Choosing a calibre
To start with, the term calibre simply refers to the diameter of the bullet and the corresponding hole through the barrel. The designation of a calibre, eg 7.62x51mm, means that the bullet is 7.62mm in diameter (or the diameter around the grooves in the barrel is 7.62mm). The second number refers to the length of the brass case the bullet is seated in. For example, we can tell by looking at the .30-06 (or 7.62x63mm) and the .308 (or 7.62x51mm) that the rounds are broadly similar but the .30-06 has a much longer case.
Choosing a calibre can be quite a bewildering task and really depends on what you intend to shoot - varmints, game or targets? Many calibres have various uses, the .308 Winchester is used for hunting and target shooting all over the world. Other calibres are generally just used for specific tasks - the relatively new .204 Ruger, for example, tends to be used for pest control exclusively; it is a popular foxing calibre in the UK. One thing very noticeable if you study the bullet weight versus energy figures is that speed is more of a factor than weight. If you double the weight of a projectile for a given velocity you only double the energy. However, if you double the velocity of a projectile for a given weight, the energy is multiplied by a factor of four.
The following 48 calibres include all the cartridges you are likely to see used for target shooting and hunting as well as a number of historically interesting rounds and various military rounds in use today.
1) .50 BMG
The .50 calibre Browning Machine Gun (or 12.7x99mm) is pretty much the king of all the 'standard' centrefire cartridges. It was designed by John Browning during WWI as an anti-aircraft weapon and was based on a scaled-up .30-06 round. The new .50 cal heavy machine gun Browning created was designated the Browning 'M2'. The M2 was, and still is, used all over the world with airborne, armoured and ground troops. Nowadays, the .50 BMG is also available and widely used in bolt-action and semi-automatic sniper and target rifles for military use and civilian target shooting, even in the UK. Interestingly, in 2004 the State of California passed an act banning civilian ownership of .50 BMG calibre citing concerns that widespread use of .50 BMG rifles posed a terrorist threat, as well as a threat to the "health, safe, and security of all residents" of California. In actual fact, no citizen of California has ever been deliberately harmed by a .50 cal rifle. As a result of the ban, the Barrett Firearms Company announced "it would no longer sell to or service any of its rifles in the possession of any California government agency" - result! The velocity of a 700 grain bullet is around 3,000 FPS giving an amazing 14,000 foot pounds energy.
2) .416 Barrett
The .416 Barrett cartridge was designed in 2005 by Pete Forras who recently retired from Barrett. It is an alternative to the .50 BMG in long-range large calibre rifles. It was designed in response to a request for a medium to heavy rifle and cartridge combination that was issued from Naval Surface Warfare Centre, Crane Division, in late 2004. The cartridge fires a CNC-machined solid brass bullet designed using NACA low supersonic drag equations. These super-efficient bullets launched at 3,250 feet per second stay supersonic to an amazing 2,500 yards. The .416 Barrett fires a 400 grain projectile at 3,250 FPS generating 9,400 foot pounds energy.
3) .408 CheyTac
The .408 CheyTac (short for 'Cheyenne Tactical') was developed by Dr. John D. Taylor with the help of machinist William O. Wordman to fill the gap between the .338 Lapua Magnum and the .50BMG. It was designed to provide an anti-personnel, anti-sniper and anti-matériel round. All current .408 CheyTac ammunition is unusual in that it is made from a proprietary copper-nickel alloy rather than conventional copper-jacketed lead. The bullets are individually turned on Swiss-type CNC machines by Lost River Ballistic Technologies to ensure the tremendous precision required. Due to the mono-metal construction and the unique turned design, the bullets have a tremendously high ballistic co-efficient of approximately 0.934 and the 419 grain projectile remains supersonic in flight to over 2,200 yards and even remains stable as it drops below the speed of sound. The .408 CheyTac typically fires a 419 grain projectile at 3,000 FPS giving an impressive 8,400 foot pounds energy.
4) .416 Rigby
The .416 Rigby (or 10.6x74mm) was designed in 1911 by John Rigby & Company of London as a dangerous game cartridge and was the first to use a bullet with a diameter of .416". The rifles, as built by John Rigby & Co., were initially made up on original magnum Mauser actions although in later years some were made on normal length actions, a perfect example being the rifle used by legendary professional hunter Harry Selby. The cartridge case is one of the largest ever designed for a bolt-action rifle and the huge case capacity allowed for good performance without creating excessive chamber pressure. Like many British cartridges of this era, the intended use would have been hunting dangerous game in hot countries such as Africa. The cartridge was originally loaded with Cordite, a powder that resembles long spaghetti strands that burns very hot and is sensitive to changes in ambient temperature. Large increases in chamber pressure often resulted under such conditions, making it difficult to extract fired higher-pressure cartridge cases and reload. The large case and relatively low pressure made the .416 Rigby virtually immune to this problem. This was vitally important considering that being charged by irate or wounded animals is not unheard of! The .416 Rigby is still an extremely popular big game cartridge for Africa and, increasingly, the USA. The .416 Rigby typically fires a 400 grain bullet at 2,400 FPS generating 5,100 foot pounds energy.
