A “tidbit”, according to my NEW WORLD DICTIONARY of The American Language, is “a pleasing or choice bit of food, news, gossip, etc.”. I suspect, however, that “the pleasing or choice bit” depends largely on who is eating the food or listening to the news or gossip. Since I don’t deal in gossip, as that’s mostly hearsay and fabrication, what follows might be pleasing news to those who want to know about the potential performance of the historic 9.3 x 62 Mauser.
It’s been nearly a year since I’ve specifically written anything new concerning this great cartridge and/or the rifles in which it is currently chambered. It might be considered good news — at least from my perspective — in mentioning that I’m receiving an increasing number of queries over the performance I’m getting from my rifle, which appears credible to some and contrary to expectations for others.
Whatever the case, the 9.3 x 62 Mauser has finally found a home in North American hunter’s collections of rifles for big game. On one forum, one collector of rifles pontifically made this proclamation: “It’s a fad!” Maybe for him that could be true, and perhaps he has collected many because they were at the time of his aquisitions, likewise considered “fads”. Of course, we all know there are people like that — that just have to have what’s “new” or different to stay with the “flow”. Some of our middle class just want to try something different to see if it is “better than” what they already have. I see that as legitimate if it’s “affordable” with an honest interest and desire to improve or upgrade, in this case, ballistic performance. I’ve been guilty of that one myself. But just to be able to say, “I’ve got one of those also”, to look intelligent or “with it”, in my view is not the best or smartest of motivations.
However, from the amount of apparent sincere interest I’m receiving in regard to the best performance safely possible from a newly manufactured 9.3 x 62, I’ve concluded that such an appeal to a rifle cartridge far exceeds mere curiosity.
Today, with many elite suppliers of rifles chambering for the distinguished 9.3 x 62 Mauser cartridge, it’s obsolescence will be far from the minds of those who invest $2500 to $4000 to possess one. In at least two of our main purveyors of high end firearms in Ontario, names like Sauer and Verney-Carron are in stock chambered for this enviable cartridge. In addition, Zastava, Sako, CZ and Tikka all import rifles into Canada chambered for the 9.3 x 62. And Ruger has produced their No.1 in runs for both the 9.3 x 74R and the 9.3 x 62.
Did you know that it’s now possible for handloaders to safely surpass ancient factory loads by upwards of 200 feet-per-second? I’m not speaking of the lightest bullets in 9.3mm, but 285s and 286s, the bullets that bring the very best from this cartridge, and that won it’s fame in Africa! That put’s it squarely in the domain of the equally famed .375 H&H! Yes, I well know that such a statement will rankle the ire of some, but facts don’t lie! This is in no way intended to lower the esteem well deserved by the .375 H&H. Nor is it meant to grant undeserved status, by a “coat-tail” effect, to the well respected 9.3 x 62. Rather, my aim is to present this cartridge, and the rifles that chamber it, in a levelheaded manner that is consistent with current facts! Why? Because there are still doubters and naysayers who claim that it’s “just another cartridge” with “ho-hum” ballistics.
My concern is not over the uninformed opinion of those who tell the truth that it’s just their opinion, rather it has to do with misinformation coming from three sources: 1) Those who have experience using it for perhaps many years, but only having knowledge of its ancient (original) ballistics, and 2) Recent owners who play with it as another “toy” while showing pics of how accurate their rifle is in using weak or middle-of-the-road ballistics, having never really tested it’s mettle “in combat” against real heavy and/or dangerous game! And 3) Finally, the most obstinate, in a negative sense, are those who obfuscate matters by claiming that nothing more is needed than original factory ballistics — and they like the “mild” recoil! But, not only that, in addition the claim is made that the hoary 9.3 x 62 is good for big game (in North America, spell that by “moose”,”elk” and “bear”) to a maximum of 200 to 250 yards!!
THAT is incompatible with hard evidence obtained in multiple tests that I have conducted. It’s not that I think long-range shooting of large animals is a common event in either Africa or Alaska, and perhaps 200 yards will cover most of it, especially where PHs and guides micro-manage finite details. But that’s not exactly the point… THE point being that when a .338 Win Mag or a .375 H&H are said to be excellent for Plains Game to 400 meters (440 yards) and the 9.3 x 62 ONLY to 250 yards, that does really irk me!
If that were true, I’d choose a .35 Whelen, a .338 Win Mag or .375 H&H, or Ruger! I can’t help myself in setting records straight! I’m intolerant of duplicity and disingenuousness (hypocrisy and insincerity)! There’s too much of that on the forums… and in both religion and politics.
