Metallic Cartridge Nomenclature
Aug 19th, 2014 by RoundsReloaded

Metallic Cartridge Nomenclature
(How the .30-30, .30-06, and other favorites got their names)

By Chuck Hawks

Cartridge nomenclature has been haphazard at best, particularly in North America. Since the invention of self-contained ammunition, cartridges have been named in accordance with certain general customs in North America, Europe and the UK, but there have been many exceptions to these general rules. Here is how some of the common rifle and pistol cartridges got their names.

North American rifle and pistol cartridges

In the days of black powder, most North American centerfire metallic cartridges were described by their nominal caliber (the bore diameter of the barrel) and the powder charge they contained. Thus the .45-70 was a .45 caliber rifle cartridge that, in maximum loads, was powered by 70 grains of black powder. The .44-40 was a .44 caliber combination rifle and pistol cartridge charged with 40 grains of black powder.

Sometimes the bullet weight was added to the name, as in .45-70-405. That would be a .45-70 cartridge loaded with the standard 405 grain bullet. The .45-70-500 was the same cartridge loaded with a 500 grain bullet.

This basic system worked pretty well until the advent of smokeless powder. For while the energy per grain of different brands of black powder is essentially the same, smokeless powder can be manufactured in a nearly limitless number of variations. For example, the energy per grain of IMR 3031 powder is completely different than the energy per grain of Bullseye powder.

Early smokeless powder cartridges, such as the .30-30 Winchester and .30-40 Krag were, in fact, named following the old system. The .30-30 was originally loaded with 30 grains of the then new smokeless powder, and the Krag was loaded with 40 grains of smokeless.

However, it was soon realized that including the nominal powder charge in the name of smokeless powder cartridges was meaningless and potentially dangerous. So smokeless cartridges soon came to be named for their nominal bore diameter and the company that introduced them. This is how such familiar rifle cartridges as the .270 Winchester and .300 Savage were named. Sometime in the 1950’s it became fashionable to name cartridges for the groove (or bullet) diameter. This is how the .308 Winchester (a .300 caliber cartridge by bore diameter) and .338 Winchester Magnum (a .330 cartridge by bore diameter) were named. Ditto the .357 Magnum revolver cartridge (a .35 caliber cartridge by bore diameter).

Today the groove diameter/bullet diameter is the most common method by which modern North American cartridges are named. The .243 WSSM, for example, has a groove diameter of .243″ and uses .243″ diameter bullets. Conversely, the .300 WSM was named for its bore diameter, just like the old .300 H&H Magnum of 1920. The Swedish .308 Norma Magnum was named in the North American fashion for its groove diameter.

Many cartridges have been named for neither their bore nor groove diameters. The .280 Remington has a bore diameter of .277″ and a groove/bullet diameter of .284″. And the .260 Remington has a bore diameter of .256″ and a groove/bullet diameter of .264″. Probably the names of these two cartridges were chosen because the sales people at Remington thought that customers would like even numbers like .260 and .280 better than less common numbers like .264 or .284. Along the same lines, the .340 Weatherby uses standard .338″ bullets, and the .460 Weatherby uses standard .458″ bullets.

When sales of the .280 languished, Remington tried changing its name to “7mm Express Remington.” That name proved to be even less popular than .280, and Remington eventually reverted to the original “.280 Remington” moniker.

The bullet diameters of some popular cartridges are considerably overstated. The .380 ACP uses .355″ bullets, the .38 Special uses .357″ bullets, and the .44 Magnum uses .429″ bullets. It is common to find the bullet diameter of pistol cartridges overstated.

One that is not overstated is the .41 Remington Magnum; its bullet diameter is actually .410. An oddity is the .38-40 Winchester, an old black powder cartridge that actually uses .40 caliber bullets, not .38 caliber bullets. It should have been called the “.40-40 Win.”

A number of American cartridges since WW II have used metric designations for their bullet diameters. The cartridge that logically should have been named the “.280 Remington Magnum,” since there was already a .280 Remington, was actually named the 7mm Remington Magnum, and went on to become the world’s most popular magnum cartridge. When the fine .244 Remington didn’t win customer acceptance under that name, it was renamed the “6mm Remington” and sales picked up.

