The 9.3×62 Mauser Shoots Softly And Hits Hard.
The cartridge known as the 9.3×62 Mauser is sometimes called “the metric .35 Whelen,” implying the Germans got their inspiration from Townsend Whelen necking up the .30-06 to .35 in 1922. The 9.3×62, however, appeared 17 years earlier, so it would be more appropriate to call the .35 Whelen “the American 9.3×62.”
Until recently most Americans had never heard of the 9.3×62, mostly because for much of the 20th century German rifles and cartridges weren’t very popular in the US, due to a couple of world wars. Yeah, some rifle loonies liked Mauser actions and the 8×57 and (especially) the 7×57, but until memories of the two wars faded we preferred 1903 Springfields and Model 70 Winchesters (both derivatives of the 98 Mauser) and the .270 Winchester and .30-06 Springfield, (essentially American versions of the 7×57 and 8×57). Consequently, until early in the 21st century very few Americans had even heard of the 9.3×62, but now some dare to suggest it might be better than the .35 Whelen.
Otto Bock, a Berlin gunmaker, designed the cartridge to provide settlers in Germany’s African colonies a cheap all-around cartridge. The cheap part meant it had to work through unaltered 98 Mauser actions, so the case was based on the 8×57 necked up to take a 0.366-inch diameter bullet of 18.5 grams (285.5 grains), with the shoulder moved forward to provide as much powder capacity as possible. The 9.3mm diameter dated back to black-powder days, and resulted in just enough case shoulder for sure headspacing.
The long bullet required a 1:14-inch rifling twist. In contrast, the .35 Whelen used a 1:16 twist, just enough to stabilize 250-grain, lead-cored spitzers. Apparently this twist was used partly because many Americans (including Townsend Whelen) liked to use cast bullets for smaller game and practice in their big game rifles. Tighter twists supposedly gave poor accuracy with lead bullets.
The difference between a 1:16- and a 1:14-inch twist may not seem like much, but a larger bore requires less twist to stabilize bullets of a certain length. (Contrary to a common misconception, bullet length is the primary factor in stabilization, not weight.) The 1:14 twist proved not only adequate for lead-cored spitzers up to 320 grains, but today’s very long, all-copper 286-grain Barnes Triple Shock X-Bullet. In contrast, the heaviest .35-caliber TSX weighs 225 grains, because an all-copper 250-grain spitzer won’t stabilize in a 1:16-inch twist.
Recoil is noticeably less than the .338 Winchester and .375 H&H Magnums.
The velocity of the original 18.5-gram factory load of the 9.3×62 was around 2,150 fps, and bullets were available in both softnose and “solid,” due to its intended use in Africa. The cartridge did exactly what it was designed to do, providing wild game for the pot while ruining very little meat, yet proving capable of eliminating larger “varmints,” whether cattle-killing lions or crop-raiding Cape buffalo and elephants. It also became popular in Europe for driven wild boar, and in Scandinavia for the animal North Americans call moose.
After World War I, improved powders increased velocity somewhat, and a lighter load for smaller game also appeared, with a 15-gram (232-grain) bullet at around 2,600 fps. Eventually the 18.5 gram load’s velocity stabilized at 2,360 fps, but even today the 9.3×62’s maximum factory pressure is well under the .30-06’s 60,000 psi. As a result some careful handloading with newer powders can increase velocity another 100 fps or so in modern rifles.
I purchased my 9.3×62 in early 2002 after I wandered into Capital Sports & Western Wear in Helena, Montana, one day and found a new CZ 550 rifle in 9.3×62. The owner of the store says it’s still the fastest rifle sale he’s ever made. My Texas gunsmith friend Charlie Sisk is of German descent and had already made himself a 9.3×62, so when I worked up loads I asked Charlie to test them on the Pressure Trace strain-gauge setup in his indoor range. None of the loads listed here tested over 60,000 psi, the SAAMI limit for the .30-06.
The 9.3×62 is indeed a great all-around big-game round. I’ve taken everything from deer-sized animals to some weighing over 1,000 pounds, and it doesn’t shoot up much meat yet puts animals down with authority—including larger, tougher animals. In 2011 I took the CZ to Tanzania as my “light” rifle, using 286-grain Nosler Partitions at 2,475 fps. My hunting partner used what’s perhaps the typical American “plains game” cartridge, the .300 Winchester Magnum, loaded with 180-grain Nosler AccuBonds at over 3,000 fps. He was so impressed at how well the 9.3 put down hard-to-kill animals like blue wildebeest and zebra that he bought his own CZ 9.3×62 soon afterward.
With 232- and 250-grain bullets the 9.3×62 has a trajectory very much like 180-grain .30-06, 250-grain .338 Winchester Magnum or 270-grain .375 H&H loads, and the new 210-grain Cutting Edge Raptor shoots even flatter, so the old round can be handily used at ranges far beyond those any German colonial farmer imagined. The 250-grain loads listed have been used beyond 300 yards with no problem. (By the way, the 9.3×62 is known for shooting very well. The accuracy listed for the 250-grain AccuBond load with Reloder 15 is the average for eight groups, not just one or two. The largest group I’ve fired with the load measured exactly 1 inch.)
Both the British Columbia moose (above) and Tanzanian wildebeest were put down
quickly with a single 286-grain Nosler Partition. Between the hunts,
Kilimanjaro Rifles restocked the CZ.
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At the other extreme, the 320-grain Woodleigh Protected Point shoots right at the intersection of the crosshairs at 50 and 100 yards, making it an outstanding load for thick cover hunting, where a hunter might have to thread the bullet through a small opening. If an animal shows up across an opening, it’s only 2 inches down at 150 and 5 inches at 200.
A few years ago I ordered some 9.3mm 200-grain cast bullets from Huntington, intending to use them in my wife Eileen’s 9.3x72R/16 combination gun. The 9.3x72R is an old round with ballistics much like the .38-55, but upon measuring the bore of Eileen’s gun I found it to take .35-caliber bullets. As a result the cast bullets rested on my bullet shelves until this project, when I decided to use “The Load” C.E. Harris described in the Handloader’s Digest 10th Edition.
Through a lot of experimentation, Harris found 13.0 grains of Red Dot worked with cast bullets in any case the size of the .300 Savage or .35 Remington on up. I’ve since used it myself in cartridges up to the .416 Remington Magnum, and it worked again in the 9.3×62, providing a mild load that shot to the point of aim at 25 yards with the rifle sighted-in 2.5 inches high at 100 with 250-grain big-game loads. Huntington doesn’t have any on hand right now, or (like any anybody else during Obama Panic II) many bullets at all. But for anybody who wants a .35-Whelen-style cast bullet load, here it is.
Over the past decade my .338 Winchester Magnum and .375 H&H have basically gathered dust, since the lighter-recoiling 9.3×62 has replaced them for the same purposes. Oh, and the CZ holds two more rounds in the magazine. So far they’ve never been needed, but they’re there just the same.
By John Barsness
38 N. Frontage Rd., Mona, UT 84645
Cutting Edge Bullets, LLC
75 Basin Run Rd., Drifting, PA 16834
P.O. Box 671, Bend, OR 97709
Huntington Die Specialties
601 Oro Dam Blvd. East, Oroville, CA 95965