Are Accurate Long Range Rifles Really That Useful?
Field and Stream guns writer David Petzal bought up an interesting issue recently. Are rifles that promise half-MOA groups at long ranges all that useful to most shooters or hunters? It is an issue that I have explored for several years. Today some rifles can shoot a tight group at 300, 500, or even more than 1,000 yards, but so what?
Just like the super magnum craze of several years ago, now the “in” thing seems to be precision shooting at extreme ranges. Just last night on the Outdoor Channel I watched a program placing Ruger’s new Precision bolt action rifle. The shooters were sitting high up on a hill that looked like West Texas. One of the guys being interviewed was talking about regularly hitting targets with the new rifle out to 1,500 yards. He finally began to miss at 1,600. Wow!
Now, I have no issue with a rifle being able to do that or a shooter that would want to. In fact, I would love to have one of those new Ruger rifles. However, being able to gong steel at 1,500 yards hopefully will not encourage hunters, preppers, or survivalists into thinking by watching that program they will or should be able to shoot game at those ranges.
As Petzal commented in his article, “Does it help that a rifle can hit at those ranges? The people whom it may help are those who have an unholy fascination with shooting game at long range, as opposed to hunting game. I don’t confuse half or quarter-minute groups with anything that’s useful for hunting, such as the ability to see game, or move quietly, or pay attention for long periods of time or not wet oneself in times of stress.” I could not have said it better.
Nothing about hitting a steel plate with a .308 bullet at 1,500 yards is relevant to the ethical responsibility of attempting to harvest wildlife at such ranges. To be fair, those guys on that TV program were not insinuating that shooting at gongs at such ranges means one could also shoot at game at those ranges.
But, I know some hunters are going to think that they can. Long range shooting is a fine benchrest sport, but it is not for hunting. Bang gongs, not game.
STICKING THE BOOT IN!
The challenge of flinching. “When he fired the thing, the recoil was reputed to have knocked him off his horse.”
Flinch: ‘To start or wince involuntarily, as from surprise or pain’.
I used to love taking fathers and sons out hunting. It was great getting to know the guys and to see the desire they had for their sons to learn how to hunt properly and enjoy our great outdoors as they did. As well it was a great excuse for them to go hunting! Inevitably they brought with them a .308 or a 7mm/08, both great cartridges and, as sure as day would follow night they would ask me what I used. I’d then offer to give the son a shot with my .22/250 which, as well as having less recoil, also had a suppressor so the noise was greatly reduced. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to know what followed. Although not wanting to disappoint Dad, they’d ask me, ‘Can I use your rifle? And many of them did with great success. Some of them proved to be crack shots. It was the lack of recoil that was the appeal, not the weathered and chipped black paint on my old synthetic stock.
Ever seen a gun-shy dog who, when he sees a gun, either cringes or slinks away? That’s a picture of flinching. It can be described as a premature reaction to anticipated pain and, to put that bluntly in shooting terms, for humans it means you yank the trigger because you are scared of the blast of the shot or the recoil or the effects of the recoil! Consequently, you pull your shots down and to the side. Does wonders for your groups! Flinching is a dirty word in rifle shooting. It’s also a common challenge many hunters will face.
A flincher has usually had a bad experience in the past, such as being belted by a rifle and, because he didn’t like the result, he reacts in anticipation of a shot. According to the dictionary, the word flinch means:
1. To start or wince involuntarily, as from surprise or pain.
2. To recoil, as from something unpleasant or difficult; shrink.
Maybe it sounds pretty familiar? In the mid 1800’s there was a famous English explorer and hunter called Samuel Baker, whose favourite rifle was a monster 4 bore (gauge) gun (1.052inches bore diameter), firing a 1750 grain projectile – the standard .308 is 150 grain. Evidently he used to chase elephants on horseback and when he fired the thing, the recoil was reputed to have knocked him off his horse. Even when shooting it standing, it half spun him around, giving him a bleeding nose for his troubles, but I guess that would definitely be preferable to being run over by a charging buffalo or irate elephant.
To give another example of the power of the 4 bore, another famous African hunter Frederick Selous related that when firing his 4 bore he sat down on the ground and made his black boy squat behind him holding his shoulders. When the gun went off, they both turned somersaults! Even thinking about firing the thing would make me flinch!
I’ve certainly had my moments in regard to flinching. Years ago while cruising down a calm southern lake in a boat, we spotted a stag standing on a little bench just above the lake edge. Ronald, my mate, was driving and after he slowed the boat down and turned off the motor, I waited until it stopped rocking, took careful aim and fired. Now I’d shot a good number of deer from the boat so it wasn’t a new experience, but when the rifle roared, this time the scope impacted me just above my right eye. The next minute blood started pouring down my face while the stag ran away. It was an easy shot too, but no deer and a scar were reminders of how simple it is to stuff up the easy ones! That episode did my shooting no good for a while.
So what causes flinching? Generally speaking, as you will have gathered, blast and/or recoil. The more powerful the rifle, the more noise it will make, the more it will boot and the more you will be tempted to flinch. There are, of course, other contributing factors, namely the design of the stock, effectiveness of the recoil pad, weight of the rifle and the power of the load, the shooter’s stance, grip and pain threshold. A poorly designed stock may give you such a slap in the face that you feel as though you’ve just received a left from a heavy weight boxer, whereas a heavy stock will make the recoil feel more manageable. However, because there is a significant trend towards lighter rifles and more powerful cartridges, more hunters will be faced with the challenge of flinching. And, while you don’t usually feel recoil when shooting at a deer, take it from me that bad habits formed before you hit the field will generally stay with you!
Yes, recoil is a significant factor and, as one writer commented, “The majority of authorities seem to agree that recoil of over 20 ft lbs will cause the average shooter to develop a flinch, which is ruinous to accuracy. I estimate that about 15 ft lbs of recoil energy represents the upper limit of the average shooter’s comfort level. Above that recoil becomes increasingly intrusive. The effects of recoil are cumulative. The longer you shoot, and the harder a rifle kicks, the more unpleasant shooting becomes and the more likely you are to jerk the trigger or flinch”. (C Hawks)
Recoil is measured by allowing the rifle to move back unrestrained when fired and it is interesting to note, in light of the comments above, the actual ft lbs recoil of some favourite cartridges. The .22/250 (7.5lb rifle) has 5.4 ft lbs recoil, the .243 Winchester. (8lb rifle) 10.0 ft lbs, .270 Win. (8lb rifle) 17.1ft lbs, 7mm Remington Magnum (8.5lb ) 19.8 ft lbs, .30/06 (8lb) 20.3 ft lbs , 300 Winchester Magnum (9lb) 24.2 ft lbs , the .340 Weatherby 42.6 ft lbs. These figures will vary of course depending on the bullet weight used and velocity of each load, with the effects magnified or otherwise depending on the weight of the rifle and design of the stock. You’ll notice that the .300 Magnum is well over the bench mark 20ft lbs.
