The venerable 35 Whelen remains a relatively popular and surprisingly effective centerfire rifle cartridge well suited for virtually any species of North American big game. Here are a few of the best 35 Whelen ammo options that will serve you very well on your next hunt.
First appearing in the early 1920s as a wildcat cartridge based on the legendary .30-06 Springfield and forever associated with Colonel Townsend Whelen (for whom it is named), the 35 Whelen remains a favorite among a dedicated segment of the hunting community. Not only is the 35 Whelen a powerful medium-bore rifle cartridge that fits in a long action rifle with a standard bolt face, but it also has a relatively flat trajectory and manageable recoil.
Not only is the 35 Whelen a larger bore 35 caliber cartridge (.358″ bore diameter), but it also uses heavier bullets that take things to the next level on a wide range of game. Specifically, 180 grain, 200 grain, 225 grain, and even 250 grain bullets are most common in modern factory loads.
Though it never achieved extremely widespread popularity, several major ammunition manufacturers like Barnes, Federal Premium, Hornady, Nosler, Remington, and Winchester currently produce several different variants of 35 Whelen ammo for hunting deer, hogs, bear, elk, moose, and many other big game animals.
While the 35 Whelen excels on bigger game like elk and moose, there’s also not a darn thing wrong with using it on deer or feral hogs either. Indeed, hunters today have access to a great selection of bullets that perform great across the whole spectrum of game from deer up to and including moose.
So, regardless of whether you’re using a bolt action Remington Model 700, a single shot CVA Scout or Ruger No 1, or one of the other 35 Whelen rifles available, there is pretty much guaranteed to be something for everyone on the list below of the best 35 Whelen ammunition for hunting.
In this article, I provide recommendations for the best 35 Whelen ammo for hunting elk, deer, feral hogs, pronghorn, black bear, moose, and all sorts of other big game. I’ll also go over the strengths and weaknesses of each individual load and so you can select the right ammunition for your specific needs.
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Update August 2023: Ammo supplies finally look like they’re starting to recover. We still have a long way to go and selection is still nowhere near where it was back in 2019, but things are a lot better now than they were even 6 months ago.
Click the link below if you just want to quickly check what 35 Whelen ammo is in-stock and ready to ship so you can hit the range and get ready for hunting season.
Barnes produces a couple of .35 Whelen ammo options as part of their VOR-TX line. Featuring their legendary copper Tipped Triple Shock X (TTSX) bullets, Barnes ammunition is designed for rapid expansion, high weight retention, and deep penetration.
Available using 180 grain or 200 grain .35 caliber bullets, Barnes offers two outstanding choices for hunters in their VOR-TX line that are suitable for virtually the whole range of medium and large game.
The 180 grain load is an excellent choice of 35 Whelen ammo for elk, deer, and bear hunting. While it’s not designed for longer range performance, it’s great for shots at typical hunting ranges and retains over 2,000ft-lbs of energy out past 200 yards and over 1,500ft-lbs of energy out past 300 yards.
The load featuring a 200 grain Barnes TTSX will also work for smaller game like deer in a pinch, but it’s just about perfect for moose and elk hunting. The same is true for virtually any species of plains game in Africa. It will even do the job on really big critters or dangerous game like American bison and grizzly bear too. In fact, this factory load with the 200 gr TTSX is the exact load I’d take on a brown/grizzly bear hunt if I were using a 35 Whelen.
Both loads are also 100% copper, which makes them an ideal choice of 35 Whelen hunting ammunition for use in states like California that that don’t permit the use of lead bullets.
I’m a big fan of the Barnes VOR-TX line and the TTSX bullets in general. I’ve used this ammunition with a lot of success on African plains game, hogs, deer, black bear, and pronghorn over the past few years. This ammo is also a favorite among many North America, New Zealand, and Africa hunting outfitters.
- Bullet Type: TTSX Flat Base
- Bullet Weight: 180 grains or 200 grains
- Ballistic Coefficient (G1): .295 (180gr) .369 (300gr)
- Muzzle Velocity: 2,900 feet per second (180gr), 2,700 feet per second (200gr)
Nosler manufacturers a 35 Whelen loading that uses a 225 grain AccuBond bullet as part of their Trophy Grade line. This is perfect for those in need of some quality and extremely versatile 35 Whelen ammo for deer, bear, moose, or elk hunting.
Just like the name says, the AccuBond is a bonded bullet where the lead core is chemically bonded to the jacket, so you don’t have to worry about the bullet “grenading” or expanding too rapidly upon impact. It’s not quite as tough as the Nosler Partition, but the AccuBond is still a very robustly constructed bullet and these features make the AccuBond a much better choice for an elk hunt than typical cup and core bullets.
There aren’t many high BC options in the .358″ bullet diameter category. However, the 225 grain Nosler AccuBond is pretty darn aerodynamic (much more aerodynamic than most other 35 Whelen bullets of the same caliber and weight) and will reliably expand at lower impact velocities. All things considered, this ammunition is tough enough for close range shots on big game while at the same time providing very good extended range performance for longer shots.
All in all, this 225 gr AccuBond load is my #1 recommendation as an excellent all around choice for hunters who want a flexible, yet still extremely capable 35 Whelen hunting load regardless of whether you’re hunting whitetail deer in the United States or kudu in Africa.
- Bullet Type: Nosler AccuBond
- Bullet Weight: 225 grains
- Ballistic Coefficient (G1): .43
- Muzzle Velocity: 2,700 feet per second
If you’re the kind of hunter who doesn’t want anything flashy and is instead in search of some dependable and reasonably priced 35 Whelen ammo for hunting deer, elk, feral hogs, black bears and maybe even elk or moose, then the Remington’s 200 grain or 250 grain Core Lokt soft point will probably work really well for you.
