Fate or Fashion: Why Some Calibers Live Forever

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The small arms world is ripe with contradictions. In the edifice of ballistic paradox, there resides the haunting presence of some immortal designs. These concepts were likely never expected to live into our modern age by their designers and those who originally adopted them. Some think that the golden days of our armed tradition are long past, but I beg to differ. We live today in an era that idealizes the past while we have an uncertain future in terms of small arms and ammunition development.

I’ve been in numerous discussions with people over the years about the theory of small arms and the concepts of perfection and maximized performance. Most recently, the topic has been about the popularity of 6.5mm rifles, a trend that shows no signs of stopping. I’m not going to get into the depths of that here. What I will say is that there isn’t anything new about the 6.5mm rifle cartridge family. Nor is there anything truly new about most small arms technology.

So what makes a weapon family or a cartridge enjoy a long life? How is it that only a handful of calibers designed in the modern era have enjoyed success while so many of those well over a century old are still going strong? The answer is multifaceted.

The most significant thing I’ve discovered over months of research is that two key factors influence the success of a cartridge or a weapon. The first is armed service adoption. The second is fashion. These are the primary drivers of small arms popular success.

A common argument I get into with other gun people is the case of the .276 Pedersen. Many of the original Garand rifles were chambered for this round and it was a ballistic improvement over the .30-06 in service at the time. The cartridge was very similar in size to the modern 7mm-08 and offered the American soldier a superior system to any other in service at the time at a weight savings over competing cartridges.

The smallbore race began decades before the .276 Pedersen was designed and featured rounds that still exist today such as the 7.92x57mm, 6.5x55mm, 7x57mm, and .303 British. The main difference between these rounds? The four listed were adopted by various militaries while the .276 foundered and eventually was dumped for the .30-06.

Ultimately, the .30-06 lived on and is still among the most popular calibers worldwide. But why would the .276 not reach the fame some believe it deserved seeing as how it was supposedly better, logistics aside? That’s where fashion comes into play.

Fashion has as much to do with utility as it does popularity. You’ll notice distinct trends in the development of small arms and ammunition that go hand-in-hand with the cultural attitudes and commercial landscape of the time. The .30-06 survived because it never lost relevance to those looking to use it. Much like other turn-of-the-century cartridges, it was a wonder at the time it was introduced and, like the .30-30, .38 Special, .45 Colt, and .45-70, survives to today due to the fact that it had a significant cultural impact on our nation.

In recent years, the AR race has spawned many interesting and unique innovations. Among these are a host of small arms cartridges that exist solely because of the German 7.92x33mm, and by default their great-great grandfather, the 7.92x57mm.

The Germans designed the 7.92x33mm because of experiences learned in World War I. The 7.92x57mm wasn’t the ideal fighting round for the confines of the war and represented the ideal tool of the trenches. With the adoption and immediate combat use of the 7.92x33mm came the era of the intermediate cartridge. I have been corrected my many a person that the .276 was actually the first relatively successful intermediate round, but that isn’t true. The 7.92x33mm was superior in every single way to the .276 because it was one of the very few cartridge and weapon systems designed and perfected during wartime while the .276 was nothing but a theory.

It’s from the lessons learned with the 7.92x33mm that they Russians developed the 7.62x39mm, and with the help of captured Nazi designers, eventually came up with the venerable AK-47. It was because of this rifle and cartridge that the AR-15 was adopted. Say what you will, but few things are original ideas. Because of our 5.56x45mm the 5.45x39mm exists and so on and so forth.

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Variations on a theme: 5.56x45mm M855 ball and 5.45x39mm 7N6. Both of these cartridges can be found the world over.

History aside, the culture and fashion of the arms business gave birth to the most successful modern cartridge, the 300 AAC Blackout, or 7.62x35mm. This round isn’t anything particularly special, as it looks like wet garbage on a ballistics table and has a fairly short effective range. But it’s pure magic and infinitely superior to the 6.8x43mm and 6.5 Grendel.

It’s my prediction that .300AAC Blackout will continue to gain in popularity as the other two eventually drop from manufacturers’ catalogs. Why?

The merits of the .300AAC don’t come from its ballistics like so many others. In fact, it’s a step backwards in cartridge development by most standards. The thing that it has going for it is the devilish simplicity of its design and the fact that it’s an easy upgrade for existing AR rifles.

America is and always will be a .30 caliber nation thanks to our past. The .300AAC is the realization of the concept of the STG-44 in modern America and is the heir of the .30-30 to our hunters. It was the right round at the right time. It helped start today’s suppressor revolution by providing a viable subsonic ability to existing rifles and has continued to gain a greater and greater following as a result.

Ballisticians and cartridge theorists often get mad at me when I say these things (mostly because they know deep down that I’m right). Nobody cares what new round comes out these days. It could be a literal laser beam and nobody would bat an eye. People only care about things that work.

Sure, hobbyists and wildcatters will always be around, but if they can’t adapt,  their designs will be taken and made ours. There will always be a market for niche weapons and calibers, but don’t get your hopes up that the .276 will make a comeback. It wasn’t the right round then and it isn’t the right round now.

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The .300 AAC Blackout (center) will likely never overthrow the 5.56×45 above it, and it is vastly more popular than the 6.5 Grendel below it, despite being ‘inferior’ in most criteria.

So why is it that certain calibers just won’t die? I read a piece recently about the 7.62x54R cartridge. It wasn’t disparaging, but the author seemed to think he knew better than the Russian military as to their needs. The reason that the cartridge has been going strong since 1891 isn’t that it’s a legacy throwback like Garands. The 7.62x54R was perfected in 1891 and it’s been up to the task ever since. It is just as relevant today as it was back then and it will continue to miff armchair ballistics experts well into the future.

In point of fact, the 7.62x54R is enjoying an increased commercial following these days and high-end manufacturers like Lapua and Hornady continue to make ammunition and bullets for it. This is also the case with rounds like the .38 Special, which has been a wild success the world over for generations due to the fact that it works as well in the weapons designed for it today as it did back in 1898. The .38 Special is also enjoying increased popularity today as it serves as one of the most relied-upon concealed carry cartridges in the country.

Three years after the introduction of the .38 Special, the 9x19mm was adopted and has seen worldwide use ever since. The 9mm, a rather obscure caliber when it was created, would eventually eclipse nearly every other pistol cartridge in popularity and commercial following.

Then there’s the fading .40S&W which will probably fade into obscurity as police and government agencies drop it from their holsters in favor of 9x19mm. Much like the 10mm Auto before it, the .40S&W will likely virtually disappear until it’s again resurrected for a short period of time…only to be forgotten again.

So what then is it that decides which great idea makes it into our cultural lexicon? What products will receive endless hype, only to never catch on? How many wonder-rounds and uber-weapons enter production only to languish in the back of a gun store for eternity?

People are a fickle bunch. We all want something that doesn’t exist in our present and tend to look to our past for inspiration, only to discover that what we desire had been done long ago and we now have to find a way to make what is old new again.

comments

  1. avatar Daniluska Ozera says:

    Momentum, infrastructure investment, bias towards the familiar: all play a role because the real issue is human nature.
    Let’s try an analogy to clarify the point: why is the US the only major country to still embrace the English system of units instead of the, far superior, SI system?
    Answer: all of the above.
    How about another example?
    Why do we still accept the cost in life and limb of Daylight Savings Time designed before ubiquitous artificial light obviating its necessity?
    Momentum, infrastructure investment, bias towards the familiar.
    Sometime, common sense and collective wisdom are just plain stupid.
    But that’s humanity.

    1. avatar Curtis in IL says:

      “Sometime, common sense and collective wisdom are just plain stupid.”

      If Congress abolished Daylight Saving Time, the country would cheer. Until June, when people were getting woken up at 3:30 am by the rising sun. Then they would say, “abolishing Daylight Saving Time was just plain stupid.”

      If you don’t live north of the 35th parallel, you’ll never understand Daylight Saving Time, and I’m not going to waste my time trying to explain it.

      1. avatar ActionPhysicalMan says:

        There have been several recent inventions to address this. Among them are shutters, curtains, blinds, and shades.

        1. avatar Curtis in IL says:

          I appreciate the sarcasm. But that’s all it will take to get people to realize that without DST, we would all waste an hour of daylight by sleeping through it. With DST, I can go to the range after work and shoot for a few hours.

          Like I said, some people will never understand it, until it goes away.

        2. avatar ActionPhysicalMan says:

          I suppose that since I have not worked a 8-5 or similar schedule in almost 20 years my perspective is different. I generally don’t care what time or what day it is. I just do my work and play as it comes at odd intervals. I think my perspective is becoming more typical as fewer and fewer people work traditional jobs/schedules.

