A funny thing with a 35 Whelen

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Ken Campbell Iowa posted this 21 May 2024

does the 35 Whelen have enough shoulder ?? 

first a quick background.  last year I helped a friend put together a 35 Whelen on a 1903 action/Shilen sporter barrel.  I did the metal work, he did the stock work.  I used a SAAMI reamer by JGS.  since he wants to hunt in the mountains I set the headspace to about 0.003... room for ice and pine cones ...

in the course of mounting a scope and bedding, we were shooting plinker loads of 8 gr 700X and 158 gr. 357-8 pistol bullets ... the same dozen cases ... Winchester and Hornady ...  shot great by the way ...

after about 10 reloads we started to get light primer strikes and no ignition ... hmmm .. headspace ( ok, bolt face clearance ) ... on these cases now over 0.010 ...

the gauge headspace is still good, nothing has moved.   CCI 200 primers.  oh, firing pin extension is a good 0.070 ... ok.

looks like the primers are pushing the shoulder back and the light loads don't have enough pressure to stretch the brass back against the bolt.   

? doesnt this mean even factory loads will be setting the shoulder back each firing and limit the case life ?? plinker loads or not ...  plinkers get shorter and hot loads stretch the rear of the brass.

not really a big problem for hunting but i was thinking about building a 35 Whelen plinker for myself this summer and 

wondering if any other Whelen shooters have run into this ... or am I missing something ??   

I have never run into this in all my other guns that i have at least 100 cycles on the brass with pop gun loads . 


i do have a 30-06 improved reamer and am considering for my own project to go with a 40 degree shoulder 35 Whelen Improved .... 

i thought about asking this question on facebook but probably get 24 posts advising to clean the rifle or polish my feed ramp ... ( g ) ...

thanks, ken

oh, i have a Wolf firing pin spring on order and will polish the inside of his bolt just in case.


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Spindrift posted this 22 May 2024

I think you may be on to something. I have two Whelens, one Howa 1500 and one Rem 700.

I've noticed that the brass stretches faster than with my other bottleneck cartridges, despite the fact I've set my FL die for only 0,001in shoulder set-back (which is the shortest set-back I can reliably measure). This tells me there is a bit of brass flow going on, which might due to non-optimal head-space function of the shoulder.

A trick I use when forming brass from .30-06: over-expand the neck first (I use .378), then size in correctly adjusted FL-die. If the original shoulder was a bit far back, you get a false shoulder to headspace on, thus controlling brass flow during fire forming. This has increased brass life for me.

Cheap and functional expander: the Lee decapping die will accept any Lee expander rod (sold as service parts). These rods can easily be honed to desired diameter.

PS anneal brass after the forming procedure described above. Otherwise, accuracy of stored cartridges will deteriorate after about one year (I've tested this).

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linoww posted this 22 May 2024

during a CBA match over 10 years ago my 700 in 35 Whelen suffered from misfires due to  shoulder setback from loads generating 1650 fps with a 250g bullet.This was 2x fired factory RP cases.

I made new cases from WW Brass and left lube on the cases when fireformed  and it seemed to solve the problem. I shot them 4x and didn't have it happen again. I've not touched the gun since then though



"if it was easy we'd let women do it" don't tell my wife I said that!

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RicinYakima posted this 22 May 2024

The 1903 Springfield has the highest momentum firing pin strike of any US action every made. 

Firing pin drives case forward until the front of the rim contacts the rear of the extractor lip. 

Dry case sticks  to the chamber wall and primer backs out from pressure. Leave the lube on the case for cast bullets so it sets back from shoulder to bolt. 

Once fired cases are fine for max jacketed bullet loads. 