Speaking of the trend towards more powerful rifles reminds me of the day a potential client rang to ask my advice. He wanted to buy a .300WSM and after I cautioned him re his choice, mainly because of the recoil and the cost of ammo, he ended up buying a .270. Later, after a spell on the range and before he shot his first deer, he casually mentioned that he’d had a previous problem with flinching after a bad experience with a 30/30! He actually shot really well with his new Sako .270 and pulled off a great shot for his first deer, a nice stag. Bigger does not always mean better and there is a cost with shooting more powerful cartridges. Sure they go faster, hit harder and look impressive, but they cost more, the rifles are heavier and most guys actually have trouble handling a .30/06 let alone anything more powerful and, let me add, size and physique of the shooter have little to do with it. An aside here: realise the reason many of these new, powerful, short Magnum cartridges are so popular is that ammo and firearms companies need to keep producing new products so they can sell more, thus the new cartridges are promoted as the latest wonder, giving gun writers something to write about and us suckers something extra to buy!
So what can you do if you think you are flinching? If you do want to shoot a big cannon, make sure you have a very effective recoil pad fitted or, better still, put a suppressor on it. That will, of course, add to the weight as well. My very lightweight .30/06 has one fitted and it markedly reduces both the sound and the recoil.
To overcome flinching means you must retrain your brain and the way your muscles respond to the message from your brain. In other words, when you come to fire a shot your brain must tell you, ‘This shot is going exactly where I aim’, rather than, ‘This is going to hurt,’ and then your muscles will respond by squeezing, not yanking. You may have to remove the source of the problem and purchase a rifle with a smaller calibre or a less powerful cartridge. If you can shoot accurately with the likes of a .308, in my humble opinion, you will not be in any way disadvantaged for the majority of deer hunting you will be doing in New Zealand.
Dry firing is a great way to help retrain your brain. Using an EMPTY case, or a commercially made ‘snap cap’ with a spring to cushion the firing pin when it strikes, load your gun and practise firing for ten or so minutes every once in a while, in as many positions as you like. Change your empty case after half a dozen shots. Ideally, when you squeeze the trigger it should impart no movement to the sight picture. Then concentrate particularly on evaluating the sight picture at the exact instant the trigger breaks. The ability to ‘call’ the shot, that is to see and evaluate the sight picture as the shot is being fired, is critical. All top shooters spend time dry firing. It simply trains the brain and thus the eye and the trigger finger to respond to the correct sight picture.
Finally, when you go to the range, get your mate to load your rifle for each shot, but ask him to leave the chamber empty for some ‘shots’ without telling you. It is not only a good test to see whether you flinch, it’s also good training. You don’t have to shoot a big powerful rifle to be successful hunter, but whatever you do shoot, you need to shoot it well.
How to Sight-In a Hunting Rifle
Once your scoped rifle has been bore sighted for 100 yards, it is time to go to the rifle range……
By Chuck Hawks
After you have firmly mounted a scope on your rifle and focused it to your eye, bore sight the rifle. Use a bore collimator or do it the old fashioned way, but get it done before you fire the first shot from your rifle. See my article “How to Bore Sight A Rifle” for further details.
I am assuming a telescopic sight because this article is about sighting-in a hunting rifle and all game animals, small or large, deserve your best shot, which cannot be delivered with iron sights. In any case, the iron sights typically supplied with new factory made rifles are so crude that you would probably spend more money on ammunition attempting to sight them in than you would on an economical scope. If you are reading this article in hopes of learning how to hammer the factory rear sight to and fro in its dovetail slot to adjust for windage, you are going to be disappointed.
Once your scoped rifle has been bore sighted for 100 yards it is time to go to the rifle range, which should offer at least 25 yard and 100 yard (or 100 meter) firing positions. If your local range doesn’t, find one that does or head for the hills with your portable shooting bench and measure the required ranges as accurately as possible.
Start at the 25 yard position. Put up a large paper target. I usually use an NRA 100 yard small bore rifle target, which has a large black bulls-eye. Get really comfortable on the shooting bench, so that none of your muscles are cramped or in tension. Bring a pillow or a folded-up blanket to sit on (as required) to get your head and shoulders at a comfortable height at the bench rest.
When you are seated and comfortable, position one or more sandbags on the table so that you can comfortably rest the forearm of your rifle (or the hand holding the forearm of your rifle) on them. If you don’t have real sandbags, an 8-10 pound bag (or two) of kitty litter works well. (I duct tape the ends of “Jonny Cat” brand bags of kitty litter and they last for many trips to the range.) I cover the Jonny Cat bag(s) with an old blanket for comfort, and to protect them. A commercial rifle rest (I have heard that Outers makes a good one) is probably better than sandbags, but sandbags (or kitty litter) are cheaper. Never rest any part of a rifle, and particularly the barrel, on a hard surface. On recoil the rifle will jump away from a hard surface, giving you a false point of impact.
Because I will be holding the forearm of my rifle in my hand in the field, I do the same at the range. I rest my hand over the sandbag and grip the forearm of my rifle in my hand, just as I would in the field. Try to hold the rifle as firmly as you would in the field. Changing the way you hold a rifle will change its point of impact, so I try to hold my rifle at the range as much as possible as I will be holding it in the field.
Remember that you are sighting-in a hunting rifle. You could probably get somewhat smaller groups by minimizing all human contact with the rifle, especially by letting the sandbags or rifle rest entirely support the forearm. Small groups are desirable, but in this case getting the point of impact correct is even more important. You can always shoot for the smallest possible group size later.
Anyway, by now you should be in a steady position at the shooting bench with the rifle pointed at the 25 yard target. If you are using a variable power scope, set it to the highest practical power. In other words, the highest power that delivers a sharp, clear image. This may not be the maximum power. Many scopes look better slightly below their maximum magnification. For example, the view through a 3-9x scope may look better at 7x or 8x than it does at 9x.
Now load one round into the chamber and prepare to shoot. Put the crosshairs directly on the center of that big, black bull. Before you shoot, close your eyes for 10 seconds and then open them. Did the crosshair drift off the center of the target while your shooting eye was closed? If it did it means that your muscles are under tension trying to keep the rifle on target. Shift your position slightly until you can close your eyes and find that the rifle is still aimed directly at the point of aim when you open them. Now your muscles are properly relaxed and you are in a position to do your best shooting. Go through this little routine before you fire every shot.
Carefully fire one round. Call the shot. If the crosshair was on the center of the target when the gun fired, you don’t need to shoot again. If it wasn’t, mark that hole as a flyer and shoot again. Get a perfect surprise break.