      2. avatar Art out West says:

        I want “daylight savings time” year around. Winter sucks when it gets dark at 4:30. I would much prefer 5:30.

        1. avatar Ing says:

          Yep. Where I am in the NW, twilight starts creeping in about 3:30 in the dead of winter. I really, really, really HATE living in the dark. Maybe I need to move to Arizona. More sun all around, and no stupid DST/Standard switcheroo twice a year.

          This country needs to just pick one time scheme and stick with it.

        2. avatar Joseph Quixote says:

          Day light savings is a total joke. There is an old saying attributed to an American Indian about daylight savings… “Only the government would cut a foot off the bottom of the blanket and sew it to the top of the blanket and state that you now have a longer blanket.”
          Can’t make more time in the day despite what you have been told.

      3. avatar Omer Baker says:

        I live north of the 35th and I hate DST. I’m sure it’s great if you have no electricity, but with electric lights I don’t really see the need. It wastes more time, money, and effort reinforcing. A couple years ago a bunch of “smart” people had the idea to change the calendar a little. 30 days in every month except February with 29 and 30 on leap years. Forth of July, Christmas Eve and Day and New Years Eve and Day would all be on weekends. You know why no one did went with it? Because no one wants to change it. If DST is sooo great then why doesn’t all of Indiana do it? Even with DST kids still go to school in the dark and farmers still wake up before dawn when there’s work to do.

        1. avatar Aaron says:

          about 2,000 years ago, the calendar was much more rational and had 10 months. December was the 10th month, as should be obvious when one considers the latin prefix for ten (dec), although I don’t know if prefix is the correct term.

          Then some egoists decided to add two months, one for Julius Caesar and one for Augustus Caesar.

          But I bet some folks would resist going back to a 10 month year because they are used to the 12 month year.

          Just like calibers: the effectiveness of the caliber is not really that important, the major calibers are all pretty much good enough even if they aren’t quite optimal. It’s what you’re used to that counts.

        2. avatar PPGMD says:

          Read up on the 10 month Roman calendar. They weren’t nearly as good as your profess. They basically stopped counting days in winter. So you have no real date system for like 60 days of the year. That was the only way to keep it aligned to the season.

          The modern calendar is vastly superior.

        3. avatar SteveInCO says:

          It’s also not the case that July and August were added. They were renames of preexisting months, Quintilis and Sextilis (for “five” and “six”)

          December was the tenth month because the year started at the vernal equinox back then. January and February were the 11th and 12th months, with March being regarded as the first month of the year up until at least 153 BCE. The old names stuck even after they had ceased to make sense.

      4. avatar 61north says:

        I live waaaaay north of the 35th parallel (Alaska at 61 degrees north latitude). Most Alaskans think daylight savings time is stupid. We have 24 hours of light in the summer and 20+ hours of dark in the winter. A one-hour shift makes no difference.

      5. avatar Button Gwinnett says:

        I can’t sleep past 3:30 anyway. Might as well get up and enjoy the morning.

    2. avatar tdiinva (Now in Wisconsin) says:

      Name me a country in the metric system that has walked in the moon.

      The metric system is actually obsolete. In is an analogue world’s approach to the world. We live in the digital world and the digital world runs on hexadecimal.

      1. avatar Aaron says:

        you have a point. the english system is actually more precise.

        1. avatar UnPC Aussie says:

          Imperial units are more precise? I must have missed all of those lectures in engineering and science (physics and chemistry) and all the meetings at work where we were encouraged to use imperial units instead of SI because it was more precise… It’s either that or SI units are used because they are more precise (what is the imperial unit equivalent to an angstrom) , easily convertible (being base 10) and far easier to teach to students because they are logical and consistent.

        2. avatar MeRp says:

          English/Imperial is better when you need to use fractions for your measurements, because 12 has more divisors (2, 3, 4, 6) than 10 does (2, 5).

          Neither is “more precise” nor “more accurate” since those are determined by the human and the tool, not by the metering system.

    3. avatar Yellow Devil says:

      The U.S. actually uses both metric and English. Metric in many scientific and measurement applications, English for daily interactions. If you notice, even store products seem to print both.

      I think the reason why English has stayed on is for so long for daily use is because it’s just easier to grasp the concept over metric as long as you are using it for reference and not measurement. Saying something is a foot long compared to saying 300+ mms/30+ cms is just easier to comprehend in human terms. And as longs as you aren’t doing any extensive calculations with it, it works.

  2. avatar jwtaylor says:

    Most people want exactly what everyone else has, but different. That’s true of calibers and everything else.

    1. avatar Aaron says:

      not me. i’ve got all the calibers I can possibly use. Well, until I get some cans, which might make .300 blackout worth it; it’s a crap round for unsuppressed uses.

  3. avatar Michael says:

    Caliber wars…part of the fun of shooting.

    Uncle Sugar taught me to shoot at things way out there with the 308 and 300 mag. I now use a 30-06 to do the same thing for fun. Better, nope. Works for me? Yep!

  4. avatar strych9 says:

    Good article. I enjoyed it. Very interesting topic.

  5. avatar Curtis in IL says:

    “The 9mm, a rather obscure caliber when it was created, would eventually eclipse nearly every other pistol cartridge in popularity and commercial following.”

    You need to strike the word “nearly” from that sentence.

    1. avatar BLoving says:

      Back when I first started wanting to learn about guns as a young pup, gun writers would publish their work on printed paper and distribute it to readers via stacks of more paper we called “magazines” (being a pre-packaged stack, shouldn’t that have been called a “clip”?)
      Anyway, I distinctly remember many a writter back then disparaging the 9mm parabellum as being underpowered and barely suitable for a defensive handgun. Fast forward to today and the weakling nine just turned 114 years old and just about dominates the field.
      So what changed? Have standard loadings gotten stronger? Nope. The modern loadings are actually a bit weaker than Luger originally intended. Have bad guys gotten squishier? Arguably, no. Meth and crack have seen to that.
      What changed was superior bullet design and manufacturing. The projectile is more effective now than ever before so that eventhe pipsqueak .380 is a respectable defensive load today.
      Fact is: there are limits to how far metal projectile weapons can take us. That which doesn’t need to change willstay with us indefinitely until the eggheads manage to perfect a phaser with a reliable “stun setting” we can bet our lives on.

      1. avatar RockOnHellChild says:

        Bullet performance standardization is where everything shifted for the 9mm in how it was perceived. The FBI protocol put every bullet on the same matrix and the 9mm was helped tremendously by it.

  6. avatar jwm says:

    The .276 was scuttled for a very basic reason. The US .gov, in the form of Douglas MacArthur, saw that we had metric shit tons of .30-06 ball ammo in storage all around the country and the world. A huge investment in ammo that was on hand.

    Our water and air cooled machine guns were chambered in this round along with BAR’s and a lot of our fighting aircraft at the time used this same ammo.

    The reality is that the .276 never had a chance.

    1. avatar Anon in CT says:

      Your second para is more important. It wasn’t the millions of rounds in storage – those could have been used up in training or whatever. It was that all the light and heavy MGs were chambered in 30-06, and there was no good reason to change that And no reason to have two different calibers (well, besides the already different M-1 carbine round).

      1. avatar jwm says:

        At the time of the .276 debate the .30 carbine, round and weapon were not a thing. And the .30 carbine was meant as a replacement for pistols which would have reduced the need for pistol ammo in the pipeline. Until someone adopted not one but three different .45 acp sub guns. kept the 1911 and adopted the m1 carbine.

        On top of which it was decided to order tens of thousands of .38 revolvers for pilots and other air crew. It’s a good thing we were a manufactoring powerhouse at the time. Such decisions crippled the effectiveness of lessor supply systems like the Germans during that war.

      2. avatar Matty9 says:

        yes, M1919 machine guns last forever, why rechamber/rebarrel what works when we have 100s of millions of rounds of ammo on hand

      3. avatar Aaron says:

        as S.L.A. Marshall’s study of the Korean war weapons, “INFANTRY OPERATIONS AND WEAPONS USAGE IN KOREA” showed, the M-1 carbine was a P.O.S in winter combat conditions. It was considered unreliable by both Army and Marine troops.

        1. avatar tdiinva (Now in Wisconsin) says:

          Much of Marshall’s analysis has been debunked. If 30 caliber carbine round can penetrate winter clothing neither can rounds like 357, 40 and 45 ACP. I have never heard this claim made for those pistol rounds so Marshall’s claim is BS.

        2. avatar RockOnHellChild says:

          Audie Murphy was able to become the most decorated service man of WWII lugging that POS rifle around…

          Like any tool, as long as it’s reasonably good enough, the rest is up to the user.

