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The 9,3 x 62 mm Mauser is making a strong come back!
 
By Chris Bekker
 
A medium bore rifle with low recoil and low bolt back thrust
 
 
9.3 x 62 mm Case
 
A medium bore intended for all-round use
 
The 9,3 x 62 mm Mauser was never intended to compete in the big bore market for use on elephant and buffalo, but rather for farmers who needed an all-round rifle to provide meat for their labourers and themselves. Otto Bock's cartridge was designed in 1905 and it was available in an affordable bolt-action Mauser, cheaper than British rifles, and hence it became an extremely popular working rifle. John 'Pondoro' Taylor writes that from the very moment of its introduction in 1905, until ammunition supply problems in the late 1960's, the 9,3 reigned supreme as the all-round calibre and probably the most popular non-military calibre in Africa. To further explain, we need to remember that it was the unstable political situation in Africa, that lead to the demise of all big bore rifles and big game hunting. Unstable governments, guerrilla wars and military coups rendered safaris unsafe or impossible. Severe poaching reduced the numbers to the point where big game hunting was banned in some countries. Ultimately, the French, the Germans and the British had to leave 'colonial' Africa and so the demand for rifles and ammo just was not there anymore.
 
Some hunters though, did use it on big and dangerous game as it was the only rifle they had. With regard to Buffalo hunting, the 9,3 was quite adequate and many hunters realised its versatility as a bushveld calibre for large game, such as eland. With a muzzle velocity of 2,350 fps, it was more suitable for antelope hunting at longer range as opposed to the old British big bore calibres, which was meant for dangerous game at close range. The 9,3 has an effective range of about 150 yards, at which distance it has a striking velocity of about 2,000 fps. Remember that the very popular 450/400 Nitro Express, in its Blackpowder guise only did 1,900 fps with a 325 gr. bullet, whilst in its Nitro loading, a 400 grainer was launched at 2,150 fps. The 375 H&H was only introduced in 1912 and it was much more expensive. It also remained a proprietary cartridge until about 1925 which gave the 9,3 a head start.
 
Mr. Bell used his 7 x 57 mm with solids for head shots on elephant, never the body. Although he shot more than a 1,000 elephant with his .284" calibre, 173 gr. bullets, he wrote ... "I began to use a .318 bullet (actually .330 inches) of 250 grains with long parallel sides and at once the inexplicable misses ceased". It is clear that he was convinced that the heavier bullet at the same velocity of 2,350 fps was superior. Incidentally, the 9,3 x 62 mm has the same velocity, but its .366" 286 gr. bullet would 
hit with slightly more momentum, and so we could go on with other bigger calibres, like the 416 Rigby and the 500 Jeffery. The real question is, how much recoil can one handle and still have good accuracy for precise shot placement. Bell stopped at the .318 Westley Richards as he was recoil shy. If you flinch and pull your shots with a powerful big-bore, then you are better off with a milder medium-bore calibre.
 
The only area that Taylor considered the 9,3 unsuitable for was following up wounded elephant in thick cover. The penetration with solids can reach the vitals from any angle, but the sheer bullet energy needed to turn a close quarters charge just simply isn't there, nor is it in the .375 H&H for that matter. In thick cover or when following up a wounded elephant, the best would be a double such as the 470 Nitro Express. No other animal on earth can match the power, cunning and danger of elephants! Taylor's experience was that the smaller calibres did not have enough power to stun or to knock an elephant out if the brain was missed on a head shot. It is unthinkable today, to go elephant hunting without proper backup of a PH, unlike the situation of the ivory hunters of an era long gone. African lore is filled with stories of hunters being trampled to death because their bullets failed, hence solids were the only safe option. The reason for using steel-jacketed solids is so the bullet will penetrate several inches of an elephant's thick, honeycombed skull without deforming or coming apart before it reaches the brain.
The 9,3 x 62 mm, with its 286 grain bullet, was never intended to be an ideal elephant cartridge and can never compare with those calibres that use the heavier 400 or 500 grain bullets, although many elephant were shot with this cailbre. The 404 Jeffery, which was introduced a year later than the 9,3 was in fact the most popular big bore bolt action rifle for professional big game hunters and game control officers in Africa up until the sixties ... the load that made the 404 Jeffery famous, was a 400 gr.'s bullet at 2,125 fps - later on Kynoch upped the velocity to 2,225 fps.
 
