The 8mm-06

By Chuck Hawks

The 8mm-06 primarily owes its existence to the importation into the U.S. of large numbers of surplus 8x57 caliber Mauser military rifles after WW II. At that time 8x57 factory loaded ammunition and brass were scarce and relatively expensive, while .30-06 brass was plentiful and cheap. The solution was to rechamber 8x57 rifles to accept the .30-06 cartridge necked-up to 8mm (.323"). Bingo, the 8mm-06 was born.

The result is an effective big game cartridge nearly identical to the European 8x64S Brenneke. And, of course, the 8mm-06 is also nearly identical to the parent .30-06 in both appearance and capability. Which is a point worth remembering: keep 8mm-06 cartridges completely segregated from .30-06 cartridges!

8mm-06 owners found that their wildcat was effective on all North American game, and all game of similar size worldwide. Some allege it to be superior in killing power to the .30-06, while .30-06 fans disagree. The argument is reminiscent of the .30-30 vs. .32 Special debate that has raged for over a century. The truth is that in both cases the .30 and .32 (8mm) cartridges are so similar that there is no practical difference in their killing power. And, in reality, there is precious little difference in killing power between the 8mm-06 and the 8x57 Mauser, either.

Dimensionally, the 8mm-06 case is identical to the .30-06 case, except that it has been necked-up to accept .323" bullets. One pass through a sizer die should do the trick. Load to the same 50,000 cup MAP limit that applies to the .30-06. RCBS can supply 8mm-06 reloading dies.

Typical hunting weight bullets range from 150-220 grains. Probably those around 170-180 grains are the best all-around choice for mixed bag CXP2-CXP3 game hunts. For deer and pronghorn antelope the 150 grain bullets at about 2800-2900 fps would seem a good choice, while for heavy CXP3 game the 200-220 grain bullets at 2400-2600 fps will do the trick.

Now that 8x57 brass and factory loaded ammunition are reasonably well distributed in the U.S., there is little reason to rechamber such a rifle to 8mm-06. The performance difference in the field is minimal at best. Never the less, the 8mm-06 is a fine all-around big game cartridge.

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Copyright 2005, 2012 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.