A life With Rifle Cartridges

I have been shooting a long time.  I was taught to shoot around 7 years old and have been shooting heavily ever since.   In the thirty years of my shooting career so far I have used rifles and pistols for just about everything you can think of and I have used and tried a very wide range of rounds.  I have always had an interest in rounds for uses in addition to fighting and have owned some that would be a rare thing to be seen in use these days.   I am going to give a list of cartridges I have used and my thoughts , opinions and experience with them. It is not going to be a technical break down citing ballistics and muzzle velocities of the rounds talked about but, I am talk a little about my preference in bullet weights in some or maybe even some reloading related comments.

So, lets take a look at what I have used  and owned over the past three decades in no chronological order.

.22 Hornet   The Hornet is one of those rounds you hear about from the FUDDS of the slick gun rags  from time to time. Usually it talked about in glowing terms. It was pretty much the 1st high velocity dedicated varmint cartridges at the time and I am sure at the time it was impressive.  I have owner 3 rifles chambered for the round over the years. I really, really wanted to like it. But, the fact is, its a let down.  I do not expect a lot from such an old fellow because I use rounds and appreciate them in their envelope. But, the Hornet is just not that accurate. 3 inch groups at 50 yards is not good for much. No matter how carefully I handloaded, or how high quality the factory load or quality of the rifle. And it does not help that you get about 3 reloads out of a case. It was just not meant to handle the pressures modern powders will deliver. That and depending on rifle and age, there are two types of bullet sizes  for the hornet. I am not going to get into that but it is a pain if you want to shoot modern bullets made to be high performance in it.

.218 Bee The Bee is one of my favorite rounds.  With proper bullets it is as accurate as a .223, more velocity then the Hornet, good out to 300 yards on anything coyote sized or under and very accurate and no recoil.  The problem with the Bee is that is was introduced with a round nose bullet in a lever action and suffered ever since.  The other drawback is it is a rimmed case.  But, in a single shot rifle, or a bolt gun built for it not using a tubular magazine it can be so great.  I would load all the way up to 50 grain ballistic tips. Usually the 40 grain ballistic tip was used for higher velocity and accuracy. Some will say that 50-55 is too heavy for the Bee, but it really is not. I have killed a lot of crows out to 250 with the Bee and I love it. It does suffer from the problem of short case life and that the cases and ammo are expensive but I love it so.  If you are a competent hand loader it can do as much as a .222 remington. Not as accurate but close in a good gun.

.222Remington The .222 was the benchrest king for years and developed by Mike Walker and remington. It is easy to reload. My dog could make good ammo for the triple deuce. I never hunted with the .222 but its accuracy is legendary to the point I can not add much to it. I have never seen a gun that would not shoot the 222 with impressive accuracy. It does not give you the range as a 223 or the killing power at long range,but it was out before the .223 and the .223 is one of the reason it has faded away a little.

17 Remington The 17 is an interesting cartridge. With modern powder and bullets, you can break over 4,000 fps with the 17 using a 20 grain bullet or under. It shoots very, very flat.  Nothing kills like the 17 rem.  Crows look like a grenade in a feathered pillow. Groundhogs are gutted, I am talking immediate dis-assembly. Or, dead with no hole or even a mark. The 17 is weird like that. But when it is explosive it is so very impressive. No recoil adn little noise.  But, here is were you pay for what you get.  Very short barrel life.  Clean after 12 rounds or accuracy is not useful on small game. Very short barrel life, and the cleaning…..I say it twice for a reason. And you have to buy specialty cleaning rods, jags, brushed and bore guides etc.  Handloading is touch.  Load developing in tenths of a grain are a must because pressure can reach -Bomb levels in a heart beat.  It will kill medium sized game up to a deer.

.17 BK  The BK is a wildcat round were my crazy mentor necked down a .357 maximum round down to a 17.  Yeah, I know..  Very accurate but does not deliver the same velocities as the 17 rem. But very very accurate. Case capacity is almost identical but the case design is all BR, so it shows it in the group size.

