Every so often, there is a cartridge that is so far ahead of its time that people don’t know what to make of it. The .284 Winchester is one such.
The .270 Winchester, long revered as an ideal do-it-all cartridge, was not widely available in lever-action rifles, and it was thought to be too hard on pump and auto-loading actions due to its high chamber pressure. The .280 Remington, introduced in 1957, was a solution of sorts for pump and semi-auto rifles but would not fit into popular lever actions. Introduced in 1963, the .284 Winchester offered the same performance as the .270 and .280 but was short enough to be chambered in leverguns like the Winchester 88 and Savage 99 and the semi-auto Winchester 100. Later on, some companies offered lightweight bolt-action rifles chambered for the .284 as well.
Though it had all of the earmarks of being an overnight sensation, the sales were abysmal. The product reviews sold new rifles short, and folks attempting to convert older rifles to the .284 experienced inherent magazine feeding problems. Handloaders complained that the heavy 7mm bullets (160 grain and heavier) had to be seated so deeply (due to magazine constraints) as to deprive them of exceeding amounts of powder capacity. Case design being what it was, one could not form cases from any other caliber to make cartridge cases. While all of these issues had merit, they were not hopelessly without remedy. Still an unwitting public drank the Kool-Aid, and while sales for the .270 and .280 soared, the .284 nearly immediately began spiraling down. With the introduction of the 7mm-08 Remington in 1980, it appeared the sun had nearly set on the .284.
What a shame, the .284 is really a great cartridge. Spectacular sales of the 7mm-08 today continually prove there is a niche market for lightweight, high-powered rifles. With the exception of the short magnums, the .284 offers the most power in a short-action package. Its case has greater powder capacity than the 7mm-08 due to its larger diameter. Like many factory offerings, it’s been necked down and up to provide the launchpad for various wildcat calibers. One such endeavor, the 6.5-284 Norma, is very popular these days with the long-range crowd.
In my family, the .284 is a revered performer, having proven itself on deer, elk and a variety of other smaller game animals. With either the Winchester factory stuff or carefully crafted handloads, it is an accurate, versatile choice. The selection of .284-caliber bullets is the best it’s ever been, with dozens of styles and weights to choose from. Recently, my sister used her favorite .284 to take her first elk. A single 150-grain bullet, the most all-around versatile in my opinion, did the trick. Of course, if you already own a .284, you’re used to this kind of “one and done” performance in the field.
The .284 today is sadly an also-ran, but it is by no means outclassed. The biggest handicap facing current .284 Winchester owners is finding ammunition. Winchester is the only manufacturer currently offering seasonal runs of ammunition. Handloading here becomes very appealing. Keep your empties, and you’ll be shooting your favorite .284 for years to come. After all, you’re not one to quit on a good thing.
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