The little-known .250-3000 Savage

| 25 October 2013 | 0 Comments

By Frank Darcey

I can remember, as a kid, watching the adventures of  Frank Buck and his Bring ‘Em Back Alive series.  Mostly, I remember his use of a Model 99 .300 Savage rifle on occasion, which happened to be the exact rifle my father used, but on far less exotic game. It did, however, elevate my father pretty close to African Adventurer status, in my young eyes. Dad did use his old Savage to take many head of deer, bear, elk,  moose and antelope through the years, and I continue to use it on nostalgic occasions.

Unbeknownst to me at that time was the fact that the .300 Savage had spawned a little brother. Namely the .250-3000  Savage. Now, being the sort of lad that couldn’t quite see the immediate benefit of high school algebra, I spent most of one whole year clandestinely reading all of Ian Fleming’s James Bond series of novels in math class. In one such book, James and a cohort were to take out a bad guy, located in a building across the street from where they were positioned. Bond’s accomplice fired at the bad guy standing on the other side of a window with a .30/30 Winchester in order to break the plate glass window, while James, shooting a .250/3000 Savage fired a millisecond later, allowing the fast little bullet to pass through the hole the .30/30 had made, thus killing the villain. Well, I was certainly impressed with this feat, and upon further research, after I had found out that the .250 was the first commercial cartridge to exceed the magical 3000fps barrier, I just had to have one.

Fast forward ten years. My search led me first to the baby brother of the .250, the .22-250 Remington, which in and of itself is a fine round, especially for what it’s designed for and some for which it was not.  The .22-250, when loaded with the solid copper 53 grain Barnes Triple Shock bullet, being pushed in the 3800fps range goes from being strictly a varmint load to a very formidable round on antelope weighing less than 150 pounds, and at ranges in excess of 300 yards. At those velocities, the solid copper Barnes bullet will not blow up on impact like some of their jacketed counterparts, and provides very deep penetration.

Yet another decade passed, and after a twenty-year journey – there had been serious financial constraints in my life, such as a wife, kids and other such minor obligations that lead to a serious lack of funds, which slowed any aggressive pursuit on my part – I finally found my .250-3000 in the form of a used Ruger Model 77 Ultralight in a little out-of-the-way gun shop on a mountain top, complete with RCBS reloading dies and a nice supply of brass. The little  rifle having been traded in on something a little more modern and up-to-date.

It’s now been another twenty five years since I found that rifle, and the little .250-3000 has accounted for quite a number of North American game animals. It is, I feel, a little cartridge that just doesn’t realize that it’s little. Now, I can’t defend it against any of the really good .257s, and the great .25-06, but at around 7 pounds  it most certainly is a pleasure to pack around, and to shoot, and it hits hard.  Really  hard.  Using a load of 34 grains of Reloder 15,  CCI 200 primers, and the 85 grain Combined Technology Ballistic Silvertip bullets, I have a load that shoots very well in this rifle, and chronographs at 3012fps. On a recent free‑range Blackbuck Antelope hunt in Texas, that load combination proved deadly on a very nice 22” Blackbuck ram, and several management females out to 266 yards.  With that in mind, I decided to fetch along the M77RS Ruger to Port Elizabeth, South Africa on a recent hunt for some smaller game in the Kleinpoort area of the Eastern Cape with Two Waters Safaris.

It has been my experience that the larger game animals in southern Africa, at least for me, have been somewhat easier to bag than the smaller guys.  I’ve had absolutely horrible luck when it comes to hunting the steenbok, grysbok, common duiker and others of their ilk. I’ve walked,  I’ve stalked and I’ve hunted them from hides, but none of the tiny ten were to be had. Luck changed a little on my fifth trip to southern Africa, when I finally took a nice 6.25” steenbok in Namibia, and on my sixth trip, in the Limpopo Province, I was fortunate enough to take a 4.625” klipspringer.

