• Category: Hunting

Another year, (yet) another deer rifle

To me it never made much sense to hunt class 2 game with a class 1 rifle/cartridge. There is just something wrong with this kind of overkill, at least in my opinion (Elmer Keith would not agree with me on this one...). In the last few seasons I´ve shot roe deer with mostly class 2 stuff: last year with a Sako 75 in 6 PPC and the year before that with a Tikka T3 in 223 Remington. This year I came very close to using my Tikka T3 in 308, but I reconsidered and yesterday I zeroed the 243 I bought last winter. What a relief!

This together with a thermos of black coffee is pure delight!

Roe deer season in Sweden starts with roebucks on August 16 every year. The date is set so that the rut is basically over. If it started a couple of weeks earlier, it would be a lot easier to call in the bucks and whack them. By delaying the start of hunting until the end of the rut, you lessen the toll on the buck population, and they will also have had more time to mate and produce offspring. The challenge for the hunters is also slightly higher which is a positive thing.

Swedish regulations restricts the number of hunting weapons (rifles, shotguns and combination guns) to a maximum of 6 per person. Since I´m a rifle nut I tend to change guns more than most other hunters. A consequence of this is that I rarely carry the same rifle in the field two years in a row, and this year is no exception. Actually, the rifle that has been in my possession the longest at this point in time is my Tikka T3 Super Varmint with just under 3 years in the gun safe. That one was actually zeroed just a week ago for fox hunting, but the other day I removed the terrific Delta Titanium HD 2,5-15x50 from it and put it on a Tikka 595 Continental in 243 Winchester that I bought last winter. You see, the 308 is a "class 1 cartridge" in Sweden which means that it may be used for any game including moose, wild boar and bears. The weakest class 1 cartridge is the 6,5x55 Swede (and also 6,5x47 Lapua if you manage to convince your police department that it in fact can deliver class 1 performance), and the heaviest is 50 BMG (but getting a hunting license for a rifle so chambered is hard or impossible).

Roe deer only requires the use of a class 2 cartridge, which means anything from the 222 Remington up to and including the 257 Weatherby Magnum. The reason for the 257 Roy (clearly more powerful than the 6,5 Swede!) not being labelled as class 1 lies in the bullet weights:

Class 1
Bullet weight of at least 9 grams (139 grains) and energy at 100 meters of at least 2700 Joule
Bullet weight of at least 10 grams (155 grains) and energy at 100 meters of at least 2000 Joule

Conclusions that can be drawn from these regulations are that

a) Heavier bullets for the 6,5x55 are preferred. It is much easier to reach the energy requirement at 100 meters for a 156-160 grain bullet than it is for a 139 grain bullet. This is mainly due to the low SAAMI maximum pressure of the 6,5x55 which is only 51,000 psi. If it was rated at the same pressure as the 308 Winchester (62,000 psi), it would be no problem to reach class 1 energy levels with a 139-140 grain projectile.

b) The ballistic coefficient becomes somewhat critical since the energy requirements are at 100 meters and not at the muzzle. A 140 grain wadcutter (with a totally flat nose) would be quite hard to propel at the needed velocity while a sleek bullet such as the Hornady SST 140 grain would do the job.

c) I doubt that the authorities/police would have interest in checking that your handloaded 6,5 ammunition meets these criteria. Have never heard of any hunting police that confiscate hunters´ ammo and test fire it to confirm the energy level at 100 meters. They would need to pull a bullet and weigh it, and also set up a chronograph at 100 meters and make sure that the bullets are passing over it at 775 m/s or higher. It just won´t happen. And they would nail that chronograph on the first shot...

Class 2 is a slightly more straightforward proposition:
Bullet weight of at least 3,2 grams (50 grains) and energy at 100 meters of at least 800 Joule

Again, it´s not realistic to measure the velocity at 100 meters, but we can use a simple ballistics program such as this one on the Norma webpage . If you play around with it you will see that the 222 Remington Norma factory load with 50 grain Soft Point delivers just over 1000 Joule at 100 meters with their claimed muzzle velocity of 975 m/s (3200 fps). What muzzle velocity is required to fail to reach class 2? Keep the sliding pointer at 100 meters and draw the muzzle velocity slider to the left until the "Energy (J)" value becomes 799 Joule. This occurs at 871 m/s (2858 fps). If you fail to reach 871 m/s with your handloads and the same bullet, you now effectively have a class 3 round and can hunt fox as the largest game.

The red fox is a class 3 game animal in Sweden

The sole purpose of these energy classes is of course to ensure ethical kills for the game intended. They can be seen as quite blunt tools, but they are what we have at our disposal. If you (when hunting in Sweden) follow these regulations at least you´ve done your part in trying to minimize any mess that can be caused in the woods. And it´s the law.