The 8 mm Mauser, is perhaps the least known hunting cartridge in America while being having the most notoriety in Europe.
The 8 mm Mauser, really a 7.92 mm Mauser, was the principal cartridge of the German Army in both World War I and World War II. As a result, it was mass produced in the tens of millions and regarded as a highly effective round.
The 8 mm Mauser made the jump from combat to hunting rifle as soon as it was invented, and remains a popular hunting caliber across the world, though it hasn’t caught on well in the United States.
The 8 mm Mauser History
Germany adopted its first widespread smokeless rifle cartridge in 1888 with the Patrone 88. It fired a 227-grain bullet. From this designed, the cartridge was redesigned in 1903, to the familiar metrics of the 7.92×57 mm Mauser cartridge.
The original Patrone 88 had a diameter of 8.08 mm, but that was reduced to the 7.92 mm diameter of today, but the 8mm moniker stuck.
The cartridge experienced two more major redesigns after the 1903 standard, with changes in 1933, and finally, as World War II began in 1940.
The cartridge saw extensive use in bolt-action, semi-automatic, and fully automatic machine guns during the war.
After Germany’s defeat in 1945, the 7.92×57 mm lost its distinction as a military cartridge, replaced by the 7.62 mm when Germany joined NATO, but the hunting tradition of the round continued.
Deer hunters in Germany used the 8mm Mauser beginning soon after it was introduced in 1903.
The post-war years same 8 mm Mauser rifles on African, Indian and Asian safaris, carried by German, and Austrian hunters, and picked up by Americans, Englishmen, and Belgians hunting in the same setting.
8 mm Mauser Ballistics
As with any big game rifle, the talk is just that, talk, but the real information is found in the ballistic performance of a cartridge.
The 8mm Mauser has sufficient power to hunt deer, antelope, elk, moose, bear, and Big Horn sheep, but its reputation as a great platform for cape buffalo, and even elephants is greatly exaggerated.
Let’s take a look at the raw ballistic data.
Energy (Ft. Pounds)
|Cartridge||Grain||Muzzle||200 yds||400 yds|
|8.57 Mauser||196 BTHP||2720||2072||1552|
Velocity (Feet Per Second)
|Cartridge||Grains||Muzzle||200 yds||400 yds|
|8.57 Mauser||196 BTHP||2500||2182||1888|
Trajectory (Bullet Drop in Inches)
|Cartridge||Grains||200 yds||400 yds|
|8.57 Mauser||196 BTHP||0||-27.9|
In the realm of more commonly understood cartridges, the 8mm Mauser rests on the ballistic tables as slightly larger than the British .303 and slightly smaller than the .338 Winchester Magnum.
That should provide a little better idea of the power of the cartridge.
In looking at the raw ballistic data, the two commonly available boxed cartridges in 195 and 196-grain bullet size, have much different performance ratings due to the type of power used in them.
The standard 195 grain 8mm Mauser delivers adequate velocity for a large bullet. It has the energy to humanly take big game easily at 500 yards.
The standard cartridge is zeroed at 200 yards and drops 30.5 inches at 400 yards, making it substantially less effective than the more popular .30-06, .300 Win Mag, and .338 Win Mag in its nearby completion. The bullet drop is much greater than those competing model calibers.
The 196 grain 8 mm Mauser BTHP (boat tail hollow point) has higher performance metrics than the standard in velocity, energy, and bullet drop.
Both rounds leave the muzzle at 2500 feet per second, but the differences are notable just a hundred yards down range and increase over distance.
The BTHP bullet is 150 feet per second faster at 400 yards and has 242 more foot pounds of energy at 400-yards. It drops three inches less at that range as well.
That means the 196-grain BTHP has a longer effective range for big game, retaining the 1000 pound threshold 200 to 300 yards farther than the standard 8×57 mm round in 195-grain size.
Even with the improved performance of the 196-grain BTHP cartridge, the comparisons with competing sized cartridges are not good.
The .300 Win Mag is 600 to 700 feet per second faster at 500 yards depending on the cartridge than the 196-grain BTHP and the energy is up to 700 foot pounds greater at the 500 yard mark. The bullet drop of a .300 Win Mag is half of the drop of an 8mm Mauser at 400 yards.
Is an 8 mm Mauser a Good Choice for a Hunting Rifle?
There is no doubt that in its day it was a good caliber for big game hunting, but with a lifespan nearly identical to the venerable .30-06, it was never able to compete well with the more popular caliber.
Now with the advent of higher energy powder, better ballistic designs, and cartridges like the 6.5 Creedmoor that have much less recoil than the 8 mm Mauser while delivering much better performance the question is whether this vintage German caliber can stand the competition.
In a true sporting forum, where power, speed, and accurate distance were measured, the 8mm Mauser is a relic from another era.
Out on the prairie, in the heavy brush, foothills, and mountainsides, it is still a viable hunting platform, but not a great one by any measure when compared to what else is available.
What Can You Hunt With an 8 mm Mauser?
At ranges under 600 yards with the standard cartridge, and 800 with the BTHP you have the power to hunt big game effectively. You can hunt deer, antelope, bear, hogs, elk, moose, bison, and Big Horn Sheep in North America.
The 8 mm Mauser remains a popular platform for African safari hunting and delivers a good performance on small and mid-sized African game.
As Americans, we don’t think much about the weaponry of other nations unless it is substantially better quality than what we have. The Spanish 7 mm Mauser of Spanish American War fame led to the creation of the .30-06.
The German 7.92×55 mm Mauser was innovative in its day but was already a lesser caliber platform than the .30-06 over a century ago.
The evolution of firearm technology has left the 8mm in the wake of modern technology. For nostalgic purposes, and for someone who chooses to hunt with vintage arms, from another era, the 8mm Mauser has its place.
For someone seeking the best caliber rifle, they can find for big game hunting, look elsewhere. The 8 mm Mauser isn’t what you are looking for.