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January 18, 2008

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Our Most Underrated Cartridge?

In the 1950s, Remington introduced two new cartridges which they then proceeded to spectacularly mis-market. One was the .244 (later changed to 6mm Remington) which was superior to Winchester's far more popular .243. The other was the .280 Remington (later changed to 7mm Express Remington and then back to .280).

The .280 was designed to supply .270 ballistics in Remington pump and auto rifles, but it was loaded to lower pressures than the .270, so of course it didn't. Despite this wretched start in life it has survived, if not flourished.

Quite likely, the .280 was saved from oblivion by Jim Carmichel who, when he took over at Outdoor Life from the hideous Jack O'Connor, did a ton of hunting with a custom .280 built by Clayton Nelson, and wrote about it. Like the .270, the .280 is a light-kicking round that can handle just about any North American game. It's terrific at long range.

But to truly take advantage of the .280, you have to handload. Despite its designation it uses .284-inch (7mm) bullets, which gives you a huge selection to choose from. It can also take heavier bullets than the .270. Factory ammo is loaded with 140-, 150-, and 160-grain bullets, and all will do fine for you. The type of bullet is more important than the weight.

Handloaders can use any of these, but the one that is not factory loaded is the 175-grain. A 175-grain Swift A-Frame, for example, will shoot through two moose and kill a porcupine on the far side.

For a lot of years I've hunted with 140-grain Nosler Solid Bases and the old 160-grain Nosler screw-machine Partitions. The former is a quick-expanding slug for deer, the second a much tougher projectile for bigger game. For you handloaders, I've had by far the best results with RelodeR 19 and IMR 4831 powders.

If you have a .270 you don't need a .280. However, independent market research shows that .280 owners are better looking, make more money, get better trophies, and live longer than .270 owners. You read that here first.


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WA Mtnhunter

If it also improves luck with the ladies, I'll go buy a .280!

I wish I had gotten my Weatherby Mk V Lightweight in .280 v. .30-06. Maybe later.

Blue Ox

Shoots through two moose and kill a porcupine on the other side? Now that's something you don't see every day.

John B

The .280 has been one of my favourite calibers for years. Back in the late 1970s I had a beautiful custom rifle made up by Pete Grisel, who then worked out of Bend Oregon. It shot (still does) like a dream too.
I think that market research bit is right on.


Ever notice that the .270 shooters immediately assume a superiority complex when they read .280 on your barrel? I've got 2 x .280 and 1 x .270 and feel they are ballistic twins when properly handloaded.
Dave are you out of discussions to write about? This is the umpteenth time this topic has been in print in as many years.

Chris in TX

Now if you want to get real performance out of a .280, go and make it a .280 Ackley. Then you'll really see what it is capable of.


Again with the O'Connor bashing! So the .280 can do all that the .270 can and a bit more, perhaps; whoop-tee-doo! For the Umpteenth time. The .30-06 is all we ever really need on this continent, and the .30-30 is plenty for most of the game here anyway! Yes there are factory loads for the .280 which are sufficient for most any critter you care to aim the thing at. Yes, handloaders can add even more versatility. Again; Whoop-tee-doo!
And yes I did wake up on the wrong side of the bed this morning, soooooooo soooorrrrrrryy!

Dave in St Pete

"The .280 was designed to supply .270 ballistics in Remington pump and auto rifles, but it was loaded to lower pressures than the .270, so of course it didn't."

In other words if you don't reload the .270 IS the superior round.


I don't think I've ever seen a LH bolt in 280 caliber. Seems to me, Remington offers there LH's in 243, 270, 30-06 and larger calibers than I care to think about.

The 244 superior to the 243? That's quite an imagination.

The 244 bombed for two reason, nothing more. First, Winchester did better marketing. Second, the rate of twist in the rifles Remington produced limited the size of the bullet to well under 100 grains, limiting it's suitability to something less than deer/antelope (especially at longer ranges). Compared to the 243 at the time, it was the loser.

