A Vintage Performer
The Venerable 7x57mm.
The 7×57 has an illustrious history, nostalgia, performance and a worldwide reputation. The cartridge lets you feel a connection with great hunters of the past like W.D.M. Bell and Jim Corbett.
story has shown it is adequately powerful for most thin-skinned, non-dangerous game—and it has taken plenty of thick-skinned and dangerous game with the right loads in the right hands.
My own experience with the 7×57 is so trifling (around 15 or 20 whitetail and mule deer, along with a pronghorn or two) as to scarcely merit mention. Bell shot that many elephants with the cartridge in one day.
The load I used almost exclusively was the 139-grain Hornady, both pre- and post-Interlock, along with IMR-4350 in W-W cases with W-W standard large rifle primers.
I see current manuals have reduced maximum loads a little. I got my first chronograph (an Oehler Model 12) in 1982 and was pleased to find muzzle velocity averaged just under 2,900 fps—a bit on the warm side but no problem for a strong, modern action.
Current Winchester 70’s I’ve tried are exceptionally fine rifles. I was most impressed with the quality of a Featherweight .264 I recently purchased. When Winchester announced a special run of Featherweights in 7×57, I found a dealer with one in stock and bought it.
It’s a handsome little rifle with a light 22-inch barrel, weighing 6.75 pounds out of the box. The barrel is floated and has a 1:9.5-inch twist. It is on the long action with a 3.30-inch magazine box.
Using 168-grain Berger VLD hunting bullets I could seat the projectile to just engage the lands at an overall length of 3.24 inches, with the rounds fitting and feeding from the magazine. Incidentally, the website said magazine capacity is three cartridges. With mine the magazine holds five.
Most loads tested gave sub-MOA accuracy. The rifle is completely reliable and balances and handles beautifully. Trigger pull measured a crisp 3.5 pounds and was easily adjusted to around 2.75 pounds.
Some early 7×57 rifles were not particularly strong. Current SAAMI maximum average pressure standards for the 7×57 are 51,000 psi. MAP standards for comparable cartridges are: .280 Rem: 60,000 psi, 7mm-08 Rem: 61,000 psi, .270 Win: 65,000 psi.
Typical factory velocities (approximately) for the 7×57 for 139- to 140-grain bullets are 2,660 fps; 160-grain, 2,500 fps; 175-grain, 2,400 fps. How effective these loads are on game I wouldn’t know, as I’ve never fired a factory 7×57 round.
For comparison, (left to right) are the 7mm-08 Rem topped with a 120-grain Barnes X,
the 7×57 Mauser with 139-grain Hornady and the .280 Rem with a 130-grain Speer. Case
lengths respectively are 2.035, 2.235 and 2.540 inches. Nominal case capacity in
grains of water (fired case full to brim) are 56, 59 and 67 grains.
Dave used the 139-grain Hornady bullet on several deer and antelope with great success.
For those looking for long-range performance, (center) is a 168-grain Berger. Long loaded
in 7x57mm is the 175-grain roundnose (right, also a Hornady bullet), the type of bullet
with which the 7×57 first earned its reputation, (Although Bell preferred FMJ bullets
and once wrote his 7×57 barrel, “…has never been polluted with a softnose bullet.”)
Dave bought the RCBS dies in 1982. They must have been on the dealer’s shelf for
some time as they are marked as being made in 1977.
In a strong modern rifle, and with quality modern components, it is no trick at all to add 150 to 200 fps over factory loadings. Some go even further, but if I need more velocity I’ll get it with one of my .280 or .284 rifles. The charm of the 7×57 and 7mm-08 is excellent performance combined with moderate recoil, mild report and long barrel life.
With the aid of the Oehler 35P chronograph, the loads I settled on include 139-Hornady or 140-grain Nosler Ballistic Tip at 2,850 fps, 162-grain Hornady A-Max or Nosler Ballistic Tip at 2,750, 168-grain Berger VLD Hunting at 2,700 and 175-grain Hornady Roundnose at 2,500.
IMR 4350 is still a good powder choice today, as is WW 760 (and its twin, Hodgdon H414). Two modern powders, Ramshot Hunter and Alliant RL-17, were real standouts with 140-grain bullets, achieving the desired velocity with moderate charge weights and with excellent accuracy.
The same powders worked well with 162-grain bullets though slower powders such as IMR-4831 and RL-19. Even H4831SC and Alliant RL-22 aren’t too slow for 175-grain bullets. Don’t know why, but the sight of a 7×57 cartridge loaded with a 175-grain RN bullet makes me want to shoot a moose.
Since the 7×57’s roots are European, I thought it appropriate to use optics whose roots are also European. On my Brno I fitted a Minox 3-9×40, a scope I’ve reported on earlier and like very much. On the new Winchester, I used a Meopta MeoPro 3-9×42 with BDC reticle. Though they have a European heritage, both of these scopes are assembled in the USA.
Released as a limited edition, the Winchester Model 70 Featherweight in 7×57 Mauser
is an outstanding rifle, accurate, reliable and well balanced. The scope is a 3-9×42
Meopta MeoPro with BDC reticle in Talley bases and rings. The MeoPro is very crisp
and sharp and a fine match for the rifle. The 7mm Mauser is a pleasant, straightforward
cartridge to reload with bullet weights from 100 to 175 grains available. Dave’s personal
favorite load is a 139- or 140-grain bullet at 2,900 fps.
This was my first experience with a Meopta scope. Not inexpensive, but quality and performance is at such a price it seems like a bargain.
Optics and optical coatings must be exceptional, as the resolution and brightness of the scope are just amazing. The view is like looking at a brighter world. Adjustments are crisp, accurate and repeatable.
I dunked the scope and froze it as usual, tests it passed easily. Aesthetically, it is a beautiful scope exuding quality. The heavy-duty construction carries a bit of a weight penalty. At nearly a pound, it is a wee bit heavy for a 3-9×42. But for such a quality instrument it’s a penalty I’ll gladly pay.
It makes a very effective and attractive combination with the new Winchester 70 Featherweight. I’m impressed with the combo in 7×57 and expect it to see a lot of use. If you’d rather have the 7mm-08 in a short action, or in stainless/synthetic, Winchester has those models as well, and I wouldn’t argue with your selection.
Unless of course we’re sitting around an evening campfire or a deer lodge, in which case we can happily argue the merits of our rifles. Most likely it won’t matter because by then we’ll already have taken our game.
By Dave Anderson
Model 70 Featherweight
Maker: Winchester Repeating Arms
275 Winchester Avenue
Morgan, UT 84050
Action type: Bolt-action repeater, long action
Caliber: 7×57 Mauser
Barrel Length: 22 inches
Overall Length: 42.75 inches
Weight: 6.75 pounds
Maker: Meopta USA
50 Davids Drive
Hauppauge, NY 11788
Eye Relief: 3.8 to 3.9 inches
Tube Diameter: 1 inch
Click Value: 1/4 MOA
Adjustment Range: 75 MOA windage & elevation
Weight: 15.73 ounces
Overall Length: 12.4 inches
Reticles: BDC (tested), ZPlex, 4