Shooters are very passionate about cartridges, often to almost a Frosty the Snowman level of hysteria. They think there “. . . must have been some magic in . . .” this or that cartridge. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but there is no real magic.
In its absence, we have passion, and passion can, in a way, be like magic — good or bad magic. I grew up in a hunting family. I spent 51 weeks each year looking forward to the 1 week of deer season. I loved the atmosphere and the stories. More than anything, I loved the guns and the ammunition. I was fascinated by the sound of rifle actions working, the shapes of cartridges and bullets, and the numbers and letters stamped on cases.
I had an uncle — by marriage — named Jack who could best be described as the rear end of a mule. Every day we had to listen to him extol the virtues of his 30-06. His personality imprinted itself on that cartridge to the point I disliked it as much as him. To this day, I’ve yet to hunt with a 30-06 and see no reason to mend my ways. That’s bad magic.
On the other hand, when Dad bought his first deer rifle, he selected a Winchester Model 100 in 243 Win. I watched him use that open-sighted rifle through my youth to take groundhogs and deer — with open sights mind you! You can imagine the impression it made on me. And, it should come as no surprise, the 243 Win. is one of my favorites. When I hunt with a 243 Win., I feel as though a little bit of Dad is with me. That’s good magic.
Like others obsessed with the minutia of ballistics, I’ve also thought I could make my own cartridge; something better than I could buy off the shelf. Wildcatting, as it’s known, is the process of altering a current cartridge by changing its shape and/or the caliber bullet it fires. Most wildcat cartridges are never anything more than one person’s 15 seconds of fame, but some such as the 257 Roberts become greatest hits.
I’ve created a few wildcat cartridges. There was the 416 SM2, which was a 300 WSM necked up to .416. I also created the 35 SuperMann; a 35 Remington modified to operate at a higher pressure for bolt-action rifles. My latest creation is the 2Fity-Hillbilly. For it, I necked a 6.5 Creedmoor down to .257 caliber. It’s my favorite wildcat, and might even be better than the 257 Roberts. Still, it is not magic or special; it’s just another cartridge.
Recently I wrote an article for another online publication tilted, “The 30-06 Sucks.” In summary, I explained why the 308 Win. was just as effective, with less recoil, and better suited for more compact firearms. I instantly became the Devil. I was called everything you could imagine, the publication received demands that I be fired, and unbelievably, I received death threats.
Here’s the thing: cartridges are not special, they do not have feelings, and when applied in the field with reason by capable marksman, you can be sure that targets or animals really cannot tell the difference. Still, the passion related to cartridges, while it might be asinine, is real. Pick the ones you like or don’t, for whatever reasons you want, no matter how silly. Then pin some mistletoe on the back of your britches, and head on down the road.
Images by Richard Mann