One chambering that should be revisited is the .257 Weatherby (WBY) — the performance darling of the 1940s. Hard to believe, but it’s true. What is not to love about a 120-grain bullet traveling at over 3,300 feet per second (fps)?
The .257 WBY was one of Roy Weatherby’s earliest cartridge creations. He officially introduced it in 1948, but he had been experimenting with it since 1944. It was derived from the .300 H&H case shortened to 2.545 inches and given Weatherby’s signature double-radius shoulder. Many sources quote the .257 WBY as Weatherby’s personal favorite.
Current loads include options like the 80-grain Barnes TTSX screaming along at nearly 3,900 fps, the 110-grain Nosler AccuBond and Hornady ELD-X rounds pushed downrange at nearly 3,500 fps and the 120-grain Nosler Partitions traveling at an impressive 3,300 fps.
Past To Present
Stories abound of the .257 Weatherby taking all sorts of game, including Cape buffalo. Weatherby did this himself. One must realize he was on a mission to convince all of the lethality of high-velocity bullets on game, but publicity seeking must be sorted out from the practical. The .257 WBY has a lot going for it without having to resort to hype. It represents the best of what the utilitarian quarter-bore has to offer.
A hindrance to the .257 WBY gaining more widespread popularity versus its cult-like following since its introduction was the proprietary nature of the chambering only being found in Weatherby rifles and ammunition. This has eased over time with Hornady offering loads and Remington providing limited runs of rifles. Another more recent rub against the .257 WBY is with .25-caliber barrel twist rates.
The 1:10-inch barrel twists (the norm now with Weatherby rifles) or 1:12-inch twists (more popular in early .257 WBY rifles) will not stabilize .25-caliber bullets weighing over 120 grains due to length issues. The higher twist rates allow the .257 WBY to crossover as both a varmint/predator and a medium/large-game hunting round.
The fixation with high ballistic coefficients (BCs) typified by the craze for 140-grain or heavier 6.5mm bullets will draw some criticism toward the .257 WBY. Much of this is derived from the popularity and mission focus of precision rifle matches that stretch engagement distances to beyond realistic expectations for harvesting most game.
For those that insist on the highest BC, private enterprise has risen to the challenge. For example, Blackjack Bullets offers a 131-grain .25 caliber with a G1 BC of .645 and G7 BC of .330. The kicker here is you’ll need to have a barrel with either a 1:7.5- or 1:8-inch twist.
Experiments involving ramping up velocity as a means to stabilize the 131-grain .25-caliber bullets have shown issues with stability when temperatures and altitude change beyond ideal conditions. That’s not conducive to hunters, to say the least. The good news is that Lilja, Bartlein, Krieger, Proof Research and others offer barrels with the twist rates to handle emerging heavy .25-caliber bullets.
Weatherby Mark V
My long-standing relationship with the .257 WBY was rekindled recently via a Weatherby Mark V Accumark rifle. My goal of having a braced pair of Accumarks with one chambered .340 WBY and other in .257 WBY was finally achieved. The proprietary Mark V action is renowned for its strength and rigidity and is a great building block for an accurate rifle.
The nine-lug Mark V was introduced in 1958. Cutaway drawings of the rifle remind one of an artillery breechblock in the way that the lugs torque into place when the bolt handle is lowered. Plus, the receiver does not have any excess material removed to provide a raceway for protruding lugs as found on Mauser-type bolts. The 54-degree bolt handle lift combined with its smoothness makes it one of the fastest bolt actions to manipulate.
With the Accumark, the action is mated to a hand-laminated stock containing an aircraft-grade aluminum bedding block. The distinctive Weatherby Monte Carlo pattern is followed in the stock design with a forward-sloping offset comb. The stock pattern provides a solid cheekweld and helps to dampen felt recoil. The stock is fitted with a Pachmayr Decelerator recoil pad.
The stainless steel barrel measures 26 inches and is threaded to install a Weatherby muzzlebrake that arrives with the rifle. The barrel is hand-lapped and free-floated within the stock. Deep, longitudinal fluting mates functionality with pleasant aesthetics. The flutes increase barrel surface area to dissipate heat and reduce the weight associated with the No. 3 contoured barrel.
The Accumark arrives with one of the best factory-tuned triggers I have had the pleasure to squeeze. The Weatherby TriggerTech trigger tested at 3.5 pounds on my RCBS gauge with no creep. Weatherby puts in writing a .99-MOA guarantee for three rounds from their rifles when Weatherby factory or premium ammunition is used.
Weatherby Mark V Accumark Specs
- Type: Bolt-action repeater
- Cartridge: .257 Weatherby
- Capacity: 3+1 rds.
- Barrel: 26 in., 1:10-in. twist
- Overall Length: 48.25 in.
- Weight: 8.3 lbs.
- Stock: Monte Carlo, fiberglass
- Finish: Blue
- Trigger: TriggerTech
- Sights: None
- Safety: Two position
- MSRP: $2,000
- Manufacturer: Weatherby; weatherby.com
The .257 WBY has a 200- to 300-fps advantage over its contemporary rival the .25-06. At 400 yards, the .257 is carrying 1,400 to 1,600 foot-pounds (ft.-lbs.) of energy, depending on bullet style and weight, while maintaining velocities over 2,000 fps. Ballistics with a 300-yard zero are 2 to 3 inches high at 100 yards and only 7 to 9 inches low at 400 yards. All figures are based on factory Weatherby ammunition and not “hot” handloads. With that said, the handloader will be pressed to match the Weatherby ammunition in terms of velocity and accuracy.
My continued interest in the chambering lay with its heavier bullet loadings for hunting deer or antelope. With the Accumark coupled with the potent, flat-shooting .257 WBY, the tandem is quite versatile as a sheep rifle or at dispatching coyotes or other varmints.
The cartridge shines now that bullet technology has caught up to its velocity. In fact, many of Weatherby’s cartridges follow a similar pattern of benefitting from advances in powder and bullet technology.
Weatherby’s arguments of high velocity and hydrostatic shock seem validated. The early bullets used by the .257 WBY were not designed for the .257 Robert’s velocities, and many close-range shots resulted in bullet failure. New bullet construction technology has wrought a quiet revolution in hunting and redraws the line of minimum-caliber standard for certain game animals.
This day and age finds most rifles created for specific tasks in mind (i.e., varmints, brush, sheep, dangerous game, tactical, etc.). As can be expected, most perform their assigned tasks well. It is the rare breed of rifle that does multiple tasks as well or better than a specialized firearm.
The .257 WBY comes closer than most calibers in being able to fulfill multiple roles well. Roy Weatherby would surely be pleased by how far the cartridge has come.