5) .338 Lapua Magnum
The .338 Lapua Magnum (or 8.58x70mm) was created by Lapua of Finland in conjunction with Accuracy International of Great Britain as an anti-matériel and anti-personnel sniper round, although the .50BMG is more suited to anti-matériel duties. The current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have made it a combat-proven round. As a hunting round, it is capable of taking any land animal in the world although some African countries specify .375 cal as a minimum. It must also be noted that this round is prohibited in countries that forbid private ownership of military calibres. The .338 Lap Mag typically fires a 250 grain bullet at 3,000 FPS giving a total of 4,900 foot pounds energy
6) .375 Ruger
The .375 Ruger (or 9.5x65.5mm) was created by the partnership of Hornady and Sturm Ruger. They wanted to create a cartridge with .375 H&H performance but in a package better suited to modern rifle designs. The case is no longer than a .30-06 case so normal long action receivers can accommodate the cartridge. The Ruger case holds a few more grains of powder than the H&Hs case so the engineers knew matching the .375 H&H performance was a reasonable proposition. As it turned out the wide, minimally tapering case allowed for extremely efficient powder combustion and even with shorter barrels, the Ruger cartridge is around 200 FPS faster with lighter 250-270 bullets and around 100 FPS faster with the heavier 300 grain bullets. As the .375 Ruger fits into smaller, lighter 'normal' rifles than the more exotic dangerous animal cartridges, perceived recoil is said to be slightly greater than the .375 H&H. It typically fires a 270 grain bullet at 2,750 FPS generating 4,400 foot pounds energy.
7) .375 H&H Magnum
The .375 Holland and Holland Magnum is arguably the classic hunting cartridge. It was introduced by Holland and Holland in Great Britain in 1912 and was originally called the .375 Belted Rimless Nitro-Express. With relatively light 235-270 grain bullets, it is a flat shooting round perfect for light to medium sized animals. Loaded with the heavier 300 grain bullets, it has the knock down power to deal with large, thick-skinned animals. In many regions with thick-skinned dangerous game animals the .375 H&H is seen as the sensible minimum acceptable calibre, and in many parts of Africa .375 is now the legal minimum permitted calibre. African game guides, professional hunters and dangerous game cullers have repeatedly voted the .375 H&H as their clear preference for an all-round calibre. It typically fires a 270 grain bullet at 2,700 FPS giving 4,350 foot pounds energy.
.338 Winchester Magnum
The .338 Winchester Magnum was introduced by Winchester in 1958. It is based on the .458 Winchester Magnum and is suitable for all kinds of large game in North America ie Moose, Elk and Caribou. Interestingly, it is the most popular hunting calibre in Alaska where Polar and Grizzly bears can be encountered whilst hunting edible species. The only person I know who has a rifle in this calibre is Dave Ryan, the owner of Minsterley Ranges in Shropshire, who uses it for boar hunting. It typically fires a 250 grain bullet at 2,650 FPS giving 3,900 foot pounds energy.
9) .300 Winchester Short Magnum
Usually known as the .300 'Whizzum', the .300 Winchester Short Magnum was introduced in 2001 by Winchester in a move towards shorter cartridges based on existing designs, in this case the .300 Winchester Magnum. This allows shorter, stiffer actions to be utilised in rifles which is thought to aid accuracy. It typically propels a 165 grain projectile at 3,200 FPS giving 3,800 foot pounds energy.
The 9.3x74R was invented in Germany circa 1900 and was designed to be used in non-bolt-action rifles, particularly double-rifles and single shot rifles. It is very popular in Europe for wild boar, in driven hunts or stalking. Initially designed for large European game like moose and brown bear, dangerous game hunters started taking rifles chambered for the cartridge to Africa on safaris. It remains a popular cartridge in African hunting, particularly in countries with German influence like Namibia, where it is seen as a continental alternative to the more popular .375 H&H Magnum. Outside Europe, Ruger still creates rifles in this cartridge, notably the Ruger No. 1. I have included this round because I have fired a rifle of this calibre in a friends double-rifle, I was expecting shoulder-busting recoil but it was surprisingly manageable. The long, narrow case design with a barely discernible shoulder is typical of older rifle cartridges that were designed to run at lower than normal pressure, important in a dangerous game rifle where ejection of spent cases and a quick reload was critical. The 9.3x74R typically fires a 286 grain bullet at 2,350 FPS generating 3,500 foot pounds energy.
11) .300 Remington SAUM
Not quite as popular as the .300 Whizzum(WSM), the .300 Remington Short Action Ultra Magnum was introduced by Remington in 2001 in answer to the .300 Whizzum(WSM) and followed the trend for shorter, fatter cases. The .300 Remington SAUM typically propels a 180 grain bullet at 2,950 FPS giving3,500 foot pounds energy.