Okay, examine the target and find the bullet hole. You can probably see it through your rifle scope, and certainly through your spotting scope. (You did bring a spotting scope, didn’t you?) Even though you bore sighted your rifle the bullet hole is probably not going to be in the center of the target at 25 yards, but at least it should be somewhere on the paper. Measure (or at least accurately estimate) its distance from the “X” in the center of the bull. Let’s say, for example, that single perfect shot hit 3 inches high and 2 inches to the left of the center of the target.
Adjust your scope the number of clicks or increments required to move the point of impact to the center of the target. For example, let’s say the instructions that came with your scope advise that each click moves the point of impact 1/4 MOA, which is 1/4 inch at 100 yards. Fine, but since we are shooting at only 25 yards, we will need to multiply the number of clicks by 4.
To move the point of impact down the required 3″ at 100 yards would require 12 clicks (four clicks per inch). At 25 yards, remember, we will have to multiply the number of clicks by 4, so turn the elevation adjustment in the down direction 48 clicks (12 x 4 = 48). It is a good idea to go a little past the new setting and then come back whenever adjusting a scope. I’d turn, say, 50 clicks and then come back 2 clicks for a total of 48 clicks down. This helps settle the adjustments of many scopes. I also tap the adjustment dials after setting them, for the same reason.
Now adjust the windage. You need to move the point of impact 2 inches to the right, which at 100 yards would require 8 clicks. At 25 yards that means 32 clicks (8 x 4 = 32). Turn the windage adjustment a total of 32 clicks to the right (usually marked “R” on most scopes).
Okay, now get back into that comfortable position and fire one more perfect shot at the 25 yard target. Ideally, if the scope’s adjustments are accurate, it should hit inside the “10-ring” of a 100 yard small bore rifle target. If it does, your preliminary 25 yard sighting is close enough. No need to waste ammunition getting it perfect. You will do that at 100 yards.
If the second shot is not within an inch of the center of the target, you will have to adjust the scope again. By the third or fourth shot and adjustment of the scope the bullet should be landing inside of the 10-ring. If it isn’t, something may be wrong. Check the scope mount screws for tightness. They must allow absolutely no movement of the scope under recoil.
Let’s assume that your rifle is now hitting within an inch or less of the point of aim at 25 yards. Great, now it will at least be on the paper at 100 yards. Hopefully, it has only taken 2 or 3 shots to achieve this. The rifle’s barrel is probably not too hot, your shoulder is still in good shape, and you haven’t wasted a lot of ammunition.
Now put up a 100 yard target. You can use the 100 yard small bore rifle target, but I prefer the Outers “Score Keeper” target. It has a central bull’s-eye and 4 smaller bulls, one in each corner (which I ignore). Best of all, it is overlaid with 1 inch grid lines, making it easy to see how far your bullet holes are from the point of aim using only your spotting scope–no need to measure. This saves a lot of steps when shooting at 100 yards.
Wait until your rifle barrel has cooled to the ambient temperature (keep it out of the sun), and then get back into your comfortable bench rest shooting position. Remember to close your eyes before you shoot to check for a perfect, tension free hold. This time you will fire 3 shots, slowly and very carefully, at the exact center of the 100 yard target. Take your time and make each shot a perfect surprise break. Call your shots and check each one through your spotting scope. That way, if you call a flyer, you will know which bullet hole to disregard. Re-shoot any flyers so that you have 3 good shots on the target.
Now estimate the center point of impact for the three bullet holes. If you have an accurate rifle and shot it well, they should be within about a 3 inch (or smaller) circle somewhere on the 100 yard target, so this should not be too difficult.
Now is the time to use what you learned by studying the “Expanded Rifle Trajectory Table” on the Tables, Charts and Lists Page. If you did your home work before leaving for the range you should know where you want your bullets to hit at 100 yards to take full advantage of your rifle’s maximum point blank range (MPBR).
For many typical long range rifle calibers, such as the .243 Winchester with a 95 grain bullet, 6mm Remington with a 100 grain bullet, .25-06 with 100-125 grain bullets, .270 Winchester with 130-140 grain bullets, 7mm Magnum with 140-160 grain bullets, .300 Magnum with 165-180 grain bullets, or .338 Magnum with a 200 grain bullet, the rifle should be sighted to put the point of impact approximately 2.5 inches above the point of aim at 100 yards. In other words, you should aim exactly at the center of the bulls-eye and the bullets should land about 2.5 inches directly above the center of the bulls-eye. Get it? That maximizes the point blank range of your rifle, eliminating the need to hold over any big game animal from the muzzle out to a distance of about 300 yards (or more) with the cartridges and loads mentioned above. Check the Rifle Trajectory Table for the exact 100 yard point of impact and MPBR for your cartridge and load.
If you are sighting-in a medium range rifle like a .30-30 with 150-170 grain bullets, .300 Savage with 165-180 grain bullets, .30-06 with a 220 grain bullet, .32 Winchester Special with a 170 grain bullet, .338-57 O’Connor with 200-225 grain bullets, .35 Remington with a 200 grain bullet, .358 Winchester with a 200 grain bullet, .416 Rigby with a 400 grain bullet, .444 Marlin with 240-300 grain bullets, or .450 Marlin with a 350 grain bullet, you will want your bullets to hit about 3 inches high with a center hold at 100 yards. This will give you a MPBR of about 200-250 yards, depending on the individual caliber and load. Once again, you will aim at the center of the bull’s eye, and adjust the actual point of the bullet’s impact to be about 3 inches directly above your point of aim.
Let’s say, for example, that your are sighting-in a .270 Winchester rifle using a load that drives a 130 grain bullet at a MV of 3100 fps, and your first 100 yard 3-shot group landed in a 2 inch circle centered 3.5 inches above the center of the target and 1.5 inches to the right. With that load you want the bullets to hit exactly 2.5″ above the point of aim (the center of the bull’s-eye) at 100 yards, so you need to move the point of impact 1 inch down and 1.5 inches to the left.
For serious sighting-in it is best to adjust the scope in only one direction at a time. Scope adjustments frequently interact with each other (they should not, but in the real world they may); so by changing only one at a time the effect is minimized. Move the elevation adjustment 4 clicks in the “down” direction. That should be 1 inch at 100 yards for the scope in our example.
Now shoot another careful 3-shot group, making sure that the barrel has time to cool between shots. Take your time and do it right. Did the center of the group move so that it is now 2.5 inches over the point of aim? If it did, good enough; if not, you will have to make another elevation adjustment and shoot another 3-shot group. This is where a good scope with precise adjustments really justifies its higher price.
Once the elevation is correct and the center of your group is the necessary 2.5″ above the point of aim, go on to the windage adjustment. The rifle in our example is hitting 1.5 inches to the right, so we need to move the center of the group 1.5 inches, or 6 clicks, to the left. Go ahead and make the required adjustment. After the barrel has again cooled to the ambient temperature, fire three more careful shots, always holding on the exact center of the bull’s-eye. If all went well, the rifle should now be putting its bullets 2.5 inches directly over the center of the bulls-eye, the point of aim.