A metric designation did not help the sales appeal of the cartridge that could have been called the “.32 Remington Magnum,” (the original .32 Remington was introduced in the early years of the 20th Century), but was actually named the 8mm Remington Magnum. It has never caught on.

Winchester’s first fat, short action, rebated rim cartridge was given a proper American name, .284 Winchester, but it never gained wide acceptance. In an attempt to capitalize on the cachet of a metric designation, the latest fat, short action, rebated rim Winchester cartridge that uses .284″ bullets was introduced as the 7mm WSM. Only time will tell if this marketing ploy will be successful.

Other cartridges have been named in other ways. The famous .30-06 cartridge was designed for a .30 caliber bore and was adopted by the U.S. military in 1906. The 7mm-08 Remington has a 7mm bore and is based on a necked-down .308 case. The .25-06 has a .25 caliber bore and is based on a necked-down .30-06 case. These names reflect the cartridges’ parentage.

Lou Palisano and Ferris Pindell designed the well known .22 and 6mm PPC bench rest cartridges; “PPC” stands for “Palisano-Pindell Cartridge.” The .257 Roberts was introduced by Remington, but was named for its designer, Ned Roberts. The 7-30 Waters was designed by Ken Waters and introduced by Winchester. The .35 Whelen, standardized by Remington, got its name in a similar manner. The 7mm STW (for Shooting Times Westerner) was designed by Layne Simpson, a writer for Shooting Times magazine. All of these cartridges started life as wildcats and their names had become widely known before their standardization as factory loaded cartridges.

The .22-250 Varminter got its handle from J.E. Gebby, who trademarked the name “.22 Varminter” for his wildcat varmint cartridge back in the 1930’s. Other wildcatters simply called it the .22-250 because it was based on a necked-down .250 Savage case. When Remington standardized the round in 1965 they added their name, calling it the .22-250 Remington. Lots of shooters still call the cartridge the Varminter, though.

The .250-3000 is a standard .25 caliber cartridge (bore diameter .250), and it was the first factory loaded cartridge to offer a muzzle velocity (MV) of 3000 fps. Its name is intended to both promote and capitalize on its high velocity. So was the name of the .220 Swift, actually designed by Winchester technicians, and the .224 Rocket from Weatherby. Other cartridges with names chosen to catch the attention of consumers (much like the names chosen for automobile models) include the .22 Hornet, .221 Fireball, .218 Bee, .219 Zipper, and the Remington Ultra Mag series of cartridges. One can only conclude that North Americans have shown a good deal of creativity in naming their cartridges.

European rifle and pistol cartridges

Meanwhile, in Europe, cartridges have generally been named for their nominal bore diameter and their case length in millimeters (rounded off). One millimeter equals 0.03937 inch. Thus “7×57″ indicates a cartridge for a 7 millimeter (or approximately .276″) bore with a case length of 57 millimeters. Our familiar .308 Winchester is called the 7.62×51 in Europe, and that is also its NATO military designation. It has a 7.62mm (or .300”) bore diameter and a case 51mm long.

An “R” suffix indicates a rimmed case (i.e. 7x57R). Otherwise the case is assumed to be of rimless style. For example, 5.6x36R is the European designation for the American .22 Hornet, which has a rimmed case.

Sometimes the designer or company of origin is tacked onto the end, as in “6×62 Freres.” The Germans added a “J” to the suffix of their 8mm Mauser round to indicate an infantry cartridge, which resulted in that cartridge being known as the 8x57J. Later an “S” was added to indicate the use of a new spitzer bullet in a cartridge originally loaded with a round nose bullet. Thus the “8x57JS” cartridge used in the Mauser 98 military rifle with which the Germans fought two World Wars.