12) .300 Winchester Magnum
The .300 Winchester Magnum (or 7.62x67mm) was created by Winchester in 1963 as part of their Magnum range. It is a large game and long range target shooting round. It is used in long range bench-rest shooting competitions and has been adopted by law enforcement professionals and military snipers although it is being superseded by more recent cartridge designs. It typically propels a 180 grain projectile at 2,950 FPS giving 3,450 foot pounds energy.
13) 7mm Winchester Short Magnum
The 7mm Winchester Short Magnum, or 'Whizzum', was created by Winchester in conjunction with the Browning Arms Company in 2001. It is based on the .300 Whizzum cartridge necked down to take 0.284" bullets. The 7mm Whizzum is an ideal round the hunting of larger mule deer, elk and bear and the long-range target shooting community is beginning to take a real interest in this round. In terms of ability to cheat the wind and retain energy downrange, the 7mm bullet is a great compromise between the 6.5mm and .30 calibre bullets traditionally used. The 7mm Whizzum typically fires a 140 grain bullet at 3,200 FPS generating 3,200 foot pounds energy.
14) .30-06 Springfield
The .30-06 (or 7.62x63mm) is a .30 calibre round that was created by the US Military in 1906, hence it's name; it is generally pronounced 'thirty-ought-six'. The .30-06 was predominantly a military cartridge and saw action in both rifles and machine guns from the early 1900s until it was phased out in the 1970s when it was superseded by the 7.62x51mm. Nowadays, it is the most popular hunting cartridge in America and is typically loaded with bullets weighing 150-180 grains at velocities of around 2,850 FPS giving 2,800-3,300 foot pounds energy.
15) 8mm Mauser
Also known as the 7.92x57mm or 8x57mm, both of which are suffixed with I or IS in Europe and J or JS in America. The 8mm Mauser was designed by the German Rifle Commission in 1888 for use in Model 1888 Commission Rifle, or Gewehr 98 (G98). The original 8mm Mauser round was a relatively low pressure cartridge and fired a round-nosed .318 projectile, this was the 7.92x57 I (I standing for infantry). This I was misinterpreted and became the 7.92x57J in America. The cartridge was soon improved to fire a .323" pointed bullet at far greater pressure and was known as the 7.92x57IS, the IS standing for 'Infanterie, Spitz' or 'Infantry, Pointed'. The improved cartridge was famously used in the Gewehr 98 and Karabiner 98k, the standard German infantry rifles of World War 2 as well as the fearsome MG34 and MG42 machine guns. Typically loaded with bullets weighing around 190 grains fired at velocities of 2,700 FPS giving 3,000 foot pounds energy.
16) 7x64 Brenneke
At the start of the 20th century, famous German gunmaker and ammunition designer Wilhelm Brenneke was creating new cartridges based on lengthening existing cartridges to provide extra muzzle velocity. In 1912, he created the commercially unsuccessful 8x64mm S cartridge which the German military turned down, choosing to stick with the 8mm Mauser. In 1917, Brenneke necked his unsuccessful 8x64mm S down to 7mm and achieved major commercial success. The cartridge offered around 10-12% more muzzle velocity that the 7mm Mauser giving more range and a flatter trajectory. It was so popular in Germany between the first and second world wars that many hunters considered it a miracle cartridge and dozens of different loadings were commercially available. It was so highly regarded that in the 1930s, the Wehrmacht considered it for their snipers but like the army they decided to stick with the 8mm Mauser. The 7x64 is one of the favourite hunting cartridges across central Europe and is offered by every European hunting rifle manufacturer; there is also a rimmed version of the cartridge known as the 7x65mm R designed for double-rifles and drillings. The long, heavy bullets have a high sectional density and offer excellent penetration and knock down power and loaded with lighter bullets, it is ideal for smaller game such as chamois and roe deer. Loaded with heavier bullets, it is good for larger game such as boar, red deer, moose and brown bear. The 7x64 Brenneke typically fires a 154 grain bullet at 2,900 FPS generating 2,900 foot pounds of energy.
The 6.5x68 rifle cartridge was developed in the 1930s by Mr. Schüler from the August Schüler Waffenfabrik in Suhl, Germany as magnum hunting cartridges that would just fit and function in standard sized Mauser 98 bolt action rifles. The German ammunition manufacturer RWS introduced both cartridges commercially in the spring of 1939. World War II spoiled the commercial introduction and spread of the 6.5x68 but the cartridge became popular after World War II due to its high performance and flat trajectory, when German hunters were allowed again to own and hunt with full bore rifles. The 6.5x68 is still popular in Austria and Germany for long-range hunting in mountainous terrain like the Alps mountain range. RWS produces the only two commercially available rounds in this calibre so the round is popular with reloaders. 6.5x68 brass is very thick and the case has proved popular with wildcatters. Rounds derived from the 6.5x68 case include the .25x68, .270x68, 7x68mm, .30x68, .338x68, .375x68 and even the .416x68. I have included this round because I know of someone who shoots F-class with one despite the rounds reputation as a ferocious barrel burner. The 6.5x68 typically fires a 127 grain bullet at 3,100 FPS generating 2,800 foot pounds energy.
