I’m on the record as stating (more than once!) that the 7mm Remington Magnum isn’t one of my favorites. It’s a popular cartridge so this always brings howls from its many fans. More importantly, at least to me, is that it’s not good journalism—or business—to contradict myself. Since I’ve been writing about this stuff for 40-odd years I think it’s possible (and allowable) for my opinions to change over time. But this opinion has not changed: The 7mm Remington Magnum is not among my all-time favorite cartridges.
My reasons are simple: There are lots of excellent cartridges, and it’s impossible to love them all equally. I love the .270 Winchester because it shoots just as flat as the 7mm Remington Magnum…but burns less powder, has less recoil, does fine in a 22-inch barrel, and can be built into a lighter rifle. If I feel I might need (or just want!) more power I’ve generally stepped up to a fast .30-caliber, which can offer more bullet weight and frontal area with similar velocity…albeit with more recoil.
It is possible other folks feel much the same. For some years the 7mm Remington Magnum was the world’s most popular cartridge to bear the “magnum” suffix. This is no longer true; the .300 Winchester Magnum has surpassed it in overall popularity. I don’t have the data to support a hypothesis that the .270 is currently more popular than the 7mm Remington Magnum, but it wouldn’t surprise me. The .270 seems to keep rolling along, and it is fact that Remington’s Big Seven is not as popular as it was 20 years ago.
That said, the Big Seven is a powerful, versatile, and effective hunting cartridge, and I have a lot of experience using it. Over the years I’ve used it in a lot of test rifles, some I hunted with and some not. However, for two periods I used it a great deal because that was the chambering of two favorite rifles. In the early 80s, living in LA and working at Petersen Publishing, I had multiple burglaries and lost almost all my firearms. A fellow lefty in the LA SCI chapter suffered a severe injury to his left eye, had to switch to right-handed shooting, and sold some rifles. Being a bit short of rifles at the moment I bought two: A pre-’64 Model 70 .375 converted to left-hand bolt, a rifle I used for years and should have kept; and a left-hand Remington 700 in 7mm Remington Magnum in gorgeous wood with a left-hand cheekpiece and rollover comb.
I used that rifle a lot, but a few years later I had a chance at a gorgeous David Miller rifle I couldn’t resist, also on a left-hand M700 rifle. Just by chance it happened to be chambered to 7mm Remington Magnum. Honest, that wouldn’t have been my choice, but the rifle wasn’t made for me and the price was right. For deer-sized game and African plains game it was my “go to” rifle for years. The cartridge performed flawlessly…as it has since introduced in 1962.
The fact that it might not have been my first choice has nothing to do with its utility—and it has been the first choice of many experienced hunters. Legendary sheep hunter Bert Klineburger (1926-2017) was a 7mm guy; he used his 7mm Remington Magnum to open much of the Asian sheep hunting available today. My old friend Joe Bishop, who left us early this year, was another staunch 7mm fan. He had a marvelous collection of fine guns—but he did his mountain hunting with a much-battered Sako in 7mm Remington Magnum.
Like most of the “belted magnums,” it’s based on a .375 H&H case, shortened and necked down to 7mm. In 1962 it was immediately seen as more versatile than Winchester’s .264, with the ability to use heavier bullets. Although it shoots very flat, it is not ridiculously fast. Light 140-grain loads average about 3200 fps; 160-grain bullets run about 2950 fps; and the 175-grain heavyweight is standard at 2860.
If I were hunting elk, I might step up to 175-grain bullets, but in truth I’ve almost never used 7mm bullets over 165 grains…and I’ve done little elk hunting with this or any other 7mm! When I was shooting the 7mm Remington Magnum a lot I generally used 160-grain Nosler Partitions, Hornady 162-grain, and 165-grain Sierra, trying to compromise between velocity/trajectory and the high Sectional Density (SD) of these medium-weight bullets. To my thinking this is a very good bullet range for a fast 7mm. Bullets of 140 to 150 grains are fast and work just fine…but .270 bullets of the same weight are only slightly slower and have higher SD. In the 7mm Remington Magnum, medium-weight bullets are superior in weight, velocity, and SD than anything you can fling out of a .270…and have higher SD than 180-grain .30-caliber bullets…with less recoil.
Although rarely for elk and never for moose or big bears, I used these medium 7mm bullets to take a lot of deer, some sheep and goats, caribou, a wide assortment of African antelopes, and the occasional black bear.
I predict neither the demise nor a huge resurgence for the 7mm Remington Magnum. Modern shooters are discovering that unpleasant recoil isn’t necessary for reasonable performance, witness the runaway success of the 6.5mm Creedmoor and the slow, steady increase of the 7mm-08’s popularity (which also uses. 284-inch bullets). However, also witness the gradual ascendancy of the .300 Winchester Magnum and other fast .30s.
Here’s the deal: You can take your pick and name your poison. The 7mm Remington Magnum is only slightly more powerful than the .270 Winchester and .280 Remington (both great cartridges). However, it is significantly more powerful, more capable, and more versatile than the mild 6.5mms and 7mms. It is less powerful, less capable, and less versatile than the fast .30s…but it also kicks a lot less. What you need depends largely on what and where you hunt and performance you’re most confident in, but the current interest in long-range shooting continues to increase development in more aerodynamic bullets…and the 7mm Remington Magnum has benefited.
Perhaps oddly, I haven’t owned a 7mm Remington Magnum for years. However, regardless of how I feel about it, as a gunwriter and as a hunter who often uses “camp rifles,” it’s an unavoidable cartridge, a world standard—and it performs. In 2010, in Tanzania, I used a gorgeous Dakota M10 single shot in 7mm Remington Magnum. It was an awesome rifle, as accurate as it was pretty. I wanted to buy it, but somebody else spoke first. In 2012, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Remington M700 and the Big Seven, I had in for test a simple and very “retro” M700 BDL in 7mm Remington Magnum. That rifle was astonishingly accurate, producing half-inch groups right out of the box. I should have bought it, but it was a right-hand action, so I sent it back.
Right now, I have a new version of the M700 from the Custom Shop, left-hand action with Shilen barrel and McMillan stock. I haven’t hunted with it yet, but I used it at the FTW Ranch in Texas, home of the SAAM training courses, and I’ve spent a lot of time with on my range. Using Swarovski Z8i scope with their Ballistic Flex Turret it went straight to 700 yards with no hiccups, and then on to 1000 yards with little difficulty. So far, my best accuracy has been with 168-grain Barnes LRX and Hornady 162-grain ELD-X. The Barnes LRX has a high Ballistic Coefficient (BC) of .550, velocity over 2900, and consistent five-shot-group average under an inch. The 162-grain ELD-X has an off-the-charts BC of .630 and Hornady’s Precision Hunter load averaged 3030 fps. This load also holds a five-shot-group average under an inch. As hunting bullets, the properties of these two bullets are different…but there isn’t much you couldn’t do with either of them.
As has been the case since 1962, the 7mm Remington Magnum is plenty powerful for the entire deer-sheep-goat class of game at all sensible ranges; and fully adequate for elk and the full run of African plains game, perhaps excepting only eland. With modern bullets, it’s even better than ever. After years of doing most of my long-range shooting with fast .30s and bullets from 180 to 200-grains, I found the Big Seven much more pleasant to shoot. I don’t think the cartridge will ever be among my all-time favorites, but it’s a fine hunting cartridge. It’s been a while since I’ve gone through a 7mm Remington Magnum phase, but this rifle could send me into another one!