Better Late Than Never
January 04, 2011
The .260 Remington is finally catching on. Here's why.
Greg shot this 4.49-inch, 600-yard group from the prone position. That group was typical with the Black Hills 139-grain Match load.
The .260 Remington has been around in one form or another for more than 30 years. The wildcat 6.5-08, which is essentially a .308 case necked down to accept a 6.5mm (.264) bullet, enjoyed a fair degree of popularity among competitive shooters looking for an accurate, light-recoiling cartridge that could buck the wind and retain enough energy to tip over distant steel targets. Savvy hunters took an interest in the 6.5-08 too, but like most wildcats, it remained unknown to the average shooter until Remington domesticated it as the .260 Remington in 1997.
Like many hunters, especially those in the South where the deer are smaller of body than their northern cousins, the introduction of the .260 caught my eye. After all, what's not to like about a super-accurate, light-recoiling cartridge that flat-out hammers deer-sized game? Unfortunately, Remington handicapped the .260 from the start.
Remington's mistake was specifying a 1:10 rate of twist, which was too slow and resulted in poor accuracy. Early rifles wouldn't stabilize even lightweight, 120-grain bullets. And the introduction of 140-grain projectiles by Remington and Federal exacerbated the problem. Remington quickly changed the spec to a 1:9-inch twist, but the damage was done. At least among less savvy riflemen, the former wildcat's reputation as an inaccurate cartridge was carved in wood.
Though the 1:9 twist rate did improve accuracy, those long 130- to 140-grain bullets perform best from barrels with 1:8 twist rates. Ruger rifles have a twist rate of 1:8, and they tend to shoot well with a variety of bullets. Remington and Kimber rifles have the 1:9 twist, and they shoot great with 120-grain projectiles, but heavy bullet accuracy can be hit or miss. That's why the majority of serious shooters I know who hunt or compete with .260s shoot 120-grain bullets or use custom rifles. Those .260-toting hunters and competitors are responsible for a renewed interest in this fine round.
I often recommend the .260 Rem. to clients and readers in search of a rifle for young shooters, people of small stature, or folks who are sensitive to recoil. Though many experienced shooters would suggest .243 or 7mm-08, I think the .260 is a much better choice.
The .243's light recoil has made it a perennial choice for new hunters. But its 10 ft-lbs of recoil are not that much lower than the .260's 13 ft-lbs. In fact, few shooters can tell the difference between the two. However, the .260's increased bullet weight and frontal area combine to give it deeper penetration and more decisive on-game performance than the .243.
Though the 7mm-08 is also a fine round, its increased recoil--about 3 ft-lbs more than the .260--is noticeable. Yes, I know I just wrote that 3 ft-lbs didn't make a difference between the .243 and the .260, but recoil is cumulative. In my experience, the threshold beyond which recoil becomes bothersome is about 15 ft-lbs for young and slight-of-build shooters and 20 ft-lbs for average-sized adults. The .260 Rem. slides in well below that 15 ft-lb threshold, while the 7mm-08 remains above it.
The author's children have hunted with various .260s since they were each five years old. Here, Cole (left) holds his .223 while Chloe sports her .260 A-Bolt. Both kids will hunt with the A-Bolt in Africa this season.
This Browning A-Bolt in .260 Rem. was cut down to fit the author's children by the folks at Hill Country Rifles. They also tuned the trigger and bedded it. As you can see by this 0.48-inch, 100-yard group, it is one very accurate little rifle.
Despite its lesser recoil, the .260 doesn't give up much to the 7mm-08 in terms of real-world performance. In fact, with equivalent 140-grain bullets, the .260 gives up only about 100 fps of muzzle velocity and less than 90 ft-lbs of muzzle energy. With a 200-yard zero, it drops a half-inch more than the 7mm-08 at 300 yards. In practical terms, there isn't a lick of difference between the two on game.
The .260 was my choice when it came time to buy a rifle for my kids. I ordered a McMillan-stocked custom from Hill Country Rifles with a short length of pull and a trim, 22-inch barrel with 1:8 twist. It is lightweight and short enough that my kids can manage it with a solid rest. And with a light handloadpushing the 130-grain Barnes at 2,500 fps, it generates just 10 ft-lbs of recoil; that's exactly the same as the .243 with a 100-grain bullet.
At the tender age of five years old, my daughter Chloe used that little rifle to bust an over-the-hill axis buck from 112 yards with a perfect shoulder shot on the last day of her first hunt. The buck dropped at the shot, and Chloe never noticed the recoil. Both of my children have used that rifle on hogs and whitetails every year since.
No one would argue that the .260 Rem. is a fine choice for hunting deer-sized game, but few would say it is an elk-capable round. That's odd because the .260's ballistic twin, the 6.5x55, has downed plenty of elk and African game. And in Scandinavia, the 6.5x55 is still the most popular choice for moose. I've used it to take some stout game, too, though I worked up to it slowly.
I started off by taking two dozen deer and eatin'-sized hogs with my .260 from various angles to get a feel for its terminal ballistics. Every animal dropped quickly, and those little 6.5mm bullets left impressive wound channels as they passed completely through every animal. I was impressed, but I'd yet to test the .260 on anything weighing in excess of 200 pounds.
My first "big" animal was a heavyset, 250-pound hog. I poked it in the shoulder with a 140-grain Trophy Bonded Bear Claw as the hog fed in an oat patch at last light. I heard the bullet smack and saw the pig collapse mid-stride after a desperate, heart-shot dash, but I would have found it even if I hadn't-
-the crimson trail in the oat patch was as wide as my front sidewalk. I have a ton of faith in Bear Claws, but I was a bit surprised to see an exit wound from the little .260, considering the thickness of the boar's shield.
