Comparable European and North American Rifle Cartridges

By Chuck Hawks

Commonly hunted North America Class 2 and Class 3 game includes deer, feral hogs, pronghorn antelope, elk and moose. In Europe they hunt deer, wild boar, red stag and Scandinavian moose. In Africa, where both North American and European cartridges are commonly used, there is a cornucopia of Class 2 and Class 3 game, mostly antelope species ranging from the tiny did-dik to the massive eland.

It should, therefore, not be surprising that Europeans and North Americans have developed similar hunting cartridges. Nor should it be a surprise that some popular North American cartridges have also become popular in Europe; the .243 Winchester, .270 Winchester, .308 Winchester and .30-06, for example.

Likewise, some European cartridges have crossed the Atlantic the other way to find acceptance in North America. The 6.5x55mm SE, 7x57mm Mauser, .303 British and .375 H&H Magnum are examples of these.

Other cartridges are less well known on opposite sides of the Atlantic, yet are similar in concept and performance. Here are some examples of cartridges that less frequently cross the pond, but are equally useful on either side.

.240 Weatherby Magnum and 6x62mm Freres

The .240 Weatherby was introduced in 1968 on what is essentially a belted and blown-out version of the .30-06 case. It is the most capable of the American 6mm cartridges and deserves to be more popular than it is.

The 6x62mm Freres was introduced in Germany by MEN a couple of decades later. It is based on a necked-down 9.3x62mm case, which is itself similar to a .30-06 case with a shorter neck.

The two cartridges are very similar in size and require a standard (.30-06 length) rifle action. Both use standard 6mm (.243" diameter) bullets.

.240 Weatherby factory loads launch a 100 grain bullet at a MV of 3406 fps from a 26" test barrel. European 6x62mm factory loads call for a 100 grain bullet at a MV of 3313 fps from, I believe, a somewhat shorter test barrel. Your deer or pronghorn will never know the difference.

.264 Winchester Magnum and 6.5x68mm RWS (Schuler)

The 6.5x68mm is a large, non-belted magnum cartridge developed by RWS of Germany just before the beginning of WW II and introduced in 1940, shortly after the outbreak of war. (Not good timing!) It is based on a necked-down 8x68mmS Schuler case.

The .264 Winchester (belted) Magnum, based on a necked-down .338 Win. Mag. case, was introduced 18 years later, in 1958. Both the 8x68mmS and .264 Mag. were designed to wring the maximum performance possible from a 6.5mm cartridge that would fit in a standard length rifle action, specifically the Mauser 98 and Winchester Model 70, respectively.

These are big case, over-bore, long range cartridges of similar size and capacity that get pretty much all that practically can be had from a 6.5mm (.264") bullet. Both developed reputations for being hard on barrels, particularly with the powders and barrel steels available at the time. Even today, few small bore hunting cartridges exceed the flat trajectories of this pair and those that do are even more ferocious barrel burners.

Winchester .264 Mag. factory loads launch a 140 grain bullet at a MV of 3030 fps. Typical European 6.5x68mm factory loads are a bit slower, launching a 140 grain bullet at a MV of 2920 fps. However, reloaders can launch a 140 grain bullet at 3000 fps from either cartridge at a similar maximum average pressure.

.280 Remington and 7x64mm Brenneke

The 7x64mm dates back to 1917, when Wilhelm Brenneke necked down his 8x64mmS cartridge case to accept 7mm bullets. The resulting hunting cartridge became a major success in Germany and on the Continent generally, somewhat akin to the success of the .270 Winchester in the North American market.

Remington introduced their .280 40 years later, in 1957. It is a true 7mm (.284" bullet diameter) cartridge based on a necked-down .30-06 case with the shoulder moved slightly forward to prevent a .280 cartridge from accidentally being fired in a .270 Winchester rifle. It was originally loaded to about 2000 CUP lower pressure than the .270, specifically for use in Remington's autoloading and pump action rifles. It was, of course, also offered in bolt action rifles.

Although not actually interchangeable, the 7x64 and .280 cartridges look so much alike one could easily be mistaken for the other. They can launch the same weight 7mm bullets at about the same velocity when loaded to the same maximum average pressure.

Remington (USA) .280 factory loads launch a 150 grain bullet at a muzzle velocity (MV) of 2890 fps. Norma (Sweden) 7x64mm factory loads launch a 154 grain bullet at 2821 fps. These are good all-around Class 2 and Class 3 game cartridges on the order of the .270 Winchester (150 grains at 2850 fps).