.204 ruger  The .204 is another favorite of mine. I always say its got all the benefits of the 17 centerfires with none of the draw backs.  Long barrel life because of low pressure, same velocity, bigger bullet which always explodes the target and bucks wind and carries further and accurate enough for anything other then competition. Case life is good, bullet selection is good. It is easy to handload to and in a pinch you can make cases out of 222 magnum, its parent case.   Cleaning is not the issue it is with any other high velocity round in this class either. I use a zero that allows me a point of aim/point of impact on crows from 100 to 300 yards.

.223 remington I love the 223.  I have used it for everything. From 10 feet to 1000 yards.  In my opinion, when used correctly and competently, it is one of the most versatile and useful rounds we have.  I used it for a few years as a 1,000 yard gun in a bolt action and a AR15 and was happy. The  key is proper bullets. 77-80 grain match loads.  the 77 grain bullet should be the new 55 or 62 grain bullet. Even in a 16 inch barrel 900 yard hits are possible with the 77 grain ammo.  I have killed from crows to deer with the 223/5.56 and nothing has ever gotten away.   24 grains of Varget with a 77 grain bullet is the stand by load used from Camp Perry to every where else.  I am not going to say more about it because it is already talked about enough and if you read this blog any, you know how we feel about it.

.22-250 remington The “250” as I call it is a solid performer. It is a darling of a lot of varmint hunter and for good reason. It is easy to load for, very very accurate and not too awfully hard on barrels if you take it easy and don’t try to it like a SAW.  I used 52 grain berger bullets on mine. I have a target signed by 4 people and a range master at the range I was at when I once fired a 5 shot group that was 1/4 inch with a .22-250 at 500 yards using the 52 grain berger bullet.   You can approach 4,000 fps but its not a good idea. The varminter ( its original name) likes it best at 3,800 fps.

.220 Swift  I wanted a Swift for a long time because of its rep. then I had 3 in as many years. The swift was hyped as the 4,000 FPS centerfire that killed so well you could use it in Africa. Well, anything can be used in Africa with proper shot placement,which is hard for a sad amount of shooters.  Barrel steel and over zealous handoaders burned out barrels  fast back then and it got a bad rap. I get asked about the Swift a lot because I used it so much.   I am going to sum up my thoughts on the swift right now that will tell you everything I think you should know about it in a common sense way.    You can hit 4,000 fps and more with s swift, but it does not shoot very well once you do. Like the 22-250, it likes around 3,800. And, if you are going to shoot around 3800, just use the 22-250 and have longer barrel life, use less powder, have less recoil and easier to find cases.  The swift needs around a 40 to 45 grain bullet to hit 4K and by then , you lose any longer range ability compared to what the 22-250 offers.( which is so close it does not really matter unless you like the nostalgia like I did)

.257 Roberts This is an excellent round. You can find a legion of FUDD gun writers telling you how its great and blah blh blah. Well, they are kinda right on this one. Its a .25 caliber and 87 grain bullets will preform miracles for you in this mid range round. the Ackley improved version is apparently god’s gift to some. I never tried the AI round but it enjoys a nice rep.  It is a fine round, it just does the same thing a variety of other do as well, and we all know newer stuff gets more press release and hype..draw your own conclusions.  But, its really not worth the effort if you have to hunt one down.

7×57  Old. Old but still very useful. It is a lot of fun but I prefer the 7mm08

7mm08 remington  A better 7×57.   The ’08 is what it says, a 308 necked down to 7mm.  You can make the case by running 308 win cases through a 7mm08 resize die. It is that easy.   It is a popular round for silhouette shooting where knocking down steel targets at distance is the game. It is accurate. I think it should have been where the 308 is now. It is so much more useful.  I liked a 160 grain seirra bullet. My Dad used it for years as his deer gun and loved it. He used a 100 grain bullet after his back was hurt.  It was varmint bullet in 7mm and was too lightly constructed.I never trusted it but it always delivered for him, even out to 200 yards.  Being from a 308 case, it is as easy to load well just like the 308.

