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Cartridge (firearms)
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Cartridge (firearms)

300 Win Mag]], 308 Winchester, 7.62 39mm, 5.56 45mm NATO, 22LR.

A cartridge, also called a round, packages the bullet, propellant (usually either smokeless powder or gunpowder) and primer into a single unit within a containing metallic case that is precisely made to fit within the firing chamber of a firearm.[1] The primer is a small charge of an impact-sensitive chemical mixture that can be located at the center of the case head (centerfire ammunition) or inside a rim (rimfire ammunition). Remington also makes electrically fired cartridges and many larger military cartridges are electrically fired. Military and commercial producers have made Caseless ammunition. A cartridge without a bullet is called a blank; one that is completely inert (contains no primer and no propellant) is called a dummy.

In popular use, the term "bullet" is often misused to refer to complete cartridges.

Contents

  • Design
    • Centerfire
    • Rimfire
    • Semi-automatic vs. revolver cartridges
  • Cartridges in use
  • Bullet design types
  • Common cartridges
  • History
    • Integrated paper cartridges
    • Metal cartridges
  • Reloading
  • Caseless ammunition
  • Trounds
  • Blank ammunition
  • Drill rounds
  • See also
  • notes
  • References
  • External links

Design

.243 Winchester Improved (Ackley)]] 12) .25-06 Remington 13) .270 Winchester 14) .308 Winchester 15) .30-06 Springfield 16) .45-70 Government 17) .50-90 Sharps

The cartridge case seals a firing chamber in all directions excepting the bore. A firing pin strikes the primer and ignites it; the primer compound deflagrates, rapidly burns, it does not detonate. A jet of burning gas from the primer ignites the propellant powder.

Gases from the burning powder pressurize and expand the case to seal it against the chamber wall. These propellant gases push on the bullet base. In response to this pressure, the bullet will move in the path of least resistance. This path of least resistance is down the bore of the barrel. After the bullet leaves the barrel, chamber pressure drops to atmospheric pressure. The case, which had been elastically expanded by chamber pressure, contracts slightly. This eases removal of the case from the chamber.

Automatic and semiautomatic firearms, which extract and eject the case automatically as a part of the normal operating cycle sometimes damage the case in the process of ejection.

Brass is a commonly used case material. It is resistant to corrosion, the case head can be drawn and work hardened to make useful cases for modern metallic cartridges working at relatively high pressure, and the neck and body portion are easily annealed to make the case ductile enough to allow reforming so that it can be reloaded many times.

Some "plinking" ammunition, as well as some military ammunition (mainly from the former Soviet Union and China) is made with steel cases because steel is less expensive than brass. It is not feasible to reuse steel cases and these rapidly deteriorate in the environment, through rusting. As military forces typically consider small arms cartridge cases to be a disposable, one-time-use, devices these limitations are inconsequential for those applications. However, case weight (mass) affects how much ammunition a soldier can carry, so the lighter steel cases do have a military advantage; conversely, steel is more susceptible to contamination and damage so all such cases are varnished or otherwise sealed against the elements but that seal is relatively fragile and such ammunition must be handled more carefully from the time of manufacture until use.

One downside caused by the increased strength of steel in the neck of these cases (compared to the annealed neck of a brass case) is that propellant gas can blow back past the neck and into the chamber. Constituents of these gases condense on the (relatively cold) chamber wall. This solid propellant residue can make extraction of fired cases difficult. This is less of a problem for guns of the former Warsaw Pact nations, which were designed with much larger chamber tolerances than NATO guns are.

As noted, steel ammunition cases are always lacquered, or otherwise coated (with a thin layer of polymer (plastic) or copper (by electrolytic deposition) to protect the steel from corrosion prior to firing. After firing, rusting starts from the inside and at any interruptions of the exterior coating.

CCI has offered ammunition with aluminum cases (see picture). This alloy is perfectly suitable for ammunition. However, resizing these cases rapidly wears normal resizing dies and these cases present other problems to handloaders. So, CCI deliberately uses non-standard primer sizes to discourage handloaders from attempting to reuse these cases. See Cartridges of the World, various articles and discussions in various editions.

Critical cartridge specifications include neck size caliber, bullet weight, expected velocity, maximum pressure, headspace, overall length, primer type, case body diameter and taper, shoulder design, rim type, etc. (generally, every characteristics of a specific cartridge type is tightly controlled and few types are interchangeable in any way, exceptions do exists but generally, these are only where a shorter cylindrical and rimmed cartridge can be used in a longer chamber, e.g., .22 Short in .22 Long Rifle chamber) and centerfire primer type is interchangeable (Boxer or Berdan, see below). Untoward deviations in any of these specifications could result in damage to the firearm and, in extreme instances, injury or death. Similarly, use of the wrong type of cartridge in any given gun can damage or destroy the gun, shooter, and bystanders.

Bullet diameter is measured either as a fraction of an inch (usually in 1/100th or in 1/1000th), or in millimeters. Cartridge case length can also be designated in inches or millimeters.

The name of any given cartridge does not necessarily reflect any cartridge or gun dimension. The name is merely the standardized and accepted moniker. SAAMI (Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers Institute) and the European counterpart (CIP) and members of those organizations specify correct cartridge names. Cartridge names, when correctly presented, never include a naked leading decimal point. This erroneous practice leads to confusion.

