7mm Cartridges – Are they good for hunting?

Love them or hate them, consider them weird or essential, ridicule them or admire them, the 7mm cartridge has dug its feet in and firmly established itself in the world of hunting, but just how good or bad is the 7mm when it comes to hunting?

Before we answer that rather broad and open question, because let’s face it just about anything can be used for hunting if you are brave enough, dumb enough, or have copious amounts of time to waste, hence we have to lay down some foundation for the 7mm cartridge and work within a few parameters.

Why the hate?

Ok, the word “hate” may be a little heavy, but many out there (looking at you .300 Win Maggers) simply look down on the 7mm and just don’t consider it worth any attention.

That’s because the 7mm is snuggled in tight between the almost cult-like growth in popularity of the 6.5mm Creedmoor and the massively popular .30 calibers so it gets a lot of shade from both sides.

Unfortunately, many hunters and long-distance plinkers tend to follow the hype without taking the time to look at the data, which we will touch on later, and if they gave the 7mm just a few minutes, it may very well change their minds.

Why the love?

Suppose the reason why there is such a devotion to the 7mm, and the same could be said about those die hard .30 caliber fans, is the variety and size within the cartridge range.

Within the 7mm BR, 7-30 Waters, 7mm-08 Rem, 7×57 Mauser, .284 Win., .280 Rem., 7mm SAUM, 7mm WSM, 7mm Weatherby Magnum, 7mm Remington Magnum, 7mm LRM, 28 Nosler, and the 7mm RUM it can be argued there is a caliber for anyone and any occasion.

Coupled with that variety, comes the impressive expanse of bullet weights, which as any hunter is well aware is crucial with regard to hunting. From the lighter 100-grains up to the hard-hitting 180-grain bullets.

Setting Parameters

For this article to work and add value where it is needed, we are going to focus solely on hunting with a little more attention to long-range hunting, so even though the advantageous attributes that the 7mm has in the world of competitive shooting and thumping steel gongs at crazy distances could help convert a few people, we need to keep it simple.

What to look for in a hunting cartridge?

  • Terminal Performance
  • Trajectory, energy, velocity, it all matters and adds up to determine if the cartridge is going to be suitable enough for what you require.
  • Size
  • Bullet weight should never be overlooked and gives a brief glimpse into the hitting power.
  • Accuracy: Sure, a bullet, and rifle are only as good as the person pulling the trigger, but it has been proven that some cartridges hit the target consistently more than others.
  • Recoil: It’s not just young and new hunters that need to be conscientious of recoil. Holding focus through the scope after the shot helps when you are hunting, especially when you are alone.
  • Purpose & Availability: You wouldn’t take a cannon to kill a squirrel, and as crazy as that may sound, choosing the correct cartridge is kind of the same thing. Select the correct cartridge/caliber for the type of hunting you will be doing and the main target species.

Setting the benchmark

With the parameters laid out, we now turn our attention to a specific target, point of reference, or benchmark, call it what you may, that we can compare our parameters to and use them to ascertain just how suitable the 7mm cartridge is for hunting.

What better target than a big old bull Elk, standing broadside out to 500-yards just above the timberline sending out a bugle? It’s the dream for 99% of the hunters out there and a worthy adversary for the 7mm, because surely if it can hammer a wapiti at that distance, whitetails, mulies, coyotes, and a large majority of other game species will follow suit, right?

Even though it has been dissected and argued over a thousand times and more in just about every hunting forum on the internet, the general rule of thumb remains that an energy of around 1,500 ft-lbs is required to effectively kill a mature bull elk given the shot placement is accurate.

Taking that piece of info into consideration, plus the distance of 500-yards and the kill zone of the elk being about 12 to 18-inches in size, we are starting to put together the pieces of the equation.

Right, so to effectively answer the question of whether the 7mm is suitable for hunting, specifically long-range hunting? We can now look at the data or ballistics of some commonly used 7mms and compare them against our bull elk.

7mm PRC (Precision Rifle Cartridge)

Hot off the press is the 7mm PRC from Hornady, we talking October 26th 2022 release, so let it cool a bit boys because this cartridge is still steaming.

You can probably tell by the name that Hornady made this round with one thing in mind, and that is to be ridiculously accurate and precise at long-range shooting. Hornady designed it in such a way that the shooter can throw that bullet a long way with high B.C. and not have to worry too much about wind deflection.

7mm PRC 160 gr Hornady CX Outfitter

Specs:

Cartridge 7mm PRC
Bullet 160 gr CX
Sectional Density .283
Ballistic Coefficient .596 (G1)
Min Recommended Twist Rate 1-8”

Ballistics Performance (24” barrel):

Velocity Energy (ft/lbs.) Trajectory (inches)
Muzzle 3000 3197 -1.5
100 yd 2840 2865 1.4
200 yd 2686 2563 0
300 yd 2537 2287 -6.2
400 yd 2393 2035 -17.9
500 yd 2254 1804 -35.6

It doesn’t take an expert to see that the 7mm PRC 160 gr CX Outfitter from Hornady is more than capable of taking down an elk. With impressive speed right out of the barrel and even out to 500 yards this cartridge packs enough energy to hit that bull hard. 

Ok, the trajectory may seem a little steep for your average tree stand dwelling woodland hunter, but for anyone that is prepared to pull the trigger out to 500 yards, they will be well versed in all things MOA, MiLS, Turret dialing, wind reading, ballistic calculating, app in putting and everything else a bowhunter never has to worry about. 