That experience inspired me to tote my custom .260 on several African safaris, where I've used it to take everything from pygmy antelopes to kudu. My first kudu bull fell to a single, 140-grain Bear Claw from 167 yards. I saw the bull take the shot on the point of the shoulder before it collapsed in a heap without so much as a quiver. Since then, I've shot another six kudu and a bunch of small- to medium-sized plains game. None required a second shot. Of course, I am careful with my shot selection on bigger animals, but that should be the case with any cartridge.
The GA Precision Templar is built on the firm's proprietary action. A tactical bolt knob, Badger Ordnance detachable magazine system, and Badger scope base are all standard. The rings and scope are by NightForce.
When we travel to Africa later this year for my children's first safari, we'll be toting a pair of .260s. Chloe and Cole will be hunting with a lightweight, shortened Browning A-Bolt, and I'll be toting that Hill Country rifle zeroed with Federal's new 120-grain TSX load. It should work perfectly on everything from impala to kudu.
At The Range
To the casual shooter reading the .260's ballistics charts, the .260's muzzle velocity of 2,900 fps with a 120-grain bullet and 2,750 fps with a 140-grain projectile must look pretty boring. But competitive shooters looked beyond the basic numbers. They noted that thanks to the high ballistic coefficient and sectional density of those long, heavy-for-caliber bullets, the .260 loaded with Berger's 140-grain VLD at about 2,680 fps actually outperforms the two most popular long-distance rounds--.300 Win. Mag. with 190-grain Sierra MatchKings and .308 Win. with 175-grain MatchKings.
At 1,000 yards, the .260 Rem. drops just 26.3 inches more than the .300 Win. Mag. And at that distance, the long, sleek 6.5mm bullet drifts 8 inches less in the wind than the .300 Win. Mag. That's all despite the fact that it generates less than half the magnum .30's recoil.
The .260 really shines when compared to the 175-grain .308 match load. It has about 33 percent less recoil than the .308, and that makes calling your own shots a breeze. The .260 carries more energy at 1,000 yards than the .308 match load, which means it is more likely to tip over distant steel, even with a low hit. And the .260 drifts 30 inches less than the .308 and has a 3-foot trajectory advantage at 1,000 yards. A flatter trajectory and less wind drift translate to more hits at long range, especially in windy conditions.
My history with the .260 as a long-range cartridge is short. In fact, I first shot a target-type .260 just two years ago. But that rifle's accuracy and long-range performance inspired me to call up George Gardner of GA Precision and order a new rifle chambered for my favorite 6.5. Gardner has built several incredibly accurate rigs for me over the years, so other than to explain my long-range intentions for the rifle, I gave him carte blanche.
The rifle he sent is built on GA's Templar action, which is a much-improved take on the Model 700 action with an oversized bolt release; a double-pinned, oversized recoil lug; a greater locking-lug surface area; and a helically fluted bolt body. The bolt knob is an oversized, tactical number. It feeds from Badger Ordnance's detachable magazine system that accepts Accuracy International's five- and 10-round .308 magazines.
In keeping with its intended role as a heavy, long-range rifle, Gardner installed a straight-tapered, 22-inch barrel from Bartlein. The cut-rifled, stainless-steel barrel has a 1:8 twist rate and measures 0.840 inch at the muzzle. The barreled action is bedded into Tom Manner's T4 stock, which is a great design for prone shooting.
I mounted a NightForce 5.5-22X scope with an illuminated reticle on the rig in a set of NightForce rings. The optic's powerful top end allows me to bring my target in close when conditions permit it, and the low end gives me a wide field of view for close work on movers. As has been my experience with other NightForce scopes, my new scope has brilliant resolution, and its adjustments track perfectly--a must for dialing up and down to hit distant targets.
The NightForce scope the author mounted on the GA Precision Templar rifle is bright and clear with precise adjustments. The angled, 30-MOA scope-mounting base allows the scope to retain enough elevation adjustment to easily go to 1,000 yards.
I started out at the 100-yard line, where I fired Lapua 139-grain Scenar bullets loaded by Black Hills--custom loaded exclusively for GA Precision--and CorBon, two handloads topped with Berger's 140-grain VLD, and a few factory hunting loads. I must confess that none of the factory hunting loads I tried shot well in my target rifle, but its long throat is probably to blame. Those same bullets shoot great in my hunting rifles. All the match loads I tried shot the lights out from 100 to 600 yards.
With Black Hills' 139-grain match load, my new rifle averaged about 0.66 MOA from 100 yards all the way out to 600 yards. CorBon's version did much better, averaging 0.38 MOA out to 600 yards. Both Berger VLD loads averaged under a half-minute. That is exceptional accuracy, to be sure, but I have a few .308s that shoot that well. What really impressed me was the .260's decreased wind drift. At 600 yards in a 12-mph crosswind, I needed five fewer clicks with my .260 than with my .308. The .260 also had almost zero recoil, which allowed me to see my hits; that's vit
al for making corrections after a missed shot.
I haven't had a chance to shoot my .260 beyond 600 yards yet, but I will be traveling to Rifle Only this spring to test it out to 1,000 yards and beyond. Based on other shooters' success with .260 Rem. rifles in the challenging Snipers Hide Cup held at Rifles Only every year, I have no doubt that my new rifle's 1,000-yard performance will continue to put a smile on my face.
As a longtime .260 fan, it's nice to see an increasing number of savvy hunters and match shooters flocking to my favorite 6.5mm. Those serious shooters have seen the .260 Rem. for what it is: a deadly, easy-on-the-shoulder round with match-winning accuracy. If those qualities appeal to you, maybe it's time you joined me on the .260 bandwagon.