7 x 57 Calibre Hunting Rifles
Hunting Legends will continue to bring you interesting news and articles in our Gun Library. Let’s take a look at the popular and ever present 7 x 57 caliber. The following article is the work of Mauritz Coetzee – African Outfitters Magazine.
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African Outfitter Back Issues: CONTENTS – February -March 2009 – (Vol 4/1)
Bonding with a 7×57 – Mauritz Coetzee
Life is short. Compared to other phenomena, the relatively short lifespan of 70 odd years of a human being is quite insignificant.
This basic fact merely emphasises the need for and importance of things and people influencing our lives for the better. As you get older, there is also a very vivid understanding that you have only so many hours, days, months and years to pursue that which makes you happy.
The trivial insignificance of a single human being in relation to time was rather eloquently explained during my student years in the early 1970s. Our Latin tutor, Prof Kriel, explained the concept of eternity in the following way: imagine a butterfly flying to another planet from the planet Earth. It was assumed that with every journey the butterfly would carry a single grain of sand with it. The journey to the other planet would take ten years and another ten years to return to earth. But, said our professor, the day that the butterfly has finally succeeded in transporting every single grain of sand from the earth, is only the beginning of eternity.
This significant description of eternity has been imprinted on my mind ever since, particularly in the sense of meaningful experiences that have marked my life’s journey, also as a hunter.
The article on my rather special friend, a 7×57 BRNO rifle, published in African Outfitter(Aug/Sept 2008), resulted in many phone calls and emails. I was in fact overwhelmed by the response and in particular one conversation at a shooting range.
While testing a friend’s .500 Nitro Express rifle, a rather polite bloke approached me and referred to the 7×57 article. He wanted to know whether I really talked to this little 7×57 rifle. Since I never expected a question of this nature, I made a confession right there and then. I do in fact talk to this rifle as mentioned in the article, and yes, my years with this rifle have brought me intense pleasure and unforgettable moments.
A wise man by the name of Johan Masters once made the following remark in the 10th edition of the Handloader’s Digest, “You pick a rifle … you pick a scope … you pick a bullet and a load … and then you stay with it, hunt with it, and pay attention to the results you get”.
Ever since I obtained this rifle from my brother André, and after the late George Sankofski reblued and added small cosmetic touches to it, I have made very few changes to this rifle. George Sankofski did fit a white line spacer recoil pad from Pachmayr to the stock, which in a way did not seem to fit in with the so-called “classic look” of the old rifles. Somehow because of the memory of George Sankofski, who died in a car accident three weeks after I got my rifle back from him, the recoil pad was not removed.
Initially, I was under the impression that my little BRNO was a ZG47 model, based on the classification of Frank de Haas, author of the well-known book, Bolt Action Rifles.
Frank de Haas distinguished between the BRNO VZ24 military Mauser action, the ZG47 sporting action and the ZKK BRNO action rifle.
The VZ24 military action was extensively used during the Second World War, while it was assumed that the ZG47 actions and complete rifle by BRNO were introduced to the civilian market in 1947.
The BRNO 2KK rifle series is thought to have replaced the ZG47 rifles around 1965 – 1968. The fact of the matter is that the KZB21/22 series of BRNO rifles has most probably preceded the ZG47 BRNO rifles.
The date of manufacture of my KZB21 on the receiver is clearly marketed as 54 or 1954. Ronnie Rowland’s KZB21 is stamped with the date of 49 and 1949. I am not sure about the exact date that the KZB21/22 rifle series was discontinued.
It is just possible that Mauser enthusiasts would be up in arms following my observation that the KZB21/22 BRNO rifles have no equal as far as balance, dimensions, weight and pointability are concerned.
I have handled dozens of Mauser sporting rifles in the 7×57 configuration, yet somehow the dimensional magic is simply not the same. The same observation is equally relevant to other BRNO KZBS21/22 rifles chambered for the 6.5×57, 8×57 and 8×60, whether in the short of long barrelled versions.
From 1984 onwards, the BRNO with its compact 2x7x32 Leupold scope and EAW mounts has accompanied me on countless hunting trips. Initially, the 154-grain Hornady Interlock and Nosler 160-grain bullets were used at a velocity factor of 2 500 feet per second. A basic rule was followed in sighting the rifle to be 1¾ of an inch high at 100 metres (109 yards).
