The 7×57 (or 7mm Mauser, or .275 Rigby) is most famously known as an elephant calibre, but it started life as a military cartridge in 1892, designed by German firm Mauser. It was adopted by the Spanish military, initially chambered with 173-grain bullets, but its adoption by other governments saw a range of new weights loaded from 139-grain upwards.
The calibre played a number of pivotal roles in military conflict, such as in 1898, where a 700-strong Spanish defence at San Juan Hill inflicted more than 1,400 casualties on a 15,000-strong American force. The Americans’ conclusion was that such losses were solely because of the superior firepower of the 7×57 over their newly adopted .30-40 Krag. They replaced it shortly afterwards.
In the Boer War, the British found themselves ballistically outclassed by the 7mm Mauser. Their old cordite-based .303 rifles were no match for the Boers’ more powerful, flatter-shooting rifles. Realising the disadvantage, the British went on to produce an upgraded version of the .303, using the more modern smokeless powders.
Its popularity extended across Latin America, Europe, and into Serbia. In 1907 John Rigby & Co rebranded it as the .275 Rigby. Although it is still a popular calibre in parts of Europe, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find rifles chambered in 7×57.
It is probably fair to say that it was cemented in hunting history by W D M Bell, who was an advocate of accurate, mild recoiling rifles. His meticulous study of shot placement for shooting elephants allowed Bell to collect an enormous amount of ivory; most attributed to a well-placed shot from his 7×57 loaded with 175-grain solids. With this momentum and the already widespread use, the 7×57 became a default choice in Africa, and over its lifetime the 7mm Mauser has taken every large land mammal on earth.
Despite having been designed more than 100 years ago, it remains one of the most well-balanced cartridges ever invented. Being able to cope with bullet weights from 110 to 190 grains makes it adaptable to most hunting situations.
I have found the 120-grain bullets to be particularly effective on roe deer-sized species, providing impressive down-range energy and trajectory with minimal recoil. Loaded with Sierra Pro Hunters, in modern rifles it is possible to churn these out at just over 3,000fps, which equates to a trajectory path 1.1in high at 100 yards, -0.6in at 200 yards, and a perfectly manageable -3.4in at 250 yards. This even makes it a feasible option for foxing – indeed it was my primary set-up until I bought a .22-250 Rem. Loaded with 140 grains, it’ll serve you well for most game in Europe, America, and medium-sized plains game in Africa. With a zero 1.3in high at 100 yards, a 250-yard shot will drop four inches. With handloads the 120-grain, 140-grain and 160-grain bullets shoot very accurately, and even the 175-grain magnum tips – travelling at a much slower 2,300fps – will shoot into just over 1.25in with ease. Armed with the 160-grain or 175-grain options, you will be well equipped to tackle moose and eland with a well-placed shot.
I have referenced the 7×57 in comparisons before, but feel there is little point here. It will be outclassed by modern magnums on almost every account, but that doesn’t really matter. The 7×57 has nothing left to prove – it has worked exceptionally well for over 100 years, and there’s no reason to think anything has changed. BP