When introduced back in '77 Remington caught the gun world by surprise with its big .32 caliber cartridge. In fact, I can still remember the underwhelmed look on everyone's face when the 8 Mag was sprung on us at Remington's Annual Writer's Seminar, held that year at the Hawkeye Hunting Club near Center, Texas. After a brief rundown of the cartridge's specs by one of Remington's tech people, we were asked in typical schoolroom fashion if there were any questions.
I can still see in my mind's eye Elmer Keith standing up in response, and waiting for the room to quiet down. It didn't take long. "Yes, Elmer?? said Ted McCawley, recognizing the grand old man from Idaho.
Removing his perennial stogie only long enough to utter, "What the hell good is it?" Elmer brought the place down.
It may not have been the most tactful thing to say under the circumstances but ol' Elmer has never been known for his diplomacy. He is known, however, for his plain talk; his ability to cut through the B.S. and get to the heart of the matter. Elmer was simply asking the same question that was going through all our minds and the same one America's hunters would soon be asking.
Indeed, what niche did the 8 mm Remington Magnum fill and why, after such a short period, was it axed? I mean, six years isn't a very long trial period for a cartridge, so the Big 8 must have been a real loser for Remington. I'm sure there were a lot of factors contributing to the demise of the cartridge but without question the primary reason it didn't catch on was that it was perceived as lacking versatility. With a 220-grain spitzer bullet the 8 Mag had to be one of the finest elk cartridges ever devised, but beyond that it was seen as being too much gun for most other hunting and not enough for the rest. I'm not saying I agree with that assessment necessarily, but I know that's why the Big 8 didn't sell well enough for Remington to keep it in the catalog. It was thought to be too specialized a caliber, especially for this continent.
Another, though less important, factor was that the 8 Mag's nominal specs weren't all that impressive for a cartridge based on a full-length belted magnum case. Here was a hull that held about 12 percent more powder than Remington's 7 mm Magnum and all it could get out of a 220-grain bullet was 2,830 feet per second (fps); at least that's what the specs showed. And shooters had gotten cynical enough by the late '70s to where they didn't believe factory ballistics anymore and automatically subtracted at least 50 fps from the published muzzle velocity. While that may have been appropriate back when ammo makers were still using 26-inch barrels for their nominal specs, by the time the 8 Mag was hatched they had all converted to the 24-inch barrel standard.
Actually, the 2,830 fps claimed for the 8 Mag's 220-grain load was pessimistic. I had one of the very first Model 700s chambered for the new cartridge and my early handload development work showed that 2,900 fps was easily achieved without signs of excessive pressure. My findings were eventually confirmed when Sierra and Hornady came out with their respective reloading manuals. There are five loads listed by Hornady and four by Sierra in the 2,900 fps column. And you know they are on the conservative side when it comes to data. At 2,900 fps that muzzle energy figure climbs to 4,100 foot pounds, 600 more than a .300 Winchester Magnum's 180-grain load.
Anyway, if the 8 Mag was perceived as being of little usefulness here, Africa, with its large, tough antelope, is ideally suited to such a potent, flat-shooting cartridge. In June of 1977 before the 8 Mag had reached most dealers' shelves, I had already returned from Africa where I had been field testing not only the rifle and cartridges but Hornady's experimental 220-grain bullets in both boattail and flat-based configurations (they eventually chose to introduce only the flat-base).
With the Big 8 one can not only take everything from impala to eland, but the cats as well. Short of elephant, buffalo and rhino, it's as close to the all-around African cartridge as any.
But you can't make a living selling guns only to Africa-bound hunters. Then too, no other gun manufacturer to my knowledge has ever offered the 8 Mag chambering, so Remington got no "outside help," as it were, in promoting the cartridge or the sale of ammo.
So, the Big 8 joins so many other cartridges that just couldn't capture the imagination of America's hunters. Unfortunately, commercial success has almost no bearing whatsoever on a cartridge's ballistic merits ... or lack thereof for that matter.
Though the 8 Mag chambering has been dropped, the ammo will still be available for a long time to come. I hope so anyway because that big case is well-suited as a basis for any over -.30 caliber wildcat, including my own .375 JRS. Simply necking the Big 8 case up .052 inches results in what I consider to be the ideal .375 caliber round. The net result is a cartridge that holds about eight percent more powder than the standrd .375 H&H. That, in turn, boosts velocity aout 200 fps (to 2,750 fps) with more energy and penetration than a .458 Winchester. And there's the added bonus in that you can shoot standard .375 H&H ammo in a pinch with perfect safety; in fact, you can get .375 JRS brass either way, i.e., necking up 8 mm Remington Magnum cases or fire-forming .375 H&H ammo, either factory or handloads.
It makes so much sense that I'm reasonably sure that if we ever see the 8 Mag case being used for another Remington proprietary cartridge in the future, it will be something like .375 JRS ... called .375 Remington Magnum, of course. All it will take is the decision by Remington to go into it with realistic expectations as to sales. If such a decision is made purely on the profit motive, we'll never see it. If, on the other hand, Remington would, for the sake of prestige, like to have their own dangerous game cartridge--like Winchester's .458--then we may see it come to pass.
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|Title Annotation:||ceasing production of 8mm Remington Magnum cartridge|
|Publication:||Guns & Ammo|
|Date:||Mar 1, 1984|
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