Long-Range Hunting Rounds: 7mm STW Edges .30-378
Weatherbys new, powerful cartridge outhits Remingtons Westernerbut the 7mm round is more affordable and matches up nicely with midsized game.
Hunters who need to shoot across big fields
A couple of cartridges introduced in 1997the .30-378 Weatherby and the 7mm Shooting Times Westernermay well be the best long-range big-game rounds ever made in America. Remington and Weatherby have legitimized the two popular wildcats, and in doing so they have redefined the parameters of flat trajectories and long-range energy deliveryeclipsing the performance standards many of us know from rounds like the 7mm Remington Magnum. With these companies making mainstream cartridges out of the .30-378 Weatherby and the 7mm Shooting Times Westerner, long-range deer, antelope, and sheep shooting has been elevated to a higher level, and hunters have new cartridges to consider for elk and moose hunting. We recently tested rifles chambered for these new cartridges to assess the quality of the rifle products that fire these hot new loads and to compare the ballistic performance of the rounds themselves.
Weatherby reports the .30-378 is its best-selling deer and elk rifle, which should come as no surprise. It is a kick-ass round both in terms of trajectory and energy delivered to the target. In nearly every case, it outdoes the new 7mm STW Remington cartridge and easily outdistances the 7mm Remington Magnum. Nonetheless, based on our evaluation and an examination of costs associated with using the Weatherby, we have concluded that the .30-378s level of performance may not be needed by most hunters. But examine the following data and decide for yourself:
The Big Dog
Unquestionably, the .30-378 is the big dog of midline rifle cartridges. Its huge case has the ability to hold well over 120 grains of powder, and that is a hearty appetite. This cartridge is formed when the massive .378 Weatherby parent cartridge is necked down to .30 caliber, maintaining the trademark Weatherby double-radius shoulder. The .30-378 was developed for 1,000-yard benchrest shooting, but it has its place as an ultra long-range deer cartridge. It has also proven itself as a long-range elk round; with the proper bullets, it is capable of taking any game on the North American continent.
We have found that our rifle produced far different results than what has been reported in other gun magazines. Part of that is likely due to the difference in rifles. Much of the previously published data was developed in custom rifles built for the caliber before Weatherby brought it out as a factory item. Differences in lead and throats may make much of this data suspect and unacceptable for factory-chambered rifles. Also notable is that loads which showed no pressure signs in our rifle when tested in 20-degree weather last winter (with velocities below 3,300 fps) were much too hot when shooting in 70-degree temperatures.
Most of our .30-378 shooting has been with reloads, since a limited amount of factory ammo has just came on the market in July. After experimenting with a variety of powders currently available to the handloader, we have found no truly safe handload that can deliver the factory-spec 3,450 fps with a Barnes 180-grain X-Bullet. Most of the loads we built that approached the factory velocity left the guns bolt difficult to open. Those that exceeded 3,500 fps were dangerously over pressure. In our Weatherby Accumark rifle, the most velocity we could safely achieve has been 3,300 to 3,350 fps, which still aint too shabby.
A small sample of 40 factory rounds we recently received shows the .30-378 does indeed approach 3,450 fps, depending on the gun and conditions. (Handloaders arent able to duplicate this performance safely because the companys technicians have access to powders and blends of powders that are not available to the reloader.) Nonetheless, based on our testing, we believe those shooters who think they can buy a .30-378, load the rounds with light bullets, and propel them at ultra-fast velocities for deer and antelope are probably going to be disappointed. Based on the data weve collected so far, we think it will be difficult to get top velocities in guns with barrels shorter than 30 inches. You will also burn a lot more powder and suffer more recoil to do it.
However, this cartridge starts to come into its own with bullets heavier than 180 grains, particularly 200-grain bullets. We have a handload that uses H870 powder and a 200-grain Nosler Partition bullet. With a muzzle velocity of 3,230 fps, it averages 0.75 inch at 100 yards for three shots.
Shooting Times Westerner
Gun writer Layne Simpson created the 7mm Shooting Times Westerner cartridge in 1989 and named it for his employer, Shooting Times Magazine. The Westerner moniker comes from its expected use as a long-range cartridge, as opposed to the less popular 7mm Shooting Times Easterner based on the .307 Winchester cartridge.
The 7mm STW uses a parent case of the 8mm Remington Magnum, which, of course, is necked down to 7mm and its case taper straightened slightly. The new round has become very popular among long-range deer hunters.
We kept watching the sales of 8mm Remington Magnum brass climb up and up, said a Remington ammo-development specialist. We knew from gun sales that that it wasnt being used in rifles chambered for that caliber. and it became apparent that the popularity of the 7mm STW was just too big to ignore any longer. Once these trends were clear, Remington legitimized the popular then-wildcat round.
Initial factory loads feature a 140-grain bullet with an advertised muzzle velocity of 3,325 fps. I found that my rifles 25.5-inch barrel actually exceeded that, averaging 3,359 fps. Handloads should be able to boost this velocity by a considerable margin. Some reports have 140-grain bullets running over 3,500 fpsWe withhold judgment about whether those speeds are achievable with mainstream loads.
