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American deer hunters love the 7mm rifle cartridges

by Bryan Hendricks | November 16, 2006 at 2:51 p.m.

Almost universally, American shooters have rejected cartridges with metric designations in favor of those with standard, decimal measurements.

Some excellent cartridges, such as the 8mm Remington and 6.5mm Remington, might have succeeded had they been given a more proprietary, decimal designation.

A prominent exception to this rule is the 7mm family of cartridges, which rival the beloved .30-calibers in popularity among American hunters. The most prominent members of this class are the 7mm Remington Magnum, the .280 Remington (7mm Remington Express), the 7mm-08 Remington and the 7x57mm Mauser. Other entries are the 7mm Winchester Short Magnum, 7mm Remington Short-Action Ultra-Mag, 7mm Weatherby Magnum and the 7mm Shooting Times Westerner.


Introduced in 1962, the 7-Mag is one of the most successful cartridges ever developed. Based on the .300 H&H cartridge, its massive powder charge propels a wide range of bullets between 130 and 150 grains at velocities that can exceed 3,300 feet per second for handloaders. Its speed and flat trajectory make it ideal for hunting deer, pronghorns and elk over long ranges that one typically encounters out west. In the South, it's excellent for hunting over bean fields and utility right of ways.

On the other hand, its speed is often a liability for short-range deer hunting in the South because bullets often pass through game so fast that they don't expand. Andy Crawford, staff writer for Louisiana Sportsman magazine, derided the effectiveness of his 7-Mag until he started using Barnes Triple Shock bullets. Another friend, Pat Hilburn, vowed never to use a 7-Mag on elk again after he failed to dispatch a New Mexico elk cleanly within 150 yards. From then on, he only uses a .30-06.

For woodland hunting, experienced riflemen agree that a 7-Mag is too much gun, but for long-range shooting, it's hard to beat.

7 MM-08

Along with the .308 Winchester, this is my favorite cartridge. It's simply a .308 necked down to take a 7mm (.284-cal.) bullet. Its flat trajectory and impressive terminal ballistics make it ideal for hunting all North American ungulates, including elk.

The classic bullet for the 7mm-08 is 140 grains, but my favorite combination is a 130-gr. Speer Boattail powered by 41 grains of IMR 4064. With an unmodified Remington Model 700 BDL, I get half-inch groups that could shrink even tighter with a lighter trigger and perhaps a better scope, but for deer hunting, it's peerless. This combination won my enduring affection during a 2004 antlerless deer hunt in Chariton Co., Mo., when I killed four does with it in less than 30 seconds. Three were neck shots. The first, and farthest, was a high lung shot on a big, mature doe, and she dropped as if hit by a train.

With handloaded velocities generally between 2,600-3,000 fps, the 7mm-08 isn't a speed demon, which is one reason why it's so effective. Even at short ranges, bullets fired from a 7mm-08 expand well and expend maximum energy on the target.

Knowledgeable people that I respect dismiss the 7mm-08 as a good kid's gun or a woman's gun, mainly because it doesn't shatter the shoulders like a lot of the big .30-calibers do. That's why it works, because it's easy to shoot well.


Because of a series of marketing blunders, this great cartridge nearly failed, but when shooters discovered its virtues, it became an American favorite.

Developed to compete with the .270 Winchester, the .280 Remington is a .30-06 Springfield case necked down for a .284-cal. bullet. It's a very efficient combination with which handloads can generate about 95 percent of the performance of the 7-Mag, but without the muzzle blast and recoil. It works best with a 140-gr. bullet, which gives it about 300 foot/pounds more energy downrange than a 130-gr. bullet fired from a .270 Win.

When Remington introduced the round in 1957, it chambered only one rifle for it, the Model 740 semiauto. The relatively fragile action of this rifle required a light powder charge, which limited performance.

In the 1980s, Remington confused the public by renaming it the 7mm Express, and then compounded the error several years later by renaming it, again, the .280 Remington.

No matter what you call it, the .280 is a solid performer with excellent ballistics and relatively gentle recoil, making it excellent for all mid-range and long-range shooting environments.


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