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IHMSA News Feature Article
Published in The IHMSA News, the Official Publication of The International Handgun Metallic Silhouette Association
Published monthly except November/December - January/February
IHMSA on the web at http://www.ihmsa.org
 
The Long Whisper
The J.D. Jones 300 Whisper
  By Todd Spotti Load Data & Range Test
 

     The 300 Whisper certainly caused a sensation in the shooting world when it first came out - basically because it broke every rule in the book. Those very same rules are still very much in force today and are probably even more entrenched in most shooterís minds. What are those rules? Simply ďsmaller diameter bullets are better than larger diameter bulletsĒ and ďfaster loads are better than slower loadsĒ.  Well here was a cartridge that was designed to do the exact opposite i.e. take a 221 Fireball case, expand the neck to 30 caliber and shoot a 220 grain Sierra bullet out of it at subsonic velocities (less than 1100 fps) in a fast (1: 8) twist barrel. It was really a pretty radical idea and still is.

     The 300 Whisper was designed by the indomitable and innovative J.D. Jones, an ex-IHMSA match director and owner of SSK Industries, home of the ďHand CannonĒ. J.D. saw that a long, heavy, slow moving bullet was perfect for both specialized military applications and as a general sporting cartridge. Why? Because those long jumbo bullets become very, very efficient in the subsonic regime. So what does that mean? To find out, letís look at some some comparative figures.

     Letís take the 7 TCU, which is about as average a silhouette cartridge as there is. Weíll assume that weíre going to launch a 140 grain Sierra flat base bullet out of a 14Ē TC. Weíll be using a load of 28.4 grains of Winchesterís 748 powder. Velocity is a very respectable 1900 fps.

     On the other hand, our 300 Whisper is going to be using a 220 grain 30 caliber Sierra bullet moving along at a very leisurely 1050 fps - almost half the speed of the 140 grain bullet. Letís see what happens at 200 meters.

     When the 7 TCUís 140 grain bullet hits the ram, itíll be going 1349 fps. In other words, itíll have lost a whopping 551 fps, or nearly 29% of its original velocity. In a very gentle 5 mile an hour side wind, it will have also drifted over nearly 6 inches. Additionally, recoil will be 15.3 foot pounds, which is considered moderate. Striking momentum on the ram will be .83 pound seconds - safely adequate to push the ram over.

     The 300 Whisper will be a very different story. When its 220 gr bullet hits the ram, itíll still be going 983 fps. Amazingly, it will have only lost a miserly 67 fps over the 200 meter course! Compare that to the 7 TCU loosing 551 fps at the same distance. Well, you might say, thereís bound to be a lot more wind drift because the bullet is moving so slow. Wrong. Thatís not how it works. Wind drift will be only 3.8 inches or 36% less than the 7mm bullet. How about recoil? That big 220 has got to produce a lot more recoil than the 140, right? Wrong again. Recoil comes out to only 6.6 foot pounds - 56% less than the faster, but smaller 140 gr bullet. Momentum knockdown for the Whisper will be .96 pound seconds or 13.5% more push on the target. So here we have a case where you have less velocity loss, Oh, by the way, the Whisper can do all that while delivering a half MOA in accuracy at 200 meters.

     So how does the Whisper do all these great things? It all comes down to drag and ballistic coefficient. First drag. When any bullet is traveling at supersonic velocities, itís pushing a thick wall of highly compressed air in front of it. When itís traveling at sub-sonic velocities, itís not. Itís that simple. The faster the bullet is traveling, the more drag it has to overcome. Since the Whisper is moving relatively slowly, thereís far, far less drag. The Whisper trades speed and energy for weight and momentum, which is far more important when kicking the ramís face into the dirt.

     Now letís talk about ballistic coefficient, which is a measure of the bulletís ability to slip through the air. Our 140 gr. bullet has a coefficient of .248. On the other hand, the long heavy 220 grain bullet has a coefficient of .331. Longer is better when it comes to slicing through the air. Bottom line: a long bullet at subsonic velocities is much more efficient than a shorter bullet at supersonic velocities.