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GBertolet posted this 29 May 2024

I have a 35 Whelen 40 deg Imp, built on a P17 Enfield. I found that the Imp cartridges do not feed as well as the non Imp ones do. Something to take into consideration. The sharp shoulder is the culprit. Still the advantages are, better headspacing, due to that sharp shoulder, and less case stretching. I have never had any issues with light primer strikes. I use Redding dies for the Whelen. I fireformed Remington 35 Whelen cases, and converted 30-06 cases by fireforming, using 10 gr of Bullseye and cornmeal. Messy, but very effective. Shoulders come out perfectly formed.

Anytime someone talks about the 35 Whelen Imp, it peaks my interest. I love that cartridge.

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GBertolet posted this 30 May 2024

I purchased the Hornady headspace comparator. They are not that expensive. I found that one .308 I had, was having the shoulder set back .015, with the existing die adjustment. A quick backing off of the sizer to .002, was done. I had no trouble with misfires, but this .015 of slop was asking for trouble.

Typically, the die manufacturers, suggest running down the die until it hits the shell holder, then going about 1/8 turn, to take up the spring in the press. As long as the cartridge chambers, most reloaders leave it as this, unaware of what their headspace actually is.. This procedure is not always correct for your rifle. This is where the comparator comes into play.

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lkydvl posted this 4 weeks ago



i HAVE A 35 wHELEN IN A CUSTOM sPRINGFIELD AS WELL.  Dang caps lock!  Never had the issue you are experiencing.  I also have an 8mm/06, 338/06, 375 Whelen Imp and a 411 Hawk.  I use GI surplus brass and have had no issues.



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Premod70 posted this 22 May 2024

The Whelen has less resistance to the impact of a fired primer than the parent 30-06 and even it will shorten over several firings of low pressure loads. I’ve never owned a Whelen but if I were to fire a low pressure load in one the flash holes would be opened up in hopes of balancing the act of firing a round somewhat safely.

Forrest Gump is my smarter brother.

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Ken Campbell Iowa posted this 29 May 2024

GB ::  thanks, I am still flailing ... er i mean logically pursuing .... the situation.

I did query the 35 Whelen forum on Farcebook ...  nobody actually suggested cleaning the gun ... but about half suggested ( bless their hearts ) full length sizing more to set the shoulder back ...

I was respectful ... and did receive several thoughtful replies ...

this is a friends gun so I have to beg him to loan it to me to play further ...   the first failures were just to test the scope mounts and bedding ...  it shot great ...Shilen barrels do that a lot ...

i think i will take a case and pull the trigger 10 times on dead primers ... and then a new case and use live primers ... i will make a dummy chamber to test headspace changes ... or buy a Wilson gauge ...

and also a new case and shoot with full loads 10 times to check for incipient case failure ...  I worry it is not just reduced loads ...

thanks all .. ken


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Wilderness posted this 29 May 2024

Ken - re buying a gauge to monitor case headspace.

For my .30-30 re-headspacing adventures I use a no-longer-active .354" Lubesizer die and a vernier. Any piece of steel with a cleanly machined hole the right size would do.

Your numbers will not compare with anyone else's, but you can compare them with the number from a case of known correct headspace. In my case the magic number is 3.100".

The ferocity or otherwise of your primers may play into this also. I mostly don't have to worry about primers (FC) blowing the cases forward again, but at one time I did experience it with PMC (Russian) primers.

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Ken Campbell Iowa posted this 30 May 2024

Wilderness .. thanks ... i like your idea of a simpler gauge ... i think i can just run a chamber reamer a little ways into a short rod and just use that , with calipers or surface gauge ... more closely match the rifle chamber ... exactly ...   thanks.

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Ken Campbell Iowa posted this 04 June 2024

mashburn ....the least foggy trail of the brass was 2 of Hornady factory full loads ... after firing factory, a couple of light loads with the sizer backed off and they misfired.    I intend to borrow the rifle again and pay more attention this time.  thanks, ken.. 

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mashburn posted this 04 June 2024


Was this a new unchambered blank, that you used, or was it in some other .35 caliber that You re-chambered to .35 Whelen? I will give you a call with some ideas, that I won't state here because I don't want to argue.


David a. Cogburn

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