.260 Remington  This is one beauty of a round. Again, based on the parent 308 case, just necked down to 6.5.  the 6.5 is considered the perfect bullet to a lot of people and it is hard to argue.  A 260 loaded with a 142 grain sierra bullet will travel to mars and hit hard.  If you want a round with light recoil that you can use to shoot to 1,000 yards with this is it. It makes shooting 1K almost easy. Using a 120 grain bullet is good for everything else.  This round is one of the best general purpose rounds I have ever had. Before remington decided to stop making good stuff, you could buy a .260 in a heavy 26 inch barrel, short action M700 for under 700 bucks. It was a great deal for a great gun that needed little work to make it a good 1K shooter. an AR10 in this  would make  an excellent decision. Lighter recoil then the 7mm08, more accurate and  very flat shooting with retained down range energy.

6mmPPC  The 6PPC is so accurate,  virtually no one uses anything else in BR any more. In a decent gun,you can not mess this up. But, its a wildcat. Ruger did offer a M77 chambered for it long ago, but no one made factory ammo for it. You really can shoot one hole groups with this round if the quality in your skill, the ammo and the gun are there and you can use them properly.  It is a short round made from the .220 russian case( which I bet few of you ever heard of before I typed it) and it is expensive to buy or make.  But the pay off in accuracy is something to behold. It is “hollywood accurate.”  It really is.  It is not commonly thought of as a long range round and its not really. It is meant to be shot using around a 58 grain bullet shot to 300 yards tops. My teacher said everyone should try a wildcat at least once to pay their dues.  You do learn a lot suffering with wildcats. But I do not feel the same way.

.243 winchester   Full disclosure.  the 243 WCF is my favorite round. Its not quite as useful as the 5.56/223, but I still like it best. Almost all of my greatest shooting accomplishments were done with the 243. A 500 yard neck shot on a moving turkey, my 1st 1000 yard hits and killing two deer in 4 seconds on a dead run ( them not me) with a 243 M70 featherweight among others. the 6mm is like the 6.5, close to perfect. It is inherently  accurate, it has low recoil, it is common and once again based on the 308 case.   I have used bullets from 55 grains to 107.  The 85 grain bullet is the perfect bullet for the 243 in my opinion and its my general use bullet. I use the 96 grain ballistic tip for 500 yard plus shooting.  the 243 was made commercial in 55 and one of my favorite gun writers developed it. Warren Page was a well known expert of the time and his  240 page super pooper ( n0 kiddin, he had some creative names for his wildcats) was the base for the 243 WCF.   Some gun rage experts like to state that its neck is too short, it is har don barrels  blah blah.  I have never found that to be the case adn I have only met one person who has fired more 243 then .  I have owned over 15 rifles in this chambering and I love it.  I am way too close to the subject to talk objectively about it to you though, but I LOVE it. I hope my love for the 243 makes an impression on anyone curious about the 243 WCF.

6MM Remington/.244 remington   The 6mm remington was remington’s answer to the 243.   Problem was, they thought it would sell to varmint hunter and gave it a slow twist that would shoot light bullets. Remington did not see the 6mm as a big game gun. Winchester gave the 243 a faster twist and said it was dual use deer/varmint gun. They made 80-100 grain bullets.    Hunters being hunter, wanted the dual use.  the 6mm rem almost died. It was renamed after then brought it back out with the faster twist but it did not help.  It is slightly longer with a longer neck. Once again “experts” will say its soooo much better then the 243 and does not burn barrels and has slightly more velocity.  Well, maybe.  I found it no better then the 243.adn I tried to like it.  Brass was hard to find and so are the guns. Mine was a heavy barreled 26 inch M700 that shoot good. But it did nothing my beloved 243 would not do.  It is a great round, but not what it is made to be. In my opinion, the people who talk it up do so, and use it just to be different. A lot of people do not have one or have heard of it, so they use it to seem more elite.

