Medium-bore calibers hold some surprises for American shooters

In one of my first articles for Lebanon Local, I went through my favorite “loads” for most, if not all, of the famous big game cartridges, from the little .22s to the popular .30s.
This time I’d like to focus on the larger calibers, what I consider the medium bores.
Although the Soviet-designed 7.62x39mm is “communist,” it has a huge following in the land of the free.
Most shooters simply buy cheap loaded “surplus” ammo and blast away with their SKS or AK pattern rifle, never giving a thought to actually hunting big game with this caliber.
In reality, it is on par with the venerable 30-30 Winchester. The old 30-30 starts out with more energy, but at around the 100-yard mark the Ruskie catches up due to its more aerodynamic, pointed bullet. Both make excelent short- to medium-range deer calibers but are a little lacking for elk-sized game.
The reason this cartridge was not grouped in with the thirty calibers is that it actually shoots a .311- to .312-inch diameter projectile.
Winchester, Remington, Federal and a few foreign manufacturers make good soft-point hunting loads in the 122-123 grain weights. When placed correctly, they are all deadly on deer-size animals.
As an aside, I have no idea why it is designated as a 7.62mm, the same as the .308” (Wincheser), since they actually have two different bullet diameters.
It seems this cartridge should have been designated a 7.65mm like the Argentine cartridge of the same bullet diameter. To make it even stranger, the Swiss 7.5x55mm actually uses a .308-inch diameter bullet like the 7.62x51mm/.308 Win…………..I always knew the metric system was screwed up.
If you are a user of the aforementioned 7.65 Argentine, 303 British, 7.62x54R  etc.,your ammo choices are limited enough that making a choice is not hard. But I would lean towards a heavy-for-caliber, pointed bullet.
Next up are the 8mms. The first was the 8x57mm Mauser. When this caliber first came out, it used a smaller .318-inch bullet diameter, which can be problematic since that diameter is hard to find in today’s world. The much more common .323-inch 8mm bullets have been the standard for 100 years.
If your particular 8mm Mauser was made pre-World War II, it would be a good idea to determine its bore diameter before firing. It would also be a good idea to have the rifle checked over in general, especially the headspace.
Many of these rifles were rather ingeniously rechambered to the wildcat 8mm/06, or its Ackley Improved version, since 8x57mm brass was non-existent in this country until quite a bit after the close of the second world war. With the advent of this wildcat, all of the returning G.I.s with their war trophy Mausers, could simply neck-up ’06 brass and be shooting, with more power to boot.
That was pretty much the limit of 8mm desighn until 1977, when Remington brough out the 8mm Remington Magnum.
This cartridge caused quite a stir in the “gunzines,” which somewhat hung around into the ’80s, when it pretty much died off. One reason is that the available factory ammunition and handloading data were unexplicably weak. This cartridge has a lot more potential than the available ballistic data would have us believe.
This fine cartridge has had its greatest impact as a wildcater’s dream. It has been necked up and down to every conceivable diameter. Until the .300 Remington Ultra Magnum came on the market it was the darling of 1,000-yard competitors and custom long-range hunting rifle builders when necked down to .30 caliber.
The 7mm Shooting Times Westerner (STW), which was hugely popular a few years ago, is the 8mm R.M. necked down to 7mm. It was named and popularized by Shooting Times writer Layne Simpson in 1997, who also came up with the .358 Shooting Times Alaskan (STA) that never caught on but holds a lot of potential for big critters, especially large bears and moose.
My two favorite offspring of this big case are the 6.5mm version, with a long barrel, and the .338 version, which is kind of an improved 340 Wby. Mag.
Most recently, Winchester brought out the .325 Winchester Short Magnum. They were very wise not to call it the 8mm WSM, since Americans as a whole seem to care nothing for the 8mm bullet diameter.
Hunters using the 8mm Mauser have a somewhat limited selection of factory loads but reloaders are rewarded by a suprisingly large choice of bullets. In factory ammo I would choose a 200-grain load, again with a pointed bullet, and use it exclusively.
Users of either version of the 8mm/06 are confined to reloading and I would most definitely choose a 220-grain pointed or boat tail bullet as the larger case capacity really makes efficient use of the heavier projectile.
I have a 325 WSM that I will probably never reload for unless Winchester discontinues their 220-grain Power Point load. It is as good as any handload in every way, except cost. I simply don’t shoot it enough to justify the trouble of reloading for it. There are premium loads for the 325 but I find them unessesary because the 220 PP is so good.
In the 8mm Magnum I would not be afraid of the factory-loaded 220 grain (if you can find any) or any standard, lead-core 220-grain bullet, but a premium/tougher bullet wouldn’t be a bad choice at the elevated velocities this round is capable of.
The most popular of these medium bores is the .338-inch diameter. Winchester kicked off the first real magnum craze when it introduced its .264 (1958), .338  (also 1958), and earlier 458, in 1956. The .338 was and is the most popular of these siblings.
As a bit of trivia, Winchester also started this bullet diameter in the first place with the obsolete .33 Winchester Centerfire (WCF).
I lean towards a 225-grain bullet in this caliber. The 250 grain is a fine choice but not a must at the .338 Winchester’s velocity.
A premium/tough bullet is not really needed but I would not disuade anyone from using one if they felt the need. Almost all of the bullets in this caliber were designed specifically for the Win. Mag., however.
On a personal note, I prefer the 338/06 Ackley Improved to the .338 Win. Mag. as it produces almost all of the velocity with less fire and brimstone. I can also usually fit an extra round or two in the magazine with the smaller-diameter ’06 case. Proponents of the magnum might rightly muse that this supposed advantage simply alows you to miss more.
I don’t understand the use of 180-, 200- or 210-grain bullets in any of the .338 Magnums. The reason for their use always seems to be to mitgate recoil.
It would be much wiser to simply drop down to a 300 Win. Mag. and reap its benefits of higher velocities, higher balistic coefficient and higher sectional densities that the same bullet weights will provide in the slightly longer .30 caliber casing. That being said, if I owned a .338 Federal (.338/08) I would use 200- or 210-grain bullets. Probably, I would simply buy Federal’s Fusion load.
Since we’ve only scratched the surface here, next month we’ll keep moving up the ladder of medium bores, and I’ll touch on a few more of my personal favorites.