8mm Remington Magnum and 8x68mmS RWS (Schuler)

8mm (.323" bullet diameter) cartridges have long been very popular on the Continent, but have never come close to the popularity of .30 caliber cartridges in North America. One of the few US commercial 8mm cartridges is the 8mm Remington Magnum, introduced in 1977. This is a full length belted magnum cartridge based on a blown-out .300 H&H case and it requires a rifle with a long magnum action.

On the other side of the pond, RWS of Germany introduced the 8x68mmS early in 1939, shortly before the beginning of the Second World War. August Schuler designed the 8x68mmS to operate in a suitably modified Gewehr 98 military Mauser action, as these were then plentiful. The 8x68mmS survived the war and remains a popular hunting cartridge in Europe, and to an extent Africa.

Unlike some of the other cartridges featured in this article, these two do not look alike, the 8mm Remington being longer and belted. However, their ballistics are quite similar.

European 8x68mmS factory loads call for a 200 grain bullet at a MV of 2985 fps. Remington loads a 200 grain bullet at a MV of 2900 fps in their 8mm Magnum. As hunting cartridges, they are functionally similar to the .300 Winchester and .300 Weatherby Magnums.

Recoil is a concern with cartridges of this power level. They hit as hard, at both ends, as a .300 Magnum shooting a bullet of the same weight.

.35 Whelen and 9.3x62mm Mauser

The 9.3x62mm was designed by German gun maker Otto Bock in 1905. The .35 Whelen had a long and successful life as a wildcat from its development in the early 1920s until it was finally standardized by Remington in 1987.

The .35 Whelen is based on a .30-06 case necked-up to accept .358" diameter bullets. The 9.3x62mm is based on a case similar to the .30-06 (there are slight dimensional differences) with a shorter neck to increase powder capacity. It uses .366" bullets.

Both cartridges are designed to work in standard (.30-06) length actions with standard size bolt faces and to deliver most of the performance of the .375 H&H Magnum on large game without the expense of a safari rifle built on a long magnum (.375 H&H length) action. The two cartridges look similar and it would not be difficult to confuse them. The primary visual difference is the .35 Whelen's longer neck.

As a standardized cartridge the .35 Whelen has never become very popular. By the time it was finally adopted by Remington the .338 Win. Mag. had already cornered most of the medium bore market.

The .35 Whelen kicks pretty hard (only slightly less than a .300 Win. Mag./180 grain load in rifles of the same weight) and, like all powerful medium bore rifles, it is unnecessary for hunting the Class 2 game sought by the great majority of North American hunters. However, it is a good elk, moose and grizzly bear cartridge.

Remington .35 Whelen factory loads launch a 250 grain bullet (SD .279) at a MV of 2400 fps and 3197 ft. lbs. of muzzle energy (ME). This is the "money load" for moose and grizzly bears.

The 9.3x62mm is a favorite of European hunters seeking Scandinavian moose and large wild boars, but its principle home has always been sub-Saharan Africa. Africa is close to Europe, was colonized by Europeans and many avid European hunters hunt there.

There is a greater variety of large and dangerous game in Africa than on any other continent and powerful medium bore rifles are consequently popular there. For both permanent African residents and visiting hunters, the 9.3x62mm is a staple caliber.

It is also catching on with North American hunters and both rifles and American factory loaded ammunition are increasingly available. In the US there is now probably a greater selection of rifles and ammunition in 9.3x62mm than in .35 Whelen.

The 9.3x62mm can launch a 250 grain bullet (SD .267) at a MV of 2625 fps and a ME of 3826 ft. lbs. and this will do for all Class 3 game. However, the all-around load for the 9.3x62 is a 286 grain bullet (SD .305) at a MV of 2362 fps and ME of 3544 ft. lbs. ("All around" in this case means Class 3 and Class 4 animals.)

The deep penetration made possible by the high Sectional Density of the 286 grain bullet is what has made the cartridge's reputation, not only on large Class 3 animals, but also on dangerous, thick-skinned game (Class 4). It is, of course, adequate for all North American game, including the largest Kodiak brown bears and bison.

The recoil is a bit more than the .35 Whelen. However, it is noticeably less than the .338 Win. Mag./250 grain load (SD .313) or .375 H&H Mag./300 grain load (SD .305) in rifles of the same weight.

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Copyright 2017 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.