It is a common misnomer to refer to a cartridge as a certain caliber, e.g. 30-06 caliber. The correct full name for this cartridge is .30-'06 Springfield. In sporting arms the only consistent definition of caliber is bore size (in 1/100-inch increments) dozens of unique .30-caliber cartridge types exist.

There is considerable variation in cartridge nomenclature. Names sometimes reflect various characteristics of the cartridge; for example, the .308 Winchester uses a bullet of 308/1000-inch diameter and was standardized by Winchester. Conversely, cartridge names often reflect nothing related to the cartridge in any obvious way; for example, the .218 Bee uses a bullet of 224/1000-inch diameter, fired through a .22-in bore, etc. the 218 and Bee portions of this cartridge name reflect nothing other than the desires of those who standardized that cartridge. Many similar examples exist, for example: .219 Zipper, .221 Fireball, .222 Remington, .256 Winchester, .280 Remington, .307 Winchester, .356 Winchester, etc.

Where two numbers are used, the second number may reflect a variety of things. Frequently the first number reflects bore diameter (inches or millimeters) of the gun chambered for that cartridge. The second number reflects case length (in inches or mm). For example, the 7.62 51mm NATO refers to a bore diameter of 7.62 mm and has an overall case length of 51 mm. (Winchester offers a commercial version as the .308 Winchester.)

In older black powder cartridges, the second number typically refers to powder charge, in grains. For example, the .50-90 Sharps has a .50-inch bore and used a nominal charge of 90 grains () of black powder.

Many such cartridges were designated by a three-number system, e.g., 45-120-3 Sharps: 45-caliber bore, 120 grains of (black) powder, 3 -inch long case. Other times a similar three-number system indicated bore (caliber), charge (grains), and bullet weight (grains). The 45-70-500 Government is an example.

Often, the name reflects the company or individual who standardized it, such as the .30 Newton, or some characteristic important to that person.

The .38 Special actually has a nominal bullet diameter of (jacketed) or (lead) while the case has a nominal diameter of , whence the name. This is historically logical. The hole drilled through the chambers of .36-caliber cap-and-ball revolvers when converting those to work with cartridges was and the cartridges made to work in those revolvers was logically named the .38 Colt. Difference in .38 Special bullet diameter and case diameter reflects thickness of the case mouth (approximately 11/1000-inch per side). The .357 Magnum evolved from the .38 Special. The .357 was named to reflect bullet diameter (in thousandths inch), not case diameter. Magnum was used to indicate its longer case and higher operating pressure.

The .30-'06 Springfield round is (nominally) a military round designed at the Springfield arsenal in 1906, whence the name.

The .303 British is for a bore nominally 303/1000-inch and this chambering was standardized by the British Army.

Of the myriad unique designs and developments that have occurred, essentially only two basic cartridge designs remain. All current sporting firearms are either rimfire or centerfire (rimmed and rimless). U.S. military sporting arms suppliers have tried to perfect electronic firing, which replaces the conventional firing pin and primer with an electrical ignition system wherein an electrical charge ignites the primer.

Many governments and companies continue to pursue caseless ammunition (where the entire case assembly is either consumed when the round fires or whatever remains is ejected with the bullet), so far, none of these have been successful enough to reach the civilian market and gain commercial success. Even within the military market. use is limited. In around 1848, Sharps introduced a rifle and paper cartridge (containing everything but the primer) system. When new, these guns had significant gas leaks at the chamber end, with progressive use, these leaks progressively worsened. This same problem plagues caseless cartridge and gun systems to this day.

Centerfire

Rimmed, Mk. VII centerfire .303 cartridge from WW II. Manufactured by Colonial Ammunition Company, New Zealand. A centerfire cartridge has a centrally located primer held within a recess in the case head. Most centerfire brass cases used worldwide for sporting ammunition use Boxer primers (Boxer primed). It is easy to remove and replace Boxer primers using standard reloading tools, so it is easy to reuse these cases.

Some European and Asian manufactured military and sporting ammunition uses a cup primer known as a Berdan primer. Decapping (removing the spent primer) from these cases requires use of a special tool because the primer anvil (on which the primer compound is crushed) is an integral part of the case and the case therefore does not have a central hole through which a decapping tool can push the primer out from the inside, as is done with Boxer primers. In Berdan cases, the flash holes are located to the sides of the anvil. With the right tool and components, reloading Berdan-primed cases is perfectly feasible. However, Berdan primers are only occasionally available in areas where handloaders could use them.

Rimfire

Rimfire priming was a popular solution before centerfire priming was perfected. In a rimfire case, centrifugal force pushes a liquid priming compound into the internal recess of the folded rim as the manufacturer spins the case at a high rate and heats the spinning case to dry the priming compound mixture in place within the hollow cavity formed within the rim fold at the perimeter of the case interior.

In the mid- to late-1800s, hundreds of rimfire cartridge designs existed. Today only a few of those, mostly for use in small-caliber guns, remain in general and widespread use. These include the .17 Mach II, .17 Hornady Magnum Rimfire (HMR), 5mm Remington Magnum (Rem Mag), .22 (BB, CB, Short, Long, Long Rifle, Long Rifle shot, and various high-performance cartridge designs that work in weapons chambered for .22 LR), and .22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire (WMR). In some countries, rimfire cartridges up to at least .32-caliber are still occasionally offered and even the .44 Henry (a circa 1860 cartridge) is still occasionally offered.