As far as the 280 (which I own in a Ruger #1), the difference between it and the 270 are insignificant. And it's popularity is not due to any outdoor writer, no matter how important they think they are. Remington has the THE manufacturer that has pushed the 7mm development and sales in this country.

As far as underrated, I believe the 30-06 fits that description on our continent. There is no more versitile round. And it's not necessary to make special reloads to maximize potential. It can whack anything from a prarie dog to a grizzly out of the box with the proper bullet design.


It appears that the .270 has the advantage of a smaller bullet selection than the .280 but on the other hand the .280 has the advantage of more and larger bullets according to my HORNADY, Vol. II manual. Idid notice that there were no loads for the.270 in 120 gr. loads. is this just according to Hornady ?


I find more baffling the trend of promoting cartridges based on the .308 case over those based on the 7mm Mauser and 30-06 case. Unless I’m missing something I see folks trying to sign the praises of a limited case capacity loaded to high pressures to stay in the race. I don’t see any great benefits in accuracy, either. E.g.

308 over the 30-06

243 over the 244 [6mm] Remington

7mm-08 over the 7mm Mauser and 280.


How is smaller bullet selection an advantage?

Chad Love

So is it just me or does Remington have a long history of introducing calibers with great fanfare and then letting them wither and die through marketing missteps and eventual abandonment?

Is the .260 just the latest victim, the next .280? Is it on the way out, too? Sure look that way to me.


As usual, DEP is spot on.
As for a writer being responsible for a cartridge, you need look no further than old .270 Jack, hideous old man that he apparently was.
I own a .280 in a Remington Mountain Rifle. It's a unique caliber in a state where every Tom, Dick and Jack has a .270 or '06. Very accurate, mild recoil, and hell on whitetails.


You are most likely correct about the .260 and Big Green's lengthy history of ineptness at properly promoting some really spectacular ideas. Of course they have produced enough shooting stars that it probably offsets the bottom line. Insofar as small case versus large case, my 7-08 does not compare so well to the .270 or .280 or '06 through the chronograph. However in the field it sure works just as well on a given animal at similiar ranges. Maybe a .30-30 would have done as well also. Oddly enough the 7-08 weighs almost as much as the .270 so why bother? I just like it, nothing more.

Bernie Kuntz

I had a .280 Rem. built in 1968 on a Sako action with 24" Ackley barrel. I have used 140, 150 and 160-grain bullets to shoot many deer and antelope, and the .280 still is one of my favorite rifles.

In 1973 I bought a .270, also built on a Sako action but with a 22" Douglas barrel. I had the stock re-configured from the basement creation that it was, and over the years shot seven mountain sheep with the rifle and a number of deer. I still own the .270 too.

The .270 and .280 are two of my favorite cartridges, and I see not a nickel's worth of difference between them.

Yo,... Silver Arrow,..

Thank you,..
finally had a laugh to day ,.. "Soooooo Soooorrrry " YUK YUK

Personally have been in a mood of late myslef ,..fit to trip boyscouts helping
old ladies cross the street,..

Gotta be the friggin weather.
Hope its the friggin weather or am gonna go take midol.
Too much scotch just makes it worse YUK YUK

And Ya whats with the O'Connor bashing ,.. no doubt the guy was what my ole man would ( and did) call a lound mouthed (or as my mother would have said) opinionated,.. Irishman

Who took shots at running animals out to 400 yards if you believe what he wrote or mostly ,... but Hideous ?
Now that kind of statement would require an explanation in my old neighborhood YUK YUK

Maybe the old "Mic" administered some kind of unrequieted butt whuuupin on Herr Petzal in the misty reaches of the 70's
Sheeeesh !!!