  7. avatar PPGMD says:

    40S&W will likely never disappear in some circles. Namely IPSC and USPSA competitors will continue to use it. Like 38Super until 9mm Major became popular, it is the go to cartridge of Limited and Standard.

    And lets not forget the thousands of surplus 40 S&W police trade ins as they adopt 9mm. I think 40 S&W will have a more lasting life than 10mm.

    1. avatar jwm says:

      Sheer numbers of used .40’s hitting the market will extend it’s time in the sun. But as new guns are not made, or made in smaller numbers, it will fade to a niche round.

      The 9 and the .45 will still rule the world of duty sized guns. Let’s be honest here. at this point it’s all about the 9, worldwide.

    2. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

      OK by me too. I just ran across a sweet deal on a 10mm, so I scooped it up.

    3. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

      ‘I think 40 S&W will have a more lasting life than 10mm.’

      The problem with the .40 is it’s a compromise round. 9 mm and .45 also do the same job just fine. 10mm on the other hand has a bit more of a niche. It gives you .357 magnum power (not .41 magnum) in an auto cartridge. I don’t think either cartridge is going to completely disappear any time soon, but unless other yet to be invented cartridges fill that niche I see the .40 disappearing sooner than the 10.

      1. avatar PPGMD says:

        It may be a compromise round, but I know a lot more people that shoot 40S&W than I do 10mm. Even among 10mm owners few shoot more than 100 rounds a year of 10mm. The price and abuse on the joints is too great for a regular shooter.

        1. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

          No doubt there are a lot more .40s out there and a lot more rounds going downrange, which is why I don’t believe the round is going to disappear from the shelves at Walmart anytime soon. But there really is no other round that does what the 10mm does. So looking 50 years down the road I could see it surviving but not the .40.

          Personally I don’t own either but have considered buying both and fired .40 but not 10. I’m more of a revolver guy and absolutely love the .357 round, especially with the full power stuff (Double Tap in my case). I’m guessing that a lot of the 10s are lightweight Glocks (and non-Glock Glocks) which might be a bit of a handful. A lot of people complain about .40s being ‘snappy’ in those. If you want to put a lot of 10mm rounds downrange I’d look for a 1911 or another all steel pis tol (EAA Witness). Revolvers tend to let (make) your wrist flip upwards absorbing recoil whereas autos tend to push more straight into your hand, so maybe the 10s are more punishing even in a 40 ounce pi stol. You’re also probably propelling a 180gr. bullet instead of a 125 or 158 gr, so given equal handgun weights the 10 should probably have a little more felt recoil.

      2. avatar Danny Griffin says:

        My God, every pistol round is a compromise round. Sheesh.

    4. avatar Tyler Cruse says:

      The observation that there are lots of “police trade-ins” chambered in .40 S&W is exactly correct. However, many people that purchase such guns change the gun to use 9mm. Manly because 9mm practice ammo is about $.20 per round or less and .40 S&W is about $,30 per round.

  8. avatar Phil LA says:

    I want a caliber that is cheap to handload (<$0.10/rd), light enough to carry 500 rds and averages 1" groups at 1000 yds with less than 6" of drop and 1000+ ft-lbs so that I can finally get consistent one-shot kills on those pesky unicorns.

    1. avatar Blake says:

      If someone even could make such a round there would still be a group of Internet know it alls to crap on it lol

    2. avatar c4v3man says:

      To hit those goals you’d probably be looking at a small but dense caliber fired at high velocities, so very short barrel life. There… there’s your gripe about your “.22 Unicorn”.

    3. avatar Aaron says:

      You can carry 500 rounds of .50, if you really want to and don’t have to carry much else for very far.

      That’s as close as you’re gonna get to a magical round. It WILL kill a unicorn, but it’ll cost way more than 10 cents a round.

  9. avatar RSic says:

    Don’t understand why some just wish the 40 s&w would just go away, folks it’s here to stay specially since it outperforms the 9mm, FBI bean counters and some women chose the 9mm not the field agents, just like the sig 320 was overlooked, and now the US Army is looking at 2 calibers 45acp and 40s&w.

    1. avatar Matty9 says:

      I agree, I love the .40 S&W and want it to hang on for decades to come. A full sized service .40 kicks no worse than all of your compact 9mm pistols. The “too much muzzle flip” argument stinks.

      1. avatar Matt in TX says:

        I have fired .40 S&W and .45 ACP from otherwise identical pistols. I could not tell the difference.

        1. avatar Scoutino says:

          Same here. I have rented otherwise identical Sigs in both calibers to help me decide which one will work better for me when I wanted to buy my first pistol in US. (Before that I carried CZ vz. 83 in 7.65 Browning for 5 years in Czech Republic.) I couldn’t feel much difference in those full sized guns, so I went with .40 s&w and a bit higher capacity. Later I have added 9 mm adapter to my Witness Stock, but I still prefer “forty” in my steel framed pistol.

          Price of ammo doesn’t matter much to me. I cast my own bullets so can reload any pistol cartridge for almost the same money and 9 mm cases and bullets are harder to handle with my clumsy big fingers. The .44 magnum feels about right 🙂

          I have picked up a lot of .45 brass at the range during recent years. It felt like a waste to just have it laying around, so I bought a mould and set of dies and today I have couple thousand of .45 ACP cartridges and still no gun to shoot them. We just use them here and there in my friend’s pistols when we go shooting together.

          There is always some other gun I “need” more. Yesterday it was Mossberg 500 A – my first shotgun, I’m in a middle of building a .300 blk AR pistol just for fun, next in line is a .22 CZ 455 varmint…

  10. avatar Anner says:

    I disagree on the 10mm fading analogous to 40S&W. The slew of longslide autos now available has re-energized the round as a solid hunting platform. I don’t think it’ll ever realize it’s original role as a preeminent defensive cartridge, at least not on the order of supplanting 9mm/45acp, but it will live on in the hands of hikers, outdoorsmen, and handgun hunters.

    The 40 is dying, no doubt. I was a faithful 40 devotee for several years until ammo manufacturers caught up to terminal ballistic science with 9mm. Gimme 124gr HST/std or +P any day.

    1. avatar Mark N. says:

      During the last ammo drought, the only pistol round in my area that was consistently in stock was the .40, and I live in an area where there are a lot of concealed carriers and pistol shooters. There was never any 9, and .45 was hit and miss, usually only the high end defensive rounds. I was sorely tempted to buy a .40 just so I could go shooting. But what this tells me is that the .40 never had the following of the 9mm, and that popularity is fading with the perception that the round is harder to handle due to brisk recoil, and because it is more expensive than 9mm.

      1. avatar RockOnHellChild says:

        I think the 9mm’s popularity has more to with price than anything. So long as it’s price stays lower than any other pistol round, it will remain very popular. Most people tend to be cheap skates when it comes to guns and gasoline.

        I’ve seen people who drive 60-70K vehicles and have multiple homes bitch about a $500 price tag on a gun. And that same person will be filling up that 70K vehicle with 87 octane at the discount gas station, even though it requires high quality premium fuel.

        Most folks just see the price and the need being fulfilled when it comes to guns. A 9mm pistol does the same thing sitting in drawer or glovebox as the same pistol chambered in the more expensive 40 or 45 round.

    2. avatar tdiinva (Now in Wisconsin) says:

      10mm will survive and thrive because is is the perfect round for a semiauto woodsman’s round. A full power cartridge will stop anything short of a grizzly or polar bear. More outdoor lovers live in black bear country than who live with bigger bears.

    3. avatar uncommon_sense says:

      Anner,

      Everyone seems to overlook the primary advantage of .40 S&W … you can shoot HEAVY 180 grain bullets and still have 15 round magazines in a medium size pistol. You cannot have both with 9mm or .45 ACP. You can have 15 rounds of light bullets in 9mm. Or you can have something like 9 rounds of heavy bullets in .45 ACP.

      Sure, 9mm bullets in 115 or 125 grain are fine for shooting smaller stature attackers in light clothing. What happens if your attacker is 300 pounds and wearing a heavy leather coat? What happens if you are shooting through intermediate barriers? What happens if you have to shoot through a car window or windshield at an oblique angle? All the terminal ballistics engineering in the world cannot overcome physics. There are some situations where you truly need the heaviest bullet possible, and 9mm isn’t anywhere close to the mark. For those situations, I want a heavy bullet AND the greatest capacity possible. That is why I chose .40 S&W.

      Don’t get me wrong. I like 9mm and carry it as a backup platform. And I carry .40 S&W as my primary platform.

  11. avatar junkman says:

    I have often remarked to others that most of our best cartridges have roots that over 100 years old. Even the .357 Magnum that came out in 1935 is based on the good old .38 Special case of 1898. And like the saying goes, everything old is new again.