If you have the extra ammunition, shoot a final 5-shot group to insure that everything is as it should be. Congratulations, your rifle is now correctly sighted-in.
If all went well you have probably used about a box of cartridges to sight-in your rifle. That’s not too bad. I’d stop at the end of that first box and either shoot something else or call it a day and go have a cup of coffee.
HOW TO SIGHT IN A RIFLE
Interested in finding out how to sight in a rifle? Keep reading for some step-by-step instructions?
(“Courtesy of The Big Game Hunting Blog Big Game Hunting Blog Big Game Hunting Blog )
Interested in finding out how to sight in a rifle? Keep reading for some step-by-step instructions.
Though it’s still summer, hunting season is just around the corner for some parts of the United States. In fact, fall bear season has already started here in Washington. It is very important that hunters properly prepare their equipment for the upcoming season. Today, I hope to provide some assistance in this matter by explaining how to sight in a rifle.
Since most hunters use telescopic sights on their rifles, this article describes how to sight in a rifle with a scope. After mounting a new scope on a rifle, it is very important to ensure that the reticle is completely level. Even a slight cant to the reticle can throw off the impact of the bullet and make the scope much more difficult to sight in.
Also, properly secure the scope in the rings and ensure that the scope rings are tightly mounted to the base. There should be no wiggle whatsoever to the scope.
Before actually shooting the rifle, it is best to bore sight it. First, ensure that the rifle is unloaded and that the barrel is unobstructed. Then, remove the bolt of the rifle and mount the rifle in a secure rest pointing downrange. Standing behind the rifle, look through the bore and very carefully move the rifle until your target is centered in the bore. Then, without moving the rifle, adjust the scope so that the reticle is centered on the same target. The turret on the top of the scope adjusts the elevation of the reticle while the turret on the side adjusts the windage. It is not vitally important for the bore sight to be extremely precise. It just needs to be close enough so that the rifle will be on paper at 25 yards in the next step.
Your view when looking down the bore of the rifle should look something like this.
After bore sighting the rifle, you’re ready to start shooting. I like to shoot at 25 yards first, then fine tune my zero at longer ranges. I’ve learned that this saves time, ammunition, and frustration in the long run by avoiding taking shots at 50 or 100 yards and not hitting the paper. The exact target doesn’t really matter at 25 yards as long as it has a distinct aiming point. Some people use bulls-eye targets with lots of success.
When sighting in your rifle, it is extremely important to shoot from a very stable position with lots of support. Use sandbags or a specially built rifle rest to do this. Whenever possible, avoid supporting the rifle with your muscles, as this is less precise than using a stable object like a sandbag. Finally, focus your scope on the target that you are shooting at. This will give you a crystal clear view of the target and make the shooting easier. Most scopes have a dial to focus the lens, which is normally located at the end closest to the shooter. You can see it on my rifle in the first photo. It’s the dial located on the very end of the scope, just to the left of the word “Conquest.”
Once you’re set in a steady position, fire at least three shots at the center of your target at 25 yards. Especially if you’re using a high magnification scope, you may be able to see the holes your bullets make in the target. No matter where you see the bullet holes in the paper, do not change your point of aim. Keep aiming at the bulls-eye, or you’ll end up chasing your shots all over the target. It’s ok if you don’t hit the bulls-eye at first. In fact, it’s almost guaranteed that you won’t.
After you fire your first group, check the target to see where you’re hitting. Measure from the center of your group to the bulls-eye and adjust your scope accordingly. Most rifle scopes have 1/4 MOA adjustments. This means that 1 click will move the bullet impact 1/4″ at 100 yards. However, this means that you need to make 4x times number of clicks (16 clicks=1″) to move the bullet impact the same distance at 25 yards. For example, the point of impact on the target below needs to be moved 1/2″ left and 1/2″ up. At 25 yards, that would be 8 clicks each way.
At 25 yards, adjust the scope 8 clicks left & 8 clicks up
As stated above, the turret on top moves the bullet impact up and down, while the turret on the side moves it left and right. As you can see in the photo below, most scopes have the measurement increments annotated on the turret, along with the proper direction to turn it. In the case of the scope on my rifle, turning the turret clockwise will move the impact of the bullet up or right, depending on which turret you are adjusting.
For example, assume that I shot a group at 25 yards that hit 1″ low and 4″ to the right with my rifle in the photo above. Since I need to move the bullet impact up and to the left, I’d turn the top turret 16 clicks clockwise and turn the side turret 64 clicks counterclockwise. A trick I learned in the Army is to go several clicks past the required number, then go back.
For instance, I’d go 21 clicks clockwise, then 5 clicks counterclockwise on the top turret. After that, gently tap the turret several times to ensure the adjustments are locked in. This is even more important when making very large adjustments, or when using low quality scopes.
After making the required number of adjustments, shoot another group at the bulls-eye. If that group hits where you’re aiming, you’re ready to move the target out to 100 yards. If not, make the necessary adjustments to the scope and shoot until the rifle is dialed in at 25 yards.
Using the same techniques described earlier, shoot a group at 100 yards. Since you zeroed the rifle at 25 yards, it should be at least hitting the paper at 100 yards. Measure the distance from the center of your group to the bulls-eye and adjust the scope as necessary. Remember: 4 clicks=1″ at 100 yards, not 16, like at 25 yards!
When zeroing at 100 yards, your windage should be dead on. However, there is some debate as to where your shots should be hitting elevation wise. If you’ll be hunting at a relatively short range, then it might make sense to adjust your scope so that the bullets are hitting the bulls-eye at 100 yards.
However, sighting in your rifle so it hits slightly high has advantages as well. Each rifle is different and an ideal 100 yard zero varies. Using my rifle in the photos (a Ruger M77 in 9.3x62mm Mauser) as an example, I sight it in so my shots hit about 2″ high at 100 yards. With this set up, the bullet will hit ~1″ high at 50 yards, ~1″ high at 150 yards, dead on at 165 yards, and ~3″ low at 200 yards. This means that without having to adjust my scope or my point of aim, I can take a shot on a deer out to 200 yards and still hit the vitals.
Bring it down 4 clicks and 1 (maybe 2) clicks right to have an ideal 100 yard zero
After you’ve made your final adjustment, fire one last group to confirm it. If the group hits where you want it to, you’re done. A good scope will hold your adjustments for a very long time, certainly through hunting season (https://biggamehuntingadventures.com/trophy-alberta-bear-hunts), as long as you don’t drop the rifle or otherwise damage your scope.
How To Zero a Hunting Rifle
No matter how steady your hunting rifle, hitting at any range presumes a proper zero.
No matter how steady your hunting rifle, hitting at any range presumes a proper zero.
Flat-shooting loads beg a 200-yard zero, for point-blank range to 250 yards—or more.