The .17 HMR (a .17-caliber cartridge based upon the .22 WMR case) is a recent design that rapidly became extremely popular among target shooters as well as small game and varmint hunters. It offers high velocity and a relatively flat trajectory. The .17 Mach II (a .17-caliber cartridge based on the .22 Long Rifle case) has a useful range advantage over the .22 Long Rifle for varmint hunting. Aguila recently reintroduced the long-discontinued 5mm Rem Mag (which uses a case that is significantly larger in diameter than the 22 WMR case) and new guns are being made for this cartridge. All types of loads for the .22 WMR, 5mm Rem Mag, .17 Mach II, and .17 HMR cartridges use gilding metal (95% copper, 5% zinc) jacketed lead-alloy cored bullets.

Compared to modern centerfire cases used in the strongest types of modern guns, existing rimfire cartridge designs use loads that generate relatively low pressure because of limitations of feasible gun design the rim has little or no lateral support from the gun. Such support would require very close tolerances in design of the chamber, bolt, and firing pin. Because that is not affordable, it is necessary to keep rimfire load pressure low enough so that the stress generated by chamber pressure where that would push the case rim outward cannot expand the rim significantly. Also, the wall of the folded rim must be thin and ductile enough to easily deform, as necessary to allow the blow from the firing pin to crush and thereby ignite the primer compound, and it must do so without rupturing if it is too thick, it will be too resistant to deformation; if it is too hard, it will crack rather than deform. These two limitations that the rim is self-supporting laterally and that the rim is thin and ductile enough to easily crush in response to the firing pin impact limit feasible RF pressures.

Modern centerfire cartridges are often loaded to about maximum chamber pressure; conversely, no commercialized rimfire has ever been loaded above about maximum chamber pressure. However, with careful gun design and production, no fundamental reason exists higher pressures could not be used. Despite the relative pressure disadvantage, modern rimfire magnums in .17-caliber, 5mm, and .22-caliber generate muzzle energy comparable to smaller centerfire cartridges.

Today, .22 LR (Long Rifle) accounts for the vast majority of all rimfire ammunition used. Standard .22 LR rounds use an essentially pure lead bullet. These are offered in supersonic and subsonic types, as well as target, plinking, and hunting types. For marketing purposes, these bullets are often plated with a thin layer of copper or copper-alloy (referred to as wash) and are usually coated with a hard wax for fouling control (soft, grease, coatings are used in some target ammunition). No cartridge in history has been as nearly perfected as has the 22-rimfire and, of those the 22 Long Rifle is now king; however, sales of the 22 Short before about 1970 were so significant that it is hypothesized that the Short might forever hold the record for total sales of any type of metallic cartridge, see Cartridges of the World.

The .22 LR and related rimfire .22 cartridges are also unique because these are the only mainstream cartridges using a two-diameter bullet, where external diameter of the case is the same as diameter of the forward portion of the bullet and where the rearward portion of the bullet, which extends into the case, is necessarily smaller in diameter than the main body of the bullet. This is known as a heal-base bullet design.

Semi-automatic vs. revolver cartridges

Nearly every semi-automatic pistol cartridge is rimless, or more precisely has a rim of the same diameter as the case body, an extractor engages this rim by entering a cannelure (rim cut) near the base of the case. A few designs have a rim that is slightly larger than case body diameter but these function as a rimless design. All such cartridges headspace on the case mouth, which prevents the round from entering too far into the chamber. (Some pistol and rifle cases have a rim that is significantly smaller than case body diameter; these are known as rebated-rim designs.)

Revolvers have been made to work with cartridges that were designed for use in semi-automatic pistols. These include guns for the .45 ACP and 9mm Parabellum rimless cartridges. Normally shooters load the cartridges into half-moon clips (or similar devices that can hold 2, 3, or 6 rounds, for a six-shot revolver). These devices allow the revolver extractor to eject unfired rounds and fired cases and to do so en masse. (Just as in a pistol, the case mouth prevents the round from entering too far into the chamber and it is perfectly feasible to fire such rounds in revolvers chambered for use with those cartridges without using a clip but case extraction is problematic. Moreover, some revolvers have been built with spring-loaded extractor lips that enter the rim cut of rimless cartridges and extract those cases normally.)

Most revolver cartridges have a rim at the base of the case that is larger than the case body is and which seats against or into the cylinder block to provide headspace control (to keep the cartridge from moving too far forward in the cylinder chamber) and to provide for easy extraction in guns using a claw extractor (most double-action designs).

For a visual comparison of similar-diameter handgun cartridges with different rim designs, see 380 ACP (semi-automatic) vs. .38 Special (revolver.)

Cartridges in use

See also Table of pistol and rifle cartridges by year

A great variety of case lengths and diameters exist for cartridges used in different kinds of sporting and military guns. What represents the best cartridge for any given purpose is a subject of much discussion. Refer to recommendations of the various commercial cartridge manufacturers and the discussions in Cartridges of the World.

It is important to note that caliber and power are not equivalent. For example, with standard factory loads, the 6mm Remington (24 Caliber) is just as powerful as the 45-70 Springfield (45 caliber). Even overall cartridge size can be misleading. For example, with standard loads, the 458 Winchester Magnum (45-caliber, cylindrical, 3.36-inches overall length) is about twice as powerful as the 45-90-120 Sharps (45-caliber, cylindrical, 4.16-inches overall length).

