Author's Choice: European Metric Rifle Cartridges
By Chuck Hawks
The European hunter has access to many North American hunting cartridges including such favorites as the .223 Remington, .243 Winchester, .270 Winchester, 7mm Remington Magnum, .30-30 Winchester, .308 Winchester, .30-06 Springfield, .300 Winchester Magnum, .338 Winchester Magnum, and the Weatherby Magnum series. These have become world hunting cartridges. Just as those of us living in North America have access to a number of European metric cartridges, such as the 6.5x55 Swede, 7x57 Mauser, 7x64 Brenneke, 7.62x39 Soviet, and 8x57S Mauser, all of which are loaded by major U.S. arms and ammunition makers.
Those metric cartridges are worldwide favorites, but some fine metric cartridges are virtually unknown here in the U.S. We have so many domestic hunting cartridges from which to choose that I suppose this is inevitable, but there are some European hunting cartridges that I would very much like to try. These are the cartridges I would be hunting with if I lived in Europe.
6x62 / 6x62R Freres
This is a relatively new cartridge introduced by MEN of Germany. The 6x62 significantly out performs the 6mm Remington and .243 WSSM. It is basically equivalent to the North American 6mm-06 wildcat, and just a step behind the .240 Weatherby Magnum. The 6x62 is based on the 9.3x62 case and requires a standard length rifle action. The 6x62R is a rimmed version of the cartridge for use in single shot rifles and drillings.
6x62 factory loads drive an 85 grain bullet at a muzzle velocity (MV) of 3460 fps with 2260 ft. lbs. of muzzle energy (ME), and a 100 grain bullet at a MV of 3313 fps and ME of 2442 ft. lbs. These loads are effective on a wide variety of small and medium game. The 100 grain bullet seems particularly suitable for European deer and goat hunting, and would also be excellent for North American deer, sheep, goat, and antelope hunting. The 6x62 offers flat trajectory, good killing power, and moderate recoil.
As something of a 6mm fan, the 6x62 Freres is a cartridge I would very much like to try. If I were living in Europe, a rifle in this caliber would be my top priority.
This is one of my favorite rifle cartridges. If I could have only one metric rifle, it would be in 6.5x55. The cartridge was designed for the military use of Norway and Sweden before the turn of the 20th Century, and it has been in regular use as a sporting round ever since. The 6.5x55 has also proven itself on thin-skinned game all over the world, including Africa and North America, and garnered a reputation for killing power out of proportion to its rather modest paper ballistics. As they say, it's hard to argue with success.
6.5x55 factory loads are available from the major U.S. ammunition companies, and they are available from just about all European manufacturers. Sellier & Bellot of the Czech Republic offers a 140 grain bullet at a MV of 2645 fps, which is typical. Norma of Sweden offers a variety of hotter loads which drive 139-140 grain bullets at MV's up to 2854 fps, and 156 grain bullets at MV's up to 2644 fps with ME of 2422 ft. lbs. These loads kill well because of the deep penetration afforded by their relatively heavy bullets of high sectional density. Recoil and muzzle blast are mild, promoting accurate bullet placement.
This .264 magnum cartridge was developed by RWS of Germany. In performance it is in-between the 6.5mm Remington Magnum and the .264 Winchester Magnum, and quite similar to the .270 Winchester. It is an excellent long range cartridge for all European species of thin-skinned game, and a good choice for African plains game.
European factory loads drive 123 grain bullet at a MV of 3450 fps with 3255 ft. lbs. of ME, and a 140 grain bullet at a MV of 2920 fps with 2651 ft. lbs. of ME. The 6.5x68S drives a 139-140 grain bullet of greater sectional density to approximately the same velocity as the 7x64 Brenneke (see below).
The 7x57 is one of our earliest smokeless powder, high velocity cartridges and also one of the most successful world-wide. Its case is the starting point from which most of our modern rifle cartridges evolved. It is used on every continent (including North America) for all manner of game. Among British hunters and shooters the 7x57 is known as the .275 Rigby.