    1. avatar ActionPhysicalMan says:

      There are no best cartridges.

        1. avatar ActionPhysicalMan says:

          I would image a poll might bare that out. However, all value is subjective. To a US soldier with an M4 in a firefight, 5.56×45 is rather appreciated, but to a home owner with a 1911 and an intruder, .45 ACP has more merit.

        2. Yes but for sake of argument, we can’t deal in specifics.
          You need a formula 1 racecar to win the Gran Prix. You need your brother in law’s pickup truck to move your sofa. To get going though, all you need is your feet. Your feet is the 22lr.

  12. avatar mk10108 says:

    “seeing as how it was supposedly better, logistics aside?”

    The issue is throughput rate. Once a bullet reaches a certain level of manufacturing, cost is lowered and every incremental increase in production expands profitability. 5.56 military backing….300 Black is popular for reason you cite, easily adapted to the AR platform. Without the AR, 300 BLK is nothing.

    1. avatar Joel says:

      Which is exactly why the 300BLK is such a hit. It’s a cartridge that solves the biggest problem many people have with the AR platform. Murican’s don’t like dem tiny bullets.

      1. avatar Matt in TX says:

        I have an AR-10 for that.

  13. avatar Curtis in IL says:

    I’m wondering if the author understands the popularity of the .300 Blackout at all.

    Just last night, I was thinking that all I had to do was buy an AR-15 upper chambered in .300 BLK (technically I could just buy a barrel but that’s more work). No background check, no trip to my FFL. I could have it shipped to my door and mounted on my existing lower in seconds, and have my existing magazines loaded in another minute or two.

    Viola! It’s a whole new gun! And as a bonus, I get to use that sweet, expensive, existing Geissele trigger I already have in my existing lower.

    The .300 BLK is popular because it allows anyone with America’s most popular rifle to turn it into two rifles at a very reasonable price.

    1. avatar Warren says:

      This is exactly it for me. I have an AR15 pistol for HD, and I have an AR10 for deer hunting. For less than the cost of an AK plus everything that goes with that, I have a 300blk upper that effectively turns my pistol into a second gun that works perfectly for pretty much anything I’ll ever come across in central Texas, and nicely fills the gap between the 15 and the 10. Yes, AK rounds are cheaper. But I have no doubt that as the prevalence of 330BLK spreads, the price point of ammo for the caliber will drop, as it has been over the last year or two.

  14. avatar architeuthis says:

    “But it’s pure magic” pretty much some up this circlejerk. Stop drinking the aac koolaid, the venerable 30-30 is alot closer to 7.62×39 in both ballistics and popularity. Its a FACT that the 5.56 case doesn’t have the capacity to adequately drive .30 bullets. Its only virtue is for the niche TC pistol market JDJ inteded it for! The common ar boltface marketing is candy for mall ninjas. Why pay for a odd chambering firing expensive magnum rifle bullets at handgun velocities when u can suppress a .45 sbr? I almost forgot that steelcase 6.5 gendel is 27cents. The future is bright for whoever builds a cheap/piston stroked/free floated/.44 boltfaced rifle.

    1. avatar Warren says:

      What makes you think the 5.56 case is insufficient for .30cal bullets? 300blk uses a completely different (pistol) powder, and the capacity of the case is plenty sufficient for it.

      1. avatar architeuthis says:

        Hmmm pistol powders… Just like .30 carbine

    2. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

      The venerable .30-30 is a nice boost up in power over the 7.62×39. It launches a 150gr. bullet at roughly the same velocity as a 123gr. By my math that’s a 22% increase in muzzle energy.

      1. avatar architeuthis says:

        I agree with you. Thats why article comparing 300blk with “the venerable” 30-30 is ridicules.

        1. avatar Joel says:

          A lot of people believe the 7.62×39 round is equivilent to 30-30 because Ruger spent a lot of time and money promoting the mini 30 as a replacement for grandpa’s old lever gun.

      2. avatar jwtaylor says:

        Using the same weight bullet, 150gr, my Winchester 94 ends with 1106flbs of energy at 100 yards. My AK 47, 1103.
        That’s both with hand loads, actually chrono’d. Practically identical.

        1. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

          That’s because you’re using a much more aerodynamic bullet in the 7.62×39. Hornady’s Leverevolution 160gr. will put 1000ft/lbs + at 300 yards, which no 7.62 round I know of will come anywhere close. Even with flat nose 150gr. there can be a significant range of BCs. Federal’s Fusion 150s have a BC of .268 whereas some 150gr. FN are well under .200. Fusion 150gr. will put 1000ft/lbs + at 200 yards, also something I haven’t seen the 7.62 do.

          Now if you want to tout the 7.62’s lighter recoil vs. downrange energy you might have a point, but the bottom line is that the .30-30 is a significantly more powerful round at the muzzle. Bullet selection is up to you.

  15. avatar other chris says:

    I’m just burned on the tone of the article. It’s very mightier than thou. There is almost no such thing as a “better” cartridge. It’s all extremely subjective. Not to debate the points, of which I basically agree. I just have a hard time getting through his articles.

  16. avatar MisterAMax says:

    I feel this issues has three culprits.

    1, if it doesn’t get backed by big pockets to be pushed down the throat of the industry, it’s odds of getting popular are horrible. Perfect example with 300blk vs whisper. The whisper didn’t have deep backing. It made the mistake of hoping shooters would discover it and spread the word. That’s like hoping a car will sell its self on a car lot. We can argue this until we are blue in the face but at some point be it the car or a really good interest rate, a dealership hooks us.

    2, if it’s not military its not mall ninja. Ok, maybe an overreaction here. Still, if it’s not military its chances of being known to the masses are way lower. Despite a logical argument to a bolt gun in 270 win being no surplus needs results in high odds of finding what you need over the shelf and if the build of the rifle is good, a 270 is fine when pitted against a 308 or 30-06. Nope…its not military…gotta have that association. Cause it’s cool when we use what the military uses. Doesn’t matter if we can’t find ammo components in a time of war. Screw logic.

    3, I blame one and two being really bad when three is in the mix. The uneducated. Oh you know…the YouTube trend of 5.56….5.56 what? Oh you know, that ar in 5.56…I may be a dork but in my youth we used correct terminology. I once did a gun show that while selling an upper and offering different configurations I asked him have you decided what you want your upper chaimbered in 5.56×45? I got the wtf look. I then dumbed it down and asked you want the 5.56 or something else?

    1. avatar ActionPhysicalMan says:

      The .300 Whisper and .300 Blackout are pretty much the same (very minor differences) cartridges, no? AAC just made the effort to SAAMI it. That standardization is what made the difference in adoption/sales.

  17. avatar BLAMMO says:

    Contemplate the .30 M1 Carbine.

    A compromise carbine, based on a great rifle design and a compromise round to fit the carbine. Never a particularly good rifle, carbine or machine gun, and not a particularly accurate or efficient cartridge. And I think I’m being kind. If you were to design either one from the ground up, you wouldn’t end up with the M1 carbine or it’s associated round. That’s why there was never further development based on either one. They appropriately died together.

    But, of course, they both survive to this day, mainly because of romance, nostalgia, patriotism and the little fact that there are something like 6 million surviving surplus rifles, not to mention a few newly manufactured ones.

    But it sure as hell did its job. I’d never take that away.

    1. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

      With modern expanding ammuni tion the little M1 makes a fine self defense carbine at modest ranges.

    2. avatar Eric in Oregon says:

      Is this subtle sarcasm? Because the M1 carbine and cartridge were very specifically designed from the ground up to fill an intermediate caliber role for non-frontline units. It’s basically intended as a semi-auto (never a machine gun) pistol replacement that can engage out to a few hundred meters when operated by non-experts.

      1. avatar Klaus says:

        I agree about the gun and the round but not necessarily about non-frontline units. Guys in front line weapons platoons carried them in Korea. I’ve got dozens of pictures of my dad carrying one.

        1. avatar Eric in Oregon says:

          Well, that was its intent but plans never survive contact with the enemy 🙂

    3. avatar jwm says:

      I agree with everything you said about the m1 carbine but…….

      I don’t think I’ve ever used a pistol caliber carbine that is as handy as the m1 carbine. The one job it does real well is to be carried and deployed easily. It feels right. Not blocky, chunky or awkward.

      And put it into the hands of a small statured person and they love it. Now the m4orgeries are quite capable of fullfilling that niche. Provided folks can not fall for the lego temptation and wind up with a 10 pound carbine.