Based on our experience with the round, we think that the 160-grain bullet will be more practical for this cartridge. Indeed, the Barnes #1 Reloading Manual shows several loads that exceed 3,300 fps using this bullet. Also, Remington will likely bring out more factory loads soon. With the current factory loads, the 7mm Westerner has an 11-percent energy gain over the 7mm Remington Magnum and a 7.1-percent gain over the 7mm Weatherby Magnum at 400 yards.
How Do They Compare?
Of course, our primary interest in this space is to match up the two new kids on the block, the 7mm STW and .30-378 Weatherby. Nonetheless, we also wanted to add context to the comparison by adding data for the well-known 7mm Remington Magnum. Many hunters like the 7mm Remington Magnum as a long-range, flat-shooting deer-rifle cartridge. Remington offers a 140-grain load that uses the same bullet as the new 7mm STW, so it seemed natural to run the numbers for it as we gauged the performance of the factory wildcats.
Using data from Remingtons 7mm Remington Magnum factory load, we find that the 7mm Remington Magnum has a point-blank range (assuming a 6-inch zone) of 306 yards with a 262-yard zero. The 7mm STW with the same bullet has a point-blank-range of 322 yards with a 275-yard zero. The big .30-378 with Weatherby factory loads uses the Barnes 180-grain X-Bullet. It has a point-blank range of 340 yards and a zero of 290 yards.
At the 7mm Remington Magnums limit of point-blank-range, the 7mm STW is only about 1.5 inches low while the .30-378 Weatherby is about half that. At 400 yards the 7mm Remington Magnum is 13.21 inches below the line of sight, the 7mm STW is 10.58, and the Weatherby is only 8.04 inches, or about where the 7 Mag. is at 355 yards. At 500 yards the 7mm Remington Magnum is 30.84 inches low, the 7mm STW falls 25.83 inches, and the .30-378 drops 20.41 inches below the line of sight.
The 7mm Remington Magnum has 2,240 foot-pounds of energy at 200 yards, 1,878 foot-pounds at 300 yards, 1,564 foot-pounds at 400 yards and 1,292 foot-pounds at 500 yards. In contrast, the 7mm STW has 2,521 foot-pounds of energy at 200 yards, 2,123 foot-pounds at 300 yards, 1,776 foot-pounds at 400 yards, and 1,475 foot-pounds at 500 yards. Both pale in comparison to the .30-378, whose big bullet has 3,709 foot-pounds of energy at 200 yards, which is more than either of the other two started with. At 300 yards its carrying 3,266 foot-pounds, which is still more than the 7mm Remington Magnum had at the muzzle. It crosses 400 yards with 2,865 foot-pounds, and at 500 yards the bullet is charged with 2,506 foot-pounds of energy, more than the 7mm Remington Magnum has at 140 yards!
Looked at another way, using a 200-yard zero the 7mm Remington Magnum is 6.12 inches low at 300 yards, 18.01 inches low at 400 yards, and 36.84 inches low at 500 yards. With the same 200-yard zero, the 7mm STW is 5.36 inches low at 300 yards, 15.82 inches low at 400 yards, and 32.38 inches low at 500 yards. The .30-378 Weatherby is 4.65 inches low at 300 yards. The 7mm Remington Magnum crosses that line about 285 yards. The Weatherby is 13.56 inches low at 400 yards, a line the 7mm Remington Magnum hits at just past 360 yards, and the Weatherby is 27.33 inches low at 500 yards, which puts it on the same level with the 7mm Remington Magnum, around 450 yards.
Guns, Gear & Game Recommends
When measured in terms of bang for the buck, we dont think the slight performance penalty the Remington 7mm STW factory round suffers really matters for hunting deer, antelope, or other big game up to elk. Moreover, with the right handloads, we believe the 7mm STW could take any game on the North American continent except big bears. Also, price is a factor. The suggested retail for the Remington BDL is $789, or $879 for the Sendero. Remington says it doesnt offer a suggested retail price for the round, but a company spokesman said a box will usually sell for around $33.50. Thus, we conclude that of these two new cartridges, the 7mm STW is a more affordable field choice.
Unquestionably, the .30-378 is the performance champ in this test. It simply shoots flatter and hits harder than its factory competitors. For killing elk, moose, or other bigger game, the Weatherby Accumark .30-378 gets the nod over the 7mm STW. In its weight class, the .30-378 is the baddest boy around. We do have reservations about the Weatherby Accumark .30-378 package, however. With a suggested retail of $1,427 for the rifle and an amazing $85 a box for the ammo, we have to wonder if the Weatherby is worth its stiff price. For most hunters, it probably isnt. For the few who can afford to buy and feed the .30-378, it may be worth the money.
Without a doubt, both rounds perform better than the 7mm Remington Magnum. If your hunting style requires pushing big bullets at breakneck speed, then match one of these new rounds to your game and get busy.
-By GGG Staff