The 7x57 is a popular cartridge for African plains game and 7x57 rifles are well represented in the personal batteries of African professional hunters, guides and outfitters. It is also a good choice as an all-around cartridge for North American big game hunters, particularly those who want a rifle that kicks less than a .270 or .30-06. Factory loads are available from all of the major US and European ammo companies.
Factory loads for the 7x57 vary widely in performance. Among my favorites is the Hornady load that drives a 139 grain boat-tail bullet at a MV of 2700 with ME of 2251 ft. lbs. If flatter trajectory is required, the Hornady Light Magnum load features a 139 grain Spire Point bullet at a MV of 2950 fps with ME of 2686 ft. lbs.
The 7x64 Brenneke predates the .270 Winchester by 8 years and the nearly identical .280 Remington by decades. In performance, all three of these cartridges are quite similar.
The 7x64 is a popular cartridge for African plains game with experienced European hunters. It would also make a good all-around cartridge for North American big game, and factory loads are available from Federal and Remington in the U.S.
Factory loads drive a 139 grain bullet at a MV of 2955 with ME of 2690 ft. lbs., a 154 grain bullet at a MV of 2822 fps with ME of 2772 ft. lbs., and a 173 grain bullet at a MV of 2790 fps with ME of 2990 ft. lbs.
The 7x64 offers greater bullet frontal area but less sectional density than the 6.5x68S with 139-140 grain bullets. Recoil is practically identical. They are both fine hunting cartridges, so I could not resist including both in this article. A practical hunter would probably have to flip a coin to decide between them.
This powerful .32 caliber magnum cartridge uses a beltless case. It is the European equivalent of the 8mm Remington Magnum in terms of ballistics and application. The 8x68S was introduced by RWS just before the beginning of the Second World War. It is a powerful, long range cartridge suitable for all thin-skinned game, from red stag and Scandinavian moose to African eland.
Typical European factory loads drive a 187 grain bullet at a MV of 3180 fps with ME of 4195 ft. lbs., and a 200 grain bullet at a MV of 2985 fps with ME of 3958 ft. lbs. Needless to say, recoil is also right up there with the 8mm Rem. Mag.
This is a powerful .36 caliber medium bore cartridge with ballistics on the order of the .350 Remington Magnum. It was designed around 1905 for bolt action rifles, primarily for use on large and dangerous African game. It gave farmers and settlers there an alternative to expensive British and German double rifles. It has been used in Africa ever since, and has acquired a fine reputation. European hunters use it at home on big wild boar and Scandinavian moose.
Norma factory loads drive a 232 grain bullet at a MV of 2624 fps with ME of 3548 ft. lbs., and a 286 grain bullet at a MV of 2360 fps with ME of 3544 ft. lbs. Clearly, the 9.3x62 would be a fine choice for all large North American game.
Offering identical ballistics to the aforementioned 9.3x62, the 9.3x74R is a rimmed cartridge designed for use in single shot and double barreled rifles. The 9.3x74R cartridge is too long for use in repeating rifles, but it has been quite successful in its intended application. It has been reasonably popular for shooting large game in Africa since it was introduced in the early 1900's. European hunters use it at home on big wild boar and Scandinavian moose and it has gained a limited following in North America. Hornady has added the 9.3x74R to their loading list and in Europe Norma, Sellier & Bellot and RWS offer factory loaded ammunition. Norma factory loads drive a 286 grain bullet at a MV of 2360 fps with ME of 3544 ft. lbs.
As you can see, while the nomenclature of these cartridges is metric, the performance of these European favorites leaves nothing to be desired. They are at home in Europe and Africa, and would serve equally well in North America.
Ammunition and brass for some of these cartridges are rather expensive in the U.S., but they are available. Once you have a supply of boxer primed cases, other reloading components are no problem. In Europe both are commonly available at popular prices. So if I were to luck into a fine rifle for one of these cartridges at a good price, I would snap it up and never look back.
Note: The rifle cartridges mentioned in this article are covered in detail in articles that can be found on the Rifle Cartridge Page.
Copyright 2003, 2007 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.