Destruction of the Mauser Factory and political events in Africa
 
When the Mauser factory was destroyed , just after World War II, the main supply of the German 9,3 was cut off and it waned till the late 1960's. Other manufacturers that continued the Mauser tradition in 9,3 mm calibre also quit making rifles, such as the FN Mauser and the Husqvarna Mauser by 1963. Ammunition became scarce and ammo manufacture ceased in the late 1960's and many hunters switched to the 375 H&H,
which was further popularized by Winchester's affordable Model 70 in .375 calibre, based on the Mauser design - the now famous 'Pre-64' design. By 1963, most British subjects had to leave the former British colonies in Africa, and American hunters that came to Africa, preferred imperial calibres over metric calibres; such as the .375 H&H and the .458 Win Mag (introduced in 1956). The Kynoch bullets during this era were
not too strongly constructed and performed much better in the slower 9,3 than the 375 H&H. The soft nose bullets of this era were primarily responsible for giving the 375 H&H a bad reputation for bullet failure at 2,500 fps. Despite this, the 375 H&H still became the new de facto standard in Africa as the all-round rifle. Harry Manners acquired his 375 H&H shortly after the second World War and used it during his entire hunting career as a professional ivory hunter, but he used full metal jacket bullets made by Kynoch, to avoid bullet breakup.
 
The USA importer's advert appearing in gun magazines
 
Custom bullet makers and Scandinavian countries kept the calibre alive
 
Whilst the calibre suffered a major set back in Africa, it remained popular in Scandinavian countries for Elk hunting. During the 1970's RWS began making ammunition again. The Bruno (CZ) factory followed to offer 9,3 x 62 mm rifles at very cheap prices. Custom bullet makers, such as Woodleigh and Stewart saw a market and started to provide high quality ammunition. All these factors provided a stimulus to bring this calibre in use again.
 
The availability of cartridges for a given calibre is an important consideration for those hunters that do not have the time or the interest to reload. Factory ammunition is available from Norma in Sweden, Sako and Lapua in Finland, CDP in Switzerland, Sellier & Bellot in the Czech Republic, RWS in Germany and PMP in South Africa. Interesting to note, Sako offers a factory load in 250 gr Barnes-X ... this bullet is known for its sterling performance.
 
Bullets in component form is also available from four American manufacturers, namely, Speer, Nosler, Swift A-Frame and Barnes. Custom bullet makers, such as Woodleigh from Australia, offers a core bonded 'Soft'. Two South African firms, Stewarts and Rhino, also offer bond core bullets with very thick jackets. Of particular note is the availability of heavy for calibre bullets, in Round Nose configuration, such as Rhino's 300 grainer and Woodleigh's 320 grainer. Monolithic Solids, intended for maximum penetration, are offered by Barnes, GS Custom and Rhino whilst copper FMJ's are offered by Stewart and Norma. A Steel Jacketed Solid with a lead core is offered by Woodleigh.
 
Bullet performance is important
 
For me, bullet performance is what matters first and foremost, then calibre. Many reports of praise is coming in for the old 9.3 from people that use it on buffalo with premium bullets. One such example is Nigel Woodroffe's report in Man Magnum of August 2002, page 75, ... "9,3 x 62 Buffalo Medicine". He was using Woodleigh FMJ and Barnes-X bullets.
 
