A Ballistics Family Tree: The Origin Stories of Your Favorite Hunting Cartridges

Ever wonder where your favorite deer cartridge came from?

Ever wonder where your favorite deer cartridge came from or what inspired the latest whizbang introductions in recent years? Our knowledgeable, but cranky, correspondent has all the answers in this useful guide to cartridge genealogy.

1906

.30/06 Springfield

Created in 1906, the .30/06 Springfield was so far ahead of its time that it still might not have peaked. It is arguably the most popular big-game cartridge on earth.

1915
.250 Savage
Charlie Bolt was an Eskimo guide who hunted everything with a .223—caribou, wolves, seals—except for polar bears. "That polar bear is a tough customer," he told me. "You need a big gun. I use a .250 Savage. Ever hear of it?"

polar bear
“That polar bear is a tough customer.”Alamy

1920
.300 Savage
Before the .308 Winchester, this was the premier short-action .30 caliber cartridge.

1922
.35 Whelen

1925
.270 Winchester
This cartridge, the first with a muzzle velocity in excess of 3,000 fps with a bullet weight suitable for big game, ushered in a new era.

1945
.338/06
Designed by Elmer Keith, Charles O'Neil, and Don Hopkins after World War II.

1952
.308 Winchester
The most famous and successful of the .30/06's offspring.

1955
.358 Winchester
.243 Winchester

The .243 is one of our most popular cartridges. The .358 isn't.

1957
.280 Remington
Remington's answer to the .270 Winchester. It was at one time the best-selling hunting cartridge Remington made, but it never caught the .270.

1957
.280 Ackley Improved
Perhaps the best of the Ackley Improved cartridges. This one has gone mainstream.

1965
.22/250 Remington
When the .250/3000 Savage was introduced in 1915, wildcatters J.E. Gebby and J.B. Smith necked it down and called it the .22 Varminter. In 1965, Remington made it a standard offering.

1969
.25/06 Remington
With the smallest-diameter bullet of the '06 family, this cartridge is revered by the few hunters who use it.

1980
7mm-08 Rem.
There is a law that says all cartridge families must have a 7mm, and it must bear the Remington name.

1997
6.5-06 A-Square
An oddity that, if introduced today, might fare better given the interest in 6.5mm cartridges.

1997
.260 Remington
Designed for 1,000-yard target shooting. Great for hunting and long-range work.2006

.338 Federal
An unsung hero of the short-action cartridges. Works well on critters from deer to moose.

1912

.375 H&H

.375 H&H

.375 H&H

.375 H&HBryce M. Towsley

This cartridge was introduced by the famous British firm Holland & Holland back in 1912. It continues to surf at the crest of its popularity even today.

1925
.300 H&H
The first successful .30-caliber "Magnum." It paved the way for many popular cartridges.

1943 .270 Weatherby
1944 7mm Weatherby
1944 .257 Weatherby
1945 .375 Weatherby
1948 .300 Weatherby
Roy Weatherby's cartridges have a small but devoted following even today.

1956
.458 Winchester
Introduced in 1956, the .458 Winchester was designed to emulate the power of the Nitro Express cartridges.

1958
.338 Winchester Magnum
If you set out to design the best possible cartridge for elk, moose, and bears, this is where you would end up.

1958
.264 Winchester Magnum
Great in concept, but it failed to deliver.

1962
.340 Weatherby
Weatherby's answer to the .338 Winchester.

1962
7mm Remington Magnum
Our most popular metric cartridge.

1963
.300 Winchester
You know that age-old question about having one cartridge for North America? Yeah, it's this one.

bugling elk
Bugling elk.Alamy

1965
.350 Remington Magnum
1966
6.5 Remington Magnum

1971
.458 Lott
One of the best rounds for shooting creatures with plans to bite, stomp, gore, or claw you.

1978
8mm Remington Magnum
Huh?
That's the response from most when you bring up this cartridge.

1988
.416 Remington
The .416 Rigby in a compact package. Same performance, but it fits a standard-size action.

1997
7mm STW
This necked-down 8mm Remington had its 15 minutes of fame before the 7mm RUM killed it off.

2000
.450 Marlin
A modern version of the .45/70, it's a hard-thumping cartridge that's slowly dying.

1905

.404 Jeffery A British round designed to be used for dangerous game. A rare find in the hunting fields today, it gave birth to some impressive cartridges.

404 jeffery

404 jeffery

The 404 JefferyBryce M. Towsley

1999 .300 RUM
2002 .338 RUM
2002 7mm RUM
Never caught on.

2002
.375 RUM
When you absolutely, positively have to stomp the snot out of something, this is the cartridge to use.

cape buffalo
Cape buffalo.Alamy

2000 .300 WSM
2001 7mm WSM
2001 .270 WSM
2002 .243 WSSM
2004 .25 WSSM
2004 .325 WSM
2002 .22 WSSM

2001 .300 SAUM
2001 7mm SAUM
These worthy cartridges were overshadowed by the WSMs.

2013 .26 Nosler
2015 .28 Nosler
2016 .30 Nosler
Nosler's trio of speed demons are latest of the Jeffery's offspring.

1950

.222 Remington The Triple Deuce was introduced in 1950 and said to be a scaled-down .30/06. The .222 Remington has always had a reputation for outstanding accuracy.

