Like the .260 Remington, the 7mm-08 is simply a cartridge that matches the ballistics of some of the cartridges developed early in the smokeless powder era. The 7mm-08 Remington almost exactly matches the ballistics of the old 7x57 Mauser, the cartridge that drew a lot of American blood at Kettle Hill in the famously misnamed Charge up San Juan Hill by Teddy Roosevelt, that famous old war hero that went up right behind the widely ignored "Negro Regiments". That's another story, though.
The only real reason the 7mm-08 is better than the old 7mm Mauser is that factory loads for the old cartridge must be kept down for all those very old Mausers and Remington Rolling Blocks. This is, of course, a big deal to the factories seeing as how they cannot trust the courts to say, "you put a load, clearly marked as PlusP into that old gun? Sucks to be you."
The 7mm-08 is the .308 Winchester-7.62x51mm NATO cartridge necked down to 7mm or .284 inch. The cartridge case is six mm shorter than the 7x57 but since the original .308 case has a little less body taper than the 7mm Mauser, the case capacity is almost exactly the same. The working pressure of the 7-08 is quite a bit higher, again because of the old guns. The 7-08 runs about 10,000 copper units of pressure more than the 7mm Mauser.
The 7-08 will do everything the old Mauser did. And since people like WDM "Karamojo" Bell slew literally hundreds of tons of elephants with the old cartridge and the equally famous Eileen O'Connor, wife of that famous firearm and hunting writer, Jack O'Connor slew elk, deer, and African plains game with that cartridge, it's equally possible with the 7-08.
Today's wonder bullets have pretty much made the famous old 175 grain softpoint obsolete. While that old bullet, launched at 22-2400 feet per second will still burrow deeply into just about any critter, the lighter premium bullets, launched faster will dig just as deep. The old guns were throated for this bullet giving lighter bullets a long jump to the rifling. This gave the lighter bullets more chance to get a little cattywampus in the bore, spoiling gilt-edged accuracy. This, plus the improvements in rifles, gives the 7mm-08 a definite edge. Or course this matters mainly on paper targets. Unless the moose you see in the deep woods has the latest Guns and Ammo magazine sticking out from his pocket as he leaves the moose men's room, he'd never know the difference.
Speaking of moose, and other big critters like elk, here is a question that I have: Why is it that great big strapping Swedes can kill their version of the moose, the Alg with the old 6.5-55, which is loaded below the .260 Remington while American men need humongous magnums? The gunwriter John Barsness wants to know how come so many American men buy rifles like the 7-08 and .260 Rem for their wives and kids to hunt the same game which they hunt with .300 Magnums of one sort or another. It's thoughts like that that makes John Barsness one of my favorite gun scribes.
At any rate, the 7-08 will do everything a bigger cartridge will do, except a little closer. The only thing the big 7mm Magnums will do is shoot flatter than the 7-08, making those theoretical long range hits a little easier. Since I contend that not one hunter in a hundred has any business shooting at unwounded game past three hundred yards, this is advantage is lost, far outclassed by the simple fact that almost anyone can simply shoot a cartridge based on the .308 case better than any magnum.
We all shoot better when the recoil does not loosen our fillings and the muzzle blast doesn't leave our ears ringing for a week. There is a reason most old gunnies go around sayin' "huh, whazzat?"
I grew up when the .30-06 and cartridges based on the '06 case were the king of the hunting fields. Back then there were a lot of magnums, both factory and wildcat and most hunters ignored them. Of course back east hunters went into the woods with .30-30s, .35 Remingtons and other short ranged woods cartridges, they did well, too. Me, I stayed with the old '06through my hunting career. Had I been born a generation later it would have been one of the cartridges based on the .308. The advances in powder have made the .308 cased rounds as effective as the larger '06 cased rounds of my youth. The '06 has made some velocity gains since then but velocity will not kill critters. The advances in bullets have made the big cartridges of Elmer Keith's day obsolete. Back before premium bullets the only way to assure sufficient penetration on a big critter was to use a big, heavy bullet.
Today, though, a lighter, bonded core bullet like the Trophy Bonded Bear Claw from Federal or the new Speer Deep Curl bullets made the same way their newer handgun bullets are made with a core with the jacket electroplated on. This, BTW, deserves a seperate blog entry that I'll someday get to, probably after everyone else knows about it already.
Anyway, a 140 grain bonded bullet will penetrate just as deeply as the old 175 grain soft points do because they just don't lose so much weight as they go in. Now I would still choose a 175 Round nosed soft point if I were hunting the black woods where ranges would be measured in multiples of ten yards, rather than hundreds, not because of anything but the lower velocity would ruin less meat.