Zeroing, or sighting in, is simply aligning the sights (scope) on your rifle so the bullet hits where you aim at a certain distance. A rifle cannot be manipulated to change the bullet’s path. It is the sight alone that is to be adjusted. Windage and elevation adjustments move the rear sight or a scope’s reticle so it directs your eye to where the bullet hits at a given distance. You pick the range.
Because a bullet follows the bore axis out the muzzle, it will fly nearly parallel to the line of sight until gravity pulls it unacceptably off course. Bear in mind that a bullet’s path is never perfectly straight. Gravity grabs the projectile as soon as it exits the rifle. In zeroing, you adjust the sight so your straight line of vision intersects the bullet’s parabolic path not far from the muzzle, then travels below it until the two merge at the zero distance. Beyond that, the bullet drops ever more steeply away from the line of sight.
It’s a common misconception that a bullet rises above line of bore during its flight. It does not. It cannot. Sight-line is not parallel to bore line, but, rather, at a slightly converging angle. The line of sight dips below bore line and the bullet’s arc. Sightline never again meets bore line. Both are straight and, after crossing, diverge. A bullet hits above sightline at midrange, because sightline has been purposefully angled down through its trajectory. The bullet falls to intersect it at greater range. If the sightline were parallel with the bore, it would never touch the bullet’s arc.
The most useful zero depends on the bullet’s trajectory and on how far you intend to shoot. For most big-game rifles, a 200-yard zero makes sense. Sight in there with a .30-06 or a similar cartridge, and your bullet will stay within three vertical inches of point of aim out to 250 yards or so. A three-inch vertical error still gives you a killing strike in the ribs of big-game animals. The 200-yard zero permits “dead-on” aim as far as most marksmen can hit in the field. At 300 yards you’ll have to shade high.
Why not zero at 250 or even 300? Well, with flat-shooting rounds like Weatherby’s .270 Magnum, you can. A 200-yard zero puts its 140-grain bullet only 1½ inches over sightline at l00. Adjust the scope so the rifle shoots three inches high at l00, and you’ll reach 300 yards with a mere one inch of drop! By the same logic, a zero for the likes of the .30-30 is best kept short of 200 yards, otherwise the bullet’s steep arc will put it a whopping five inches high at its apex (some distance beyond 100).
This Hill Country Rifle .270 puts bullets almost two inches high at 100 yards, a useful zero.
The best zero for a .30-30 carbine may have less to do with the limited range of the cartridge than the more limited range at which you can shoot accurately with its iron sights—or the even more limited distance you can see in typical whitetail cover! While a 150-yard zero is reasonable, a 100-yard zero may be even more practical, especially if you hunt where most of your shots come very close.
You’re better off zeroing hunting rifles so you won’t ever have to hold low. Remember that shots too long for a point-blank hold with a 200-yard zero are uncommon. Most game, even in open country, is killed well inside 300 yards. I recall a fellow shooting over the back of a magnificent bull elk at 200 because he’d zeroed his .300 Weatherby at 400.
One reason many hunters like to zero long is that they overestimate yardage in the field. One fellow told me recently that his .30 magnum could outshoot any rifle between 800 and 900 yards and that he had toppled a buck at 700 steps by holding just over its withers. Now, even a politician would have blushed spinning that yarn.
The flattest-shooting cartridges land their bullets nearly three feet low at 500 yards, when the rifle is zeroed at 200. To keep a .270 Weatherby bullet (muzzle velocity 3,375 fps) from sagging more than a foot at 700 yards, you’d have to zero at over 600! That would put the bullet roughly two feet high at 300 and 400. It would be plunging so rapidly at 700 that, if you misjudged range by just 10 percent, you’d miss the deer’s vitals!
When zeroing, you’ll save time and ammunition separating the task into two stages, bore sighting and shooting. Bore sighting isn’t necessary. It’s merely a short-cut to the end of the shooting stage. Shooting is necessary. A rifle that’s only bore-sighted is not zeroed!
Zeroing Your Rifle
Wayne fired this 300-yard group with a Ruger .30-06, with an eight-inch hold-over.
First shots to zero should be at 25 yards, whether or not you’ve bore-sighted. After each shot at 25, move the rear sight or scope dial in the direction you want the bullet to go until you hit point of aim. (Mind the dial arrows! European scope knobs typically turn clockwise to move impact up and right, while clockwise rotation on scopes built for the American market moves impact down and left.) Now, switch to a 100-yard target. I prefer that bullets from flat-shooting big-game rounds hit two to 2½ inches high at this range. (We prefer 3 inches – Editor) Depending on the load, the rifle will then put its bullets close to point of aim at 200 yards.
After satisfactory results at 100 yards, move the target to 200 or your zero range. During the last stages of zeroing, make sight changes only after three-shot groups. A single shot can be misleading.
Windage and elevation dial “clicks” or graduations are engineered to shift bullet impact a precise measure at 100 yards. That’s most commonly ¼-minute of angle. A minute of angle is 1.047 inches at 100 yards (but shooters know it as an inch at that range), two inches at 200, and so on. A target scope may have graduations as fine as 1/8-minute; scopes intended for long shooting incorporate coarser elevation detents—½-minute or even 1-minute clicks—to lift point of impact with less dial movement. A greater range of adjustment results, as well. When you can’t turn the dial past zero, you also avoid the possibility of “full rotation” error, which can cause spectacular misses. European dials are typically marked in centimeters.
Another method as fast as counting clicks to move bullet impact, is to secure your rifle so the reticle centers the target as it did when you last fired. Then, without moving the rifle, turn the dials until your reticle kisses the previous bullet hole.
Even with a benchrest, it’s easy to make a bad shot. In fact, a bench can give you a false sense of stability, prompting fast, sloppy shooting. No matter how steady you think you are, check your position before each shot and fire carefully. Call your shots. To learn where your bullets really hit at long range (and how great their dispersion), fire at 300, then 400 yards. For hunting, that’s as far as you’ll likely have occasion to shoot. If longer pokes are on the agenda, find a place to test your rifle and your zero farther downrange. It’s worth the trouble! There’s no reason to fire at game farther than you’ve tested your loads and your holds on paper!
Tactical rifles in .338 Lapua and .50 BMG, built to hurl match bullets at targets very far off, have been joined by sporting rifles with exceptional reach. Zeroing at long range introduces a couple special considerations most hunters needn’t consider. One is the range of dial movement on the scope’s elevation adjustment. Consider installing a slanted Picatinny rail, one whose front end is lower than the rear. Such a rail has “gain” and puts the scope at an angle to the bore, so that, when you center the dial in its range, the scope’s axis (line of sight) crosses the bullet’s path farther away. You get a longer zero without using all the adjustment. The more nearly centered the erector assembly (which holds your reticle), the better. A lens gives you the best picture through its middle. Barrett supplies rails with gain for its .50-caliber rifles.
