7 mm Twins (2): The 7x64 Brenneke and the .280 Remington (the 7mm Odd Six?)

Updated: May 4

As identical as identical gets. However, these two had different upbringing and introduction into the world and grew up with different levels of self esteem; that parental influence on their publicly displayed character also caused different social acceptance.


It was about 1906 when the quest for higher velocities in sporting and military ammunition interested designers world wide. England was toying with the .280 Ross shooting a 140 gr bullet at 2,900 ft/sec - but politics started entering into the design of infantry rifles and ammunition and the Ross never became a reality.

After the Anglo Boer War the Brits developed a distinct hate-love relationship with the 7x57- a cartridge that hailed from 1892. They decided on the anglicisation of the German icon and loaded it with a 140 gr bullet advertised as doing 2,800 ft/sec at the muzzle and called it the .275 Rigby although it is a pure 7x57 Mauser.

The firm of Lancaster tried to duplicate the .280 Ross and offered their .280 Flanged Nitro Express. Not to be outdone Holland & Holland brought out their belted .275 H&H firing a 175gr bullet at 2,680fps in 1912, and a few years later - when safaris in Africa became the challenge for European adventurers, Jeffery introduced the .280 Rimless. This one topped the performers with a 140gr bullet at 3,000 ft/sec.

About the same time ammunition designer Wilhelm Brenneke in Germany had developed an 8x64 mm cartridge which he presented to the German Wehrmacht as a replacement for the 8x57 JS, the latter which already had the ballistics of the 1903 30-06 Springfield and maybe therefore the army failed to adopt it. I had the rare opportunity to shoot another PHs NIB SAKO in this calibre, and what a performer it is - 220 gr bullet at 2,700 ft/sec.

The movement in England towards 7 mm cartridges must have influenced Brenneke because he necked down his 8x64 case to 7mm and in 1917 launched it as the 7x64 Brenneke. European hunters were pleased with this development because in Germany the 7x57 being a military cartridge could not be used for hunting.

The 7x64 Brenneke proved to be an immediate and lasting success throughout Europe and beyond. Presently it certainly is the most popular hunting cartridge in Europe. In Africa it enjoys good credibility and respect to this day. In Man Magnum magazine of November 1986 then editor Tudor Howard-Davies wrote that the original 7x64 ammunition was loaded with a 143 gr bullet at 3,326 ft/sec, and a 177 gr at 2,994 ft/sec. The flatter trajectories of these impressed European hunters.

Then in time the International quality and safety control authority Commission Internationale Permanente Pour Ilépreuve Des Armes à Feu Portatives (CIP) that proof-tests every single rifle from a factory and every new cartridge to 125% of its published maximum average pressure eventually limited the 7x64 Brenneke to 60,191 psi when rifles manufactured outside of Germany were being chambered for the Brenneke cartridge.

It was not until 1957 (65 years after the 7x57 and 51 years after the .280 Ross) that the USA started being interested in a cartridge shooting a 7 millimetre bullet

When I went to stay in Colorado in 2012 I was hoping to buy a Ruger M77 African in 7x64 Brenneke just to have something "American-African", as I was going to become an African-American by immigration. Nobody I spoke to had ever heard of a 7x64 Brenneke, not even Tom where I stayed and was looked after by him and his kind family. One night he paged through some books and showed me a design with figures. "YES! that is it... wait, it is not - but it is close", I said. "What is it?"

"A .280 Remington", Tom said, and I started reading all I could about it. One week later Tom located a Ruger M77 Mk.II in Virginia, I think, and one week later I had it in my hands.

It was a horrible shooter with 150 gr Remington CoreLokt ammunition (3" at 100 yards) and I was disappointed. Then I found reloading dies and bought 160 gr Speer Deep Curl bullets and Alliant Reloader 22 propellant and I torqued the bottom screws as they should be and it became a 1" shooter at 200 yards. Delivering 2,800 ft/sec at the muzzle with a 160 gr bullet it was the 7x64 Brenneke's twin. What a nice rifle and a perfect cartridge.

Then I wanted to buy Hornady cases and not one gun shop in the towns of Craig, Rifle and Steamboat Springs in Colorado knew what I was talking about. Nobody knew the American .280 Remington and I could not understand it. So I read some more... and I still can not understand it to this day.

LIke the .270 Winchester it was adapted from the 30-03 case and Remington moved the shoulder a little up so that it could not fit into a .270W chamber.

