By Wayne van Zwoll
Announced in 1980 as the “First modern 7mm round designed for use in short-action rifles,” the 7mm-08 was not. The .284 Winchester pre-dated it by seventeen years (and outperformed it). In retrospect, the 7mm-08 might be considered the first successful modern short-action 7mm.
Based on the .308 Winchester case, with no changes save neck diameter, the 7mm-08 was initially loaded with 140-grain pointed Core-Lokts. Remington now lists a 120-grain hollow-point and a 140-grain AccuTip as well. The first rifles chambered in 7mm-08 were Remington’s 788 and 700. Now it keeps company with the .308 and .243 in most short-action bolt guns, plus Browning’s BLR.
While case capacity is slightly less than that of the 7×57 Mauser, the 7mm-08 is typically loaded to higher velocities, and its 2.04-inch hull is .2-inch shorter than the Mauser’s to fit better in magazines designed for the .308.
The popularity of the 7mm Rem. Mag. probably gave the 7mm-08 a lift. The later .260 on the .308 case confirmed the American preference for 7mms over 6.5s.
Efficient case design and a bullet weight range suitable for most North American big game make the 7mm-08 a fine choice for all-around hunting. Civil in recoil, it’s a perfect match for lightweight, short-action rifles. It has also courted favor on metallic silhouette ranges, where its 140-grain bullets reach 500-yard targets faster and with as much energy as 150-grain .308s. Though 160-grain bullets would be useful in some applications, their length would require deep seating in many rifles.
Because the bullets available in factory loadings include several controlled-expansion choices, the 7mm-08 is much more versatile than it would have been had it arrived with the .280 five decades ago. The 7mm-08 doesn’t snare as many votes as the .280 or .30-06 in elk camps, but I’ve found it deadly on the big ungulates.
With a 140-grain softpoint at 2,860 fps, the 7mm-08 matches the speed of a 150-grain bullet in the .284 Winchester. Federal’s 140-grain AccuBond, Partition and Barnes Triple Shock loads suit the 7mm-08 to the biggest North American game.
Even more ambitious are Hornady’s Light Magnum offerings, with 139-grain SST and InterBond bullets exiting at 3,000 fps. These Light Magnums run neck-and-neck with standard .280 Remington ammo, the SST clocking 2,100 fps at 500 yards!