Generally speaking, stopping power depends upon application and it is entirely too complicated and controversial to cover in any meaningful way here. Many factors matter. Most important of these are delivered energy and every aspect of bullet design (caliber, weight, construction, shape, material used, etc.). All of these influence how the bullet interacts with the target (known by the misnomer terminal ballistics) does it penetrate point-on or does it turn partially or completely sideways (sometimes erroneously referred to as tumbling), does it stay in one piece, does it deform (mushroom) and how much does it deform, etc. For ideal results, each type of target requires unique terminal bullet performance and therefore a unique bullet design scheme.

The following list is a small sample of very well known cartridges; for a more complete list, see table of pistol and rifle cartridges by year. This list is roughly ordered by cartridge length. Refer to Cartridges of the World.

Bullet design types

A cutaway showing a Japanese Navy 7.7 mm rimmed rounds as fired by the Type 92 and Type 97 machine guns copies of Vickers and Lewis designs. The round is effectively interchangeable with 303 British.

  • 12 gauge/70 mm standard shotgun buckshot ammunition loads. Listed here from largest to smallest shot size. Loads typically offered in the 70 mm length hull (many other loading options are available).

000 Buck: 8 lead pellets ()

00 Buck: 9 lead pellets (, 12 pellets for Magnum load)

0 Buck: 12 lead pellets ()

1 Buck: 16 lead pellets (, 20 pellets for Magnum load)

4 Buck: 27 lead pellets ()

  • Shotgun slug: Slugs can be made of solid lead, copper, or a composite of any of various materials. Slugs are stabilized in flight by rifling in the barrel, which causes the slug to spin, or are stabilized as a dart is by the weight center of balance being forward of the aerodynamic center of balance, sometimes with assistance from fins. Solid or hollow-point slugs are available but, due to the relatively low velocity, hollow-point slugs often demonstrate relatively low expansion.
  • Baton round: a generally non-lethal projectile fired from a riot gun.
  • Armor Piercing (AP): A hard bullet made from steel or tungsten alloys in a pointed shape typically covered by a thin layer of lead and or a copper or brass jacket. The lead and jacket are intended to prevent barrel wear from the hard core materials. AP bullets are sometimes less effective on unarmored targets than FMJ bullets are. This has to do with the reduced tendency of AP projectiles to yaw (turn sideways after impact).
  • Flat Nose Lead (FNL): Similar to the above, with a flattened nose. Common in Cowboy Action Shooting and plinking ammunition loads.
  • Full Metal Jacket (FMJ): Made with a lead core surrounded by a full covering of brass, copper, or mild steel. These usually offer very little deformation or terminal performance expansion, but will occasionally yaw (turn sideways). Despite the name, a FMJ bullet typically has an exposed lead base, which is not visible in an intact cartridge.
  • Glaser Safety Slug: The Glaser Safety Slug dates back to the early 1970s. The inventor, Colonel Jack Cannon, named it for his friend Armin Glaser. Over the years, these projectiles have evolved from crude, hand-produced examples to mass-production; however, the basic concept has remained the same: copper jackets filled with bird shot and covered by a crimped polymer endcap. Upon impact with flesh, the projectile is supposed to fragment, with the birdshot spreading like a miniature shotgun pattern. The standard "Blue" Glaser uses a rather fine birdshot that only gives 5 to 6 inches () of penetration in flesh. The "Silver" Glaser adds another 1 to 2 inches () of penetration with the use of slightly larger birdshot. Due to reduced penetration in flesh, some have theorized that the Glaser would be ideal where over-penetration of a projectile could be hazardous to bystanders. For instance, the Glaser might be entirely contained within an arm. However, for the same reasons, terminal performance of Glaser bullets can vary dramatically, producing impressive successes and equally spectacular failures depending on the angle at which the target is struck. Glancing hits on hard surfaces will result in fragmentation, reducing the risk of ricochets. However, the Glaser can penetrate barriers such as drywall, plywood, and thin sheet metal if struck nearly head on.
  • Jacketed Hollow Point (JHP): Soon after the invention of the JSP, Woolwich Arsenal in Great Britain experimented with this design even further by forming a hole or cavity in the nose of the bullet while keeping most of the exterior profile intact. These bullets could theoretically deform even faster and expand to a larger diameter than the JSP. In personal defense use, concerns have arisen over whether clothing, especially heavy materials like denim, can clog the cavity of JHP bullets and cause expansion failures.
  • Jacketed Soft Point (JSP): In the late 19th century, the Indian Army at Dum-Dum Arsenal, near Calcutta, developed a variation of the FMJ design where the jacket did not cover the nose of the bullet. The soft lead nose was found to expand in flesh while the remaining jacket still prevented lead fouling in the barrel. The JSP roughly splits the difference between FMJ and JHP. It gives more penetration than JHP but has more stopping power than the FMJ.
  • Round Nose Lead (RNL): An unjacketed lead bullet. Although largely supplanted by jacketed ammunition, this is still common for older revolver cartridges. Some hunters prefer roundnose ammunition for hunting in brush because they erroneously believe that such a bullet deflects less than sharp-nosed spitzer bullets, regardless of the fact that this belief has been repeatedly proven not to be true. Refer to American Rifleman magazine.
  • Total Metal Jacket (TMJ): Featured in some Speer cartridges, the TMJ bullet has a lead core completely and seamlessly enclosed in brass, copper or other jacket metal, including the base. According to Speer literature, this prevents hot propellant gases from vaporizing lead from the base of the bullet, reducing lead emissions. Sellier & Bellot produce a similar version that they call TFMJ, with a separate end cap of jacket material.
  • Wadcutter (WC): Similar to the FNL, but completely cylindrical, in some instances with a slight concavity in the nose. This bullet derives its name from its popularity for target shooting, because the form factor cuts neat holes in paper targets, making scoring easier and more accurate and because it typically cuts a larger hole than a round nose bullet, a hit centered at the same spot can touch the next smaller ring and therefore score higher.
  • Semi Wad Cutter (SWC) identical to the WC with a smaller diameter flap pointed conical or radiused nose added. Has the same advantages for target shooters but is easier to load into the gun and works more reliably in semi-automatic guns. This design is also superior for some hunting applications.
  • Truncated Cone, Round Nose Flat Point, etc. Descriptive of typical modern commercial cast bullet designs.

