Salvaging the 8x57
of yesteryear • Adventure Sport • Africa: The Good News • Book Reviews •
Recently, I picked up a new Remington Model 700 Classic in 8mm Mauser at a local store in the "clearance" rack. The 8mm Mauser, or 8x57mm as it is also known, has always had a soft spot in my heart, since for years I’ve played with many Model 98 Mausers in this caliber.
Remington has made a series of "Classic" calibers over the years, and the 8x57mm was one of the last ones made. It certainly was a surprise to me when Remington chose this European-German popular caliber, as the American market just does not grasp metric designations. The only one that ever really caught on here was the 7mm Remington Magnum.
I mounted a Leupold compact 3x9 power scope on it, and then proceeded to round up some odds and ends of accumulated ammo to zero-in the scope and test some loads.
Below is a quick list of results:
As you can see, there is wide disparity in velocities. Obviously, the manufactures are not loading ammo up to full speed, to protect shooters who might put their ammo into old rifles. The fact is, most of the old rifles are Mauser 98 bolt actions, and could easily take full pressure loads.
Be sure and check the empty case weights, as they vary a lot by manufacturer. The Federals were very heavy at 180-182 gr. each; with the Sellier & Bellot the lightest at only 160 gr. Winchester and Remington were about the same at 170-175 gr. Loads that might be great in the Sellier & Bellot light cases, but could be too hot in the heavy Federals… so be careful.
Of the American manufacturers, only the Winchester ammo was up to par with what it should or could be. However, the one that really got my attention was the European Sellier & Bellot 196 gr. SP load that produced 2480 fps. average. That ought to make a great load for most game shot less than 150 yards.
Reloading the 8x57mm is a nice simple process and the RCBS dies I had worked perfectly. The interesting part was trying to find loads that were not "sub-pressure" like the Remington Factory loads.
Hodgdon’s data is loaded to only 36,000 CUP, while the Barnes, Hornady, and Nosler manuals had excellent loads to work with, as did Western Powders.
With Western Big Game powder, I easily achieved 2650 fps. with a 185 gr. Barnes TSX, and 2550 fps. with the 195 gr. Hornady Spire Point using Hodgdon’s Varget.
That 195 gr. Hornady Spire Point really seems like it would be an ideal bullet for the 8x57mm. I think that it is made to withstand the velocities of the 325 WSM, so it should be plenty tough for larger game at 8x57mm velocities.
As the field-testing continued, I started changing the seating depth. Since this rifle seems to have a long "military" gradual throat, I started seating the bullet way out, just .010 off the lands. This seemed to improve the consistency of the groups, but the point of impact (P.O.I.) was still drastically different with each different load I tried.
I then switched from CCI 200 primers to Federal 210 Match primers, which is not a "magnum" primer, but is certainly hotter than the CCI. It must be, as the velocities jumped close to 100 fps., while the groups stayed the same.
The next thing was to put a De-Resonator (www.limbsaver.com) on the barrel to help dampen the vibrations. So far, the groups are now more consistent, but I’m not happy yet.
Speaking of "happy", I was appalled at the condition of the barrel and throat of this new rifle. The throat was terribly rough, and if any custom barrel maker had ever sent me a barrel like that, I would have sent it back in heartbeat. Dumb me, I just did not look at this when I purchased the rifle.
The trick is now what to do about it. So, I sent it back to Remington explaining the facts of life, and asking for a new barrel.
Remington at first declined to send a new barrel, because they said a cleaning bush damaged the throat. After conferring with a supervisor, they agreed that the barrel was not good, but... could not replace it as the 8x57mm was a limited run for their Classic calibers and they had no spares. They did however offer me the option of a new 30-06 or .270 barrel.
Darn, another 30-06 or .270 barrel was just what I needed! So, I took the unexpected option, and said, "Just send the rifle back as is".
The next plan is to take the existing barrel off, set it back and rechamber it hoping to cut thru the bad throat and clean it up.
While I had the barrel off the action, I took the time to lap-in the recoil lugs just to be sure of even contact. I must say they were not too bad to start with, so scratch up "one" for Remington.
Also while apart, I faced off the front of the action, just to be sure of a barrel alignment with the threads. Again, this was not bad, so scratch up another one for Remington.
Now, here we are going to take away the points accumulated so far. In removing the firing pin from the bolt, I noticed the spring wrapped around the pin did not fit at all, and was so bad I could hardly get the spring out of the bolt. So, I ordered a new firing pin assembly, (non-ISS J-Lock) from Brownell’s Inc. (http://www.brownells.com/), part number 767-220-400. Ah, this fit like a glove, and surely is going to help with uniform ignition.
My efforts to clean up the throat were mostly in vain, as when I set the barrel back .065 (one rotation) and then rechambered it, only to find it did not clean up very much of the throat.
My future plans are to take the 8x57 to Africa on a plains game hunt in the near future, as it should be perfect for a walk and stalk hunt in the bushveldt.
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