The Sensible 7mm-08 Remington

By Chuck Hawks

Illustration courtesy of Hornady Mfg. Co.

The 7mm-08 Remington is a cartridge whose time has finally come. For a long time there has been a demand for something approximating .270 Winchester performance in a cartridge short enough to work through short action rifles.

Soon after the .308 Win. was introduced, back in 1952, wildcatters had a field day necking the new, strong, short case up and down. One of the neatest results was the 7mm-08 wildcat, the .308 necked down to accept .284 inch (7mm) diameter bullets. It didn't equal the ballistics of the classic .270, but it gave about 90% of that performance, enough to be satisfying, and it would work in any action for which the .308 could be chambered.

Winchester realized by 1963 that there was a market for .270-like ballistics in a short case, and they brought out the .284 Winchester. But rather than just necking down their .308 case, as they had done with the .243 Winchester and .358 Winchester, they tried to get fancy. Realizing that the smaller .308 case could never equal the velocity potential of the larger .270 case, they created a new .308-length case with a fatter body, but a rebated rim of (smaller) standard diameter, so the new cartridge would still work through standard short actions and mate correctly with standard diameter bolt faces. This solution never caught on with the buying public, and .284 sales languished, although ballistically the new cartridge did come close to the classic .270.

Jump ahead to 1980, when Remington finally did the obvious, and designed a 7mm cartridge based on the .308 case. The new Remington 7mm-08 was identical to the wildcat version except Remington technicians lengthened the .308 case by .020 inch, for a case length of 2.035 inches. Reloaders can still neck down .308 brass to accept .284 inch bullets and the resulting cases will work fine in factory chambered 7mm-08 rifles.

The industry standard for the 7mm-08 Rem is 52,000 cup. Recoil energy amounts to about 12.1 ft. lbs. shooting the 120 grain factory load in a 7.5 pound rifle, or 13.5 ft. lbs. shooting the 140 grain factory load in an 8 pound rifle.

At first sales were slow, but they are picking up. The 7mm-08 is now being loaded by the big three ammo companies, and already more rifle models are being chambered for it than for the much older .280 Rem. It has earned a good reputation in the field.

In terms of performance, as factory loaded by Remington, it exceeds the velocity of the 7x57 by 200 fps with the 140 grain bullet, and comes within 100 fps of the .270 Winchester. With maximum reloads it can achieve velocities within about 100 fps of the slightly larger 7x57 Mauser, and within about 200 fps of the .270 Win. (Both the 7x57 and .270 can be handloaded to higher velocities than offered by Remington factory loads.)

The 120 grain bullet would be a good choice for small, light framed animals. For most big game hunting, I would select the 140 grain bullet.

Remington loads a 120 grain hollow point spitzer bullet (SD .213) to a MV of 3,000 fps and ME of 2,398 ft. lbs. They load the Premier Ballistic Tip (Nosler) 140 grain BT spitzer to a MV of 2,860 fps and ME of 2,543 ft. lbs. At 200 yards the velocity of this load is 2,488 fps and the energy is 1,925 ft. lbs. The Nosler BT 140 grain spitzer has a BC of .485 and a SD of .248.

With a rifle zeroed at 200 yards, both the 120 and 140 grain bullets are 2.9 inches low at 250 yards according to Remington figures. At 300 yards both bullets strike 7.3 inches low. This gives the 7mm-08 about a 275 yard point blank range on big game (where no hold-over is required).

With a 200 yard zero, the drop at 300 yards is .4 inch more than a .270 (shooting the 140 grain Nosler bullet as loaded by Remington), and 1.1 inch less that the parent .308 (shooting the 165 grain Nosler bullet as loaded by Remington). This seems like a reasonable level of performance for a short action 7mm.

Reloads can equal or in some cases slightly exceed the velocity of the factory loads, which are loaded pretty close to the maximum SAAMI pressure in 7mm-08. The reloader has access to bullets weighing from 110 to 195 grains. The 140 and 150 grain bullets remain the obvious choices, however.

The Barnes Reloading Manual Number One gives the following loads for the 7mm-08. 43.0 grains of H414 powder gave a 140 grain bullet a MV of 2578 fps, and 47.0 grains of H414 gave a MV of 2874 fps. 40.0 grains of H414 behind a 150 grain bullet gave a MV of 2450 fps, and 44.0 grains of the same powder gave a MV of 2714 fps. These loads used Remington brass and Federal primers, and were chronographed in a 26 inch barrel.

I can't summarize the 7mm-08 any better than the Barnes Reloading Manual Number One does, so I quote: "This is a sensible cartridge that efficiently burns powder to produce velocities not much less than the .270 Winchester and .280 Remington." Its performance, much like the 7x57, qualifies it for consideration as an all-around hunting cartridge.

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Copyright 2001, 2012 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.