The only report we have so far of the newly available CDP ammo is the test that Koos Barnard did. He did a comparison with other bullets, using a wet/drypack combination of tightly stacked magazines at 50 yards. The wetpack was 8" thick and the drypack 6" backed by another 2 telephone directories. The CDP penetrated 15 inches, Rhino 14 inches and Woodleigh 14 inches ... CDP retained 83.5% weight, Rhino 83% and Woodleigh 93.1% ... all excellent! I prefer Rhino's new 300 gr.'s round nose bullet, with its bigger flat meplat, and consider it superior over the lighter 286 gr. Semi-Spitzer bullet for buffalo hunting.
 
The availability of premium controlled expansion bullets today, makes this calibre just so much more effective without the risk of over penetration for use in buffalo herd situations, to avoid wounding a second animal. This is well illustrated by Ganyana of Zimbabwe with a long hunting career behind him. Ganyana mentioned in "Frontal Shots on Buffalo", where he made the point that even if the heart of a buffalo is punctured with a conventional round nose FMJ, it leaves a small hole, which is invariably sealed as the heart begins to contract to pump the blood, and he has seen it to run another 5 kilometers and when you later find him he is dead. Ganyana also mentions another interesting observation, that his 9,3 x 62 mm with RWS Tug bullets, which expands well, is highly effective on buffalo as the expanding bullet will tore a hole through the heart that is too big to be sealed ... the bigger the hole, the more quickly the animal will collapse. Based on his experience, the effectiveness of the .366 " monolithic solid with a cutting shoulder (dual diameter), in fact leave a bigger permanent wound channel than a .500 calibre bullet in round nose FMJ with a smooth surface. The 293 gr. RWS bullet is fine for broadside and frontal shots on buffalo, but too soft for raking shots or breaking heavy bone; rather use the stronger constructed bullets such as the 286 gr CDP, 286 gr. Stewart, 300 gr. Rhino, the 300 gr. Swift a-Frame or 320 gr. Woodleigh.
 
The most suitable powder for the calibre
 
Although the 286 grain bullet is the most commonly available bullet for the calibre, many buffalo hunters today prefer the heavier bullets that are available - 293 gr RWS, 300 gr. Rhino, 300 gr. Swift and 320 gr. Woodleigh. So I decided to run a calculation on my 'Quickload' program, using the 300 gr. Swift A-Frame bullet as an example, pitched at a 90.0% case fill for all powders and with a barrel length set at 23.5", to see what velocities are attainable with the heavier bullet and its resultant pressure levels - the CIP maximum pressure level is 56,564 psi:-  
 
Powder        Case Fill      Load       Velocity      Pressure
S 335           90.0%       53.6 gr    2,243 fps    52,746 psi
Norma 201     90.0%       53.9 gr    2,297 fps    52,214 psi
IMR 3031       90.0%       52.4 gr    2,319 fps    51,980 psi
Rottweil         90.0%       53.9 gr    2,286 fps    51,569 psi
N135             90.0%       52.4 gr    2,215 fps    47,478 psi
H414             90.0%       59.6 gr    2,232 fps    40,862 psi
H414             92.7%       61.3 gr    2,300 fps    44,864 psi
 
Somchem's S335 is not the most ideal powder for the calibre, as it yields too high a pressure at the top end, whilst S365 does not produce near the required velocity. To achieve 2,350 fps with say Woodleigh's 286 gr. SN by using S335 it would yield a pressure of 55,039 psi. I believe Somchem are in the process of developing an 'in-between' powder(S355) in extruded form which will be more suitable for the 9,3 cartridge. Hodgdon powder gives the lowest pressure and it is also the first choice in Speer's reloading manual. It provides the reloader with the highest velocity for the lowest pressure ... absolutely ideal for the calibre - a 300 grain bullet can be pushed to 2,300 fps with a low pressure of 44,486 psi. Lapua uses N135, PMP uses S335 and CDP uses most probably Rottweil 903. Norma loads a 286 gr bullet to 2,360 fps with Norma 201, which is a rather hot load for the case's capacity; 52,009 psi. PMP only loads to a velocity of 2,264 fps to produce a more acceptable pressure of 48,238 psi, which is 85% of the maximum CIP pressure. Most reloaders aim for about 2,300 fps which is ideal for short range work. It is important that the velocity is high enough for the stronger constructed 'controlled expansion' bullets, to achieve adequate expansion for creating a big wound track. That is why, if the calibre is stretched to a distance where the velocity is too low, we don't get proper bullet expansion and thus the bullet will behave as a solid. For this reason, I stay within a target range where the striking velocity varies between 2,000 and 2,200 fps. The following table illustrates a 'maximum range' for the various 9,3 bullets, with differing ballistic co-efficients, based on my definition of a minimum impact velocity of 2,000 fps. 
 

