November 21, 2023
As a hunter who’s had the opportunity to use myriad of firearms, I know it’s hard to find a rifle that is lightweight, shoots accurately and can handle to recoil put out by the hard-hitting cartridges that Western hunters look for to take down big-boned animals. Weatherby’s Backcountry 2.0 Carbon rifle chambered in the company’s exclusive .338 RPM proved to be just that.
The first time I put my hands on the platform was on the range in Grinnell, Iowa, when Weatherby was getting ready to release the new cartridge. The reason for the .338 RPM (Rebated Precision Magnum) was to take advantage of the company’s 6-lug bolt and introduce magnum performance into lightweight backcountry rifles that weigh in between 5 and 6 pounds. The rifle looked sleek and, beyond catching the eye, it fit well in the hand and shouldered nicely.
I shot the Backcountry 2.0 with the 185-grain Barnes TTSX, which comes screaming out of the 20-inch barrel at nearly 3,000 fps. That’s a lot of power for a lightweight rifle. Beyond the 185-grain TTSX, Weatherby also loads three 225-grain options: a heavier TTSX, Nosler Accubond and Hornady Interlock. For lighter game, the 185-grain is superb, but when stepping up to moose or other larger game, switching to one of the 225-grain options will only help with knock-down power.
Leaning into the rifle and expecting to get punched in the shoulder, I was shocked when the report of the rifle rang out and I felt minimal kick. I sent a few more to confirm the rifle truly was comfortable to, with minor recoil when compared to other large magnum calibers I’m used to shooting.
Much of the recoil is soaked up by the design of the stock. The Peak 44 Blacktooth is a full carbon-fiber stock—and the lightest on the market. Its ridged (or rigid?) shell makes for a comfortable platform that holds ups well to even the most punishing recoil. It is finished with a 3DHEX Recoil Pad that is 3D printed. In the design of the pad, there are interlocking voids that progressively collapse under recoil to soak up a large majority of the shock felt by the shooter. Of course, the Accubrake ST with its 30 ports also helps manage recoil of the magnum caliber—although you’d better be sure to remember your ear plugs.
Weatherby also knows a thing or two about what a hunter, and their equipment, will be facing when heading afield out West. Parts of the rifle that aren’t carbon fiber are coated with Cerakote to ensure long lasting durability in rough conditions—and it adds to the aesthetic.
THE NEED FOR SPEED
Arriving in Sheridan, Wyoming—Weatherby’s new hometown—I went into the factory with other writers and industry friends to setup rifles for an upcoming antelope hunt. I chose the .338 RPM in the Backcountry 2.0 Carbon as I had plans to later take the rifle for mule deer and elk as well—and overkill is underrated in my book.
After mounting a Leupold VX-6 HD 3-18x44 scope atop the rifle, we zeroed it in the factory range. The rifle and scope combo produced impressive groups that consistently fell under a half MOA. With the zeroing process completed, we headed outside to confirm zero and ensure our ballistics were correct if a longer shot was necessary. Even though the 185-grain .338—touting a G1 BC of .514—isn’t a great long-range round, in the staunch Wyoming winds, it accurately put shots on target at 500 yards.
From there, the highway took us south towards Casper and our hunt unit. Battling rainy conditions, we worked the muddy roads and glassed intensely for antelope. Friends were filling tags and spirits were high. Zach Sandou from onX and I put a stalk on a great buck and, along the way, spotted another similar buck way off. After Zach successfully tagged his antelope, I set off to try to close the distance on the second buck. Weatherby’s Luke Thorkildsen accompanied me, and we covered the ground quickly, using the rolling terrain to keep our movements hidden.
Once in position, we popped up, but the buck was gone. Figuring he moved around the knob, we worked around slowly to see if we could spot him. Like clockwork, he appeared, moving up the drainage as we came around the top. I dropped and crawled forward for a shot. With the Spartan Precision Javelin Bipod deployed, I found a comfortable spot, settled the crosshairs and the .338 RPM knocked him down with authority at 140 yards, even though my shot was a little high and back.
BLANKETED IN SNOW
After success in Wyoming, I hit the highway heading back to Montana—eagerly awaiting the arrival of rifle season. Opening weekend was welcomed by a rough storm that blanketed the mountains with snow and left us retreating out of the high country for safety when our wall tent collapsed in the middle of the night. Every inch of gear was iced over, but upon inspection, the Backcountry 2.0 Carbon functioned perfectly and wasn’t affected by the torrential downpour of snow. Though we were able to get out and to safety and collect our gear, the elk hunting did not go as planned, and the .338 did not have a chance to shoot at a bull—the pursuit I know this rifle will excel at.
After retreating from the mountains on the opener, I found time during the rest of the season as a weekend warrior, pursuing both elk and deer. Though my normal elk spots were snowed in and inaccessible, I found other areas that were known to hold both bucks and bulls. Being November, the mule deer were rutting and spotting deer proved easier than their larger cousins.
After locating a group of does across the valley, I decided to head to the closest public access and head in, as I was sure a buck would be close by. Leaving the truck, my hunting companions, Scott and Dylan Sladek, and I worked up the opposite ridge to glass where I had seen the does. During the climb, I cut a buck track that was reasonably fresh and followed it up to a small bowl. Upon cresting the ridge there was a mature buck working across the open face. With seconds of opportunity, I swung the Weatherby off my pack, placed the Javelin bipod in position and hit the deck. The shot was less than 200 yards and didn’t require dialing the scope. I lined the crosshairs up with the offside shoulder for the quartering-away shot. I squeezed the trigger and when the snow and dirt settled in front of my optics, the buck laid dead just below where he stood a second before.
If you’re looking for a backcountry rifle that can do everything from antelope to moose, the Weatherby Backcountry 2.0 Carbon in .338 RPM may be the right fit. It has become a permanent resident of my arsenal and will be a go-to pick for a variety of future hunts. Maybe this year, it’ll encounter a shot at a bull elk. I’ll report back on my findings.