A hearty welcome to any newcomers to this site. The current topic is related to comparisons and evaluations of medium-rifle ballistics, the 9.3’s and .375’s in particular. In the past few pages leading up to this one, we’ve had a somewhat abbreviated overview of the .35 Whelen compared to the .338 Winchester Magnum, and how to evaluate such matters in general. There are many elements involved — the handloader being the main one. This time around, we’ll use similar methods in evaluating and comparing the 9.3’s and .375’s.
(Preparing to reload bait barrel for bear hunt this past September.)
In particular, since the 9.3 X 62 and .375 Ruger are, perhaps, the most discussed medium cartridge-calibers on the forums — it’s the “hot” topic just now — my focus will be (once again) to make evaluations compared to the two most popular .375’s; the .375 Ruger and the .375 H&H. The Ruger version being a significant and more recent contribution to the medium clan, and the H&H nearly as old as the 9.3 X 62 Mauser. The .375’s are highly favored by professionals and clients alike, who will make an African safari for a mixed bag, including some DG. As well, the H&H is a long-time favorite among Alaskan residents, outfitters, guides and clients who hunt the larger bears in places like Kodiak Island. Yet, the .375 Ruger is on a fast track to elbowing some room for itself in territory once occupied, almost exclusively, by the famed H&H. The 9.3X62 Mauser needs no defence as its record in both Africa and Europe speaks for itself.
So we continue with our “Medium Rifle Olympics”.
I need to make some of you aware, especially those who may not have visited these blogs previously, that it’s fairly well known by frequent visitors here that my personal favorite among “The Mediums” (.338-cal to .375-cal) is the 9.3 X 62. And, I’ve written quite a bit in the past as to why that is so. However, since that’s a relatively recent event, my personal growth in its appreciation is clearly evident.
(This bear was taken last year using the Tikka in 9.3 X 62. It was a frontal chest hit, and the 286 Nosler Partition impacted at 2500 fps. Penetration was 3 feet. The 6-foot bear went over and embankment and was found dead at the bottom.Range from treestand to bear was 68 yards.)
When I purchased my first 9.3 X 62 there was little by way of information “out there”. It was, in many ways, a lonesome journey to the present. My-oh-my, how things have changed over the past four years! Today, the 9.3 X 62 is on the fast track to becoming, once again, a favorite among the cognoscente and layman alike. A decade ago, it was merely an insider’s “toy” on this continent. Even though it remained a favorite “all-arounder” in Europe and parts of Africa, practically none of the notable gunwriters of North America were aware of its presence, if we were to judge by their silence. Yes, even today, a writer like Boddington seems unaware of its growing popularity and African capabilities. I’m SURE he IS aware, but seemingly he treats it as an under-achiever, while pushing the .375 H&H — and .375 Ruger — as about ideal for a one-rifle safari!
Yet, renowned PH’s, such as Dr. Robertson and Don Heath, have slain hundreds of Cape buffalo, and even elephant, using the 9.3 X 62 Mauser employing ballistics vastly inferior to what is currently possible from that cartridge. Some of that will be brought to light in this week’s blog. Then, we cannot simply forget the stellar capabilities of the 9.3 X 74R, either.
(My friend, Roger’s moose shot with his 9.3 X 74R and the 250gr Nosler AccuBond at 2700 fps.)
Whatever may be their reasoning, current publishers of reloading manuals and books are still “behind the times” as to data for the older 9.3s, the 9.3 X 62 and 9.3 X 74R in particular. It is always the handloader who determines not only the popularity of a cartridge, but where it fits in any ballistic echelon.
For example: Historically, Elmer Keith kept Big Bores alive in America, notably the .45-70 using smokeless powder in a strong 1886 Winchester. That was when .45-cal Government small arms ordinance was replaced by a series of .30-cal military rifles shooting 150 to 220gr projectiles at previously unheard of muzzle speeds. In an article published in The GUN DIGEST, 5th Edition — 1951, (for which I paid $1.99, marked down from $2.99 which was already lowered from the original price of $6.95) an article appeared under the title of: “Pumpkin Rolling” by Elmer Keith. In it, he promoted the .45-70 using 300gr and 405gr copper-clad bullets over the best smokeless powders of the day, attaining MV’s of 2200 fps and 1900 fps, respectively, from the 1886 lever-action Winchester. I was sold on such a proposal for my first 1895 Marlin. And, of course, better powders than those available to Keith gave improved results. The .45-70 has never been more popular than it is today even though it’s origin dates to 1872! Overall, the .45-70 in a modern firearm employing the best modern components for handloading is, without question, my all-time favorite. But, it would never have become that, or as popular as it is, without handloaders and the Big Bore guru, Elmer Keith, leading the way.