Later on the 154-grain Hornady load was increased with a healthy dose of S 365/± IMR 4 350 to produce 2 720 feet per second. Together we had our moments in the veld, some of which were quite humorous, to be honest.
While hunting on a game farm near the Limpopo River in 1986, I was approached by the game farm owner’s son on the morning of the first day. Although only 11 years old, he asked the following question, “Sir, what animals do you intend to hunt with this little pop gun?” Judged by the look on his father’s face, they both shared the same sentiment, being “born” hunters and living in the bush. In a way I was caught off guard by the question, yet in two days it so happened that three impala rams were clearly taken with one shot each. All of a sudden the “pop gun” grew in stature in the eyes of both father and son.
When guiding foreign hunters on plains game hunts, the 7×57 was a constant companion. On one occasion, while hunting with Ronnie Rowland’s clients on a game farm belonging to Karl Landman near Mkuze in KwaZulu-Natal, I used this rifle to secure a wounded nyala and blue wildebeest. The wildebeest was also wounded by the same German client, Wilfred Häde. On the follow-up, accompanied by the well-known Zulu guide, Fannas, the animal jumped up amongst some aloe trees, running in a zigzag fashion. Leading the animal from tree to tree, the 7×57 brought the wildebeest down with a single shot to the shoulder, to the utter delight of Fannas.
Seven years later on another game farm, Elandskloof, near Thabazimbi, I was contacted by radio regarding a wounded kudu bull. Accompanied by the game scout, Jannie Smuts, we found the kudu bull in the last remaining sunlight of the day. As the bull’s hind legs dug into the earth, ready for flight, the little 7×57 barked its deadly song, ending the hunt rather abruptly.
In 1995, on the same location, well-known American outdoor writer, farmer and professional hunter, Joe Coogan, tried to buy this 7×57 from me. But Joe, who also hunted with Harry Selby, did not succeed. Yet we parted as friends since we shared one great passion – a love for the old BRNO rifles.
At times, due to circumstances, I have taken shots that I would not have taken with other rifles. In 1988 we hunted in the Dealesville area near Bloemfontein. On this specific farm a crossbreed between blesbok and red hartebeest occurred in two types.
Being slightly bigger in body size than the blesbok, some of the crossbreeds had the long face of a red hartebeest, the facial makings of a blesbok and lyrate horns. On the other hand, the other type of crossbreed had the long face of a red hartebeest but the exact facial colour and markings of the red hartebeest. The horns also had a lyrate shape.
The ram I was pursuing had red facial markings and was obviously well-educated on the intentions of hunters. He kept within a herd of blesbok, never actually offering a clean shot. Then he stepped out with only his front quarters from the front legs to the head showing, his backside being covered by the hindquarters of a blesbok ram.
The distance was well over 200 metres (220 yards). Not wanting to wound the blesbok ram, I slowly squeezed the trigger, knowing that the 7×57 would produce under difficult circumstances. At the shot he went down, clearly taken through both shoulders.
From a trophy point of view, a very old warthog boar shot in the Ohrigstad area in 1985, surely will remain a highlight in the wanderings of the 7×57 and I. The skull and tusks of this warthog graced the cover of African Outfitter (Aug/Sept 2008). The right upper tusk is 15¾ inches (40 centimetres) in length while the left lower tusk measures 11 inches (28 centimetres).
About six years ago, I decided to retire my old faithful friend and rather pursue hunting activities with my .308 Winchester and .375 H&H Magnum. From day one I had kept a logbook on our activities, animals hunted and the specific area involved. The total for impala rams came to 71, blesbok (male and female) to 131, kudu bulls to 9, and so forth.
This book was also retired to a safe with the rifle. Cleaning the rifle ever so often resulted in a feeling of extreme guilt, so much so that 38464 has now come out of a forced retirement.
Nowadays I use the 160-grain Rhino Solid Shank soft at an average velocity of 2 475 feet per second. No entries are made in the logbook any more since every hunting trip is enjoyed to the fullest whilst memories are cherished forever.
Based on my Latin teacher’s description of eternity and the example of the butterfly’s journey, my time with the 7×57 is insignificant. Yet in the human mind 24 years together equals a lifetime of meaningful memories which I am sure I will never experience again.