Various
Bullet
Types

Type
of
Nose

Bullet
Weight
gr

Muzzle
Velocity

fps

BC
Factor

Impact
Velocity

in fps

"Maximum"
Distance

in yds

PMP Pro-Amm RN

286

2,300

0.196

2,000

75

A-Square RN

286

2,300

0.286

2,000

110

Woodleigh RN

286

2,300

0.331

2,004

125

CDP Semi-Spitzer

286

2,300

0.440

2,006

165

Barnes-X spitzer

286

2,300

0.460

2,002

175

Nosler partition spitzer

286

2,300

0.482

2,000

185

Barnes Solid Solid RN

286

2,300

0.336

1,997

130

 
With Solids though, the velocity is not so critical as the non expansion of the bullet does not impair penetration as is the case with Softs. The 375 H&H is already over penetrative on Buffalo in herd situations whereas the 9,3 is just ideal. Gregor Woods 
did an interesting comparative test, shooting into 22 mm thick Superwood (hard dense fibre-board) baffles, spaced 35 mm apart, rigidly supported in a baffle box at a range of 30 meters.
 

Calibre

Type
of
Bullet

Bullet
Weight
gr

Muzzle
Velocity
fps

No. of
Baffles
Penetrated

Bullet
Weight
Retention

9,3 x 62 mm

Norma Soft Point

286

2,214

8

71%

9,3 x 62 mm

RWS Steel FMJ

286

2,203

24

100%

375 H&H

PMP Soft Point

300

2,450

9

67%

375 H&H

RWS Steel FMJ

300

2,585

27

100%

 
The Steel FMJ bullets penetrated 3 times deeper than the Soft Point bullets in each case, clearly illustrating that the expanded diameter of the lead core bullet impairs penetration. Also, in both cases the 375 H&H out penetrated the 9,3 by 12.5%.
 
The 9,3 offers lower chamber pressure & back thrust than a 375 H&H
 
Most designers believe that 'back thrust or breech pressure' is a more serious consideration than 'Chamber pressure' because it is working directly against the moving parts of the action. To calculate breech pressure one can take the chamber pressure in relation to the internal area of the case that put pressure on the bolt and the 2 locking lugs on the bolt must bear the strain - so, that should be our focus. The distribution of back thrust is shared by the case and chamber walls depending on its grip on the chamber walls as it varies between tapered cases and a more parallel type cases. The balance of the thrust, plus the full thrust of the primer goes onto the bolt. If there is oil in the chamber or on the cartridge case, the back thrust will be increased tremendously and may even approach that of full chamber pressure. If we ignore chamber-wall friction, but assume a 'dry' chamber, we can compute back thrust as follows:-
 
                  Max Inside  (A)         (B) Ave. Operating    (A x B)
Cartridge      Case Dia.  Area         Chamber Pressure   Thrust in pounds
9.3 x 62 mm   .400"     .126 sq. in.   52,746 psi            6,646 (300 gr @ 2,243 fps with S335)
375 H&H        .445"     .156 sq. in.   61,451 psi            9,586 (300 gr @ 2,464 fps with S335)
 
The back thrust on the 9,3 is 31% lower than on a 375 H&H mm and hence lug set back is less likely to be a problem than with the hotter 375 H&H. When a 375 H&H is built on a Standard Mauser action, metal needs to be cut away so the longer cartridge can fit into the action - this further weakens the action. Thus the combined effect must be considered. For this reason, hot loads in the 375 H&H, with a modified K98 action, should be avoided and those reloaders that push the velocity further up to 2,600 fps, creates an even more dangerous scenario, especially when used in very hot temperatures of 35 degrees C and above, like in Zimbabwe.
 
