Recently I leased a new Asian vehicle, a CUV (Compact Utility Vehicle). Actually, it’s a long-term lease. These South Korean vehicles are “loaded” and of excellent quality. My CUV has won an award for excellence in initial quality by some American company. But please note: that’s for initial quality, we’ll learn about it’s long-term quality over time!
It is excellent in driving manners, has lots of pep, very quiet but a bit choppy over sharp bumps due to a much shorter wheel base than my 11 year old Ford Freestar van. The Ford was “loaded” for its generation, but, as we all know, over the past decade great advances have been made in digital electronics and motor engineering. For example: The Ford has a 4.2L , 201 HP V6 that was developed for pickup trucks. It had a huge amount of torque but relatively low h.p. And it wasn’t a gas guzzler, giving about 27 – 28 mpg highway (under my somewhat lead foot) and up to 30 mpg when kept around 60 mph. In town about 20; mixed driving about 23 – 24 mpg (Imperial). It had more internal room than some full-size SUV’s with the two rows of rear seats removed or put away under the floor. I used it like a truck and considered it a reliable means of getting done what needed doing — like a faithful friend. But now I have less room, more wizardry, better economy and a more sporty CUV. It also has what is deemed excellent initial quality. I doubt that would have been said of the Ford, or any North American built vehicle for that matter. Not only did the Asian vehicle win an award for excellence, but it came in first place in that catagory! We’ll see as time marches on.
But this piece is not about some post-modern mechanism that will depreciate in value faster than the Canadian dollar, but, rather a mechanism contrived by a Berlin gunsmith by the name of Otto Bock in 1905! Excellence in both rifle design and manufacture, and the cartridge for which it was made became the standard of the day for both defensive and offensive purposes in the hands of not military forces, but German and other European settlers of Eastern and Southern Africa. The “enemy” was the various crop raiders, such as elephant, and lion among several that threatened life and limb while tending those crops!
Excellence then, and excellence now, 111 years later!
The moniker “Mauser” was subsequently added by some authors, but likely employed first of all by those who purchased the rifles giving increased cachet to that which was an excellent cartridge design from the beginning for the purposes of the day chambered in a simply designed rifle made available to European settlers in Africa of modest means. Though Otto Bock in wisdom had it chambered for the 98 Mauser, originally the cartridge was simply a 9.3 X 62 in millimetres, the standard European means of measurement. So in today’s literature, both are used: 9.3 X 62 or 9.3 X 62 Mauser. The bore as written in British or American is .366 inch. That’s very close to the famed British .375 H&H, only 9/1000’s of an inch distinction. Any African game hit fairly with a bullet of equal construction, equal sectional density, velocity and range would never know the difference between them — that would be a 286 grain from the 9.3 X 62 and a 300 grain from a .375 H&H. And proof is in the pudding, so testifies the Drs Kevin Robertson and Don Heath, both have shot thousands of game with each cartridge up to and including elephant, and both have testified they couldn’t determine any real difference between them in effectiveness. Their testimonies in addition to the settlers, and countless European hunters amounts to a gold standard for excellence of performance in its encounters with the biggest and meanest that at least two continents had to offer. Now we can add a third: North America. Mostly, however, it has been used on African antelope of all sizes, which means it should make an excellent hog and deer rifle in the hands of North American hunters as well as the really big stuff like bison, moose and the big bears.
My experience with the 9.3 X 62 doesn’t have the credentials of those two expert African PH’s and veternarians, and life is far too short, as well as money, to even begin to think of catching up to them in experience. But just five years ago, this month, I purchased my first and it has become my all-time favorite medium-bore. When put that in the context of sixty years of hunting and the last half of that as a handloader, also taking into account that I’m a very dedicated handloader versus a “dabbler”, that means many thousands of rounds from cartridges in .22 caliber to .458 caliber, and many of those in the mid-bore range. Perhaps, then, the fact of the 9.3 X 62 becoming my all-time favorite medium takes on more meaning than just “My favorite ice cream is Salty Carmel Truffle”.
From some of today’s best made bullets and the best powder, I have been able to easily duplicate the original ballistics of the 9.3 X 64 Brenneke and some loads for the .375 Ruger and H&H if we take into account the ranges at which these loads are intended. That has been demonstrated in former blogs. And I still have all my fingers and eyes.
(Oooops! Wrong image! Phil, son, took these pics last week at the range as I was firing — for the first time ever — a “front stuffer”! This is Mike’s Hawkins 54-caliber. He was shooting his collection between Phil and I and made an offer for each of us to give ‘er a try. At 50 yards, I managed to keep a 54-caliber round ball within 2-inches of the dead-center X.) Thanks Mike (and Phil – I didn’t know he was pic’in me!)
A super-short history: For those who have not read these details previously, I’ll make it short. About a half-dozen years ago I wanted another .35 Whelen because in my eyes it was one of the best medium-bores that would be more than adequate for anything I would ever hunt up to big bull moose. Easy to get the best performance from readily available powders and bullets. It could even be useful as a varmint cartridge with the abundance of .357 pistol bullets. I started the search which often ended in frustration either because Remington had ceased making them or because owners were too satisfied and reluctant to part with them. I had previously owned a Rem 7400 semi, and was very happy with its performance. Also I’d owned a .350 Rem Mag Classic which underperformed due to a lack of the best powders, a couple of .338 Win Mags, a .340 Wby, and a couple of .375 H&H’s. So, when I say that the 9.3 X 62 is my all-time favorite medium bore, there is some personal history there to back it up.