The Hague Convention of 1899 bans the use of expanding projectiles against the military forces of other nations. Some countries accept this as a blanket ban against the use of expanding projectiles against anyone, while others[2] use JSP and HP against non-military forces such as terrorists and criminals.

Common cartridges

A variety of common pistol cartridges. From left to right: 22 LR, 22 WMR, 5.7 28mm, 25 ACP, 7.62 25mm Tokarev, 32 ACP, 380 ACP, 9 19mm Parabellum, 357 SIG, 40 S&W, 45 GAP, 45 ACP, .38 Special, 357 Magnum, 45 Colt

Ammunition types are listed numerically.

  • 22 Long Rifle (22 LR): A cartridge that is often used for target shooting and the hunting of small game such as squirrel. Because of the small size of this cartridge, the smallest self-defense handguns chambered in 22 rimfire (though less effective than most centerfire handguns cartridges) can be concealed in situations where a handgun chambered for a centerfire cartridge could not. The 22 LR is the most commonly fired sporting arms cartridge, primarily because, when compared to any centerfire ammunition, 22 LR ammunition is much less expensive and because recoil generated by the light 22 bullet at modest velocity is very mild.
  • 22-250: A very popular cartridge for medium to long range small game and varmint hunting, pest control and target shooting. The 22-250 is one of the most popular cartridges for fox hunting and other pest control in Western Europe due to its flat trajectory and very good accuracy on rabbit to fox sized pests.
  • 300 Winchester Magnum: One of the most popular big game hunting cartridges of all time. Also, a long-range sniping round, it is favored by US Navy SEALs and the German Bundeswehr. While not in the same class as the 338 Lapua, it has roughly the same power as 7 mm Remington Magnum, and easily exceeds the performance of 7.62 51mm NATO.
  • 30-06 Springfield (7.62 63mm): The standard US Army rifle cartridge for the first half of the 20th century. It is a full-power rifle cartridge suitable for hunting most North American game and most big game worldwide.
  • 308 Winchester: the commercial name of a centerfire cartridge based on the military 7.62 51mm NATO round. Two years prior to the NATO adoption of the 7.62 51mm NATO T65 in 1954, Winchester (a subsidiary of the Olin Corporation) branded the cartridge and introduced it to the commercial hunting market as the 308 Winchester. The Winchester Model 70 and Model 88 rifles were subsequently chambered for this cartridge. Since then, the 308 Winchester has become the most popular short-action big-game hunting cartridge worldwide. It is also commonly used for civilian and military target events, military sniping and police sharpshooting.
  • 357 Magnum: Using a lengthened version of the .38 Special case loaded to about twice the maximum chamber pressure as the 38 Spc., the 357 Magnum was rapidly accepted by hunters and law enforcement. At the time of its introduction, 357 Magnum bullets were claimed to easily pierce the body panels of automobiles and crack engine blocks (to eventually disable the vehicle) actual testing brings into question the veracity of any such claim.
  • 40 S&W: A shorter-cased version of the 10mm Auto.
  • 44 Magnum: A high-powered pistol cartridge designed primarily for hunting.
  • 45 ACP: The standard US pistol round for about one century. Typical 45 ACP loads are subsonic, making those ideal for suppressed guns.
  • 45 Colt: A slightly more powerful 45-caliber round using a longer shell. The 45 Colt was designed for the Colt Single Action Army, circa 1873. Other 45-caliber single action revolvers also use this round.
  • 45-70 Government: Adopted by the US Army in 1873 as their standard service rifle cartridge. Most commercial loadings of this cartridge are constrained by the possibility that someone might attempt to fire a modern loading in a vintage 1873 rifle or replica. However, current production rifles from Marlin, Ruger, and Browning can accept loads that generate nearly twice the pressure generated by the original black powder cartridges.
  • 50 BMG (12.7 99mm NATO): Originally designed to destroy aircraft in the First World War, this cartridge still serves an anti-materiel round against light armor. It is used in heavy machine guns and high-powered sniper rifles. Such rifles are intended for destroying military mat riel such as sensitive parts of grounded aircraft and armored transports. Civilian shooters use these for long-distance target shooting.
  • 5.45 39mm Soviet: The Soviet response to the 5.56 45mm NATO cartridge.
  • 5.56 45mm NATO: Adopted by the US military in the 1960s, it later became the NATO standard assault rifle cartridge in the early 80s, displacing the 7.62 51mm. Remington later adopted this military round as the 223 Remington, a very popular cartridge for varminting and small game hunting.
  • 7 64mm: One of the most popular long range varmint and medium- to big-game hunting cartridges in Europe, especially in the countries such as France and (formerly) Belgium where the possession of firearms chambered fro a (former) military cartridge is forbidden or is more heavily restricted. This cartridge is offered by European rifle makers in both bolt-action rifles and a rimmed version, the 7 65mmR is chambered in double and combination rifles. Another reason for its popularity is its flat trajectory, very good penetration and high versatility, depending on what bullet and load are used. Combined with a large choice of different 7 mm bullets available the 7 64mm is used on everything from fox and geese to red deer, Scandinavian moose and European brown bear equivalent to the North American black bear. The 7x64mm essentially duplicates performance of the 270 Winchester and 280 Remington.