The European system is basically reasonable, but they are actually not much better than the North Americans when it comes to accurately describing the bore of their rifles in the name of their cartridges. For example, the rifles for the original 8x57J Mauser cartridge actually used 7.9mm (.318″) bullets. It wasn’t until the advent of the 8x57JS cartridge that the 8mm Mauser adopted standard 8mm (.323″) diameter bullets.

And Europeans have repeatedly described .22 caliber cartridges as both 5.56mm (as in the 5.56×45 NATO military cartridge) and 5.6mm (as in the 5.6×50 Magnum). Both use .224″ bullets, the same as standard North American centerfire .22 cartridges.

Europeans often label .25 caliber cartridges (.250″ bore and .256-.257″ groove diameter) “6.5mm,” which is actually .26 caliber (.256″ bore and .264″ groove diameter). The metric nomenclature for the .25-35 WCF, which uses standard .25 caliber (.257″) bullets, is 6.5x52R. True 6.5mm cartridges, such as the 6.5×55 SE, use .264″ bullets.

European handgun cartridges are likewise named for their bore diameter and case length. The famous 9x19mm pistol cartridge, which North Americans call the 9mm Luger, is a typical example.

British rifle cartridges

The British have their own somewhat unique system of cartridge identification. Like most American cartridges, British sporting rifle cartridges have been named for their bore diameter, and sometimes their groove or bullet diameter, usually followed by a manufacturers name.

They have also freely (and loosely) translated Continental European cartridges into their system. Thus the cartridge known the world over as the 7x57mm Mauser became the .275 Rigby in the UK, and rifles so marked are still turned out by the Rigby firm. These rifles shoot regular 7mm Mauser ammunition using .284″ bullets. When the British appropriated the 9.5x57mm Mannlicher-Schoenauer cartridge they renamed it the .375 Rimless NE (2 1/4″). Holland’s .244 Magnum actually uses standard 6mm (.243″) bullets, as did their earlier .240 Magnum. The British seem to have been no more accurate in naming their cartridges than the Americans or Continental Europeans.

The term “Express” was often used to indicate higher than normal velocity, usually the product of a lighter bullet loaded in some established cartridge. The .577 Express (a black powder cartridge) would be one example.

When smokeless powder (Cordite or nitro powder to the British) became available, the word “Nitro” was added to the name of the earlier black powder express cartridges upon their conversion to the new propellant. The example in the paragraph above thus became the .577 Nitro Express when loaded with smokeless powder. “Nitro Express” is often abbreviated “NE.”

Often the case length was included in the cartridge nomenclature, such as “.450 NE 3 1/4-inch.” If that cartridge were necked-down to accept .40 caliber bullets it would become the .450/.400 NE 3 1/4-inch. Opposite from American practice, the British put the original cartridge size in front of the new size.

If a cartridge is available in both rimless and rimmed forms, the rimmed form is termed “flanged” and the rimless version “rimless.” For example, the rimmed version of the famous .375 Belted Rimless Magnum (or .375 H&H Magnum) is called the .375 Flanged Magnum. The .375, by the way, is named for its groove diameter rather than its bore diameter.

Some British cartridges are known by more than one name, the .375 H&H mentioned in the paragraph above is one example. The .404 Jeffery is another, as this famous cartridge is also known in the UK as the .404 Rimless NE. Its case forms the basis, in much reduced length, for the Winchester WSM and WSSM lines of cartridges, and also the Remington Ultra Mag and Short Action Ultra Mag (SAUM) series.

British sporting rifle cartridge design was at its peak before the First World War. After the Second World War the British gun trade fell on hard times, due primarily to the dissolution of the British Empire and government interference. (The various socialist Labour Party governments have basically tried to stamp out the private ownership of firearms in the UK.) Kynoch, the British ammunition trust, stopped loading commercial ammunition in the 1960’s. Most of the famous British African cartridges became obsolete, and the introduction of new cartridges practically ceased after the 1955 debut of the .244 Holland & Holland Magnum Belted Rimless, which failed to attract an international following.

