Shooting the new-for-2015 .28 Nosler took me back to a hunt for black bear on Vancouver Island in
May of 1999. It was the very first outing for a wildcat cartridge that I had recently developed, and Bob Chiusano, another
hunter in camp, and I used my rifle chambered for it to take very good bruins.
His bear dropped in its tracks, as did mine except it rolled, tumbled, and bounced several hundred
yards down the side of a very steep mountainside like a sack full of Jello. The handload we used pushed a 140-grain bullet
along at 3,325 fps from the 26-inch barrel of a Canadian Gun Works M18-TI.
Our guides were quite impressed by the performance of the new cartridge. So was Bob Nosler, who was
also hunting out of the same camp. One night over dinner he proclaimed, “If ever I get into the ammunition business,
the 6.5 Shooting Times Westerner (STW) is a cartridge I will most definitely load.”
True to his word, Bob finally got around to doing just that almost exactly one year ago, but he decided
to use a shorter, fatter, nonbelted case, and he called it the .26 Nosler. Powder capacities of the 6.5 STW wildcat and the
.26 Nosler are virtually the same, so velocities are the same when the two cartridges are loaded to the same chamber pressures
and fired in rifle barrels of the same length.
Just as the 7mm STW is a necked-up version of the 6.5 STW, so it goes with the .28
Nosler and the .26 Nosler. When filled to the brim, the .28 Nosler case holds 100.7 grains of water versus 99.6 grains for
7mm STW cases made by Remington and 100.2 grains for those from Federal. Those are insignificant differences in cases of such
SAAMI maximum overall cartridge length for the 7mm STW is 3.600 inches versus 3.340 inches for the
.28 Nosler. Making the new cartridge shorter allows it to be used in the Nosler Model 48 rifle, the magazine of which is shorter
than those in actions of standard length, such as the Remington Model 700 and Winchester Model 70. Making the cartridge fatter
allows it to hold the same amount of powder as the 7mm STW.
The powder capacity of the new .28 Nosler is virtually the same as that of the
6.5 STW, .26 Nosler, and 7mm STW.
The .28 Nosler is a shortened version of the 7mm Remington Ultra Mag. They share a maximum body diameter
of 0.550 inch. Rebating the rim to 0.534 inch simplifies the production of rifle bolts since the rims of Holland & Holland-style
belted magnums, such as the 7mm Remington and .300 Winchester, are the same diameter. Whereas the 7mm RUM case measures 2.387
inches long from head to body-shoulder juncture, that dimension on the .28 Nosler case is 2.166 inches.
The dimension at that point on the Nosler case is 0.002 inch larger and that reduces its body taper
by just a tad. Maximum case lengths are 2.850 and 2.590 inches respectively. Shoulder angles are 30 degrees for the Remington
cartridge and a slightly sharper 35 degrees for the Nosler. Due to its greater length, the Remington case is about 25 percent
more capacious than the Nosler case.
The .28 Nosler case can be formed by running 7mm RUM or .300 RUM cases through a .28 Nosler full-length
resizing die with its expander/decap assembly removed and then trimming to the proper length. But despite the best of efforts,
case loss will be high due to wrinkling.
A case-forming die is available from Redding, and while I have not tried it, another Redding die on
my shelf forms the 6.5 Remington Magnum and .350 Remington Magnum cases from the longer 7mm Remington Magnum case. Case loss
is zero with it.
Only one form die is required to push the shoulder of the RUM case back to the .28 Nosler dimension.
A form-trim die would be handy for removing the 0.250 inch of excess neck length, although doing so is quick work for power
trimmers, such as the RCBS Trim Pro and Hornady Power Case Prep Center.
Because it’s based on the 7mm RUM case, the .28 Nosler case can be formed
by running 7mm RUM brass through an RCBS full-length resizing die with its expander/decap assembly removed. Trimming those
cases is required.
Trimming would finish the job unless the neck wall requires thinning by reaming or outside turning
for the tight chamber neck of a particular rifle. I won’t be surprised to see form dies become available from RCBS as
Two factory-loaded ammunition options will initially be offered, both under Nosler’s Trophy
Grade banner. One is to be loaded with a 160-grain AccuBond at 3,250 fps in a 24-inch barrel and 3,300 fps in a 26-inch barrel.
The 175-grain AccuBond LR loading will arrive with 3,075 and 3,125 fps ratings.
In comparison, the 7mm Remington Magnum, as loaded by Remington with 160-grain bullets, is rated at
2,950 fps (standard) and 3,002 fps (Hypersonic). The 175-grain loading is advertised at 2,860 fps. The 7mm RUM is not offered
with a 160-grain bullet at maximum velocity, but the 175-grain load is listed at 3,025 fps.