7mm PRC 175 gr Hornady ELD-X Precision Hunter

Specs:

Cartridge 7mm PRC
Bullet 175 gr ELD-X
Sectional Density .310
Ballistic Coefficient .689 (G1)

.347 (G7)

Min Recommended Twist Rate 1-8”

Ballistics Performance (24” barrel):

Velocity Energy (ft/lbs.) Trajectory (inches)
Muzzle 3000 3497 -1.5
100 yd 2861 3181 1.4
200 yd 2727 2890 0
300 yd 2597 2620 -6
400 yd 2470 2371 -17.2
500 yd 2347 2141 -34.2

A slight improvement on the 160 gr CX Outfitter, the heavier 175 gr ELD-X Precision Hunter holds higher energy of 2,141 ft/lbs. out to 500 yards and gets there a lot quicker than its lighter counterpart. Again, the trajectory at 500-yards may scare off the less experienced hunters, but in truth that is nothing compared to what is still to come from other 7mm cartridges.

7mm Rem Mag

Since its inception into the world of firearms in 1962, many hunters literally lost their minds at the arrival of the 7mm Rem Mag and it quickly rose to the number one spot as the most popular 7mm cartridge. 

Not many can deny the capabilities of this fine round as it has proven its worth time again from coyote to whitetail, and elk to bear and frankly, that could be enough to deem the 7mm Rem Mag worthy enough for taking our bull elk standing 500 yards away, but we need to remain unbiased and the only way to do that is by looking at the data.

 

7mm Rem Mag Winchester Ballistic Silvertip 140 gr 

Ballistics Performance:

Velocity Energy (ft/lbs.) Trajectory (inches)
Muzzle 3110 3006 -1.49
100 yd 2898 2610 0
200 yd 2697 2261 -2.64
300 yd 2505 1950 -10.08
400 yd 2320 1673 -23.07
500 yd 2143 1427 -42.53

 

The 140 gr Winchester Ballistic Silvertip comes flying out of the barrel with serious purpose and intentions to hit hard whatever the scope is looking at, but it loses a fair amount of that momentum and energy when it gets to 500 yards. Yes, the energy of 1,427 ft/lbs. falls below our “rule-of-thumb” for elk but are we going to be that picky over 73 ft/lbs? It is a 140-gr bullet after all.

In our opinion, the Ballistic Silvertip is still good for just about any hunting scenario you may find yourself in, but if your intentions are long-range and you happen to see a box of PRCs on the shelf, pick those up instead.

7mm Rem Mag Sierra Gamechanger 150 Grain TGK

Ballistics Performance:

Velocity Energy (ft/lbs.) Trajectory (inches)
Muzzle 3000 2997 -1.5
100 yd 2825 2657 1.43
200 yd 2656 2350 0.0
300 yd 2494 2072 -6.36
400 yd 2338 1821 -18.31
500 yd 2187 1593 -36.63

The 150 gr Sierra’s may not be as quick as Winchester’s 140 gr Silvertips at the muzzle but it is tighter on the trajectory and packs more of a punch at 500-yards, it does, however, hold the velocity out to distance whereas the 140 gr Silvertip tends to slack off considerably.

Sierra has a solid reputation amongst hunters and they have built a devout following that swears by the performance. All the ballistics fall within our elk parameters, making the 150 gr Gamechanger’s ideal as a hunting cartridge.

28 Nosler

Created on the back of the 26 Nosler, dubbed by the Nosler family as the “world’s most powerful 6.5mm commercial cartridge” came the 28 Nosler and there is no denying it, they created an absolute beast. The fact that they built it on the fat 404 Jeffrey case may have something to do with it.

28 Nosler 175 Gr Accubond Long Range Trophy Grade

Ballistics Performance:

Velocity Energy (ft/lbs.) Trajectory (inches)
Muzzle 3125 3794 -1.5
100 yd 2975 3438 1.2
200 yd 2827 3106 0.0
300 yd 2684 2799 -5.6
400 yd 2544 2515 -16
500 yd 2409 2254 -31.7

28 Nosler 160 Gr Partition Trophy Grade

Velocity Energy (ft/lbs.) Trajectory (inches)
Muzzle 3250 3752 -1.5
100 yd 3035 3271 1.1
200 yd 2830 2844 0.0
300 yd 2634 2464 -5.5
400 yd 2446 2126 -16
500 yd 2267 1825 -32.3

There isn’t much between the 160 gr Partition and the 175 gr Accubond, other than the obvious weight and clear difference of energy at 500-yards. Both bullets clearly fit in with the parameters laid out and would easily stretch the distance with good energy performance if needed. 

Without turning this into a cartridge versus cartridge article, it’s hard to overlook the fact that the 28 Nosler dominates the 7mm Rem Mag (yes, weights vary) and is willing to go toe-to-toe with the impressive PRC. We could take it a step further and discuss the makeup of the cartridge, as in how the Partition bullet performs in comparison to the Accubond, but let’s stay on track. That is an article for another day.

Is the 7mm cartridge suitable for hunting? Yes, it sure is. That is the simple straight forward answer you give someone when they are standing in a gun shop mulling over what rifle to buy and they need a stranger’s quick opinion. But when you are sitting round the fire at a hunting camp and someone throws up this question to start a deep discussion, the answer remains the same but with a “depends on what type of hunting you want to do” attached to the end of it.

It’s clear from the basic data illustrated above that almost any 7mm cartridge is capable of putting down 90% of the game species within 200 yards, but when it comes to long-distance hunting, that’s when some 7mm cartridges will have you spending 3 days trudging through the woods looking for small specs of blood, and some will have you grinning ear to ear with every step of the pack out.

So choose wisely because regardless of your hunting preference, there is a 7mm cartridge designed for it.

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