By John Barsness, GUNS Magazine
At this moment in 2015, three years into another shooters’ buying frenzy, .35 Remington ammunition is among the casualties. Factories can’t make enough of everything, so choices must be made, and the .35 Remington isn’t nearly as popular as many other rifle cartridges.
Stores ran out long ago, and .35 Remington searches of Internet sites selling ammo and reloading components sites result in “out of stock,” “no backorder,” or “temporarily unavailable.” The only real possibilities are apparently online auction sites or gun shows.
While not many .35 Remington rifles are sold these days, a lot of .35 Remington rifles are still used by a lot of hunters, because it’s a highly effective “woods round” for deer, black bear and even larger game. It does have two major problems, however, causing the present shortage of ammo and brass.
First, most users of .35 Remington rifles aren’t handloaders. Instead they’re hunters who buy factory ammo. Often this isn’t much ammo, because their rifles have sturdy iron sights, or a Weaver scope that hasn’t needed adjusting since the rifle was inherited from grandpa in 1962. The ammo they buy is a molehill compared to the mountains of .223’s sold every year.
In addition, the .35 Remington is an odd-dimensioned cartridge. Any specific rifle round is by definition unique, but many are as interrelated as intermarried cousins, whether the “x57” European rounds based on the 8×57 Mauser, or all the American rounds with exactly the same 0.473-inch head diameter. (This is actually 12mm, because the .30-06 is the American copy of the 8×57, though Americans don’t think of it that way.)
A pile of cartridges with other head-sizes appeared after practical smokeless rifle powder was developed in the late 1800’s, but most dropped out of the race a long time ago. The .35 Remington appeared in 1906, when experimentation was still ongoing, and was designed specifically for a Remington autoloading rifle designed by John Browning, along with three other “rimless” cartridges, the .25, .30 and .32 Remingtons.
The three smaller rounds featured a new head diameter of 0.420-inch, the same diameter as the bodies of the .25-35, .30-30 and .32 Winchester rounds they duplicated ballistically—and no other rimless rifle cartridge used the head-size until 96 years later, when Remington used it again for the 6.8 SPC. But the .25/.30/.32 Remington case evidently wouldn’t work with .35 caliber bullets, so the .35 Remington case was invented, with a rim diameter of 0.460-inch and a case-head diameter of 0.457.
This composite group (above) was the result of several different handloads, plus Winchester factory ammo. This may not look like much to a modern hunter, but it’s good enough for woods deer. The .35 Remington case-head (below) is about 1/100th of an inch smaller in diameter than the standard 8×57/.30-06 case-head used on so many rimless cartridges. While cases can be made from .308 Winchester brass, it’s a real pain.
The 0.473 head-size for their autoloader’s .35 caliber cartridge, New England deer hunters wouldn’t be desperately searching for .35 Remington ammo, and handloaders would simply be reforming and shortening .308 Winchester brass. But back then nobody knew 12mm case-heads would become the primary worldwide standard for rimless cartridges.
Now, it is possible to transform .308 cases into .35 Remingtons, but instead of being simple it’s a major-league pain, requiring a sturdy press and bench, plus a really good case-lube such as Imperial Sizing-Die Wax. Even then the head of the case will require some filing to fit most chambers, and the neck will need to be thinned through reaming or outside-turning. Oh, and the neck also needs to be trimmed about 0.1-inch, but that’s easy compared to the rest of the job.
I’ve made a few .35 Remington cases with the help of my wife Eileen’s Redding Ultramag Press, which she prefers because it makes ordinary full-length sizing almost effortless. It’s easiest to start with new .308 brass, since it hasn’t been work-hardened or expanded by firing, but believe me, unless you’re retired with a fixed income and plenty of time to spend in the loading room, finding actual .35 Remington cases is worth the time and expense. (Of course, by the time this column appears, .35 Remington ammo and brass may be as abundant as political promises. Stranger things have happened recently, such as gasoline selling for less than $3 a gallon.)
New or once-fired .35 Remington cases typically last a long time, because the SAAMI maximum average pressure is only 33,500 psi, far lower than even the .30-30 Winchester’s 42,000 psi. The only real trick is annealing the necks every 4 or 5 reloadings so they don’t crack.
The big problem with .35 Remington cases isn’t how long they last, but losing them in the woods. While some .35 Remington bolt-actions have been produced, most .35 Remingtons are rapid repeaters, and the three I’ve owned covered the variations: a Marlin 336 lever, Savage 170 pump and an original Remington Autoloading Rifle. (No, it’s not a Model 8, since it was made in 1910, and Remington didn’t start calling them Model 8’s until 1911.)
All fling-fired brass in less predictable trajectories than bolt-actions, so empties end up getting lost—though most .35 Remington owners haven’t cared, since they didn’t reload anyway. In fact, you might just find enough .35 Remington cases to get by while hiking some whitetail ridges in the Northeast with a metal detector. There’s more than a century of ’em out there, somewhere.
The .35 Remington originally appeared in 1906 in the Remington Autoloading Rifle, a John Browning design.
All the suitable jacketed bullets have a crimp groove in the correct place for overall cartridge length in .35 Remington repeaters, and there’s not much to be gained in accuracy by experimenting with seating depth. Supposedly today’s miniature deer require 1/2-inch groups at 100 yards, but somehow a million .35 Remington users have killed mountains of deer with open-sighted rifles only capable of 4-inch groups at 100 yards. Just seat the bullets so the case mouth meets the crimp groove and you’ll be good to go. (However, I’ve never bothered actually crimping .35 Remington bullets, and never seen any shift inside case necks, because recoil is relatively mild.)
My favorite deer bullet in the .35 Remington (or any other modest-velocity .35) is the 180-grain Speer Hot-Cor flatnose, because it seems to drop deer more effectively than any other tried, but any suitable bullet will work if you put it in the right place. In fact I never did handload for my Marlin 336, instead shooting Remington factories with 200-grain Core-Lokt bullets—and never chronographed the ammo, either. It worked, too, which is why .35 Remingtons are still seen in the deer woods, more than a century after the cartridge first appeared.