Even though the 9.3x62mm Mauser is arguably one of the best all-around big game hunting cartridges in the world, the 9.3×62 is still an incredibly underrated round.
While they’re likely familiar with the .375 H&H Magnum, most hunters in North America have probably not heard of the .9.3x62mm Mauser cartridge. That’s really a shame because the 9.3×62 has some important advantages over the .375 H&H.
Indeed, the 9.3×62 was one of the very first medium bore, smokeless rifle cartridges designed for use in a bolt-action rifle. The cartridge took the hunting world by storm and was incredibly popular among German settlers in Africa at the beginning of the 20th Century.
The success of that cartridge also helped spur the development of other, more well-known cartridges like the .375 H&H and the .416 Rigby. Due in part to the fact that it has superior ballistics on paper, the .375 H&H has since surpassed the 9.3×62 in popularity among North American and British hunters. However, but the 9.3x62mm Mauser is still widely used in Continental Europe and Africa.
Those hunters are onto something though. Just comparing the published ballistics of those two cartridges doesn’t tell the whole story and the 9.3x62mm cartridge is still very highly regarded among hunters for a number of reasons.
In this article, I’m going to do a detailed analysis of the 9.3x62mm Mauser and explain why it’s such an effective rifle cartridge for hunting big game all over the world and why you should consider hunting with it.
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The hunting and shooting worlds changed forever in 1905 with the introduction of the 9.3x62mm Mauser cartridge. Designed by Otto Bock, the cartridge incorporated two major advances in firearm technology in the early 20th Century: the introduction smokeless powder and the Mauser 98 rifle.
Prior to these developments, hunters used primarily used single shot or double barreled black powder firearms.
Since black powder firearms have a relatively low velocity limit (by modern standards), hunters pursuing dangerous game tended to use large bore rifles firing very heavy bullets. Indeed, for this reason, elephant hunters of the day, like the legendary Frederick Courteney Selous, used massive 4, 6, or 8 bore rifles firing bullets as large as 1″ in diameter and weighing as much as 1,750 grains (4 ounces)!
These rifles produced an incredible amount of smoke. Even though they were extremely heavy, they also had immense recoil. At the same time, those massive, slow moving lead bullets did not penetrate very well and the rifles took a long time to reload.
As you can imagine, big game hunters jumped at the chance to use a newer and more advanced cartridge. Using smokeless powder as a propellent, the 9.3x62mm Mauser was capable of achieving much higher velocities than the big bore black powder cartridges of the day.
These significantly higher velocities enabled the use of smaller diameter bullets. This in turn resulted in bullets with significantly higher sectional densities, which correspondingly penetrated much more reliably than the old big bore lead bullets.
In addition to the incredible improvement in performance the 9.3×62 offered compared to previous cartridges, Bock went a step further and designed the cartridge to operate in the revolutionary new bolt-action Mauser 98 rifle. A hunter equipped with a Mauser rifle could fire as many as 5 shots before emptying the magazine (compared to only one or two with earlier rifles).
So, not only was the 9.3x62mm Mauser a dramatic improvement over the most common big game hunting cartridges of the day, but it also could be used in an inexpensive and reliable rifle that more than doubled the number of shots a hunter could fire before reloading. Not surprisingly, hunters quickly embraced the 9.3×62.
The 9.3×62 was an especially big hit among German settlers in Africa, where it acquired a reputation for effectiveness on thick skinned dangerous game like cape buffalo and elephant. At the same time, the cartridge had very manageable recoil and was also a good choice for the whole range of plains game.
Not surprisingly, the 9.3×62 became a favorite among hunters who wanted a versatile hunting cartridge that offered excellent all-around performance.
The classic 9.3x62mm Mauser factory load fires a 286 grain bullet at 2,350fps for just over 3,500 ft-lbs of energy. This is the most popular 9.3×62 load and is perfect for hunting virtually any species of game in Africa.
It’s also possible to find other 9.3x62mm Mauser loads firing a 220-320gr bullet at muzzle velocities between 2,200 and 2,650 feet per second. All in all, the 9.3×62 offers a slight edge in performance when compared to the .35 Whelen.
The 9.3x62mm Mauser is most often compared to the .375 H&H Magnum though.
