I had a MRC 1999 .35 Whelen that I couldn't get what I wanted out of on the classifieds so I decided to canabalize it and put together a .358 NM...something I had threatened doing for years but couldn't justify with a .35 Whelen already in the stable. I decided I didn't need a "good" reason so I commissioned the project anyway.
Here is the original MRC rifle in .35 Whelen
I had been present when the loads were worked up for the 1999 and I know the barrel shot the 225 TSX very well at Whelen velocities. It would have been great to keep as a Whelen but to me .35s need shorter barrels and I didn't care for the brake. I am not positive who made the barrel but it is a quality stainless/fluted barrel with a 1:12 twist.
About the same time I found a decent deal on a New Haven six digit Model 70 Classic Stainless in .300 Win Mag which became the donor.
My idea was to take the barrel and HS stock from the Whelen, cut the barrel shank down as far as possible, cut off the brake and try to end up with something in the 20-21" +/- range. The flutes complicated that a bit as there was only so much that could be taken from the muzzle end after the threads were cut off.
I took it to Kirby Allen who lives just up the road and has always done really nice work for me. He wasn't comfortable cutting as much of the shank off as I had originally hoped because he wanted some meat left for this particular chambering. I trust his judgement on that matter way more then my own.
We also didn't dare go any shorter in front of the flutes due to aesthetics.
Ended up right at 22" which was not my ideal but was the max I was willing to go. The balance point ended up being right at the forward action screw which works fine for me.
The chamber stamping turned out very nice IMO.
After he did a little work on the inletting, a proper glass bedding job and a trigger job that took it down to a crisp 2.75# she is now ready to roll.
I put on a Leupold 2-7x heavy duplex but am not sure that will stay there forever. The neighbors have some moose sized hay burners that like to hang out about 175-200 yards from my gun room window. The heavy duplex actually looks like it will work well on big animals even out there a ways.
The finished product...
Overall, I am super pleased with the build. Some factory 250 Norma Oryx I have feed about as slick as greased trout. It looks to me like a Model 70 Extreme Weather that wants to take your standard caliber's lunch money and then kiss their girlfriend. I would love to have had a little more in front of the flutes and a little shorter length but I think I can get over that.
Looking forward to working up some loads. I have no intentions of trying to push every last FPS out of this rifle as even moderate loads equal or best a red lined Whelen and I know what that is capable of. I plan to shoot :
200 RN for reduced plinking loads
250 Speer for an economical hunting/practice bullet
225 TSX for a do-everything big game bullet.
Kirby did some initial velocity testing with H4350 over a 250 Speer and a Fed 215 in virgin Norma brand cases. 74 grains got to 2739 with no pressure indications at all which matches published data really well given the adjustment for barrel length (Hornady shows 2800 with that load from a 25.5" barrel.
I have an AK moose hunt scheduled in 2023. This may be just about perfect for that. I also have a .400 Whelen in the works (that is the MRC 1999s new calling in life) so I may have to flip a coin to see who gets to make the trip.