Monday, July 14, 2003

348 Winchester

Both Guns and Ammo and Handloader have articles in their August issue on the .348 Winchester. An odd coincidence given that rifles for this cartridge have been out of production for over 45 years except for a limited reproduction run in 1987.

The .348 is a big-bore, lever-action cartridge. It drives a 200 grain slug at 2,520 fps (2,820 ft.lbs). This makes the .348 the rough equivalent of the 30-06 for close-in work. Reloaders can also get 220 grain and 250 grain bullets from Barnes. The 250 grainer can be loaded to over 2,200 fps and that is a lot of oomph out of a levergun.

The cartridge is the odd man out in many ways. Even though it was introduced in 1935, the case was based on the .50-110 black powder cartridge. The .348 WCF is the only factory round that ever used bullets in .348 caliber. The only rifle it was ever chambered in was the Winchester 71 and that rifle was a available only in the .348 WCF.

So one reason to own the .348 is to have something a little different.

The second reason is that the .348 WCF is one of the most powerful leverguns ever produced. It is a fast handling rifle for hunting big game in heavy cover especially if the rifle is to be carried in a saddle scabbard. This is part of the reason the Model 71 remains popular in Alaska to this day.

A third reason is aesthetic and historic. The 71 is an updated version of John Browning's Model 1886 lever-action. As such it represents a milestone in rifle heritage. Moreover, the rifles have a fit and finish that is beyond the normal factory offering. Nearly every writer who has commented on the Model 71 has noted its smooth workings, comforting heft, and inherent strength.

If the bears were bigger in Pennsylvania, the .348 would be my choice for hunting them in the brush and laurel tangles. As it is, it is a little too much gun for most of our game. BUT, if i ever draw one of our elk tags, or go after wild boar down south, the .348 will be ideal.