Hell I don even treat Ralph that badly YUK YUK
By the way Ralh thanks for the heads up on the 9 mm rifle when was on vacation ,.. turns out its 9.3 my mistake,.. Should have thought to get on line myself and get metric conversion ,. so again thanks,..
870's $200 bucks where you are ,.. standard price in upper midwest is $300 ,. go figure,.. suppose like gas different markets diferent prices ,..
Sure do like the liitel 870 20 ga though ,..
Have a great weekend


dave, i'm going out west this fall for elk. been shooting these little eastern whitetails for years. would like a good bullet for a 7mm wildcat that will hold together,expand and put the waupascat on an elk, any thing you can think of off top your head that will work well? by the way it shoots 140grs at damn close to 4000fps.


Okay Petzal, I've asked before but now you are obligated to answer. Why do you consider O'connor "hideous"?

I've heard all of the stories about his foul temper, his arrogance, and even one recent diatribe by an editor that Jack was a "safari" or "guide dependent" hunter.

That editor's assertion is absolute B.S. O'connor's early days of hunting Arizona and old Mexico alone are well documented.

He may have had numerous character flaws, but he was an outstanding writer and an experienced hunter. My experiences in the field over the past thirty+ years have only served to validate many of his opinions and observations.

If your disdain is purely based on his temperment you should clarify that. If you believe his writing and opinions were flawed, you should make your case.

Simply calling him hideous without explanation is unacceptable. And craven.


Is there enough space on this log to answer Alamo's entry? :-)

I do find it amusing one little perceived slight on Ole Jack brings down all the forces of Gun Religion.


I'm taking notes so my kid can defend "ole Dave" in forty years.

Del in Kansas

One of my early memories is of my father sighting a new Rem autoloader in 244 using a huge old Sumter county Fla oak to stop the bullets. He used the hood of his 1952 GMC pickup for a rest. I guess it was all he needed for our small Fla deer. Last time I went home that oak was still doing well. He traded the gun for a Browning humpback 12 ga. mag. a couple years later. Dad went to the big hunt in the sky back in '84. Ish that is a good one. I grew up reading everything I could get my hands on by Jack and Elmer. Some of it was hard to believe but both were and are still very entertaining. I've shot 2 mature bucks at over 200 yds that were walking (one with a 270 and one with a 6mmX284). It's amazing the amount of lead you need even on a walking deer. Would never try it on a runner but I recall old Jack claimed to make running loooong shots many times. After shooting 60+ deer with everything from buckshot to a 300 WBY (Win Mdl 70) I have decided it don't get any better than a 2506. It shoots very flat, makes quick humane kills way across a cow pasture and has less recoil than 270,280,3006, 300 mag, etc.
Dave I'm pretty new to your blog but have you ever talked about guns that kick the hell out of you. I once had a Browning BPS 10 ga mag. that would with one shot (Turkey load) give me a large colorful shoulder bruise and a sore jaw. Back in '75 I shot a Boys antitank rifle rebarreled to Browning 50 cal that kicked less.


Hi Dave,

My wife and I will likely (fingers crossed) draw a bull moose tag for the first time this year. Speaking of underrated cartridges that you promote, she shoots a 6.5x55.

What sort of bullet would you suggest? She's not the type to take a bad angle shot, she likely wouldn't shoot past 100 yards, and she shoots well. I'm thinking either Hornady 160 gr. roundnose or Nosler 140 gr. partition, but I'd be interested in other suggestions. I know the Nosler will hold up great and that 140 grains is ballistic magic downrange (but no matter because she likely wouldn't shoot very far). But on the other hand there used to be a 160 gr. CIL load that I understand was 'the' 6.5 moose load. The gun is a '96 in really good strong shape so they'll be near max loads. I'm sure with care and rather short shots almost any 139+ gr bullet will do, but what would be your choice?

Jim in Mo.

A blog or two back I asked a question nobody responded to so I'll try again.
My 280 shoots factory ammo very well and handloads are outstanding. If I have it recut for AI will factory ammo shoot worse?

Chad Love

I'm no Dave, but the 156-grain Norma Oryx or the 160-grain Woodleigh are options, though I hasten to add I've used neither. I'm pretty much a 140-grain guy in my Swedes.

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