Compared: The 7mm-08 Rem. and 7x57 Mauser
By Chuck Hawks
The ancient 7x57 Mauser rifle cartridge was developed in Europe and subsequently spread all over the world. The 7mm-08 Remington was developed much more recently in the United States, and it too is spreading from North America to other continents. The 7mm-08 is essentially a newer version of the 7x57, based on the .308 Winchester case.
Both will kill about as well as the larger .280 Remington, or even the new 7mm WSM/SAUM short magnums, with considerably less fuss and recoil. Both the 7mm-08 and 7x57 are very effective and well-balanced cartridges, worthy of serious consideration by anyone contemplating the purchase of a 7mm hunting rifle. The 7x57 and 7mm-08 are covered in detail in individual articles on the Rifle Cartridge Page.
The 7mm-08 Remington
The 7mm-08 Remington was introduced in 1980 in the Model 700 bolt action rifle. The 7mm-08 is based on a .308 Winchester case necked-down to accept standard .284" (7mm) bullets. The shoulder angle remains 20 degrees. The case length is 2.035" and its neck is exactly one caliber long, at .284". Maximum cartridge overall length (COL) is 2.8". The SAAMI maximum average pressure (MAP) for the 7mm-08 is 52,000 cup.
Federal, Hornady, Norma, PMC, Remington and Winchester offer factory loaded ammunition in 7mm-08. Remington 7mm-08 factory loads are typical. They drive a 120 grain bullet at a muzzle velocity of 3000 fps and a variety of 140 grain bullets at a MV of 2860 fps. Reloaders can safely achieve velocity figures similar to these factory loads. The 7mm-08 is at its best with bullets weighing between 120 and 140 grains, although other weights are available.
Remington offers the 7mm-08 in the Model 7 and Model 700 bolt actions, Model 7600 pump and Model 7400 autoloader. The 7mm-08 has become a standard short action offering, and is also offered in a variety of Blaser, Browning, Dakota, Kimber, NEF, Ruger, Sako, Savage, T/C, Tikka, Weatherby, and Winchester rifles.
The 7x57 Mauser
The 7x57 Mauser cartridge was introduced in 1892 as an infantry cartridge. It is widely used in Europe and Africa as an all-around hunting cartridge, and it has a considerable following around the world. Leon Viljoen, a South African professional hunter who has contributed hunting stories to Guns and Shooting Online, considers it to be "one of the finest flat trajectory rifles around." In America the 7x57 is often called the "7mm Mauser," and in the UK it is known as the ".275 Rigby."
The 7x57 basically set the standards to which most high intensity cartridges are designed to this day. It is a modern, rimless, bottleneck cartridge despite its age. The 7x57 has a 20 degree shoulder angle. The case length is 2.235" and its neck is .369" long, well over one caliber in length. COL is 3.065", which means that 7x57 rifles normally use a standard (.30-06) length action. The SAAMI MAP for the 7x57 is 46,000 cup in deference to ancient military actions, but reloads for modern rifles can safely be loaded to 50,000 cup.
Standard U.S. 7x57 factory loads drive a 139-140 grain bullet at a muzzle velocity of 2660-2700 fps and a 175 grain bullet at a MV of 2440 fps. Hornady offers 7x57 loads in their Light Magnum line that drive a 139 grain boat-tail bullet at a MV of 2830 fps and a 139 grain Spire Point flat base bullet at a MV of 2950 fps.
European factory loads are similar or slightly hotter. Norma offers a 150 grain bullet at a MV of 2690 fps. RWS offers a 123 grain bullet at a MV of 2955 fps, a 139 grain bullet at a MV of 2625 fps, a 154 grain bullet at a MV of 2690 fps, and a 177 grain bullet at a MV of 2460 fps. Sellier & Bellot loads 139, 140, 158 and 173 grain soft point bullets plus a 175 grain Sierra boat-tail spitzer. Their 158 grain bullet is launched at a MV of 2460 fps.
In the U.S. Dakota, NEF, New Ultra Light Arms, and Ruger chamber their rifles for the 7x57. In addition Blaser, CZ, EAA, and Tikka offer 7x57 rifles for sale in the U.S. market. These and other makes are available in Europe and elsewhere.
As can be seen from the above summary of common factory loads for both cartridges, the average 7mm-08 factory load outperforms the average 7x57 load with the same weight bullet. However, the best 7x57 factory loads equal the 7mm-08 in performance. This is because the ballistic potential of the two cartridges is essentially identical, but the 7x57 must be loaded to similar pressure to achieve similar ballistics.
