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A reader recently asked for my opinions on the 257 Roberts as a deer hunting cartridge.

The 257 Roberts is basically a 7x57 Mauser case necked down to take a .257 diameter bullet. The Roberts was designed in the 1920s, and Remington commercialized it in 1934. It was very popular until the 1950s, when the 243 Winchester overshadowed it.

Remington all but buried the Roberts in 1969 when it introduced the .25-06 Remington, a 30-06 case necked down to take a 25-caliber bullet. Nevertheless, the shooting community retains a nostalgic attachment to the Roberts.

I used the Roberts regularly 11-12 years ago and wrote about it often. At that time, I concluded that it was a 200-yard cartridge. This very much angered online trolls that spend much more time at computer screens than in the field or at shooting ranges.

Since then, my opinion about the Roberts has evolved as I have become much more experienced at shooting and at optimizing cartridge performance through reloading.

My misgivings about the Roberts in 2006-07 were based on missing deer at more than 300 yards in southeast Arkansas.

Of course, the gun did not perform badly. The Roberts was simply not complementary to my marksmanship skills at that time. My experience was limited to 150 yards. I had no business shooting at deer at 300 yards or more in a steady wind with the mild velocity of the factory ammunition I used.

More than 10 years later, with a ton more experience, I can make 300-yard shots with a Roberts, but I still would not choose the Roberts as a long-range cartridge for big-bodied whitetails. Too many better choices are available that travel faster and straighter. Most notable of these is still the .25-06 Rem., which still outperforms the Roberts in all the categories it outperformed it in 1969.

However, some new developments have rejuvenated and modernized old favorites like the 257 Roberts, the 6.5x55 Swedish and the 7mm Mauser.

My experiences with the Roberts in 2006-07 were limited largely to factory Remington ammunition with a round-nose bullet that has the aerodynamic properties of a brick. The muzzle velocity was listed at an anemic 2,670 fps. That is still the only 257 Roberts ammo available from a gun manufacturer.

The short overall cartridge length of the Remington factory ammo limited powder capacity, which in turn limited the velocity of a paleolithic bullet.

I also used Hornady Light Mag ammo. It was a good bit faster than the stock Remington ammo, but its 117-gr. SST bullet had considerably better aerodynamics that merely made it more effective within the 200-yard window.

For my abilities in 2006-07, the 257 Roberts was strictly a 200-yard cartridge at best. A better way to say it is that with a 257 Roberts, I was a 200-yard shooter at best, but you get the picture.

Had I reloaded for the Roberts at that time, I would have noted that my rifles -- a Ruger M77 and a Remington Model 700 Classic -- were built with long actions and long magazines. This allows reloaders to seat bullets out farther and fill the void with more powder in "Plus P" designated cases. "Plus P" cases have thicker walls than standard Roberts cases and can withstand higher charge pressures.

Add to that a modern bullet that has a really high ballistic coefficient, like the Nosler Accubond. The faster, flatter trajectory greatly improves a shooter's ability to hit a deer's vitals at 300 yards and beyond with enough energy to affect fatally traumatic hydrostatic tissue damage.

Even with these improvements, a supercharged Roberts is still 100-300 feet per second slower than a hot 25-06 Remington with a bullet of equal weight and equal ballistic coefficient.

You can squeeze a Roberts until it screams, but in doing so, you are essentially trying to turn the Roberts into a 25-06. If .25-06 performance is your goal, why not just shoot a .25-06?

As a hunter who strives first and foremost for a quick, clean kill, I opt for the best tool for the job. I'm a pretty good shot these days with a properly configured 257 Roberts.

I'm better with a .25-06.

Sports on 03/14/2019

Print Headline: The 257 Roberts cartridge revisited

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