The 6.5-284 has exploded on the international shooting scene in recent years. It is based on the .284 Winchester, a round created to give 7mm bullet performance in a shorter action than the .30-06. The .284 Winchester never really caught on however and the cases are now necked down to 6.5mm and used as the basis for a superb long-range target round. It is becoming increasingly popular and is starting to replace the .30 cal rounds as the long-range cartridge of choice. It typically fires a 142 grain bullet at 3,000 FPS giving 2,800 foot pounds energy.
The 7.62x54R was created for the Mosin-Nagant rifle in 1891 and is still used today in the Dragunov and other sniper rifles and the modern PKM machine gun. It's age, rich military history and similar ballistics mean it is often referred to as the 'Russian .30-06'. The 7.62x54R is colloquially referred to as the '7.62 Russian', not to be confused with the 7.62x39 cartridge which is known as the '7.62 Soviet'. The long, heavy bullets used in military ammunition give excellent ballistic efficiency and the rounds stay supersonic to over 1,000 yards at sea level. It is widely used as a hunting cartridge in Russia, mainly in sporterised Mosin-Nagant rifles. Some Russian hunters say it is too powerful to shoot moose but bears and polar bears are frequently hunted with it. It typically fires a 150 grain bullet at 2,850 FPS giving 2,750 foot pounds energy.
20) .270 Winchester
Developed by Winchester in 1923, the .270 Win was released in 1925 for their bolt-action Model 54 rifle. Despite the .270 Win being a powerful, flat-shooting round adoption was initially slow. It is now among the most popular hunting cartridges in the world. Take up in the UK has been slower due to the perceived harsh recoil and noise of the cartridge. Recently, the increasingly positive attitude of British Police towards sound moderators (which help reduce recoil) has led to an increase in popularity and the .270 Win is especially popular with deer stalkers for it's long range and punch. A more modern development of this cartridge is the .270 Winchester Short Magnum (WSM) which utilises the same bullet but a shorter, fatter case. A typical load for the .270 would be a 130 grain bullet propelled at 3,060 FPS giving approximately 2,700 foot pounds energy.
21) .284 Winchester
The .284 Winchester was introduced by Winchester in 1963 but proved commercially rather unsuccessful. It was an attempt to provide a 7mm cartridge that fitted a short action but had the powder capacity of the .270 Winchester and .280 Remington. When heavier bullets are loaded, they have to be seated quite deeply in the case which reduces the powder capacity to that of the .280 Remington. For hill stalking, the .284 Winchester loaded with 130 grain bullets at 3,100 FPS will do anything the .270 Winchester will do and it will do it in a short action rifle. Larger game calls for bullets weighing from 150 to 160 grains where the depth of seating required can negate the extra powder capacity of the case. The .284 is showing something of a resurgence for long range and F-class shooting where there is increasing appreciation for 7mm bullets, especially the heavier VLD designs. The .284 Winchester typically fires a 150 grain bullet at 2,800 FPS generating 2,700 foot pounds energy.
22) .308 Winchester
The .308 Winchester (or 7.62x51mm) cartridge was introduced by the company in 1952. It was the commercial designation for the 7.62x51mm military round that Winchester were to release two years later. Until the introduction of the 5.56x45mm as the standard NATO round, the 7.62x51mm was the standard military rifle round in the UK and the USA; in the L1A1 SLR and the M14 rifle respectively. It is still the standard machine gun round in both countries, in the M240 (previously the M60) in the US and the GPMG in the UK. It is an extremely common round worldwide and is used for both hunting and target shooting. If you join a shooting club in the UK, chances are most people will have .308 rifles. It typically propels a 168 grain bullet at 2,650 FPS giving 2,600 foot pounds energy.
23) 7.5x55 Swiss
Based on a paper-patched cartridge created in 1889 for the first Schmidt-Rubin rifles, the 7.5x55 Swiss as we know it was finalised in 1923 with a switch to a standard copper jacketed bullet and smokeless powder rather than the previously used semi-smokeless powder. The cartridge saw extensive service until the early 1990s and is now largely obsolete but nevertheless still sees use by Swiss Army reservists and many recreational target shooters. Interestingly, because of the bore and land diameter of the design, 7.5x55 cartridges can be loaded with standard .308 bullets although the standard Swiss military GP11 ammunition is considered so good it is still used by the majority of competitive shooters, at least in Switzerland. A typical load for the 7.5x55 would be a 174 grain bullet propelled at 2,550 FPS giving approximately 2,500 foot pounds energy.
24) 7mm Mauser
Also known as the 7x57 and, in the UK, the .275 Rigby, the 7mm Mauser was created in 1892 by Mauser and adopted by Spain as it's military cartridge in 1893. Several other countries subsequently adopted it as their military cartridge and although it is long obsolete as a military round, it is still extremely popular worldwide as a sporting cartridge. The long, heavy bullets fired by the 7mm Mauser have a high sectional density (similar to the 6.5x55 cartridge) which provides great penetration and knock down power on animals. The famous ivory hunter W. D. M. Bell actually shot and killed 1,011 elephants with a 7mm Mauser rifle! An amazing feat but one that stresses the importance of correct bullet placement. A typical load for the 7mm Mauser would be a 162 grain bullet propelled at 2,600 FPS giving approx. 2,450 foot pounds energy.