The 7mm-08 Remington will, with careful bullet selection, do for anyone hunting any critter in the United States except the great bears, the Grizzly and his cousin the Alaska Brown, along with the Polar Bear. Since my house is too small for a bear rug and I have gone out of my way to not live in their territory, I have no reason to pot one of those. It takes a lot of work to make bear meat tasty and we no longer live lives that make a diet including a lot of fat essential. I'm not mad at any bears. If I do get mad at a great bear I will have an '06 rebarrelled to .338-06 or .35 Whelan. As it is, a 7-08 or .308 is enough for black bears. Again, though, I neither live in bear country, nor am I mad at any bears.
A hunter interested in varmints can pot them with a 7-08 and the 110-115 grain bullets. These can step right out at well over3,000 fps, even from the short barreled rifles like those Model Sevens. Now it's not the round I'd choose if I were buying a dedicated varmint rifle for prairie doggin' but for the person wanting to zap the odd coyote or woodchuck, it's fine.
An Antelope hunter would be hard pressed to find a better rig than a 7-08 with a Barnes TSX 120 grain bullet at right around 3,000 fps, depending on the barrel. Speaking of barrels, you can find a 7-08 or, for that matter, a .260 or a .308, in any barrel between 16 and a half inch to 22 in hunting weight arms. And there are still, I believe, target rifles with longer barrels, 24 and 26 inches. I would suggest trying the balance on each and choose your preferred balance.
There are a lot of fine 140-150 grain bullets for those wishing to hunt deer and black bear. They move out around 2800 fps. Choose the bullet for the game. A Hornady Interlock, for instance, for open country deer, an Interbond for a bigger critter at a range that might be out at two hundred or twenty yards. For the Speer fan, a Hot Core for the far ones and a Grand Slam if they might be close, might be far. Other brands, the same thing. The important thing is that the bullet stays in one piece and mushrooms. A Barnes bullet is never a bad choice. Nor are Sierra Bullets a bad choice for more open country. For more decades than I care to think about, if I wanted to see how tight a group a rifle can shoot I would reach for those green boxes of bullets and do some careful handloading. A bullet that has got to the point of shooting just as well, these days, is the Nosler Ballistic Tip. When Nosler first came out with these bullets they were a little fragile for big game. Perfect for those rare broadside shots, they came apart too often on the difficult angles. It did not take them very long to fix that, though.
If the biggest game, a moose or elk is on the menu the top quality bullets are the best choice, even if they cost more. Some of the factory ammo with premium bullets is over two and a half bucks a shot. Y'all will excuse me for not being alarmed at this. When I was coming up we needed a whole new rifle for these big critters because no one had invented the premium bullets. After all, we can practice with the cheap stuff. I would be looking very hard at the Barnes 160, the 160 Remington Ultra Core Loc't Bonded, the 160 Speer Deep Curl, the Nosler 160 Partition or Accubond. The Woodleigh Weldcore from Austrailia is another good one.
It is only when I got into the very deep woods where I would think about the 175 grain bullets. Again, push these out at 2200-2400 fps, pretty much any critter hit will die. There is very little meat loss, in the words of that grand old man of gunning, Elmer Keith, you can eat right up to the bullet hole. There is also almost always an exit hole, those tend to bleed more so if the critter takes a little walk before piling up, there is a nice blood trail. This is important in the deep woods, light is usually poor, the game, while close, is usually moving so a blood trail is good.
About every big rifle company makes a bolt action in 7-08. Ruger, for instance, makes the Hawkeye Compact, with a 16 and a half inch barrel and the Model 77 with a 22 inch barrel. Browning has both 20 and 22 inch barrels. Remington has bolt actions from 20-24 inches. Savage has a couple of models.
There are a couple other cartridges based on the .308 case. The .243 Winchester is a fine varmint/deer cartridge although it doesn't quite have enough bullet for the bigger deer, in my opinion. The .358 Winchester is a good cartridge, too but I believe that the advances in bullet technology have rendered it obsolete. The .25 Souper was a wildcat based on the .308 that never caught on although it would be just as good as the .257 Roberts. I do not recall, off the top of my head, the name of the .270-308 wildcat that never got popular enough for anyone to care about.
The .338 Federal is the next try at a bullet bigger than .308 in the parent case. I guess it would be a little better than the .308 or 7-08 if I lived in moose or grizzly country but I don't.
The three, the .260, the 7-08 and the .308 are all nice, accurate and light recoiling. Any would be the right choice for a lower 48 hunting rifle.