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7mm Remington Magnum: The Velvet Hammer (LocaCarnivore Expert)

The year is 1962.  American shooters and hunters are gripped by a mighty force—Magnum Fever.  This syndrome, characterized by a never satisfied desire for greater and greater bullet velocity, stalked the land since 1956 when Winchester introduced the .458 Winchester Magnum.  The first magnum rifle cartridge which fit into a standard, .30-06-length action.  Until this time, magnums required a long, or magnum-length, action; expensive to produce and a bit unwieldy to operate with its long bolt throw.  Now, almost anyone could afford a magnum rifle, not just the rich and shameless.  Shooters around the world rejoiced, but no more so than those in the United States.

Many Americans had hope in 1962.  John F. Kennedy’s inauguration fired imaginations.  Elvis ruled the pop charts.  The economy had rebounded from a post-war recession, and the nation stood poised to conquer space.  The prosperous, confident country still lacked one thing, a true, long-range magnum big game cartridge which didn’t kick like a drunk Missouri mule.

False starts

Hunters in the American west had had their hopes dashed before.  The second Frankenstein magnum let loose by Winchester in 1958, the .338 Win. Mag., could, with the right bullet, go a fair distance, but it cost shooters a trip to the chiropractor with each shot.  Then the .264 Winchester Magnum arrived in 1959.  For a brief, shining moment, it looked as if western hunters’ prayers had been answered, and Winchester thought they had all the bases covered.  Then the complaints arrived; a trickle at first, then a torrent.  The .264 ate barrels faster than Warren Buffet makes money.  Word got out, and no one at Winchester could put the genie back in the bottle, despite the fact the .264 is a good round for wide-open spaces.

People who hung on Outdoor Life writer, Jack O-Connor’s, every word, just shook their heads and wondered why folks couldn’t content themselves with the .270 Winchester, which had predated all this magnum nonsense by a good three decades.

By 1962, hunters in America’s vast western half still longed for a flat-shooting round which could drop an elk in its tracks at 500 yards, and came in an affordable rifle.  The .264 Win. Mag. had turned sour.  While the path-finder .458 could poleaxe an elephant, it had about as much reach as a Tyrannosaurus-Rex’s arms.  The .338 didn’t fit the niche, either.

Remington fires back

All the while, Winchester’s rival, Remington Arms, observed and took notes.  Their engineers had found what they considered a perfect compromise.  Take the .375 Holland & Holland case, cut it down to 2.5 inches, just as Winchester had done, then stuff a 7mm bullet in it.  Eureka!  A magnum with a trajectory equal to the iconic .270’s, and recoil equal to a .30-06.  Remington slapped a “magnum” label on it and brought it out along-side their brand new Model 700 rifle in 1962.

Almost overnight, American hunters queued up for the new cartridge.  Here they had it all.  The 7mm Remington Magnum seemed descended from the gods.  Its 7mm bullets were almost as efficient as the 6.5mm ones in the .264 Win. Mag., and they drove just as deep into large animals, due to their high sectional density.  They did this with just a bit more weight than the 6.5s which also aided penetration.  These bullets did as much work on a critter as a thirty-caliber, but weighed a bit less and thus needed less powder to achieve those results.  The lighter bullets combined with the smaller powder charge produced less recoil, too.  No surprise, .264 Win. Mag. sales cratered.

Winchester countered with the .300 Winchester Magnum in 1963, but it couldn’t derail Remington’s instant classic.  This also ignited a debate between those who favor the Big Seven’s efficiency and those who like the .300’s brute force.  A debate as eternal as the great, and tedious, 9mm versus .45 ACP fight.

Performance

The 7mm Remington Magnum’s versatility puts it in the cartridge Hall of Fame with all-stars such as the .375 H&H, .30-06 Springfield, and .308 Winchester.  With the right bullet, it can bust coyotes on the open range or drop a brown bear in the alders, and anything in between.

Seven millimeter rifle bullets are available in weights from 100 to 197 grains.  The most popular big game hunting bullets are in the 140 to 175 grain range.  The super-light weights are for varmints, and the heaviest are specialized match bullets which often require non-standard rifling twist rates for best accuracy.  Nominal twist rate for the 7mm Rem. Mag. is 1:9.49, although various rifle manufacturers select either a 1:9 or 1:10 rate.  Either will do fine with the common bullet weights.

Here are muzzle velocity and energy figures for typical factory big game loads based on bullet weight.

  • 140 grain: 3150 fps/3084 ft-lbs.
  • 150 grain: 3110 fps/3221 ft-lbs.
  • 160 grain: 2950 fps/3091 ft-lbs.
  • 175 grain: 2860 fps/3178 ft-lbs.

As a general rule, any one 7mm slug will do the same job on game as a five to ten grain heavier .30 caliber bullet because the 7mm retains more energy down range.  Its higher sectional density makes up for the thirty’s wider wound channel by driving deeper into an animal’s vitals.

Match ‘Em Up

As with any other big game round, it is important to match bullet weight to game size.  When it comes to the 7mm Rem. Mag., the 140 grain loads are used on medium game (impala, Thompson’s gazelle, roe deer, pronghorn, whitetail deer, etc.).  The 150 grain are considered the all-round weight: fit for anything the 140’s will drop but heavy enough for larger species such as mule deer, and even elk (with spot-on bullet placement).

