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Don't Overlook the 9.3s

Don't Overlook the 9.3s

The 9.3mm hunting cartridges are capable of downing all North American big game as well as most of what Africa has to offer, and they are as popular in Africa and Europe as the classic .30-30 is here.

The 9.3mm hunting cartridges are capable of downing all North American big game; as rare as the cartridges may be on this side of the Atlantic, it's still likely that they already have.

Rifles and cartridges of 9.3mm have never been greatly appreciated by the majority of American hunters, but they have been popular in Europe and Africa for a long time. With a nominal bullet diameter of .366 inch, they are to Europeans what .35-caliber cartridges with their .358-inch bullets are to those of us on this side of the Atlantic. The difference in bullet diameter is equal to the thickness of four pages in the magazine you now hold in your hands. This along with similar bullet weights and velocities adds up to similar performance as long as powder capacities and the chamber pressures to which they are loaded are about the same.

The 9.3x57mm Mauser, which is based on the 8x57mm Mauser case, is rated at about 2350 fps with a 232-grain bullet, putting it in the same league as the .358 Winchester. The 9.3x62mm Mauser and the 9.3x74R are capable of pushing a 286-grain bullet along at 2400 fps, which brings the performance of the .35 Whelen to mind. Most powerful of the bunch is the 9.3x64mm Brenneke, and its 286-grain bullet at 2700 fps enables it to do anything the .358 Norma Magnum is capable of doing. Other 9.3mm cartridges have come and gone, but when all is said and done, two have enjoyed the most popularity, so I will devote the remainder of my space to them.

9.3x62mm Mauser
The 9.3x62mm cartridge was developed by master gunsmith Otto Bock of Berlin, whose rifles became quite popular among German immigrants who colonized a sizeable chunk of the African continent at the turn of the 20th century. The plain-Jane 9.3mm sporter rifle went on to become to thousands of African farmers what the Winchester 94 in .30-30 became to the American cattle rancher.

Introduced in 1905, the 9.3x62 has a bullet diameter of .366 inch, and while it was originally loaded to a rather mild chamber pressure of less than 37,000 psi, it was eventually souped up a bit by various ammunition manufacturers.

Current factory ammo loaded in Germany by RWS is offered there with 258-, 285-, and 293-grain bullets at respective velocity ratings of 2560, 2430, and 2280 fps. For the Scandinavian market, the Norma catalog lists two loads: a 286-grain softnose at 2360 fps and a 231-grain PPC (Protected Power Cavity) at 2600 fps. Lapua ammunition used to be loaded with three bullet options, but now there are only two — 270-grain Naturalis (lead-free) at 2395 fps and 285-grain Mega at 2265 fps. Nosler has one load in its Custom Ammunition lineup, the 286-grain Partition at 2430 fps. I have yet to try the Nosler ammo on game, but I have taken moose with both Lapua loads and with the Norma 286-grain load, and their performance left nothing to be desired.

Of the few people I know who own rifles in 9.3x62mm, all but one sticks with handloads. There was a time when bullets were difficult to come by, but this no longer holds true. Swift offers its excellent A-Frame in 250- and 300-grain weights, and Nosler offers two options as well: 250-grain Ballistic Tip and 286-grain Partition. From Barnes, we have a couple of X-Bullets weighing 250 and 286 grains, and the Speer 270-grain semispitzer has been around for quite a long time. Hornady also offers a 286-grain bullet.

For all-around use, my favorite is the 250-grain A-Frame. With a sectional density about the same as that of a 180-grain bullet of .30 caliber and with the ability to retain a very large percentage of its weight during expansion, it is capable of handling any big-game animal in North America as well as most of what Africa has to offer. Recoil is also a bit less than with full-power loads using the more traditional 286-grain bullet.

I can think of several dozen cartridges that are more suitable for smaller game such as deer, but if I had to, I could get by on whitetails with the 9.3x62 loaded to 2500 fps with the Nosler 250-grain Ballistic Tip. Zero that bullet 3 inches high at 100 yards, and it will land about dead on the money at 200 yards and about half a body depth low on a big buck at 300 long paces.

In the past, it was common for those of us who owned rifles in 9.3x62mm to come up with a supply of cases by necking up .30-06 brass, trimming to an overall length of 2.430 inches, and moving the shoulder forward by fireforming. While I never heard of anyone getting into trouble when doing so, I have discontinued the practice simply because of the difference in base diameters of the two cartridges.

