10 of the Best 7mm Rifle Cartridges
The Magnificent Sevens
By Bob Robb
If there’s one thing big-game hunters like to do, it’s to debate the relative merits of cartridges intended for hunting. When it’s all said and done, it is hard to argue with the 7mm cartridges for general all-around North American big-game hunting.
My first “real” deer rifle was an old pre-’64Winchester Model 70 chambered in .270 that was my dad’s. But when I bought my first rifle—I wanted something I could hunt elk with and at the time, back in the late 1970s, and the .270 was considered quite marginal for the task—I purchased a Belgian-made Browning BAR chambered for the 7mm Rem. Mag. And I did, indeed, kill my first bull elk with it in 1978, as well as several mule deer, whitetails and pronghorn.
Over the years, I’ve done a lot of hunting with the various 7mms and never been disappointed. These 10 “Magnificent Sevens” are my all-time favorites.
10) .284 Win.: Introduced by Winchester in 1963, the .284 Win. was designed to squeeze .270 performance from new autoloader and old-style lever-action rifles. The end result was a 7mm cartridge with about the same overall length as the .308 Win. but with a wider body that yields a powder capacity about the same as that of the .270 Winchester and .280 Remington. It’s a great little cartridge that never really got off the ground.
9) 7MM Remington SAUM: Introduced in 2001, the 7mm SAUM (Short Action Ultra Magnum), along with its sister cartridge, the .300 Rem. SAUM, was Remington’s entry into the then-new world of short magnums. Basically, this short cartridge can do anything the 7mm Rem. Mag. can do, but it does it in a lighter, shorter, fast-handling rifle while burning less powder. It is based on the same case as the .300 SAUM—the .300 Rem. Short Action Ultra Mag.—necked down to handle .284-inch bullets. It essentially uses less powder to achieve the same velocities as the standard 7mm Rem. Mag. and has slightly less recoil. However, it’s another cartridge that never developed a strong following.
8) 7mm Mauser (7×57): Developed as a military cartridge by Mauser and introduced way back in 1892, the cartridge first gained prominence after being adopted by the Spanish government and chambered in a limited number of bolt-action Mauser rifles. The “Spanish Mauser,” as it has since been known, was also adopted by Mexico and some South American countries for military use. In 1897, Remington chambered its old rolling block and Lee rifles for the cartridge, followed by its Model 30, and Winchester did likewise in its Models 54 and 70.
Despite its virtues as a military round, the 7×57 proved itself early on as a superb big-game cartridge. Today, hunters can load the 7×57 with bullets ranging from 110- to 175-grains, though most choose the 140-grain as the best all-around hunting bullet. Ballistically, it ranks just slightly below the .270 Win., a cartridge many consider one of the best ever for deer-sized game. Recoil is modest, meaning most all people can shoot it well. With a muzzle velocity of just under 2,700 fps with the 140-grain bullet, the trajectory is excellent, making this fine little cartridge a superb deer/pronghorn round.
7) 7mm Remington Ultra Mag.: The 7mm RUM. was introduced in late 2000. All Remington Ultra Mag cartridges are necked-down versions of the .404 Jeffrey case, giving these beltless magnums a very large case diameter, which means increased powder capacity for increased velocity and energy over other cartridges using the same bullet diameter. Consider this: The .22-250 Rem. is known as one of the fastest, flattest-shooting varmint rounds of all time, yet the 7mm RUM with 140-grain bullet shoots flatter than the .22-250 with 55-grain bullet. Obviously, this is a cartridge that has been designed for long-range big-game hunting (though it will kick a bit!)
6) 7mm Shooting Times Westerner (STW): Back in 1979, noted gun writer Layne Simpson tried something new: necking down the then-new 8mm Rem. Mag. case to 7mm. He introduced the new cartridge to the world in the May 1989 issue of Shooting Times magazine, and the shooting and hunting public ate it up.
The 7mm STW is a super long-range deer/elk round. Factory 140-grain loadings leave the barrel at about 3,325 fps, while the 160-grain factory load flies about 3,200 fps. The round has proven to be very accurate, doesn’t seem to kick a lot considering the velocity and energy delivered and has an extremely flat trajectory.
5) 7mm Weatherby Mag.: Developed in the 1940s by Roy Weatherby, nearly 20 years before the popular 7mm Rem. Mag., the 7mm Wby. Mag. did not get a lot of exposure until the early part of the 1950s when Weatherby rifles became more available. This cartridge gives non-handloaders “handloaded” 7mm Mag. performance, delivering about 400 fps more velocity than the 7mm Mauser. Though not as popular as several other Wby. Mag. cartridges, it’s well-suited for any North American game.