The 9,3 offers lower recoil than a 375 H&H
 
Both calibres can be loaded to shoot about 100 fps faster, but let us compare the recoil of these two calibres with the stated velocities, assuming the 375 H&H rifle is a pound heavier and a slight difference in bullet weight. Despite the lighter weight of the 9,3 rifle, which impacts negatively on recoil, it still has a 20% lower recoil, which makes the 9,3 more comfortable to shoot with as well as having a lighter rifle to carry.
 

Calculation
of

Recoil
Calibre

Bullet
Mass
Gr

Bullet
Velocity
Fps

Muzzle
Energy
Ft/Lb

Powder
Charge
Gr

A
Momentum
Ft-lb/s

B
Rifle
Mass
Lbs

C=A/B
Rifle
Velocity
Fps

GC=64.32
Recoil
E=m*v*v/gc
Ft/Lb

9,3 x 62 mm

286

2,250

3,216

52.7

127.31

7.25

17.56

34.76

.375 H & H

300

2,500

4,164

69.3

153.67

8.50

18.08

43.19

 
American manufacturers have always preferred imperial calibres
 
American factories are not into making metric calibres. So they pushed the 375 H&H and the 458 Win Mag as calibres for American hunters that were interested in big game hunting in Africa, whilst the 35 Whelen developed a following for hunting Elk in North America. The 35 Whelen is less powerful than a 9,3 x 62 mm and never achieved the same popularity as the 9,3 - the combined effect of higher sectional density and higher momentum can be seen clearly in the Knock-out Value (KOV) formula;-
 
Calibre          Weight      SD     Velocity   Momentum    KOV
.35 Whelen    250 gr     .279     2,350         83.9          23.4
9.3 x 62 mm   286 gr     .305     2,350         96.0          29.3
Percentage better        9.3%                     14.4 %      25.2%  
 
Factories that do offer 9,3 x 62 mm rifles today, are primarily European companies such as Sako, Steyr Mannlicher and Brno (CZ). A recent innovation in action design was Sako with their Model 75 action with 3 locking lugs ... they claim increased strength and accuracy. Musgrave, a South African company, used to build the calibre on Mauser K98 actions for years, but unfortunately closed its factory some 4 years ago and some of its rifle makers have now joined the ranks of South Africa's pool of quality custom rifle makers. The cartridge headspaces on the case's 17.5 degree shoulder and its rim diameter is a standard .473" just like the 30-06 Spr, and thus cases can be formed from 30-06 Spr cases, which is 1.35 mm longer.
 
The 9,3 is getting popular again as hunters realise its virtues
 
More and more people are re-discovering that the old 9,3 is a great all-round rifle that performs very well at bushveld ranges, as its velocity is so ideal, unlike most other medium bore calibres. For the man who occasionally gets to shoot a buffalo, but actually hunts mostly kudu or eland, the 9,3 makes a lot of sense. Factors in favour of the 9,3 is its manageable recoil, relatively low chamber pressure and it can be built on cheaper Standard  Mauser actions. However, many 375 H&H rifles have been built on the Standard action, but the cutting away of metal makes the action less strong. Also, the 9,3 generally causes less meat damage with Softs than a 375 H&H, as its striking velocity is invariably lower than 2,200 fps, at which velocity explosive wounds start to occur in flesh. However, handloaders can down load their .375's to 9,3 velocities, and with the availability of today's premium bullets, fragmentation is not such a problem anymore at higher velocities of 2,500 fps, giving the 375 H&H a flatter trajectory at longer distances. Also, 350 grain bullets are now available in .375 calibre, giving it a substantial edge in terminal momentum. Even though the 375 H&H is more flexible, the 9,3 does provide other attractions ... it is horses for courses.
 

Chris Bekker (abc@telgonline.co.za)

082-772-0690



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