Most factory 9.3x62mm cases measure around .472 inch just forward of the extractor groove compared to somewhere in the neighborhood of .464 inch for the .30-06 case. The 9.3x62mm chamber is about .006 inch larger than the .30-06 chamber in that area, and when a case made from .30-06 brass is fired in a rifle chambered to 9.3x62mm Mauser, it is not supported by the chamber until it has bulged to a larger diameter than it was designed to withstand.


The 9.3mm cartridges are excellent candidates for handloading. Plenty of load data, reloading equipment, and .366-inch component bullets are readily available.

Firing a minimum-dimension case formed from the .30-06 in a maximum-dimension 9.3x62mm chamber could result in a ruptured case. This is why anyone who handloads this cartridge is wise to round up a supply of factory cases. Lapua cases are of excellent quality and are available from various sources; they can also be purchased online directly from Lapua. Nosler offers cases made by Norma, and they too are top-drawer in quality.

With the coming and going of each hunting season, more and more American hunters are discovering the 9.3x62mm. It shows by the fact that plenty of load data is now available in reloading manuals published by Hodgdon, Speer, Hornady, Swift, Nosler, Norma, and VihtaVuori. I find the same powders that work so well in the .35 Whelen with those bullet weights to work equally well in the 9.3x62mm. Standard primers have plenty of spark for igniting most powders in this cartridge, but anytime spherical powders, such as W760 and H414, will be used at tempe

ratures below freezing, velocity can be more uniform when a magnum primer is used.

You won't find rifles in 9.3x62mm in every gunshop, but they are available. If I were shopping for one, I would look long and hard at the extremely affordable CZ 550 LUX. The Blaser R93 and the Model 24 from Ultra Light Arms are available in this caliber. Any rifle chambered for one of the .30-06 family of cartridges can be converted with no modification other than the installation of a custom aftermarket barrel.

During my life, I have owned two rifles in 9.3x62mm. One was a custom job with a Lothar Walther barrel built on the Remington Model 700 action. Soon after I carried the rifle on a bear hunt in Alaska, a good friend of mine talked me out of it, and since then, he has used it to take a couple moose, several elk, and a truckload of deer.

The 9.3x74R is a rimmed cartridge designed for use in single-shots, double rifles, and combination guns.

I still own the other nine-three — a Sako Model 75 — and like most of my hunting rifles, it has a story or two of its own. I first hunted with this one in Finland, the country where it was made. It had been issued to me at the Sako factory in Riihimaki, and when I checked it out at a shooting range near where I would be hunting with Sako ammo, it immediately began to stack three bullets inside an inch at 100 yards. I liked the rifle then, and I liked it even more after using it to take a nice moose. Fact of the matter is, I became so fond of it that I asked my friends at Sako to ship it to me upon my return home. It is one of those rifles that I don't get around to using a lot, but I enjoy owning and shooting it so much, I doubt if I will ever part with it.

9.3 x 62mm MAUSER LOADS

BULLET POWER (Type POWER (Grs.) VELOCITY (fps.) Sako Model 75 Norma 232-gr. Oryx N-202 60.0 2577 Norma 232-gr. Vulcan N-201 59.0 2582 Barnes 250-gr. Triple Shock IMR-4064 57.0 2519 Nosler 250-gr. Ballistic Tip Varget 56.0 2468 Swift 250-gr. A-Frame Reloder 15 58.0 2538 Lapua 270-gr. Naturalis H335 58.0 2455 Speer 270-gr. SS W760 60.0 2431 Barnes 286-gr. Triple-Shock H414 57.0 2379 Nosler 286-gr. Partition VV N140 56.0 2310 Swift 300-gr. A-Frame Reloder 15 57.0 23.55 Lapua 220-gr. Naturalis Factory Load 2610 Norma 231-gr. PPC Factory Load 2586 Sako 225-gr. RSN Factory Load 2588 Sako-250-gr. X-Bullet Factory Load 2401 Lapua 270-gr. Naturalis Factory Load 2334 Lapua 285-gr. Mega Factory Load 2251 Norma 286-gr. Alaska Factory Load 2378 Nosler 286-gr. Partition Factory Load 2325 Notes: Velocity is the average of five or more rounds measured 12 feet from the muzzle of a 23-inch barrel. Lapua cases and CCI 200 primers were used in all handloads. Powder charges are maximum and should be reduced by 10 percent for starting loads.

