Tag: ammo

How Calibers Get Popular and How to Pick the Best

How Calibers Get Popular and How to Pick the Best

There are hundreds of calibers to choose from when deciding on your next firearm, so how to choose? Like it or not, the most common, household names like 9mm are not the best performing rounds out there. Many factors determine how popular and widely available a caliber will be, including,

  • military use
  • good marketing
  • adoption by many firearm and ammo manufacturers
  • rave reviews from respected figures in the firearms community
  • performance

I put performance at the end of the list for a reason, it’s just not the main deciding factor.

 

The big three: when in doubt, use what the Army uses

Three of the most widely available rifle calibers have been US military standard issue, .30-06, .308, and .223. Yeah, they have some fancy metric names but these are actually the original designations. The first two are outstanding performers. The US military introduced the .30-06 in 1906 to make sure that it had the firepower to outgun rifles like the Mauser 1983 used by the Spanish in the Spanish-American War. The .308 was a failed attempt to adapt the .30-06 for select fire after WWII. It turned out to be an outstanding performer in long-range marksmanship and is still used in NATO sniper rifles. Both the .30-06 and the .308 are legendary rounds, two of the most popular in America and around the world. The next standard issue US military rifle round is more contentious, the .223. The UK wanted to bring NATO into the assault rifle age with the FN FAL chambered in the superior .280 British, but the US military doesn’t like being told what to do, so AR-15 in .223 it was. The rifle is a runaway success, but the round, designed to be light, fast, and easy to pack in bulk definitely has its detractors. It doesn’t really excel in anything.

 

It’s a similar story with the military’s move from the 45 ACP thumper to the 9mm. Both the .223 and the 9mm are considered by many to be pea-shooters and major missteps in military procurement. Nevertheless, thanks to Uncle Sam’s seal of approval, these are two of the most ubiquitous rounds on the civilian market today. One of the best handgun calibers is 10mm, which was developed to outgun both 45 ACP and 9mm in a semi-auto handgun. The FBI trialed it after the tragic 1986 Miami shootout, but weaker trainees found it hard to manage. Instead of giving them more training, the FBI developed the .40 S&W, which is still better than the 9mm.

 

Does standard issue mean best of the best?

As a civilian shooter, your priorities are probably not to have something that will outgun the Spanish, provide .30-06 performance in full-auto, be easy to pack in bulk into battle, or be easy on the weak. If you’ve ever built an AR-15, you know that mil-spec components are solid options, but for a bit more cash, you can get something much better. The same is true with calibers. There are of course rounds that have been designed from the ground up to meet civilian needs, but even in that category, the most popular options are not the best performers. Legendary options like .270 and .243 come to mind to out-perform the .308, depending on the specific scenario. If ‘go big or go home’ is your motto, to outgun .30-06, anything with a ‘Weatherby’ and ‘Magnum’ in the name will do the trick, especially if there’s also a ‘.300’ in it. The .300 Winchester Magnum is also hard to beat. 

 

It’s not hard to do better than .223

It’s disconcerting that the calibers for taking out fools are the same as those for taking out varmints. It’s not hard to find something that performs better than .223, check out .204 Ruger or 6.5 Creedmoor. For whatever reason, 6.5 appears to be a ballistic sweet spot. Rounds in this range usually offer long, thin bullets, giving you a great ‘ballistic coefficient,’ meaning they cut through the air efficiently, shooting straight and flat without getting bucked by the wind. Many argue that they hit well above their weight. Think 6.5x55mm Swedish, .260 Remington, 6.5 Grendel, or even its daughter case, .224 Valkyrie. Unlike the military rounds mentioned above, you’re not going to find these in every single little sporting goods shop. I know of no round with better ballistics than the .260. Remington failed to market it well when it was introduced and other manufacturers didn’t take it up, so it faded away everywhere but in long-range competition results. Legendary civilian rounds like .270 Winchester enjoyed solid marketing, brought adoption by manufacturers, and rave reviews by leading figures in the firearms community. It is a great performer, but, like .308, it’s not the best.

