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Where does a mid power .303 fit?

Posted by on November 16, 2012

I was down in Tucson for the Etreme Benchrest Competition last week, great event by the way, and had the opportunity to shoot the new FX Boss .303 rifle on Friday before the competition got started. I really enjoyed shooting the gun, finding it exceedingly accurate and atypically for a big bore airgun….. quiet! It Also had a pretty high shot count (around 40 shots in the 850 fps range), another anomaly in the world of big bores.

While I was busy shooting, a gentleman walked up that had heard about the gun and asked me what purpose a gun in this caliber generating about 75 fpe could possibly serve? I wasn’t really surprised by the question, after shooting the Daystate Wolverine, another .303 which had similar performance and writing something about it, I had the same question come up.

Fredrik Axelsson used the .303 Boss to sweep through the Extreme Benchrest event in Tucson recently. Fred is a great shot, but I think the .303 was a great caliber for the very windy conditions we encountered.

The Wolverine is another .303, which is a storied caliber for British shooters.

Let me start by saying that I have two .308s, three 357s, a .452, three .457s, and two .50 calibers in my gun room. Most of these guns fall into the 175 – 600 fpe range. So where does a modest power .303 fit into my hunting armament? I use the bigger calibers for big game hunting, and find the .308 and .357s are great for predator hunting. I’ll also use the more powerful 30’s for the smaller antelopes, pigs, and large birds (such as (Guinea fowl). But primarily I use them for sport hunting coyote, bobcat, and fox. Note the “sport hunting” designation, in this type of hunting I am using an airgun because I want to increase the challenge (a common motivation for bow hunters)….. basically I like hunting with an airgun and am not concerned with how far the projectile will travel or how loud the gun is. A 175 fpe gun shooting a medium or heavy weight cast bullet is flat shooting and is capable of reaching out well over 100 yards, and it smacks the target with authority.

But I also use an airgun for hunting coyote in built up areas where the carrying range of the projectile needs to be limited and the noise level kept low. In areas such as this, not only are high power and long range characteristics not needed, they are contraindicated. A 30 caliber pellet moving at around 850 fps is going to effectively punch a big hole through a coyote. But in case of a miss a Diobolo pellet is going to shed velocity rapidly whereas a heavy cast bullet is going to travel on increasing the risk of collateral damage. Another thing I like about this particular rifle is that it’s quiet, which fits my needs when hunting in built up areas. Sport hunting generally takes place where I  could use one of my centerfires, carrying range and sound are not major issues. However, when coyote hunting in suburban areas safety and sound levels become critical, and this is the primary application that steers an increasing number of predator hunters towards an airgun rather than their normal small caliber centerfire.

The .303 guns are built around the pellets, which are Diabolo style. I expect to see more of a selection optimized for specific guns, as more guns get out into shooters hands.

A lower power .303 will also serve very well for hunting mid sized game such as turkey, jackrabbit and woodchuck,but isn’t too much gun for longer range small game either. So if a predator hunter is looking for a tool to use in built up areas where the risk of collateral damage and need to keep the noise levels down, this caliber/power combination might be the right choice. For this reason I believe that a mid caliber lower power gun gives me more flexibility once I take the larger game or long range shooting out of the equation.

I don’t think this gun fills the niche for a big game airgun ….. or even a long range predator gun for all hunters. As with any gun the shooter has to think about how they are going to use it, if one gun was right for all shooters there would only need to be one gun. I’m going to do most of my predator and small game hunting with the 30’s this year, I have a couple new .303s and a few new .357s to use that generate between 75-175 fpe, and will keep the blog updated with my results.

The .303 in a lower powered gun is excellent for long range pest control on medium sized quarry. I hit these two jackrabbits at 104 and 122 yards respectively, and bowled them over using the Wolverine at about 90 fpe.

For me there is a pretty clear and compelling reason for these guns, less tangible is that they are fun to shoot! I would advise that before you make your mind up about a lower power mid bore, think about what you want it for. Are you going to hunt predators in the wide open spaces or in suburbia? Are you going to use it for small game in addition to predators? Will you use it on hogs in the brush with the occassional coyote, but never on small game? The use case will help you decide where/if it fits for you, and only you can decide. For me it’s a no brainer, I love these guns andwould have a use for them in my predator hunting line up even if I didn’t use an airgun for any other reason!

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