    4. avatar tdiinva (Now in Wisconsin) says:

      The M-1 carbine is the best personal defense weapon ever designed. It has enough pop to get the job done at it gives a defender a big range and power advantage over a pistol or pistol caliber carbine. I bet if someone marketed an AR chambered in 30 caliber carbine in an 18″ barrel it would be a great seller.

      1. avatar Matty9 says:

        A really good friend of mine works for the sherrif’s department as a deputy, REALLY bad parts of town. He has seen a lot of things with some nasty stories. HE told ME the bloodiest scene he ever worked was an accidental shooting with an M1 carbine brought back from Europe WWII. One round nose FMJ 30 carbine flooded the entire living room with blood. Looked like a scene from Dexter. Terminal balistics sometimes seems like black magic though.

      2. avatar Curtis in IL says:

        Umm… if you want a 30 caliber AR, they have them. It’s called .300 AAC Blackout. See above.

        1. avatar tdiinva (Now in Wisconsin) says:

          If you want a 30cal AR, it’s called an AR-10.

          300 Blk is in the same class as 5.56 in a 30 caliber round. That is suboptimal for.a PDW. A good PDW is optimize for targets under 100 yards with greater hitting power than a pistol round.

    5. avatar BLAMMO says:

      I understand. I peed in everyone’s Cheerios.

      1. avatar Eric in Oregon says:

        Nah you were just wrong

  18. avatar ButtfaceKillah says:

    The small arms world is RIFE with contradictions, not ripe with contradictions. Unless you meant that the contradictions are creating a stench in the small arms world.

    1. It’s a matter of true shame that I had to go this far down in the comments to find the first comment on Josh’s malapropism. For a minute there I thought I was going to have to do it myself.

  19. avatar BDub says:

    The most versitile round in the world is the the 40mm. It can clear a room, paint a wall, dig a hole, start a fire, illuminate the night, conceal a position, disperse a crowd, and disassemble most small machinery and vehicles. 😉

    1. avatar Deplorable Timmy! says:

      Yeah, yeah BDub. We all know that. But does it destroy the soul of its victims like .45ACP? I think not!

      1. avatar jwm says:

        The 40mm takes the soul of the .45 acp.

        1. avatar RockOnHellChild says:

          The 40mm screwed the .45acp’s wife while the .45acp was washing the 40mm’s car…

          That’s how bad ass it is.

    2. avatar Kaban says:

      Plus you get to wear coolest bandolier and M79, like Arnie did in the age of proper Terminator movies.

      1. avatar jwm says:

        I was speaking of the 40mm Bofors. Your m79 is the .22 short of the 40mm family.

        1. avatar Kaban says:

          Can we make 5-round, semi-automatic grenade launcher then? It will make ISSF rapid-fire competition so much more livid!

        2. avatar Matt in TX says:

          I have fired the M42 Duster. Twin Bofors putting out the same rounds per minute as an auto M-16. Cooler than shit. However the IQ of the crews on the weapon were enough to keep me doing other things. I can still remember hang fire/miss fire procedures.

        3. avatar Scoutino says:

          I’d hate to be part of a crowd dispersed with 40 mm Bofors.

  20. avatar Joseph Quixote says:

    I simply don’t get the black out cartridge. Terrible ballistics, terrible down range performance, inaccurate platforms. Nearly every rifle round ever designed can do a better job putting lead down range than the .300aac blackout. Talk about a trendy rifle round… My prediction is that you give it a couple of years and it will be possible to pick up a .300 blackout rifle dirt cheap. Kind of like what happened with all the short magnums and super short magnums. Why re-invent the wheel?

    1. avatar Geoff PR says:

      “I simply don’t get the black out cartridge.”

      Others explained rather well, above.

      Buy a barrel, you have a new gun.

      Personally, I’ve kicked around the idea of an SBR AR-15 for home defense, and .300 BLK makes *much* more sense. Especially with a can. Hearing safe(er) is a big plus for me.

      Feral hogs are a thing here in Florida, and a quiet .300 BLK is a decent choice.

      It’s a versatile caliber, getting down to it…

    2. avatar DaveR says:

      “My prediction is that you give it a couple of years and it will be possible to pick up a .300 blackout rifle dirt cheap”

      Disagree. It’s already passed the test and won’t be going anywhere as long as guns have interchangeable barrels and accept AR magazines. 300BLK is not just for AR lowers

    3. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

      Same here. IMHO the only the the .300 does particularly well is accept a suppressor.

      1. avatar DaveR says:

        That’s not a small thing ya know?

        1. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

          No argument here. If you want a suppressed rifle, and especially if you want a suppressed AR the .300 has a nice little niche carved out for itself. Just not a particularly large niche, but then again suppressors are getting more and more popular. For my dollar, I rarely get the range to myself so plugs it is whether my rifle is suppressed or not. And (un)fortunately IA doesn’t yet have a hog problem, so nighttime suppressed hog hunting isn’t yet a thing where I live.

    4. avatar Curtis in IL says:

      I have determined that the IDEAL home defense gun is a .300 Blackout with a 10 inch barrel, silencer, laser and subsonic ammo.

      The energy it delivers downrange is similar to .45 ACP, but the rifle platform gives it accuracy at short distance, the 30 round magazines give you extra insurance, and it won’t bust your eardrums.

      1. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

        Unless your personal home invader grabs the muzzle and pulls it off target while stabbing you in the pancreas with his Buck knife. Inside such confined quarters there’s a huge advantage to a one handed weapon. IMHO.

        1. avatar Curtis in IL says:

          Alrighty then. Git yerself an AR pistol in .300 BLK with a Sig Brace.
          Just don’t get caught shouldering it on your home video surveillance.

    5. avatar Aerindel says:

      You get to shoot was is basically 7.62×39 out of an AR. That is the appeal as many feel a .30 cal bullet is superior to a faster .22 cal bullet.

    6. avatar BillC says:

      I don’t get you, but yet, here you are.

  21. avatar tiger says:

    Love my Swedish Mauser. IT Does the job accurately and with less recoil than the .30 cals. Sadly if I want a new production rifle, US guns are not a option any more. My other holdover caliber is the .30 carbine. Never a AR or AK fan & generally not a shotguner, my carbine was the housegun of choice. It does everything a Winchester 92 did, without a lever. The rounds I wonder about fading? The WSM & WSSM., .45gap, .357SIG & the newer rimfires.

    1. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

      I bought a Rug er no.1 recently and seriously considered the Swede. Ended up finding a deal on a .303 Brit though. The other round I really liked was .257 Roberts, but the ammo’s too pricey.

  22. avatar Son of Alan says:

    Generally I have no interest in a cartridge if can’t go to Big 5 or Walmart and buy it, there is enough odd stuff out there and I have no wish to pay $50.00 a box of 20 or have to mail order un-primed brass for it.

    1. avatar Geoff PR says:

      “Generally I have no interest in a cartridge if can’t go to Big 5 or Walmart and buy it,…”

      Same here, I called it the Wal-Mart test of a caliber, is it common enough that big-box places have it.

      Back then, .40 S&W passed the Wal-Mart test, so I had 2 Glocks in .40 S&W…

      1. avatar Matt in TX says:

        Ammo-creep.

  23. avatar Dan says:

    Until 300AAC gets away from the spitzer style bullet it will not be affordable enough for most to supplant 556. Not to mention the range issue. It doesn’t need a spitzer bullet for the effective range of the caliber. Look at a dope chart for 300AAC and please tell me how it can be more accurate at ranges over 300 yards than 556.

    1. avatar DaveR says:

      True. But then again I can already buy Sierra “seconds” for a song and their small imperfections won’t matter for any but the longest of shots.

    2. avatar Curtis in IL says:

      Quit whining. Get a reloading press and load ammo with any damned .308 bullet you can find.

  24. avatar SteveM says:

    I like how we have to argue over which cartridges will remain popular instead of just enjoying the wide variety of choices available to us both from commercial channels and the wildcats. Want close to 7mm-08 performance in your AR-15? You can have that even if it does mean not owning the world’s most popular cartridge.

  25. avatar kenneth says:

    only to discover that what we desire had been done long ago and we now have to find a way to make what is old new again.

    Exactly. Some wise man once said, long ago, that there is nothing new under the sun, except for what has been forgotten. Kudos not only for the re-realization, but also for having the courage to publish it.

    1. avatar Larry Ray says:

      You’re talking about King Solomon in the Bible. The wisest man who ever lived. He prayed and asked God for wisdom to lead his people. God answered by saying that instead of asking for wealth and power, he asked instead for wisdom to lead his people, so by asking that, he demonstrated his humbleness, so God gave him wisdom and gave him the wealth because he didn’t ask for it. This is NOT an exact quote. If you want the exact statement, it is found in the Bible in the book of 1st Kings chapter 4 and verse 29, KJV.