The 7mm-08 is a direct copy of a wildcat cartridge developed around 1958 known as the 7mm-308. As the name suggests, it is simply a .308 Winchester case necked down to take a 7mm bullet. The cartridge became the 7mm-08 and became 'factory' when Remington chambered their Model 700 and 708 for the round in 1980. The 7mm-08 is a useful hunting round as it fires bullets of a similar weight to the .308 and .30-06 but the smaller diameter 7mm bullets have a higher ballistic co-efficient so are flatter shooting and less affected by wind. It typically fires a 140 grain bullet at 2,800 FPS giving 2,400 foot pounds energy.
26) .260 Remington
Previously known as the 6.5-08 A-Square, the .260 Remington was formalised by Remington in 1997 and is one of the many new calibres formed from .308 Winchester brass. Ballistically, with bullets upto 140 grains, it is a similar cartridge to the 6.5x55mm Swedish Mauser although the 6.5 Swede can push heavier bullets to higher velocities. One advantage the .260 Remington has over the Swede is that it can be chambered in a shorter action. It typically fires a 140 grain bullet at 2,750 FPS giving 2,350 foot pounds energy.
27) 6.5x55 Swedish Mauser
The 6.5x55 Swedish Mauser was created by a Norwegian-Swedish committee in 1891 for use in new rifles both countries were considering at the time. The 6.5x55 Swede, as it tends to be called, is one of the most popular hunting calibres used in Europe due to it's combination of high power, moderate recoil and the extremely high BC of the heavy 6.5mm bullets. It is even fairly popular in America where patriotism generally favours home grown calibres such as the .30-06 and .30-30. This is probably due to the number of military 6.5x55 rifles that ended up in America after WWII. As a calibre, 6.5x55 is showing something of a resurgence among UK stalkers and target shooters alike.
Like all old military calibres, care must be taken when reloading this round. Modern rifles like mine can take far higher pressures and velocities than the older WWII rifles. A typical load for the 6.5x55 would be a 140 grain bullet propelled at 2,700 FPS giving approx. 2,300 foot pounds energy.
28) .303 British
The .303 British is one of the worlds legendary cartridges; it is the round that helped Britain win the first and second world wars. Developed in the 1880s as a black powder round, it converted to cordite in 1891 and then to smokeless propellant in 1910 with the Mk.7 round. The .303 was first used in the Lee-Metford which replaced the Martini-Henry in 1888. This was soon superseded by the SMLE Mk.1 in 1904 and the SMLE Mk.3 in 1907. In 1939, the SMLE was replaced by the Lee-Enfield No.4 Mk.1 which was itself replaced by the No.4 Mk.2 shortly after the war. The Lee-Enfield No.4 Mk.2 remained the standard rifle of the British army until it was replaced by the 7.62x51mm L1A1 SLR towards the end of the 1950s. There are still hundreds of thousands of SMLEs and No.4s in use around the world, both as hunting and target rifles. They typically propel a 174 grain bullet at around 2,400 FPS giving 2,225 foot pounds energy.
29) .243 Winchester Super Short Magnum
The .243 Winchester Super Short Magnum is a fairly new rifle cartridge, introduced in 2003. It uses a shortened .300 Winchester Short Magnum case necked down to take a 6mm bullet. I have included it as an example of the trend for short, and super-short, magnums. The philosophy is that the shorter, fatter powder column burns more quickly and efficiently giving less turbulence at the muzzle. The shorter actions required for this type of round can be shorter and stiffer than a longer action theoretically giving even more accuracy potential. The SM and SSM cartridges were initially very popular but they have turned out to be so called 'barrel burners' due to the faster, more intense burn and are still quite controversial among shooters. The .243 WSSM typically fires an 80 grain bullet at 3,500 FPS generating 2,200 foot pounds energy.
30) .243 Winchester
The .243 Winchester was introduced in 1955 by Winchester. Based on a .308 case necked down to 6mm, it quickly became a huge success. Since the 1963 Deer Act which stipulated a minimum of .240 calibre with a minimum muzzle energy of 1,700 foot pounds, the .243 has become one of the standard UK deer rounds. Along with stalking use, it was used by the L.A.P.D. SWAT teams in their early days and, although not popular for target shooting in the UK, it makes an excellent 1,000 yard target round. It typically propels a 100 grain bullet at 3,000 FPS giving 2,000 foot pounds energy.
31) 6mm BR
Although invented in the UK, the 6mm BR ('BR' stands for bench rest) has taken America by storm. 6PPC is perhaps more accurate to 300 yards but 6mm BR holds many records at 300- and 600 yards (and even some at 1000). The 6mm BR, also called 6mm Norma BR, was created by Norma who started with the 6mm Remington Bench rest case and made the neck longer and increased the base dimension slightly to give the 6mm BR we have today. It is accurate, easy to load for and is easy on barrels which makes it an extremely popular bench rest calibre. The 6mm BR typically fires a 105 grain bullet at 2,950 FPS giving 2,000 foot pounds energy.
