November 06, 2023
Brad Fitzpatrick is in deepest, darkest Africa, so your editor is taking a turn with the “Clash.”
The 7x57, also known as the .275 Rigby or 7mm Mauser, was developed by the great Paul Mauser way back in 1892. Initially a military cartridge fielded by Spain, it raised holy hell against .30-40 Krag-armed Americans in Cuba just prior to the turn of the 19th century. The British and their .303 took a licking courtesy of the 7x57 during the Boer wars in South Africa as well.
The 7x57 was soon supplanted by more modern military cartridges, but it soldiered on in the sporting world. It has an illustrious hunting history—famously used by W.D.M. Bell for elephant culling and Jim Corbett for dispatching man-eating cats. It was also a favorite of Jack O’Connor’s wife, Eleanor.
The 7mm-08 was originally a wildcat created by necking down the .308 Win., and it was legitimized by Remington as the 7mm-08 Rem. in 1980. It was a big hit with hunters and silhouette shooters, with plenty of power and not a lot of recoil.
The 7mm-08 is a true short-action cartridge with a 2.80-inch overall length. At a 3.07-inch overall length, the 7x57 won’t fit into a short action, so at least with bolt guns you’re stuck with a long, .30-06 length action even though the 7x57 doesn’t need all that room. But it is known for reliable feeding thanks to its case taper.
With the 7mm-08 you’re getting better performance in a shorter, stiffer action. Hornady’s American Whitetail 139-grain has a muzzle velocity of 2,840 fps. That generates 2,489 ft.-lbs. of energy at the muzzle and 1,463 ft.-lbs. at 300 yards. Drop with a 200-yard zero is 7.9 inches at 300.
I chose that load because it’s tough to find good factory-ammo comps. If you’re not going to handload, the 7x57’s limited options are mostly softpoints. Looking at Federal’s Power Shok—about your only major-factory choice—a 140-grain load leaves the muzzle at 2,660 fps for 1,871 ft.-lbs. of energy there and 1,330 at 300 yards. It will drop nine inches at 300 with a 200-yard zero.
The 7x57 can close the trajectory gap somewhat through handloading bullets with better ballistic coefficients than the softpoint, and there are a ton of choices for both cartridges from 120 to 175 grains. But it can’t match the 7mm-08’s exterior ballistics because it operates at lower pressure—51,000 psi for the 7x57 versus 61,000 for the ’08.
One gap you’re not going to close is ammo availability. One internet site lists 30 loads for the 7mm-08, ranging from 120 to 162 grains with 140s being the most popular. There were only nine for the 7x57, from 139 to 173 grains—although few were available.
The difference between the two is even more marked in factory rifles. Essentially, if a major rifle maker offers a .308, it’s likely producing a 7mm-08 as well. Hell, Savage alone makes 36 rifle models in 7mm-08.
Good luck finding a new rifle in 7x57. Ruger actually lists a No. 1 distributor exclusive in the cartridge. I’m not aware of any other current offerings from major U.S. makers, although used Ruger Model 77s and Remington 700s exist because those companies produced limited or one-off models.
No, the reason to have a 7x57 is just because. That Ruger No. 1 option appeals to me because I like the No. 1 and it gets around the long-action/short-action dilemma with the 7x57.
However, I’m always quick to suggest the 7mm-08 Rem. when new hunters ask me what they should get. I think it’s a terrific all-around caliber, and despite the meteoric rise of the 6.5 Creedmoor—which has really eaten into the 7mm-08’s popularity—I think the 7mm-08 is a better choice for a wider variety of big game.
- History, history, history
- Case taper produces excellent feeding
- Uniqueness counts
- Not a short action, not really a long action
- Can’t match the 7mm-08’s ballistics
- Ammo, gun availability are poor
- Solid performer on a variety of big game
- Short action for a trim, light rifle
- Plenty of guns and ammo
- 6.5 Creedmoor supplanting it
- Tough competition from other 7mms
- Few heavy-bullet options