The 7mm RUM is an example of returns that have diminished to the point of nonexistence when a realistic
powder charge to bore diameter ratio has been greatly exceeded. Maximum velocities with 175-grain bullets shown in five reloading
manuals range from 3,077 to 3,164 fps with an average of 3,108 fps.
Loaded to the same chamber pressure of 65,000 psi, the .28 Nosler is capable of matching that muzzle
velocity while burning less powder.
Since the .28 Nosler burns smaller powder charges than the 7mm RUM, barrel accuracy life is potentially
a bit longer. How much longer depends on a number of things, including barrel quality and whether a barrel is pampered or
abused by its owner.
The first rifle in 7mm STW built for me by Kenny Jarrett in 1987 still has its original barrel. I
have not kept an accurate record of the number of rounds fired, but it has accounted for a lot of game during the past 27
years, including a record-book interior grizzly in Alaska in 2010. It still averages less than half minute of angle with its
The .28 Nosler has the same size appetite for powder, so all else being equal, barrel accuracy life
will be the same for it. Few who own rifles chambered for the new cartridge and take good care of them will wear out a barrel
during a lifetime of hunting.
The .28 Nosler will be introduced in the Patriot version of the Nosler Model 48 rifle. As should be
for a cartridge of extremely low expansion ratio, barrel length is 26 inches.
Prior to shooting Shooting Times’s sample rifle, I attached a Swarovski 2.5-10X 42mm scope,
and that brought its weight up to 9.13 pounds. Three cartridges in the magazine and a carrying sling would nudge its hunt-ready
weight close to 10 pounds.
The rush was on to get a rifle to me in time for the Shooting Times deadline, and
at the time of its shipment, Nosler technicians were still in the process of finalizing dimensional and ballistics specifications
for .28 Nosler factory ammunition. Among other things, maximum velocities and overall cartridge length had yet to be decided.
Since what would eventually be classified as factory-loaded ammunition was unavailable, they did the
next best thing by sending along a couple boxes of cartridges loaded with the 175-grain AccuBond LR bullet that had been handloaded
for a company employee hunt.
The Nosler rifle is designed to handle all bullets of its caliber made by Nosler, including the 175-grain
Partition. When that bullet is loaded in the .28 Nosler to its SAAMI maximum overall cartridge length, a fairly long leade
in the chamber of the rifle is necessary to accommodate its ogive shape.
.28 Nosler cases can also be made by running .26 Nosler cases (left) over the
tapered expander button of the RCBS full-length resizing die, which expands the neck for 7mm (.284 inch) bullets.
The 175-grain Partition is a favorite among elk hunters who use various 7mm cartridges, so why this
was done is quite understandable. But there is a downside to dimensioning a chamber for it when bullets of later design in
the Nosler lineup differ so drastically in ogive length and shape.
In the ammunition included with the rifle, the 175-grain AccuBond LR with its extremely long and mildly
tapered ogive was loaded to an overall cartridge length of 3.345 inches. During firing, the bullet had to free-travel 0.120
inch prior to engaging the rifling. In my experience, that’s a bit much for best accuracy with AccuBond bullets, and
holes punched in paper targets confirmed it.
Three-shot groups fired at 100 yards with the barrel cooled down completely between groups averaged
1.46 inches. That’s accurate enough for a big-game rifle from a practical point of view, but many of today’s hunters
Seeking an improvement in accuracy, I pulled the bullets from remaining rounds, dumped the powder,
resized cases with the RCBS die, recharged them with the salvaged powder, and reseated bullets to an overall cartridge length
of 3.405 inches. Doing so reduced bullet jump to 0.060 inch.
With an interior length of 3.420 inches, the magazine had no problem handling the longer cartridges,
and they were still short enough to allow the ejection of a loaded round without the nose of the bullet hanging up on the
front of the ejection port.
Making that small dimensional change along with an hour of thoroughly cleaning the barrel with Shooter’s
Choice powder solvent and Barnes CR-10 copper solvent trimmed average group size to 1.34 inches. An improvement for sure,
but not enough to write home about.
My supply of Nosler-loaded ammunition was limited to 40 rounds, so I next turned to handloading. Being
somewhat familiar with stuffing various powders and bullets into 7mm STW cases, I felt quite comfortable when beginning load
development for the new cartridge with starting powder charges recommended for the old cartridge.
Unprimed .28 Nosler cases were not available, but the necks of .26 Nosler cases were easily expanded
by one trip over the tapered expander button of the RCBS full-length resizing die. A second RCBS die was used to seat bullets.
