In Praise of the .257 Weatherby

Sometime extreme is good!
19

Two of Dave’s speed demon rifles. Top, the Weatherby Mark V Ultra
Lightweight .257 Wby. paired with a pre-’64 Winchester 70 “Westerner”
.264 Win Mag. Both have Leupold 4.5–14 x 40 scopes.

“People stop and stare, they don’t bother me. For there’s nowhere else on earth that I would rother be, Than in Africa, with my Wotherby …” (to the tune of “On The Street Where You Live”).

My .257 Weatherby, that is. Actually, I like the .257 for hunting in most locations, but I associate it most with Africa — which is odd since many consider it on the light side for African shooting.

Make Mine Medium

My liking for the .257 Weatherby is a bit out of character. I like medium things — medium cartridges, medium barrel length, medium rifle weight. I don’t care for extremes and I find controversy for its own sake boring. It’s a terrible weakness in a gun writer. The easiest way to fame and recognition is to adopt some extreme view. Make some idiot statement like, “the .30-06 is the most overrated cartridge ever and we’d be better off if it had never existed.” You’ll get lots of hate mail but at least you’ll be known!

People like to ask, “What is the best cartridge for whitetail deer?” They get annoyed when I say I don’t give a hoot. I could easily list 50 or a hundred cartridges I’d happily use for deer hunting. I care about bullets — and even more about shot placement.

Shooting ability is the single most important factor in hunting big game. People mostly shoot their best with rifles not too light and not too heavy, using cartridges adequately powerful but with moderate recoil. Becoming a good rifle shot takes time, effort and money, which I guess is why people would rather not talk about it.

The Weatherby Mark V Ultra Lightweight in .257 Wby. is light, flat-shooting and hard-hitting for deer-sized game.

Reasons

So why does this maven of the medium like the .257 Weatherby? Maybe medium can get boring. Sometimes, like Ricky Bobby in Talladega Nights, “I want to go fast!” If speed is what you want the .257 Weatherby can provide. It was the fastest commercial quarter-bore when Roy developed it in the 1940s.

It is still the fastest 75 years later. Factory loads of 100-grain bullets with various .25-cal. rifles have approximate muzzle velocities as follows — .250 Savage 2,800 fps, .257 Roberts 3,000 fps, .25-’06 Rem. 3,200 fps, .257 Weatherby 3,500 fps. Handloading can generally add about 100 fps to these figures.

The load most often used in my Ultra Lightweight is the 100-grain Barnes TSX in Weatherby factory ammunition. It is rated at 3,570 fps muzzle velocity and in my Mark V’s 26″ barrel it actually exceeded 3,600 fps. Weatherby velocity claims in my experience are realistic and when chronographed, generally achieve or exceed claims. I also used 80-grain TTSX bullets in factory cartridges (no longer available) at nearly 3,800 fps from the 24″ barrel of a Vanguard and 3,860 in a 26″ barrel.

The advantage of high velocity is a flat trajectory, which helps compensate for errors in estimating range. Depending on the load, the .257 Wby. lets the shooter hold dead-on to well over 300 yards, knowing the bullet impact will be no more than 3″ high or low. In this modern era of laser rangefinders a flat trajectory isn’t as big a deal, but it’s never a bad thing.

When I bought my first .257, it was available only in the Weatherby Mark V. This has always been a bit pricey for the average once-a-year deer hunter. When Weatherby began offering it in the more modestly priced Vanguard line, it proved very popular. Weatherby made another smart move by offering ammunition (loaded with Hornady 100-grain Spire Point bullets at 3,600 fps) at a moderate price.

Dave shot this impala 60 years after Roy Weatherby first killed an impala
with his .257 Wby. The rifle is a Weatherby Mark V Ultra Lightweight with
Leupold scope using Weatherby factory 100-grain TTSX ammo.

Load It Up

Currently the most interesting .257 load offered has the Hornady 110-grain ELD-X bullet at 3,400 fps. Weatherby rifles use a 1:10 twist, as do most current .25s. A faster twist would allow the use of even more ballistically efficient bullets but this ELD-X with a G7 BC of 0.234 (G1 BC 0.465) is certainly no slouch and would be my choice of current .257 offerings.

The Mark V has a 26″ barrel while the Vanguard sports a 24″ barrel. In my rifles the shorter barrel costs about 70 to 80 fps muzzle velocity depending on the load. I consider this inconsequential but it is up to the individual to decide, as is the decision on which model to choose.

Pronghorn antelope taken at over 300 yards in Wyoming with a Weatherby
Vanguard in .257 Wby. with Zeiss Victory scope using Weatherby
80-grain Barnes TTSX factory ammo.

Thou Shall Not …

Personally I like the Mark V, probably because I coveted it as a penniless youth. The Vanguard in my opinion is every bit as good as the Mark V and is the best value in a hunting rifle currently available. Recently Weatherby has been adding and dropping models faster than I can follow. I see my favorite Mark V Ultra Lightweight and Vanguard Back Country are no longer in production. From the current Mark V lineup I’d likely select the Weathermark LT although if the bank account was looking especially good, I’d go for the 6.3-lb. Backcountry. In the Vanguard line, for pure value nothing beats the basic Synthetic model although I do like the looks and lighter weight of the First Lite and High Country models.

Weatherby.com

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