     I was rooting around in the closet in my gun room not too long ago and ran across a 14Ē TC barrel chambered in (you guessed it) 300 Whisper. This was a standard barrel that I got not long after Thompson Center introduced the cartridge into its lineup. I thought to myself  ďYou know, you haven't used this thing in so long, you ought to be ashamed of yourself.Ē It was true. That barrel has languished in the closet for for years and years and I really didnít have an excuse for not using it. Needless to say, I decided to take it out and have some fun.

     Unfortunately, TC doesnít offer the 300 Whisper any more except through its custom shop - Fox Ridge Outfitters. Fox Ridge makes its barrels one at a time by taking standard grade TC barrels and providing them with a custom reamed chamber and crown. The individual attention these barrels get produce a superior shooting product. The Fox Ridge barrels also receive extra attention and time on the polishing wheel which results in a much glossier finish.

     When TC brought out the Whisper many years ago, they decided not to market the Whisperís unique ability to deliver very heavy bullets at long range with unusual accuracy. Instead, they promoted the 300 Whisper as a standard 50 -100 yard deer hunting cartridge using 125 to 150 grain bullets at supersonic velocities. Consequently, TC barrels use a 1:10 twist, versus J.D.ís barrels, which use a 1:8 twist.

     With all the conflicting information floating around in the gun press about subsonic and supersonic velocities, it was only natural that the silhouette shooters of the time would naturally become confused about which was the best way to use the Whisper. Eventually, three camps evolved into being. There were the subsonic advocates, the supersonic advocates, and those that combined the two concepts by driving extra heavy bullets as fast as they could, often well beyond the limits of reason. I still vividly remember one fellow who wondered why primers were falling out his cases after only about three reloads. Seems he was pushing 180 grain bulk bullets out of his ten inch Contender at well over 1800 fps. He also insisted that recoil with his loads was very mild and gentle. However if you look at the numbers, recoil was actually in the heavy 44 Mag range. Eventually, the conventional or traditional supersonic school of thought ended up dominating the Whisperís use in silhouette shooting.

     Reloading the 300 isnít difficult. Dies are available from a variety of sources. Mine were made by RCBS. The unique thing about 300 Whisper dies is that they contain a special expander die. Remember weíre expanding the neck of the 221 Fireball case from .224 all the way up to .308. Thatís quite a jump, even with a special die to do it. Consequently, you have to make sure the inside of the case is well lubricated and chamfered when doing so. If they aren't, youíre going to have split necks. After the necks have been expanded, just run the case into the full length sizer die and fire form afterwards. After your cases have been fire formed, back off the sizing die about a quarter turn to neck size only.

     The Whisper was a very flexible case to reload and was amenable to providing good results in my standard TC barrel with a wide variety of powders. They ranged in burning rate all the way from Accurate Arms #5, to Hodgdonís H4198. H110, V120, and AA #5 gave exceptional results. Bullet weights also ranged from 150 to 200 grains. Primers were restricted to Remington 7 1/2ís basically for the sake of simplicity.

     I used two types of cases for my little evaluation i.e. standard Remington 221 Fireballís reformed in my RCBS dies, and ready made cases available from SSK Industries. The SSK cases are made from mixed, once fired military 223 cases. The cases are cleaned, cut back, reformed, primer crimps removed, and then polished to a high luster. All you need to do is fire form. Some purists might be put off by the fact that these are mixed military cases. However I found that getting 1Ē groups with them was pretty routine. Being basically a lazy person, I like the idea of being able to buy custom cases ready made. Additionally, I also like the fact that the 223 based cases are stronger and so should last longer. However, if you choose to load your ammo on the ragged edge of sanity, use the Remington cases to avoid any surprises that may result from varying case wall thicknesses.

     As many people have known for some time, the 300 Whisper is a natural for cast bullets. If the idea of 200 grain subsonic bullets appeals to you, but the cost of jacketed bullets makes you hesitate, cast bullets are a logical answer. I found the RCBS 200 gr. bore riding silhouette bullet to be a very good performer. Indeed, it provided some of THE very best groups in the evaluation. Leadheadís 200 grain bullet would also be a logical choice, although unfortunately I discovered I didnít have any to use for this particular evaluation. The SAECO and RCBS 165ís would also be a good choice if you wanted something in the middle range of performance.