Only a few 175-grain AccuBond LR and Partition bullets were on my shelf, but there was a good supply
of 168-grain AccuBond LR and 160-grain AccuBond. Charges used with the four powders behind the 160-grain AccuBond pretty much
duplicate the velocities we will see in Nosler’s upcoming factory load with that bullet. The Nosler rifle indicated
a definite preference for that bullet over the others I tried.
The new cartridge is being chambered initially in the Nosler Model 48 Patriot
rifle, which comes with a 26-inch barrel.
It is important to note that maximum powder charge weights ended up at several grains heavier than
I customarily use in the 7mm STW in order to reach the same velocities with the various bullet weights included in my tests.
There is not enough difference in the capacities of the two cases to account for such a difference in powder charge weight
requirement, so it has to be due to the long chamber throat of the Nosler rifle. Be aware that while the loads included in
this report were safe in the test rifle, they have not been tested for pressure.
For sharp-eyed readers who notice that Nosler’s handload with the 175-grain AccuBond bullet
exceeds the factory-established velocity rating by close to 100 fps, there is an explanation. When the ammo was loaded several
weeks prior to my receiving it, a muzzle velocity of 3,200 fps from a 26-inch barrel had been decided on.
And it would have been no brag since average velocity in the rifle I shot was 3,217 fps. But somewhere
along the way the decision was made to reduce velocity to 3,125 fps, and that’s what you will see on factory packaging.
I was told that 3,200 fps was reached without exceeding the SAAMI maximum chamber pressure, so the reduction likely had to
do with case longevity.
As I discovered while handloading the cartridge, case life improves dramatically when the velocity
of 175-grain bullets does not greatly exceed 3,100 fps. Case life is quite important to those who buy factory ammo and then
reload the fired cases.
Rifles, ammunition, and unprimed cases in .28 Nosler are slated for availability during spring of
2015. Except for the procrastinators among us, that should give hunters plenty of time to fine-tune and dial in their rifles
long before the bull elk start their bugling.
Few things are as discouraging to shooting enthusiasts ready for a good day at the range as having
a gun repeatedly jammed up with failures to feed or eject when using the ammunition on hand. If the gun is in good working
order and there's nothing obviously wrong with the ammunition itself, you may be dealing with a case of ammunition sensitivity.
Although every type of firearm can suffer from some form of ammunition-related issue, a discussion of semi-automatic platforms
is a good way to cover most of them.
Folks who are new to shooting or unfamiliar with ammunition issues often ask why they are running
into problems with products that have a solid reputation for reliability. Trying to lump ammunition into "good" and "bad" categories
just won't cut it. Instead, it’s more useful to say that sometimes the shoe just doesn't fit.
Think about your foot for a moment. It sports exactly the same set of features as millions of feet around the world
(toes, ball, arch, heel) but at the same time it has dimensions that make it both subtly and distinctively unique (nail
thickness, toe shape, width, overall length). Once you know your shoe size, you can move up and down the price scale (from
cheap to expensive) or sideways across shoe brands (Adidas, Fila, Converse, Nike, etc.) until you find a shoe that fits your
foot and your budget comfortably.
Guns aren't much different when it comes to pairing them with reliable ammunition. Each individual
gun has minute dimensional differences when compared to the same models that came off the same assembly line, let alone the
much more distinctive differences that show up when making comparisons across makes, models and brands.
It's not always a matter of price point but of proper gun-to-cartridge fit. As you move up and down
the ammunition price scale, and sideways across ammunition brands, you'll find loads that fit (run reliably) and those that
don't. The only way to know which loads will work for sure is to "try them on" by firing them at the shooting range.
You'll find a variety of inexpensive loads that run all day long without a hitch, and premium loads that will too. But like
shoes, not every single option on the shelf is going to be a good fit.
Here are a few of the most common ammunition fit issues that tend to crop up:
Within any given caliber option you'll often find several different bullet weights
and styles including lead round nose, flat nose, ballistic tips and jacketed hollow points, just to name a few. Depending
on the depth and angle of the pistol's feed ramp or magazine follower, the tip of the bullet may catch at the chamber mouth
resulting in a failure to feed.
Cartridge Case Material
Cartridge casings are often referred to as "brass" because that has been a common case material for quite some time.
However, cartridge cases can be made of brass, steel, aluminum or mixed materials. The Shell Shock Technologies NAS3 9 mm case consists of an aluminum head, stainless steel cylinder and a nickel coating. Some companies
are even developing polymer cases. Within a particular category you'll see different treatments of the metal, like the 7.62x54
mm R rifle cartridges shown here, with steel cases featuring copper-washed, polymer-coated, lacquered and zinc-plated finishes.
When a cartridge is fired, the relatively soft cartridge case is subjected to intense levels of heat
and pressure, which temporarily cause it to stretch and expand before snapping back into something close to its original size
and shape. In some instances, depending on the gun's chamber and the cartridge case material, the case's
shape is altered just enough to cause it to stick in the chamber so it does not eject properly.