  26. avatar samuraichatter says:

    A high pressure center fire cartridge (rimless) that is slightly wider than a .22 mag but about the same length with a sharp round nose profile . . . would rule the world. SMG’s, PDW’s, pistols, revolvers, rifles, you name it. An intermediate center fire cartridge w/ slightly more power than a .22 mag that is straight walled (not necked down) is screaming to be made 🙂

  27. avatar Matty9 says:

    ONE MORE THING about the M1 Carbine
    . IF they had modified the 30-30 to be rimless instead of whatever other cartridge they modified, that WOULD be the best medium range weapon of war ever!!!!

    just sayin

    1. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

      There was such a cartridge. It was called the .300 Savage. It was the forerunner of the .308 Winchester.

    2. avatar Klaus says:

      The 30 Remington was an exact rimless copy of the 30-30. At least exact enough to use 30-30 reloading dies for it.

  28. avatar Kaban says:

    Wildcatters probably dont give a shit about caliber being popular. It is (somewhat) expensive and entertaning tinkering, first and foremost.

    A cursory reading on 54R reveals that 1890 design was typical bluntnose. So please, no “perfected” bullshit. It took almost two decades to adopt a bullet with half-decent ballistics (like most countries did at 190x). Of course the round works, (almost) being ballistic twin of 30-06. It kept rifle and machinegun designers of Motherland busy and entertained for good part of century, too. Disassemble any Russian machine gun and marvel (this is not to mock’em, ole PK is OK).

  29. avatar Azrael Mackay says:

    .300 BLK offers really nothing for me personally. It reminds me of the “whisper” cartridges from not that long ago. It reached its peak of hipster interest in 2012 and has quieted down considerably since then. I don’t see it becoming an American staple unless it comes down in price more, even then I am skeptical. I have seen deer shot with subsonic .300 BLK to very underwhelming effect. If a 90 lb deer can just run away after being hit with the stuff, I question it’s suitability for hunting anything. Supersonic .300 BLK is OK but that sort of defeats the purpose of the thing doesn’t it, at that point you have something similar to x39 ballistics at a higher price. I guess its nice that the round benefits from the variety of .308 projectiles out there though. All in all, I don’t believe it will be anything but a niche/hobbyist cartridge at best. But in my opinion, It’s absolutely perfect for people wearing clown shoes and the tactical mall ninjas out there. Those folks will have fun putting together an expensive super special forces “honey badger” AR, and talk trash to the foul mouthed 10 year olds on call of duty.

    1. avatar Aerindel says:

      The appeal is to be able to shoot 7.62×39 style bullets out of an AR without having to change anything but the barrel. That may seem like not a big deal but a lot of people really like that idea.

    2. avatar BillC says:

      Cool story, bro. Thanks for going out of your way to share it.

    3. avatar mark s. says:

      The more I read and talked to people the more I grew interested in the blackout , it’s versatility intrigued me , but then the more I read and talked to people the less interested I became in the Blackout . Patience is a quality I grow to love more every year that goes by , so I’m back on the side of the fence here I started and I have determined without ever getting my teeth green that the grass over here is just as green as it always and perhaps the bright colors I was seeing earlier was just a spot with heavy fertilizer , if you know what I mean .

      1. avatar Joseph Quixote says:

        +1

  30. avatar RockOnHellChild says:

    I don’t really care what fades out of vogue or what remains popular, only what remains inexpense while doing what I need it to do efficiently and being readily available within reason.

    I like to shoot, enjoy hunting, and need to protect my family, but I don’t like opening my wallet more than necessary.

    So, unless prices plummet on other options, or certain markets dry up, this is where I stand…

    HD – 12 or 20 gauge.
    Carry – 9mm
    Hunting – .30-06 or .308
    SHTF – 5.56 or 7.62

    And, I will happily dump any of them if something equal or better, while remaining cheaper, comes along.

    I’m loyal to people, not brands and objects.

  31. avatar DetroitMan says:

    You overlooked one major factor in the popularity of older cartridges: availability and cost. Go to the ammo section in a big box hunting store and look at the .30-06 selection. You can find bullets anywhere between 100 and 220 grains, of any construction type you want. You can pay anywhere between $15 and $60 for a box of 20. Then go the local gun shop (or even hardware store) and you are virtually guaranteed to find at least one box of .30-06 on the shelf. Open any reloading manual and there should be at least 10 loads for the .30-06. Go to a gun show and there are a plethora of used .30-06 rifles that can be had for $200. These are the advantages of being around for 110 years.

    The latest wunderkatridge simply cannot compete on this level. The smaller user base means fewer ammo companies willing to load it, fewer load types available, higher cost, and small retailers unwilling to risk stocking it. Rifles chambering them tend to be new and expensive. Most new wunderkartridges don’t offer any significant advantage over more established cartridges either. Some fill a useful niche, most are just new for the sake of being new.

    I used the .30-06 as an example, but you can say the same for the 5.56mm NATO or any other popular chambering. The fact is that the established players do many things well while not costing a fortune to shoot. Unless a new cartridge offers a really significant advantage (i.e., 300 Blackout’s excellent suppressed characteristics), it’s likely to have a hard time competing against the established chamberings.

    1. avatar Raoul Duke says:

      This

      This is why my calibers of choice are already established military calibers. Popular, well-known, affordable (relatively) to shoot, and they work. No need to reinvent the wheel.

    2. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

      Here in the rural west, you can go into most places that might sell ammo (and some that you wouldn’t think sell ammo – like gas stations and drug stores) and find:

      – .30-06
      – .270 Winchester
      – .30-30 Winchester
      – .22LR
      – and maybe either .300 WM or 7mm RemMag.

      You will also find 12ga hunting ammo.

      I’ve been in gas stations in the most unlikely places in the Great Basin and they have old, but perfectly preserved boxes of .30-06 and .270 Winchester on the shelf.

      1. avatar Joseph Quixote says:

        +1

  32. avatar mark s. says:

    Josh Wayner , do you reload ? This would be my question , because I know no other caliber with as much versatility as the 30.06 when it comes to grain and powder choices . The greatest drawback to the 30.06 is the length of the cartridge and the general problems associated with that which would mainly be transport and functionality in an auto-loading weapon that would be carried in the field , with the newer gas operation technologies and methods of reducing the firearms overall weights , I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see it make a come back in the field of battle . One can relatively easy load from 90 to 220 grains in this cartridge from tame to very hot with minor adjustments to aim points .

  33. avatar Accur81 says:

    I was a staunch 6.8 SPC fan. At this point I wish I would have purchased a 6.5 Grendel with an 18″ stainless match barrel, to put on one of my nicer lowers. Since I’ve got over 1,000 rounds of 6.8, including some rare ammo, it’s going to be in my stable for awhile. The 6.8 is still fine, but the 6.5 is more efficient and has longer legs. The 6.8 Spec II can use large rifle primers, so it can out power the 6.5 inside of 300 yards.

    I really like the 300 AAC Honey Badger / pistol / SBR concept. It’s a highly efficient CQB / subsonic tool.

    As to the .40, it’s doing fine. I keep hearing reports of its demise, but doggone, it’s on shelves everywhere. Plus many platforms can fire 9mm, .40, and .357 Sig with just a barrel / recoil spring / mag change. The Sig 226 / 229 can handle all three calibers with an upper / mag swap.

    I tell anyone starting off to go with the military / prepper calibers: .22 LR, 9mm, .40, .45, 5.56, and .308. Most tasks can be accomplished with those calibers. Once those are purchased, it makes sense to explore other choices.

    There’s nothing quite like hitting the range and the woods to find out what calibers you really “need.”

  34. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

    First, we should understand why new cartridges are created at all. There are two reasons why new cartridges are created:

    1. To solve an actual problem. This is why new(er) cartridges used to be developed. eg, when you’re hunting dangerous game, you want to use a heavy bullet, lobbed downrange with as much energy as possible. In this regard, most post-WWII cartridge development has been simply mental masturbation. There’s absolutely nothing that the new-new cartridges do that you can’t do competently with a 100+ year old cartridge. Anyone going on an African hunt who claims they “need” a .416 Remington Magnum over a .375 H&H or a .404 Jeffery (both over 100 years old) is engaging in mental masturbation. The dangerous game cartridge space has seen an absurd level of mental masturbation over the years. Anyone who wants an African game rifle today could do well with a .375 H&H (developed in 1912). Get a load that works and call it done.

    But let’s say it’s before WWII, before modern marketing, and you have a military surplus action. With that action, you want to launch the best dangerous game ballistics you can from a converted military bolt-action rifle, and you want to do it as inexpensively as possible, ie, you don’t want to pay a gunsmith to do all manner of perverted and cruel modifications to the military bolt action, just hang a new barrel on it with a new chamber and call it done.