32) 6.5 Carcano
The 6.5 Carcano, or 6.5 Mannlicher-Carcano to give it it's full name, was officially adopted by the Italian Army in March 1890 and actually preceded the rifle it was created for, the M91 Carcano rifle. The cartridge was commissioned by the Commission for Portable Weapons in 1888 to develope a new smokeless military cartridge. The Royal Pyrotechnical Laboratory of Bologna came up with various designs ranging from 6.5 to 8mm. Major Antonio Benedetti, of the Brescia Arsenal, Secretary of the Commission, was strongly in favour of smaller calibre cartridges so the 6.5 Carcano was chosen. Compared to the cartridges of the day such as the .303 British, the 8mm Mauser and the .30-06, many thought the cartridge would lack in performance. The long, narrow bullet design however meant the bullet had excellent trajectory and penetrating power. In fact, the round-nosed Italian military bullets proved to be extremely stable in flight and produced alot of 'straight though' wounds. Modern ammunition for the hunter using this cartridge is produced with normal soft- or hollow-point bullets. The 6.5 Carcano has the dubious honour of being the cartridge Lee Harvey Oswald used to assassinate President John F. Kennedy in 1963. The 6.5 Carcano usually fires a 162 grain bullet at 2,300 FPS generating 1,900 foot pounds energy.
33) 6.5 Grendel
Developed in 2002 by Bill Alexander of Alexander Arms, the 6.5 Grendel was an evolution of Dr. Lou Palmisano's 6.5 PPC cartridge and was developed to provide a more powerful, longer range cartridge for the AR15 platform. Using the same long, high BC 6.5mm bullets as the 6.5x55 Swede and many other bench rest cartridges, it extends the range of the AR15's native .223 cartridge to allow it to compete at upto 1,000 yards. It typical propels a 123 grain bullet at 2,650 FPS giving around 1,900 foot pounds energy.
34) .30-30 Winchester
The .30-30 Winchester (or 7.62x51mm R) cartridge was first marketed in early 1895 for the Winchester Model 1894 lever-action rifle. It was originally known as the .30 Winchester Centerfire cartridge but Winchester's competitor, Marlin, didn't like to put the name Winchester on it's rifles. Marlin's designation came from the fact the cartridge used 30 grains of smokeless powder. Over time, the .30-30 name stuck. The .30-30 was America's first small-bore sporting rifle cartridge designed for smokeless powder and is still one of the commonest deer cartridges in North America. Because most of the rifles chambered in .30-30 are under-lever rifles, cartridges tend to have rounded or flat noses. This eliminates the danger of recoil causing pointed bullets in a tubular magazine accidentally setting each other off, harming the user. To eliminate this threat and increase speed and range of the bullets, ammunition maker Hornady have recently brought out a range of ammunition called 'Leverevolution'. This ammunition used a pointed tip made of soft polymer. The pointed shape increases the speed of the round and improves it's trajectory while the soft tip ensures the ammo is safe in the magazine under recoil. The .30-30 typically fires a 150 grain bullet at 2,400 FPS generating 1,900 foot pounds energy.
35) 6.8 SPC
The 6.8 SPC (or 6.8x43mm) was developed in-house by the United States Special Operations Command who were trying to design a cartridge that could be adapted to current weapons platforms but had significantly more power than the 5.56 Nato. Whilst researching the book 'Cartridges of the World', one of developers decided that the .30 Remington was midway in bore size and powder capacity between the 7.62 Nato and the 5.56 Nato whilst having roughly he same case length as the latter. The designers tried 5.5mm, 6mm and 7mm and other 'military' calibres until someone suggested trying a .270 calibre bullet. It was assembled and tried and the 6.8 SPC was born (SPC standing for Special Purpose cartridge). The cartridge is roughly the same size as 5.56 Nato but has 40+ % more stopping power and far less weight and recoil than cartridges like the 7.62 Nato. Barrett Firearms were the first to offer an M16/M4 style rifle in the calibre with their M468, later renamed the REC7, although most of the major AR15 manufacturers offer rifles chambered for 6.8 SPC. The 6.8 SPC fires a 115 grain bullet at 2,625 FPS 1,760 foot pounds energy.
