Recent years have seen a resurgence of interest in classic older calibers, especially those that saw use as dangerous game cartridges. One of those is the 9.3x74R cartridge, an old German cartridge that has also benefited from the renewed popularity of cartridges chambered for 9.3mm (.366”) bullets. The 9.3x74R cartridge was developed around the turn of the last century, taking advantage of the development of smokeless powder to develop a cartridge capable of taking medium to large game.
It’s important to note that the 9.3x74R is often confused by those unfamiliar with older rimmed cartridges with older cartridges such as 9.3x72R, 9.3x57R/360, and 9.3x82mm. Those cartridges were all older blackpowder cartridges adapted to smokeless powder use, and feature narrow, tapered cases and relatively low cartridge pressures.
The 9.3x74R, by contrast, features a rim just smaller than the .303 British and a base diameter roughly that of the .30-06 family. Its case is tapered, like many rimmed cartridges intended for break-open actions, and features a distinct shoulder. While the 9.3x74R operates at slightly lower pressures (around 49,000 PSI) than other 9.3mm cartridges such as the 9.3x62mm Mauser, because of its large case capacity it offers performance similar to the 9.3x62.
The 9.3x74R is capable of driving a 286-grain bullet to over 2,300 feet per second, and can develop over 3,500 foot-pounds of muzzle energy. Compare that to the 9.3x72R, which even loaded hot in modern firearms only develops around 2,000 foot-pounds of muzzle energy. This is why it’s important not to get the 9.3x74R and 9.3x72R confused. Trying to load to 9.3x74R energy levels in a 9.3x72R firearm could be fatal.
The 9.3x74R became a popular cartridge in Germany’s African colonies for taking medium and large game, particularly when chambered in a double rifle. The cartridge was also chambered in combination guns such as the Luftwaffe’s M30 drilling issued as a survival firearm to Luftwaffe crew members stationed in North Africa. Some European double guns and drillings are also produced today chambered in 9.3x74R, and the cartridge remains popular in Europe for taking wild boar.
Like many more obscure cartridges, ammunition costs are going to be high. Expect to pay at least $3-5 per round if buying factory ammunition. For reloaders, bullets are the same as those used by the 9.3x62 or 9.3x57mm Mauser. Brass is available, but will cost over $1 per piece from most sellers, and availability right now is spotty.
While the 9.3x74R is certainly a capable cartridge, its rarity and expense, and the expense of the firearms in which it is chambered make it not the most useful survival cartridge. It may have been a good survival cartridge for Luftwaffe aviators in Africa, and it still would serve well as a survival cartridge in Africa. But for Americans looking for a capable cartridge that’s widely available for survival purposes, there are better choices out there.