6.8 SPC remingotn   It is accurate. As accurate as the 556 in a proper gun? not really, and it will not go to 1,000 yards like a 77-80 grain 556 load. It kicks more, holds less is louder. It is a bigger bullet and that means something to a lot of people.  After a year I found I had no use for it.

.270 winchester   This old stand by is a popular choice for hunter and FUDDS world over.  It is accurate.  My pre64 model 70 standard weight will put 5 shots in 1/2 inch with 115 grain bullets meant for the 6.8 SPC at 100 yards even after all those years.  I do not like the 270. too loud, too much muzzle blast and too much empty case capacity. I find the recoil unpleasant as well. It is a fine round but I dislike it a great deal.

.30-06 government   What can really be said? My first deer kill was with the ’06 when I was 12.  I grew up and went to better things and my taste refined along with my knowledge. I learned what I wanted and needed in  a firearm and have not used it since the late 80s.

.30-40 Krag  Used in the Spanish American war. Under powered by todays tastes, rimmed and not all that useful unless you want to be different. I had a Krag and loved the smooth as tits action. But it was a novelty.

.303 British  The old British standby. 174 grain 303 bullet in a rimmed case that started out using cordite.  The  MK 4 is the bolt gun I would pick if I had to go to war with a battle riffle that was a bolt action.  It is not scary powerful, but its light recoil and plenty of power would still make it effective on a modern battle field as a sniper rifle. It is so much fun to use this round in its intended rifle.

30-30 WCF  The old timeless lever gun round.  It will do its job. I have no use for it after I was 10 years old.

7.5×55 Swiss One word, magnificent.  The GP-11 is as accurate as any USA made match ammo.  It is close to the 308-30-06 but better really. The K-31 is impressive. 1000 yard shots using the K31 and GP-11 round are made with easy even with open iron sights. I and my friends regularly made 1,300 yard shots with this ammo and the K31 with special canted scope bases made by a friend who is a machinist.

7mm remington magnum  The 7mm mag is one of my Dad’s favorites. He used it for a lot of years and we killed a lot of deer with this round.  I used a M70 Laredo for my first 1000 yard gun. It has a 24 inch heavy barrel and thanks to it, I learned to have confidence in my gear. I had made shots with smaller rounds before, but thought of them as almost luck. With the 7mm and 168 grain HPBT, I learned the basics of 1K shooting. The Mag was more forgiving of my wind inexperienced wind calls at the time and really helped me grow as a long range shooter.  The 7mm mag is hard on barrels and devours powder like a GMC  SUV drinks gas. But, its mild for a magnum recoil is just the thing if you don’t like recoil but need the performance. The 7mm is a better choice then the 30o mag, but because match ammo is more common for the 300 and the Mil uses it, people do not look as serious at the 7 mag.

.300 Winchester Magnum  The Army’s new sniper rifle caliber. It is not new of course but, its current explosion in love is a new thing. I do not like it much, It gives more, but it hurts and you pay for it. For what the 300 will do, I would rather take the 7mm mag.  If I need more then the 7mm mag, I would rather go right to the .338 Lapua mag.

.338 Winchester Magnum  This is another one of my Dads loves. I did not like it. ( I do not like magnum calibers) Not the range of the 7mm and a lot of down sides. I guess if you want to go to Alaska or Africa it is a good choice but it is not for me.

.243 WSSM  Because I love the 243 WCF, I had to have one. I  fell for the hype and got one. It did not deliver the boost in velocity olin claimed. My chronoy said it was BS. The cases would not obdurate and it made a PITA.  Accuracy was 1 MOA but it was not worth the downsides.

.223 WSSM  Same as the 243 WSSM. This round did what the .22-250 already did.  I tried every handloading trick I knew to no avail. I did not keep either WSSM long.