 

Availability is a major issue in picking the best caliber

As performance and popularity are not in perfect alignment, if you insist on going for the ultimate cartridge in a given category, you’re probably going to face availability issues. Sure, every so often there is a general, nationwide ammo shortage anyway. One way around this is to reload. Get a reloading press and other equipment, stock up on brass, invest in an annealer, and you’ll be pretty self-sufficient. If you cast your own bullets from old tire weights, all you need to worry about is powder and primers.

 

Check out our guide to reloading.

 

One way to avoid agonizing over which caliber is best is to just go 12 gauge. You sacrifice range for unrivaled versatility. Most deer are shot not far past the effective range of a slug, and a slug will drop anything you place a decent shot on. Buckshot is a great option for home defense, but again, the most popular, old military option, double-aught, isn’t as good as #1 buckshot, which will give your assailant more pellets and more lead to contend with.

 

The bottom line: it’s the shooter not the round

After all that nitpicking, here’s the bottom line. If you go with a well established, proven caliber in one of these categories,

  • Handgun
  • Rifle for varmints/defense
  • Rifle for mid-sized game
  • Rifle for large game

You can save the headache of obsessing over which caliber to choose. Training and practice will make vastly more difference in how effective your shooting is than caliber choice. Availability is an important factor to consider when choosing the ‘best caliber.’ So if a good deal on a gun in a proven caliber comes up, don’t fret, pull the trigger. Get yourself trained and put in some serious hours at the range and you’ll be outgunning the best of them. Have fun and shoot safe!

 

PRODUCT REVIEWS

PRODUCT REVIEWS

Follow me here for gun and product reviews. I live on the outskirts of the Nations’ Capital. I guess you could call it suburbs but I have trees, water and wildlife on my property. And I like it like that. I am still in the Old Line State where gun control runs rampant. Even though we have a handgun roster board that restricts hundreds of firearms that can be sold here I try to review firearms and equipment as a urban shooter, outdoorsman and former law enforcement officer might enjoy as I am offered.

Does an urban gun owner have different viewpoint? Yes. For one, we are a growing segment of the gun owning population. We typically have to shoot at indoor ranges instead of open ones. Many of us are security guards, police officers and or military veterans. We usually don’t have family support for shooting. Our churches, mosques and social groups often don’t approve. We shoot in pairs, three if we are social, if not solo. We mostly shoot handguns and slowly venturing out into the rifle market. We have always had a shotgun although rarely was in anything other than home defense. It was usually our first purchase, now destined to collect dust at home.

From this category I hope to share products that I am given to review as a urban shooter. If you like to see something in particular, send me a note and I will hit my friends in the industry and see if anyone can help you. We are a new market. We have always been here but they didn’t know it.

These times they are a changing….

Check out these podcast:  Black Man With A Gun Show ,  Speak Life church , and  Indian Motorcycle radio  The Books, Kenn has written.
Ammunition Nomenclature: Eliminating Confusion for Newbie Shooters

Ammunition Nomenclature: Eliminating Confusion for Newbie Shooters

For someone new to firearms and ammunition, it can be confusing to understand the different names and terms given to ammunition cartridges. There are several types and shapes of ammunition, and knowing the difference can make a big impact on the safety and performance of the firearm.

 

The confusion is brought about by the absence of a naming standard. Generally, the numbers used in ammunition indicate the metal bullet’s diameter. Therefore, a .45 means that it is .45 of an inch in diameter while the diameter of a .22 is .22 of an inch.

 

The compound number used to describe ammunition represents diameter to length ratio, such as:

 

  • 56×45 mm – 5.56mm wide, 45mm long
  • 9×19 mm – 9mm wide, 19mm long

 

Shotshells on the other hand are measured in gauge. The larger diameter is the lower number. A 12-gauge shell is 70mm in length, which is about 2.5 inches. It is also available in 3-inch magnum.

