By Lukas Schulte
Looking for a centerfire rifle cartridge with a long and storied history that still delivers good performance afield? Here’s what you need to know about the 7x64mm Brenneke cartridge.
A sharp crack and a flash of light shattered the still, snowy evening. 177 grains of lead and soft steel left the barrel of the Mannlicher bolt action rifle and entered the wild boar’s rough coat a split second later.
Snapping branches and a loud rumbling sound soon followed, but then the snowy night went silent again. The combination of a good cartridge, a good bullet, and the right shot placement guaranteed a short tracking job for the Bavarian mountain blood tracking hound. Still, the nose of the guide‘s dog was a welcomed short-cut for a short recovery in the thick brush during the dark nights I hunted.
I used the venerable 7x64mm Brenneke rifle cartridge on this Hungarian winter hunt to take a mid-sized boar, a roe deer, and two foxes. This cartridge launches .284″ diameter bullets and has many of the features today’s hunters seek in 7mm cartridges: fast, but not barrel burning velocities, tolerable recoil for precise shooting, and compatibility with long, heavy projectiles for good penetration and wind resistance on longer shots.
However, the 7x64mm Brenneke came along all the way back in 1917 and hit the market way before most other popular 7mm cartridges in use today like the 7mm08 Remington, the 280 Remington, and the 7mm Remington Magnum.
In this article, I provide a thorough examination of the 7x64mm Brenneke cartridge to give you an idea of what sort of performance you can expect from the cartridge and so you can decide if it best fits your needs as a hunter.
History Of The 7x64mm Brenneke
Born in 1865 in Germany, Wilhelm Brenneke, developed a variety of new rifle cartridges, bullets, shotgun slugs (ever heard of a Brenneke shotgun slug?), and even his own version of a drilling combination gun.
However, the 7x64mm Brenneke rifle cartridge may be the most commercially successful and well known of all his inventions.
Originally designed back in 1888 and revised in 1905, the 8mm Mauser was a potent and highly regarded rifle cartridge. Also known as the 7.92×57 Mauser, 8x57mm, or 8×57 IS, the German Army adopted 8mm Mauser for service in the early 1900s. Notwithstanding the solid overall design of the 8mm Mauser, some deemed the cartridge insufficient compared to the performance of the newer American .30-06 Springfield, especially at longer range
For this reason, some started to look for alternatives to the Mauser cartridge.
Wilhelm Brenneke first suggested his own 8x64mm cartridge to the authorities in 1912. This new cartridge operated at a slightly higher pressure and was physically a little larger than the 8mm Mauser (with the resulting extra case capacity), thus offering slightly improved ballistics.
The German government rejected his proposal though, partly due to the huge amounts of 8mm Mauser ammunition the military already had in stock. Even so, the new elongated 8mm round experienced some limited success as a hunting round.
Brenneke kept on tinkering with his 64mm case though and eventually chose to combine the 7mm (.284 inch) bullet diameter of the beloved 7x57mm Mauser with his longer case and higher chamber pressure.
The new 7x64mm Brenneke was the resulting product, which hit the market in 1917 as a pure civilian cartridge.
That new cartridge could launch .284 inch bullets with roughly 5-10% more muzzle velocity than the older 7×57.
As an example, current Sellier & Bellot loadings for the 7x64mm Brenneke launch a 140gr (9.1g) soft point bullet at 2,808fps, (856 m/s), a 162gr (10.5g) bullet at 2,624fps, (800 m/s), and a 175gr (11.35gr) bullet at 2,522fps (769 m/s).
Compare that to identical loadings from Sellier & Bellot for the 7×57 mm Mauser firing that 140gr (9.1g) bullet at 2,650fps, (808 m/s), a 162gr (10.5g) bullet at 2,509fps, (765 m/s), and a 175gr (11.35gr) bullet at 2,411fps (735 m/s).
Germany lost the First World War in 1918 shortly after the introduction of the 7x64mm cartridge. The ensuing chaos and economic crisis in the country during the subsequent years could have doomed Brenneke’s new brainchild.
As “luck” would have it though, the Treaty of Versailles restricted the use of the German 8mm Mauser since it was the primary round for the German military.
This turned out to be a boon for the 7x64mm Brenneke, which was not subject to those restrictions because it was purely a civilian cartridge. For this reason the 7×64 found widespread commercial success as a hunting round and it quickly rose to fame between the world wars.
The combination of impressive ballistic performance, effective 7mm bullets, and an unexpected market advantage due to the Treaty of Versailles resulted in an explosion of popularity for the 7x64mm Brenneke and it eventually received developed a reputation as a “wonder cartridge”.