Some empty cases will pop out when the bolt is cycled a couple of times, while others will have to
be tapped out with a cleaning rod and hammer. And there's no way to know for certain beforehand which case materials are going
to be reliable. I've shot guns where brass-case loads cycled smoothly while steel-case rounds tended to be sticky. However,
when I tested a Mosin-Nagant M44 a while back, the gun was perfectly happy when stoked with steel-cased ammo, but brass cases
were the problem children of the test.
Low Pressure Levels
Semi-automatic firearms rely on the pressure generated by cartridge ignition
to cycle the action. Due to design differences, including slide or bolt mass and spring-tension levels, some semi-automatics
require more cartridge pressure to cycle successfully than others. If a given cartridge does not generate enough pressure
to completely cycle the action of a particular gun, then malfunctions will occur including stove pipes (partial case ejection)
and failures to feed. The most dangerous result of low pressure is a squib load (named after the strange sound they make)
which results in the bullet becoming lodged in the barrel. Pay attention to each shot and make sure a hole appears in the
target down range. If not, stop shooting, break down the pistol and inspect the bore before continuing to shoot.
Minute Differences in Cartridge Dimensions
Even though ammunition manufacturers work to meet clearly
defined cartridge dimensions, there are always minute differences in the finished cartridges that just can't be detected with
the naked eye. This is not only true across brands, but within batches of ammunition made on the same machines during the
same shift. With low quality ammunition these variations show up in the form of poor accuracy, reduced reliability and variations
in pressure levels. With good and high quality ammunition, the variations are so minute that they go undetected for hundreds,
even thousands of rounds.
However, dimensional differences can cause a gun to run poorly with a certain load or even an entire
brand. Case in point: My brother and I each own the same discontinued model of Smith & Wesson semi-automatic .22 LR pistol.
His has an aluminum frame while mine is stainless steel, otherwise they are the same gun. My pistol hums right along with
Federal bulk-box loads while his pistol is a fan of Winchester Wildcats. We switched up these loads during a family plinking session one time and both guns immediately
began to jam up. Trading out magazines didn't help. When we went back to our own loads, they both ran smoothly again. There
is nothing wrong with the guns or the ammunition, they are just not a good fit for each other.
If one or more of the aforementioned issues are the reason your gun and a particular load of ammunition
just won’t function reliably, there is one simple solution: Stop using that ammunition and buy something else.
That being said, folks can run into failures to feed or eject that are not ammunition related. Here
are a few additional troubleshooting steps to consider if your gun is being a finicky eater:
Clean, Inspect and Lubricate
I almost always start here when diagnosing a gun issue because the
process of stripping, cleaning, inspecting and lubricating a gun is easy, inexpensive and, more often than not, the solution
to the problem. This is especially true if the gun was running smoothly with a particular load and then "suddenly" started
to exhibit issues. All too often those failures show up when the gun is dirty, gummed up with waxy rimfire debris or the lubricant
has been burned off.
Break-In Period for New Guns
Although it's not as common as it used to be, there are still some
factory-fresh guns that need to be broken in at the range before they can be counted on to run reliably. A tightly fitted
all-steel pistol, like a competition-grade 1911, might need to be fired between 50 to 200 times to complete the final smoothing
and settling of the moving parts. If the pistol has more than 200 rounds through it then the problem rests elsewhere.
Inspect Magazines and Magazine Springs
Whether a magazine is fixed or removable, tubular or box
shaped, a weak spring can cause failures to feed. Replacing or upgrading the springs may solve the problem. If a magazine's
feed lips are bent or damaged, that will cause hang-ups as well. If cheap, no-name magazines or well-made aftermarket magazines
do not feed as reliably in your gun as factory magazines, you'll just have to bite the bullet and pay more.
Check Your Technique
While shooting technique can affect accuracy and comfort levels (recoil management)
it can also affect reliable operation with semi-automatic pistols. Not holding the pistol firmly enough during recoil, which
is also known as "limp wristing," can cause the pistol to malfunction. So, try firming up your hold on the gun and see if
Seek out Professional Assistance
Remember that safety is of the utmost importance any time a gun
starts malfunctioning. If it is persistently misbehaving during a range session and you're just not sure what is going on,
stop shooting the gun immediately. Unload it completely, case it up and do not fire it again until you call on a professional
for assistance. This could mean calling the manufacturer and returning it to the factory for repairs, or paying a visit to
your friendly neighborhood gunsmith. You might have a lemon on your hands, or it may be that the gun needs a simple repair. Either way, it's always better
to address the problem directly and safely rather than taking any chances.