But not entirely. In 1988 Holland and Holland partnered with Americans Jim Bell and William Feldstein to introduce the .700 Nitro Express cartridge and rifles in which to shoot it. Rigby introduced a new .450 Rigby cartridge in 1995, and in 2003 Holland & Holland announced a pair of new big bore cartridges, the .400 H&H Magnum Belted Rimless and the .465 H&H Magnum Belted Rimless. The name Kynoch has been resurrected and ammunition is once again being loaded for many of the classic British Nitro Express rifle cartridges in the UK. Thankfully, and unexpectedly, there appears to have been at least a modest resurgence of the British firearms and ammunition industry.

A Crash in Ammunition Prices is Coming
Jun 11th, 2014 by RoundsReloaded

A Crash in Ammunition Prices is Coming

By Dean Weingarten

A Crash in Ammunition Prices is Coming

Dean Weingarten

 Arizona – -( The Obama caused bubble in ammunition prices seems ready to bust.

Over the last few years people have seen ammunition prices double or triple.

Handgun and rifle ammunition has been hard to find at times. .22 long rifle ammunition tripled in price over the last 18 months. People would line up to buy ammunition at prices two and three times the level that they were just two years ago.

All of that is about to change. Ammunition supply looks as though it is ready to catch up with demand. Centerfire pistol and rifle cartridges are available on most store shelves. When I walked into a local Wal-Mart this morning, their were over 30 signs on the ammunition case indicating a rollback of prices by 10-15%.

In classic economic fashion, the bubble was fueled by actions of the Federal government. Many federal agencies bought enormous quantities of ammunition. While the quantities were only a small percentage of total production, the raw figures fueled conspiracy theories. Obama administration actions fueled fear of coming shortages, gun bans, registration of ammunition sales, even potential low level warfare. All of this led to the current bubble of ammunition sales.

In response, the economy reacted the way that free markets are supposed to work. Ammunition suppliers started running their manufacturing plants day and night, adding additional shifts. Importers scoured the world markets, trying to buy everything they could to satisfy the insatiable demand. Foreign manufacturers bumped up their production to try to fill the desire for more and more ammunition. Ammunition production was at the highest level ever for small arms, short of war.
But unlike during war, this ammunition was not being fired in combat. Most of it was not being fired at all. It was being stored against future need. Very little was actually being used.

There are limits to this sort of demand. I gave away a couple of thousand .22rounds to make a point. A person who only had 37 .22 shells out of a box of 50 is well justified in wanting a thousand or two, or a case of 5,000 “just because”. Once they have the 5,000, their desire for more becomes less. Then demand drops, likely below pre-bubble levels for a while.
In the meantime, manufactures cannot stop production instantly. They have orders in the pipeline. They have supplies coming in that they have no storage space for. They have employees that they have trained and who they do not want to lay off. For all these reasons, demand drops suddenly, but supply cannot drop as quickly. As supply took a while to spin up, it will take a while to spin down.

This means that retailers and wholesalers will be saddled with a glut of merchandise that they cannot sell at the current high prices. They will have to put it on sale. Lower prices bring about the expectation that prices will fall even further. The prices crash.

That is when a prudent person buys what they want, at very good prices. Demand will not stay at the artificially low prices of the crash. The new crop of urban, hip, shooters will want to feed their equipment, and the new demand will be higher than it was before the bubble, but it will take a while to settle out.

Metal prices have already fallen from the highs of the bubble. Copper and lead are far lower than they were. You will know that the bubble is close to the bottom when you see .22 LR on sale for below 4 cents per round. At the lowest, we might see .22 cartridges below $10 for 500.

Read my newest article “The Ammunition Bubble: Substitute 12 Gauge for .22 Ammo?”

 c2014 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included. Link to Gun Watch

About Dean Weingarten;
Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of constitutional carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering, and recently retired from the Department of Defense after a 30 year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.

Annealing: A process almost forgotten
Jun 4th, 2014 by RoundsReloaded


Today relatively few handloaders take the time to anneal their case necks. Dave Campbell is one of those few.