Unfortunately, a reputation like that is not always good and often results in hunters overestimating the real life capabilities of the cartridge. In cases like this, hunters are more likely to start taking marginal shots, shooting at game at longer than ideal ranges, and otherwise using it in situations that are outside of its ideal use cases.
As a result, problems started to appear and critics voiced their concerns, deeming the 7mm Brenneke a “wounder” or bemoaning that it sometimes produced long blood trails.
However, the cartridge kept on shining and developing a stellar reputation afield when used within appropriate distances (typically within 300 meters) and in situations that are most conducive to good shot placement. Improvements in rifle, ammunition, and optic quality (especially when combined with modern inventions like rangefinders and ballistic calculators) have further increased the effective range of the cartridge.
Brenneke’s cartridge remained dominant in Europe until the 1970s. After that, the .30-06 with its wider ammo selection, broader distribution in large parts of the globe, and the increased travel of hunters from Germany, slowly surpassed the German 7mm.
The 7x64mm held on near the top of the list of popular rifle cartridges in France for a bit longer due to legal restrictions that prohibited hunters from using military cartridges for hunting.
Although it’s no longer in the top 5 of the most popular rifle cartridges in Europe, the 7x64mm still is a common sight at driven hunts and in hunting camps today for use on game like red stag, fallow deer, and wild boar. The round is also quite effective on even the slim and light bodied roe deer.
All fall reliably to a well placed .284 inch bullet of proper construction.
We’ve seen a trend of “bigger is better” in more recent decades. In that vein, some people believe that a 7mm round, even when loaded with heavy and well constructed 170 grain bullets, is borderline sufficient for bigger red deer and wild boar. For this reason, the various .30 caliber, 8mm or even 9.3mm rounds are becoming more popular among European hunters after those animals.
In my humble opinion, those larger and more powerful cartridges (with their extra recoil) are unnecessary for those previously listed species under most circumstance.
I just mentioned recoil.
Well, the 7×64 Brenneke is a surprisingly mild kicking round and produces just under 18 foot pounds of free recoil energy (154 grain bullet at 2,850 fps from an 8 pound setup). That’s more or less on par with the .308, lower than that of a .30-06, and significantly less than a 338 Win Mag or a 9.3x62mm Mauser (or one of Brenneke’s other inventions in the 9.3x64mm Brenneke).
While the cartridge is slowly losing ground in some parts of Europe, Brenneke’s invention remains more common in the mountains of the European Alps, where chamois and lighter bodied red deer are targeted at longer ranges.
The 7x64mm Brenneke is a relatively flat shooting cartridge that’s capable of very good accuracy, but it’s not an Extreme Long Range target round. It’s a child of a different time and lacks some of the features the ELR shooting scene craves.
However, while I’d choose a different round for a 1,000 yard match, the 7×64 is supremely capable out to a quarter mile from a quality rifle and thus excels in scenarios like I just described up in the Alps.
Going across the Atlantic to North America, the 7x64mm Brenneke is outstanding for all manner of deer, pronghorn antelope, black bear, feral hogs, caribou, and even elk and moose.
The same is true for basically any species of African plains game.
Basically, everything short of the big bears or a cape buffalo won’t discuss your choice if you park a bullet from a 7×64 in the lungs or the heart.
As an interesting side note, Brenneke also released a rimmed version of the 7×64 in 1920. Known as the 7x65R, this cartridge very nearly duplicates the performance of the 7×64, but is designed for use in break action type guns such as drillings, doubles or single shot rifles.
As it’s the case with all the rimmed sisters of rimless bolt action cartridges, the 7x65R runs on a slightly lower pressure, but it’s practically the same cartridge in a different shape.
Break action rifles like those just described were and still are popular in Europe, especially the German speaking countries in Central Europe. Additionally, those rifles tend to be very lightweight and an absolute pleasure to carry up a mountain. With this in mind, the 7x65R is worth considering for backcountry hunters as well and will give performance virtually identical to the 7x64mm Brenneke in an even lighter and easy to carry package.
7x64mm Brenneke Cartridge Size
Just like the name states, the 7x64mm Brenneke uses a 64mm long case. Though it is not related to the American cartridge, the 7x64mm Brenneke is quite similar to the 30-06 in overall size. We’ll discuss further implications of this fact a little later in this article.
The 7x64mm Brenneke has an overall length of 3.3″ (vs 3.34″ for the 30-06), a case length of 2.522″ or 64mm (vs 2.494″ or 63mm for the 30-06), and a rim diameter of .471″ (vs .473″ for the 30-06).