4) 7mm Winchester Short Magnum: The 7mm WSM was designed in 2001 by Winchester Repeating Arms Company and Browning Arms Company. The case is based off a .300 WSM necked down to accept a .284-inch bullet, and it delivers its best performances with bullets weighing 140 to 160 grains. However, it has failed to gain the same popularity as the other cartridges in the WSM family, notably the .300 WSM and .270 WSM. Still, it’s a fine hunting cartridge.
3) 7mm-08 Rem.: In an effort to combine the efficiency of the short .308 Win. case with the ballistic coefficient of a 7mm bullet, the 7mm-08 was introduced in 1980 by Remington, which somewhat falsely advertised it as “the first modern 7mm round designed for use in short-action rifles.” (The .284 Winchester, introduced in 1963, had come on the scene almost two decades earlier.) The 7mm-08 is also a direct copy of the wildcat 7mm/.308 that dates back to at least 1958 and was touted in P.O. Ackley’s Handbook for Shooters and Reloaders in 1962.
Be that as it may, the 7mm-08 took a while to catch on with modern American hunters who for a decade or more went through a period of enthrallment with standard- and long-action rounds into which they could cram a high volume of powder in an attempt to break the sound barrier with muzzle velocity. But catch on it has and the 7mm-08 is now rightly recognized as one of the finest all-around cartridges ever developed for deer-sized game. The cartridge combines modest recoil with the ability to be chambered in lightweight, short-action rifles, and when loaded with the standard 140-grain bullet, there’s plenty of “pop” to take the largest deer cleanly and quickly. It’s also quite accurate in most rifles.
2) 7mm Remington Magnum: The venerable “7 Mag.” has taken most all the world’s biggest, toughest game and it’s been used for decades by hunters seeking a combination of flat trajectory and downrange energy delivery. In its current design, the belted 7mm Rem. Mag. was introduced by Remington in 1962 at the same time the company replaced its Model 721, 722, and 725 bolt-action rifles with the new Model 700 series. Both have proven themselves to be timeless.
The 7mm Rem. Mag. is a superb all-around, long-range big-game cartridge with which one can confidently hunt all North American big game. It is inherently accurate, and a wide range of bullet weights and styles can be used depending on the task at hand. The cartridge’s only downfall might be the fact that it can be somewhat of a kicker, which prevents many shooters from handling it as well as they might.
1) .280 Remington: Introduced by Remington back in 1957, it was initially chambered not in the Model 700 bolt-action rifle but in the Model 740 autoloader. It later appeared in the Model 760 slide-action rifle and Model 721 and 725 bolt-actions. From 1979 to 1980, Remington called the cartridge the “7mm Express Remington,” hoping to spur sales by riding the wave of 7mm craze overtaking hunters at the time. Confusion reigned, though, so the next year the company returned to the .280 moniker.
The .280 is, essentially, a .30-06 case necked down to 7mm, though it does have a slightly different shoulder location so that it can not (and should not) be chambered in either a .270 or .30-06. Generally speaking, the .280 Rem. can do anything and everything the .30-06 with 150- to 180-grain bullets can do when the .280 Rem. is loaded with bullets weighing between 140- and 160-grains. It is an inherently accurate cartridge that generates moderate recoil and is available in a huge array of production rifles.
The .280 is a cartridge I have lots of experience with. Back in the mid-1980s, I obtained one of the then-new Remington Model 700 KS Mountain Rifles chambered in .280, topped it with a Leupold Vari-X III 2.5-8X scope and went to work. While I shot some factory ammunition, I developed a load around IMR 4831 and the 160-grain Nosler Partition bullet that gave me a muzzle velocity of 2,820 fps and 100-yard three-shot accuracy of right at a half-inch. That rifle/load combination accounted for an almost embarrassing amount of big-game animals, including several bull elk and a pair of Alaskan interior grizzly bears. Neither of these big, tough animals noticed they weren’t hit with a big .338, dying quickly and cleanly when the Partition took out both lungs.
In this video, Top Shot Champion Chris Cheng explains for beginner shooters the various components that make up a rifle cartridge. Firearm instructors and experienced shooters are encouraged to watch and share this knowledge with newcomers to the shooting sports.