36) .45-70 Government
The .45-70, also known as .45-70 Government, was developed at the U.S. Army's Springfield Armoury for use in the Springfield Model 1873 .45 calibre rifle, known colloquially as the "Trapdoor Springfield". It remained the official military round of the USA until 1893, long after the rest of the world started adopting smokeless powder. The new cartridge was a replacement for the stop-gap .50-70 Government cartridge which had been adopted in 1866, one year after the end of the American Civil War. The cartridge was originally called the .45-70-405 because it was .45 calibre and used 70 grains of black powder to fire a 405 grain lead bullet. After tests in 1879, a new version of the cartridge was introduced that fired a 500 grain bullet; this was known as the .45-70-500. Although it had superior ballistic performance to the .45-70, it was only really aimable to 1,000 yards but could still penetrate three inches of oak boards at 3,500 yards - easily enough energy to kill an enemy soldier! The nominal bore of the .45-70 is .45" but the groove diameter of the barrel is normally .458" to allow for the paper patch that the bullets were wrapped in to prevent barrel leading. Modern bullets in the .45-70 tends to be of 0.458" diameter with grease grooves to reduce leading. The .45-70 reached obsolescence in the early 1900s and alot of the surplus rifles were given to Native Americans to use as hunting rifles. Modern rifles such as the Ruger No.1 and others have much stronger breeches than original military rifles and the home loader can load the .45-70 to far higher pressures than would be safe in older guns. The .45-70 typically fires a 405 grain bullet at 1,400 FPS generating 1,750 foot pounds energy.
The .22-250 started out in 1937 as a wildcat cartridge created by necking a .250 Savage case down to take a .224 bullet. There were originally several versions but the calibre was standardised (made 'factory') when Remington produced the 700 and 40XB target rifles in 1965. It is particularly popular as a varmint and pest control round in localities that suffer alot of wind, the small calibre and high speed help the bullet combat wind drift. In the UK, the .22-250 is extremely popular as a foxing round. It typically propels a 55 grain bullet at 3,600 FPS giving 1,600 foot pounds energy.
The Soviet 7.62x39mm cartridge was designed during World War II and first used in the SKS carbine. Shortly after WWII, the AK-47 assault rifle was designed for the cartridge. The cartridge remained the standard Soviet cartridge until the 1970s and is still by far the most common intermediate rifle cartridge used around the world. It's successor, the 5.45x39mm cartridge is slightly less powerful but is more controllable in fully automatic fire due to the lower recoil. The change was in part a response to NATO switching from the 7.62x51mm cartridge to 5.56x45mm. The 7.62x39mm is not a particularly powerful round given the relatively small case volume and heavy, low BC bullet. The AK-47 is fairly popular in the UK when converted to straight-pull and is practical out to about 300 yards. The 7.62x39mm typically fires a 123 grain bullet at 2,300 FPS giving 1,500 foot pounds energy.
39) 6mm PPC
Developed in 1975 by Louis Palmisano and Ferris Pindell (the 'PPC' name stands for 'Palmisano and Pindell Cartridge'), the 6PPC is widely considered to be the most accurate rifle cartridge ever invented. There is something about the steep neck angle, nearly parallel case sides, small primer and flash hole and the ratio of the case diameter to the bore that seems be just right. Nobody is entirely sure why it is so amazingly accurate but the 6PPC absolutely dominates in 100, 200 and 300 yard bench rest competition shooting. 6mm bullets are widely available and the cases are easily made by necking down Lapua .220 Russian brass cases. Sako of Finland make a factory round called 6PPC USA but these cartridges won't fit most tightly chambered bench rest rifles. The 6PPC typically fires a 62 grain bullet at 3,300 FPS giving 1,500 foot pounds energy.
40) .204 Ruger
Announced in 2004, the .204 Ruger was developed jointly between the gun maker Ruger and ammunition maker Hornady. It's big claim to fame is that it is the fastest commercially available 'factory' cartridge at 4,225 FPS. This velocity is not available to hand loaders as Hornady use a proprietary propellant although just under 4,200 FPS is possible with standard propellants. The .204 Ruger is becoming a popular varmint round in both the USA and the UK (especially for foxes). Standard velocity for a 32 grain bullet is 4,225 FPS for just under 1,300 foot pounds energy.
41) .223 Ackley Improved
I have included the .223AI as an example of 'Ackleyising'. Peter Ackley was a famous American wildcatter and gun nut who spent his life experimenting with guns and ammunition. Most cartridges can be Ackleyised. It involved cutting a chamber with much greater shoulder angle , usually combined with making the case walls more parallel. This has two benefits, firstly it increases the powder capacity of the case making it potentially 'faster' and the steeper shoulder angle lessens neck stretching when the round is fired. This reduces the need to trim the cases between firings. The cases for AI cartridges can be formed in two ways. The first method involves loading a small amount of fast pistol powder into the empty case topped with some inert filler like semolina or rice. When the round is fired, the blast and heat blows the brass into the shape of the AI chamber. The second method involves loading a lightish bullet and a mildish powder charge and firing the rifle. The .223 AI typically fires a 55 grain bullet at 3,200 FPS generating 1,250 foot pounds energy.
42) .222 Remington
Invented in 1950 by Mike Walker of Remington, who also invented the famous Remington 700 rifle, the .222 was unusual in not being based on an existing cartridge but a totally fresh design. It's excellent inherent accuracy led to it being extremely popular for decades as a bench rest round and a varminting cartridge. The .222 was eventually surpassed in 1975 by the 6mm PPC, a very popular bench rest cartridge, but although falling out of favour slightly, the .222 is still around. The .222 case provided the basis for the .223 Remington (which largely led to the .222 falling out of favour), the .221 Fireball and the new .204 Ruger. The .222 Remington typically fires a 55 grain bullet at 3,100 FPS generating 1,200 foot pounds energy.