Hunting rifles with 200-yard zeros won’t do well at a 1,000-yard match, because shooters would have to aim several feet over the target frame. There’s too little elevation adjustment in many scopes to get a 1,000-yard zero. If you could dial in enough lift to achieve a 600-yard zero with your .30-06, you’d still have to aim 17 feet high to hit a 1,000-yard bull’s-eye! Of course, a truly long-range zero comes with severe mid-range penalties. Even that 600-yard zero would put ’06 bullets 2½ feet high at 300 yards!
This article is an excerpt from Mastering the Art of Long-Range Shooting, by Wayne van Zwoll.
Forty Years with the little 7x57mm
“I think,” says the author, “I’ve seen more game killed with fewer shots from this modest little cartridge than any other.”
Mrs. O’Connor’s 7×57 Mauser, metalsmithing by Burgess, stock by Russ Leonard. Shown here with Buehler mount and Weaver K4, but it now carries a Leupold 3x.
“I think,” says the author, “I’ve seen more game killed with fewer shots from this modest little cartridge than any other.” Here’s the why and how, all of which may well explain the current spate of interest in the 7X57 as chronicled in the Gun Digest 1974 annual edition.
Eleanor O’Connor with a 53-inch greater kudu shot with the 7×57 in Mozambique in 1962. Her professional hunter is Harry Manners.
For almost 40 years I’ve been having an off-and-on romance with a sweet little cartridge known as the 7×57, the 7mm Mauser, and the 7mm Spanish Mauser. There is nothing spectacular about the 7×57. It does not have a big case. Even when the charge is tightly compressed it is possible to get only about 53 grains of 4350 or 4831 powders into the Western 7×57 case, which is roomier than Remington’s. This modest little cartridge does not have a belt. It isn’t a magnum. It doesn’t bellow like a 105mm howitzer and scramble the brains of the firer. It doesn’t shoot through three elk, one moose, two grizzlies and a forest ranger and then mow down a grove of jack pines on the far side. The hole in the barrel is so little that even a small, thin, underprivileged mouse would have difficulty in entering, and the cartridge itself isn’t as long as a maiden’s arm.
Yet I think I have seen more game killed with fewer shots from this modest little cartridge than with any other. The explanation for its deadly efficiency does not lie in blinding velocity, in big bullets, in a frightening number of foot pounds of energy. It lies in the light recoil, coupled with the excellent hunting accuracy of so many 7×57s. Those who use it are not afraid of it and, as a consequence, they tend to shoot it well—and to place their shots well. In case no one has told you, the most important factor in killing power is putting that bullet in the right spot.
The 7×57 is so-called because the bullet has the number of millimeters which add up to a diameter of .284″ and the barrels a bore diameter of .276″. The bullets have a slightly greater diameter than those of the 270 WCF, which measure .277″. The 7×57 case holds about 10 grains less powder, as you can stuff 62–63 grains of 4831 into a Western 270 case. The cartridge gets the “57” tacked onto its name because the case is 57mm long. The head size is the same as that of the 30-06 and the 270. It is simply the 8×57J Mauser case necked down to 7mm.
As I write this, late in 1972, the cartridge is 80 years old. Developed in 1892 at the Mauser Werke in Germany, it was adopted the next year by Spain as a military cartridge. We Americans first got acquainted with it in 1898 when, in Cuba, the Spanish used it to shoot small, neat holes in a considerable number of gringos in such ructions as the American charge up San Juan hill. The American army came out of the war with a profound admiration for the 7×57 and for the Model 1893 Mausers the cartridge was used in. American Ordnance developed the 1903 Springfield rifle, which is a modified Mauser, and the 30-03 and 30-06 cartridges, which are enlarged 7×57s.
This 42-inch sable antelope was a one-shot kill with the 7×57 in Angola.
Until recent years, the 7×57 was enormously popular as a military cartridge. It was adopted by Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Honduras, Uruguay, and Serbia, as well as by Spain. It became popular as a sporting cartridge in England, on the Continent, and in Africa. W.D.M. Bell, the famous elephant hunter and excellent writer (Bell of Africa, Tales of an Elephant Hunter, Karamojo Safari), used it with the full metal-jacketed 172-gr. military bullets (solids) to bump off over 1,000 elephants. Most of these were big, tough bulls with good ivory. Bell never bothered much with cows.
Americans became acquainted with the 7×57 as a big game cartridge after the Spanish-American War, as many American soldiers brought rifles back with them and used them on deer, elk, moose, and bear. For a long time the only American factory cartridge available was one loaded with a 175-gr. soft point bullet at a muzzle velocity of 2,300 foot seconds. Later the velocity was stepped up to 2,490 fps. I do not know, but I suspect that this velocity was taken in a 30-inch barrel as, until recently anyway, it was the practice to take velocities in the barrel length for which the cartridge was developed. In the case of the 7mm, the early military rifles had 30-inch barrels.
The long 175-gr. bullets gave satisfactory penetration because of good sectional density, made a satisfactory wound channel because the bullets had plenty of lead and expanded easily. All in all, with that bullet, the 7mm was a good 175–225 yard cartridge for about any sort of game. Trajectory with the heavy bullet was about like that of the 30-06 with the 220-gr. bullet. Recoil was less. If you were smart enough to sight in to put the bullet 3 inches high at 100 yards, there was no necessity to hold high even at 200—and I’m sure I don’t need to tell my gentle readers that more game is killed at under 200 yards than over.
Along in the middle 1920s, the Western Cartridge Company shot the old 7mm full of testosterone and vitamins Z, P, and X, by bringing out a load that gave a 139-gr. open point bullet an alleged velocity of 3,000 fps. If that velocity were the McCoy (and I doubt that like hell) it was achieved in a 30-inch barrel. Remington likewise introduced a load with a 139-gr. bullet but said it was stepping along at 2,900. Prior to World War II, Winchester loaded a 150-gr. bullet at 2,750, a velocity probably taken in a 24-inch barrel. Currently Norma loads a 110-gr. bullet at 3,068, a 150 at 2,756, and a 175 at 2,490.
The 1893 and 1895 Mauser actions are on the soft side, cock on the closing motion of the bolt, and do not have the auxiliary locking lug at the root of the bolt handle. Pressures, consequently, should be kept down to around 45,000 pounds per square inch. Some of the actions made in Spain are particularly soft. Beginning around 1908, the Mauser Werke at Oberndorf, Germany, began turning out 7×57 sporters in various styles on a slightly shortened Model 98 type action. I have heard this action called the Model 1908 and also the Model 1912. It is, I believe, ⅜-inch shorter than the standard Model 98. Actions of similar, if not identical, lengths were used by Mexico, Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia. Just before and after World War I hock shops in the Southwest and Southern California always had for sale 7mm Mauser carbines that had probably come across the line with fugitive Mexican soldiers. These could be bought for a song and were widely used for hunting deer and desert sheep in the Southwest.