That classic 9.3×62 load of a 286 grain bullet at 2,350 fps (3,507 ft-lbs of energy) certainly does appear to pale in comparison to a typical .375 H&H load of a 300 grain bullet at about 2,550 fps (4,331 ft-lbs of energy).
While the .375 H&H is an outstanding cartridge, the 9.3×62 can provide 85-95% of the power (dependent on the exact load) with less recoil and with the added bonus of being able to fit in a rifle with a standard length action instead of the magnum length action required by the .375 H&H. This makes the rifle shorter, lighter and cheaper overall.
The 9.3x62mm Mauser uses a .366″ bullet though, which is a little smaller than the .375″ bullets used by the .375 H&H.
Some countries have a .375″ minimum bullet diameter for hunting dangerous game, which means the 9.3×62 is not legal for dangerous game hunting in those places. However, other countries either have no caliber minimum (like Mozambique) or have a 9.2mm minimum (like Zimbabwe).
So, it is correct to say that the 9.3×62 is the minimum legal caliber for hunting cape buffalo in countries like Zimbabwe.
In those countries, the cartridge has an excellent reputation. One of the reasons that the 9.3x62mm cartridge (and the 7mm Mauser for that matter) performs so well on large and dangerous game is because it penetrates deeply and consistently.
Sectional density (SD) is a measure of the ratio of the diameter of a projectile to its mass. All other things equal, a heavier projectile of a given caliber will be longer and therefore have a higher sectional density and consequently penetrate deeper than projectiles with a lower mass and sectional density.
A 270 grain .375″ bullet has a sectional density of .274 and a 300 grain .375″ bullet has a sectional density of .305. Compare that to the .305 sectional density of a 286gr .366″ bullet and the .320 sectional density of a 300gr .366″ bullet.
Since bullet penetration is so important when hunting thick-skinned dangerous game, that advantage in sectional density is one factor that has very likely contributed to the reputation the cartridge has for being effective on cape buffalo.
The relatively mild recoil of the 9.3×62 certainly comes into play as well.
When the two loads compared above are fired in an 8 pound rifle, that 9.3x62mm Mauser load has less than 75% of the free recoil energy of that .375 H&H load.
Many hunters can handle the recoil of both cartridges, but the .375 H&H usually represents the upper end of what the typical hunter can deal with. So, the 9.3x62mm Mauser has a pretty significant edge in this respect. For comparison, most 9.3×62 loads only have 20-30% more recoil than a typical rifle chambered in .30-06 Springfield.
Don’t underestimate the impact that recoil has on the ability of a person to shoot accurately either. Regardless of how well a given person handles recoil, all other things being equal, they will absolutely shoot better with a milder recoil.
This can also facilitate better shot placement, especially for hunters who simply have trouble with the recoil of a .375 H&H.
Lighter recoil typically increases accuracy on the initial shot as well as enabling the hunter to make a rapid follow up shot. As has been said over and over again, where an animal is hit is much more important than what it is hit with, so an accurately placed 9.3mm bullet is much more effective than a poorly placed .375 or .458 caliber bullet.
None of this is to say that the .375 H&H is a bad cartridge, so don’t think I’m trying to bash it. On the contrary, the .375 H&H is an excellent cartridge and is very widely used the world over for good reason: it works.
I’m merely trying to describe some of the advantages of the less popular, 9.3x62mm Mauser when the two are compared.
Hunting With the 9.3x62mm Mauser
Typical 9.3×62 loads are absolutely deadly on medium and large game animals like whitetail deer, wild boar, elk, caribou, and black bear. It’s also incredibly potent on brown bear, grizzly bear, and moose in Alaska and Canada.
The same goes for most species of African plains game (like impala, kudu, wildebeest, waterbuck, zebra, and even eland) as well as animals that you’ll encounter on a New Zealand hunting safari like fallow deer, rusa deer, sika deer, sambar deer, or red stag.
The 9.3x62mm can also work as a great cartridge when hunting the Big 5 like Cape Buffalo and elephant. It’s also a nice choice for other species dangerous game like hippopotamus or Water Buffalo.
While it is the absolute smallest cartridge I would recommend using on buffalo and elephant, the 9.3x62mm will do a great job when using an appropriate controlled expansion or solid bullet that is placed properly. Indeed, many thousands of buffalo and elephant have fallen to the venerable 9.3x62mm over the last century.
