Written by Sierra Bullets Ballistic Technician Paul Box
Have you ever wondered why some cartridges are successful while others fail? I’m sure this thought has crossed the minds of CEO’s and company engineers for many years. Sometimes it’s just timing in the market or the factory offerings in various rifles.
The 250 Savage, also known as the 250-3000 is one of these calibers. First introduced way back in 1915 by Savage, it was ahead of its time. Today 3000 FPS will only draw a yawn from most reloaders, but back then it was unheard of. While the designer of the 250 Savage, Charles Newton suggested a 100 gr. bullet for this new caliber, Savage decided to drop down to an 87 gr. In order to meet the 3000 FPS velocity they was looking for. The 250 Savage enjoyed a high level of popularity for many years after its introduction but finally fell out of the lime light when the. 243 was introduced in 1955.
I’ve read many articles thru the years stating how the .243 killed the 250-3000, but did it really? Let’s take a closer look.
SAAMI established the maximum average working pressure for this cartridge at 45,000 CUP because of the 99 Savage that it was introduced in. The .243 was set at 52,000 CUP. Strike one. Early 250 Savages also had 1-14” twist marrying them to the 87 gr. or shorter bullets, while the .243 had a 1-10” twist and was well suited to handle 100 gr. bullets. Strike two. Bullets in the 87 gr. and under weight range all had varmint bullet construction and that combined with being offered in a lever gun did not give visions of pin point accuracy. Strike three. It’s easier to win a race when the other guy is pulling a boat.
Today, a modern and strong bolt rifle does not need to be limited to such low pressures. A 1-10” twist barrel will give more options in bullet weights as well.
Back some years ago, I built a 250 Savage and found it could hold its own with a .243 when they was both loaded to equal pressures. RL-15 has proven to be an outstanding powder choice in this caliber giving both good velocity and accuracy combined. Overall the 250 Savage was slightly superior because of its ability to use 117 gr. and 120 gr. bullets for larger whitetails and mulies.
Pictured is Paul Box’s custom 250 Savage. It’s built on a Savage Model 14 and features a squared and trued action. Pillar bedding, and the barrel is a Lilja stainless no. 4 contour 3-Groove 1-10” twist and finished at 24”.
Looking into my crystal ball, I’m sure the day is not far away when this caliber will only be available thru rebarreling from your favorite gunsmith and brass will have to be made from 22-250, but I know it will always have a loyal following from those who have truly taken the time to work with it.