Favorite cartridges includes some common, others not so much

Having covered some of the pros and cons of mid-range bores in the last two months, and since I’ve touched on big bores a few years ago, rather than readdressing those, I’m going to focus on some of my favorite cartridges.
Starting at the bottom would be the most popular cartridge ever designed – by far: the lowly .22 Long Rifle. Having been adapted to every type of firearm on earth and due to its low cost (which used to be a LOT lower) it has gained worldwide popularity and it simply cannot be ignored.
Next up the ladder, I would choose a .223 Ackley Improved. I can still shoot .223 Remington in the chamber but also load up to near .22/250 Remington velocities.
For a non-handloader, the straight .223 Remington would be the way to go. It’s easier on barrels than the hotter rounds, doesn’t heat the barrel up as quickly as the big boys and the ammo is abundant and inexpensive due to its use by militaries the world over. For the reloader it is also an efficient round that uses a moderate amount of powder.
The .223 Rem. is also CAPABLE of killing deer-sized animals and legal almost everywhere as well. Although I would never go out after a big game animal with any varmint-based .22 caliber round, it can be done with the right bullet selection, which also adds to its versatility.
I’m going to make a BIG step up here, and go straight to the .300 Remington Ultra Magnum. This is my hands-down, gotta-have rifle cartridge.
Do I recommend it to everyone? No way. For me, though, it’s the best rifle cartridge ever designed. As a student of cartridge design, it “checks off” all of the right boxes. The body diameter is as large as you will ever get to fit and feed in standard long-action rifles like Remingtons, Howa/Vanguards, Savages and Winchester.
My rifle is the latter, although I have a highly customized single-shot Savage bolt-action long-range rifle in this caliber as well.
The length uses up all of the available room in these rifles’ magazines too. The Remington designers also wisely chose to rebate the rim slightly from the parent .404 Jeffery case and reduce it to the same diameter as the standard belted magnums. Hallelujah!
They got the shoulder angle a little bit wrong, but I can live with it. If I’d been in charge, I would have made the shoulder angle 35 degrees or something weird like 37 degrees, but I can live with 30 degrees and see no reason to change it for a measly five- to seven-degree advantage. It also possesses the magical caliber length neck.
For all intents and purposes, the length of the neck of the .300 RUM is the same as its diameter. This is thought to be the bare minimum length necessary to hold onto the bullet reliably and position it properly in the chamber.
Why would I not recommend it to everyone? Three reasons.
One, it’s finicky! It’s hard to find a really good load for the .300 RUM in most cases. Accuracy can usually be found but the velocities might be down with the .300 Win. or Weatherby Magnums. Why have an Ultra Magnum if it performs like a lesser magnum?
Along with that, factory loads are expensive and lacking in selection. You may not be able to find a factory load that meets your ballistic, target or accuracy needs.
Two, it kicks! I rechambered my Winchester from a .300 Win. Mag. to a .300 RUM. I immediately knew the performance had stepped up a notch. I took it to the range one weekend to try out some different loads. I shot it 27 times (and quite a few .270 and .30-06 rounds, which felt like a .223 in comparison) and the next day it hurt to even put a rifle up to my shoulder.
Three, it’s expensive to shoot with factory ammo. For a reloader this is not much of an issue as it just burns more powder and the brass cost is a tad bit more.
But for these reasons I would recommend that most serious shooters who are truly competent and confident with a magnum chambering go with the 300 Winchester Magnum instead. It’s a deservedly popular caliber, especially with the explosion of the popularity of long-range shooting.
It’s almost impossible to find a bad shooting 300 Win. Mag. That gives it the No. 1 advantage over the .300 RUM. The factory ammunitions available for the 300 Win. Shooter are overwhelming and range from quite affordable in comparison to rather expensive and almost equal in price to the .300 RUM.
Reloading dies are also easy to come by. I just built a custom long-range competition rifle for a customer in .300 Win. Mag. with a tight chamber. My customer’s reloading die was not tight enough to size his previously fired brass down to fit the new chamber.
I had eight sets of dies in stock to choose from and two sizes were easily found that worked just fine with the new chamber.
Either of these big 30s makes for a versatile hunting rifle capable of taking any game in any America – from light bullet loads at four times the speed of sound for varmints to bullets almost the equal of African game calibers at three times the speed of sound.
My .300 RUM has only a 24-inch barrel, yet will push 200-grain bullets very close to 3,200 feet per second and 130-grain Speer hollow points at 4,000 feet per second – with ease.
When any of these bullets hits its intended quarry, it’s immediately evident. The varmints just literally explode and the bigger animals, with correct shot placement, either die in their tracks or are visibly injured and easily finished off with a second shot.
I probably wouldn’t use the .300 on varmints much, seeing as I will have the .223, but it’s still impressive to see. As an aside, the new .300 PRC is an excellent, new iteration of the old Winchester offering.
Having narrowed it down to just two more choices I’d either have to pick a 9mm or a .44 Remington Magnum for my dedicated handgun caliber.
I’ve previously made a legitimate case for the .44 Mag. being best if limited to ONE gun, but in this case I think I’ll choose the 9 mm. Since I have the above rifle calibers for hunting purposes, I would choose the 9mm as my handgun cartridge. I have 100 percent faith in the 9mm as a defensive round as long as I can choose the ammo I will be carrying in it and it’s not chosen for me by some bureaucracy like a police department or other organization.
A few 9mm loads have been proven stoppers in real life and I want one of those top three to five.
Also, almost anyone can handle the recoil of the 9mm in something like a Glock 19. The 9mm is also one of the cheapest centerfire pistols to shoot and practice makes perfect.
When I was younger I used to cast my own bullets, powder and primers were relatively cheap and the 9mm doesn’t burn a lot of powder. I could load 1,000 rounds of 9mm ammo for $20. I got the lead basically for free.
I cast the bullets in my dad’s garage, so the electricity was free (to me), the primers were $10 a thousand (sometimes less), powder was $10 a pound and I could easily get 1,000 loads out of a pound.
Even back then that was comparable to .22 long rifle ammunition.
The only problem was I went through 1,000 rounds about every other weekend for years. It took a lot longer to cast and load than to shoot, I can tell you that.
Of course I can’t forget the shotgun. Even though I personally use the 20 gauge and 16 gauge much more often, I would choose the 12 gauge if left with only one, without a doubt.
Nothing beats the versatility of the 12 gauge for use in hunting birds of all sizes and big game with slugs and buckshot. If you throw in bean bag rounds, flares, bird bombs and other specialty loads, the 12 gauge is the ONLY choice.
I’ll bet 98% of hunters/gun owners who own a shotgun either have only a 12 gauge or mostly 12 gauges.
These five could cover all of my needs, but definitely NOT all of my WANTS! If I could choose a couple more I would throw in the .260 Ackley Improved as a lighter big game cartridge and long-range varmint round and most likely a .375 Ruger for the big stuff.
Wouldn’t be sorry to be able to add a .380 pocket pistol and the .45 Colt in a tough Ruger revolver or even a .45 ACP as well.
I’m sure glad I don’t have to really make this choice –yet?
– Jeff Hutchins writes regularly about firearms in Lebanon Local. He owns and operates Rangemaster Gunworks in Lebanon.