That being said, the cartridge is not the best choice for following up a wounded buffalo or elephant in heavy cover, but then again, neither is the .375 H&H (or the .375 Ruger). After all, there’s a reason why so many PHs use rifles chambered in cartridges like .416 Rigby, .458 Win Mag, .458 Lott, or .470 Nitro Express to back-up clients on dangerous game hunts.
9.3x62mm Mauser Rifles & Ammo
Perhaps the biggest advantage of the 9.3x62mm over a .375 H&H is the significantly lower price of rifles chambered for it since the cartridge can fit in a standard length action. Among other manufacturers, Sako, Steyr, Tikka, and CZ all produce rifles chambered in 9.3x62mm.
You can also still purchase a current production Mauser rifle in the cartridge.
Of these, CZ produces perhaps the least expensive, yet still excellent quality example in the Model 550 American which starts at $850 MSRP. Compare that to an MSRP of $1419 for a Winchester Model 70 in .375 H&H, $1450 for a Remington Model 700 in .375 H&H.
Additionally, there is a large selection of high quality ammunition available for the 9.3x62mm. Among others, Nosler, Hornady, Lapua, Norma, Federal, Barnes, Remington, Sellier & Bellot, Woodleigh, Swift, A-Square, and Prvi Partizan all produce loaded rifle ammo for the 9.3×62.
Though it’s possible to find other bullet weights, 285 grain and 286 grain bullets are by far the most popular.
Those same companies also sell high premium grade 9.3mm bullets like the 232 grain and 286 grain Oryx from Norma, the 250 grain AccuBond and the 286 grain Partition from Nosler, and the 286 grain Swift A-Frame, so hand-loaders shouldn’t have trouble making a great performing handload.
Furthermore, the German munitions company RWS also produces excellent quality 9.3mm bullets and ammunition, but they are very expensive and hard to come by in the United States. These manufacturers produce a wide variety of bullets that range from light, rapidly expanding bullets for use on white tailed deer to heavy, controlled expansion soft point and solid bullets for thick skinned African game like elephant and cape buffalo.
With a premium rifle chambered in 9.3x62mm, one could legally and ethically hunt virtually every species on Earth from white tailed deer to elephant. I cannot think of many other calibers that would allow a hunter to pursue such a wide variety of species without breaking his or her shoulder or bank account while doing so.I took a Ruger Hawkeye chambered in 9.3×62 cape buffalo hunting in Zimbabwe several years ago. Using 286gr Swift A-Frame and Woodleigh FMJ bullets (above), the venerable 9.3 was almost boringly effective on buffalo, zebra, and impala on that particular safari.
That hunt was a good example of how the 9.3x62mm Mauser got a reputation for being a buffalo slayer.
However, in addition to the previously mentioned shortcomings against stopping a dangerous game charge, the 9.3×62 is not a flat shooting cartridge in the mold of the 7mm Remington Magnum or .300 Winchester Magnum cartridges. So, it’s not really suitable for very long range shots over about 300 yards like one might encounter on a Marco Polo Sheep hunt.
Other than those few exceptions, this caliber fits the bill nicely for the vast majority of big game.
In short, the 9.3x62mm is a fantastic cartridge that can fill a number of different roles virtually anywhere in the world from a Scandinavian moose hunt to a cape buffalo hunt in Zimbabwe. Especially for a hunter who only wants one rifle to hunt a wide variety of big game, the 9.3×62 fills that need admirably.
John “Pondoro” Taylor summed the 9.3x62mm up pretty well when he said in his book African Rifles and Cartridges that “There isn’t really a great deal to say about it. Everybody found it so generally satisfactory that there wasn’t anything to start a discussion.”
Is it a perfect cartridge? No, but I think the 9.3x62mm comes about as close as you can reasonably expect to get with a “one size fits all” solution.
Do you have a rifle chambered in 9.3x62mm Mauser that you’re just itching to take on a hunt?
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The Lyman 50th Edition (p316) and Hornady 10th Edition (p700-702) reloading manuals, Africa’s Most Dangerous by Kevin Robertson, African Rifles and Cartridges by John Taylor, The Reloader’s Nest, and The African Hunter were all used as references for this article.