Why don’t more hunters use 9.3x62mm Mauser cartridges?
Tuesday, September 24, 2013
A 9.3x62mm cartridge (left) compared to a 7.62x51mm (right).
Today I want to discuss a lesser known, yet potent and versatile hunting cartridge: the 9.3x62mm Mauser. While relatively popular in southern Africa and Europe, relatively few hunters in the United States utilize this outstanding cartridge, usually relying on the more common .375 H&H Magnum instead when hunting large and dangerous game.
While the .375 H&H is an outstanding cartridge, the 9.3x62mm can provide 85-95 percent of the power (dependent on the exact load) with less recoil and with the added bonus of being able to fit in a rifle with a standard-length action instead of the magnum-length action required by the .375 H&H. This makes the rifle shorter, lighter and cheaper overall and a great choice for hunting big game all over the world.
Before I really get started, please understand that this article is not about bashing the .375 H&H. It is an excellent cartridge and is widely used the world over for good reason: it works. This article is merely trying to describe some of the advantages of a less popular, but comparable cartridge and why it may be appropriate to explore the 9.3x62mm in further detail.
Designed in 1905 for the Mauser Model 1898 rifle, the 9.3x62mm soon became popular among German settlers in Africa. The cartridge rapidly acquired a reputation for providing sufficient power to cleanly take all species of plains and dangerous game in Africa. This, combined with the fact that it was available in a reasonably priced magazine-fed rifle, led to an explosion in popularity among hunters in Africa and Europe.
Modern 9.3x62mm factory loads generally fire a 220-320gr bullet at velocities between 2,200 and 2,650 feet per second. However, a 286gr bullet at approximately 2,350 feet per second is probably the most popular load. This load produces over 3,500 foot-pounds of energy and is a deadly combination for deer, elk, moose, bear and large plains game species like kudu and eland.
The 9.3x62mm can also work as a great cartridge when hunting dangerous game like buffalo and elephant where legal. Though some countries, like Tanzania, have a minimum caliber of .375 for dangerous game hunting (the 9.3mm is .366 caliber), Mozambique has no minimum caliber and Zimbabwe has a minimum caliber of 9.2mm.
While it is the absolute smallest cartridge I would recommend using on buffalo and elephant, the 9.3x62mm will do a great job when using an appropriate controlled expansion or solid bullet that is placed properly. Indeed, many thousands of buffalo and elephant have fallen to the venerable 9.3x62mm over the last century. That being said, the cartridge is not the best choice for following up a wounded buffalo or elephant in heavy cover, but then again, neither is the .375 H&H.
One of the reasons the 9.3x62mm cartridge performs so well on large and dangerous game is because it penetrates deeply and consistently. This is partly due to the fact that the bullet has a high sectional density (a measure of the ratio of the diameter of a projectile to its mass).
All other things equal, a heavier projectile of a given caliber will be longer and therefore have a higher sectional density and consequently penetrate deeper than projectiles with a lower mass and sectional density. As an example 286gr and 293gr 9.3mm bullets have sectional densities of .305 and .312 respectively. This compares favorably to 270gr and 300gr .375 caliber bullets (the most popular weights for that caliber) which have sectional densities of .274 and .305 respectively.
Another advantage that the 9.3x62mm has is the relatively light (for a medium-bore dangerous game rifle) recoil that it generates. While the exact amount of recoil generated depends on the load used (more powerful loads generate more recoil) and the weight of the rifle (heavier rifles have less recoil), the 9.3x62mm generates between 65-85 percent of the recoil of the .375 H&H. For comparison, this is only 20-30 percent more recoil than a typical rifle chambered in .30-06.
A 9.3x62mm cartridge with a recovered 286gr Swift A-Frame (left) and 286gr Woodleigh FMJ (right).
A manageable amount of recoil is important for hunters, especially those who are smaller framed or who are just more sensitive to recoil. Lighter recoil typically increases accuracy on the initial shot as well as enabling the hunter to make a rapid follow-up shot. As has been said over and over again, where an animal is hit is much more important than what it is hit with, so an accurately placed 9.3mm bullet is much more effective than a poorly placed .375 or .458 caliber bullet.
Perhaps the biggest advantage of the 9.3x62mm over a .375 H&H is the significantly lower price of rifles chambered for it since the cartridge can fit in a standard-length action. Among other manufacturers, Sako, Steyr and CZ all produce rifles chambered in 9.3x62mm. Of these, CZ produces perhaps the least expensive, yet still excellent quality example in the Model 550 American which starts at $850 MSRP. Compare that to an MSRP of $1419 for a Winchester Model 70 in .375 H&H, $1450 for a Remington Model 700 in .375 H&H.
Additionally, there is a large selection of high-quality ammunition available for the 9.3x62mm. Nosler, Hornady, Norma, Federal, Barnes, Remington, Woodleigh, Swift, A-Square and Prvi Partizan are all major manufacturers that produce bullets and/or loaded ammunition for it. Furthermore, the German munitions company RWS also produces excellent quality 9.3mm bullets and ammunition, but they are expensive and hard to come by in the United States. These manufacturers produce a wide variety of bullets that range from light, rapidly expanding bullets for use on white-tailed deer to heavy, controlled expansion and solid bullets for buffalo and elephant.
With a premium rifle chambered in 9.3x62mm, one could legally and ethically hunt virtually every species on Earth from white-tailed deer to elephant. I cannot think of many other calibers that would allow a hunter to pursue such a wide variety of species without breaking his or her shoulder or bank account while doing so.
However, in addition to the previously mentioned shortcomings against stopping a dangerous game charge, the 9.3x62mm is not really suitable for long-range shots over about 300 yards like one might encounter on a Marco Polo Sheep hunt. Other than those few exceptions, the caliber fits the bill nicely for the vast majority of big game.
In short, the 9.3x62mm is a fantastic cartridge that can fill a number of different roles for a big-game hunter virtually anywhere in the world — especially for a hunter who only wants one rifle to hunt a wide variety of big game. John “Pondoro” Taylor summed the 9.3x62mm up pretty well when he said in his book "African Rifles and Cartridges" that, “There isn’t really a great deal to say about it. Everybody found it so generally satisfactory that there wasn't anything to start a discussion.”
Is it a perfect cartridge? No, but I think the 9.3x62mm comes about as close to a “one size fits all” solution as you can reasonably expect to get.
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