American shooters are familiar with many of the wildcats that have spun off from established hunting cartridges like the .30-06 Springfield and the .308 Winchester. Many of these have become established cartridges in their own right, such as the 7mm-08 Remington, the .243 Winchester, and the .25-06 Remington. But European cartridges have seen their fair share of derivatives too.
Both the 7x57 Mauser and 8x57 Mauser cartridges have been wildcatted, with the former generally being necked down and the latter being necked up. One derivative of the 8mm Mauser that has seen increased popularity in recent years is the 9.3x57mm Mauser.
The 9.3x57mm Mauser is really not much more than the 8mm Mauser necked up to accept 9.3mm (.366” diameter) bullets. Essentially it’s the little brother to Otto Bock’s better known 9.3x62mm cartridge. But while the 9.3x62 remained popular in Central Europe and among German colonists in Africa, the 9.3x57mm saw relatively little use in Central Europe due to the popularity of the 9x57mm Mauser, which used slightly smaller .354”-.356” bullets. Instead, the 9.3x57mm Mauser became a highly popular hunting cartridge in Scandinavia, particularly in Sweden.
Among hunters in Sweden the cartridge is often referred to as the potato gun because of its large, heavy, slow bullets. Most 9.3x57mm loads come close to replicating the original 9.3x62mm loads, pushing a 286-grain bullet to around 2,100 feet per second, for about 2,800 foot-pounds of muzzle energy.
Compare that to modern loads in the 9.3x62 Mauser, which can leave the barrel at up to 2,400 feet per second, for up to 3,650 foot-pounds of muzzle energy, or about 30% more power. But while the 9.3x57mm may be less powerful than its bigger brother, it’s no slouch.
In fact, the 9.3x57mm was and is a popular cartridge in Sweden for hunting moose and bear. And it could certainly take just about any game in North America. The only place it might be questionable is as a stopping cartridge for grizzly bears or large Alaskan black bears, although even here it might be useful with the right bullets.
In recent years, imports of older rifles from Sweden have introduced many Americans and Canadians to the beauty of the 9.3x57mm Mauser. Many of the rifles chambered in 9.3x57 are of the small-ring Swedish Mauser 94 or Mauser 96 style, featuring the cock on closing action of the small-ring Mauser rifles, the slightly improved gas handling of the Swedish Mauser, the quality steel of Swedish gunmakers, and the fit and finish of classic sporting rifles.
Supplies of these rifles won’t be unlimited, however, and even now prices are starting to creep up both from importers and on the secondary market. Ammunition is also an issue, as Norma was the sole source of ammunition and reloading components. As imports of these rifles have slowed over the past decade, and as ammunition demand for more common calibers such as .223 Remington has climbed, supplies of 9.3x57mm ammo and brass have dried up.
Thankfully reloading dies are still available, and the conversion from readily available 8mm Mauser brass is fairly simple. But the need to roll your own ammo is an indication that, while the 9.3x57 can be a great hunting cartridge, it’s not the ideal cartridge for a survival scenario in which you may have to scavenge for ammunition.