Then the biological parents of the .280 Remington for reasons obscure to this day marketed the cartridge with a 140 gr bullet at 2,700 ft/sec. The old twin of this new cartridge in Germany was put into the market with a 140 gr bullet ar 3,300 ft/sec as discussed above.

The 140 gr was by a long way slower than the .270W with a 150 gr bullet. Whether it was an early attempt at abortion by some Remington marketeers one would never know - but logic and a hope to sell the newcomer to the shooting public most certainly was not part of the thinking. It did not sell and some bean counter told the marketeers to get off their coffee and doughnuts and get the darn thing into the market.

In a rare moment of relative brightness those marketeers decided to change the kid's name, kill its first identity and called it the 7 mm Express Remington, and also changed the name on ammunition boxes and upped the 140 gr bullet's muzzle velocity to the same as a .270W with a 150 gr bullet and recalled all the ammunition that said .280 Remington. So owners of the new .280 Remington could not find ammunition for their rifles and heard from gun shop salesmen that it was recalled. Also, immediately gunshop clerks started selling the 7mm Remington Express as a low-recoil substitute for the 7mm Remington Magnum. "Express" and "Magnum: both meant "fast" to gunshop salesmen. It still does - read below:

As late as 2014 in Chyenne, Wyoming a senior gunshop salesman quite learnedly wanted to educate me that the 7mm Express Remington was the same thing as the 7mm Remington Magnum. Because he did not have 7mm Expess Remington ammunition on the shelf he offered me a packet of 7mm Remington Magnum. He must be forgiven for that because Remington then had also put the "Express" designation on 7mm Remington Magnum cases. Amazing - but the black type on the box expressly states that the ammunition is for the EXPRESS 7mm REMINGTON MAGNUM.

Nobody had a rifle that said on the barrel that it was a 7mm Express Remington (or a rifle that said "7mm Express Remington Magnum", so nobody bought the ammunition with those names on the box. Then the Remington bean counters told the marketeers to sell the darn ammunition that was overflowing the warehouses - and the marketeers told the adolescent kid: "Look, you are not good enough to earn the "Express" title, so we are going to rename you just as a plain, everyday "Remington two eighty. Okay, we know you are actually a 'two eighty four' but we do not want to confuse our not so intelligent gun owners". That was a mistake.

So they renamed him back as the .280 Remington, and thought that was it. But it was difficult to outdo some peoples' thinking at Remington, so at the same time someone else had said in another meeting:

"Look, to end this confusion once and for all, let's call this half baked kid what it is: it is a "7mm-Ought Six", and sure as daylight comes - barrels were stamped 7mm-06. No kidding. Fortunately someone else saw this and only a few barrels left the factory with that designation - but those few did get sold, as did some cartridges with that headstamp. Now it was a real "Seven Millimetre Odd Six".

Next to a 30-06

Odd thing was - whatever Remington did to increase sales they never did the proper thing which was to load commercial ammunition to the pressures this cartridge is capable of. Commercial ammunition to this day does not nearly duplicate the performance of its German twin 7x64 Brenneke which enjoys a great international standing.

I have a theory of conspiracy at SAAMI about the belittling of this excellent cartridge in their pressure advice because every action . Was it because it was as a contender to Remigton's own 7mm Remington Magnum brother, or because it was a threat to the .270 Winchester?

That is a story for another day - but think on this: Some gun writers still spin the idea that the .280 Remigton was downloaded because its was first introduced in the Remington 740 auto-loading rifle, This of course is nonsense because while indeed the 740 was also chambered for the .280 Remington it was exactly 7 months AFTER the .308W (62,000 psi) and the .270W (65,000 psi) had been offered for sale in that autoloader. That begs the question: if both cartridges came from the same parent why was the .270W allowed to be loaded to at 65,000 psi and the .280 Remington only at 57,000 psi.

Here where I live and hunt and guide in South Africa the .280 Remington has never been heard of, but if I have to make the choice - or advise someone which to buy of two rifles that are otherwise identical in appeal: a 7x64 Brenneke or a .280 Remington?

Certainly the .280 Remington because of the whole nine yards of history baggage it carries - and being the neglected twin of the 7x64 Brenneke. It is an excellent performer with handloads and it needs to be seen and heard in the hunting field.

[next: the fascinating Six Point Fives out of old Europe as well as lately in the New World]

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