    Well, there’s the reason for the development of the 9.3×62 Mauser (1905, by Otto Bock, blowing out a 8mm Mauser case to take a .366 bullet of about 286 grains) the .35 Whelen (the same idea as the 9.3×62, only on a .30-06 case and in a Springfield 1903). Both do what they were designed to do well: launch a heavy bullet with enough wallop downrange to make a military bolt action into a credible game rifle – for the price of a barrel change. Why do you need some super-duper .3000 Maxi-Magnum? Beats me. Why does anyone need a .338 WinMag? Beats me. I own a .338 I bought off-the-shelf, and it works quite well, albeit with heavy recoil. Does it do anything better than the 9.3×62? Not really. Why do I own one? Because I bought it before I learned of the 9.3×62. When I learned of the 9.3×62 and .35 Whelen, I wondered why anyone bothered with the .338.

    OK, if you’re using super Bc pills at longer ranges, sure, there’s some reasoning that the .338 can do something better. But when is anyone honestly going to take a 500 yard shot on elk? Here in Wyoming, you’re lucky if you can even see 50 yards into the dense forests where elk like to hide. A .30-30 with iron sights could take elk here. I laugh my ass off at guys who go hunting elk with sniper-level optics. I’m hunting elk with a crossbow this year – not even a gun on me.

    For people going to Africa on a budget before WWII, the 9.3×62 and .35 Whelen solved an actual problem: How to convert a military rifle into a sporting rifle, with enough bullet weight to make an impression on dangerous game in Africa.

    Most of the cartridges that “solved an actual problem” were developed before WWII. eg, the .357 Mag – was developed to keep people from chambering a .38 Special that was loaded to .357 levels in a light-framed .38 Special. S&W used to make a revolver called the .38-44 – it was a .38 Special on a .44 frame, for the really hot .38 Special rounds. Everyone could see that morons would eventually put a hot .38 into a light revolver and grenade it sooner or later, so they extended the case to prevent the hot rounds from being loaded into the light revolvers – and the .357 was born. This solved a problem of liability and safety. Was it necessary? Not from a ballistic standpoint. The .38 Special can be loaded to make the .357 superfluous, and the .45 Colt can be loaded hot enough to make the .44 Magnum completely besides the point. The .44 Mag solved the problem of liability from a hot .44 Special – just as the .357 did for the .38.

    2. Modern marketing. Cynical, pocket-picking thievery, perpetrated by a conspiracy of gun companies, gun-rag writers and slick marketing honchos upon the gun buying public here in the US. You don’t see it anywhere near this bad in the European or African gun markets.

    Oh, I’m going to get a ration of crap for this, but I’m going to tell you all the hard, unflinching truth.

    Most of the “new hotness” rounds developed are nonsense. Utter balls, poppycock and USDA Grade-A bullshit.

    The .300 AAC is one such round. There are many others. The .45 GAP. The .357 Sig. The .40 S&W. The parent of the .40, the 10mm Auto. I could fill this page with handgun rounds that are pure nonsense on stilts. Oh, you can make the .300 AAC more quiet when you’re shooting with a can. Big whoop. With a 147 grain pill on a subsonic 9×19, I can make a 9 sound pretty damn quiet with a can as well.

    I can hear the cries now: “Oh, but it’s on an AR platform! You’re missing that it’s on an AR lower! You’re just too stupid to understand the problem it’s solving!”

    Yea, right. An AR pistol. Right. That’s ergonomics right there.

    Be serious, the AR as a pistol is one of the dumber things I’ve seen in the US firearms market in my entire adult life. Want a long arm converted to a handgun? Go get a Ithica Auto & Burglar. Right there, you’ve got something a whole lot more lethal in a better package, with all the same paperwork you need for a suppressed .300 AAC “pistol.”.

    As we’ve learned more and more about wound ballistics, most of the advertised claims about new handgun rounds developed since WWII are just cynical marketing ploys to pry more money out of your wallets. What can a new handgun round do that a modern powder/bullet combo can’t do in a .38 Special, 9mm Parabellum, .44 Special, .45 ACP or .45 Colt?

    Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Not a frickin’ thing. Were I confronted with an intruder, would I be obsessing to get to my 9×21 race gun with a 21-round magazine rather than pick up my S&W 625 (or even a single action revolver) that is using moderate loads in .45 Colt? Pfah. I’m going to feel perfectly confident that I’m going to get the same results with the cartridge developed in the 1870’s. Sure, I might look damn sexy using a race gun with an optical sight and pulling a trigger so fast that there’s at least two pieces of brass in the air at all times (and I’d look even sexier if I could somehow manage to get dressed all in tactikewl camo clothing with web gear before I had to pick up a gun), but the .45 Colt is lobbing bullets downrange that are perfectly functional, they’ll penetrate more than far enough for self-defense purposes, and in the end, it will come down to shot placement. While I’m holding that .45 Colt in my hands, would I be wishing for a .44 Magnum? Nope. That ancient .45 Colt cartridge is going to do what needs done, without any doubts in my mind.

    I’d feel just as confident if I were picking up any of my 9×19’s, .45 ACP’s, or .38 Specials: they’d work about as well as any of the other things I could hold in one hand, and my only wish at that point would be to be holding a long arm.

    But gun marketing departments – their job is to convince you to buy more guns in more new cartridges that solve no new problem. Here’s an example: What problem does a 7mm WSM solve that a .280 Remington (a necked-down .30-06, developed in the 1950’s) doesn’t? OK, you can use a short action for a 7 WSM. Big deal. You can do the same thing with a .284 Winchester – ie, Winchester already solved that problem for you decades and decades ago. Why did you need a 7 WSM? Because it’s new, that’s why. Oh, and BTW: The WSM/WSSM cartridges are based on the .404 Jeffery case – remember that? The 100+ year old dangerous game cartridge way back up near the start of this rant, the one that makes most of the modern super-duper magnum development look silly? Yea, that one. It’s come around again as the parent case for a whole slew of new things to be marketed to you.

    I’m going to end it here. I really don’t have time today to really go off on an extended rant. Want to reverse the trend of stupidity? Use modern bullets and powder in a 7×57 Mauser and call it good. You can ignore the next 100+ years of cartridge development for hunting anything in North America with a 7×57 loaded with modern bullets and powders in a modern rifle.

    1. avatar tdiinva (Now in Wisconsin) says:

      Very informative comment as usual.

      I think the 113 year old 30-06 Springfield is the best North American medium to big game cartridge ever fielded. It was designed to bring down a cavalry horse at 1000 yards. I bought a 300 win mag for big game hunting but soon realized that at the ranges that I will take a shot it offers nothing over the 30-06 In a much heavier platform. My Model 70 is now just a range toy..

      1. avatar mark s. says:

        Best of all worlds bullet ever , as of yet , created , is the 30.06 . I have tinkered with many things over the years , when it comes to loading and have at least a half dozen notebooks I’ve filled up on the 06 alone . This is in my opinion the most diverse round ever . I also take into account the fact that you can fire a 100 grain bullet and a 220 grain bullet in succession from the same rifle and be on paper at 300 yards , with iron sites , in three shots . What more could you ask for ?

    2. avatar Joseph Quixote says:

      +1000

    3. avatar Accur81 says:

      In general, you make a great point. The market is flooded with fad rounds that smoke barrels and kill checking accounts. Buyer beware.

      However, I disagree on multiple points. The 300 BLK does subsonic and supersonic better than 9mm. The 9mm can’t launch a 240 grain bullet, nor can it push a 110 grain bullets to 2450 FPS or so. The 300 has more power than a 9mm, .45 ACP, or 5.56. Does an AR pistol have funky ergos? Sure. But an AR SBR doesn’t. The 300 BLK does its mission well. Can the 7.62 x 39 do many of these things? Sure. But it doesn’t feed all that well through an AR lower.

      The .338 Lapua, a modern, purpose built sniper round, does better than the .338 Win Mag, .300 Win Mag, and .308 Winchester. It’s being used precisely for its marketed purpose (as well as by fanboys), and it’s setting records doing so. I’d hoped to take it on a long range bison hunt, but a $6000 plumbing issue killed that dream. For now.

      The 6.5 Creedmoor is another great modern round. Outside of about 500 yards, the efficiency of the 6.5 beats the older .308 and .30-06, with lighter weight and less recoil. Then there’s specialty rounds like the 6.5 – 284, which I believe you own.
      These new rounds, combined with cutting edge bullets, powders, optics, etc., are setting world records. And they’re markedly more efficient than the .30-06, .30-30, etc.

