From the old .30-40 Krag to the venerable .30-06 on up to the mighty .300 Winchester Magnum, the .30 caliber has been the American darling. I will agree that it is good, but I have to say that the 7mm is just that much better. Now, I’m not saying that if you have a .30 of some persuasion lying around that you need to trash it and order something in 7mm. However, if you are itching for a new big game rifle one of the 7s is the better way to go.
Two important measures of bullet performance are ballistic coefficient (BC) and sectional density (SD). Simply put, BC is the measure of how well a bullet slips through the air. The higher it is, the flatter the bullet’s trajectory, less wind drift and greater velocity retention will be when started at a given velocity. SD is an indicator of how well a bullet will penetrate on game. Again, the higher it is, the better a bullet will penetrate. At any given bullet weight and design, both the BC and SD of the 7mm will be higher than the .30. Not by leaps and bounds, but enough to give the 7mm the edge.
You like the .308 for its accuracy, availability in short action, low recoil? Enter the 7mm-08 based on the same case. Accuracy is just as good with better down range ballistics, and it is also a short action. The 7mm-08 makes a great beginner’s rifle because it sits comfortably between the .243, which is on the light side for elk, and has less recoil than the .308.
Now I think the .30-06 is a classic, and I think everybody should own one. It just works every time. That being said, nothing is as storied as the old 7x57mm Mauser. I would argue that no other chambering in the world holds the same mystique. If you are looking for class, the old 7x57 has it in spades. Dale has his .30-06, and I have the 7x57 handed down to me by my dad that will be the last possession I will ever part with. And all the arguments for the 7mm-08 against the .308 are ditto for the .280 Remington vs. the 30-06.
Ah, but you say that you don’t care about efficiency of the .308, or the class and working man qualities of the .30-06. You want horsepower. A long-range thumping machine that really gets the testosterone flowing. Well, if you are just shopping for recoil, then I gotta say the big 30s are better. But, if you are looking for performance, the 7mm wins, with lighter bullets. Don’t believe me? Check it out for yourself. Hornady, JBM, Nosler, Berger and many others have online ballistic calculators. Pick any 180-grain 7mm bullet and 200-grain .30 bullet of the same make and run them through the calculator of your choice at velocities advertised for each cartridge and see for yourself. Yes, the .30s are good, but the 7mms are better.
Rod Carpenter is an avid sportsman, certified registered nurse anesthetist and president of the Bear Creek Shooting Range. Contact the authors of Shooting the Breeze at firstname.lastname@example.org.