The popularity of the cartridge means there is a fairly wide selection of factory loads, making it a choice even for those who do not handload. Bullets weighing from 100 to 195 grains are available. Bullets in the 130-150gr range will suit most hunting applications while long range shooters will opt for the heavier bullets to take advantage of their higher ballistic coefficients. Depending on construction, bullets of 154 to 195gr can also be used in loads suitable for medium and larger game or target purposes. Medium burning rifle powders usually work best in the 7mm-08.
With the wide range of bullet weights available, the 7mm-08 is suitable for "varminting, game-hunting, silhouette, and long-range shooting." It is also suitable for plains game." For long-range target and metallic silhouette shooting, the "plastic-tipped 162gr A-Max has proven to be very accurate with a 0.625 BC (G1). This A-Max bullet, and the 150gr Sierra Match King, are popular with silhouette shooters."
The 7mm-08 Remington works in most hunting environments, including dense forest areas and large open fields. It has a flatter trajectory than the .308 Win. and .30-06 Springfield at similar bullet weights because the slightly smaller-diameter 7mm bullet generally has a better ballistic coefficient (BC), and is thus less affected by drag and crosswind while in flight. Its trajectory is comparable to the .270 Winchester.
Its recoil is a bit more than a .243 Win. and less than most loads in a .308 Win. This mild recoil makes it suitable for youth and adults who are new shooters; however, the cartridge serves experienced shooters and hunters equally well.
Howard Brant of Shooting Industry magazine wrote: "the 7mm-08 is a real sleeper as far as the hunting field is concerned. It is a grand cartridge which packs more than sufficient wallop to efficiently down all medium-sized big-game animals found in North America and elsewhere."
Wayne van Zwoll of Petersen's Hunting magazine wrote: "Efficient case design and a bullet weight range suitable for most North American big game make the 7mm-08 a fine choice for all-around hunting. Civil in recoil, it's a perfect match for lightweight, short-action rifles. It has also courted favor on metallic silhouette ranges, where its 140-grain bullets reach 500-yard targets faster and with as much energy as 150-grain .308s." He also described it as "deadly" for elk.
David E. Petzal of Field & Stream, wrote, "The virtues of the 7mm/08 include very light recoil, not much muzzle blast, plenty of bullet weight to do the job, and gilt-edged accuracy."
The 7mm-08, with appropriate loads, meets the required standard for moose hunting in Sweden, Finland, and Norway. Such loads allow it, for that purpose, to be compared favourably with the 6.5×55mm, 7×57mm, 7×57mmR, .300 Savage, .303 British, and some .308 Winchester and .270 Winchester loads.
With appropriately constructed bullets, the cartridge is usable on elk, black bears and hogs.
It must be stressed, though, that the 7mm-08 Rem. is unsuitable for use on the three big bears—polar, brown, and grizzly—and on other dangerous game. In a self-defensive situation requiring stopping power on dangerous game at close range, use of a larger and heavier caliber is strongly advised. Stephen Herrero, a bear behavior expert, cites a study by the U. S. Forestry Service in Alaska that concluded the .458 Win. Mag. with a 510gr load, 375 H.&H. Mag. with a 300gr load, .338 Win Mag. with a 300gr load, and .30-06 with a 220gr load were "superior for protection against bears".
"Anything a 7mm can do, a .30 caliber of comparable sectional density and ballistic coefficient can also do. The catch is, in order to send a .30-caliber slug over a trajectory as flat as that 7mm bullet, about 20 percent more recoil is going to be generated. . . . [A bullet in] 7mm produces clearly superior downrange performance in terms of delivered energy and trajectory at any given recoil level [compared to a bullet in .30 caliber]."
There are two primary reasons a 7mm recoils less than a comparably effective .30 cal. cartridge: (1) to match the 7mm's BC requires a significantly heavier .30 cal bullet; and (2) to drive that heavier .30 cal bullet at similar velocities (for kinetic energy and wind resistance ("time-to-target")), requires more powder. This combination of heavier bullets with heavier powder charges significantly increases the recoil of the .30 caliber. The flip side of this is that "when you compare heavy bullets, grain for grain, the 7mm-08 offers better ballistics. In other words a 168-grainer fired from a 7mm-08 will exhibit less drop and less windage than a 168gr bullet fired from a .308 Win."
Edward A. Matunas, who was involved in developing reloading manuals for Lyman, says, "The 7mm-08 Remington is an efficient round and competes effectively against the 308 Winchester." Jeff Cooper was impressed enough by the 7mm-08 to give it unqualified support for use in Scout rifles -- "A true Scout comes in .308 or 7mm-08". The 7mm-08 with 139-140gr loads does well against 150gr .308 Win. loads, providing good energy levels with usually less recoil than the .308 Win.
