7×64 Brenneke

7x64 and a 30 0601

With the ballistic benefits of the 7mm bullet, and case capacity allowing almost identical stats to the .280 Rem, the 7×64 is a convenient stopgap between calibres based on the .308 Win and the heavier recoiling magnums. 

Most gun nuts will know the satisfying feeling gained from slowly building your perfect rifle collection. I was on the search for a new rifle to fulfil longer-range expeditions for bigger game. I didn’t want a calibre as brutal as the 7mm Rem Mag, so I knew I would have to look elsewhere.

The 7×64 Brenneke was born in 1917, but started life rather unsuccessfully as another calibre invention of the now renowned Wilhelm Brenneke. Backing up to 1912, we were given the 8×64 (comparable to today’s 8mm-06 wildcat). It was designed to be a ballistic upgrade of the military issue 8×57. There were ballistic advantages, but the complications of war meant it didn’t gain traction – the German military stuck with the 8×57. Brenneke continued his development and by 1917 he had necked down the 8×64 to take a 7mm bullet. This time he was on to a winner.

The calibre didn’t get much interest in the US, but back home it found a strong following to rival the 7mm Rem Mag. The 7×64 is one of very few calibres that were produced by American manufacturers despite having very little demand in the US. With a similar case design to the .30-06, it resembles the capabilities of the .280 Rem and offers virtually identical ballistics to the .284 Winchester. Unlike the 7mm Rem Mag, the 7×64 is not belted. It will fit a standard length action, though, as it is almost the same overall length. The Remington, however, will outperform it, and this is the reason for the US preference for its America-born 7mm.

In Europe it was seen as a major development, with substantial increases in muzzle velocity and corresponding improved ballistics over the established 7×57. The older calibre saw widespread and popular use, not just across Europe but also in Africa. What the 7×64 offered was something familiar, yet faster, flatter and harder-hitting. The choice was easy.chart 1

A rimmed version was brought out to cater for those using lightweight, single-shot mountain rifles, as well as the combination rifle/shotguns particularly popular in Germany. The 7x65R is, for all intents and purposes, an identical round.

Hunters are spoilt for choice with bullets, like with other 7mm calibres, though factory loads don’t facilitate the true versatility. Here we will take the middle ground to give a good comparison with the better-known market contenders.

Unsurprisingly, the flattest trajectory prize goes to the 7mm Rem Mag, with MV 170fps faster than its European cousin. But firing exactly the same bullet gives just a two-inch advantage at 300 yards. For the reduced performance, the 7×64 is noticeably softer to shoot, as well as being kinder on throat erosion. Compared to the .308 Win, the 7×64 has quite a bit more poke, delivering just under 300ft/lb more energy at 300 yards. Looking at the trajectories you will see that comparing the 7×64 to the .308 Win is a bit like the difference between the 7mm Rem Mag and the Brenneke.

As is often the case, few new things are an original idea. The 7×64 Brenneke proves this, coming decades before Remington introduced its .280 Rem. With the ballistic benefits of the 7mm bullet, and case capacity allowing almost identical stats to the .280 Rem, the 7×64 is a convenient stopgap between calibres based on the .308 Win and the heavier recoiling magnums. As major European gun makers also chamber it, I think I have just found the new calibre that will be joining the family.  BP

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