The 7m-08 achieved factory adoption in 1980, but a lot of its popularity has seemed to be within the last 10 years. It really seems to be in its element as an accurate, very reasonable deer round. You’re pretty likely to find 7mm-08 in a medium sized hunting shop, but finding it within a smaller selection at a fish and bait shop or general store is unlikely. That’s just as well, because with reloading, you can make the rounds more inexpensively with the bullet that fits your needs best.
Resizing 308 cases to 7mm-08
The number 1 reloading question that I know I had when I bought my first 7mm-08 was whether I could use resized 308 cases. After all, the 7mm-08 is based on the 308 Winchester. The short answer is that it is possible, but it’s not really worth the hassle. 7mm-08 cases are available in abundance at most large sporting goods stores, and the modest operations to turn 308 into 7mm-08 just aren’t worth the time. You end up with a thicker neck on the case, you might end up with uniformity issues, and if your rifle chamber is tight, that might mean that your recycled 308′s will give higher pressure or just won’t fit compared to the regular 7mm-08 cases. My issue with resized 308 is that you’ve got a bunch of rounds that aren’t marked properly. All it takes is for you to mistake your 7mm-08 rounds with your buddy’s 308′s to potentially screw up your rifle or at least your hunt. If you own a 308 and reload for it too, it can make things in your reloading cabinet more complex than they need to be. So, in my opinion, it’s not really worth it. There’s plenty of 7mm-08 cases out there, and they’re only a few bucks more than 308 cases.
Hunting Bullets for the 7mm 08
When it comes to hunting bullets, there’s a fair amount of choice out there for the “little 7mm”. You can’t go too heavy, or you lose powder capacity, but if deer is on the menu, you’ve got a few really great bullets to pick from. Most suitable bullets for the 7mm-08 are in the 130-150 grain range. 130′s zip out at just under 3000fps, 140′s at 2850, and 150′s at about 2780. You could go heavier to a 160, but they’re really best used with the bigger 7mm remington magnum as the bullets get long enough that they start cutting into your powder capacity inside the case. If Moose or Elk are on the menu for short range 7mm-08 work, a TSX or other premium bullet will help with penetration. If you need to whack an Elk across a ravine, pick a different round as the 7mm-08 just doesn’t have the gas to deliver enough power at long ranges for big animals. For work on deer, I like regular “cup and core” bullets in the 140 grain weight. They’re cheap, simple, accurate, and they’ll kill any deer within more than reasonable distances. With the slightly slower speeds of the 140 vs the 130, you don’t have to worry about catastrophic bullet failure. I’ve hit bone on deer from very close distances with the 140, and have not experienced any kind of catastrophic bullet failures. You get some fragmentation, which is typical with traditionally constructed bullets, but it fully penetrates and kills the deer dead anyways. Who cares if the bullet doesn’t look pretty afterwards?
Suitable Powders for 7mm-08
7mm-08 isn’t all that different than 308, and works great with many of the medium burning rifle powders that work great in 308 as well. I had really great luck getting decent accuracy and speed with Varget, but you should really start with H4350 in this rifle if they’re both available. A lot of people get great accuracy with it, and it’s tops for the typical 130-150 grain bullet that most people would use for hunting. Winchester 760 is another popular powder that you might want to try if the extruded kernels give you difficulty metering, as the 760 is a ball powder.
Is it worth it to Reload 7mm-08?
One of the questions I haven’t addressed just yet is if it’s even worth reloading for 7mm-08 Remington. My measure on that is factory ammo availability and pricing. To be straight, factory ammo is pretty widely available, high performance, reasonably priced, and accurate enough. Reloading starts getting attractive if you have multiple rifles in 7mm-08, want premium bullets at a regular price, or if you want to tailor a round for accuracy. I’ve got a break barrel Encore Pro Hunter in 7mm-08 and wanted to tailor the OAL for maximum accuracy. That meant hand loading for me but for anyone with a bolt action 7mm-08 that their wife is using for deer, just pick up a box or two of Remington Core Lokt or Federal Power Shok and call it a day. You’re not going to get much/any faster speeds, and the factory stuff is accurate enough for the ranges of most hunters.