What's Wrong with the Oldies?

By Schuyler Barnum


More and more these days you hear about high velocity cartridges. To name a few, .17 HMR, .204 Ruger, the multitude of WSMs and WSSMs, Ultra Mag and SAUMs, and gosh knows what else. We seem to think that you need a real fast bullet that makes a lot of bang for the job to be done. Gun writers in magazines tout the high velocity cartridges all the time, and even if they focus on the old ones it's the ones like the .220 Swift and the .25-06 or other high-velocity cartridges. Heck, even the black powder muzzle loader is now a "magnum", being armed with just about everything they can get down the barrel, a 3 pellet charge, sabots and 209 shotgun primers.

Let's take a trip back in time. To say . . . today. If I'm not mistaken, two of the most popular cartridges in the U.S. are the .22 Long Rifle and the .30-30 Winchester. Both of these are often completely ignored by the print magazines (But not on Guns and Shooting Online! -Ed.), yet let's consider about them.

The .22 LR is just about the best cartridge, and the most popular, ever invented. It's a fun little thing that doesn't make a whole lot of bang but is useful nevertheless. Countless rodents have fallen to .22 LR rifles and pistols, and nothing makes a better plinking or target rifle. It's extremely accurate and very inexpensive to shoot, often costing less than two cents per cartridge. Rifles for it range from cheap things that cost under $150 to ultra-deluxe Anschutz, Kimber, Dakota, and similar fine rifles. And, most of all, it's just plain fun to shoot.

The .30-30 Winchester is chambered in the most popular purpose-built hunting rifles ever made, the Winchester Model 94 and the Marlin 336. More deer have been felled by the .30-30 than any other cartridge in North America, along with countless black bear, caribou, elk, and even moose. It doesn't kick that hard, but it will easily knock down the biggest buck that ever lived.

Other often ignored but incredibly effective cartridges include such old timers as the 6.5x55 SE, 7x57 Mauser, .300 Savage, .303 British, .32 Win. Special, and 8mm Mauser. Like the .30-30, these are proven hunting cartridges that get the job done with minimum fuss.

Yet these exemplary cartridges are continually ignored. We focus on the hot cartridges these days, the ones that are labeled "magnum," just so we think we're getting something better. I guess that they just aren't exotic enough for most of todays gun writers.

If you want to spend more money on a rifle and cartridge that does the job no better than an old, well proven rifle/cartridge combination, be my guest. But remember, a dead squirrel or deer can't get any deader, no matter what new super caliber rifle you shoot it with.




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Copyright 2007 by Schuyler Barnum. All rights reserved.

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