During my career I’ve been wrong about many things. One of them was the7mm-08 Remington. Back in 1980 the cartridge was brand-new when a Remington 788 in 7mm-08 Rem came into the office. You remember the 788 bolt-action, Heavy, unlovely, rear-locking…and they shot like gangbusters. Colleague and friend Payton Miller and I were assigned to wring it out, I think for that year’s G&A Annual. The rifle grouped extremely well, but the truth is we both got it wrong: We scratched our heads, and didn’t understand what this brave new cartridge was for…or what it could do that existing cartridges couldn’t.
As to the latter, probably nothing…but that can be said about almost any new cartridge. As to what it was for, it was a mild-kicking, short-action cartridge that was probably very effective. Part of our problem was we had no first-hand experience with the 7mm-08 Rem on game. This was not entirely our fault. Payton and I took that early 7mm-08 Rem on several forays up the Central Coast for wild hogs, but we never got a shot. We figured it would do just fine…but we didn’t know.
A year later we met the late Chub Eastman, then of Nosler, for a pig hunt at Dye Creek, way up north. Chub had a Remington Model Seven 7mm-08 Rem, loaded with some of the first Ballistic Tips. Ranch manager Mike Ballew got Chub onto a huge boar at 100 yards. Always a consummate rifleman, Chub flattened it with a broadside shot in one shoulder and out the other. Payton and I looked at each other, wondering if maybe we’d been wrong about the 7mm-08 Rem.
In 1980 there were plenty of cartridges that would do as well, and others have come along since. But, despite its small stature, the 7mm-08 Rem is a force to be reckoned with. It is far more effective than we appreciated, and since then it has become a popular and widespread hunting cartridge, encountered literally all over the world.
Let me be clear: I am not a fan of the 7mm-08 Rem. I’m a fan of the old 7×57 Mauser, and the two are just too close to love both equally. I’m sort of in the same boat with the 308 Winchester and 30-06 Springfield, too close to call, but life requires choices, and I prefer the 30-06. So, I’m a fan of the 30-06, but I’m a proponent of the 308 Win, and will secretly admit that it’s probably a better cartridge, almost as fast and almost as powerful…in a more compact case that is generally more accurate, more efficient, and fits into a more compact action. The argument between the 7mm-08 Rem and the 7×57 Mauser is similar. Except: The 7mm-08 Rem is loaded to higher pressures, so is faster and more powerful, at least as accurate, and with its more compact case, is more efficient, and fits into a short action.
The 7×57 Mauser carries history, romance, and nostalgia…as does the 30-06 over the 308 Win. In performance on game any differences between the 7mm-08 Rem and 7×57 Mauser are hair-splitting. Forgive me my idiosyncrasies: I remain a staunch fan of the 7×57 Mauser…but I can still be a proponent of the 7mm-08 Rem. I’ve had one or another 7×57 Mauser for at least 35 years and currently have three. I’ve never actually owned a 7mm-08 Rem at least not for myself. However, in the early 2000s, when daughter Brittany was ready for a rifle of her own, I got her a 7mm-08 Rem. A decade later I made the same decision for younger daughter Caroline. Of course, by then Brittany had shown me exactly what the 7mm-08 Rem was capable of, so it wasn’t a difficult choice.
Why not a 7×57 Mauser? That’s easy. As a rifle nut, I put a premium on history, romance, and nostalgia…which count for nothing in performance. However, if you can get similar performance from a short action, translating into a shorter, lighter rifle, why wouldn’t you…especially for shooters of smaller stature. Then there’s availability: The 7mm-08 Rem is loaded by everyone, with a wide choice of bullets. The classic 7×57 Mauser is available in much fewer options. The 7×57 Mauser actually has greater case capacity than the 7mm-08 Rem so it should be faster. As currently loaded, it is not.
I’ve gotten reader mail suggesting that there’s some sort of conspiracy against older cartridges like the 6.5×55 Swedish Mauser and 7×57 Mauser; it doesn’t seem to make sense that the 260 Remington, 6.5mm Creedmoor, and 7mm-08 Rem are faster than these classics which, respectively, fire exactly the same bullets…from cases with greater capacity. There is no conspiracy, but there is caution under the all-pervasive shadow of product liability. The 7×57 Mauser dates back to the 1893 and 1895 Mauser, which are not as strong as the ultimate ’98 Mauser. Factory loads have always been mild out of concerns for their use in older, weaker actions, this ain’t gonna change.