      Heck the new Hornady LeverEvolution helped revitalize the .30-30 and new JHP bullets have elevated the 9mm and 9mm +P.

      Sure, the classics are great. In many cases, that’s exactly what I’d recommend. They get the job done. But modern cartridges (and bullets) aren’t just setting records, they’re setting world records.

      I think the best course of action is to know what a cartridge is about and what you will use it for. A lot of new shooters will screw up on points that are obvious to you. Hunt with too much power? Big deal. I sighted in a few years ago out to 600 yards with my .308 lead free hunting load only to take a 40 yard shot on a 6 point buck easily handled by a .30-30. My buddies gave me a good rubbing. So what? I had a great hunt.

      Besides, it’s not like we all haven’t wasted a bunch of money on the quest for a perfect holster. Or optic. Or…

      1. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

        We have become rich enough to sustain a great number of niche cartridges. And that’s a good thing, mostly.

        I would note that there’s virtually no difference between a 6.5 Creedmoor and a 6.5×55 Swede (1891) other than it’s easier to find rounds loaded with less than 140gr. bullets.

        1. avatar Accur81 says:

          The Olde Swede doesn’t work out of a standard AR-10 action, but it can sling the sectional density dynamo 160 grain bullets.

        2. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

          I get the appeal of the Creedmoor with the whole .300 Win mag trajectory without the recoil and the fact that it adapts well to the AR10 platform, but if that’s what you wanted what was wrong with the 10 year older .260 Rem? They’re as close to identical as any two rounds on the market today.

        3. avatar Accur81 says:

          Hornady makes 6.5 ammo off the shelf. 6.5 CM is easier to find and more AR-10 uppers are made for it than the .260 Remington. Not earth-shattering reasons, but there you go.

          I’m not nearly as hesitant to try new things with guns, ammo, optics, tactics, etc. as many of the folks here. If it works, and it works better than what came before, I’ll give it a shot. More or less.

        4. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

          The Creedmoor has certainly proved to be the fashionable choice over the .260. I’d probably pick it myself if I were ri fle shopping for one of the two calibers. What bewilders me is why it was invented in the first place when there was already a relatively new cartridge that was almost identical in function and performance, not to mention case dimensions. At the same time they developed the Creedmoor Horn ady also tried the exact same thing with the .30TC (vs .308) and it turned out to be a massive flop. In both cases they just nipped a tiny bit of the case length and fattened them up a tiny bit at the shoulder to make up for the lost case capacity. The TC was marketed as .30-06 performance out of a .308 sized cartridge (which was what the .308 was originally billed as). All they did is use their Superformance powders to boost MV a bit, but then they made the exact same loads for the .308 launching the exact same bullets at the exact same velocities (advertised). Why everyone didn’t ditch the .308 for the TC should be pretty obvious. I think the only thing the Creedmoor had that the TC didn’t was the .260 wasn’t nearly as established as the .308 and knocking it off the block was doable with some savvy marketing. Long term I think one of them dies out and it will probably be the .260.

      2. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

        The .338 Lapua is an excellent example of the first type of new cartridge I wrote of: built to solve an actual problem. The US special operations teams had a problem: They wanted a rifle that could reach out much further (not a little bit – a whole lot further) than the existing anti-personnel rifles available. Solution? Choose a high-Bc pill in .338 (275 or 300 grains), make an elongated case and launch it.

        The upside? A .338 Lapua rifle will weigh less than a .50 BMG – and shoot further.

        The downside? Well, you need to create a whole new length of bolt action, because not even a “magnum” length bolt action will take a .338 Lapua all that well. It’s a ferociously long (OAL) cartridge. Well, Uncle Sugar never seems to lack for money – when they need more, they just run the printing presses a few minutes overtime that day, so they were able to create a bespoke rifle to launch their new bespoke cartridge.

        As you point out, none of us who are not Uncle Sugar are made of money, so I’m not about to cough up the bucks to run a .338 Lapua – and I could buy most of the components at a discount from what you could. For me. the .338 Lapua is a solution in search of a problem. I’d rather take a bison with a .50-110 launched from a Sharps, but different strokes and all that.

        The 6.5 Creedmoor is an example of the second sort of cartridge that I wrote about: fashion. With the 6.5×47 Lapua on the market, there’s no need for the 6.5 Creedmoor – just make 6.5×47 brass and call it done. Sure, there’s a little refinement in the 6.5 Creedmoor, but none of the .260/6.5×47/6.5 Creedmoor are improving anything over the venerable 6.5×55 Swede – which has been around since before 1900, as I recall. OK, the 6.5×55 won’t fit in a short length action, but it will fit easily in a long action. There’s just the rim diameter issue for US market rifles. OK, it’s not enough to require a new action – just slip in a new bolt with a slightly larger bolt face recess. Done.

    4. avatar jwm says:

      Slow clap with a hint, just a manly hint, of a tear in the corner of my eye.

    5. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

      ‘But gun marketing departments – their job is to convince you to buy more guns in more new cartridges that solve no new problem.’

      I thought that was O’Bama’s job?

  35. avatar MrApple says:

    9mm FOREVER!

  36. avatar Larry Ray says:

    Dyspeptic Gunsmith, you are so right about the .30-06. It is basically why I bought my big game rifle in that caliber, plus a Winchester .30-30 model 94 and .45 long colt revolver. BUT, in 2008 after Obumer got elected, despite my best efforts in voting against him, ammo for those two calibers virtually disappeared on gun store shelves everywhere and especially the big box stores and only recently have they become available at greatly increased prices. I had a pot load of brass saved of those two calibers in all the years of shooting and years ago a close friend had bought himself a fancy new loading press and related equipment. He gifted me with his old stuff. At the time I put it in storage and thought vague thoughts of reloading my stuff….someday. Advance to 2008 and shortages for the next seven or eight years. I broke out the stuff, set it up, bought the requisite dies, powder, bullets, powder scale, primers and hand priming tool, etc. I’ve never lacked for ammo for 3 calibers, and the icing on the cake, my stuff gives me far closer bullet groups than factory loaded stuff. My loads have paid for all that stuff in reduced cost of ammo over store bought ammo. The only way you can buy my accuracy in a store is to pay high prices for the factory premium ammo, and even then, I have my doubts, having never fired premium rounds.

    1. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

      You’re a man who has proven my point about reloading: There is a reason to do it. You’re getting better results, and also as a result, I’ll wager you understand much more about guns now than you did before.

      It is really difficult for me to recommend another cartridge that is as versatile as the .30-06 when viewed from the logistics and availability perspective. It can (and has) done so many things over the last century+. As Col. Townsend Whelen (USA) wrote once in an article about the .280 Remington “If you have a rifle in .30-06 or .270 Winchester with which you shoot well enough, you need read no further.” Today’s gun rag editors would fire a writer who wrote such words in a publication today. Townsend was perhaps one of the very few honest gun writers out there – telling his readers that cartridges such as the .270, .280 and .30-06 are so close in performance, if you have one of them, there’s no point in chasing another one. Under 300 to 400 yards, there’s not much difference between these three rifle cartridges, and .30-06 brass and components (as well as well-tested load recipes) can be found literally everywhere.

      Because of my business and preferences, I do collect rifles in calibers that are just about duplicative. But I’m going to be honest with gun buyers – unflinchingly so – because most gun buyers aren’t made of money, most new cartridges are very similar in performance under 300 yards (where most hunting is done) and I feel an ethical obligation to tell my customers the truth. If someone wants to experiment and try something new – more power to them, count me in to help as I can. I just have reached a point of exasperation with the cynical and duplicitous marketing on the part of the industry about new cartridges, and I believe that less money spent on obscure chamberings is more money to be spent on fundamentals and shooting practice.

  37. avatar 200yd_shooter says:

    About the 30.06 that nobody remembers, is that in steel core, it does a good job at punching through steel plates. At D-Day, it was reported that the US GI’s on the beach were getting taken out by 8mm steel core bullets. Within 3 days, the US GIs had 30.06 in steel core. Maybe punching through cold steel is not such a big priority anymore, but that was one good reason to keep the 30.06 around.

    About some foreign cartridges, they seem to do well over a wide range of propellants. The old 7.62R is easier to roll out in mass quantities with cheaper (or loose tolerances) machinery (some people think the R is for Russian). And the semiauto rifles don’t care about the tolerances. Sure you can improve any cartridge with better chemistry and tolerances. Throw a 30 caliber ball out there, and anything it hits is going to die or come close to dying

  38. avatar idahoPete says:

    Can anyone think of a cartridge that has been around, and is still widely available in both rifles and ammo, as long as the .45-70?

    1. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

      The .45 Colt. Introduced the same year as the .45-70.

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