     A quick additional word on barrel twist. If you want to shoot 200 or 200 grain plus bullets at subsonic velocities, a 1:8 twist barrel is mandatory. The Fox Ridge barrels as mentioned before are 1:10 twist. In that case, youíll want to get your barrel from SSK, the Whisper specialists, or from one of the other custom Contender barrel makers. The 1:8 will also give exceptional accuracy with the lighter bullets as well. Itís a very flexible twist, adaptable to all 30 caliber bullets.

     If you donít mind giving up the advantages of subsonic bullets and want to shoot the 200 grainers faster than sound, you can use the Fox Ridge barrels and get very good accuracy. However, you wonít give good accuracy with 220 grain bullets in a TC no matter how fast you shoot them. The 1:10 works fine with the lighter bullets.

     My evaluation gun was a standard 14Ē TC equipped with a wide, flat custom forend that I got from West Coast master TC smith, Jim Henry. The wide configuration is especially helpful to stabilize the gun when shooting off sand bags. The gun was also equipped with Burrisís outstanding 4 X 12 pistol scope mounted in Weaverís very classy Grand Slam scope rings. All chronograph results were recorded on my Oehler 35P sited 10 feet from the bench.

     In summary, I can say that the Whisper is an extremely flexible cartridge to load for and is a delight to shoot. Getting sub inch groups with either heavy bullets or light bullets isnít really a problem. With the right loads, this inexpensive run of the mill Contender can can match the very expensive custom bolt guns shot for shot. It makes me wonder how much better the Whisper would do if one invested a little more money in a SSK barrel which uses Shilen match barrel stock.

     The 300 Whisper is still an innovative, cutting edge cartridge that wonít beat you up during the course of a match and yet deliver all the accuracy and knockdown that you need to slap steel on both the full sized or half sized animals - and yes, when using something like Noslerís 125 or 150 grain Ballistic Tips, you can hunt deer with it too.

Good luck and good shooting, Todd

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14" Thompson/Center Contender

All Testing & Groups At 100 Yards
 

 Powder

Bullet Velocity Group Brass

8.5 gr. #5 

200 gr. RCBS  1240 fps 1Ē  SSK

16.3 gr. 1680

165 gr. Speer BT 1563 fps 1.20" Remington  

15.7 gr. H4337

150 gr. Speer BT 1703 fps 1.10" SSK

16.3 gr. H4227

150 gr. Speer BT 1749 fps 0.85" Remington

17.1 gr. LilGun

165 gr. Speer BT 2009 fps 1.12" SSK

16.7 gr. H110

155 gr. Nosler 1868 fps 0.95" SSK

9.0 gr. 4756

200 gr. Sierra SP 1194 fps 1.00" Remington

12.7 gr. LilGun

200 gr. Sierra SP 1501 fps 1.20" Remington

8.8 gr. V105

200 gr. RCBS 1201 fps 0.75" SSK

8.5 gr. V105

150 gr. Hornady 1257 fps 0.89" Remington

16.3 gr. H4198

200 gr. RCBS 1512 fps 1.11" Remington

12.7 gr. H108

200 gr. Sierra SP 1407 fps 1.23" SSK

14.6 gr. H4198

200 gr. Sierra SP 1353 fps 1.09" SSK

12.0 gr. V110

200 gr. RCBS 1398 fps 1.00" Remington

13.6 gr. V120

200 gr. RCBS 1371 fps 0.88" Remington

13.6 gr. V120

165 gr. Speer BT 1389 fps 1.23" Remington

10.8 gr. H110

190 gr. Sierra 1120 fps 0.89" Remington

11.0 gr. H110

200 gr. Sierra SP 1156 fps 0.50" Remington

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Warning: All technical data mentioned, especially handloading, reflect the limited experience of individuals using specific tools, products, equipment and components under specific conditions and circumstances not necessarily reported in the article or on this web site and over which IHMSA, The Los Angeles Silhouette Club (LASC), this web site or the author has no control. The above has no control over the condition of your firearms or your methods, components, tools, techniques or circumstances and disclaims all and any responsibility for any person using any data mentioned. Always consult recognized reloading manuals.