Now, here it is, my seventh trip to southern Africa, with the largest thing on my bag list being the fallow deer, with my trusty .250-3000 in tow.  My PH, knowing full well I really wanted a duiker of all things, told me it wasn’t a  problem – there were plenty. He obviously wasn’t aware of my penchant for bad luck. So, after a couple of abortive stalks, I finally settled down and shot a very respectable old duiker ram at a mere 35 yards after three days of walking and stalking. A lot of hunters take duiker, steenbok and such incidentally while hunting bigger and better things, and therefore think nothing of it beyond just taking another game animal. But after many miles were logged, slipping through the bush, the taking such a fine animal was especially satisfying.  I have found that when you specifically target any of the smaller antelope, the success ratio goes way down, and the challenge way up.

Up next, was a fallow deer.  Fallow are not native to South Africa, but they have been there for close to 150 years having been brought in from Europe, so I thought a hunt for one was in order – and when you see that the trophy fee is around 66% less than the price for a similar animal in the ‘States, it became a no‑brainer on my part. Hunting just northeast of Kleinpoort on a very large ranch in the rain and fog, during a break in the weather, a very nice chocolate phase fallow stag fell at just over two hundred and fifty yards when the Ballistic Silvertip went through his chest in a straight on shot. The stag staggered back a few steps and collapsed.

The next three animals I desired to hunt – springbok, Vaal rehbok and mountain reedbuck – were not to be found in sufficient quantities on the Eastern Cape where I started out, so it was up to the Northern Cape for several days, in the Merriman area, for more spot‑‘n’‑stalk hunting on some of the huge ranches in that area. Some, which I was told, exceeded 30,000 hectares. I had seriously underestimated the mountain reedbuck and Vaal rhebok. Though we found them at the base of the local mountains, once spotted, they went straight to the top. The hunter should be in reasonable condition to pursue them. Now, I did have a stroke of luck on my second day there, when the trackers spotted my mountain reedbuck ram, along with a few ewes, high on the side of a mountain first thing in the morning. A sneak into the old klip kraal kept us shielded from view. The ram had bedded down on the upper slope, while his ewes were still up and feeding. We evaluated the ram and felt he was well worth trying for. We waited for him to get up for quite some time. Using the stone fence wall and my jacket and hat as a rest, the fine old warrior with broomed horns and no teeth, fell on the hillside at 264 yards as gauged with my Leupold rangefinder.

Next up, hours of walking and hiking hills led to a long shot on a Vaal rhebok. A missed guess at the range  yielded a barely low shot off the sticks. The next day, after a great hike and sneak, I took my nice ram with one slightly quartering away shot at over two hundred yards.  A brief trot of 20 yards, and the ram tipped over.  I must say here and now, that one should not  underestimate the challenge level of hunting these Vaal rehbok, and plan your hunt accordingly. They have very keen eyesight, are very skittish, and are prone to run to the very top of the closest hill at the hint of danger.

Misfortune struck, when climbing a kopje, I lost my balance on some rocks, and rather than take a tumble, I dropped my Ruger into the rocks in order to catch myself, with a sickening crack of metal on rock as a result. Aside from serious scratches on the barrel, and a couple of dents in the wood, nothing was damaged beyond repair. My gracious host, Harry Sparks, no longer trusting the zero of my rifle, insisted I use his culling rifle for my last animal.  His rifle, a Ruger M77 in .243 Winchester with a heavy barrel, shooting 85 grain Speer hollowpoints at 3200fps  was a proverbial tack driver. My nice South African springbok ram fell at 292 yards off the sticks.  When I asked Harry where to aim at that range, he said “spot on”, and that’s exactly where it hit.

Though my rifles of choice for southern African hunting in the past have been my Model 70 Winchester in 7mm Remington Magnum, and to a lesser degree, my Ruger #1 in .375 H&H, I must say, the little .250-3000 gave a good accounting of itself on it’s first trip abroad.

Next up, is a planned trip to Namibia, with a mixed bag of game, including a lot of the smaller animals, and rest assured that my second rifle will be the .250-3000, after it gets a much needed barrel & stock refurbishing.

This article was curtesy of African Hunter Magazine

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