Some cartridges outdated, but sentimental

Some time ago, I related which five cartridges I would take if unfortunate enough to be limited to that number.
Just to start some controversy I am going to stab a bunch of old friends (cartridges I have used and still use) in the back and “throw them under the bus” as completely unnecessary in the modern world.
I’ve owned rifles, and even handguns chambered for every one and many I still use and won’t be giving up anytime soon but they are still completely unnecessary.
One of them is even one of my favorites and a life-long hunting buddy.
The first I will name is the .222 Remington. Until it came along, there was only the little pipsqueak .22 Hornet and ultra-fast .220 Swift on the commercial market for the .22 caliber varmint shooter. The .222 split the difference between them quite nicely and out-shot them both, as far as accuracy goes.
The accuracy was so good that it was the undisputed king of bench rest competition until the PPC family of cartridges ended its reign permanently about 30 years ago.
Its obsolescence was caused by its little brother with the same progeny: the .223 Remington. The slightly higher velocity and proliferation of the .223 as the 5.56×45 mm NATO, as it’s known in military parlance, doomed the .222 to certain death.
Lovers of the .222 will tout its accuracy advantage over the .223, due to the former’s longer neck length, but this difference is largely academic and for all intents and purposes the .223 is equally as precise.
Up next is the .220 Swift. Always known as a “barrel burner,” the .220 Swift held steady in sales in its heyday but never burned up the sales charts as well as it burned up barrels. It’s an odd cartridge with a bit of a rim on it, as it’s based on the old 6mm Lee-Navy military cartridge.
Part of its reputation came from the fact that the cartridge and the rifles it was chambered in were so effective at hitting small targets at relatively long range, that their owners simply shot them a lot. That tends to wear out barrels.
Having a prodigious amount of powder behind a relatively small bore didn’t help either, but Winchester did wisely put stainless steel barrels on most of the early rifles, which did help their longevity. More than any other factor in the .220’s demise, though, was Remington’s introduction of the 22/250 they named after themselves even though it was widely known by wildcat (non-standard, factory loaded cartridges) reloaders as the .22 (Gebby) Varminter for just about ever.
The 22/250 Remington is almost as fast, a bit easier on barrels and generally more accurate than the Swift. Personally, I think the 22/250 could be done away with as well by the use of the .223 Ackley Improved or the .222 Remington Magnum. Both of these are much more efficient cartridges than the bigger, fatter boys, mentioned above. They are almost as fast, easier on barrels and burn less powder to do it. Basically, they get better fuel mileage.
The debate over which is better – the .243 Winchester or the 6 mm Remington has long been argued but the matter was settled decades ago in reality. Remington introduced the 6 mm quite a bit before Winchester got in the game. But they made a monumental mistake! First named the .244 Remington Big Green, they gave it a one turn in 12-inch barrel. This means the bullet would make one revolution for every foot of its travel.
This slow twist only made it suitable for bullets up to 85 to 90 grains.
This handicap left it in the varmint rifle category and not much at all a dual-purpose varmint/big game rifle. Winchester capitalized on their faux pas and necked their .308 cartridge down to the same bullet diameter. But they gave it a one in 10-inch twist. Voilà … it was ready for varmints and deer-sized game.
People flocked to the cartridge, even abandoning old favorites in the .25 caliber family like the .257 Roberts. The .243 Winchester won, the 6 mm Remington lost and is unneeded.
One of my darling cartridges is the 250-3000 Savage. Designed by Charles Newton in 1915 and adopted by Savage to chamber in their Model 1899 and Model 20, it was the first commercially available cartridge to break the 3,000-feet-per-second barrier.
Sadly, this cartridge has no reason to exist either. The .243 will do everything it will do, only better. I truly believe it has a slight edge in “killing power” on big game over the .243 but agree it’s most likely just in my head.
The .257 Roberts has been killed by the 25-06 Remington. Both really should be housed in a long-action rifle and the .257 is just slower.
In the same vein, the 25-06 is destroyed by the .270 Winchester. This is very easy for me to accept, as I “grew up” with the .270 Winchester. For most of my childhood the only hunting rifles my dad owned were two .270s and they killed everything – decisively! There is nothing the 25-06 does better than the .270. The latter shoots flatter and has more power at any range. Compare apples to apples and you will find this to be true.
The .280 Remington should be able to then kick the .270 out of the running, and it can – with reasonable hand loads. The problem comes from the fact that the .280 was brought out specifically for Remington’s pump and auto rifles.
