Compared: .358 Winchester and 9.3x57mm Mauser
By Chuck Hawks
This comparison probably should have been done earlier. The .358 Winchester and 9.3x57 Mauser have been around for quite a while and are very comparable cartridges. Both are hunting cartridges intended for use on similar size game, the difference being that the .358 was developed in North America and the 9.3x57 in Europe. Here is a brief summary of each cartridge.
Like most European cartridges, the name of the 9.3x57mm is a combination of its bullet diameter (9.3mm) and its case length (57mm). The 9.3x57 dates back to the turn of the 20th Century. Because the 8x57 is very popular with European hunters, the case has been necked-up and down with abandon. Likewise, 9mm and 9.3mm are very popular medium bore bullet diameters among European shooters and there are a number of cartridges loaded with bullets of those sizes. The result can be confusing to New World hunters, as the European nomenclature for several of these cartridges is similar. There are, for instance, 9x57 Mauser, 9x57R Mauser, 9.3x57R and 9.5x57mm Mannlicher cartridges, none of which are interchangeable with the 9.3x57 Mauser, although most look similar.
The cartridge that we are comparing here, the 9.3x57 Mauser, was created by simply necking-up the rimless 8x57 Mauser case to accept 9.3mm (.366") diameter bullets. This produced an excellent "brush busting" cartridge for hunting CXP3 class game out to 200+ yards. It became fairly popular in Europe and European hunters sometimes took their 9.3x57 rifles on safari to Africa, where they also worked well on the Dark Continent's large antelope species.
Today, 9.3x57 Mauser factory loaded ammunition is manufactured for sale worldwide by Norma and in the US by Stars & Stripes Custom Ammunition ( www.starsandstripesammo.com ). Typical Norma factory loads drive a 232 grain bullet at a muzzle velocity (MV) of 2362 fps or a 285 grain bullet at a MV of 2067 fps. Reloaders usually find that, unless they are hunting the very largest game, the capacity of the 9.3x57 case best lends itself to the medium weight bullets (232-250 grains).
The .358 is based on the .308 Winchester case necked-up to accept .358" diameter bullets. This powerful medium bore cartridge was introduced in 1955 as the modern replacement for the legendary .348 Winchester, a rimmed cartridge that was offered only in the tubular magazine fed Winchester Model 71 lever action rifle. The rimless .358 was adaptable to any modern, short action rifle and Winchester expected strong sales.
Unfortunately, these high expectations were never realized. Although the .358 has been offered in a number of different brands and models of rifles over the years, the only regular production rifle that has been chambered for the .358 for the last several years is the Browning BLR. The BLR is a modern, detachable box magazine fed, lever action hunting rifle in which the .358 cartridge seems to have found a permanent home. The two complement each other perfectly, in much the same way that the Marlin Model 336 rifle has kept the .35 Remington alive for decades. In addition, custom gun makers turn out a few .358's each year for knowledgeable customers who want bolt action rifles in the caliber.
As we shall see, the .358 Win. is suitable for all North American big game except bison. A smattering of North American hunters have taken their .358's to Africa and found that they performed well on similar size game there.
The sole remaining Winchester .358 factory load drives a 200 grain Silvertip semi-spitzer bullet at a MV of 2490 fps. This is a good, general purpose, CXP2/CXP3 game load. Winchester used to offer a 250 grain bullet at 2250 fps, but that load has been discontinued for many years. Stars & Stripes offers a couple of .358 loads in their Production ammunition line. These include a 200 grain Barnes TSX bullet at a MV of 2653 fps and a 250 grain Hornady Interlock round nose (RN) bullet at a MV of 2300 fps. Reloaders can use bullets weighing from 150 to 250 grains, but most prefer 180-225 grain bullets, which are a good match for the capacity of the case.
Probably the most practical factory loads for the .358 are the Winchester 200 grain Silvertip and the Stars & Stripes 250 grain Hornady Interlock. For the 9.3x57, the Norma 232 grain and 285 grain Oryx loads are representative. The Silvertip is basically a soft point design with the nose of the bullet protected by a thin tin nose cap that slightly delays expansion, while the Hornady RN Interlock is a soft point bullet with an internally tapered jacket and both a cannelure and internal "interlock" ring to help retain the core in the jacket after impact and expansion. The Oryx is a bonded core soft point bullet with a thin forward jacket to ensure adequate expansion. All three of these bullets have proven suitable for hunting a wide range of CXP2 and CXP3 game, ranging in size from deer to moose. Reloaders can duplicate these loads, but cannot exceed them by much if they stay within permissible pressures.
We will compare the two cartridges/loads based on velocity, energy, trajectory, killing power and recoil. We will conclude with a few pertinent comments about reloading and the availability of rifles and ammunition.
Higher velocity flattens trajectory and increases killing power. Velocity is a major factor in computing kinetic energy. Here are the claimed velocity figures (in feet per second) at the muzzle, 100, 200 and 300 yards for our selected factory loads.
The .358 maintains a velocity advantage with both light and heavy bullets from the muzzle onward, although the 250 grain Hornady RN bullet sheds velocity faster than the spitzer and semi-spitzer bullets. Just how this influences factors such as kinetic energy and trajectory will be revealed below.
