I love rifles with big holes in their barrels – within reason, that is. In shotguns I like 12-gauges. In rifles I’ve stopped short of .50-caliber, though at one time the .50 S&W fascinated me in one of the single-shot rifles. I didn’t need it as I already had a couple of singles in .45-70. While I lusted for a .458 Winchester Magnum nearly as far back as I can recall after its introduction in 1956, I knew it was out of the question both in economics and conscience — it could not be justified.
Quite a few years had passed when our economic status improved, and I was more into a variety of big-game hunting and handloading. Then I saw the potential benefit of a larger bore rifle in the pursuit of bear and moose. By then I had owned both a .300 Win Mag and a .338 Win Mag, and really nothing more was NEEDED for the largest and most dangerous in any part of our nation. Yet, my first bear hunt impressed my mind that a larger bore would make a bigger hole in and out, stopping a mean bear from escaping into thick alders or brush where I’d need to go in a followup. The solution? The nearest thing to a .458 Win Mag being a .45-70, of course. So I purchased a new 1895 Marlin for that express purpose, and was never disappointed with results from the eight .45-70s I’ve owned including the first one. In hindsight, they’ve probably exceeded my initial expectations.
But the subject of the current series of blogs is “Mediums”, right? Yes. It’s hard to put into a few sentences all the thoughts and experiences of that period that covered about two decades, but somewhere in there the idea of a medium-bore captured my mind. I’d experienced mostly .30-calibers and .458″ in .45-70s, plus a .338 Win in a Sako FS that was giving me some loss of sleep! Ah ha! At a Toronto gun show, I was able to trade the Sako for a .375 H&H in a M70 Winchester – a straight-up trade… plus $40. That became my new toy in a mid-bore! And it was an excellent rifle, though a bit on the heavy side of matters. From there I downsized to more mid-bores, including those mentioned in P1 and P2.
Yes, I went on a crusade for another .35 Whelen. No luck for either a new or used one! Then, while scanning the website of one of the largest dealers in Canada, that was only a one-hour drive from home, I spied two rifles that might fit the bill — a slightly used .338 RUM in a 700 Remington with a gray-black laminated stock and 26″ barrel, and two 9.3 x62s in TIKKA T3 Lites. As recounted in P1, I’d had lots of experiences with a .340 WBY for a full decade, so already knew what to expect in ballistics from a .338 RUM. And, I’d done some previous research and general reading on the 9.3 x 62 and figured it would be similar to a .35 Whelen, so I made a visit to EPPS in Orillia and handled each of those rifles (one of the 9.3x62s had been sold already).
Handling was important to me, and it was no contest. The TIKKA T3 Lite won by a country mile! So I came home with the 9.3 x 62. And, as I’ve reported in previous blogs, it has far exceeded expectations that were based on meager reports, handloads based on limited tests, and European factory ammo.
Not only so, but it has matched and passed results of my .338 Win Mags, .35 Whelen, .350 Rem Mag, and stepped into the footprint of .375 H&H factory ballistics!
Now to give some meat to those assertions: If there is a downside to the 9.3 x 62, it’s in factory ammo that’s mostly from Europe. But Hornady, Nosler and Barnes, plus a few others, have come to the rescue of handloaders. (It should be mentioned that in forty-one years of “making my own”, I’ve rarely fired a factory load in any of my centerfire rifles.) So, I consider it no handicap to have to handload the 9.3 x 62, though some US companies are now producing ammo for it — but nothing to get excited over.
You could read my former blogs on all of this, including my handloads and how they came about. However, I’ll give a summary here with the caveat that these are MY handloads, and I don’t propose or recommend them for any other person or persons who do their own. No one should borrow anyone’s handloads and take them for granted to be safe/or give the same results as the originator of them in his/her setup!
Having said that, I’ve used them in hunting and know them to BE SAFE IN MY RIFLE!
Comments on the rifle: Whenever I purchased or traded for a centerfire rifle, it’s primary mission was for hunting purposes. As such I’ve always failed to understand the thinking of HUNTERS (not collectors) who handload their own with the primary purpose of getting the smallest possible groups of three at 100 yards. They appear willing to sacrifice the potential of a rifle/cartridge’s external ballistic energy for a “tiny” 1/2″ bragging group at 100 yards (12.7 mm @ 100 metres). On several forums, those who own and actually have fired their 9.3 x 62 handloads at a range, have mostly referred to the tiny groups their 9.3 x 62 is capable of producing — often without any reference to MV results!
To set the record straight: Sure, I like good groups from any of my “best” handloads from any centerfire rifle I’ve owned. BUT!! How “good” is enough for hunting purposes? First, I want the best ballistics my rifle is capable of, including MV and downrange performance on flesh and bone!
