Old = New, But New Sells More Rifles

Longtime shooter and hunter Ross Seyfried is a gunnie after my own heart, especially when he writes stuff like this:

There is a lot of overlap, duplication and redundancy in rifle cartridge performance. As an aging curmudgeon, I constantly question the need for new cartridges. But I do it in good humor, because I’m not yet irascible enough to bite the hands that feed me, and it’s in my best interests to write about new numbers. The last few years, I’ve written about a bunch of them: ARCs, Buckhammers, Bushmasters, Creedmoors, Legends, Westerns, Noslers and PRCs.

They’re all good stuff, but actual performance in terms of velocity and energy can’t be new because these levels were established long ago by the expansion rate of nitrocellulose.

There are modern nuances like the ability to cram more performance into specific action types and lengths, or better downrange performance thanks to modern aerodynamic bullets and faster rifling twists. Or you can purposely step down in performance to meet straight-wall cartridge criteria required by some whitetail states—and thereby avoid having to use shotgun slugs.

All do what they’re supposed to do, but I also have a penchant for older cartridges. Dig deep into cartridge history, and you’ll find there isn’t much new under the sun. The 6.5 Creedmoor is today’s most popular 6.5mm, and it is ballistically identical to 1894’s 6.5×55 Swedish Mauser. The Creedmoor’s main advantage is that it fits into a short action, while the 6.5 Swede does not.

I love the 1892 7×57 Mauser so much that I have three. The 7mm-08 Rem. introduced in 1980 is a ballistic twin, with much the same comparison as the Creedmoor and the Swede: 7mm-08 fits into a short action; the 7×57 does not. The 7×57 has greater case capacity, but 7mm-08 is loaded to higher pressure. So in factory loads, the 7mm-08 has a velocity edge, but no deer will know the difference.

For nostalgia and tradition—and perhaps just to be different—I stick with the 7×57. There’s nothing wrong with being contrarian, but you still must feed the rifle. Thankfully, 6.5×55 and 7×57 ammo aren’t rare, but they’re not nearly as available as Creedmoor and 7mm-08—which is why my wife and daughters shoot a 7mm-08 and not a 7×57.

By now, my love for the 6.5x55mm Swede is a matter of folklore;  slightly less known is my fondness for the 7x57mm Mauser.  Here they both are, by comparison to more popular cartrdges:

One thing the Swede and Mauser have in common is a lo-o-o-ong bullet, which has excellent sectional density and therefore provides astounding penetration.

The other nice thing about these two old guys is that gun manufacturers often make rifles that are somewhat more traditional in appearance, in keeping with the cartridges’ heritage.  Here’s one I used to own back in the day, a CZ 550 FS in 6.5x55mm Swede:

…and another one I owned back in Seffrica, an Oviedo (Spanish) Mauser 1893 in 7x57mm:

With the latter, I once took down an eland with a single shot — the bullet went in at the front leg (it was a quartering shot) and ended up lodged in the skin behind the hind leg, having caused all sorts of havoc en route.  (I should point out that my guide did not want me to take the shot because the cartridge was not really sufficient for the job, but at 70-odd yards I wasn’t going to pass it up.  Yeah, my Jung & Foolisch engine was working overtime.)

Anyway, enough memory lane stuff.

I just love those old cartridges.  Here’s my dream 7×57 rifle:

Damn lottery odds are the only thing standing in my way.


  1. I agree with both of you in regards to cartridges. I saw the 45 GAP come and go for pistols and the Winchester Short Magnums lasted less than 7 years on the market I believe before rifle makers and ammunition makers decided to drop those cartridges.

    The first rifle I bought was a Lee Enfield. The .303 is a very good cartridge. With new bullet designs it could be a lot better. My first commercial rifle was chambered in .30-06. I took a Russian boar with it (no, not Hillary). 7mm-08 is another cartridge that I’d like to add to the collection. The problem I see is that quite a few of those cartridges simply aren’t available at man shops. 7×57, 7mm-08, 6.5×55 Swede are rare around here. I’m looking forward to trying 7.5 Swiss in a few weeks.

    6.5 Creedmoor can be found even at Walmart though.


  2. Spot on. Just one more confirmation of why we hit it off so well.

    Back in my own “Jung & Foolisch” days, I was bit by the bug to come up with something different and esoteric in the way of a cartridge to hunt four-footed game. I did a bunch of number crunching. Some things occurred to me along way, like the possibility of unpacking to hunt three states away and realizing you left your lovingly crafted handloads at home on your work bench. Fortunately I eventually came to my senses and to the same conclusion as Mr. Seyfried, “…no deer will know the difference.”. A 150 gr (+/-) projectile, moving at 3000 fps (+/-). I was already knee deep in everything needed to handload .308, so I bought myself a Winchester M70 Stainless Classic in .308. Still have it.

  3. Heh, once traded my boss a can of 7.62X39 for his(nicely) bubba-ized Swedish carbine. At the time I figured I had less than $50 in the can. Then I found out that restoring it would run about three bills(at the time). So it’s still the way I got. But it shoots better then I can.

  4. “New” caliber rifles can gain a popularity then fall out if favor. Thirty years ago the 270 Winchester was the caliber to have. Then there was the 6.5 Grendel and 6.8 SPC II that got popular almost 20 years ago. I went with a 6.8 SPC II and finding ammo in stock is challenging and when it is found it is the original SPC specs not the SPC II. Today the 6.5 Creedmoor is in favor. My go-to rifle is an early 1980’s Model 78 Remington in 30-06. The 78 was the economy model 700 with a maple stock and a closed floorplate for a 4 round breach loading.

    I reload so I can tune a load to a specific rifle. I have a Mini-14 in 5.56 that I have a 55 gr load that makes it a sub MOA gun. I haven’t been able to get close to that with other weights of projectiles. Then I have a Bushmaster AR-15. It doesn’t matter what you put in it or how you tweak a load, It is a consistent 1.25 MOA rifle that is a PIA to clean.

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