Energy delivered to the target, bullet diameter and bullet penetration are the keys to medium bore killing power. The bullet's remaining energy at impact powers bullet penetration and expansion. Kinetic energy is essentially a function of mass and the square of velocity and is expressed in foot-pounds. Let's look at the energy figures for our comparison loads.
Approximately 1200 ft. lbs. of energy on target is regarded as a sensible minimum for game the size of North American elk. Both of these cartridges (depending on load) provide that level out to around 300 yards, which is well beyond their maximum point blank range (MPBR) of around 225 yards, as we shall see next. The 9.3x57's heavier bullets give it a moderate advantage in kinetic energy.
Modern shooters have been thoroughly propagandized to believe that a flat-shooting caliber is de rigueur for hunting big game animals. Nothing could be further from the truth. The vast majority of big game is killed at distances less than 100 yards and, particularly for CXP3 game, 200 yards is a long shot. Here are some trajectory figures (in inches) for our factory loads when zeroed at 200 yards.
A midrange rise of 4" is not excessive when hunting large animals and a midrange rise of 3" is even better. The 200 grain, .358 bullet drops about 1.5" less than the 232 grain, 9.3mm bullet at 300 yards, but that is well beyond the MPBR (+/- 3") of either cartridge.
Killing power is one of the most important factors when comparing hunting cartridges, but it is also the most difficult to quantify. Too many variables exist to make any system of estimating killing power precisely accurate and many killing power formulas have no correlation with reality. When it comes to estimating killing power, the best we can hope for is a rough approximation.
One of the most recent killing power formulas was published by Hornady in 2008 and is called H.I.T.S., which stands for "Hornady Index of Terminal Standards" or, simply stated, killing power. HITS are based on bullet weight, bullet diameter and impact velocity. According to the Hornady technicians, a HITS score of 501-900 is suitable for hunting medium game (deer, sheep, goats, antelope, etc.) and a HITS score of 901-1500 makes a cartridge suitable for hunting large game (oryx, red stag, elk, moose, kudu, eland, etc.). Hornady considers a score above 1501 HITS suitable for hunting dangerous game. Here are the HITS figures for the muzzle, 100 yards and 200 yards for our comparison loads.
These HITS scores indicate that both cartridges are sufficient for shooting large game, depending on the load selected, to the limit of their MPBR. This has been verified in the field, where both cartridges have proven to be entirely adequate for hunting game such as elk, kudu and red stag at reasonable ranges. Indeed, within 100 yards, the HITS score of the 285 grain 9.3x57 bullet qualifies it as a dangerous game load.
The recoil tolerance of individuals varies greatly, but most shooters are not comfortable with recoil energy levels beyond 15 ft. lbs. Recoil in the 20 ft. lbs. area, approximately that delivered by an eight pound .30-06 rifle, is the maximum that most shooters can tolerate for any length of time. Thus, we have reached the crux of the problem inherent in most medium bore rifles: they simply kick too hard for comfort (and accurate shooting)
As powerful medium bore calibers go, the .358 and 9.3x57 are among the more moderate in terms of recoil. However, they are still not fun for most hunters to shoot. That is a pity, as shot placement is far more important in the field than raw power and uncomfortable recoil degrades the hunter's ability to shoot accurately. Here are some approximate recoil figures for our comparison loads, calculated for eight pound rifles.
As can be seen, the .358 Winchester has a slight advantage in the lower recoil sweepstakes, especially when shooting 200 grain bullets. The difference is not great, but any reduction in recoil helps. Both of these calibers kick less than most medium bores and that is the primary reason they hold on in the market place.
As mentioned at the beginning of this article, the .358 Winchester and 9.3x57 Mauser are eminently comparable cartridges. They were designed at different times on different continents, but serve the same purposes. Either one hits CXP2 and CXP3 game hard. For the largest and possibly dangerous game (the great bears of Alaska and the Arctic, for example) the 9.3x57 with a 286 grain bullet would be preferable. Conversely, the .358 shooting a 200 grain bullet will do fine for large hoofed game such as European red stag and North American elk and it kicks a little less than the 9.3x57/232 grain load.
Both hit the hunter with substantial recoil, but less than most medium bores. They can be chambered in rifles of reasonable weight, eight to 8-1/2 pounds, unlike the magnum medium bores that require 9-10 pound rifles for anything approaching shooter comfort.
For the European hunter, the 9.3x57 would be the natural choice since ammunition and rifles, while not thick on the ground, are likely to be more available. For the North American hunter the reverse is true and the widespread availability of the Browning BLR rifle in .358 is a big advantage. This rifle is also offered in a takedown model, which should have great appeal to the traveling hunter. (See the BLR Takedown review on the Product Review Page.)
The North American reloader is blessed with a reasonable selection of .358" bullets, better than the selection of .366" bullets for the 9.3mm calibers. Virgin .358 brass is sold by Winchester and in a pinch, cases can be formed from .308 Win. brass. .358 Winchester reloading data is included in all of the popular reloading manuals and online. These are good reasons to favor the .358 Win.
The European reloader has a better selection of 9.3mm bullets than his American counterpart and European reloading manuals are more likely to include the cartridge. If I lived in Europe, I would probably own a 9.3x57mm Mauser rifle instead of a BLR in .358. Otherwise, there is little to choose between these two useful cartridges.
Copyright 2008, 2012 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.