The most influential rifle cartridges ever


Since the invention of the modern cartridge in 1846, we’ve seen countless numbers come and go. Most have evolved out of a need to sell something new to the shooting public. Some proved to be really useful. The most influential rifle cartridges—five in all—have changed the course of firearms development.

1. .375 H&H (1912)

dangerous ammo hornady game

London gunmaker Holland & Holland takes credit for this. In the early 20sth century, Africa was home to what seemed to be an inexhaustible supply of big game, and there was no shortage of people happy to hunt it. Before 1905, this could only be done safely with British-made double rifles, which were heavy, recoiled brutally, and fired devastatingly expensive ammunition. But that year, Mauser introduced the 9.3×62 cartridge chambered in the Model 98 bolt-action rifle. The cartridge turned out to be one of the best all-around African loads ever created. The rifle was reliable, much lighter than a double, and had a fraction of the recoil and cost.

The Mauser rifle and cartridge were a sensation and made a lot of money for H&H. Holland & Holland decided to do it one better, and the cartridge they came up with was a stroke of genius. It was a long, very tapered sheath with a strap around the base. It was loaded with bullets that came in 235, 270 and 300 grain weights. The case is designed to accommodate Cordite, an early form of smokeless gunpowder that resembles uncooked spaghetti, and you can fit it more easily in a multi-tapered case. However, the almost non-existent shoulder made headroom almost impossible, so H&H created a brass strip that ran across the back of the chamber.

At the end of World War I, H&H released the cartridge for general sale and it was a sensation. Then, and now, it’s the most useful all-around rifle you can get in Africa. Alaska guides swear by it. And the .375 H&H is probably the basis for more new cartridges than any other case design. I think the ammo count at its base is about 60. After the .375 H&H, the rifle world was never the same.

2. Savage .250/3000 (1915)

Remington Core-Lokt Ammunition 250 Savage 100 Grain

Designed by Charles Newton (the Roy Weatherby of his day) for the Savage Model 99 lever action, this humble, simple round was responsible for the high-velocity craze that began with its introduction, reaching its full fury in the years 1950 and has not been fully withdrawn.

At the time, the United States was firmly in control of the lever action (The bolt wouldn’t achieve dominance until after World War I.) and the Model 99 was the most advanced, by miles, of all lever action guns.

The Newton cartridge was based on the .30/06, very shortened and very low lying. He shot a 100-grain bullet at 2,850 fps, but Savage said no, we want 3,000 fps, and so Newton, against his better judgment*, gave them 87 grains at 3,000 fps, and that number was a magic of clean. At a time when the .30/30 was considered a high velocity round, the .250/3000 was something from another dimension. Hunting magazines were filled with stories of incredible kills at fantastic ranges by people with Savage 99s chambered in the wonderful new caliber. Most of these tales were fantasy, but who cared? The high speed craze had begun.

*(Newton correctly believed that with the bullets available at the time, 87 grains was not enough to take big game reliably. Today, with modern 100-grain slugs at 2800 fps, the .250 is a wonderful whitetail load. Larry Koller, who was the best whitetail hunter I ever knew, favored it above all else. And a Model 99 rotary magazine in that caliber is a gem.)

3. Kurz 7.92 mm (1944)

PARTISAN AMMUNITION PRVI - 7.92X33MM KURZ - 124 GRAIN

In the early 1940s, German Heer (the army) wondered why, if almost all infantry engagements took place between 220 and 250 meters and volume of fire was far more important than accuracy, it was equipping its soldiers with slow-firing bolt actions designed for be effective at 500 meters. Lacking an answer, he gave the job of creating something more lethal than the Mauser 98 to designer Hugo Schmeisser. What Herr Schmeisser came up with was the StG 44, the first successful assault rifle. His full name is assault rifle (assault rifle) model 1944, a title supposedly given by Hitler himself. The rifle was heavy, made mostly of stamped parts, and could be fired semi or fully automatic.