When the 7mm-08 Rem was new I could open any loading manual and load 7×57 Mauser ammo faster than any 7mm-08 Rem factory load. Slowly, out of caution rather than conspiracy, 7×57 Mauser loading data has been quietly downgraded…and held to lower pressures than are standard for the 7mm-08 Rem.
As a newer cartridge factory-chambered in modern actions, the 7mm-08 Rem has always been loaded to the gills. “Standard” is a 140-grain bullet at 2860 fps (some loads are faster), with SAAMI (Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers Institute) spec of 61,000 psi. Loaded to 10,000 psi less pressure, the 7×57 Mauser cannot compete. Current loading manuals use a lower pressure threshold for the 7×57 Mauser against the 7mm-08 Rem. The loads I pulled out of manuals 30 years ago are gone; the most current manuals tell me that the 7×57 Mauser now lags about 200 fps behind the 7mm-08 Rem. This is based on pressures now considered safe in older actions, not on case capacity, and not on working pressure in modern actions. But you can’t swim against the tide, and I can’t recommend loads no longer published. So, although differences are insignificant in the field, as currently loaded the 7mm-08 Rem is faster and more powerful than the 7×57 Mauser…with more compact ammo in a shorter and lighter action, resulting in a shorter, lighter, and more compact rifle.
Wife Donna is primarily a 270 Winchester fan. There are parallels: Since introduction in 1925 the 270 Win has been loaded to high pressures, enabling it to outrun its competition, including its Pop, the .30-06. Honestly, the 270 Win and the 7mm-08 Rem, as loaded, are surprisingly similar in performance on game. With greater case capacity, the 270 Win is a bit faster, but requires a longer (and heavier) action, while the 7mm-08 Rem offers the greater range of 7mm bullets. However, none of us can love all cartridges equally, and we are all victims of our own experience (and success). Donna is a 270 Win fan (as am I). However, Donna, unlike me, actually has a 7mm-08 Rem.
We saw it “on consignment” at Duke McCaa’s Gulf Breeze booth at an SCI convention, a short-stocked Dakota M76 that fit Donna to a T. It took months to make a deal, but she has it, handy, and accurate. It hasn’t seen much use yet, but it will—and we know what the 7mm-08 Rem will do. Brittany and Caroline have used it all over Africa for the full run of plains game. Last year, with a borrowed Sako 7mm-08 Rem, Caroline flatted a big red stag. Although I’ve never (exactly) owned one, I’ve used it in numerous rifles.
In these days of Creedmoor Craze, the more interesting comparison isn’t between the 7mm-08 Rem and my 7×57 Mauser or Donna’s 270 Win, but between the 7mm-08 Remington and the 6.5mm Creedmoor. Everybody wants a Creedmoor…but give it some serious thought: Why not a 7mm-08 Rem? With shorter bullets (less friction), the 7mm-08 Rem, as loaded, is significantly faster than the 6.5mm Creedmoor, and offers the full range of 7mm bullets. Also, please consider what the cartridge is for. The Creedmoor was designed as a long-range target cartridge, capitalizing on the long-for-caliber 6.5mm bullet, able to remain supersonic to extreme range despite moderate initial velocity (thus with minimal recoil). It is a great long-range target cartridge.
The 7mm-08 Rem was designed as a hunting cartridge, and it’s a better hunting cartridge than the 6.5mm Creedmoor. Its greater frontal area transfers more energy on impact. Since it is faster, it delivers more energy at hunting ranges, and because heavier 7mm bullets are available, it is more versatile…and more effective on larger game. This is a lesson I’ve learned from my daughters: The 7mm-08 Rem is an amazing hunting cartridge. Mild in recoil and long on performance, in my view it’s the best there is for beginners…and not bad for veterans. Maybe someday I’ll have one. First, I must get over my “thing” for the 7×57 Mauser.
- 6.5mm Creedmoor
- 270 Winchester
- 7mm-08 Rem
- 7×57 Mauser
- 260 Remington
- 30-06 Springfield
- 308 Winchester