The .339 Déjà Vu

Because today’s cartridge choices are so complete, the wildcat cartridge is more a fun ballistics journey than something really necessary to fill a niche.

There is little need these days for a new sporting cartridge in my humble opinion, but we see new ones coming out almost every year and people buying them in droves. Isn’t that the industry’s point? Even so, wildcatting a new cartridge is fun, and I talked myself into the need to build one of my own.

From the mid ’80s until the late ’90s, I was fortunate enough to be able to hunt nilgai on many occasions here in South Texas. At the time, I started out using my trusty old .30-06. I hit them, but they refused to go down without several follow up shots. I experienced the same problem watching other hunters use similar cartridges. It was not until I had taken my first one and then skinned, butchered, and autopsied him that I began to understand why. Nilgai were imported from India. They are large boned, have very thick skin from the head to behind the shoulders, and are more tenacious than any other animal I have hunted.

I decided my .30-06 was not going to do the job and set out to find a caliber that would. After some consideration, I decided on a .338. I had used a Remington 700 in .264 Winchester Magnum to hunt deer in Utah during my youth. That gave me the long action I needed. I contacted two people. Dan Dowling of Palisade, Colorado had been doing all my rifles for Benchrest competition at the time. He suggested a Schneider 23″, No. 5 contour barrel for the new cartridge. He trued the action, point bedded the original wood stock, and chambered the barrel using a combination of existing reamers. The finished rifle weighed in at 9 pounds. Dan had supplied three fire-formed cases for the project. I got hold of another Benchrest competitor that I knew, Neil Jones, to make custom seater and neck dies and combined that by having Redding build a custom body die.
By Jacob Gottfredson

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