43) .223 Remington
The .223 Remington (or 5.56x45mm) was introduced in January 1964 just a month before it was adopted officially by the US military as the 5.56mm ball cartridge around which the Armalite AR-15, soon to be M16, was developed. The .223 is an extremely popular varmint round in the US and reasonably popular in the UK for foxing. The law in the UK has recently been changed to allow the use of .223 on Muntjac and Chinese Water. Military surplus ('milsurp') ammo is cheap and available but due to the shorter, tighter neck of the .223 chamber, it is inadvisable to shoot 5.56mm ball ammo in a .223 due to excessive chamber pressures generated. It typically propels a 55 grain bullet at 3,000 FPS giving 1,100 foot pounds energy.
The 5.45x39 was introduced into service in 1974 for the new AK-74 assault rifle. Over the next few years it replaced the 7.62x39 cartridge as the standard Soviet assault weapon cartridge. The new bullets were lighter so the rifles produced less recoil allowing more accurate fire than the previous 7.62 bullets. The bullets in this cartridge are of unusual design. The main core of the bullet is made of mild steel with a copper jacket. Behind the pointed tip of the bullet is a small air gap with a small amount of lead covering the front of the steel core. Upon impact, the lead expands because of the steel core following it. This allows the bullet some grip and splits open the copper jacket allowing the core to penetrate the target. In 1987 a steel rod in the original 7N6 bullets was hardened to 60 HRC. In 1992 the size of the steel penetrator was increased and the lead plug in front of it discarded. This bullet was designated the 7N10 "improved penetration". In 1994 the 7N10 design was improved by filling the air space with lead. The 7N22 armour-piercing bullet, introduced in 1998, has a sharp-pointed steel penetrator and retaining the soft lead plug in the nose for jacket discarding. The recent 7N24 "super-armour-piercing" bullet has a penetrator made of tungsten carbide. Reloading supplies for 5.45x39 are generally not available and milsurp ammo is berdan primed and has a dark red lacquer sealing the bullet and the primer to waterproof the round. It typically propels a 56 grain bullet at 2,850 FPS giving 1,000 foot pounds energy.
45) .17 Remington
The .17 Remington was introduced by Remington in 1971 for their 700 series of rifles. It is an excellent high velocity varmint round although it is heavily affected by wind as the tiny bullets have a poor ballistic coefficient. In still conditions, it is good for 2-300 yard shots on animals upto fox size. Typical velocity for a 25 grain bullet is 4,100 FPS giving nearly 940 foot pounds energy.
46) .221 Remington Fireball
In the early 1960s Remington was working on an experimental bolt-action pistol based on their model 600 action. They wanted a highly accurate pistol that would be well suited for competition. After working with the .222 Remington they realised that it contained more powder than was necessary for the shorter barrels that are used even by speciality pistols. Remington decided to base their new cartridge on a shortened version of the .222, optimised for their new XP-100 gun. The cartridge gained some popularity with silhouette shooters and varminters but still takes a back seat to the .223 Remington. The XP-100 pistol is no longer made but there still a couple of manufacturers making pistols in the calibre and a few rifles are chambered for it also. The .221 Fireball was popular with wildcatters who quickly necked it down to .17 calibre to create the .17 Mach IV. The .17 Mach IV has recently been made 'factory' by Remington themselves who called the 'new' round the .17 Remington Fireball. The .221 Fireball pistol typically fires a 55 grain bullet at 2,700 FPS generating 890 foot pounds energy.
47) .17 Remington Fireball
The .17 Remington Fireball was introduced by Remington in 2007. It was created as the 'factory' version of an extremely popular wildcat cartridge called the .17 Mach IV. The case of the .17 Rem Fireball is based on the case of the .221 Remington Fireball and the cartridge produces nearly the velocity of the .17 Remington with significantly less powder and consequent noise and barrel wear. Personally, I think this cartridge could supplant the .17 Remington. Typical velocity for a 25 grain bullet is 3,800 FPS giving nearly 800 foot pounds energy.
48) .22 Hornet
The .22 Hornet's origin is thought to derive from experiments done in the 1920s using the black-powder .22 WCF at Springfield Armoury in the USA. Winchester made the cartridge 'factory' in 1930, producing ammo for a calibre for which no commercially-made guns had been built. It wasn't until 1932 that commercially available rifles chambered for the .22 Hornet became available. Interestingly, the .22 Hornet was an extremely popular round in the UK for stalking Roe deer until the 1963 Deer Act made it redundant for lack of energy, in Scotland Roe now had to be shot with a minimum of 1,000 FPE whilst the requirement for all deer in England was set at 1,700 FPE. It is still a fairly popular round for controlling fox and other vermin in the UK. The .22 Hornet typically fires a 45 grain bullet at 2,780 FPS producing 775 foot pounds energy.
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