The 9.3x62mm Mauser

By Chuck Hawks

Jack O'Connor called the .375 H&H the "Queen of the Medium Bores," but in Africa the 9.3x62 is equally deserving of that title. Unlike the long .375 H&H, the 9.3x62mm is a .30-06 length rimless cartridge, allowing its use in countless standard bolt action rifles.

The 9.3x62, designed by Berlin gunsmith Otto Bock in 1905 and adopted by Mauser shortly after, is a very popular medium bore in Europe and Africa, rivaled only by the .375 H&H. It is a rimless cartridge with a bottleneck case nearly identical to the .30-06 that uses 9.3mm (.366") diameter bullets.

In power, the 9.3x62mm Mauser is somewhat above the .35 Whelen. In appearance, the 9.3x62 looks very much like the .35 Whelen, but the shoulder of the 9.3x62 is set farther forward and the neck is consequently shorter. This gives a modest increase in powder capacity compared to the .35 Whelen case.

The cartridge headspaces on the case's 17.5-degree shoulder. The rim diameter is a standard .470" and brass can be formed from .35 Whelen cases. As you might imagine, necking a standard diameter case up to .366 caliber does not leave a lot of shoulder with which to work.

9.3x62mm factory loads are available in the U.S. from Hornady, Federal, Nosler, Stars & Stripes, Sellier & Bellot, Sako, A-Square and Norma. The Sako load uses a 250 grain bullet identified as a "Powerhead Barnes" (which turns out to be a Barnes X-bullet). The listed MV is 2350 fps and the ME is 3095 ft. lbs. The Sako trajectory table shows: +3" at 100 yards, 0 at 200 yards, and -11.8" at 300 yards. Having had some experience with Barnes X-Bullets, I know that this load would be excellent for elk and moose.

A-Square offers their Triad of three 9.3x62 factory loads (Lion Load, Dead Tough and Solid) with 286 grain bullets at a muzzle velocity (MV) of 2360 fps and muzzle energy (ME) of 3538 ft. lbs. At 100 yards these bullets are rolling along at 2089 fps and carrying 2771 ft. lbs. of kinetic energy. These are the ballistics that made the cartridge's reputation in Africa.

Norma offers the most factory loads for the 9.3x62, a total of four. Two of the Norma factory loads come with 286 grain bullets, a Plastic Point and an Alaska. Both claim a MV of 2362 fps and a ME of 3544 ft. lbs. At 100 yards the figures for the Plastic Point bullet are 2141 fps and 2911 ft. lbs. At 200 yards the velocity is down to 1931 fps and the remaining energy is 2370 ft. lbs. The Alaska bullet is similar.

The trajectory of these two bullets is virtually identical. From a rifle zeroed at 200 yards, either bullet hits +3.1"at 100 yards, 0 at 200 yards, and -12.5" at 300 yards. The 286 grain A-Square RN bullet also has a similar trajectory, with an additional .5" of drop at 300 yards. In North America one of the loads with a 286 grain bullet would probably be the top choice for moose and brown bear hunting. It is also be fine for African animals of similar size.

Norma also offers two factory loads with 232 grain bullets, this time the bullets are called Vulkan and Oryx. Both have a listed MV of 2625 fps and a ME of 3535 ft. lbs. At 200 yards the figures for the Vulkan bullet are 2049 fps and 2164 ft. lbs.

The trajectory of these two loads is similar, with the Vulkan having .6" less drop at 300 yards. Zero the Vulcan bullet at 200 yards and it will strike +2.5" at 100 yards, 0 at 200 yards, and -10.8" at 300 yards. In North America we would call these the elk loads. They are also well suited for hunting most African plains game.

Perhaps the 9.3x62 factory loads most familiar to U.S. shooters are Hornady's Dangerous Game Series and Federal's Premium Cape-Shok offerings. Both brands load 286 grain bullets at 2360 fps. Hornady uses their 286 grain Interlock SP-FP bullet, while Federal offers a choice of Swift A-Frame, Barnes TSX and Banded Solid bullets.