The 7x64mm case can hold approximately 69 grains of water and is loaded to a maximum average pressure of either 55,000psi (SAAMI) or just over 60,000psi (CIP) depending on where the ammunition is manufactured.
The cartridge uses a beltless case with a gently sloped shoulder angle of just over 20 degrees.
7x64mm Brenneke Rifles
European gun manufacturers like Sako, Blaser, and Sauer and others offer rifles in this chambering.
The cheaper product lines usually are cheap because production costs are rationalized, so they’re often not available in some of the less common cartridges. You won’t find many choices not named Creedmoor, Magnum or Springfield in the more affordable guns.
For this reason, custom or semi-custom rifles are a good way to shoot the less common rounds like the 7×64 for the affluent customer. Proven and affordable classics such as different Sauer, Mannlicher, Mauser rifles are other options for 7x64mm rifles that can be obtained on the used gun market. Those rifles in particular can be perfect for the hunter seeking traditional looks and good manufacturing.
As an early “magnum” cartridge, the 7x64mm Brenneke requires a longer barrel for optimum performance. Fortunately, it does not require an excessively long barrel and 22-24″ barrels are most common with the cartridge.
The cartridge uses a 220mm rifling twist rate , which equals 1-8.66 inch.
Though not quite as fast as the 1:8″ twist rate of the 7mm PRC, this is still slightly faster than the 1:10″, 1:9.5″, and 1:9″ SAAMI spec rifling twist rates of the 280 Remington, 7mm Rem Mag, and 28 Nosler and allows the 7x64mm Brenneke to stabilize longer and heavier for caliber bullets.
7x64mm Brenneke Ammunition
The range of bullet weights for the cartridge is quite broad. Over 50 factory ammunition offerings are currently available beginning with 123 grain lead free hunting bullets and going up to 177 grain heavy game bullets. There’s even a 100 grain target practice option.
Companies like Norma, RWS, Geco, Brenneke, Lapua, Prvi Partizan, Sako, Blaser and Sellier & Bellot are the primary suppliers of 7x64mm factory ammunition in Europe.
A quick search on the internet showed 176 component bullets of different constructions and weights. Handloaders can choose from 100 grain varmints type bullets to 197 grain Sierra MatchKing HPBT projectiles.
The cartridge is most popular in Europe, but there are even a few 7×64 mm ammo options available from American manufacturers.
For instance, Remington offers a 7×64 load using a 140 grain Core-Lokt. Indeed, that Remington Core-Lokt offering is likely the most popular 7 mm Brenneke ammo in the United States.
Hornady and Barnes also offer 7x64mm ammunition in their International or European lines loaded with 150gr ECX or 140gr TTSX bullets respectively.
Unfortunately, as it is the case whenever your cartridge of choice is slightly less popular than the biggest sellers on the market, rifle ammo tends to be higher on average. That’s true for 7x64mm ammunition as well. This isn’t typically a tremendous difference, but the 7×64 is still no .308 in this regard.
The most typical load for the 7×64 might be the 177 grain TIG-Bullet made by Brenneke. This is a steel-jacketed lead core bullet with a front-core intended for controlled fragmentation, and a rear core that is designed for deep, straight line penetration.
With a BC of .356, this is not exactly an aerodynamic projectile. It certainly gets the job done on game up to red deer at short to moderate range though. The TIG cleanly and effectively kills game from little roe deer up to red stags reliably and without excessive meat damage and normally exits game in that size range.
For heavier game like moose or Rocky Mountain Elk, I’d choose a bullet like Brenneke’s 177gr TUG bullet.
7x64mm Brenneke Ballistics
Let’s see how the 177gr TIG load performs out to 400 yards, which is plenty for most hunters. More aerodynamic bullets outperform the TIG at longer range, but it’s still an accurate and hard hitting choice for general woods hunting with occasional longer shots out to several hundred yards.
The table below shows the performance of that 177gr TIG bullet (.356 BC) with a 200 yard zero and a 10mph full value crosswind.
Now compare that performance to a lighter bullet choice with a flatter trajectory within the first 400 yards: the 140gr Barnes TTSX. That bullet will work great on a deer or pronghorn hunt, but can also perform well on bigger game like caribou, elk and black bear because of its superb weight retention and great penetration.
The table below shows the performance of that 140gr TTSX (.412 BC) with a 200 yard zero and a 10mph full value crosswind.
As you can see, either load will probably fits your needs as a hunter. Both loads easily carry over 1,500ft-lbs of kinetic energy out past 300 yards without excessive wind deflection or bullet drop.