  • 7 mm Remington Magnum: A long-range hunting cartridge.
  • 7.62 39mm: The standard Soviet/ComBloc rifle cartridge from the mid-1940s to the mid-1970s, this is easily one of the most widely distributed cartridges in the world due to the distribution of the ubiquitous Kalashnikov AK-47 series.
  • 7.62 51mm NATO: This was the standard NATO rifle round until its replacement by the 5.56 45mm. It is currently the standard NATO sniper rifle and medium machinegun chambering. In the 1950s it was the standard NATO cartridge for rifles, but recoil and weight proved problematic for the new battle rifle designs such as the FN FAL. Standardized commercially as the 308 Winchester.
  • 7.62 54mmR: The standard Russian rifle round from the 1890s to the mid-1940s. The "R" stands for rimmed. The 7.62 54mmR rifle cartridge is a Russian design dating back to 1891. Originally designed for the Mosin-Nagant rifle, it was used during the late Tsarist era and throughout the Soviet period, in machine guns and rifles such as the SVT-40. The Winchester Model 1895 was also chambered for this cartridge per a contract with the Russian government. It is still in use by the Russian military in the Dragunov and other sniper rifles and some machine guns. The round is colloquially known as the "7.62 Russian". This name sometimes causes people to confusion this round with the "7.62 Soviet" round, which refers to the 7.62   39 cartridge used in the SKS and AK-47 rifles.
  • 7.65 17mm Browning SR (32 ACP): A very small pistol round. However, this was the predominant Police Service Cartridge in Europe until the mid-1970s. The "SR" stands for semi-rimmed, meaning the case rim is slightly larger than case body diameter.
  • 8 57mm IS: The standard German service rifle cartridge from 1888 to 1945, the 8 57mmIS (aka 8 mm Mauser) has seen wide distribution around the globe through commercial, surplus, and military sales, and is still a popular and commonly used hunting round in most of Europe, partly because of the abundance of affordable hunting rifles in this chambering as well as a broad availability of different hunting, target, and military surplus ammunition available.
  • 9 19mm Parabellum: Invented for the German military at the turn of the 20th century, the wide distribution of the 9 19mm Parabellum cartridge made it the logical choice for the NATO standard pistol and SMG round.
  • 9.3 62mm: Very common big game hunting round in Scandinavia along with the 6.5 55mm, where it is used as a very versatile hunting round on anything from small and medium game with lightweight cast lead bullets to the largest European big game with heavy soft point hunting bullets. The 9.3 62mm is also very popular in the rest of Europe for Big game, especially driven Big game hunts due to its effective stopping power on running game. And, it is the single cartridge smaller than the 375 H&H Magnum that has routinely been allowed for legal hunting of dangerous African species.
  • 12.7 108mm: The 12.7 108mm cartridge is a heavy machine gun and anti-materiel rifle cartridge used by the Soviet Union, the former Warsaw Pact, modern Russia, and other countries. It is the approximate Russian equivalent of the NATO .50 BMG (12.7 99mm NATO) cartridge. The differences between the two are the bullet shape, the types of powder used, and that the case of the 12.7 108mm is 9 mm longer and marginally more powerful.
  • 14.5 114mm: The 14.5 114 mm is a heavy machine gun and anti-materiel rifle cartridge used by the Soviet Union, the former Warsaw Pact, modern Russia, and other countries. Its most common use is in the KPV heavy machine gun found on several Russian Military vehicles.

History

In 1260, gunpowder cartridges were employed by the Egyptian Mamluks, for use in their fire lances and hand cannons against the Mongol army at the Battle of Ain Jalut.[3] The original cartridge for military small arms dates from 1586. It consisted of a charge of powder and a bullet in a paper tube. Thick paper is still known as cartridge paper from its use in these cartridges.

This cartridge was used with the muzzle-loading military firearm, the base of the cartridge being ripped or bitten off by the soldier, the powder poured into the barrel, and the bullet then rammed home. To ignite the charge an additional step was required where a fine-grained powder called serpentine powder was poured into the pan of the gun to be ignited by a flint or burning match.

The evolving nature of warfare required a firearm that could load and fire more rapidly, resulting in the flintlock musket (and later the Baker rifle), in which the pan was covered by furrowed steel. This was struck by the flint and fired the gun. In the course of loading a pinch of powder from the cartridge would be placed into the pan as priming, before the rest of the cartridge was rammed down the barrel, providing charge and wadding.

Later developments rendered this method of priming unnecessary, as, in loading, a portion of the charge of powder passed from the barrel through the vent into the pan, where it was held by the cover and hammer.