Depending on whose reloading data you use (and the data varies widely, probably depending on the pressure limit chosen for the 7x57), in either cartridge reloaders can drive 100-110 grain bullets to around 3250 fps. 120 grain bullets can achieve maximum MV's of around 3000 fps. 130 grain bullets can be driven to maximum MV's of about 2800-2900 fps. 139-140 grain bullets can be driven to a maximum velocity of about 2800-2850 fps.
Oddly, with the heavier 7mm bullets, the 7mm-08 begins to pull ahead of the 7x57. You'd think it would be the other way around, given the 7x57's longer neck and slightly greater case capacity. Probably the answer is that you simply cannot get enough powder into a 7mm-08 case to drive the light bullets any faster than they can be driven in the 7x57. But the 7mm-08's higher pressure limit comes into play as the bullets get heavier and the powder charges are necessarily reduced to stay within safe limits.
In any case, my reloading manuals show that with 145-150 grain bullets the 7mm-08 can achieve maximum MV's of about 2750-2900 fps; with the same bullets the 7x57 can achieve MV's in the 2700-2800 fps range. The 7mm-08 can drive 154-162 grain bullets to MV's in the 2600-2700 fps range; the 7x57 can drive the same bullets to about 2600 fps. Note that bullets over 145 grains are seldom chosen for use in the 7mm-08, although they are commonly used in the 7x57.
With the extra heavy 175 grain bullets, for which the 7x57 was originally designed, the various reloading manuals differ widely. The Mauser cartridge achieves maximum MV's of about 2300-2595 fps while the 7mm-08 is credited with maximum velocities between about 2250 fps and 2628 fps.
For their 140 bullets, the most popular weight in both calibers, the Sierra Edition V reloading manual recommends a hunting load at a MV of 2800 fps for both the 7mm-08 and 7x57. I would consider that to be an appropriate suggestion for either caliber.
As you can see, most of these loads are so similar that no clear ballistic advantage exists for either caliber. The trajectory and killing power of the two cartridges is very similar.
Since the two cartridges can generally drive the same bullets to the same velocity, it stands to reason that their recoil is also similar. Both are reasonably pleasant cartridges to shoot in rifles of normal weight, with recoil energy in 8 pound rifles below the 15 ft. lb. limit I recommend observing.
The 7mm-08 generally has a foot pound or two less recoil when using the same weight bullet at the same velocity due to its smaller powder capacity. See the "Expanded Rifle Recoil Table" on the Tables, Charts and Lists Page for specifics.
The primary advantage of the newer 7mm-08 Remington cartridge is its shorter COL. The latter allows all short (.308 length) action rifles to be chambered for the cartridge, and today most are.
Customers for very light hunting rifles ("mountain rifles") will probably prefer the 7mm-08. A short action saves a couple of ounces in weight. The short action Kimber 84M (5 pounds 10 ounces), Remington Model 700 Titanium (5 1/4 pounds), and Remington Model 700 Mountain Rifle (6 1/2 pounds) illustrate the point. For comparison, the long action version of the Remington Mountain Rifle weighs 6 5/8 pounds, or two ounces more than the short action version.
With flat shooting 120-130 grain bullets the 7mm-08 is suitable for the smaller species of CXP2 class game at fairly long range, and with 139-140 grain bullets it is just about ideal for the larger species. Using 150 grain or heavier bullets the 7mm-08 Remington can serve for CXP3 class game, making it one of the mildest of the all-around cartridges.
The 7x57 Mauser cartridge can be used on the same range of game. It is also an established all-around cartridge. Its COL is too long for short action rifles, but there are plenty of standard length rifles in which it can be chambered. The additional weight of the standard length action also slightly reduces recoil.
Heavy bullets do not intrude as far into the powder space of the longer 7x57 case. And the cartridge's long neck should help keep very long bullets, like the 175 grain Hornady spire point, precisely aligned with the axis of the bore. Shooters and reloaders have considerable latitude regarding the style and length of the bullets they select and the depth to which they are seated. That is probably the 7x57's principal advantage over the 7mm-08 Remington.
Of interest to some shooters is the variety of excellent but now discontinued rifles that have been chambered for the 7x57 over the years. Classic rifles such as the Rigby .275, Mannlicher-Schoenauer carbine, and commercial Mauser Model 98 sporter, for instance, which are highly sought after on the used market.
While there is almost complete overlap in the capabilities of these two cartridges, there seems to be less overlap in the distribution of rifles and ammunition. So where a prospective buyer lives may become the deciding factor. The 7mm-08 is now more common in North America, while the 7x57 probably remains more available in Europe, Africa, Asia, and South America. I do not know the situation in Australia. Both the 7mm-08 and 7x57 are, however, excellent cartridges.
Copyright 2003, 2012 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.