In similar fashion, while the 9.3 X 62 is not nearly as old as the .45-70 — it has always been a smokeless powder cartridge of a design that suites modern bolt-action repeaters dating from 1905 — it has continued to be effective on the mega-fauna of Africa. But it also has improved ballistics with the introduction of the latest bullets and powders, as well as in the fabrication of modern bolt-action repeaters from Sako, Tikka, CZ and Ruger. All of those are designed to handle pressures for the most popular magnum cartridges that attain upwards of 65,000 psi. So, as in the case of my response to Keith’s information from 1951, my aim has been to safely load my Tikka in 9.3 X 62 to modern magnum pressures using the best components in powders and bullets. If others choose to stick with what the 9.3 X 62 was fully capable of doing “back in the day”, that’s their privilege — and that’s fine by me. As for myself, I’ll explore until its full capability is realized, and I’m almost there. Some others are also, but they are not writers, and are quieter about such matters. Simply stated: My goal is to help bring an historic cartridge into the modern era and showcase its true potential through employing the best in technological advances by handloading a modern rifle in 9.3 X 62.
Yet, I didn’t arrive at my current position in a vacuum. A few others have given assistance — in some cases without knowing it.
A mere handful of relatively recent powders have significantly enhanced the ballistic potential of both the 9.3 X 62 and the 9.3 X 74R. These include, but are not necessarily limited to, RL-17, Big Game and LR2000 (formerly, MR2000). I’ve no experience with the latter two, but I take the word of others at face value, notably, author John Barsness, promoter of the 9.3 X 62 and the Big Game powder. As well, MR2000 has shown up a few times in reading on various forums. Also, a single mention of handloads for the 9.3 X62, appearing on RealGuns.com., sent me to that site where I discovered that RL-17 proved to be the best overall powder tested with a variety of bullets from 250gr to 325gr in a Ruger Hawkeye African and a 23″ barrel. I had to give it a try.
Then, as relayed in former blogs, a friend suggested I give RL-17 a try based on what some of his buddies were getting from that powder in other cartridges where they might have formerly used RL-15, such as in .308 Winchester, .35 Whelen, .30-06, etc. I bought a 1-lb can.
On first try, I was disappointed as in not getting results that came anywhere near to those on RealGuns. I was ready to give up on it, but my friend almost insisted that I give it another try, increasing the powder load. I did, and that worked! It worked so well, in fact, that it took three years to discover its max potential from the 286gr Nosler Partition. Now, I want to give it a try behind a heavier bullet and a lighter one: the 320gr Woodleigh and the 250gr AccuBond by Nosler.
Not only has the 250gr AccuBond become the most popular bullet in 9.3, but 9.3 X 62 rifles have become scarcer than hen’s teeth, along with the 250 AccuBond! Right there, that tells us something about “a good thing”!
I have a friend in Yellowknife, NWT, who has one of the rare Ruger No.1s in 9.3 X 74Rs. He owns a lot of rifles but recently shot a bull moose with that rifle loaded with the 250 Accubond to 2700 fps MV. I believe the powder was RL-15. With that as a benchmark, I’m expecting better results from RL-17 pushing the 250gr AccuBond. I’ve already gone on record as stating that I expect 2700 to 2750 fps from my rifle employing said bullet. I fully believe that to be realistic in consideration of these 3 factors: 1) My friend, Roger’s results from his 9.3 X 74R in a single-shot, 22″ Ruger; 2) My personal experience over three years using RL-17 behind the 286 Nosler Partition, and 3) A new friend who has offered to test the psi of my loads using QuickLoad. Results from QL were: 2780 fps at 64,000 psi for the 250 AccuBond in my rifle using RL-17.
Let’s take a quick peek at presumed results at 2750 fps/250gr AccuBond/RL-17/COL @ 3.37″ Then, ask, and answer, the question “Is the 9.3 X 62 cartridge, used in a modern rifle, employing the best components, ONLY a 200 to 250 meter big game rifle, as some ultra-conservative, stuck-in-the-mud, rifle cranks suggest?”
Then, as a starter, we’ll compare that with a .375 Ruger Alaskan (20″) employing the 270gr TSX (the favorite bullet of the .375 Ruger aficionados) at 2800 fps, and ask: “Which is better?” Or, which would you choose? That’s a 250gr Accubond @ 2750 fps VS. a 270gr TSX @ 2800 fps. In all likelihood, that’s the bullet of choice for serious hunters in Alaska after brown bear, grizzly or bull moose, according to the testimony of those who actually have used the .375 Ruger in Alaska (That is, until they read this!).
First up, the .375 Ruger in a 20″ (The .375 Ruger Alaskan (20″) will lose ballistics by about 100 fps compared to the 23″ Hawkeye African). Our simulation is “in” Alaska, not Africa, for this contest even though the 23″ would, no doubt, be in use there.)
Bullet: 270gr TSX in .375″
SD = .274
BC = .326
MV = 2800 fps/4700 ft-lbs/108 momentum
50 = 2665 fps/4257 ft-lbs/103 momentum
100= 2534 fps/3848 ft-lbs/ 98 momentum
150= 2406 fps/3472 ft-lbs/ 93 momentum
200= 2283 fps/3124 ft-lbs/ 88 momentum
250= 2163 fps/2804 ft-lbs/ 83 momentum
300= 2046 fps/2510 ft-lbs/ 79 momentum
350= 1934 fps/2241 ft-lbs/ 75 momentum
400= 1825 fps/1996 ft-lbs/ 70 momentum
450= 1720 fps/1774 ft-lbs/ 66 momentum
500= 1621 fps/1575 ft-lbs/ 63 momentum
Note: The trajectory isn’t included, but there wouldn’t be enough difference between the two loads in question to ruin a hunt, though the 250 AccuBond has a better trajectory as the range increases.
