The tail end of 2013 saw a landmark release in the cartridge world: Nosler delved into the market with their proprietary 26 Nosler, marketed as the “world’s most powerful 6.5mm commercial cartridge.” While there have been 6.5mm cartridges to rival Nosler’s 26, the cartridge remains an important development, because it kicked off a line of cartridges which have earned a solid reputation among shooter and hunters alike.
The line now includes the 27 Nosler, 30 Nosler and 33 Nosler, but the second in line—the 28 Nosler—might just be the best of the Nosler lineup. Look, when a new rifle cartridge is developed, it’s a pretty safe bet that you’ll see a .30-caliber and 7mm variant. Both are among the most useful bore diameters for almost all big-game hunting, and both have their devoted fans. Without debating the two diameters, the 7mm bullet range is very useful, from deer and pronghorn all the way up to moose, elk and bears. With bullet weights running from 100 to 175 grains—and higher in some circumstances—the 7mm cartridges are certainly both flexible and universal, and when you have a considerable amount of case capacity, the higher Ballistic Coefficient (BC) bullets make some of the best choices for big game at longer ranges.
Nosler based their cartridge line on the classic .404 Jeffery case, blown out to increase capacity, but shortened to fit in the standard .30-06-length action. This is not the first time this idea has been used; the Dakota line of cartridge used a similar concept, but for whatever reason, they didn’t catch on. The first two Nosler cartridges use a case length of 2.59 inches, which is just a bit longer than the .30-06 Springfield, but maintains the same 3.34-inch overall length as the old cartridge. Using the same rimless design as the .404 Jeffery, but with a wider case body which actually makes it a rebated rim, the Nosler cases use a 35-degree shoulder for headspacing. Nosler uses a neck length of 0.276 inches; though less than the desirable one-caliber in length, it gives plenty of neck tension to keep the bullets in place.
Nosler designed the 28 to work with a 1:9-inch twist rate, and so can handle the 175-grain bullets of the highest BC with no issues. Nosler’s AccuBond Long Range—with a G1 BC of 0.648, and a jacket chemically bonded to the lead core—is built to handle high-impact velocities from magnum cartridges up close, yet give good expansion at the lower velocities and longer ranges. It’s a perfect candidate for the 28 Nosler, as the big case will push that bullet to 3125 fps in Nosler’s factory load, and even a bit faster in handloaded ammunition.
Looking at the trajectory for that ABLR load, if you were to use a 200-yard zero (printing an inch high at 100 yards) you’ll need to hold 5.5 inches high at 300 yards, and 15.9 inches at 400 yards. The 500-yard holdover is 31.7 inches, and if you wanted to hit the 600-yard bullseye, you’ll need to give just under 54 inches of elevation. The 28 Nosler will generate just under 3,800 ft.-lbs. of energy at the muzzle, but that sleek ABLR will still retain over 2,000 ft.-lbs. of energy at 600 yards. Performance like this will engender all sorts of confidence in any hunter, and while the 28 Nosler generates a formidable amount of muzzle energy, the recoil isn’t so terrible as to be unmanageable.
Factory ammunition is—quite obviously—available from Nosler, who offer that 175-grain ABLR in addition to the 160-grain Partition and AccuBond, and for the target crowd there is the 168-grain hollowpoint boat tail and 185-grain RDF hollowpoint boat tail. But, and this is a testament to the longevity and popularity of the cartridge, factory ammo is also available from Hornady, Federal and Browning. Hornady loads the 162-grain ELD-X, Federal the 155-grain Terminal Ascent (an incredible bullet) and Browning, rather interestingly, loads the 160-grain Sierra Tipped MatchKing bullet in their Long Range Pro (LRP) ammo line. While it is a target bullet, it will surely help you assess the accuracy potential of your rifle.
For the handloaders, Nosler offers their fantastic component brass; I love this stuff, as it is one of the few brands which is actually able to be loaded right out of the box. You’ll most definitely want a large rifle magnum primer—I love the Federal Gold Medal Match GM215M—to ignite the heavy powder charges. Look to the slowest burning powders like IMR 7828, IMR 7977, Reloder 25, 26 and 33 and Hodgdon’s Retumbo.
The modern trend in cartridge design is to shun the belted magnum case to avoid the stretching associated with it, and embrace the beltless, rimless designs. If you agree with that sentiment, the 28 Nosler should definitely appeal to you; it is in the 7mm STW class, but without the belt. Is the Nosler design going to take over the magnum neighborhood? Only time will tell, but I don’t see them going away any time soon.