This is definitely not the latest and greatest stuff by any means. However, the Core Lokt bullet has been around for a long time and countless hunters have successfully used this ammo to take just about every species of big game in North America.
The 200gr Core Lokt is darn near perfect for hunting game like deer, feral hogs, and black bear and one of those bullets through the vitals will make for a very short tracking job. They don’t call the Core Lokt the “deadliest mushroom in the woods” for nothing.
At the same time, I think the 250gr Pointed Soft is one of the better “budget” 35 Whelen ammo options for hunting really big game like elk and moose. Heck, I have a friend who even used one on an American Bison last year with excellent results!
That said, I think the Nosler and Barnes 35 Whelen loads also listed in this article are better for use on elk and moose (especially really big bulls) if someone wants the absolute best 35 Whelen ammo for elk. Plus, both of those loads have a flatter trajectory and better resistance to wind deflection than this 250gr 35 Whelen load.
However, Rem Core Lokt will absolutely work in that role and lots of elk and moose hunters use this ammunition successfully each year, especially on immature bulls or cow elk as well as at shorter range. This ammo is also cheaper and often more widely available than the Barnes or Nosler factory ammo too.
- Bullet Type: Core-Lokt Soft Point (PSP)
- Bullet Weight: 200 grains or 250 grains
- Ballistic Coefficient (G1): .294 (200gr) or .409 (250gr)
- Muzzle Velocity: 2,675 feet per second (200gr) or 2,400 feet per second (250gr)
Hornady advertises their Superformance line of ammunition will safely deliver an additional 100-200 fps of muzzle velocity over than comparable loads. That extra velocity translates into a flatter trajectory, more resistance to wind drift, and devastating terminal effects on game.
This 35 Whelen ammunition uses Hornady’s InterLock lead core bullet. Featuring what Hornady calls an “InterLock ring” that mechanically attaches the jacket to the lead core. So, it’s not technically a bonded bullet, but this feature helps with weight retention and penetration while reducing the odds of core-jacket separation.
The end result is a bullet that’s more robustly constructed than other popular whitetail bullets (like the Hornady SST), but still expands very well, will deliver devastating results on impact, and is more likely to produce exit wounds, even on on bigger bodied animals (especially on a broadside shot).
I don’t normally like the InterLock for elk hunting, but this is an area where a larger caliber cartridge like the 35 Whelen gives a bit more flexibility. I still think the Barnes VOR-TX and Nosler Trophy Grade loads also listed in this article are better 35 Whelen ammo choices for elk hunting, but this Superformance load with a 200 grain Hornady InterLock is still a capable ammo option in that role. This is also a wonderful factory load for hunting any species of North American game smaller than elk: deer, hogs, black bear, etc.
- Bullet Type: InterLock
- Bullet Weight: 200 grains
- Ballistic Coefficient (G1): .282
- Muzzle Velocity: 2,910 feet per second (3,760 ft-lbs of muzzle energy)
200 gr bullets are a very common bullet weight in 35 Whelen ammunition. It’s not flashy or trendy, but this Winchester Super X factory ammunition with a 200-grain bullet is definitely great 35 Whelen ammo for deer hunting. I also wouldn’t hesitate to use it on feral hogs or even black bear either.
These bullets are pretty soft and tend to expand very well at ranges inside 300 yards. Additionally, since this loading uses heavier bullets with a higher sectional density, it also tends to penetrate well and you’ll very likely get an exit wound from a deer regardless of the shooting angle with this bullet.
While I think this is outstanding deer hunting ammunition, I do not recommend using Winchester Super X ammo for hunting bigger game like elk or moose with a 35 Whelen. Instead, stick to medium game like feral hogs and deer with this ammunition and you should have outstanding results.
Even so, it’s tough to go wrong with this stuff if you want some great 35 Whelen ammo for deer hunting. No deer will run very far afterwards after taking a 200 grain Power Point through the vitals.
- Bullet Type: Power Point
- Bullet Weight: 200 grains
- Muzzle Velocity: 2,800 feet per second (3,481 ft-lbs of muzzle energy)
It’s the farthest thing from being new or sexy, but Federal Fusion ammunition with a 200gr bullet is outstanding 35 Whelen ammo for deer hunting. In addition to being very effective, this load is also one of the least expensive 35 Whelen hunting ammo options available too.
Fusion bullets have a bonded lead core to help with weight retention. Combined with a skived tip to help initiate expansion, Federal Fusion 35 Whelen ammo delivers a really good balance of controlled expansion, high weight retention, and deep penetration. While it’s not the latest and greatest stuff, Federal Fusion ammunition also has a surprisingly good reputation for accuracy.
This is ideal ammo for feral hog and deer hunting and you could also easily include game like black bear in there as well. All things considered, this is outstanding on everything short of elk or moose and you can’t go wrong with Federal Fusion 35 Whelen ammo out deer hunting.
- Bullet Type: Fusion Soft Point
- Bullet Weight: 200 grains
- Ballistic Coefficient (G1): .343
- Muzzle Velocity: 2,800 feet per second (3,481 foot-pounds of energy)
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John McAdams is a proficient blogger, experienced shooter, and long time hunter who has pursued big game in 8 different countries on 3 separate continents. John graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point and is a veteran of combat tours with the US Army in Iraq & Afghanistan. In addition to founding and writing for The Big Game Hunting Blog, John has written for outdoor publications like Bear Hunting Magazine, The Texas State Rifle Association newsletter, Texas Wildlife Magazine, & Wide Open Spaces. Learn more about John here, read some of John’s most popular articles, and be sure to subscribe to his show: the Big Game Hunting Podcast.