William W (Bill) Gabbard
I had just sent my friend Mike Gross a picture of a sweet group when my phone dinged with his reply, “Let me guess, that was something in .284 Caliber.” Maybe he knows me a little too good, but it seems like I am drawn to rifles chambered in one of the 7mm calibers. The choice of bullet weights and the great ballistic coefficient of the 7mm projectiles just seem to make it a natural for the whitetail deer – my favorite quarry.
The 7MM-08 had been around as a wildcat round for several years before Remington standardized it and introduced it as a commercial round in 1980. Basically, a 308 Winchester necked down to .284 or 7mm, it has less recoil than the 308 and better knockdown than the 243. It is an extremely accurate round and easy to reload for. Groups under one-half inch are not unusual in factory rifles with good handloads. IMR 4350, 4064, and 4451, Hodgdon H414, TAC, Benchmark, and CFE 223, Alliant Reloader 15, VihtaVuori N-140 and N150 using CCI 200 or F210 primers have all worked well for me.
A wide selection of factory ammo is available for those who do not handload. My son took his first deer with a 7MM-08 and the tradition has continued with his son doing the same. Loaded with 120 gr bullets, the recoil is very mild. Loaded with bullets from 150 gr to 175, the little round is more than adequate for elk. Tonya Smith took a mature cow elk with one shot using a 160 gr Sierra over a stiff load of IMR 4064.
The 280 has never been as popular as the 270 Winchester, but it is a great round to work with. Although it had been around in various forms for years, it wasn’t introduced as a commercial round until 1957. The selection of factory ammo has never been great, but it is still available.
In the late 1970’s, Remington reportedly renamed the cartridge the 7mm-06 then quickly changed it to the 7MM Express. I have never seen a rifle or ammo marked 7MM-06, but I have seen rifles and ammo marked 7MM Express. In fact, I have an old set of Lee dies marked 7MM Express. Sometime around 1981 or 82 they changed the name back to 280 Remington, to keep down confusion from the much more popular 7MM Remington Magnum. The wide selection of bullets makes the 280 an excellent choice for whitetail or elk. It has been easy to develop an accurate load for every rifle I have worked with in 280. My old Browning A-Bolt shoots more than one brand of 140 gr bullets into groups of less than one-half inch using Alliant RL-15 and Federal F210 primers. Accuracy, plenty of punch, and moderate recoil make this one of my favorites.
POPULAR CALIBERS FOR HUNTING DEER
The 7MM WSM like its fellow 284 bore 280 Remington just never was a great seller, and I cannot figure out why. Accuracy with factory ammo has always been better than most 7mm Remington Magnums and the round is easy to load for. It has velocities and energy levels that rival the 7 Rem Mag with less recoil. Like the 280, the tremendous variety of bullets and powders to choose from make it a natural for the reloader. Hornady and Federal both have some great selections to choose from in factory ammo. Hodgdon H4831sc, IMR 4451, VihtaVuori N-560 are all great choices for the forgotten 7MM Winchester Short Mag. My best group with a Kimber American was 0.362 using a Sierra 150 Game King over 62.5 gr of RL19.
7MM Remington Magnum
The 7MM Remington Magnum was introduced to the public in 1962 in the brand-new Remington 700. It was a hit from the beginning. It is always in the top ten of ammo sales and most companies that offer a magnum rifle offer the 7MM Rem Mag as an option. This round is probably the best known of the 7mm rounds. Most writers cite its exceptional accuracy, and while I agree with them, my experience is that most 7MM Rem Mag rifles are a little bit finicky. If using factory ammo, you may have to try several types to find one that your rifle likes. Hornady’s 154 gr SP Interlock in their American Whitetail Ammo has proven extremely accurate in more than one rifle as has Federal Premium’s Power-Shok 150 gr load.
FEDERAL, 100 YEARS AND COUNTING
When it comes to handloading, the 7MM Rem Mag has been “feast or famine” for me. It seems to be one of the more difficult rounds to find that magic load that will shoot under one-half inch groups. Hornady’s 154 gr SST is usually a good performer along with IMR 4350. Nosler Winchester Combined Technology 150 gr bullets are a viable choice as well, but almost impossible to find. I enjoy working with this round, but it always seems to be a challenge.
7MM Weatherby Magnum
Always a bridesmaid but never a bride, pretty much sums up the 7MM Weatherby Mag. It was always in the shadows of the 7MM Rem Mag, 300 Win Mag, and 300 Weatherby Mag. I have only worked with one, only fired one, and have seen very few more. You only gain 100 to 150 feet per second over the 7 Rem Mag, but oh what fun it is to shoot! My old Remington 700 chambered in 7 Wby Mag (Elvira) has been responsible for the demise of seventeen bucks by three different hunters since I have owned it. Ranging from 65 yds to 380 yds most of them were one shot kills, and the rest were mercy shots to finish off the animal quickly. Mine prefers Hornady’s 154 SST bullet pushed by IMR 4350 using a Remington 9 1/2 M Primer. This rifle will consistently group under one-half inch with this load. Never a highly popular round but I sure am attached to mine!
7MM Remington Ultra Mag
Introduced in 2001, this is the Mac-Daddy of the 7MM class. The 7MM RUM is a powder burning, shoulder bruising piece of work. It is fun to work with, nonetheless. Local competitive shooter and fellow handloader Richard “Casey” Sandlin brought one in for us to play with. It didn’t take long to settle on a load of Hodgdon’s H4831sc along with Hornady’s 154 SST bullet that shot a group of 0.583. Now under the ownership of Vista Outdoor, Remington Ammunition no longer lists factory ammo for this cartridge. If you own a rifle in this caliber you might want to start hunting for some ammo that has been left over or purchase a good set of dies and plan to load your own.
And The Rest
There are plenty more 7mm cartridges. The Granddaddy of 7mm’s-the 7MM Mauser, the 7BR, 284 Winchester, 7mm Remington Short Action Ultra Mag as well as the 7 MM STW each have their own story. Newer on the scene are the 28 Nosler and the 280 AI. The newest 284 caliber on the market is the Hornady’s 7 PRC. The 7 PRC is designed to fit between the 6.5 PRC and the 300 PRC.
In the shooting world it seems that these days everything revolves around rifles chambered in various 6.5 caliber rounds. I, on the other hand, like to quote one of my favorite outdoor writers Larry Weishuhn in an article he wrote many years ago when discussing various calibers, “Make mine a seven.”