Now, to come down from my pulpit, let’s look at some facts: I’ve already made some comparisons of the 9.3 x 62, in a modern rifle employing modern components, at a reasonable MAP of 64,000, with the .338 Win Mag and .375 H&H in past blogs. Let’s do that now in regard to another medium cartridge that’s somewhat less available — really, no longer available in factory form, but obtainable in custom makeup — the very good .358 Norma Magnum.
in the April, 2017 edition of HANDLOADER Ammunition Reloading Journal, Terry Wieland does a decent writeup on the .358 NORMA Magnum, in which he refers to it as “The Heavyweight “358 NORMA”. I bought the magazine “off the shelf” at Canadian Tire because of that article. Terry is one of the top writers in that business, in my view. But what really interested me was not so much his creative perspective of it’s history, but the reloading info he incorporated from his own “Select Loads” that combined his comments on all ten of them. At least three were handgun bullets in .357″. The other seven were made specifically for various rifles that had a .358-inch bore. His comment on the last, a 280gr Swift A-Frame, was, “Moves the .358 Norma into the heavyweight division.”, having analogous reference to the sport of boxing. The rifle used in testing was a Schultz & Larsen with a 23″ barrel. The 280 Swift AF had a muzzle speed of 2455 fps/3747 ft-lbs of kinetic energy.
I found that interesting because I’ve always thought that a .358 Norma Magnum would make an excellent medium. But reloading manuals don’t do it many favors. As explained by Wieland, that is because there are very few factory rifles that were sold. In addition, Norma sold reamers and brass, but it was up to gunsmiths to decide on freebore, meaning while there was a CIP standard for pressure, there was no way for those who produce reloading manuals to know how much powder could be used in individual rifles to attain CIP standard PSI. That is, unless they were using Norma factory loads for their 250s, which the author did use. Yet, he had nothing for comparison for the 280gr Swift as Norma didn’t load that one in their factory ammo. The 250gr Norma factory load is listed at 2790 fps/4320 ft-lbs from a 24″ barrel, which makes sense. So it’s fairly evident that some manuals have introduced relatively low-pressure loads as maximum. For example, the Nosler manual #6 presents a best max load for their 250gr at 2628 fps/3833 ft-lbs from a 24″ Lilja test barrel using 72grs of IMR4350. That, in my view, is seriously under par for that fine cartridge by nearly 200 fps! Why that was done, I have no idea, but that gives a very bad impression of that rifle cartridge’s potential!
My 9.3 x 62, with a 22.44″ Sako match grade barrel, will trounce the 280gr A-Frame, as reported by Wieland, by nearly 200 fps even though it’s a 286gr Nosler Partition vs. the 280gr! And, more than that, it’ll shame the numbers in Nosler’s #6 manual by firing the 286gr as fast as the .358 NORMA can muster the 250gr Nosler Partition out the muzzle of the 24″ Lilja barrel. That is, IF those sets of numbers from Wieland and Nosler are representative of the .358 Norma’s potential.
Of that, I’m dubious.
However — it does speak to the issue of what the RIGHT and BEST powder employed in a serious medium-bore cartridge can wonderfully achieve with both knowledge AND experience. In this case, I’m making reference to the proven performance of my own 9.3 x 62 Mauser.
In speaking of proven performance that excels, the RIGHT and BEST gunpowder for the 9.3 x 62 is NOT RL-15, H414, IMR4895, IMR4064, W748, or any other medium burning-rate powder. The one exception MIGHT be 2000MR which has shown very good results for a few handloaders.
The one-and-only rifle powder that excels all others, including Big Game, is RL-17. Nothing is comparable or it’s equal. Period. Not that I’ve tried every thing out there, but I’ve done more than enough handloading of mediums in my time to know what I know, and what I do know is that RL-17 is capable of transforming the grand-old 1905 creation of the Berlin gunsmith, Otto Bock, into a cannon that defies comprehension — and I’ll stand by that statement based on sound experience.
A week ago, I wanted to give the 320gr Woodleigh PP another try at our range. I finished the season last fall at the range attempting to get close to the ballistics attainable from RL-17 from about the same amount of H414 powder as I used of RL-17.