I enjoy hunting with the 9.3x62 for the same reason I enjoyed hunting with the .25-06 and .35 Whelen back when they were wildcats; it is different, and you don't see every hunter in camp toting one. Of course, this puts you on your own if for whatever reason you need to borrow some ammo, but since this has never happened to me, I seldom give it a second thought.

Whereas the 9.3x62mm was designed for bolt-action rifles, the 9.3x74R was developed during the early 1900s for single-shots, double rifles, and combination guns. Its long and slender rimmed case has about an eight percent advantage in capacity. This allows it to be loaded to the same speed as the 9.3x62mm but at lower chamber-pressure levels.

Hornady recently added this grand old cartridge to its family of top-quality ammunition, and ammo loaded by Norma is also available. I have not tried the Norma ammo, but the Hornady 286-grain load averaged close to MOA in the test rifle and exceeded its velocity rating of 2300 fps by enough to get my attention. When it comes to handloading the 9.3x74R, most of what I have already said about suitable primers, powders, and bullets for the 9.3x62mm applies here as well, so I won't repeat myself.

The 9.3x62mm Mauser round was designed for use in bolt-action rifles.

I do not own a rifle in 9.3x74mm, but a friend who does came to my rescue by allowing me to shoot various loads in his rifle for this report. His is a Browning B-78 single-shot. It left the factory sometime during the early 1980s in .30-06 and was later rebored and rechambered. He bought the rifle at a gun show and has no idea what gunsmith did the work, but it proved to be more accurate than my Sako with a couple of loads, so there is no question about the quality of the work.

Both extremely expensive and entirely affordable rifles in 9.3x74R are available. Starting at the top of the price range are the Beretta Express SSO and the Rizzini Express over-under doubles, the Merkel side-by-side boxlock, and various combination guns from the same company. Available single-shot rifles include the Blaser K95, the Ruger No. 1, and the Model 1885 High Wall from Ballard Rifle & Cartridge. SSK Industries offers barrels for the T/C Encore rifle, and I plan to add one of those to my battery in the near future. Another option is to rebarrel a Browning 1885 or Ruger No. 1.

9.3 x 74R LOADS

Rechambered, rebored Browning B-78
Norma 232-gr. Oryx N-202 60.0 2518
Barnes 250-gr. Triple Shock IMR-4064 58.0 2464
Nosler 250-gr. Ballistic Tip Varget 57.0 2568
Swift 250-gr. A-Frame Reloder 15 60.0 2634
Swift 250-gr. A-Frame Reloder 15 58.0 2538
Lapua 270-gr. Naturalis H335 59.0 2543
Speer 270-gr. SS H380 60.0 2531
Barnes 286-gr. Triple-Shock H380 57.0 2319
Nosler 286-gr. Partition VV N140 55.0 2210
Swift 300-gr. A-Frame Reloder 19 62.0 2274
Hornady 286-gr. PSN Factory Load 2376
Notes: Velocity is the average of five or more rounds measured 12 feet from the muzzle of a 24-inch barrel. Hornady cases and CCI 200 primers were used in all loads. Powder charges are maximum and should be reduced by 10 percent for starting loads.

Of the few rifles in 9.3x74mm I have examined through the years, the one carried by a Finnish moose hunter was one of the more interesting. A Bockdrilling built during the 1920s by the German firm of Heym, its barrels were in 16 gauge, 5.6x36R (or .22 Hornet as we call it), and 9.3x74R. Originally fitted with open sights at the factory, it had later been quipped with a low-powered scope of Russian manufacture. According to that hunter, the 16-gauge barrel and Brenneke slug loads had accounted for a couple dozen wild boar. The 5.6x36R barrel had bagged more capercaillie than he would admit to. And the 9.3x74R barrel had bumped off at least one moose every year since he bought the rifle just before the outbreak of World War II in Europe.

When I asked him how he managed to sight-in three barrels chambered for cartridges of such varying velocities to a common impact point, he said the rifle was already zeroed when he bought it, so he had never touched the adjustments of the scope. Silly me for asking — the very next day he dropped a moose at about 90 meters with a single shot.

If you haven't given the 9.3 cartridges much consideration, maybe now is the time to do just that. Any versatile hunting cartridge that is as popular in Africa as the .30-30 is here certainly deserves a serious look. After all, there's not a game animal in North America that stands a chance against a well-placed shot with a 9.3.

NOTE All load data should be used with caution. Always start with reduced loads first and make sure they are safe in each of your guns before proceeding to the high test loads listed. Since Shooting Times not the various firearms and components manufacturers assume any responsibility for the use of this data.

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