMR 4064. I didn’t get to use a crono on this 250-grain loading, but the published figures are 2540 fps. I like the 250-grain Speer Hotcore.

I use military brass. No pressure issues with these loads. Accuracy is excellent.

4320 seems to be the powder to use from my experience. I see no need for a bullet lighter than 225-grains in a Whelen. However, I do load 158-grain 357 Mag pistol bullets for varmints and to fire-form my brass using 40-grains of 2015BR*. This load makes my Whelen sorta a super 22 rimfire in the field and puts the rifle to use during the off-big game season.

*Speer Manual #12

Dr. Ralph

Hmmm. President Petzal has a nice ring to it. If nothing else start an exploratory committee and get a web site and watch those donations roll in...

Colonel Whelen, James Howe, whatever the real father of the .35 Whelen is the best of all possible cartridges the 30-06. That's who your daddy is. It has spawned the 25-06, 270, 280, 338-06 and a bazillion (it's a real word, look it up) other wildcats. In my humble opinion it has never been improved upon.

Clay Cooper

Hey Mark

FYI: Using military brass is about the equivalent of adding .75 to 2.0 grains of powder. Pending on type of powder.

Clay Cooper

Hey Ralphy!

Have you ever compared the 50 BMG round dimensions to a 30-06?



Clay Cooper

So many cartridges that have come off the 06. Like the 45ACP, 243, and 308 just to name a few. And if that’s not good enough, just enlarge all the dimensions to make the 50 BMG!


My daughter's in laws (now ex-in-laws) live in Bridgewater, VT in a house they claim was once owned by Col. Whelan. There was some evidence to support their claim - a nice shooting range which I have used and several heads of game mounted on very high walls that they hadn't attemped to remove. I often wondered if some of his letters and papers weren't stashed at the house. Doubtless long-since thrown away. The 35 Whelan is one of those fortunate marriages of cartridge, powder and bullet that comes along every once in a while. I suspect the Colonel would have taken on anything in North America so armed - and probably did!! and probably most African stuff as well. Shooting clean through an elk at 265 yards suggests it has all the power one need on those big deer and then some. A bit much for most whitetails, it is still very popular in the big woods of Maine & NH.

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