Federal’s Heavy Hitter

posted on November 12, 2009
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The partnership between Federal Premium Ammunition and Sako rifles goes back to the introduction of the .338 Federal cartridge in 2005. I first spotted a prototype of the cartridge on the desk of Federal’s former director of new products during a July 2005 visit to the Minneapolis-area factory. At the same time, Drew Goodlin, who is the current holder of that position, was on a plane thinking he was headed to Finland to discuss Sako chambering rifles in that cartridge. But Northwest Airlines employees had other ideas. They staged a strike, and he sat on the tarmac for hours and hours. I think I was on my way home the following day before he was airborne for Finland. His mission, however delayed, was successful, and he forged an alliance with Sako to chamber the then-new .338 Federal cartridge.

Federal and Sako have teamed up again for a cartridge introduction, or at least for the introduction of a cartridge here in the United States. This time, it’s Sako’s turn to claim the name. The latest cartridge from Federal is called the .370 Sako Mag., and it is an innovative and interesting approach to big-game cartridges. The cartridge is called the 9.3x66 mm Sako in Europe (where it’s been available since 2002), but with the U.S. introduction, Federal changed the name to .370 Sako Mag. to give it a more “Americanized” ring.

While virtually unnoticed here in the United States, the 9.3 mm—0.366-inch-diameter—bullet is popular in Europe, where it can be found in a multitude of cartridges. My first encounter with one was in a deer-hunting camp on Quebec’s Anticosti Island back in the late ’80s. There was a European hunter in camp with a double rifle in 9.3x74 mm R. It was pretty exotic stuff for American hunters, as most of those in camp were unaware of the existence of double rifles or that they were used exclusively for dangerous game in Africa. Many of the hunters laughed at the German for his “odd” gun and oversize cartridge. But I thought it was a great combination for still hunting in the thick brush on the island. His two big bucks proved that correct. I still have one of the cartridges that he gave me for my collection, and an empty case that he used to take one of the whitetails. I grilled him on the ballistics, which he knew well; but in metric, so I could not convert them in my head. So, when I got home I checked it out and learned that this long, almost straight-wall cartridge drives a 286-grain bullet to a muzzle velocity of 2360 f.p.s. It’s very popular in Germany in break-action single-shot rifles, as well as double rifles and combination guns in which the rim works very well for controlling headspace and for extraction. It is an excellent cartridge for boar and European red deer.

That was all interesting from a “gun guy” perspective, but the design of the 9.3x74 mm R is incompatible with popular American rifle designs. In fact, that style of cartridge went out of fashion here in the states about the time smokeless powder was invented....

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