Above this weight, the Big Seven becomes a true giant slayer.  For decades, the 160 grain has been considered the preferred elk medicine for this cartridge.  Until recently, it also served as the standard long-range load, but ultra-heavy for caliber, high BC projectiles have supplanted it in this role.

The 175 grain weight has always been reserved for the heaviest game which is practical to shoot with the 7mm Rem. Mag.: elk, moose, kudu, eland, the big bears, etc.  One 175 grain bullet, in particular, stands out.  This is Nosler’s 175 grain Partition.  Although it is based on eighty-year old technology, this one has a BC so close to Nosler’s slippery 160 grain, 7mm AccuBond (.519 v. .531) the two bullets’ trajectories are almost identical.  The Partition, however, weighs more, and has much higher sectional density (.310 v. .283), so it will penetrate much deeper than the 160.  The Partition will often expand at lower velocity than the AccuBond which makes it an unexpected, but excellent, choice for shooting large critters at longer ranges, if it will stabilize in a particular gun.

Cartridge fight

The 7mm Rem. Mag. lives in a tough neighborhood.  It has stiff competition from other magnums and some standard-sized rounds.  Here’s a comparison between the Big Seven and its most common opponents in a given game weight class for nominal Maximum Point Blank Range (MPBR) based on a six-inch diameter vital zone, wind drift at 400 yards, and effective range .  Effective range in this match up is the minimum impact energy recommended for a humane kill on medium game (1200 ft-lbs.) and large game (1500 ft-lbs.), respectively.

Results were obtained with shooterscalculator.com’s free on-line ballistic software, and calibrated to standard atmosphere at sea level (59F/15C, 29.92 inHg/1013 mbar).

Medium Game

For deer-sized game, the 7mm Rem. Mag. is most often compared to its little brother, the .280 Remington, and the do-it-all, .30-06.  I selected the most common Nosler AccuBond weight for this game class to standardize the comparison.

CartridgeVelocity (fps)/Energy (ft-lbs.)MPBR (yds)400 Yd. Drift in Inches (10 mph x-wind)Eff. Med. Game Range (yds)
7mm Rem. Mag., 140 gr. AB3150/308431110.0660
.280 Rem., 140 gr. AB3000/279729610.7585
.30-06, 150 gr. AB2900/280228412.75515

It’s plain the Big Seven outdistances the other two and has less drift.  It churns up more energy, too, even when the “Ought-Six” brings a heavier bullet to the brawl, and it kicks back no harder than the Springfield.

Large Game

For elk-sized game, and bear, the 7mm Rem. Mag. has to run with big dogs such as the .300 Winchester Magnum and .340 Weatherby.  To give the Remington a fighting chance, I’ve picked the outstanding 175 grain, Nosler Partition for the Big Seven, and the most appropriate Partition for the other two contenders.

CartridgeVelocity (fps)/Energy (ft-lbs.)MPBR (yds)400 Yd. Drift in Inches (10 mph x-wind)Eff. Lrg. Game Range (yds)
7mm Rem. Mag., 175 Part.2860/317828510.6550
.300 Win. Mag., 180 gr. Part.2950/347829310.4605
340 Weath., 250 gr,. Part.2941/480129011.35755

Yes, both the .300 Win. Mag, and the Weatherby are freight trains next to the 7mm, but consider the fact the Big Seven will do the same work at reasonable hunting ranges, but with much less recoil.  Well worth the money, it seems.  If a hunter with the 7mm has an irresistible urge to plink at big beasties beyond 600 yards, they just need to load up a slippery, purpose built long-range slug and Remington’s brain child will get the job done—and still with less recoil.

The 7mm Wars

These days, the 7mm Remington Magnum doesn’t need to watch out for just its traditional competitors.  The market is filled with other super sevens: 7mm Shooting Times Westerner (STW), 7mm Remington Ultra-Mag, 7mm Weatherby, and 28 Nosler.  On paper, at least, these should make the oldster apply for an early retirement package.  Are the upstarts true replacements for this classic?  Yes, and no.

Yes, they will all make granddad look feeble at 1000 yards, or more.  Although what business you have sniping at deer at such ranges is debatable.  Yes, they all generate more energy than the Boulder Dam does in a year.  Yes, they have bigger, and in many instances, more efficient cases which allow them to fling the latest super-heavy, high BC bullets with more authority.  Yes, they all massage their owner’s egos and size fixations.

However, there are things they cannot do.  They cannot treat their shooters with kindness because they smack them harder than an NFL linebacker on Meth.  They cannot save a once in a lifetime hunt which is in jeopardy after some chucklehead airline bag clerk lost the ammo in transit, because they are not found on every gun shop shelf between Los Angeles and the Kamchatka Peninsula.  They cannot let someone who works two jobs to support three kids walk into a gun store and walk out with an ammo box which didn’t cost a week’s pay.

For all these reasons, and maybe a dozen I haven’t thought up yet, the 7mm Remington Magnum is here to stay.  It will not go quiet into that dark night.  It will continue to put meat in freezers, and predators in the dirt, for perhaps as long as metallic cartridge firearms will exist.  ‘Nuff said.

 

Other helpful stories you’ll like:

The .375 H&H Magnum: When Everything is on the Menu, Including You

LocaCarnivore Expert: Best .300 Magnum [Virtual Shootout]

LocaCarnivore Expert: Top 7mm Hunting Cartridges [Virtual Shootout]

 

 

 

 

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