In Germany, .the Mauser Werke and various custom gunsmiths built 7×57s. In England, Rigby made them on Mauser actions, calling the cartridge the 275 Rigby. In the United States, Remington turned out 7×57 rifles on the Rider Rolling Block actions for various foreign governments, and also chambered Lee sporting rifles for the cartridge.
During the 1920s and 1930s, Griffin & Howe made many handsome sporters on Mauser and Springfield actions for the cartridge. The first caliber that W.A. Sukalle, the famous Arizona gunsmith and barrelmaker, tooled up for was the 7mm.
Remington chambered the Model 30 bolt action for the cartridge, and Winchester produced 7×57s in the Models 54 and 70. But what had been a mild boom for this fine little cartridge petered out. Both Winchester and Remington dropped the load with the 139-gr. bullet. They also discontinued the caliber in their line of bolt action rifles about the time WW II began.
Winchester chambered the Model 54 and the Model 70 for the 7 ×57. A Super Grade pre- ’64 Model 70 like this early one in 7 ×57 would bring a nice sum from a collector.
However, in the past 20 years or so in the United States, thousands of 7×57 military rifles have been sold, turned into sporters in one way or another, and used for hunting. The cartridge has always had its admirers and hundreds of expensive custom sporters have been built for it. In 1972 Ruger made a few thousand 7×57 rifles in the Model 77 (as well as a near number of 257 Roberts rifles) and all were spoken for before they could be produced. The cartridge is a long way from being dead yet. Besides the regular load with the 175-gr. bullet, Federal Cartridge now loads a 139-gr. bullet; Dominion, one of the same weight. Velocities are in the neighborhood of 2,800 fps. Pressures are O.K. for the older Mausers. With both of these loads pressure is kept down to around 45,000 psi, I am sure, because most of them will be used in older rifles of the Model 93 type. The cartridge makes new converts every day. People like it because of its light recoil, its good killing power, and its good accuracy — not that you can’t get bum 7mm barrels!
My First Little Seven
I got my first 7×57 rifle in 1934. I saw it at Bill Sukalle’s shop in Tucson. Bill had put a 7×57 barrel on a remodeled action from a World War I German Model 98 Mauser sniper’s rifle. It had been magnificently stocked in handsome French walnut by Adolph G. Minar of Fountain, Colorado, one of the finest classic stackers that ever lived. The stock had a German trap buttplate and a trap grip cap. It had as iron sights a Lyman 1-A peep on the cocking piece and a ramp front sight with gold bead. With iron sights, the rifle weighed slightly less than 7 pounds. However, it was equipped with a big German Gerard scope on claw mounts, which outfit added about two pounds. The scope was good optically, but because of the soft mount, it would not hold a constant point of impact. I traded the scope off. However, the rifle with iron sights was an astounding bargain at $75. That’s right-$75! I took off the Lyman 1-A and had a 4x Noske scope put on with the Noske mount. The outfit then weighed less than 8 pounds.
The 7×57 is loaded all over the world. Here is some of the good RWS (German) ammo.
I shot my first desert ram with that rifle, one of the best Rocky Mountain mule deer I have ever knocked off, and various other game — all with the Western factory 139-gr. open point bullet load. With one exception, everything I shot at with a 7×57 was a one-shot kill. That was a desert mule deer which I shot in one ham as he ran directly away and on which I used two cartridges. Then about 1952, I caught up. Hunting on Idaho’s Snake River with another 7×57, I picked out a nice fat doe and took a crack at her. Down the hill she rolled — and also a forkhorn buck that had been standing behind her.
Sadly enough, I traded off that lovely little Sukalle-Minar 7×57, along about 1940, for an equally handsome 2-R Lovell on a Sharps-Borchardt action. Like the 7×57, it had been barreled by Sukalle and stocked by Minar. The O’Connors felt civilization crowding in on them, moved away from Tucson to Lewiston, Idaho in 1948. Not long after I had Tom Burgess, a crack metal man (who was then in Spokane, but who’s now located in Kalispell, Montana), remodel a Czech VZ33 action and fit a 22-inch 7×57 barrel. The late Russ Leonard made the stock. Before long, my wife latched onto it. I had the stock shortened and a recoil pad installed.
This 7×57 has been her favorite rifle ever since. I have no idea how many North American animals she has collected with it, but I believe I can name the species — mule deer, Rocky Mountain goat, black bear, caribou, elk, Stone sheep, Dall sheep, Corsican mouflon in Texas, and pronghorn antelope. She has also used it on the mountain sheep called urial in Iran and has collected most of the African antelope — including such large ones as eland, greater kudu, roan, and sable — with it on safaris in Tanzania, Mozambique, Angola, Botswana, South West Africa and Rhodesia. When she went after tiger in India, and elephant and lion in Zambia, she felt she needed a very powerful rifle, so she acquired a 30-06.
In Mozambique, our professional hunter was the famous Harry Manners. He looked askance at her little rifle, told her she was undergunned. Before the trip was over, he was calling her One-Shot Eleanor, because — with the exception of a greater kudu, a handsome antelope about the size of a spike bull elk — everything she shot at was taken with one bullet. This kudu jumped into the air as she fired, and I called it a heart shot. My wife hit it again as it ran and yet again when it stopped. It fell at the third shot, but it had one bullet through the heart. From its actions, I am convinced it was the first one.
In the summer of 1972 my wife, our son Bradford (who is the outdoor editor of The Seattle Times) and I decided to make modest safaris in South West Africa and Rhodesia. Bradford took a Ruger Model 77 in 30-06 and a restocked Winchester Model 70 in 375 H&H. My wife and I did all of our shooting with two 7×57 rifles — her Mauser and my Model 70 Winchester.
Last Model 70 in 7×57
About that Model 70 in 7×57 there is a tale. It was the last 7×57 ever turned out at the Winchester factory. When I felt myself coming down with another 7×57 in 1955,1 asked friends at Winchester if they could put a Model 70 in that caliber together for me. I was told this was possible as they still had exactly one (1) 7×57 barrel left. When the rifle came I sent it to Al Biesen, the Spokane, Washington, gunsmith and stockmaker. He turned down the barrel, shortened it to 22-inches, put a release button for the hinged floorplate in the trigger guard, checkered the bolt knob, made a stock of good French walnut, mounted a Weaver K4 scope on a two-piece Redfield mount. Complete with scope, this rifle weighs 7¾ pounds and will keep good bullets into less than an inch. Partly because of the light recoil, I shoot this rifle quite well. I would be hard put to imagine a much better mountain rifle. For the record, the serial number of this little dream is 361582. Prince Abdorreza Pahlavi of Iran has the next to the last Model 70 in 7×57 turned out at Winchester. He has used it extensively in Asia, Africa, Europe and North America. Likewise put together on special order, its number is 222222!
