October 04, 2023
Developed in 1892 by the Mauser Works of Oberndorf, Germany, it quickly found a permanent home in the then-new 1893 Mauser adopted by the Spanish government during that year. The Spaniards were so pleased with the rifle and its cartridge they awarded Paul Mauser the Grand Cross of the Order for Military Merit, the highest decoration he received during his successful career. The Model 93 was the first Mauser rifle to have an internal box magazine that positioned cartridges in two staggered rows. Cartridges carried by soldiers in five-round stripper clips were quickly loaded into the magazine each time it was emptied on the battlefield.
The Mauser cartridge was eventually adopted by about 20 other military powers, including Belgium, Yugoslavia, Mexico, Chile, Honduras, and Uruguay. When American troops landed in Cuba during the Spanish-American War of 1898, they found their .30-40 Krags and .45-70 Trapdoor Springfields were no match for the Mauser firepower in the hands of Spanish troops. The sudden realization that U.S. technology on the battlefield had fallen behind that of other world powers prompted the development of the Mauser-like 1903 Springfield rifle and its .30-06 cartridge.
This and That
The 7x57mm Mauser became popular among German hunters, and Mauser wasted no time in building trim sporting rifles chambered for it. Most were on a slightly shortened version of the Model 1898 action. A rimmed version called the 7x57R was developed for use in double-barrel rifles and drillings. In 1907 John Rigby of London began building sporting rifles in 7x57 Mauser on 98 Mauser actions, with the lightest said to weigh 6.75 pounds. The rifle immediately enjoyed great demand among British hunters who knew the cartridge as the .275 Rigby. To this day, John Rigby & Co. continues to offer the Highland Stalking Rifle on a 98 Mauser action in .275 Rigby. While hunting red stag in the heather-covered hills of northern Scotland a few years back, I met a gentleman who had purchased one from Rigby in 2015. It was magnificent, to say the least.
More than 20,000 Mauser rifles captured by U.S. forces during the Spanish-American War made their way to American soil, and many of them eventually ended up in civilian hands. Word got out that the 7mm Mauser handled everything from deer to moose quite nicely with very little recoil, and that prompted a demand for lighter rifles chambered for the cartridge. The shops of Griffin & Howe and R.F. Sedgley as well as various independent gunsmiths, such as Alvin Linden, Thomas Shelhamer, Bill Sukalle, and Adolph Minar, answered the call with very nice custom rifles on the 1898 Mauser and 1903 Springfield actions.
Winchester added the 7mm Mauser to the Model 54 bolt action in 1930 and carried it over to the Model 70 when it replaced the Model 54 in 1934. A 1930s Stoeger Arms Corp. catalog has the standard-grade Model 70 with a 20- or 24-inch barrel priced at $61.25. Many years later, U.S. Repeating Arms offered Model 70 Featherweight rifles chambered for the cartridge. The 7mm Mauser was added to the Remington Model 30 bolt action around 1934, the same year Remington introduced the .257 Roberts cartridge. About a half-century later, I used a Remington Model 700 Classic in 7mm Mauser to bag a caribou and a black bear in Alaska. As I recall, the Model 700 Mountain Rifle was also available in 7mm Mauser.
Returning to the Stoeger catalog, Remington Kleanbore ammunition was available with 175-grain FMJ and softnose bullets at a velocity of 2,550 fps and a 139-grain High Speed Mushroom load at 2,900 fps. The British and the Germans loaded sporting ammunition with similar bullet weights at about the same velocities. (Test barrel length was 29 inches.)
The 7mm Mauser was originally produced by its German developers with a 173-grain full-patch bullet of roundnose form at a velocity of 2,296 fps. Maximum average chamber pressure was 50,370 CUP. Most likely due to weaker rifles of American manufacture, such as the Remington Rolling Block and the Remington-Lee bolt action, being chambered for the cartridge, SAAMI established a pressure limit of 46,000 CUP. Load data published in current reloading manuals are usually held within that maximum, although this did not always hold true.
Maximum pressure for load data in the 10th edition of Speer’s manual (1979) was listed as 50,000 CUP for modern bolt-action rifles. I can think of no reason why the same should not apply today to the Winchester Model 70, Remington Model 700, and other strong rifles. SAAMI maximum for the +P loading of the .257 Roberts is 50,000 CUP, and it is nothing more than the 7x57mm case necked down. Although he did not label it as such, Vernon Speer was decades ahead of his time in publishing +P data for the Mauser cartridge, and doing so did end with him. Maximum pressure in the 14th edition of the Speer manual, published in 2007, is also 50,000 CUP, but it was reduced to 46,000 CUP for the current 15th edition. Even though test-barrel length was increased two inches in the later manual (24 inches versus 22 inches), the result was a velocity reduction of 92 fps for a 130-grain bullet and 129 fps for a 145-grain bullet.