Then I began to review two articles by current authors who praised it. Soon after that, two new Tikka T3 Lites began to appear in the inventory of a local large gun emporium at reduced markup. I thought, “Well, they look close enough to the Whelen in performance so perhaps I should investigate this matter more fully”. Which I did. I bought the only one still in inventory along with bullets, cases and dies. I figured I had enough powder on hand — some RL-15 and H414. I went to work using RL-15 (which worked wonders in my former .35 Whelen), Hornady brass and Hornady 286gr SP-RP bullets. Progression was positive and I stopped when MV reached 2400 fps+. I shot my first bear with that load — or, really, finished off one wounded by a young apprentice. Accuracy was generally very good from the get-go and I had no feelings of dissatisfaction with either rifle or initial handloads.
But, of course, being an irrepressible experimenter, I just had to find for myself its limits in accuracy and ballistics urged on by the wealth of new bullets, powders and rifles. Its inherent accuracy was historically praised by the many, and little problem was encountered in extracting MOA from a small sampling of loads employing RL-15 and H414 from the 286gr Hornady. But I must admit that the 270gr Speer was and, still is, a great disappointment in that regard. After several efforts which included changes in seating depths, powders and MVs, they insist on giving 2-inch groups of three at 100 yards. My rifle, with it’s Sako match-grade barrel, refuses to like that bullet. Oh well, no great loss as far as I’m concerned. But everything else has managed MOA or better — the 250gr AccuBond from Nosler being the star of the show in accuracy giving 0.44″ three-shot groups at 100 yds using 1-grain under a max load of RL-17. The max load still makes MOA. But I read stories all the time of the 9.3 X 62’s stellar accuracy. But sad to report that many of those loads are well below par in velocity.
MY RIFLE: While holding a rifle in each hand at the magazine in a standing position, I began to get a feel for their balance and weight as if walking a familiar hunting trail in the Haliburton Highlands. It wasn’t too much of a contest. Their cost was within a few dollars of each other. One was the mentioned TIKKA T3 Lite chambered in the 9.3 X 62. It was being held tightly around the magazine area by my left hand. Overall length was about 42 and 1/2 inches. A solid black all over, except for the bolt and bolt handle, was the only colour option, just like so many of our time… but its weight kind of surprised me. It seemed much lighter than most bolt-rifles with a magazine. I’d owned several of like dimensions that memory told me should have been at least a pound heavier — an M70 Winchester in .30-06 as one example, another was a M700 Remington Mountain Rifle with a synthetic stock chambered for the ubiquitous .270 Winchester. And a few others. But in my left hand was a rifle of near identical dimensions that was chambered for a famed European – African cartridge that had brought down elephant in the hands of European settlers in Africa! And it weighed less than 7 lbs out of the box! I liked the idea immensely! From that mille-moment on, I took a dislike to the overly long and overly heavy rifle in my right hand… it really was no contest though each were made in their own time to accomplish some of the same things.
Intuitively, in an instant I knew there was nothing I would attempt to do with that overly-long, overly heavy .338 RUM that the 9.3 X 62 couldn’t do as well; AND it already had a reputation for accomplishing what the .338 RUM would never accomplish! That was five years ago this month of May.
Over that time, that rifle has been my main rifle for hunting action. Something like a .308 Winchester or .30-06 is to some hunters. But, also, over that period my appreciation for the cartridge has grown by leaps and bounds! You could think of it as having just come on market yesterday it is so modern in profile and dimensions. In fact, it is as ideal in concept today as it was 111 years ago. Especially in employing today’s best powders and bullets in a well constructed bolt-action repeater. My rifle holds 3 in the clip magazine plus one in the chamber making a potential of 17,500 ft-lbs of kinetic energy on tap in a rifle that looks like any ordinary .270 Win, .308 Win or .30-06. (.308 Win case (L) and a 9.3 X 62 (R).
With all the over-abundance of sporting cartridges for big game coming to market these days, what do they offer that the historic invention of Otto Bock has not seen and done for over a century?
(It’s latest victim! Last October’s black bear shot at 85 yards with a 250gr Accubond leaving the muzzle of my Tikka at 2715 fps.)
Even with its rust and rattles, the 2006 Ford Freestar van could still do at the end what it could do the first day I owned it. It became a trusted friend. Will the new Asian creation with its digital wizardry and “Green Earth” credentials ever earn that kind of respect? Excellence IS as excellence DOES!
In trying to deal with erratic weather patterns this spring… or is it summer or still winter(?)… in an attempt to get outside gardening done, plus some physical issues, I’ve not been able to keep pace with blogging. However, most of the work has been done in getting gardens in (both flowers and veggies), and health issues have greatly improved so I should — God willing — get up to speed in producing my regular Summer quota of twice monthly.
Next: Any rifle’s limitations.