Lovin' The Big Bang


The issue of versatility was what I had in mind when choosing a mid-bore over a sub-medium.

I’ve owned several of each, but all were sub-mediums (up to .30-caliber) until 1988 when I traded a new M70 in .300 Winchester Magnum for a new Sako FS in .338 Winchester Magnum. Did I ever regret that? No, never. I had been a handloader for seven years prior to that trade and knew quite well what to expect from a short-barrelled .338 Win Mag. It turned out that my expectations were relatively accurate, but conservative. What I wanted was a handier package than the relatively long and heavy M70 in .300 Win Mag. The Sako was much shorter, lighter, and much more versatile and powerful than the M70.

100 2264 1 Lovin' The Big BangThat defined who I was, and still am. I like relatively short, compact, bigger bores with more potential and versatility. From that point on I went still bigger in rifle bores. The next was a Marlin in .45-70. But I never completely abandoned sub-mediums.

At this point, it’s fairly obvious that “versatility” needs clarification, and in reference to rifles and their cartridges in particular. There should be little doubt that experienced hunters of a variety of medium, big and large game, including some large predators, will understand the concept of certain rifles and cartridge combinations having greater versatility depending on the diversity of game being pursued under varied conditions.

Sometimes the best way to understand the use of a descriptive term is in using a thesaurus, which is different than a dictionary in that it submits a series of words that mean the same thing in the same context. Webster’s Thesaurus presents the following words as substitutes for “versatility”: flexibility; utility; adjustability; adaptability. So what we’re discussing here in reference to sporting/hunting rifles and their caliber-cartridges is how flexible and adaptable they might be in a variety of settings. That might be sheep on mountains, moose in the alders or Cape buffalo in the Zambezi Delta — I’m sure you get the picture.

I’ve said that the new, heavy and long .300 Win Mag in a M70 Winchester was traded for a new .338 Win Mag in a lighter, handier, more versatile package — and more powerful to boot. And that was my introduction to medium-bores, or, if you will, “mid-bores”.

In what way then is the 9.3 x 62 Mauser more versatile – if it truly is – than the 7 Rem Mag, which is the number one most handloaded magnum cartridge?

We’ll have a look at that, and it needs to be a fair, unbiased evaluation. And to assure the audience that I have some knowledge of each, three 7mm Remington Magnums have been owned and handloads developed for each, plus another belonging to my son-in-law. Also, I’ve owned a 7mm Weatherby Magnum that was similar in ballistics. As to a 9.3 x 62 Mauser, I currently own one and it’s the one and only that has consumed an inordinate amount of time and effort to unleash the best that it has to offer.

While I developed many handloads for each of the 7mm magnums, tested them at the range and toted them in the field, I shot no live game with the 7 Rem Mag, but I did with the 7 Weatherby Magnum. The load for the Weatherby that saw hunting was the 175gr Nosler Partition over a full dose of RL-22, ignited by WLRM primers.

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100 2263 Lovin' The Big Bang<(That’s the 7 Wby Magnum and the bear shot with the 175gr Partition at 3000 fps MV.)

That was during the years I hunted bear in the northeast of our province with Norm Easto as outfitter and guide. I was seated on the side of a ridge with the bait setup about 65 yards below. It was the first day of the hunt, and also in a new location for me. After refreshing the bait around 2:30 pm, I found a good spot to sit on the ground with some cover in front. I didn’t have to wait long as the bear came in to the bait about 3 pm. I shot it with the 175gr NP between neck and shoulder as it was sniffing the bait at around a 25* angle presentation from me. It was a “bang-flop”, raised it’s head once and that was it! Of course there was complete penetration from the neck-shoulder juncture to the offside flank.

That doesn’t make me (or anyone else for that matter) an “expert” on the 7 magnums, or the Weatherby in particular, and by association the Remington. However, I do know what to expect from either in ballistic terms. My first 7 Remington was the BAR (Browning semi-auto) with a 24″ barrel that replaced the M70 .30-06 (that story has been told a few times already); the next was the Ruger No.1 with a 26″ barrel, and the last was a Remington 700 LH bolt gun with a 24″ tube. The Ruger No.1 would fire a 175gr at over 3000 fps, and the 24″ Rem 700 made 2940 fps from 175’s. The Weatherby had a 24″ and made 3000 fps from the 175 NP (the load mentioned in the bear hunt).

So I think I have a pretty realistic understanding of what those two 7 magnums were capable of at the top end. Those loads were suitable for any North American game, or equivalent in any other part of the globe, with some qualifiers: range, presentation and certain dangerous game. Some experienced guides and outfitters wouldn’t recommend them for the so-called “big bears” under all conditions, and I’d feel the same for certain large game under all conditions, such as a large bull moose beyond 300 yards at a poor angle with a lake or ravine close by.5149043378 3d5bffaacf o Lovin' The Big Bang

I’m a firm believer in Bob Hagel’s dictum: ” Don’t take the rifle and load that will work in the best of conditions, but use the one that will work in the WORST of conditions” (emphasis mine).

And that’s where I draw the line of separation between sub-mediums and medium-bores, assuming each to be at, or near, the top end of ballistic capabilities for the respective cartridges.

In simple terms: The 7 mms (.284-caliber), no matter the size and capacity of their cases, are still and only capable of firing .284″ bullets — which, in normal use, limits them to 175 – 180gr projectiles at the top end — and in my view the best for larger game. The .30-calibers (magnums) are better in normal use for the same large game in that they can push 200 – 220gr out their respective muzzles at the same speeds (about 3000 fps). Then, of course, each (7 mm and .30-cal) has a veritable proliferation of lighter bullets for smaller stuff. That’s their strength. But their limits are at the top end, not at the bottom.