.300 WSM   Odd as it is, I do kind of like the 300 WSM,. It gave very close to 300 win mag performance but from what I could tell, was more accurate. It used a little less powder, did not have the recoil and fit in a shorter action. I feel it should be developed further for future military sniping use.

25-06 remington  I never owned one of these but a good friend loves it and has years behind the .25.   I always felt it was over bore, too wasteful and not good for much. After using his, I gained a lot of respect for what can be done with this round but I still feel the same about everything else.  the 257 roberts or the 250 savage is more to my liking.

.308 Winchester   The 308 has been around a long time.  I use it and like it. The truth is though, it is not the best for anything it does.  It is not even close to being a great sniper round compared to other stuff. Better choices have and always have existed for battle rifle use and MG use.  It serves best as a parent case for necked up and down rounds liek the 260, 243, 358 etc.  But it is very accurate. And, in the hands of some one that knows what they are doing, it can be made to perform to 100 yards and slightly beyond.  the Military knows everything about it and how it performs you could say, they know it better then it knows itself. Thats why it has been with us so long. Old timers still whine that its a weaker version but that a moot point and no one really cares.  It is going to be around a long time and for good enough reasons. Do not expect it to be a A bomb like a lot of people claim.   A well known and proven 1000 yard match load is  44.0-44.5 grains of Varget and a 175 grain BTHP  will do everything you need. The 175 is the standard, not the mistakenly thought of 168.  The 168 will get you to 800 yards but does poorly after it goes subsonic.  the M80 ball 147 grain military load is also not a wonder weapon either.  I feel the 556 is more useful generally speaking for a service rifle round.

7.62×39  I do not see much point to this round when we have so much better and its not as cheap as it use to be. We have a ballistic twin called the 30-30 WCF.

5,45 russian  Much better. More accurate ( with decent ammo) performs better then the M43 ball that has lack luster terminal performance  and is enjoyable to shoot and very cheap for now.  It is my choice for the AK series of rifles.

.300 Whisper Again, I did not have one, but did use one a bit that belonged to a friend.  It is a subsonic 7.62×39.  Maybe good to 200 yards because after that its trajectory needed NASA to produce a holdover chart to be able to use it.  It was quiet when suppressed though.

.30 Carbine Fun to shoot. A lot of people like to pick on it these days. It was a fun plinker but not my 4th, 5th or 18th choice for anything really. I find it odd that people  decry it as weak, but it has close to 357 magnum performance in a lot of ways and no one calls the 357 weak.

.41 magnum.  Almost all the power and good things as a 44  mag but with none of the pain or recoil or draw backs. More accurate in my opinion and more fun to shoot. Can not use 44 spl though.

.45 Long Colt.   What is not to like?

7.62x54R This is the Russian 30-06 type round. It performs about the same and of course is rimmed. The problem is, I have never seen a gun that fired it that was worth a dime.

8mm mauser /8×57  A solid round for its day. I had several K98s in this and it was fun. Not as fun as the .303 British round, but if you have enough of it and have a thing for WW2 it may be for you. I never kept them long.

.7mm Weatherby  I do not like anything made by the company nor any of its over bore, under accurate rounds. I got stuck with one of these after a story too long and boring to repeat.  For years, the name was a status simple only.

.45/70 Gov  I had a Trap door for years given to me by my Dad.  It was fun to shoot and certainly would kill anything within its range. I had this before I grew up and started to handload, so I never had one to tweak for performance.

.338 Lapua Magnum  Again, I never owned a Lap mag, but I did do load development and zeroing for a close friends gun. The rifle was a SAKO  target bolt action with a ported barrel.  The round is accurate to a mile on a man sized target. To me, if you are going past a 308 and intend to shoot to 1,500 yards, I feel its better to skip the 300 win mags and  7mm mags etc and go right to the Lapua. It will do it easier. It wll fight the wind better and shoot flatter. Another friend has a HS Precisions HS 200 bolt gun in .338 lapua and we used it to shoot to 1 mile. 300 grain bullets and 250 were used. With a comp or ported barrel, recoil is not bad at all. About like a30-06 in a heavy gun. Blast and concussion can be tiresome after extended shooting.

