Wildcatting: Sweet Build
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- Last updated: 19/12/2016
The 7mm calibre is certainly one of the greats and like the 6.5mm it offers excellent ballistic coefficient (BC) bullets that retain energy down range very well and buck the wind too. Rounds like the 7mm WSM are popular at F class matches and the 7mm Rem mag still remains a good seller in America where a flat shooting longer cartridge is handy.
However there is one cartridge that people discover and rediscover with differing generations and that is the .280 Ackley Improved. This is no Magnum yet offers magnum like properties launching high BC bullets at good velocities from a 30-06 action length rifle. It has become a good stalking, as well as long range performer for people who do not want heavy recoil and a barrel life that lasts that bit longer.
Based on the .280 Remington, which itself is based on the .30-06 Springfield, the .280 shoots as flat as a .270 yet will hit hard like a .30-06 whilst producing velocities close to the 7mm Rem Mag. Typical performance shows a 120-grain bullet can be pushed at 3300 fps, 3100 fps with a 140 and 2900 fps for the heavier 160. Yet it has never really been that popular here in Britain, I guess due to the popularity of the .270 round for highland stalking in the past, which is a great shame as it offers a lot!
COAL is 3.33” so fits a .30-06 length action with a case length of 2.540” and has an H20 capacity of 67.2 grains with a shoulder angle of 17° 30 minutes and a 0.341” neck. But as with all things this can be improved upon and good old P.O.Ackley did just that!
Where the .280 Rem left off the .280 AK starts. It’s a slim line goddess of a cartridge! The case has no specified COAL as your can choose a throat length to suit the bullet weights you wish to shoot. The case however is slightly shortened to 2.525 but the neck is lengthened to 0.35 to accommodate the characteristic 40 degree shoulder angle. This gives the classic AK look but also takes most of the taper out of the case body.
H2O capacity is now increased to 72.6-grains, a 7.5% increase dependant on case used, well worth having. Standard .280 Rem cases can be used although most will go down the premium Lapua .30-06 brass and neck down in stages. Nosler also now make .280 AK Improved cases as part of their Custom Range; expensive but very good!
I have shot quite a few .280 AK’s now from re-chambered Rem 280’s, re-barrelled Sako Finnbears and full blown custom jobs. All have shown the unique characteristics that this wildcat fills so well: mild recoil, mild muzzle report, non excessive powder capacity yet maximum performance from 24-26 inch barrels.
One such design is the Steve Bowers .280 AK Improved long range rifle based on the BAT benchrest type precision action. Steve had this custom made as a Safari type model with a dual feed operation. This means that the rounds are not only controlled as they are fed from the magazine, like a Mauser for excellent reliable loading of the cartridge. But you can also load a round through the top of the action without pushing it into the magazine lips. In this way if you need a speedy shot you can just drop one into the receiver and cycle the bolt to feed and with the extractor claw riding over the rim of the case.
The bottom metal was a stainless steel hinged floor plate from Sun Hill with the entire action coated in Steve’s, mil spec, black paint inlaid with gold lettering. On top sits a one-piece, custom made Picatinny rail with 20 MOA of down bubble for more scope adjustment at longer ranges. A Zeiss 6-24 x 72mm scope is held in place with a 34mm rings to finish off this formidable package.
Trigger-wise a CG Universal was fitted with adjustable curved large floor plate added and the internals were actually honed and modified with separate springs to get the customers exact preferred trigger weight and pull with no back lash and zero travel. To finish off the metal was a lovely Walther, stainless steel, match-grade fluted and custom profiled to Steve’s spec barrel. At 28” it would take advantage of all the load potential the .280 AK could give you and the muzzle was threaded to accept a Jet-Z Compact sound moderator.
The bore has a 1 in 9” rifling twist with 6 groove profile and the chamber was reamed by Steve with a standard chamber dimension for the .280 AK and a standard neck diameter for 1.5 thou either side release, so no neck turning. A simple load procedure then.
The Stock is anything but standard, a full blown, Bowers custom laminate jobby with adjustable everything! The forend as with the pistol grip cap had a Rose wood tip, the only conventional part. This section was also profiled to suit both off hand and bench work with wider than average grip but rounded for a comfortable hold. The pistol grip actually and nearly encapsulates the trigger guard itself at the rear providing total support for the hand with finger grooves and thumb ledge.
The underside of the butt section has a cut away for a hand grip when shooting off a bipod or bench and the rubber recoil pad is adjustable for height and angle. The cheekpiece is a work of art. It looks like a seamless part of the stock until it is lifted
Steve Bowers custom rifles; 01242 863005
Walther Barrels; www.lothar-walther.de
Zeiss Scopes; 01223 401500
Nosler bullets Brass; Highland Outdoors 0845 099 0257
Edgar Brothers Hornady, Reloader powder; 01625 613177
Norman Clark Reloading supplies, dies etc; 01788 579651