It was chambered for a revolutionary cartridge, the 7.92×33 Kurz (short). The new round fired a 125 grain bullet at 2200 fps. Due to its minimal recoil and weight of 11 kilograms and the straight-line recoil of the StG 44, it was accurate out to 300 meters even in full auto, giving Landers (infantry) the firepower of a conventional machine gun, but with more than three times the range. Nothing like the StG-44 had ever been seen on a battlefield before. Fortunately for the Allies, Germany did not have the production facilities to put the weapon into general distribution.

However, the StGs found their way into the shop of Mikhail Kalashnikov, who, after World War II, was designing an assault rifle for the Soviet Army. As a basis, he adopted the Russian 7.62×39 cartridge, which was introduced in 1943 and was inspired by Kurz. The new Kalashnikov rifle was the AK-47, which is the most widely produced and successful military rifle in history and the most popular machine of any type in the world.

4. The .222 Remington (1950)

Fiocchi Extrema Ammunition 222 Remington 50 Grain Hornady V-MAX

The brainchild of Remington designer Merle (Mike) Walker, the .222 was an original concept not based on an existing cartridge. It was the first rimless .224 round produced in the United States, and in its basic configuration, fired 50-grain bullets at 3200 fps. Walker was one of the founding fathers of bench shooting, and his creation was, above all, accurate. Since its introduction and for decades afterward, if you’ve seen a set that made you wet yourself, chances are it was printed with a .222. Introduced in the Model 722 rifle, which was cheap, ugly, and very accurate, the Triple Deuce was a huge commercial success and, in the hands of benchrest shooters, led the movement toward the incredibly accurate rifles we take for granted. taken for granted today.

But the story does not end there. The .222 was followed in 1958 by the slightly larger .222 Remington Magnum, which added 5 grains of bullet weight and 100 fps velocity. It caught the interest of the US military, which was looking for a round for the AR-15, the successor to the M-14. Army Ordnance retained the ballistics of the .222 Magnum, but the case they chose varied in shape. The result is known as the 5.56mm NATO, or .223, and its success was so remarkable that it killed both the .222 and the .222 Magnum in short order. Adopting a .224 caliber round as a primary infantry cartridge is about as radical an innovation as we’ve seen since 1906 and the debut of the .30/06, but history has proven it was the way to go. And it all started with Mike Walker’s bench round.

5. The 6.5 Creedmoor (2007)

Federal Premium GOLD MEDAL SMK 6.5 Creedmoor 140 Grain

In just under 60 years of covering guns, I have never seen anything like the Creedmoor phenomenon. If ever there were a more unlikely candidate for his wild success, I can’t imagine what it might be.

Based on the .30 Thompson Center case, the Creedmoor fires a 140-grain bullet at 2800 fps. Its bullet diameter of 6.5 mm (.264) had been a commercial failure in the United States for a century. The cartridge does not offer screaming velocity. It’s named after a once-famous line of rifles that hasn’t been around for a long time. It was not designed for hunting, but for long-range target shooting, in which relatively few people compete because it is both difficult and expensive. After it made its debut, it stuck around for a few years without much attention … and then it just blew up.

Read Next: 11 Best Shotgun Shells for Whitetail Deer

All of a sudden, everyone had to have a 6.5 cm. I think it may represent a sort of coming of age of the American shooter. It came along with the long range hunting craze, and for as long as I can remember, to hit something at long range, put a heavy bullet in at least a .30 caliber cartridge, load a monstrous one load the dust behind it and ignored the fact that the recoil made your eyes bleed when you pulled the trigger.

But if you’re armed with a Creedmoor, you don’t need to have detached reticles and slipped discs. Get an adequately weighted bullet with a BC in the high 400s or better, propel it at reasonable, not high, velocities, use the fantastic accuracy of the factory drop charts, laser meters, and range compensating targets, and you will get Job done. This is a sea change in shooting, nothing less, and at the top of the mainstream is the mild-mannered but powerful 6.5 Creedmoor.





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