As an example of that principle: In P1, I shared some loads from my former .340 Weatherby. One load consistently shot the 250gr Hornady SP into less than MOA for three at 300 yards! And the star performer did that at 3/4″ for three at the 300 yd. berm! And it was making 2790 fps. But it never became my hunting load for moose up north! Why? Because I had a better HUNTING LOAD! A 250gr Nosler Partition at a consistent 3000 fps that fired into a consistent 1.25″ for three at 100 yards!
In the field, what difference would it make at 300 yards on a bull moose with a target area of a 24″ circle? Not much that would make a difference in a hit or a miss. But the ballistic results in KE might distinctively matter if the bull was quartering toward or away! At 300 yds the 250 Partition load was making about 600 ft-lbs more energy than the 250 Hornady that shot 3/4″ at 300. And 550 ft-lbs more at 450 yards than the Hornady. Since I didn’t know beforehand at what range I might have to shoot a moose, my load was the 250 Partition at 3000 fps. It turned out that I shot a good bull at 165 yds.
Now my hunting loads for the 9.3 x 62 is treated in like manner. They are accurate enough for any hunting I might envision for that rifle. The 286 Nosler Partition shoots consistent sub-MOA, and the 250 AccuBond load shoots into sub 1/2″ at a hundred when I’m up to it. But that’s not why they are my prime hunting loads — that’s nice for accuracy, but those bullets give me confidence as to their ability to get the job done due to their construction and experience with them on big game. (The reason one hole in the target is larger is because it hit the hardwood plywood behind. The other two went through a void previously created by bullets from other shooters.)
And I’m talking to 500 yards on moose-size game. Over a nine-year period, the average for the 286 Nosler Partition load is 2631 fps MV/4395 ft-lbs, 2120 fps/2853 ft-lbs at 300 yds, and 1814 fps/2088 ft-lbs at 500 yds.
I’ve tested a variety of bullets and loads since the beginning, and none equal that load. It’s my all-purpose load for that rifle.
The 250gr Accubond is also an excellent load at +2700 fps, but can’t keep up with it’s bigger brother.
And the 320gr Woodleigh does very well at +2400 fps, but I’ve decided that it’s more of a closer range load for large game and not as flexible or all-purpose as the 286 Nosler. It appears that the 9.3 x 62 was made for that weight bullet and responds best overall.
What about the other 9.3s? The 9.3 x 57 is similar to a .358 Winchester with a bit more snuff.
The 9.3 x 64 Brenneke is generally considered to be the equal of a .375 H&H. However, it is a unique case and can’t be formed from any other, whereas the 9.3 x 62 has been formed from .30-06 and .35 Whelen cases in a pinch, though the head of those cases are bulged on firing in a 9.3 x 62 chamber.
And the Brenneke in factory form is equalled by my handloads. And the 9.3 x 62 is much more popular and available in factory rifles, some with full-stocks and short 20″ barrels.
I think that a 20″ barrel for a cartridge that can produce magnum-type results is the wrong way to go. Some 9.3 x 62s have 24″ and 26″ barrels, which makes more sense to me than a 20″. That might make a nice handy rifle but it will be at the expense of significant velocity from the muzzle.
But my rifle, a TIKKA T3 Lite, couldn’t be made much handier with it’s 22.44″ barrel and synthetic stock. All-up for hunting it comes in at 7.7 lbs. That dishes out more recoil than a “normal” .375 H&H!
Recoil for the two main loads (286 and 250 Noslers) are 48 ft-lbs and 43 ft-lbs respectively. Compared to my former .340 Weatherby, that is still less. That load referred to for the Weatherby was 54 ft-lbs, but I didn’t notice it in shooting the moose. In bench shooting, I add some weight to the 9.3 Tikka that helps tame it. In shooting game it’s “quick” in recoil, but not severe. It’s a joy to tote.
Basically, whatever you would do with a .338 magnum or a .375 magnum, you could do with a 9.3 x 62 Mauser.
It has to do with that matter of efficiency. I seat my bullets a bit long in Hornady cases filled with RL-17 powder and ignited by WLRM primers. The loads are compressed to about 109%. It’s a relatively slow stick powder for the cartridge, so it can be compressed within reason. No other propellant has come close to results from RL-17. Yes, and I’ve tried H414 and RL-15, along with some others. H414 would be the second choice for the heavyweights, and I use RL-15 for the 232 Oryx at around 2450 fps for deer and wolf.
The 286gr Nosler will keep up with the momentum of the 250gr Nosler from the 340 Weatherby all the way from the muzzle to 500 yards. Of course, the 340 shoots flatter, but at the cost of 20 grains more powder from a 26″ barrel.
There you have it…
Finally, in mid-bores we’ll review the .375s.