.50 BMG  The fifty also belongs to the friend with the HS 2000 above. The gun is a M82A1 Barrett and he also owns a custom 50 BMG in a target bolt action single shot.  A lot of people see the barrett 50 as a sniper rifle that will shoot miles.  The truth is, it is not. Even with match ammo, it is hard to hit a man ( head to toe) anywhere on the body at 900 yards.  It gets more and more tough the further you go. it can be done, but it may be an elbow hit or a ear lobe or pinky toe. it is hard to tell. The Barrett is not a sniper rifle. It is meant to take out radar dishes, tank engines and  T&Es on artillery pieces. Not head shoot generals at 1800 yards. It has bee done, but the M82 are not meant to do it.  The bolt gun version is more accurate but it still struggled pass 1500 yards.  The military ammo is the limiting factor in the custom gun of course.

.221 Fireball  Back to a smaller round. the . 221 is close to the 218 that I love but with more velocity and a better stronger case. The 300 whisper case is made from the fireball. It is pleasant to shoot and very accurate. At one time remington made a single shot bolt action pistol for this round. I never used bullets heavier then 50 grains for the round and considered it a 300 yard round for up to coyote sized animals.

6.5×55  This is another one of the gun rag writers favorites. A lot of the older gun writers loved this round and used it in Africa and for some reason, gun writers love the romantic aura of that. Thet love to tell you how you should still appreciate it and use it because it is so perfect.  It is a fine, fine round. There are other choices that do the same thing and the .260 is a modern better copy of it. It was a nice mild kicking, very accurate round. I did not have a lot of years with it, but I loved using it while I had it.

.223×35  This is a wildcat round used for benchrest shooting and anything that required more accuracy. It was the 1st round I ever fired through a bench rest rifle. I 45 pound beast with a barrel 2 inches in diameter with a 36x Unertl. With this round I shot several asprin taped to a target 100 yards away and was able to shoot the head off of Washington on a quarter taped to a target at 300 yards.  that started off my love of target rifles and extreme accuracy. It taught me a lot and gave me a deeper understanding of mechanical accuracy and hand loading along with what it takes to make a rifle accurate and how to judge quality. My thinking on the importance of this has chanced a little since then. I do not consider it marksmanship any more. At one time I thought it the best you could strive for. but it is pure equipment and loading skill. It will not help you with a field shot very much and BR skill offers no edge for defense of combat shooting. But, I found my years at this valuable and gave me a deeper richer understanding of ballistics, firearms and the more technical aspects of shooting that most over look or never understand. It also got me into the deep well of  the history of cartridges , wildcat and factory and the ones that transitioned from one to the other. Not to mention the great shooters of the past who figure all this out.   the x35 is a .223 with a blown out case and the shoulder changed to  35 degrees. this gives the round more room for powder and helps the powder column set in a way that makes the burning of the powder more consistent.  Extraction is not a big deal in this design since it is shot through single shot bolt guns at a slow rate. Making the cases this way always custom dies to be used. This will let you reload the same case sometimes hundreds of times and only need worth some of the neck.  In the rifle it was chambered, this round was more accurate then I could possible shot it.  It belonged to my mentor who let me shoot it and start many years in the target rifle world.

There are more rounds I could write about but some are so obscure few would have heard of them and fewer would want to read about. Like the 41 rimfire  SWISS round. or the .44 RF.   I also did not talk about rim fire rounds or pistol rounds.  It was too much to set down and write about in one evening. If anyone who reads this cares, and I hear from you and you want to read more about my many rifle rounds or want more detail. I will do a follow up.

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