Strictly Down The Middle
The .33″ to .375″ Medium-Bore, Big-Game Cartridges Have Served Us Well For More Than A Century And Are Even Better Today.
One of my regular hunting partners, coincidentally named John, is in his mid-30s, and like many younger guys fascinated with powerful cartridges. When we first started hunting together he favored the .300 Remington Ultra Magnum, though in recent years he’s often hunted with magnums that don’t kick quite as hard, such as the .300 and .325 WSMs.
In 2011, John and I hunted together in Tanzania for game from deer-sized impala to Cape buffalo, both bringing a pair of rifles. Somewhat surprisingly, given his tendency toward 21st-century beltless magnums, John brought a .300 Winchester Magnum and a .458 Lott, cartridges originating in the 1960s, though the Lott didn’t become a factory round until A-Square legitimized it in 1989. I brought a 9.3×62 “Mauser” and .416 Rigby, both century-old rounds.
All four rifles did a good job when the Johns shot well, and we mostly did. As the safari went on, however, young John became more and more impressed with the 9.3×62. Midway through the 16-day hunt I put a 286-grain Nosler Partition into the shoulder of a big blue wildebeest at about 200 yards. The bull whirled at the shot, turning to run after his herd of homely cows, but only went a few yards before crumpling. Blue wildebeest have the reputation of being the hardest to kill of Africa’s non-dangerous animals, and John said, “Wow, I’m going to have to get a 9.3!”—quite a statement from a fan of modern high-velocity cartridges.
Other than the way it whomps big game, the 9.3×62 is extremely pedestrian in every way imaginable. Designed around 1905 by a German gunmaker named Otto Bock to work in the unaltered 1898 Mauser action, the original load was a .366″ bullet weighing 18.5 grams (285.5 grains) at a plodding 2,150 fps. The purpose was to provide a reasonably powerful, affordable rifle to settlers in Germany’s African colonies of South-West Africa and Tanganyika, today’s Namibia and Tanzania.
The 9.3×62’s original bullet fell just about halfway between the classic 270- and .300-grain .375 H&H loads. Despite starting out more than 10 percent slower than the 300-grain .375, the 9.3×62 enjoyed the same reputation as an all-around African cartridge, suitable for everything from impala to buffalo—and, in a pinch, even elephant.
During the past decade the old round has been catching on in the US. In 2011 Ruger chambered their Hawkeye African for the 9.3×62, and Nosler, Hornady and Remington offer factory ammunition. With modern powders the velocity of 286-grain bullets can be speeded up considerably. The Hornady and Remington loads are advertised at 2,360 fps, while Nosler offers their 250-grain AccuBond at 2,550 fps and 286-grain Partition at 2,450. Norma ammunition can sometimes be found, with various bullets from 232 (2,625 fps) to 325 grains (2,198 fps).
Handloaders can safely push things a little further. The load that impressed John so much in Tanzania used 66.0 grains of Ramshot Big Game for nearly 2,500 fps from the 286-grain Nosler Partition. It’s been pressure-tested at around 60,000 psi, the standard SAAMI level for the .30-06.
By John Barsness
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