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.
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.
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?”
Before the .308 Winchester, this was the premier short-action .30 caliber cartridge.
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.
Designed by Elmer Keith, Charles O’Neil, and Don Hopkins after World War II.
The most famous and successful of the .30/06’s offspring.
The .243 is one of our most popular cartridges. The .358 isn’t.
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.
.280 Ackley Improved
Perhaps the best of the Ackley Improved cartridges. This one has gone mainstream.
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.
With the smallest-diameter bullet of the ’06 family, this cartridge is revered by the few hunters who use it.
There is a law that says all cartridge families must have a 7mm, and it must bear the Remington name.
An oddity that, if introduced today, might fare better given the interest in 6.5mm cartridges.
Designed for 1,000-yard target shooting. Great for hunting and long-range work.2006
An unsung hero of the short-action cartridges. Works well on critters from deer to moose.
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.
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.
Introduced in 1956, the .458 Winchester was designed to emulate the power of the Nitro Express cartridges.
.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.
.264 Winchester Magnum
Great in concept, but it failed to deliver.
Weatherby’s answer to the .338 Winchester.
7mm Remington Magnum
Our most popular metric cartridge.
You know that age-old question about having one cartridge for North America? Yeah, it’s this one.
.350 Remington Magnum
6.5 Remington Magnum
One of the best rounds for shooting creatures with plans to bite, stomp, gore, or claw you.
8mm Remington Magnum
That’s the response from most when you bring up this cartridge.
The .416 Rigby in a compact package. Same performance, but it fits a standard-size action.
This necked-down 8mm Remington had its 15 minutes of fame before the 7mm RUM killed it off.
A modern version of the .45/70, it’s a hard-thumping cartridge that’s slowly dying.
.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.
1999 .300 RUM
2002 .338 RUM
2002 7mm RUM
Never caught on.
When you absolutely, positively have to stomp the snot out of something, this is the cartridge to use.
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.
.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 Rem. Mag.
Developed for the military and adopted commercially by Remington. The .223 is king of cartridges in this case size.
This is a shortened version that was developed for the space-age-looking XP100 handgun.
Once boasted the fastest muzzle velocity in any factory cartridge.
Neck the obsolete .222 Rem. Mag. down to .20 caliber, and you have the .204 Ruger.
This downsized .17 Rem. is a nice little cartridge that never caught on.
.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.
Developed for a bit more wallop from the AR-15, this cartridge’s future is still murky in the crystal ball.
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.
Developed for target shooting, it was a favorite of famed barrel maker Harry Pope.
One of the most successful cartridges ever. It ushered in the era of smokeless powder.
This one was introduced as a fraternal twin with the .30/30. Its sibling ate it alive.
This was a crossover cartridge that could be loaded with black powder or smokeless.
Big performance, but nobody wanted a rimmed varmint cartridge.
A modern-day version of the .38/55. It came along too late in history to be successful.
A fun experiment, but as they say, when you strike a king, you better kill him. The .30/30 is still on the throne.
.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.
Roy took the .416 Rigby, added a belt, and necked it to .375 inch.
A .45-caliber elephant stopper in beast mode.
It holds the record for the longest successful sniper shot ever. What more needs to be said?
Weatherby’s .416 is the biggest and baddest of all the .416s.
The huge case of the .378 Weatherby necked down to .30 caliber.
Necked to .33 caliber, this dragon slayer is a thumper on big game and the shooter’s shoulder.
.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.
The .307 necked up to .35 caliber and stuffed into a Model 94 lever action.
A cartridge born without a pulse. This is the .300 Savage 50 years too late.
The hottest cartridge going right now. It’s the darling of the long-range precision shooting clan.
.308 Marlin Express
It worked for Winchester, right? So Marlin thought they should give it a try.
.338 Marlin Express
A great lever-action hunting cartridge. At least five people bought one.
.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.
6.5-284 Norma Mag.
The 6.5 is the hip and happening bullet diameter today. This one is doing pretty well.
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.
.30 Remington AR
The best .30-caliber hunting cartridge made for ARs. Sadly, it hasn’t caught on and is near death.
Of the estimated 875 million firearms in the world, 100 million are AK-47s, which has got to make the 7.62×39 the most popular rifle cartridge in the universe.
Accuracy defined. A successful benchrest round.
Another sweetheart of the benchrest crowd.
Bill Alexander’s creation. It’s designed for the AR-15 and is a great, but often overlooked, cartridge.
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.
Same idea as the .375 Rug., but with a bigger bullet.
Short mag ammo makers pay a royalty to the guy with the patent. This was Ruger’s way around it.
Good all-around big-game cartridge.