I do love skulking around and asking people questions about guns and ammo. In fact, talking about calibers is one of my favorite pastimes. There’s just so much knowledge and insight that can be tapped into when you allow a person to express their true, and often unsubstantiated beliefs.
For my latest little survey, I decided to spend some time at a local gun hangout and talk calibers with the clientele. The goal here was to see how up-to-date the general gun population was with their one of their favorite pursuits.
I talked to 100 people of all ages and backgrounds for this little piece and asked them a few very simple questions designed to see how well they recognized what is available today and what their view on it was.
#1- What’s the newest caliber you can name?
#2- What makes it good or different than other similar calibers?
#3- Do you think it will stay popular or fade into obscurity?
#4- What calibers do you think should be made that aren’t currently?
#5- What calibers will never die off?
With these simple questions in hand, I jumped right in and was instantly rewarded with chaos. I really love doing these little surveys, but I was unprepared for what I ran into here.
Questions #1-#3 were essentially about the same caliber. Thirty-two people named the 6.5 Creedmoor as the newest caliber they had heard of. That isn’t a surprise, but the 6.5 Creedmoor isn’t exactly a new cartridge. In fact, it dates back to about 2007.
I had five people mention the .224 Valkyrie. They were self-described gun nerds. I also got answers like .300 Blackout and a few oddballs like .300 Norma Magnum, which aren’t particularly new either.
The remainder of the people I talked to apparently had no idea when any particular cartridge was designed or introduced. I had answers ranging from 9x19mm to .338 Lapua. It became obvious during this mostly incoherent portion of the survey that most people have no idea as to how long certain calibers have been around.
I had a few good laughs when I told them that the 9x19mm had been around for well over 100 years. Most reacted with disbelief. People know that some guns are old old designs, but old ammo designs is a foreign concept to them.
In context, the 9x19mm is only about 30 years removed from the .45 Colt, which is something that most people don’t know. I received looks of confusion and lots of questions about this. Virtually none of the people I talked to didn’t know that the 9x19mm is as old as it is.
The question I got in response was why anyone would make modern guns using such an old caliber. Many people thought that the 9mm was invented in the 1980s. That’s because the Beretta M9 was adopted in 1985 and Lethal Weapon came out in 1987, both of which were crucial events in establishing the popularity of the 9mm cartridge.
When it came to ‘new’ calibers that were identified by name, such as .450 Bushmaster, 6.5 Creedmoor, 6mm Creedmoor, .300 Blackout, .224 Valkyrie, and .500 Smith & Wesson, and others, there were many reasons as to what made them ‘good’ or not. The most common answers I received was that they were designed to meet a legal requirement, a military use, or a new sport. No answer I received was 100% correct.
What was most interesting to me was the perception of new calibers. Most people that I talked to invested in what I called ‘legacy’ calibers like .308 Win, .30-06, .270 Win, .243, .223, 7.62x39mm. The reason most frequently give was because of the massive amount of aftermarket support and knowledge about them.
When I talked about rounds like the 6mm Creedmoor as an example, most people were confused by why it existed and stated that they wouldn’t want a gun made in an “oddball” caliber like that for fear that it would become unpopular over time like others had.
The self-identified hunters in the group experienced short magnum craze of about ten years ago or so and hadn’t forgotten it. In fact, many hunters I spoke to swore off the new stuff because they’d gotten burned by some now-forgotten wonder cartridge.
The real creativity of my sample group came out when I asked the what they would want in a new caliber. People knew that this would be posted to a national audience on a popular gun site, so they went all-out.
I have to say that I was surprised at the results. I could write an entire article from these results alone. What I will present here is an interesting look at what it is that people think would be popular or sell well.
The first thing that most of the hunters I talked to mentioned was a more easily adaptable straight-walled case for AR rifles, something along the lines of a .357 Max. In many states there are new regulations that mandate the use of straight-walled cases while hunting deer.
Michigan is just such a state. We have the ever-popular .450 Bushmaster, but some folks wanted a more easily adapted version that allowed the use of standard mags and the same bolt face as .223. That makes sense as these were the same selling points as the now very popular .300 Blackout. I did some research and found that there are versions of this available, but nothing that’s really standardized.
Another interesting one that people mentioned was a purpose-designed concealed carry cartridge. I heard it over and over in this group. Despite great options like 9mm, .380 ACP, and .38 SPL, there’s desire out there for less recoil and better performance out of small guns.
What would this round look like? Nobody seemed to know. All I know is that there’s demand for a cartridge with less recoil than a .380 but more power than a .45 ACP. Sadly, the laws of physics stand in the way of anything like that. The best we can hope for in this category is better bullet design in existing calibers.
My last question was about calibers that we’ll never see go the way of the dodo. This one I only allowed one single answer for along with one reason. The most frequent answer: .22LR. Yes, most people (56) went for the low-hanging fruit, but that’s a very valid response. Like death and taxes, the .22LR will likely always be with us as it’s one of the most common rounds available worldwide.
The remaining calibers mentioned were all over the board, which again surprised me. I received a couple .45-70s (2), some .30-30 (4), lots of .223/5.56mm (20), 9mm (11), and a handful of single answers like .30-06 and .45 ACP.
Almost all the answers I received had practical reasons behind them. .30-06 is still a massively popular chambering, and while hardly new, it’s highly trusted by a large number of sportsmen and shooters.
Think about these questions and let me know how well-versed you are in today’s latest ballistic offerings. What old calibers do you think will never stop being made? What’s the next fad to pass into history? I’m curious to see what the audience here at TTAG thinks.