Handloads might give you even more performance than those factory loads though (especially if you want something more specialized). Although Wilhelm Brenneke’s 7mm round is not an Extreme Long Range target round, you can definitely reach out with it when you combine the right load with marksmanship.
Fortunately, there are some great 7 mm bullets that hunters can use to obtain a ballistic advantage.
For example, let’s look at a 7x64mm handload using a 175 grain Nosler Accubond Long Range with a BC of 0.648 traveling at 2,750 fps. Shot from 23.6 inch (600mm) long barrels, some loads reach velocities up to 2,800 fps or so. The hottest loads are not necessarily the most accurate, let alone the safest ones. So I opted to calculate with a moderate speed.
That’s darned impressive performance and that efficient, high BC 175gr ABLR easily carries over 2,000 ft-lbs of energy out past 300 yards and has about 35% less wind deflection than the zippy 140gr TTSX loading.
Heck, that particular handload is nipping right at the heels of many 7 mm Rem Mag factory loads!
And the 7x64mm Brenneke delivers that performance from a standard length, non-belted magnum case.
All in all, it strikes a wonderful balance between power, speed, versatility, and recoil that’s hard to beat.
Plus, since it’s a non-belted magnum 7 mm cartridge, 7x64mm Brenneke rifles often have an additional round or two of magazine capacity compared to the fatter 7mm Magnums.
As I alluded to earlier, there is actually a ballistic twin to the 7×64 on the American market: the 280 Remington.
That cartridge is essentially a 30-06 necked down to 7mm and is as close in performance to the 7x64mm Brenneke as two distinct cartridges can be.
In stark contrast to the 7x64mm though, the American 280 Remington round is a dying cartridge headed for cartridge history (learn more about why that’s the case here).
That said, there is a popular second incarnation of the Remington round in form of the .280 Ackley Improved (also known as the 280 AI). On average, the Ackley cartridge is slightly more potent than the other two.
However, Copper Creek makes a custom factory load for the .280 AI using the same 175gr Nosler ABLR bullet and the same advertised muzzle velocity as the aforementioned 7x64mm handload.
So that’s what tailored handloads can do for you.
For the most part, there isn’t a tremendous difference between all the fast, but non-magnum .284 caliber cartridges like the 7x64mm, the .284 Winchester, the .280 AI or the .280 Remington.
They all perform about the same and are a little more powerful than some of the slower 7mms like the 7mm-08 Remington or 7x57mm Mauser and are a little less powerful than some of the faster 7mm Magnums like the 7 mm Remington Magnum or 7mm WSM.
The more higher performance 7mm “Super Magnums” like the 28 Nosler and 7mm PRC do of course offer even more substantial performance benefits over the 7x64mm Brenneke that can be useful in some situations, but that also comes with additional recoil and muzzle blast.
Some people may be asking the question: “why the heck should I own a Brenneke 7mm rifle?”
You definitely don’t have to and there are other cartridges that will deliver very similar performance. But if you like hunting with a round no one else in America has, this round would serve you very well and delivers near magnum performance without the drawbacks of cartridges like the 7mm Remington Ultra Magnum or the 28 Nosler.
After all, the .280 Ackley is so popular now because it fills that performance niche right there next to the 7mm Rem Mag with less recoil and greater magazine capacity.
Well, the 7x64mm Brenneke delivers similar performance and still excels afield, especially with modern bullets.
Plus, the Brenneke cartridge also has a track record of proven performance that spans over a century that few other all-around hunting cartridges have.
The 7x64mm Brenneke can be darn effective in Africa in the right hands. To that end, I recorded an entire podcast episode on classic Africa hunting cartridges with renowned Professional Hunter and author Kevin Robertson. In this episode, we talk about the pros, cons, and recommended uses for almost everything from the 243 Winchester all the way up to the 600 and 700 Nitro Express.
This is a fantastic episode, so just click the appropriate link below to listen to our discussion on your preferred podcast app. Be sure to hit that “Subscribe” or “Follow” button in your podcast app to receive future episodes automatically (for free)!
Classic Africa Hunting Cartridges Podcast
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John McAdams is a proficient blogger, experienced shooter, and long time hunter who has pursued big game in 8 different countries on 3 separate continents. John graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point and is a veteran of combat tours with the US Army in Iraq & Afghanistan. In addition to founding and writing for The Big Game Hunting Blog, John has written for outdoor publications like Bear Hunting Magazine, The Texas State Rifle Association newsletter, Texas Wildlife Magazine, & Wide Open Spaces. Learn more about John here, read some of John’s most popular articles, and be sure to subscribe to his show: the Big Game Hunting Podcast.