(A Savage 18″ chambered for the .375 Ruger.)
Next up, a realistic load for my rifle (Tikka T3 Lite, above, on the header):
Bullet: 250gr Accubond
SD = .267
BC = .494
MV = 2750 fps/4198 ft-lbs/98 momentum
50 = 2661 fps/3931 ft-lbs/95 momentum
100= 2574 fps/3679 ft-lbs/92 momentum
150= 2489 fps/3440 ft-lbs/89 momentum
200= 2406 fps/3213 ft-lbs/86 momentum
250= 2324 fps/2997 ft-lbs/83 momentum
300= 2243 fps/2793 ft-lbs/80 momentum
350= 2164 fps/2600 ft-lbs/77 momentum
400= 2067 fps/2418 ft-lbs/74 momentum
450= 2011 fps/2246 ft-lbs/72 momentum
500= 1937 fps/2084 ft-lbs/69 momentum
Here are some matters for consideration:
1) The 270gr from the .375 Ruger starts out very well but fades rather quickly due to its rather poor BC.
2) The 250gr AB equals the .375 Ruger at 250 yards and significantly pulls away from it from 250 on to 500 yards.
3) It’s doubtful that the 270 TSX would even open up much past 300 yards unless it should hit heavy bone. There’s little doubt that the 250 AB would work very well all the way to 500 yards, and at over a ton of energy at that mark, it would be a moose or elk killer for sure.
And, by the way, the 286gr Nosler Partition gives even better results from my 22.4″ Tikka than those shown for the 250gr Accubond, with one exception — trajectory is slightly better from the AccuBond.
Let’s see what the results might be if we compare my 286 Nosler Partition load with a couple of Nosler ABs in .375″. The 260gr AB is from a 20″ Ruger Alaskan, and the 300gr AB is from a 23″ Ruger Hawkeye African barrel:
260gr AB (A better comparison with the 250 AB in 9.3)
SD = .264
BC = .473
MV = 2800 fps/4526 ft-lbs/104 momentum (a realistic figure from the 20″ which is the favorite in Alaska)
300= 2248 fps/2917 ft-lbs/ 83 momentum
500= 1917 fps/2121 ft-lbs/ 71 momentum
Overall, that looks better than the 270 TSX to me, and slightly beats the 250gr AB from my rifle.
Now, the 300gr AB in .375″
SD = .305
BC = .485 (a considerable improvement over the 300gr Nosler Partition in .375″. However… it is still too long for best performance from a standard length action, such as the Ruger African. It projects .352″ below the shoulder into the powder chamber, about the same as the 300gr TSX. So that fact alone negates at least another 50 to 100 fps from a 300gr. Nosler gives a max of 2715 from the 300gr Partition, but that’s from a 26″ barrel and the 300 AB projects .185″ deeper into the case than the Partition. So, if we subtract 3-inches in barrel length, plus the .185″ deeper seating, I’ll be generous and grant 2650 fps MV. This is, in my view, the bullet that brings out the best the .375 Ruger has to offer in a 23″ format for the likes of large PG, moose, elk and bear, all at long ranges. And these numbers are, in general, representative of the .375 H&H.
MV = 2650 fps/4678 ft-lbs/114 momentum
300= 2145 fps/3066 ft-lbs/ 92 momentum
500= 1843 fps/2261 ft-lbs/ 79 momentum
And that bullet will expand at 500 yds, which is very important. It is the only load that slightly beats mine using the 286gr Nosler Partition at an average of 2633 fps over the past two years. Their trajectories are nearly identical. Let’s see:
9.3 X 62 Mauser
Bullet = 286 NP
SD = .305
BC = .482 (For all intents and purposes, their MVs, BCs and SDs are similar. The difference is 14 grains weight in favor of the .375s, 5% greater cross-sectioal area and 7% greater energy at the 500 yard mark.)
The 20″ Ruger Alaskan is about 2.4″ shorter than my Tikka, but is heavier by about 3/4 lbs, if that matters. The 23″ .375 Ruger is only about 1/2″ longer and hits back at you with about 11% more thump, if that should bother anyone.
I realize that some may want to argue these points, but it’s hard to argue with facts.
Yes, you could use a different load and bullet for the .375 Ruger, but the fact remains that in all my research on this matter, most HAVE chosen the 270gr TSX for their .375 Ruger for Alaskan big game.
Phil Shoemaker, an expert in all of this, has stated, in answer to the question, “Which is best, the .375 Ruger or 9.3 X 62?”, that he hasn’t noticed any difference in effect on the big bears, and he likes both cartridges — and has used them.
Perhaps I could become a fan of the .375 Ruger — and have considered the purchase of one. But the truth of the matter is, when all factors are considered, I see no advantage of one over the other in realistic terms, except that the 9.3 X 62 is better known, has more options in components for handloaders, and more rifles, while using only about 80% as much powder.
This is not the final word, of course… there’s more to come.