 

Components of a cartridge

 

A cartridge is the type packaging of small arms ammunition, which is composed of four parts:

 

  • Case – which is typically made of steel, nickel or brass
  • Primer – the propellant’s ignition. It is the round dimple located at the cartridge’s base.
  • Propellant/powder – the gunpowder
  • Projectile – the actual bullet

 

A cartridge with propellant but without a bullet is called a blank. A dummy or drill round does not have a primer, propellant and bullet, and typically used for training purposes and when checking the performance of a firearm. A dummy round is also called a snap cap.

 

Types of cartridges

 

As there are several types of firearms, there are also different types of cartridges that are loaded into them. The types include the following:

 

  • 8mm Mauser (actually 7.9mm)
  • 12 gauge Shotshell
  • .22 Long Rifle
  • 45x39mm Soviet
  • 56x45mm NATO (.223 Remington)
  • 62x39mm Soviet
  • 62x51mm (.308 Winchester)
  • 62x54mm Russian (rimless base)
  • .44 Magnum (rimless base)
  • .45 Automatic Colt Pistol or ACP
  • 9x19mm Para. (also called Parabellum, Luger or just 9mm, but they slightly vary in length)

 

What is a caliber?

 

Caliber or calibre, (abbreviation – cal.) is the estimated diameter of the internal part of the gun’s barrel. It also represents the diameter of the projectile or the bullet. A .45 caliber gun for example means that the barrel diameter measures .45 of an inch or close to but still not quite half an inch.

 

Diameters can be expressed in metric as well, such as 9mm guns. The decimal point is typically dropped when said orally, but included in written descriptions.

 

Here are examples of the typical naming conventions, to make it easier for you to understand the caliber of the ammunition (ammo).

 

  • 30-06 – the first number represents the caliber of the ammo, while 06 represents the year 1906 (standard rifle cartridge of the U.S. military)
  • 270 Winchester – approximate diameter of the bullet (actual size – .277-inch); Winchester is the manufacturer that standardized this type of ammo.
  • 375 H&H Magnum – bullet diameter = .375-inch; H&H stands for Holland & Holland, a British manufacturer; magnum is the name given to the ammo because it is slightly bigger than its counterparts
  • 220 Swift – about .224″ in diameter; swift is added because it is exceedingly fast (also manufactured by Winchester)
  • 45-70 Government – officially adopted for the use of the U.S. government; size is .458″
  • 30-30 Winchester – first number is its diameter while the second number represents its 30 grains of black powder load.
  • 45 ACP – the ’45’ represents the diameter of the bullet while ACP refers to the original gun, the Automatic Colt Pistol model 1911.

 

Types of bullets

 

The projectile or the bullet, which is the actual piece that flies out of a firearm, comes in different types, which are usually called by their acronyms, as follows:

 

  • LRN – Lead Round Nose
  • WC – Wad Cutter
  • SWC – Semi Wad Cutter
  • SJ – Semi Jacketed
  • SJHP – Semi Jacketed Hollow Point
  • JHP – Jacketed Hollow Point
  • FMJ – Full Metal Jacket
  • SP – Soft Point (not coating on bullet tip, exposing the lead)
  • AP – Armor Piercing (alloy core)
  • BT – Boat Tail (cartridge’s read end is tapered for flight stability of the projectile)
  • BTHP – Boat Tail Hollow Point
  • RBCD – Special (the acronym is the name of the manufacturer)

 

Ammunition nomenclature is definitely confusing. The important thing to remember is to have the appropriate ammunition and protection for your firearm. The diameter should perfectly match the size of the gun’s barrel to have the right seal.

 

With the market flooded with different makers, you need to be specific when you purchase your cartridges. A common 7.62 could be for a 7.62×59, 7.62×54 Russian, 7.62×54 Russian, 7.62×39 Soviet or a 7.62×25 Tokarov.

 

Contributor:  Imran Khan

 

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