The 7mm-08 invites a ballistic comparison with the veteran, highly esteemed 7×57mm Mauser. American rifle handloading writers such as Ken Waters, Frank B. Petrini, John Wootters, Clay Harvey, Bob Milek, and John Barsness vary on which cartridge generates higher velocities with top handloads in modern rifles with equal barrel lengths. Any significant difference perhaps reflects more variations among individual rifles than a clear winner between two quite similar cartridges. Layne Simpson, a handloading gun writer who has worked with the 7mm-08 since 1979, considers it and the 7×57mm as ballistic equals. John Barsness has said more recently that the handloaded performance of the 7mm-08 and 7×57mm is "identical." One assessment seems curious: while Norma Precision says that the shorter-cased 7mm-08 loses 100–150 ft/s (30–46 m/s) compared to the 7×57mm, its own reloading information for the 156gr Oryx shows the 7mm-08 as having only 16 fps less than the 7×57mm—a negligible difference.
In January 2002, Dave Anderson of Guns Magazine compared four of his favorite 7mm cartridges (7×57mm Mauser, .280 Remington, .284 Winchester, and 7mm-08 Rem.), and concluded: "But consider everything -- performance, recoil, rifle size and weight, rifle availability, ammunition availability and selection -- and the winner, rather to my surprise, is the 7mm-08 Remington. Ten years ago, even five years ago, I wouldn't have said that. But this efficient, effective little cartridge is a good one, and it's going to be around for a long time."
Its comparison with the 270 Win. is complicated. Clay Harvey, for instance, says the 7mm-08 is "definitely inferior ballistically." Remington Arms has its 140 grain load producing 2,960 ft/s (900 m/s) which is better than the 2,860 ft/s (870 m/s) produced by the 140-grain 7mm-08 load. The complicating factor is that, according to Edward A. Matunas, the .270 Win. "is not well served by factory ammunition. Velocities often vary widely and frequently are well below advertised levels." An example: Remington's own ballistic tables lists its only 150-grain 270 Win. loading, a Soft Point Core-Lokt (not a Pointed Soft Point Core-Lokt), as having a MV of 2,850 ft/s (870 m/s) and retaining 1,587 fpe at 200 yards. A 7mm-08 load with a more efficient 150gr Nosler Partition at 2,700 ft/s (820 m/s) MV retains 1,790 fpe at 200 yards and 1,525 fpe at 300. Careful handloading with a bullet of higher BC should restore the gain the 270 Win. brings through its larger case. John Barsness says, however, that his wife Eileen has "recently discovered that the 7mm-08 kicks noticeably less than her old favorite the .270 WCF with similar results in the field."
The .30-06 is significantly more powerful in its 165-180gr loads, especially when handloads or factory loads with bullets of good BC are used. However, Remington lists its .30-06 150gr PSP Core-Lokt as retaining 1,445 fpe at 300 yards, while listing its 140gr 7mm-08 PSP Core-Lokt with 1490 fpe at the same distance. In 1981 Ken Waters looked at Remington's (then) PSP loads and had this to say about the 140gr 7mm-08 PSP: "From this we must conclude that it betters the 150-gr. 308 in all respects, and is about equal ballistically to Remington's 150-gr. PSP loading for the 30-06. Quite a billing, wouldn't you say?"
Bob Bell says "the little 7mm/08 equals or surpasses a surprising number of popular loads and is so close to the others that it makes one wonder if their edge is worth their attendant muzzle blast, recoil and rifle weight" when hunting deer, antelope, and caribou.
The caliber has also found some loyal adherents in Europe such that Prvi Partizan (Serbia) offers an economical 140 gr (2860 fps) SPBT loading (available in the US as well). British munitions enthusiasts are especially keen to point out the development of the .280 British round shortly after WW2, which ironically was ultimately rejected by the United States.
The 7mm-08 is popular in countries whose laws prohibit the civilian ownership of firearms chambered for military cartridges like the .308 Winchester/7.62×51mm NATO or .30-06 Springfield.
Since the 7mm-08 is fairly popular, most major hunting firearm manufacturers in the USA have one or more bolt action rifles chambered for the round. Because of the cartridge's efficiency in shorter barrels, Savage, Browning, Weatherby, and Remington offer it in carbine models as well as in guns with regular barrel lengths.
Browning offers it in several versions of their box fed lever-action rifle, the BLR, and in their gas-operated semiautomatic rifle called the BAR ShortTrac Stalker. Remington Arms offers a DPMS manufactured version of the AR-10, called the Model R-25, in 7mm-08. The Tikka rifles made by Sako also offers the 7mm-08 throughout their entire line of rifles. Ruger offers a few bolt-action rifles in this former wildcat round as well multiple models from Savage. Kimber, known for their fine 1911 pistols, offers a number of rifles in the 7mm-08 as well.