For hunting dangerous game, especially bears and the big cats, I suggest zeroing the 286 grain bullet so that it hits about an inch high at 100 yards. This keeps a typical RN bullet at 2360 fps within +/- 1.5" of the line of sight between the muzzle and 165 yards. Since dangerous game is usually engaged between 50 and 150 yards, the hunter can ignore trajectory. The bullet drops about 4.5" at 200 yards, allowing a center hold on non-dangerous CXP3 game and eliminating the need to "hold over." Since RN bullets shed their velocity and energy relatively rapidly (1801 fps and 2060 ft. lbs. remain at 200 yards), 200 yards is about as far as I would attempt a shot under any circumstance.

The 9.3x62 is handloaded in Europe, Africa and to a lesser extent in North America and Australia. I am not familiar with the 9.3mm (.366") bullets available elsewhere, but in the U.S. the A-Square and Hornady bullets mentioned as factory loaded offerings are also available to reloaders. In addition, Speer offers a 270 grain Semi-Spitzer in their Hot-Cor line. The sectional density (SD) of this bullet is .288. Barnes offers bullets in 250 grain (SD = .267) and 286 grain (SD = .305) weights. Nosler offers a 250 grain AccuBond and a 286 grain Partition. Swift offers 250 and 300 grain A- Frames. Woodleigh catalogs FMJ and expanding bullets in 286 grains and a 250 grain soft nose. Most of these are intended for shooting CXP3 animals and some are suitable for CXP4 game, so choose the correct bullet for the job.

Since the 270 grain Speer is a good choice for hunting North American CXP3 game, I will use it as an example. The data in the Speer Reloading Manual No. 13 shows that this bullet can be driven to a MV of 2486 fps by 60.0 grains of IMR 4350 powder and 2550 fps by 64.0 grains of IMR 4350. These loads used reformed Winchester brass and CCI primers and were tested in a rifle with a 26" barrel. A reloader using any of the 286 grain bullets mentioned above can duplicate the performance of standard factory loads, launching a 286 grain bullet at 2360-2400 fps.

As with any medium bore big game cartridge, the main drawback to the 9.3x62 is its recoil. In an 8.5 pound rifle the recoil from a 270 grain bullet at a MV of 2550 fps amounts to 33.3 ft. lbs. of kick at the shooter's shoulder. Shoot a 286 grain bullet at 2360 fps from a nine pound rifle and the recoil drops to 28 ft. lbs., while the recoil velocity is 14.1 fps. The 9.3x62mm kicks noticeably less than the .338 Win. Mag. or .375 H&H Mag., while delivering similar killing power. (For comparison, the Hornady H.I.T.S. scores are 9.3x62/286gr. = 1863, .338 Win. Mag./250gr. = 1922, .300 H&H 270gr. = 1818.) For its high level of effectiveness, it is one of the lightest kicking medium bores.

In North America, the selection of 9.3x62mm rifles from major manufacturers is relatively limited (Merkel and Kreighoff doubles, plus the Steyr-Mannlicher, Blaser, CZ 550 and Ruger M77 Hawkeye bolt actions) and factory loaded ammunition for the caliber often must be ordered. As I write these words, most U.S. hunters requiring a powerful medium bore would probably choose a rifle chambered for .35 Whelen or .338 Win. Mag., while a European or African hunter faced with a similar need would probably choose a 9.3x62mm. However, even in North America the 9.3x62 is slowly catching on. Publications such as Guns and Shooting Online are informing readers about this excellent cartridge and hunters returning from safaris are telling their friends about the 9.3x62's popularity for shooting African big game.

My fine CZ 550 Safari Classics Express Rifle is chambered for 9.3x62mm and it has become my favorite "all-around" medium bore. With standard 286 grain loads, the 9.3x62mm cartridge shoots flat enough to make 200 yard shots possible. With the proper bullet, it hits hard enough for hunting dangerous game up to and including the great bears, big cats, buffalo/bison, hippo and rhino. No medium bore is a top choice for shooting elephants, but the 9.3x62, like the .375 H&H, has accounted for thousands of pachyderms.

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Copyright 2002, 2012 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.