The next important advance in the method of ignition was the introduction of the copper percussion cap. This was only generally applied to the British military musket (the Brown Bess) in 1842, a quarter of a century after the invention of percussion powder and after an elaborate government test at Woolwich in 1834. The invention that made the percussion cap possible was patented by the Rev. A. J. Forsyth in 1807, and consisted of priming with a fulminating powder made of potassium chlorate, sulfur, and charcoal, which ignited by concussion. This invention was gradually developed, and used, first in a steel cap, and then in a copper cap, by various gunmakers and private individuals before coming into general military use nearly thirty years later.

The alteration of the military flint-lock to the percussion musket was easily accomplished by replacing the powder pan by a perforated nipple, and by replacing the cock or hammer that held the flint with a smaller hammer that had a hollow to fit on the nipple when released by the trigger. The shooter placed a percussion cap (now made of three parts of potassium chlorate, two of fulminate of mercury and powdered glass) on the nipple. The detonating cap thus invented and adopted, brought about the invention of the modern cartridge case, and rendered possible the general adoption of the breech-loading principle for all varieties of rifles, shotguns and pistols. This greatly streamlined the reloading procedure and paved the way for semi- and full-automatic firearms.

But this big leap forward came at a price. It introduced an extra component into each round the cartridge case which had to be removed before the gun could be reloaded. While a flintlock, for example, is immediately ready to be reloaded once it has been fired, adopting brass cartridge cases brought in the problem of extraction and ejection. The mechanism of a modern gun not only must load and fire the piece but also must remove the spent case, which might require just as many added moving parts. Many malfunctions involve this process, either through failure to extract a case properly from the chamber or by allowing the extracted case to jam the action. Nineteenth-century inventors were reluctant to accept this added complication and experimented with a variety of caseless or self-consuming cartridges before finally accepting that the advantages of brass cases far outweighed this one drawback.[4].

Integrated paper cartridges

Chassepot paper cartridge (1866). The first integrated cartridge was developed in Paris in 1808 by the Swiss gunsmith Jean Samuel Pauly in association with French gunsmith Fran ois Pr lat. Pauly created the first fully self-contained cartridges:[5] the cartridges incorporated a copper base with integrated mercury fulminate primer powder (the major innovation of Pauly), a paper casing and a round bullet.[6] The cartridge was loaded through the breech and fired with a needle. The needle-activated central-fire breech-loading gun would become a major feature of firearms thereafter.[7] Pauly made an improved version, protected by a patent, on 29 September 1812.[5]

Probably no invention connected with firearms has wrought such changes in the principle of gun construction as those effected by the expansive cartridge case. This invention has completely revolutionized the art of gun making, has been successfully applied to all descriptions of firearms, and has produced a new and important industry: that of cartridge manufacture. Its essential feature is preventing gas escaping the breech when the gun is fired, by means of an expansive cartridge case containing its own means of ignition. Previous to this invention shotguns and sporting rifles were loaded by means of powder flasks and shot flasks, bullets, wads and copper caps, all carried separately. One of the earliest efficient modern cartridge cases was the Pin-fire cartridge, developed by French gunsmith Casimir Lefaucheux in 1836.[8] It consisted of a thin weak shell made of brass and paper that expanded from the force of the explosion. This fit perfectly in the barrel, and thus formed an efficient gas check. A small percussion cap was placed in the middle of the base of the cartridge, and was ignited by means of a brass pin projecting from the side and struck by the hammer. This pin also afforded the means of extracting the cartridge case. This cartridge was introduced in England by Lang, of Cockspur Street, London, about 1845. Later in 1846, M. Houiller, another Paris gunsmith, improved on the system by introducing a fully metallic cartridge in 1847.[8]

In the American Civil War (1861 65) a breech-loading rifle, the Sharps, was introduced and produced in large numbers. It could be loaded with either a ball or a paper cartridge. After that war many were converted to the use of metal cartridges. The development by Smith & Wesson (amongst many others) of revolver handguns that used metal cartridges helped to establish cartridge firearms as the standard in the USA by the 1870s although many continued to use percussion revolvers well after that.

Metal cartridges

(From Left to Right): A 577 Snider cartridge (1867), a 577/450 Martini-Henry cartridge (1871), a later drawn brass 577/450 Martini-Henry cartridge, and a 303 British Mk VII SAA Ball cartridge. French Army Fusil Gras mle 1874 metallic cartridge. smokeless gunpowder]] cartridge to be made and adopted by any country. The first commercially successful all-metal cartridges were rimfire cartridges. The first of these was the 22 BB Cap, introduced around 1845. This was followed by the 22 Short in 1857. Larger caliber rimfire cartridges were soon introduced. Some of these were used in the American Civil War, including the 44 Henry and 56-56 Spencer. However, the large rimfire cartridges were soon replaced by centerfire cartridges, which could safely handle higher pressures. See Cartridges of the World, various editions and articles.

In 1867 the British war office adopted the Eley-Boxer metallic central-fire cartridge case in the Enfield rifles, which were converted to Snider-Enfield breech-loaders on the Snider principle. This consisted of a block opening on a hinge, thus forming a false breech against which the cartridge rested. The priming cap was in the base of the cartridge, and was discharged by a striker passing through the breech block. Other European powers adopted breech-loading military rifles from 1866 to 1868, with paper instead of metallic cartridge cases. The original Eley-Boxer cartridge case was made of thin-coiled brass occasionally these cartridges could break apart and jam the breech with the unwound remains of the casing upon firing. Later the solid-drawn, central-fire cartridge case, made of one entire solid piece of tough hard metal, an alloy of copper, with a solid head of thicker metal, has been generally substituted.