.222 remington

.222 remington

.222 Remington.Bryce M. Towsley

1958
.222 Rem. Mag.
1964
.223 Remington
Developed for the military and adopted commercially by Remington. The .223 is king of cartridges in this case size.

1963
.221 Fireball
This is a shortened version that was developed for the space-age-looking XP100 handgun.

1971
.17 Remington
Once boasted the fastest muzzle velocity in any factory cartridge.

2004
.204 Ruger
Neck the obsolete .222 Rem. Mag. down to .20 caliber, and you have the .204 Ruger.

2007
.17 Fireball
This downsized .17 Rem. is a nice little cartridge that never caught on.

2011
.300 AAC BLK
J.D. Jones created the .300 Whisper, primarily for subsonic use with suppressors. Years later, Advanced Armament Corp. "reinvented" it as the .300 AAC Blackout.

2014
.25x45 Sharps
Developed for a bit more wallop from the AR-15, this cartridge's future is still murky in the crystal ball.

1876

.38/55

38/55

38/55

38/55Bryce M. Towsley

The .38/55 started as a blackpowder cartridge and gained fame as a target round. This fine patriarch has a huge family of successful offspring.

1884
.32/40 Win./Ballard
Developed for target shooting, it was a favorite of famed barrel maker Harry Pope.

1895
.30/30
One of the most successful cartridges ever. It ushered in the era of smokeless powder.

1895
.25/35
This one was introduced as a fraternal twin with the .30/30. Its sibling ate it alive.

1902
.32 Special
This was a crossover cartridge that could be loaded with black powder or smokeless.

1964
.225 Winchester
Big performance, but nobody wanted a rimmed varmint cartridge.

1978
.375 Winchester
A modern-day version of the .38/55. It came along too late in history to be successful.

1984
7x30 Waters
A fun experiment, but as they say, when you strike a king, you better kill him. The .30/30 is still on the throne.

1911

.416 Rigby I have shot it in a lot of rifles, but by far the most memorable is the .416 Rigby that belonged to the famous African PH Harry Selby. It was a huge check off my bucket list.

.416 rigby

.416 rigby

.416 Rigby.Bryce M. Towsley

1953
.378 Weatherby
Roy took the .416 Rigby, added a belt, and necked it to .375 inch.

1957
.460 Weatherby
A .45-caliber elephant stopper in beast mode.

1989
.338 Lapua
It holds the record for the longest successful sniper shot ever. What more needs to be said?

1989
.416 Weatherby
Weatherby's .416 is the biggest and baddest of all the .416s.

1996
.30/378 Weatherby
The huge case of the .378 Weatherby necked down to .30 caliber.

1998
.338/378 Weatherby
Necked to .33 caliber, this dragon slayer is a thumper on big game and the shooter's shoulder.

elephant
ElephantAlamy

1982

.307 Winchester This was a great concept—.308 performance from a lever-action Model 94 rifle. Except for that flat-pointed bullet thing. It fell flat. But the case design lives on even today.

307 winchester

307 winchester

307 winchesterBryce M. Towsley

1982
.356 Winchester
The .307 necked up to .35 caliber and stuffed into a Model 94 lever action.

2007
.30 TC
A cartridge born without a pulse. This is the .300 Savage 50 years too late.

2007
6.5 Creedmoor
The hottest cartridge going right now. It's the darling of the long-range precision shooting clan.

2007
.308 Marlin Express
It worked for Winchester, right? So Marlin thought they should give it a try.

2009
.338 Marlin Express
A great lever-action hunting cartridge. At least five people bought one.

1963

.284 Winchester The .284 Winchester is an example of a brilliant cartridge from an engineering and performance standpoint that was rejected by the public. It lives on through its descendants.

284 winchester

284 winchester

The .284 winchesterBryce M. Towsley

1999
6.5-284 Norma Mag.
The 6.5 is the hip and happening bullet diameter today. This one is doing pretty well.

2007
.450 Bushmaster
Straighten out the case, stuff a big bullet into it, and chamber an AR-15. This is a thumper for hogs, bears, or deer. I once shot an 1,800-pound water buffalo with this cartridge.

cartridges, historical cartridges, cartridge family tree, ammunition, big game cartridges
Brown bearAlamy

2008
.30 Remington AR
The best .30-caliber hunting cartridge made for ARs. Sadly, it hasn't caught on and is near death.

1944

7.62x39

7.62x39

7.62x39

7.62x39Bryce M. Towsley

Of the estimated 875 million firearms in the world, 100 million are AK-47s, which has got to make the 7.62x39 the most popular rifle cartridge in the universe.

1974
.22 PPC
Accuracy defined. A successful benchrest round.

1975
6mm PPC
Another sweetheart of the benchrest crowd.

2003
6.5 Grendel
Bill Alexander's creation. It's designed for the AR-15 and is a great, but often overlooked, cartridge.

2007

.375 Ruger

ruger compact

ruger compact

Ruger compact.Bryce M. Towsley

Ruger and Hornady modernized the .375 H&H with this. It fits in standard-action rifles and manages the same velocity from a shorter barrel. A family of offspring has followed.

2008
.416 Ruger
Same idea as the .375 Rug., but with a bigger bullet.

2008
.300 RCM
Short mag ammo makers pay a royalty to the guy with the patent. This was Ruger's way around it.

2008
.338 RCM
Good all-around big-game cartridge.