Last in a two-part series. To read Part I, click here!
The Bearable Lightness of Weatherby
The All-New Back Country Rifle is an Accurate, Lightweight Tack Driver
GOOD NEWS TRAVELS FAST
Extensive testing of the Back Country at the bench yielded some good news—and some really good news.
First, the good news: thanks to the rifle’s 24-inch barrel, velocities measured over my Competitive Edge Dynamics M2 chronograph (at 15 feet from the muzzle) ran between 40 and 125 fps faster than stated factory velocities for six of the eight loads tested. Only one load ran slower than advertised. The Barnes VOR-TX 168-grain TTSX load clocked an average of 67 fps slower than factory-claimed velocity, but was, as you’ll see, one of the most accurate loads tested.
The biggest surprise in the velocity department proved to be Winchester’s 150-grain Ballistic Silvertip load. It averaged an eye-opening 245 fps faster than factory-listed velocity out of the Back Country. That load proved to be the fastest of four 150-grain loads tested. The hottest 165-grain load tested was Federal’s Vital-Shok round using Nosler Partition bullets, which exited the muzzle at an average of 2952 fps.
As for accuracy, here’s the really good news: the overall average group size for all ammo tested, combined, was a mere 1.16 inches at 100 yards, and many rounds did far better. The worst average group size, from all tested factory loads, measured just 1.82 inch. With ammo it really likes, the rifle delivered exceptional accuracy, and it did so on a day when the wind (which varied from zero to 15 miles per hour) gave me mild fits. Despite this, the rifle showed some clear preferences.
If you imagine that rifles could speak, this one said, “Feed me copper.”
I did, and the rifle responded. When I judged the wind correctly, the rifle delivered ragged, one-hole groups with two mid-weight factory copper loads. Federal’s Trophy Copper 165-grain load averaged just 0.87 inches—well within Weatherby’s .99-inch accuracy guarantee—with a best single group of 0.27 inches. The rifle’s preference for mid-weight copper bullets was no fluke, as demonstrated when Barnes’ VOR-TX 168-grain TTSX (tipped triple shock) load produced average groups measuring a mere 0.64 inches and a single-best group of 0.35 inches.
Should you prefer to sling traditional lead-core hunting bullets down the barrel, you’ll still be out of excuses for poor shooting with the Back Country. The rifle again delivered on its sub-MOA accuracy guarantee with Winchester’s 150-grain Ballistic Silvertip load. The best group from this load measured just 0.41 inches. The average group size was 0.87 inches. Fans of Nosler Partition bullets will be pleased to learn that Federal’s Vital-Shok load using 165-grain partitions turned in a single-best group measuring 0.62 inches, and an overall group average of 1.25 inches. On a day with less challenging wind-speed variation, and further rifle break-in, I suspect those groups will shrink further. In any event, game animals are most unlikely to notice the difference.
On the basis of best groups fired, the rifle easily met Weatherby’s sub-MOA guarantee with half of the factory loads tested. That 50-percent average is impressive by itself, but to truly appreciate the rifle’s overall accuracy, you need to consider that only one of the tested loads produced average groups larger than 1.3 inches. The average of the single-best groups fired, from all eight loads, was just 0.81 inches. Three loads grouped bullets under half an inch. That is fine accuracy for a hunting rifle using factory ammunition, and I didn’t need much urging to try the rifle out on an actual hunt.
But you’ll have to wait until next month to see how the rifle performed in the field. In the September issue of Gun World, I’ll explore the wealth of spectacular year-round hunting opportunities for introduced species when we go on “Safari, Texas Style.” Along the way, we’ll see some amazing animals, dispel some misperceptions, and open your eyes to some world-class hunting that doesn’t require you to travel the world.
We hope you’ll join us.