On paper it was very impressive, with the headline of “dead on to 415 yards”. That seemed like quite a claim – could it really be true?
It’s not often I write here about calibres I have no experience of. I have, for the most part, always endeavoured to gain some knowledge in the field, or at least have a close source who has used the calibre to a substantial extent. But this calibre certainly merits an investigation for pure interest’s sake. At the SHOT show in Vegas in 2014, Nosler presented not just a new rifle, but also an enticing new calibre: the .26 Nosler. You will have to forgive me if the information on it is a little scant at the time of writing, but it grabbed me as something special, so I wanted to give you a peek into its possibilities.
After watching the Hollywood-style YouTube video at www.26nosler.com, I started to dig. On paper it was very impressive, with the headline of “dead on to 415 yards”. That seemed like quite a claim – could it really be true?
First, we need to define exactly what Nosler means by ‘flat’. As anyone who knows a little bit about bullet trajectory will already realise, this claim can’t possibly mean the calibre shoots in the same place from muzzle to 415 yards. The comparisons Nosler helpfully provides refer to kill zones, which would allow the .26 Nosler to shoot within a 10in circle out to 415 yards with a 350-yard zero. This would result in having a 4.93in high zero at 200 yards and 3.4in high zero at 100 yards. So we are not talking the ability to point and shoot a crow out to these ranges, but if we upscale to bigger game, the appeal starts to become clear. To give an idea of the comparison, with the .26 Nosler and .270 Win pushing a similarly weighted 130-grain bullet zeroed at 200 yards, the Nosler would drop 5in less at 400 yards.
Delving deeper, we can see that this is achieved by pushing the 6.5mm 129-grain bullet with a muzzle velocity of 3,400fps, offering down-range energy at 400 yards of over 2,000ft/lb. Slightly more than a 180-grain bullet from a .300 Win Mag, and 500ft/lb more than a .308 Win loaded with a 165-grain bullet.
Fitting a standard .30-06 length action, Nosler, like a number of other ammo manufacturers in recent years, has designed its new cartridge around the inherently accurate, high BC 6.5mm calibre bullet. This, however, is different in its intended application to other similar calibres, with the .260 Rem, 6.5×47 Lapua and 6.5 Creedmoor all short-action calibres focusing on compact efficiency. Indeed, the .26 Nosler is very much upscaled, taking its parent case from the .404 Jeffery, blown out and necked down.
That should give you some idea of just how much powder is being used to propel this relatively small projectile. The .26 Nosler is even faster than the acclaimed 6.5-284, used to win so many long-range competitions. This doesn’t, however, mean it is better by default. There are a number of faster calibres of similar vein available in the Weatherby range, and still the 6.5-284 finds favour.
It is hard to speculate about just what the .26 Nosler will deliver, but there are a few aspects worth bearing in mind. As already alluded to, it burns a lot of powder to push a bullet that is very small in comparison to the load, and this combination usually results in a short barrel life. On top of this this, currently we are only going to see the calibre loaded with a 129-grain bullet (based on initial reports). In any case, this will not stop handloaders from experimenting, and it is always enthusing to see the continued development in new cartridges. Nosler is clearly pushing the boundaries in a part of the market that has been quiet for a while. I just can’t wait to get my hands on it for a play. BP