Around 1912, German ammunition designer Wilhelm Brenneke developed an 8x64mm cartridge as a potential replacement for the 8x57JS used by the German military. However, the army failed to adopt his 8x64.
At the time, interest in high velocity small-bores for sporting use was mounting. In 1906, the .280 Ross was introduced, and its 140gr bullet at 2 900fps had caused a sensation. Around 1910, Rigby had taken the 7x57 (which had been around since 1892) and loaded it with a 140gr bullet hotted up to an advertised muzzle velocity of 2 800fps. About this time, Lancaster introduced the .280 Flanged Nitro Express with ballistics very similar to those of the .280 Ross. In 1912-13, Holland & Holland introduced their belted .275H&H firing a 175gr bullet at 2 680fps. Around 1915, Jeffery produced his .280 Rimless with a 140gr bullet at an advertised velocity of 3 000fps.
Quite likely, this trend influenced Brenneke to neck down his 8x64 case to 7mm, and in 1917, he launched it as the 7x64 Brenneke. It proved to be an immediate and lasting success throughout Europe and beyond. In Magnum’s November 1986 edition, former editor Tudor Howard-Davies wrote that the original 7x64 ammo was loaded with 143gr and 177gr bullets at velocities of 3 326fps and 2 994fps respectively – considerably hotter than the 7x57’s 139gr and 175gr at 2 660fps and 2 480fps. The resulting flatter trajectory was much appreciated by European hunters.
As pointed out by Frank Barnes in Cartridges of the World, the abovementioned series of introductions of 7mm cartridges shows that the British became interested in the 7mm calibre much earlier than the Americans, who began introducing cartridges in this calibre only in the 1940s. The closest American cartridge to the 7x64 is the .280 Remington, first introduced in 1957.
The 102-year-old 7x64 Brenneke cartridge is still very relevant in our local hunting scene. The terrain types in which we hunt in South Africa can differ vastly – from kudu in thick bush, to springbuck on the Free State flats, to gemsbuck in the Kalahari. In these tough economic times, it seems to me there is a need for a single “all-round” plains-game cartridge that can do the job in all these varying conditions. I don’t think the perfect all-rounder for plains game exists, but I reckon the 7x64 comes close if, like me, you do the majority of your hunting in more open terrain. If you do most of your hunting in bushveld, you may want to consider a .30-06 or similar, but that’s not to say the 7x64 is unsuitable for bushveld use.
Factory-loaded 7x64 ammo, even when loaded with 170gr and 175gr bullets has been criticised for causing excessive meat bruising at bushveld hunting distances due to its high velocity. Bullets of ‘conventional’ design at high velocity expand more rapidly and or disintegrate in large, heavily-boned animals, resulting in diminished penetration, even failure to reach the vital organs. However, when loaded with good quality (premium grade) heavy bullets travelling at a moderate velocity, this cartridge effectively reaches the vitals in big-boned animals at bushveld shooting distances. Also, the 7x64 Brenneke can be downloaded, using premium 170 to175gr bullets, to duplicate the milder ballistics of the 7x57 which has an excellent reputation for bushveld hunting.
Read the full article in the November 2019 issue of Magnum.