.260 Remington cartridge review.
Finding the magic rifle bullet that transcends both varmint and deer use, which can be shot from one rifle, means you have found a very valuable and viable tool.
The .260 Remington calibre may not be the most popular calibre on the British market, but it is fast becoming my favourite all-round calibre.
That’s saying something as I have long had a high regard for the .308 Winchester calibre. It should not be a surprise then the .260 calibre is based on the .308 case size.
Use and viability
There are many instants where people say a .243 is too small and where a .308 is too large. The .260 sits somewhere in the middle and should be just the ticket.
I had a couple of rifles on test, one being a Steyr ProHunter Mountain rifle and the other a Remington 700 Stainless Steel Mountain rifle. Being a 6.5/.264 bullet calibre coupled with a case capacity the same as the .308, you have the ability, by simply changing bullet heads and powder charge, to engage any quarry from the wary crow or wily fox through to the small deer species of muntjac and roe, and right up to fallow and red deer.
Stalkers have long known the ballistic capabilities of the slender and long 6.5 bullet as a deep-penetrating, accurate projectile, while fox shooters appreciate the down-range performance of the lighter hollow-point designs.
The range of bullet weights commonly starts at 85 grains and transcends the mid-range weights of 120 grain up to 140 grain with some varieties as heavy as 160 grain. With a barrel rifling twist commonly set at 1 in 9in, all these bullets’ weights can be stabilised and shot accurately.
Performance is a real pleasure as the .260 is a mild-kicking round, allowing its usage in lighter rifles and it is easily sound moderated and inherently very accurate.
Factory ammunition can be scarce with only Remington offering 120-grain Accutip bullets and 140-grain Core Lokt heads, and Federal also producing 120-grain Ballistic Tip rounds and 140-grain loads sporting the excellent Sierra GameKing bullet head.
I was only able to obtain Remington factory ammunition in 120-grain Accutip and 140-grain Core Lokt variety. The 140-grain are designed to expand reliably on deer-sized game and exhibit a muzzle velocity of 2,618fps and 2,131ft/lb energy from my 22in barrel.
Accuracy was adequate as three shots grouped into 1.5-1.75in at 100 yards. This is fine for deer but really good for longer-range foxes despite its inconsistent performance. The 120-grain AccuTip was good as a roe round, expanding dependably without too much rapid expansion likely to cause carcase damage with a 2,798fps velocity and 2,087ft/lb energy.
Accuracy as with the 140 grain was fine at 1.0-1.25in for three rounds at 100 yards and this would make a great longer-range fox round, being able to buck the wind from those long, slim bullets.
Reloading is really where the .260 ballistics shine, enabling the reloader to unlock the performance from the calibre. The 85-grain Sierra hollow points loaded with 48-grain of Hodgdons H4350 powder speed along at 3,105fps velocity with 1,820ft/lb energy from a 22in barrel.
This is a great fox load with down-range performance zeroed at 100 yards of -2.6in low at 200 yards and only -11in low at 300 yards. It is very accurate with sub-1in groups and has very fast expansion of the bullet. Hornady and Nosler both make a 100-grain bullet, the former a soft point and the latter a ballistic tip.
Both can be pushed at about 3,000fps velocity with 1,999ft/lb energy and, again, make a great fox or small-species deer load. The Nosler Partition of the same weight can even be used for larger deer if the shot placement is good. My favourite load is 43.5-grain of Vit N140 that produces a healthy 2,926fps with the Nosler partition bullet.
I also use a Lapua 108-grain Scenar bullet regularly for fox work and a load of 46.5 grain of Vit N160 can achieve 2,852fps which gives me superb 0.5in groups and confident shots out to 300 yards or more. Next in weight are the very versatile 120-grain Nosler ballistic tips, which are both good for fox and deer use. Travelling at 2,750fps velocity with 2,099ft/lb energy, this load is very flat-shooting and mild-recoiling. My load would be 43.5-grain of Alliant RL19 with Federal Match primers.
Another good and hard-hitting bullet is the Hornady 129-grain SST. These bullets offer a good blend of ballistics and predictable expansion and are best used for deer-sized game. Velocities can reach 2,650fps with a healthy 2,012ft/lb energy and this is probably my favourite all-round bullet for the .260 calibre. Again, Alliant RL19 is a good choice here with 43.0-grain achieving that 2,650fps velocity from the 22in barrels.
However, to many, the 140-grain bullets are ‘the’ deer loads with most of the major manufacturers producing bullet heads in this weight and achieving at least 2,600fps and 2,101ft/lb energy. Nosler make a good Partition in this weight as do Sierra with the accurate 140-grain GameKing, while Hornady offer their dependable SST bullet in this weight. Watch out for slow expansion on smaller deer species though. My load is 42.5-grain of Alliant RL19 for 2,668 fps with a 140-grain SST bullet.
In the field
What was immediately apparent when testing both rifles from the bench was the mild recoil, despite their light-weight Mountain rifle proportions. With a PES 32mm muzzle sound moderator fitted, the report was subdued and the recoil was further reduced to the point where, with the lighter bullet weights, some of the shots could be spotted by the shooter.
I used the Steyr for some early-morning fox shooting and found the Lapua, Nosler and Sierra lighter bullets to be great performers with instant, close or longer-range shots. I also had in the back of my mind that, if a roe presented itself, I could utilise the same load.
The Remington 700 was loaded with deer loads of the factory 140 grain and Hornady SST 129-grain bullets, and achieved perfectly placed flat-shooting rounds on roe and fallow up to 250 yards. I was taken with the lack of meat damage yet hard-hitting abilities of the slender .260 bullet, which certainly instilled a sense of confidence with the little round.
Despite its relative scarcity in Britain, among many stalkers and varminters the .260 Remington has loyal followers of which I am now one. It is an accurate, light-recoiling, efficient little cartridge that can be used in rifles scaled around its short-action body size such as the Mountain rifles on test.
It is a proficient, hard-hitting fox calibre and a dependable flat-shooting deer round, which would be a good choice as a one-gun estate rifle.
Will it take over from the .243 or .308 rounds?
Probably not, but if you are buying a new rifle, then consider the .260 Remington round, it has a lot to offer the British shooter.