On November 2, 2016, I fired two identical loads using 65 grains of H414 behind the 320 Woodleigh. Results were 2305 and 2280 fps into 0.625-inch at 100 yards. Very good accuracy, but poor ballistic performance compared to RL-17 in June and July of last year, where 66 grains of RL-17 were giving over 2450 fps with nary a sign of excess anything. I actually went all the way to 68 grains of RL-17 without a hint of excessive pressure! Would you believe (probably not) that MV was over 2500 fps! But, sadly, the accuracy wasn’t what was needed to fulfill it’s potential. So I tried H414. Accuracy very good, but ballistic potential far, far below the 286 Nosler. During last winter, as I was becoming increasingly bored, I began to plan for more trials of H414 and RL-17 under that 320 Woodleigh before I gave up on that bullet completely. Back to the drawing board…
Ahem… it will be one week tomorrow, as I started to explain a couple of paragraphs ago, I fired three (3) of six (6), I’d put together a few days earlier. Since last fall’s load of 65 grains of H414 seemed rather anemic to me, I loaded two with 67 grains and two more with 68 grains of H414 (remember, I’d gone all the way to 68 of RL-17 without any hint of pressure concerns — and H414 is listed as about equal to IMR4350 in burn rate, as is RL-17). But, last fall, I had shortened the COL of the H414 load to 3.33″ instead of 3.37″ which I had been using for all the heavies. And I got better accuracy, thinking that a shorter COL may have had a part in that. So, those loads of 67 and 68 grains of H414 wouldn’t allow compression more than a COL of 3.355″. Also, I loaded two of 65 grains of RL-17 at a COL of 3.315″, thinking that maybe a shorter COL with that bullet and powder might be just the ticket wanted for accuracy purposes (my goal is always MOA or better IF the velocity is what I have in mind.).
By the way, I only load two of the 320 Woodleighs for each particular powder charge because experience has taught me that on the whole, at that stage of matters, two will tell me if a particular load has potential, or not. Also, bullets of that nature are VERY expensive! For a box of 50, shipped from Eastern Ontario, plus tax, exceeds $100 in total cost! That’s $2.00 per shot for bullets alone, aside from other related expenses. And, I’m doing all that without sponsors simply to have information to pass on to others — mostly, though I also have an appetite for that knowledge as well.
I wasn’t at the range just to test “new” loads for the 9.3, but primarily to sight-in my new rifle, a CZ 455 LUX in .22LR that had been presented as a gift to me by son Phil several months prior. After having sighted that rifle, and then fired some warm-up shots, I turned to the Tikka in 9.3. The first two shots fired were the RL-17 loads of 65 grains each under the 320 Woodleigh. It was cloudy and just a few degrees above freezing. Those two shots went into 0.8125-inch at 2415 and 2416 fps. Corrected to muzzle they make 2425 fps/4178 ft-lbs. 66 grains last fall gave 2464 fps with one fps spread! Quick Load predicated that 63,980 psi would produce 2462 fps from the 320gr Woodleigh using RL-17 from my rifle with it’s 22.5″ barrel and COL of 3.37″.
Here’s a tidbit: Only RL-17 has recorded that kind of results… nothing else, to date, comes close. Not even H414. And, oh… 67 grains of H414 recorded 2367 fps corrected to the muzzle, and I only fired one because that was too “hot” for that amount of H414! How did I know that? Signs! The extractor left a scrape mark on the head and bolt lift was a tad “heavier” than normal — never saw or felt those signals while using even 68 grains of RL-17 at over 2500 fps! The final 67 grain load and the 68 grain loads of H414 have had the bullets pulled and the powder dumped. That just goes to show that one gunpowder in the same “burn rate” as another might give different results in the extreme! (See my recent series on Variables in the application of rifle propellant.) While 65 grains of H414 gave good accuracy behind the 320 Woodleigh, average corrected MV was only 2305 fps. Two grains more (67) added about 60 fps but was unsafe in my estimation based on certain criteria. On the other hand, 65 grains of RL-17 granted 2425 fps (average corrected) with good accuracy from a relatively mild load… Which powder would you use? I tried three more of that load (65 grains of RL-17) behind the 320gr yesterday that gave good results.
From my experiences to this point, plus technical matters, I consider the 286 Nosler Partition the best overall choice for the 9.3 x 62 Mauser, if one bullet would be chosen over others. It has excellent velocity and accuracy from my rifle, plus the construction guarantees at least a 70% weight retention on impact with heavy and potentially dangerous game. It is like (in comparison) a 300gr in a .375 or a 200gr in a .300 magnum. That is in getting the best overall that each has to offer. I consider the 320gr Woodleigh as a speciality bullet for something like Cape buff or, perhaps, giant moose in Alaska at ranges less than 300 yards. I’ll not be testing it further, except possibly on a future moose hunt if that comes up. But even then, I’d consider the 286 Nosler the better choice for Canada moose.
I just thought some of you might want to know some of those 9.3 x 62 tidbits…
The handloads that I have safely used in my 9.3 x 62 are NOT recommended loads for anyone else’s rifles. They represent my honest experience. You alone are responsible for your own safety.
Till the next…