As such, it was loaded to somewhat lower pressures. Because of that, ammunition manufacturers are stuck with those pressure limits. This leaves the .280 with a deficit its larger bullet diameter and slightly longer case can’t compensate for.
A wise and judicious handloader can run the pressures up where they should be, safely, and beat the venerable .270. The .280 Ackley Improved neatly bypasses these limits as it is a wholly new cartridge and its legitimizer (Nosler) was free to set its own limits.
The .280 AI is now the darling of the 30-06-based cartridge family. The 25-06, .270 and .280 no longer need to exist in a bolt-action rifle.
The .300 Savage is an efficient cartridge and way ahead of its time, what with its short, fat case and really short neck. It was the cartridge Winchester based its experiments on to come up with the 7.62×51 mm NATO; basically, they just lengthened the neck.
When they called it the .308 Winchester and introduced it in 1952 in their Model 70, 88 and 100 rifles, it started its annihilation of the poor old .300 Savage. R.I.P.
I don’t see why the .32 Winchester Special ever existed in the first place. It’s a big mystery to me. Some have said the rifling is deeper in the bore and it handles cast lead bullets well and was more adaptable to black powder reloading.
I can’t follow this logic. Winchester never sold ammo with cast lead bullets in it and wasn’t in the business of selling cast bullets. I’ve never seen a ‘94 in .32 Special that looked like it had ever fired black powder reloads either.
The slightly larger diameter bullet does give it just the slightest bit of velocity advantage, but not enough to ever notice under any circumstances. The 30-30 has essentially exactly the same case and the 32-40 already existed, in the same rifles no less. The 30-30 has killed its brother a few million times over; it’s a Cain and Abel situation, only hardly anyone misses the departed in this case.
The other one that boggles my mind is the 8 mm Remington Magnum. They probably should have necked it up to .338 instead of the odd-ball 8 mm, as that diameter has never caught on here. That would have essentially duplicated the .340 Weatherby Magnum but that would have been OK as the .340 was only available in the Mark V, which was out of reach of most hunters and the Weatherby chambering is just weird enough that a conventional version in an affordable rifle almost definitely would have been successful.
Back to the 8 mm, though: It was touted as having better performance than the 30 caliber magnums. It NEVER did! It inexplicably kicked harder, but didn’t have more power. Neither in reloads or in factory loads could it even equal the shorter .300 Winchester Magnum.
This totally defies logic, as the 8 mm is much longer and has a larger bullet diameter. Truly one of the biggest flops in the history of cartridges. Its only useful legacy is being necked down one millimeter to create the 7 mm STW.
If you are a reloader and want a laugh, look in your Hornady Reloading Manual (my favorite by the way) and see how they talk about how superior the 8 mm Mag. is to the .30 caliber magnums, then look at their own data that disproves it!
There are two wildcat .338s that have died a quick death as well. Neither were at all necessary and really offered nothing that wasn’t already available. The first was the .338-06, brought to legitimacy by Weatherby. It may shoot just a tad flatter than the already established .35 Whelen and 9.3×62/64 mms but buyers and users of these calibers aren’t really that concerned with trajectory.
As always happens by increasing bullet diameter and sticking with the same pressures, the .35 Whelen has more power and that’s really what you’re going after when you neck up the 30-06 casing.
The next was the .338-08 wildcat, introduced by Federal with their name on it as the .338 Federal. This one basically fell flat on its face for the same reasons. The .358 Winchester already existed and it didn’t exactly set the world on fire. Plus, it has the added advantage of being able to handle .357 revolver bullets (not cartridges) for use on varmints. Let me tell you, they really open up!
Ruger has killed one of the greatest cartridges of all time with the introduction of the .375 Ruger. A true magnum, it betters the .375 H&H Magnum by about 100 feet per second in a shorter cartridge.
It does kick more, however, for a couple of reasons. One, it’s faster. Increase speed, increase power and increase recoil. Two, it usually is housed in lighter rifles, mostly because of that shorter length and its contemporary nature. That long, tapered H&H case also seems to spread the recoil over a longer period of time.
I’ve slaughtered some of my favorite cartridges, ones I still use and will continue to use. Some are like old friends. Are any of these cartridges useless? Heck, no! Are they fun and interesting? Heck, yeah! That’s why they will continue in use for the rest of time. Shoot, (pun intended). people still use bows and arrows, and muzzleloaders. Some are even flintlocks!

– Jeff Hutchins, a regular contributor, owns and operates Rangemaster Gunworks in Lebanon.