Dick Dietz, long-time PR man for Remington, is credited with the sage observation that, as men get older, they like “their wine dryer, their steaks rarer, and their bullets heavier.”
Whether it relates directly or not is impossible to say, but I have observed among my acquaintances a decided shift towards cartridges in the mid-caliber range as the years pile up. Three I could name are enamored with the 9×62, 9×57, or various mid-sized .358s. The bullets they are shooting range from 200 to 250 grains, traveling at a sedate pace between 2,200 and 2,500 feet per second.
This ballistic performance is pretty tame by the standards of today’s super-hot 7mms, or big 30s and 338s with oversized cases. When I asked a couple what they see in these cartridges, the answers were pretty much the same: They kill animals reliably, and they are pleasant to shoot.
One might add that there are all kinds of really nice old custom rifles built for out-of-favor cartridges like the 9×57 which can be had for a relative song, compared with the price even for a new premium commercial rifle, never mind a custom one.
Having written one article about an old rifle I found, a C.G. Haenel built on what appears to be a Rumanian Mannlicher action, my inbox was suddenly filled with messages from others who had discovered just how much fun these rifles are – how beautifully made, functionally superb, and fun to shoot.
To take that rifle as an example, the 9×57 cartridge is simply an 8×57 necked up to accommodate .358-diameter bullets. In Europe, it
would theoretically be .356, but my rifle has a .358 bore and will take any standard American .358 bullet. The one it likes best is the 225-grain Sierra spitzer boattail, which comfortably achieves 2,250 fps and is beautifully accurate with the rifle’s receiver sight. For a stalking rifle, for still-hunting whitetails, or pursuing hogs in swamps, one could hardly ask for better.
For reasons no one has ever adequately explained, the two most effective calibers, which are unloved by Americans are the 6.5mm (.264) and the .358. In spite of endless articles extolling the virtues of the .358 Winchester and .35 Whelen, one is moribund and the other near dead. The belted .350 Remington came and went in record time, and the .358 Norma has struggled for more than half a century, too good to die, but not popular enough to thrive.
Odd when you think of it that Remington’s tiny family of ultra-short belted magnums from the 1960s consisted of the 6.5 Remington Magnum and the .350. The futuristic and rather tasteless Remington Model 600, and later 660, carbine had a lot to do with it, but neither cartridge was picked up by anyone else.
When it comes to the .358 Norma, the harsh truth is that, good though it is, it doesn’t offer enough to compete with the .338 Winchester below and the .375 Holland & Holland above. This is not the case, however, with the mid-sized .358s, including the .35 Whelen and .358 Winchester here, and the various nines in Europe. They offer a real alternative between the .30-06 below and the .375 above.
This is not to say that any of them will kill any better than the .30-06 or .375 H&H. What they will do, however, is give you real killing power in a relatively light rifle that is easy to carry and fast to operate, without kicking you into last month.
For a hundred years, these rifles have been popular in Europe for driven-boar hunting because they are fast handling, comfortable to shoot, allow quick follow-up shots, and have real killing power. In the U.S. today, feral hogs and porcine crosses between wild boar and domestic pigs are becoming a plague on the land, and in many states hunting hogs has crossed over from interesting pastime to environmental necessity.
For prowling through a Florida swamp or stalking wooded hillsides, one could hardly ask for a better rifle than a seven-pound .358 of some description, accurate and deadly to 200 yards, but easy to carry and quick to shoot. A Winchester 88 or Savage 99 in .358 Winchester would be great, as would the Remington 600 in .350 Remington Magnum, or any of the European nine millimeter variations.
They were made for hogs, and hogs we have, a-plenty. Perhaps their time has come.–Terry Wieland