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The 7 Remington Magnum and .338 Win Mag share the same parent case, the .458 Win Mag, which in turn is based on a shortened .375 H&H blown out. The distinction between the 7mm and the .338 is neck size. The .338 can fire bullets of a larger diameter that also makes them heavier. That’s the whole point of a larger caliber using the same basic case. For instance, we see that in the .30-06 case being necked up to .358 (the .35 Whelen). The goal of Col. Whelen and James Howe was to produce greater ballistic effect than the .30-06 in using heavier bullets — that also made the cartridge more efficient in the use of the approximate same amount of powder. With best handloads in a 24″ .30-06 it can make around 3300 ft-lbs from a 180 to 200gr in .30-caliber. The Whelen, on the other hand, can make upwards of 4000 ft-lbs from a heavier bullet with a 36% larger cross-sectional-area!

This isn’t about the .30-06 vs the .35 Whelen, but to show how in moving up in caliber to mid-bores, even in using the same parent case, can significantly improve ballistic results. Of course, moving to a smaller caliber in the same parent case can significantly alter ballistic results in a negative sense if the intent is to shoot large game. Despite some uninformed arguments to the contrary, the .270 Win will never equal it’s parent, the .30-06, in ultimate ballistic results, no matter how it’s measured.

The 9.3 x 62 Mauser isn’t based on any other cartridge, though it’s similar in some ways to the .35 Whelen — but they have different critical specs. The .35 Whelen will hold around 72 grs of water to the mouth of the case, and the 9.3 x 62 will hold 77 – 78 grs depending on who makes the cases. When each is loaded with their best propellants to the same psi, and using equal length barrels from the same manufacturer, the 9.3x 62 Mauser has an advantage of 300 – 450 ft-lbs KE at the muzzle using their traditional common-weight bullets for each: a 250gr for the Whelen and 286gr for the Mauser, wherein their MVs will be near identical. From a 22″ in each that will be between 2600 to 2650 fps for the Whelen shooting the 250gr and 2600 to 2650 fps for the Mauser firing a 286gr. Obviously, those are best handloads in each.

But this comparison isn’t exactly about two nearly identical cartridges. No one will dispute that the 9.3 x 62 Mauser is potentially a much more potent cartridge than the “Big 7 Remington”, if they are aware of the facts. Rather, flexibility and adaptability is what we’re discussing.

In previous articles on “Long-Range Shooting of Big Game”, the 7 Rem Mag was used as one example. Depending on a number of factors, but assuming its best performance in ballistics and accuracy, and who is doing the shooting — that is assuming near perfection in performance — the 175gr Nosler Partition at 2950 fps MV from a 24″ barrel should be adequate for a 750 to 1000 lb soft-skinned animal at 400 yards where KE will be little more than 2000 ft-lbs with a broadside hit to the vitals. The animal should be dead within a few steps. However, should it be a 1/4 toward or away shot, reduce all that by approximately 25%. At least in our thinking and preparation we should not have expectations beyond reality. No matter how you slice it, 2000 ft-lbs of energy from a “normal” rifle and cartridge (.270 Win to .300 Win as examples) has been regarded, from experience, as suitable for an approximate 1000 lb game animal, assuming good bullets and a “good hit”.

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img 1821 Lovin' The Big BangAnd, of course, my 9.3 x 62 Mauser will do all that and quite a bit more. That’s were it’s versatility comes in. Burning about the same amount of propellant as the 7 Rem Mag behind a heavier and wider bullet, and due to the bore size (9.3 = .366″ cal.) it is a much more efficient cartridge, i.e. = producing about 900 ft-lbs more energy at the muzzle and over 2100 ft-lbs at 500 yards.

<(This was recently recorded at 15 feet from the muzzle of my 9.3 x 62 Mauser. No, it wasn’t from the 250gr AccuBond, but the 286gr Nosler Partition.)

Of course, KE is not all there is to it, as we’ve delved more deeply into that matter. Momentum and cross-section area of the bullet (bullet diameter) are all significant players as well.

The point of this essay is to demonstrate why I switched to mid-bores (.338 – .375) over sub-mediums (.243 – .308) over thirty years ago: They are more efficient, can do what anything less can do… and much more. It’s that simple. The cost might be in increased “felt” recoil — but not necessarily as that depends on several other factors in addition to ballistics… the principle ones being the weight of the rifle, stock shape and fit, and the strength, fitness and experience of the shooter.

“The point of all this is that if you intend to use the same cartridge for shooting all classes of game under all hunting conditions, you should realize its limitations and not expect it to perform reliably beyond those limitations, whether handloaded or factory ammunition.” — BOB HAGEL in Game Loads and Practical Ballistics for the American Hunter — a WOLFE Publication.

The quote from Hagel has been the emphasis of these articles over the past several weeks. But it also is a further comment on the principle highlighted in the current theme of why I moved on to mid-bores over sub-mediums.

img 0709 Lovin' The Big BangSmall bores are for small creatures: I’ll always have one, but let’s not try to make them into something they’re not!



Correction: In the previous blog the 175gr/7mm bullet was cited as having an SD of .301. That was a typo or mistake. It should have been .310. I tried to correct that after publication, but for some inexplicable reason that was denied by WORD PRESS. I have yet to have an explanation. Sorry for that error.

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>