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The new Hornady 7mm PRC has been getting a lot of attention. Is it really all it’s cracked up to be? Does its improvement over the 7mm Remington Magnum justify the switch? Or will this cartridge just be a flash in the pan? I’ve been shooting the new cartridge for several months and got to take it hunting. And I’ll attempt to answer all those questions. But first, let’s go back in time.
The 6.5×55 Sweede, though well regarded, never found acceptance in the United States. American hunters just didn’t seem to like 6.5mm cartridges. But in 1959, that changed when Winchester introduced the .264 Winchester Magnum. It became popular because of its velocity and flat trajectory. However, three years later Remington introduced their 7mm Magnum. It was just as fast but could handle heavier bullets, and it put the .264 Winchester Magnum out to pasture. Today the 7mm Remington Magnum is one of the most popular big game cartridges.
History often repeats itself. The 6.5 Creedmoor has been around since 2007. Its advantage is not in velocity but in its ability to be fired from barrels with faster twist rates. This allows ammo manufacturers to load more aerodynamic bullets and rifle manufacturers to make more accurate factory rifles. The 6.5 Creedmoor is popular, but many thought it wasn’t powerful enough for worldwide big game hunting applications. So, in 2018 Hornady introduced the 6.5 PRC (Precision Rifle Cartridge) which has ballistics very similar to the .264 Winchester Magnum, but with a faster twist rate. In late 2022, Hornady pulled a Remington and introduced the 7mm PRC. Its closest ballistic competitor is the 7mm Remington Magnum, but its performance overshadows the 6.5 PRC like the 7mm Remington Magnum did the .264 Winchester Magnum about 60 years ago.
From a cartridge development standpoint, it appears that what we’ll be doing in the 21st century is redesigning old cartridges with faster twist rates. While this may lack the thrill of more gunpowder and the screaming velocities of cartridge development in the latter part of the last century, you can’t argue its effectiveness. Flatter trajectories and more retained energy down range, without an increase in recoil, are exactly what hunters have been asking for since the .30-30 Winchester was introduced in 1894.
How the Hornady 7mm PRC Compares to the 7mm Magnum
With the 7mm PRC, Hornady essentially took a 7mm Remington Magnum cartridge and removed the belt at the case head. They then set the shoulder and case length back by 0.22 inches and removed some of the taper in the cartridge body. All this, in conjunction with increasing the cartridge’s overall loaded length, allows Hornady to load the 7mm PRC with higher-BC bullets. The 7mm Remington Magnum case holds more gunpowder than the 7mm PRC case. But because Hornady loads the 7mm PRC to 65,000 psi as opposed to 61,000 psi, the 7mm PRC is faster by about 100 to 150 fps.
The combination of the slightly faster velocities and higher BC bullets gives the 7 PRC about a 100-yard advantage in maximum practical range for the hunter. What is maximum practical range? It’s the range at which the bullet’s velocity begins to fall below what it needs to initiate measurable bullet upset. Bullet upset or expansion is important to hunters because it increases wounding potential. For target shooters, it’s of no consequence. But since gravity and wind affect higher BC bullets slightly less, the 7mm PRC is clearly a better choice than the 7mm Remington Magnum for the long-range competitor.
How Does the New Round Perform In the Field?
Several months ago, I received a new Mossberg Patriot Predator rifle chambered in 7mm PRC. This rifle has a fluted 24-inch barrel and weighs only about 6.5 pounds. I mounted one of Swarovski’s Z8i 2-16X60mm riflescopes on the rifle and tested two of Hornady’s three available 7mm PRC loads. The first three-shot group fired with this rifle was incredibly small—measuring only 0.268 inches. This was not a fluke. I fired four more three-shot groups with the Hornady Precision Hunter load. The average for all five was only 0.62 inches. For a rifle with a suggested price of only $536, which you can purchase over the counter for less than $500, this kind of performance is nothing short of astounding.
In late January, I took that same rifle to Texas to hunt nilgai. These large Indian antelope—bulls can weigh more than 600 pounds—were brought onto the King Ranch in Texas in the 1920s. They have thrived and are now free-range. They also have a reputation for being hard to put down. In fact, our outfitter suggested a minimum of a 200-grain bullet at 3000 fps for these so-called, armored antelope. Though I agree some animals are harder to get to the ground if you hit them poorly, I’ve never believed certain critters are harder to kill than others.
I hit my bull high in the lungs with a 175-grain Hornady ELD-X bullet at 168 yards. It dropped at the shot. Other hunters in my party—all using the same type of rifle and load—took two other bulls and two cows with similar results. One hunter wounded a bull that we couldn’t find, but we don’t know how that bull was hit. On this hunt, the 7mm PRC worked just like I would have expected a 7mm Remington Magnum to perform.
The Future of the 7mm PRC
One of the hunters in our party was Jon Sundra, who is possibly the oldest active gunwriter. You could consider him an expert on 7mm cartridges. In fact, his 7mm JRS wildcat cartridge, nearly duplicates 7mm Remington Magnum performance. John said he expects the 7mm PRC to kill the 7mm Remington Magnum. I don’t agree, partly because hunters all over the world trust the 7mm Remington Magnum, and partly because there are currently about 23 times as many factory loads for the 7mm Remington Magnum. Load availability will change, but as popular as the 6.5 Creedmoor is, it took 16 years for there to be as many Creedmoor loads as there are 7mm Remington Magnum loads. Also, if you install a faster twist barrel on your 7mm Remington Magnum and handload, you can nearly duplicate factory 7mm PRC performance.
I do think the Hornady 7mm PRC will become popular. But unless I was a serious long-range competitor, I wouldn’t trade my 7mm Remington Magnum for one. At practical hunting ranges, the advantage the PRC offers looks bigger on paper than it is in real life. And for the PRC to overtake the 7mm Magnum in popularity, all major ammunition manufacturers will have to load it. They’ll also have to offer higher BC bullets than they currently load in the 7mm Remington Magnum. Also, for true longevity, most major rifle manufacturers will have to offer rifles chambered for the 7mm PRC. Currently, there are several custom and semi-custom options available but only Mossberg, Ruger, and Savage are offering affordable factory rifles.
I’ll end with this. Though I’ve never been much of a 7mm guy, the precision from the $500 Mossberg rifle is hard to ignore. And, for big game hunting, the Hornady 7mm PRC might sooner outpace the 6.5 PRC than it will the 7mm Magnum. That’s what the 7mm Remington Magnum did to the .264—6.5mm—Winchester Mangum in the 1960s. And as they say, History tends to repeat itself.