The 7mm-08 Remington cartridge is a modern version of the 7mm Mauser designed for use in short actions. Water capacity of its case is about four grains less than for the 7mm Mauser. When bullets of the same weights are loaded in the two cartridges, powder cavity displacement is usually slightly less in the Mauser case because it is commonly loaded to a longer overall length for standard-length actions. This can increase usable powder space a bit more. Regardless, I love both cartridges equally and have yet to detect any difference in their performance on game.
Favorite Rifles and Loads
Of the rifles in 7mm Mauser I have owned through the decades, a custom job on a 1903 Springfield action built during the 1920s remains my favorite. It has a lightly figured American walnut stock with a modest amount of checkering. As was common during the “Roaring Twenties,” the stock wears a checkered steel buttplate. The rifle originally had a Lyman 48 aperture sight on the receiver and a ramped front sight on its 26-inch barrel. A previous owner shortened the barrel to 24 inches and drilled and tapped the receiver for a Buehler scope mount. I have not used the rifle to harvest a lot of game, but what I have taken has been quite good. Of three Coues deer taken in Mexico through the years, the Springfield accounted for the best one. My 7x57mm Mauser handload pushed the Nosler 120-grain Ballistic Tip bullet along at 3,050 fps.
My inspiration for using the rifle on that hunt came many years prior while reading a Jack O’Connor article in Outdoor Life in my high school library. During the 1920s and 1930s, he often headed to the Sierra Madre mountains of Mexico to hunt “elf deer,” as he described the tiny whitetails. Many were taken with custom rifles in 7mm Mauser. In addition, the favorite rifle of O’Connor’s wife, who often accompanied him on hunts around the world, was chambered for the 7mm Mauser.
Ammunition makers continue to keep the grand old cartridge alive by offering a variety of loads. Most common are 140-grain and 175-grain bullets at respective velocities of 2,660 fps and 2,390 fps. The speedster in the bunch is Hornady’s Superformance with the excellent 139-grain SST at 2,760 fps. It beats that from the 24-inch barrel of my Springfield.
For those who are headed to Africa with their prized English-built rifle in .275 Rigby, Hornady ammo with the proper headstamp is loaded with a 140-grain softpoint bullet at 2,680 fps. Not everyone knows that Ruger has built Model 77 and No. 1 rifles with “7x57” and “.275 Rigby” stamped on their barrels. A No. 1A Light Sporter I used to take a fine leopard in Zambia has the 7x57 marking.
The 7mm Mauser is an excellent candidate for handloading. Due to test-barrel lengths ranging from 22 to 29 inches, maximum velocities among today’s reloading manuals vary considerably. Unprimed cases are cataloged by Hornady, Nosler, Remington, Norma, Winchester, and Privi Partizan, the latter imported by Graf & Sons. I have tried several standard-force primers and have no favorite, and many powders work quite well. Those I included in the accompanying chart are what I try to keep on hand, and should push come to shove, I could get by with any one of them.
Moving to bullets, for open-country whitetails, mule deer, and pronghorn antelope, I have enjoyed excellent results with the Nosler 120-grain Ballistic Tip. With a jacket slightly thicker than on the 140-grain Ballistic Tip, it was designed to be used on deer and other game similar in size. I have also found the Speer 130-grain softpoint to be an excellent choice. Bullets weighing 160 and 175 grains have long been traditional medicine for moose, elk, and big black bear, but my picks today would be the Barnes 140-grain MRX BT, the Hornady 139-grain GMX, and the Nosler 140-grain E-Tip.
It was quite common for well-known hunters of yesteryear to hold the 7x57 Mauser in high regard. Among them was Scotsman Walter D.M. Bell who became quite wealthy by harvesting tons of ivory during the “golden age” of hunting in East Africa, with about 80 percent taken with a rifle in .275 Rigby. Bell’s thorough knowledge of the internal anatomy of the quarry, along with an abundance of nerve and the ability to get quite close to the target for the shot, enabled him to consistently place a 173-grain FMJ bullet into the brain from any angle, including diagonally from the rear. Those who knew Bell described him as a phenomenal shot with a rifle.
Then we have Col. Jim Corbett, who in 1907 was presented a rifle in .275 Rigby for killing a man-eating tigress in the Champawat district of India. His first book, Man-Eaters of Kumaon, is set there. But Corbett was far from done, and he went on to kill about a dozen more man-eating tigers that were responsible for the deaths of around 1,200 men, women, and children. After Corbett’s passing, the rifle eventually found its way back home and is now owned by John Rigby & Co.
The 7x57mm Mauser is one of the world’s all-time great cartridges, and you can include me among its fans. In the hands of those who possess the skill to get within a reasonable distance before shooting, it is quite adequate for taking any hoofed game animal in North America.