Review: The 26 Nosler, Part 1

Winchester, in the late 1950s, was a moribund company whose designs were 1930s vintage and whose quality control was largely nonexistent. Nonetheless, Big Red W was still capable of some advanced thinking in the way of cartridges. In short order, it produced a trio of new rounds—the .458, .338, and .264. The first, despite its detractors, has gone on to be an African dangerous-game standard. The second is a work of sheer genius, one of the finest all-around game loads ever conceived by the mind of man, a towering monument to human ingenuity. The third got crosswise of Jack O’Connor, who snorted and farted and said that it was not as good as the .270. And that was the end of the .264, at least for the time being.

Winchester’s ballisticians had the right idea. If you take a 140-grain slug of .264 caliber and push it at high velocity, there will be only modest recoil, but the bullet will hold that velocity extremely well. However, the Model 70s of that time (the .264 version was called the Westerner) were not all that accurate, nor were the available bullets any great shakes, nor was the gunpowder slow enough to give them the kind of push they deserved.

But the concept was valid, and over the years the .264 kept a small but loyal following who had custom rifles built for the round and, when they could get decent brass, did some very fancy shooting at long range with the old .264.

Enter Nosler. The Noslers think on a level usually found only at places like Cal Tech, MIT, and Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Studies. And they thought: Why not take the .264 Winchester concept and do a modern version that will really deliver? And that is what they have done.

The 26 Nosler (no decimal point) is based on a shortened (.30/06-length) version of the .404 Jeffrey case, blown out and with a short neck and sharp shoulder. It holds an absolutely humungous powder charge, which is capable of driving a 140-grain Nosler Accubond bullet at an honest 3,300 fps from a 26-inch barrel. This is 300 fps faster than the .264 had on its best day, and makes the 26 Nosler capable of giving you a point-blank range of powder-burn to 415 yards. To put it in slightly different terms, if you sight a Patriot* (which is what they call the 26 Nosler version of their Model 48) 3 inches high at 100 yards, the slug will drop only 5 inches at 415 yards.

By comparison, a 140-grain .270 bullet going 2,950 at the muzzle and sighted in 3 inches high at 100 will drop about 5 inches at 300 and over a foot at 400. Look ma, no holdover.

*Why “Patriot”? It’s a fine rifle, albeit with a creepy trigger, but there’s nothing patriotic about the Model 48. I would love to see some ballsy gunbuilder name a rifle “The Traitor,” or “The Turncoat,”or “The Benedict Arnold Commemorative.” I’d buy one just for moral support.

To Be Continued…