When my wife and I arrived in South West Africa in the summer of 1972, the professional hunters there told us we were undergunned — an opinion I had heard before. There, and in Rhodesia, we shot greater kudu, sable (in size midway between mule deer and elk), mountain zebra, gemsbok, and various other antelope. Most of the animals were anchored with the first shot.
I used the 140-gr. Nosler bullet in front of 45 grains of 4320. Velocity in my Model 70 with 22-inch barrel is 2,825. This is the velocity I get in the same rifle with the Dominion 139-gr. bullet load. The Federal load, with the 139-gr. bullet, produces somewhat less velocity.
For years my wife has used various 160-gr. bullets pushed by 52 grains of 4831. Velocity in the 22-inch barrel of her rifle is 2,660. As far as I can tell, this load shoots just as flat as the 180-gr. bullet in the 30-06 and kills just as well.
In South West Africa the only animal she did not kill with one shot was an enormous kudu bull with 60-inch horns. The bull was about 300 yards away and moving. She shot twice, paunched it, broke a hip. He went about 100 yards and fell. A good bull sable she shot in Rhodesia was quartering away. The 160-gr. Nosler bullet angled through and came to rest under the hide behind the right shoulder. It ran about 150 yards. Only one lung had been hit.
Tough African Antelope
I have heard many a fanciful tale about the incredible toughness of African antelope. After much prayer and meditation and ten African safaris I cannot for the life of me see that African game is any tougher than North American game. I have used as “light” rifles on safari the following calibers: 300 Weatherby, 30-06, 270, 7mm Remington Magnum, 338 Winchester Magnum and the 7×57. I have also used on heavier animals a 416 Rigby, a 450/400 Jeffery double rifle, a 450 Watts (the predecessor of the 458 Winchester) and various 375 magnums.
As far as I can tell the little 7×57 kills African antelope from the largest to the smallest just as well as any of the cartridges I have used. I have, for instance, shot greater kudu with a 300 Weatherby, a 30-06, a 375, a 7mm Remington Magnum, a 270 and a 7×57. All kill well if the bullet is well placed, but the hunter who paunches his animal or breaks a leg is generally in trouble with any of them.
Just before writing this I read a piece by a writer who dotes on the magnums more than I do. He uses the 7×57 as a dreadful example of the non-magnum. He says that “200 yards is close to the practical killing limit of the 7×57.”-He adds that this is because the energy has then fallen off to about 1,400 ft. pounds.
Jack O’ Connor and friend with a 38½″ gemsbok, the kill made in Southwest Africa in 1972, Jack’s rifle a 7×57.
Well, I’ve got news for the lad. Two hundred yards is not only the practical killing range of the 7×57, but also the practical killing range of the 30-06, the 7mm Magnum, the 300 Weatherby Magnum, and what have you. The reason for this is that very few hunters can lay the bullets into the vital area of a game animal at any greater distance, even under the most favorable conditions. In fact, I’d bet a sugar cookie that most hunters could kill stuff farther away with the 7×57 than they could with the 7mm Magnum. It would not kick them so hard. They wouldn’t be afraid of it, and they would shoot it better. I have some more news: game is not killed by foot pounds of energy. In fact, the energy has little to do with killing power. Animals are killed by putting in the right place a bullet that penetrates deep enough and opens up adequately.
Some of the most spectacular kills I have ever seen have been made with the 7×57. A very large mule deer, standing on a frosty hillside at about 8,000 feet above sea level in northern Arizona, was hit behind the shoulder and went over like a paper deer in a puff of wind. He was literally killed in his tracks. A greater kudu bull in South West Africa was hit through the upper leg bone and heart at about 150 yards. He fell as if he had been electrocuted. A Hartmann mountain zebra, that may have weighed 700 on the hoof, went down as if poleaxed when hit through the shoulder blade at about 275–300 yards. A sable in Rhodesia was hit too far back when trotting at about 250. It ran about 50 yards and stopped. I held slightly high (6–9 inches probably) and squeezed one off. The bull sable hit the deck.
I haven’t made any very long shots with the 7×57, but I try to avoid long shots with any rifle. Most game is killed at 200 yards or less, but many of these kills get stretched out when they are processed through a typewriter.
I have never used a 7×57 to kill a bear of any sort — black, blue, brown, or grizzly. However, I saw the Storm & Strife knock off a nice black with one shot. I have never shot an elk with the 7×57, but I have seen her lay two good bulls low, each with one 7mm bullet, not to mention zebra, greater kudu, sable, roan, eland, four different kinds of sheep, and what-not.
Many very fine hunters have sworn by the 7×57.1 have mentioned W.D.M. Bell. That hunter of man-eating tigers, the late Capt. Jim Corbett, used a 7×57 (which he called a 275 Rigby) and a 450/400 Jeffery on these 400–500 pound cats. Prince Abdorreza Pahlavi has shot all sorts of Asiatic sheep and goats, all species of North American sheep, and most African antelope, with the Little Seven. One of the greatest sheep hunters who ever lived, the late Charlie Ren, used to shoot antelope and desert sheep with the 7×57 and the 300 Savage. He considered the 30-06 and the 270 too noisy, too violent, and too destructive, of meat. If a dude had ever shown up with a magnum I think old Charlie would have busted a gasket.
Shooting the 7×57
This 32½-inch Mozambique waterbuck rolled over with one shot from the 7×57.
The 7×57 is a sweet little number to shoot. Recoil is about one-third less than that of the 270, about half that of the 7mm Remington Magnum. This is going to be a hard one for a lot of people to swallow: I have shot about the same amount of game with the 7×57 and the 7mm Magnum, and if, with the same shot placement, the magnum kills any better than the 7×57, I have been unable to see it.
The handloader will rejoice to learn that the 7×57 owner has his pick among a great variety of .284″ bullets. Speer alone makes bullets weighing 115, 130, 145, 160 and 175 grains. Nosler has three weights — 140, 160 and 175. Hornady can supply bullets in weights of 120, 139, 154 and 175 grains. The last can be had in either round nose or spire point styles. Anyone with a yen to shoot an elephant can usually scrounge up some old 175-gr. military “solids.”
Such lighter weight bullets as the 120-gr. Hornady and the 130-gr. Speer, which can be pushed along at velocities ranging from 2,900 to above 3,000, should be excellent for ante lope and open country deer.
I have shot around 35–40 head of game ranging in size from Thompson gazelles (30 pounds) to greater kudu (600 pounds) and mountain zebra (700 pounds) with 140–145 grain bullets. No complaint. My wife has always stuck with one bullet weight — 160 grains. In her rifle this bullet leaves the muzzle at 2,660. She sights in for 200. The bullet drops 9 inches at 300. At 400, it would probably drop about two feet, but she doesn’t believe in shooting at things that far away. She says doing so is silly. I’m inclined to agree with her.
This Article Appeared in the 1974 Gun Digest Edition…