Central-fire cartridges with solid-drawn metallic cases containing their own means of ignition are almost universally used in all modern varieties of military and sporting rifles and pistols.

Around 1870, machined tolerances had improved to the point that the cartridge case was no longer necessary to seal a firing chamber. Precision-faced bolts would seal as well, and could be economically manufactured. However, normal wear and tear proved this system to be generally infeasible.

Reloading

Some shooting enthusiasts reload their fired brass cases and plastic, paper, or brass shotgun shells. By using a press and a set of dies, one can reshape, deprime, reprime, recharge the case with gunpowder, and seat and crimp a new bullet (or shot charge) in place. One can do this at about half the cost of purchasing factory ammunition partly because the case represents a significant portion of the total cost of a round. Reloading also allows one to use different weights and shapes of bullets, as well as varying the powder type and charge, which affects accuracy and power. Enthusiasts usually only reload boxer primed cases as this reloading process is more easily automated than Berdan priming is.

Caseless ammunition

An example of caseless ammunition. This disassembled round, the 4.73 33mm, is used in the Heckler & Koch G11 rifle. In 1989, Heckler & Koch, a prominent German firearms manufacturer, began making press releases about the G11 assault rifle, which shot a 4.73 33 square caseless round. The round was mechanically fired, with an integral primer.

In 1993 Voere of Austria began selling a gun and caseless ammunition. Their system used a primer, electronically fired at 17.5 2 volts. The upper and lower limits prevent fire from either stray currents or static electricity. The direct electrical firing eliminates the mechanical delays associated with a striker, reducing reaction time (lock time), and allowing for easier adjustment of the rifle trigger.

In both cases, the "case" was molded directly from solid nitrocellulose, which is itself relatively strong and inert. The bullet and primer were glued into the propellant block.

Trounds

The Tround ( Triangular Round ) was a unique type of cartridge designed in 1958 by David Dardick, for use in specially designed Dardick 1100 and Dardick 1500 open-chamber firearms. As their name suggests, Trounds were triangular in cross-section, and were made of plastic or aluminum, with the cartridge completely encasing the powder and projectile. The Tround design was also produced as a cartridge adaptor, to allow conventional .38 Special and 22 Long Rifle cartridges to be used with the Dardick firearms.

Blank ammunition

Blank cartridges:

  • 7.62 51mm NATO (left)
  • 9 19mm Parabellum (right).
  • A blank is a charged cartridge that does not contain a projectile. To contain the propellant, the opening where the projectile would normally be located is crimped shut and or it is sealed with some material that disperses rapidly upon leaving the barrel. This sealing material can still potentially cause harm at extremely close range. Actor Jon-Erik Hexum died when he shot himself in the head with a blank, and actor Brandon Lee was famously killed during filming of The Crow when a blank fired behind a bullet that was stuck in the bore drove that bullet through his abdomen and into his spine. The gun had not been properly deactivated and a primed case with a bullet instead of a dummy had been used previously. Someone pulled the trigger and the primer drove the bullet silently into the bore.

Blanks are used in training, but do not always cause a gun to behave the same as live ammunition does; recoil is always far weaker, and some automatic guns only cycle correctly when the gun is fitted with a blank-firing adaptor to confine gas pressure within the barrel to operate the gas system.

Blanks can also be used to launch a rifle grenade, although later systems used a "bullet trap" design that captures a bullet from a conventional round, speeding deployment. This also negates the risk of mistakenly firing a live bullet into the rifle grenade, causing it to instantly explode instead of propelling it forward.

Blanks are also used as dedicated launchers for propelling a grappling hook, rope line or flare, or for a training lure for training gun dogs.

The power loads used in a variety of nail guns are essentially rimfire blanks.

Drill rounds

23 152mm cartridge, drill round Drill rounds are inert versions of cartridges used for education and practice during military training. Other than the lack of propellant and primer, these are the same size as normal cartridges and will fit into the mechanism of a gun in the same way as a live cartridge does. Because dry-firing (releasing the firing pin with an empty chamber) a gun can sometimes lead to firing pin (striker) damage, dummy rounds termed snap caps are designed to protect centerfire guns from possible damage during "dry-fire" trigger control practices.

To distinguish drill rounds and snap-caps from live rounds these are marked distinctively. Several forms of markings are used; e.g. setting colored flutes in the case, drilling holes through the case, coloring the bullet or cartridge, or a combination of these. In the case of centerfire drill rounds the primer will often be absent, its mounting hole in the base is left open. Because these are mechanically identical to live rounds, which are intended to be loaded once, fired and then discarded, drill rounds have a tendency to become significantly worn and damaged with repeated passage through magazines and firing mechanisms, and must be frequently inspected to ensure that these are not so degraded as to be unusable for example the casings can become torn or misshapen and snag on moving parts, or the bullet can become separated and stay in the breech when the case is ejected.

See also

  • Ammunition
  • Ammunition box
  • Antique guns
  • List of handgun cartridges
  • List of rifle cartridges
  • Nitrocellulose
  • Percussion cap
  • Simunition
  • Table of pistol and rifle cartridges by year

notes

References

External links

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