As I putter around fooling with old stuff I often find myself reacquainting myself with nearly long forgotten skills. In the old days miserly handloaders—a redundant term—would often anneal the necks of their brass cartridge case hoard in order to extract an additional loading or two before reluctantly retiring the eight-cent case. Today relatively few handloaders take the time to anneal their case necks. It is a boring and tedious chore, and given the volume of shooting done by many modern shooters, annealing case necks is simply impractical.

However, as I said at the beginning, I am fooling around with the old stuff—specifically the .45-90-2.4 Sharps cartridge and black powder, along with bullets the size of your thumb. In a couple of weeks I’ll be joining The Shootists in Raton, N.M., and several of us will be going up against the 1,123-yard iron bison on the silhouette range. The batch of cases I am using have been fired once, and the sizing, expanding, bullet seating—anything that moves the brass—work-hardens the case at its neck. I was initially skeptical of this whole annealing process, so I asked some guys with a lot more experience than I have to explain the logic and necessity of annealing.

One Country Gent (his online moniker), of Ohio, stated the reasoning succinctly, “Case neck annealing helps maintain consistent neck tension on a loaded round. As cases are sized and fired they are constantly flexing and work hardening. (similar to bending a wire back and forth till it breaks) This also affects how well the cases seal to the chamber.” He further stated that I could verify the effectiveness of annealing by taking 20 cases from the same lot; annealing 10 and loading the other 10 without annealing, Shoot all 20 at one sitting, recording accuracy and characteristics (like effectiveness of sealing the bore based upon how dirty the exterior of the case is); repeat the process until the cases begin to fail—split or head separation. That would take quite a while, so I’ll defer to his experience in the matter.

There are several methods used to anneal case necks, differing primarily in productivity and, to a lesser degree, uniformity. One can buy or build a jig the only allows the first half-inch or so of the case neck to be heated. The time honored one—and what I am using for now because I don’t have the time to build a jig and am too stingy to buy one—is to place several empty cases with the spent primers removed into a cake pan about half filled with water. It should be obvious as to why one would not anneal cases that are live primed. I removed the primers in order to allow the water to fill the bottom of the case and keep it from bobbing around in the water. Heat the top 1/2 inch of the cases with a torch as evenly as possible; when it glows orange, remove the heat and tip the case into the water to cool. The purpose of the water is two-fold: It prevents the heat from crawling to the head area of the case and ruining it, and cools the neck so that it can be handled—removed and set to dry while replenishing the pan with fresh cases—with bare hands. There is more to learn about this annealing thing—mostly as to how to increase productivity—and I think I’ll see if the powers that be here will allow me to further explore it in a full-length article.

Annealing isn’t just for old charcoal burners. Many ammo manufacturers anneal virgin case necks to reduce the scrapping of new cases with split necks during the loading process. Too, I am hearing rumbling of accuracy buffs using case annealing to maintain uniformity of bullet tension and sealing of the bore and chamber in modern ultra-high-velocity cartridges. When your passion in life is the zero-inch group, nothing is too tedious or over-the-top to achieve that objective.



3 Responses to Annealing

Wayne the Shrink wrote:
May 29, 2014

I agree with Tom. I anneal mine in my lead pot. Do not deprime your cases. Get your lead to 750 degrees, hold one case by the base. Dip the neck in the lead and do a slow count until you can’t hold the base any more. Drop the case, use a pair of pliers or other utensil to hold the other cases to the same count. You have annealed your cases. If you leave a little of the sizing lube on the necks you won’t get any lead soldered on, either.

NHshtr wrote:
May 28, 2014

I’ve been meaning to try this with my .270 WSM cases. Anyone have a guide as to how often this should be done on a given case? e.g. every reloading or after a few?

Tom Myers wrote:
May 28, 2014

If you have heated the brass to the point where it ‘glows orange’ you have essentially ruined the case. The brass is then so soft that it lost the ability to provide neck tension to the bullet. The brass should only be heated to where it just starts to change color, a light tan or irridesent blue is just about right


You can find this article in the Hunting Blogs of the American Hunter online magazine an NRA publication,

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