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Proven, Proof Positive - The 7mm Ultra Mag

By Larry Irvin

AZOD Shooting Staff



There are so many good rifle and cartridge combinations available to hunters and shooters these days.  It is very tough for even the most dedicated and hopeless gun enthusiast to keep up with all of the promotional literature, reloading data, field tests by experts, and everything else associated with introducing a new cartridge to the shooting public.  I do not have the time or means to try all of the new ones, but when one of the new offerings really catches my eye, I generally weaken and cannot sleep until I try one out.


Such was the case when Remington introduced their new 7mm Remington Ultra-Mag.  The thing that grabbed me about this new cartridge was Remington’s claim that this new wonder produced 24% more velocity than their standard 7mm Rem. Mag., a cartridge that I have quite a lot of experience with, as well as having  tremendous respect for its abilities in the hunting fields.  Being ever the skeptic, and despite some of my pals well taken concerns about added recoil, huge powder consumption, long barreled heavy rifles, and general inefficiency, I moved forward with my plans to try the new 7 Ultra.


Hang all that negative stuff!  This thing makes 7mm bullets shoot Really, Really Fast!  I like that!  What else matters?  My new pet project started with the purchase of a new Remington Model 700 LSS, on which I mounted a Leupold 4.5x14 Vari-X III, on rings and bases by the same company.  As I have an incurable case of trigger fanaticism brought on by many years of Silhouette Shooting, I replaced the factory trigger with a fine sporting trigger by Shilen, checked the bedding in the stock, and headed to one of the local gun stores to purchase needed reloading supplies.


All went well until I asked for brass.  No one had brass.  Clerks in every store I visited were eager to sell me factory ammunition, but no one had brass.  Didn’t they understand that a die-hard reloader such as myself couldn’t be caught firing a factory load through my new rifle?  My shooting buddies would have heckled me unmercifully; I would wait until I could acquire brass for reloading.  A call to Remington to find out what gives on the brass situation, was answered by a nice lady who informed me that, because the cartridge was so new, the company was still using all available brass to meet factory load commitments, and no, she didn’t know when it would be available for reloading purposes.


The only thing that saved my 7 Ultra project from back burner status was a stroke of luck in finding 40 rounds of new factory brass through a mail order company on the other side of the country.  Thankfully, the brass arrived in time to return my project to front burner status fairly quickly, as a hunting season that included Canadian and African hunts was fast approaching.


As I started reloading for the new cartridge, I discovered that the only thing harder to find than brass, was loading data to get started with.  I gathered most of my information from pamphlet type reloading guides put out by Hodgdon and IMR.  I also used data from some major bullet companies’ information on 7mm STW loads, and then worked up very carefully, and slowly, with a variety of powders.  I planned to use my big 7 on large animals for the most part, and for that reason, confined my bullet selection to premium bullets of 160 grs.


To say that I was disappointed in the initial results of my trips to the range with my new loads would be a gross understatement.  Accuracy with a number of good bullets, especially my favorite Barnes’ 160 gr. XLC, was better than I could have hoped, but velocity was severely lacking, with most loads doing only slightly better than I was able to obtain in my old 7mm Rem. Mag.


Back to the reloading room where an ancient can of H-870 was discovered, and at this point, feeling I had nothing to lose, was loaded ahead of a Federal 215 primer and behind the afore mentioned 160 gr. XLC.  Back to the range!  The results, both on paper and on the chronograph, were exactly what I had hoped for when I bought the rifle.  My excitement was short lived, however, when a shooting buddy reminded me that H-870 is no longer manufactured by Hodgdons.  Just before I was going to scrap my dream load and start over, this same buddy that had so cruelly burst my bubble, told me about Eric Lutfy and his Thunderbird Cartridge Co., and about their T-870, a wonderful, easy to load ball powder, with, for all practical purposes, an identical burning rate as the old H-870.  A trip to said cartridge company resulted in what will be for me, a lifetime supply of T-870.  With my load now happily worked out, I could turn my attention to the most important parts of what this project was all about in the first place:  to develop for myself an extremely flat shooting and powerful Big Game rifle-cartridge combination to be used for large non-dangerous big game.


Confidence in the rifle and cartridge that you take on a hunt for any animal that you desperately want is absolutely imperative to a successful outcome, and by the time my long awaited trip to Africa came about I was more than ready to trust the big Ultra on an animal that had up until that time been nothing more than a dream:  the magnificent African Greater Kudu.  My confidence stemmed from the goodly number of minute of angle groups, (some less) and several chronograph tapes with beautifully consistent strings of readings of 3360 fps.  With numbers like these it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the big Ultra performed to perfection not only on the African trip, where it took not one, but two big Kudu Bulls, as well as several other animals ranging in size from Grey Duiker and Caracal, to Bushbuck and Waterbuck.



The big Ultra has also been my rifle of choice for two years worth of hunting in the very open, long range country of Northern Alberta.  On those hunts it has accounted for four of the huge bodied Deer, (2 Whitetail, and 2 Mule Deer) as well as two Canadian Moose, and a very large bodied but small antlered Bull Elk.  All of these critters were taken without the slightest fuss, save one of the Moose which gave my good pal Jordy McAuley and me a two mile chase, thanks entirely to my lousy shooting, and not the rifle or bullet performance.


In all but a couple of instances the long for caliber Barnes bullet gave complete penetration, and held together and pedaled as advertised when it did not.  The closest shot was around 50 yards on the Duiker and Caracal.  The longest was a measured 478 yards on the Elk.  Other than the two shots on the smaller African animals, the average shot was around 250 yards.


The big 7mm Ultra-Mag. is extremely versatile.  Another friend and very experienced hunter, Jim Mellody, set one up with a powerful scope with individual ranging dots, especially for hunting Coues Deer.  This rig turned out to be so deadly that Jim now uses it for 90% of his hunting no matter what the game.


I have too many good rifles that I enjoy using to call myself a one rifle hunter, and I am also sure that other rifle and cartridge combos will come along that I will just have to try.  However, at this point if I have plans, and I do, to hunt a medium to large animal and want to tip the odds in my favor as much as possible no matter what the range, I will be packing my big 7 Ultra when I start up the hill.  –AZOD-