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Classic Article: Hot New Caliber for Deer

February 13, 2022
Grits Gresham

Recently, Gun Talk's Tom Gresham purchased a New Ultra Light Arms 7mm-08 rifle for his backcountry pursuits. So, the Gun Talk Team pulled from the Grits Gresham magazine article archives to find out about the 7mm-08 caliber.

A few years ago Remington Arms introduced a new centerfire caliber: the 7mm-08. It was generally greeted with a big ho-hum by gun writers and hunters alike.

It's not as if this were the first time a new cartridge received a little enthusiasm, so Remington officials weren't exactly shaken up by the nonreception. If you're going to be a leader in the fields of legitimizing popular wildcats (the 22-250 Remington comes to mind) and of presenting innovative numbers for the shelf (such as the 350 Rem Mag and the 280 Rem), you know you'll win some and lose some.

For example, the 8mm Rem Mag is one of the finest medium-bore calibers on the commercial shelf, yet it has failed to gain much acceptance in the decade it’s been around. The excellent 338 Win Mag had too firm a foothold to be replaced. The 280 Rem (née 7mm Remington Express) experienced the same kind of fate (in this instance the overbearing presence of the 270 Win) for years, but suddenly it came to life. The 350 Rem Mag: very good performance but going nowhere.

So, what is a 7mm-08 Rem? Simple. It's a short-action cartridge that shoots 140-grain 7mm bullet at about 2800 FPS.

In a typical scenario, this caliber had been around as a wildcat for years. Remington built its version around the 308 Winchester case… but not exactly. The case was necked down from 30 caliber to 7mm, but the case neck was also lengthened .029 inch in order to improve bullet support and provide a more favorable loading density.

Those who had been aficionados of the wildcat version were delighted with the factory development, since it meant ammo available over the counter. Remington did issue a caution flag for them indicating that dimensions of the factory brass differ from those of the regular 308 Winchester brass. Except for that interest from wild-catters, however, the 7mm-08 didn't get much play from the regular customers.

That was understandable. What's the big deal? We have the 308 and the 7x57 and the 280 and 270 good they're all in the same ballpark aren't they let's look.

Factory 270 ammo is available in 130 and 150 grains at about 3000 and 2800 FPS, respectively; 280 and 140 grain at 2900 FPS plus; 7x57 and 140 grain at 2600 FPS; and 308 and 150 grain at 2750 FPS. Remember: factory 7mm-08 140 grain—2800 FPS (and now 120 grain at 2950 FPS).

Not enough difference to get really excited about, but let's look deeper. The 7mm bullet diameter in these weight ranges has a very high ballistic coefficient that ingredient that reflects its performance downrange. The higher in b.c. the better the performance.

In Spitzer bullets the b.c. runs something like this: 130 grain and 270 –.431; 150 grain and 308 –.409; 140 grain and 7mm –.490. All are very good; the 7mm has an edge. For 160-grain bullet in 7mm, the b.c. is over .500, and that got the attention of silhouette shooters who wanted long-range performance on heavy metal targets with the least recoil possible.

If you want a short-action rifle, you can't use the 270, 280 or 7x57. The 7x57 is a good old caliber, but the 7mm-08 is a better new caliber. Another excellent short-action caliber is the ill-fated 284 Winchester, a cartridge somewhat hamstrung by Winchester when it had to seat factory ammo bullets so deep they would chamber in the M100 and M88 rifles. With good bullets seated for efficiency, in a properly throated bolt action, this is a superb caliber. Ammo stats: 150 grain bullet at 2860 FPS (24-inch barrel.)

The first rifles Remington chambered for the 7mm-08 caliber were its M788 and M700 bolt actions, and it continues to be available in several versions of the M700.

A welcome mating of this caliber came, however, when Remington introduced its Model seven. Not only is this short, lightweight bolt action a delight to carry, with its 18 ½-inch barrel and a weight of 6 and 1/4 pounds, but it's also a shooter.

Will the 7mm-08 make other deer calibers obsolete? Is it the end all when shooting a light big-game rifle? Hardly. Hunters now have available the finest array of calibers and rifles for them of all time. But if you're looking for a modern, short-action, effective newcomer the 7mm-08 Remington might be it. ~ Grits Gresham

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