When are Old Cartridges Really Dead?

When are Old Cartridges Really Dead?
When are Old Cartridges Really Dead?

U.S.A.-(Ammoland.com)- There is an old saying when it comes to hunting, that it’s not the arrow so much as it is the Indian. What that old proverb relates to is the fact that shot placement is more critical than the caliber. It’s not at all uncommon now to see some hunters using rounds that not only get the job done, but done to the point where one might question the sanity behind it. I have seen a couple of whitetail deer shot with large caliber rounds better suited for elk or even bears with a pretty good loss of meat in the process.

With new rounds coming out all the time, are some of the old cartridges that have been around for a century or more on life support, or are they already in a drawer at the morgue?

It makes you wonder how some of our ancestors ever got by with some of the puny and what some might consider underpowered rounds that they had to contend with at one time. I know personally of a hunters taking deer successfully with rounds as small as the .25-20 Winchester, and for a time the .44-40 rivalled some of the early smokeless rounds in popularity. One of the most popular for many years in fact was a happy medium between the two, the .32-20. It was small enough in diameter not to tear up small game like rabbits and grouse and at close range bring down a whitetail deer.

The .32-20 was a popular round from it’s introduction in 1882 when Winchester chambered in their 1873 rifle.
The .32-20 was a popular round from it’s introduction in 1882 when Winchester chambered in their 1873 rifle.

So why would anyone choose such a tiny round? Well, for one, economy. It might be commonplace for you or I to have a safe full of guns, but even up until World War II, most families might have only had a couple of guns, sometimes just one, and they had to make the most of what they had. The .32-20 was a popular round from it’s introduction in 1882 when Winchester chambered in their 1873 rifle. Even after many other and more powerful rounds went the way of the stagecoach, the .32-20 remained and even flourished, making its way into bolt action rifles like the Savage 23 and revolvers like the Smith & Wesson M & P and the Colt Army Special, in addition to the Colt Single Action Army. Even today while so many other rounds are gone, the .32-20 still lives on and it is still a pretty good provider of game with some still taking animals up to whitetail size with the heavier bullets like the 115 grain cast bullet at close range.

One round that has been on death’s door so many times it has worn a hole in the mat is the .30-30. I have heard from many learned scholars that the .30-30 should be put out to pasture as it has outlived its time, and that if you want to be nostalgic and pick a lever action, one should go to the .35 Remington or even up to the .45-70.

While the .30-30 has never been a particularly powerful round, with a 170 grain bullet moving along at 2,200 fps, when it came out in 1895, there was nothing even close to it among rifle cartridges that could be put in a small carbine that weighed less than seven pounds. Keep in mind there was no .30-06, no .308 or other big game rounds here in America to compete with the .30-30 despite the fact that it was in a small and compact package, the .30-30 performed. If it didn’t, it would have gone the way of the dodo. One only needs to look at how popular the .30-30 is compared to other rounds similar in performance like the .32 Winchester Special and the .303 Savage.

While the .30-30 has never been a particularly powerful round, with a 170 grain bullet moving along at 2,200 fps, when it came out in 1895, there was nothing even close to it among rifle cartridges that could be put in a small carbine that weighed less than seven pounds.
While the .30-30 has never been a particularly powerful round, with a 170 grain bullet moving along at 2,200 fps, when it came out in 1895, there was nothing even close to it among rifle cartridges that could be put in a small carbine that weighed less than seven pounds.

What keeps shooters coming back to the .30-30 is that it just plain works. I killed my first deer with a .30-30 Winchester, albeit a Model 54 bolt action, but the round was the standard 170 grain SP. I have hunted with many others that still pack a .30-30 into the woods for the same reason, they have seen the results over and over again and know that the old round still does the job it was designed to do over one hundred and twenty years ago.

Looking back to the smaller end of the scale, one place that is littered with the carcasses of obsolete rounds is varmint hunting. Over the decades rounds have come and gone that were once the favorite darling of someone looking to put some pelts in the shed for a few extra dollars without doing too much damage. A new round would come out and others would quickly get shuffled aside and stay there as ranges extended and hunters were shooting coyotes out past three and four hundred yards. The Savage .22 High Power, .25-35 Winchester, .222 Remington, and many others have been pushed aside as newer and faster rounds like the .223 and the speedy band of .17 caliber cartridges appeared. It seems that no round can go fast enough to do the jobs on animals that rarely weigh more than fifty pounds.

One of the old favorites that is still fighting for breath is the .22 Hornet, which enjoys a huge following in Europe, where shooting military calibers is frowned upon. Here in the states it’s most popular among shooters who aren’t looking for something out to a country mile, as the Hornet is good to 150-175 yards with a good handload. Where the .22 Hornet excels is that it is quiet, and is known to be extremely accurate without burning a lot of powder, making it a cinch to handload. I have owned both .223 and .22 Hornet rifles and when it comes to varmint hunting, the .223, at least where I am, is overkill. I have yet to make a shot on a coyote past 125 yards. When it comes to fox and your smaller varmints, the .22 Hornet can’t be beat. I have taken grey foxes with little damage, the nicest out at 60 yards in an old H & R single shot with a 45 grain soft point where the fox went to the ground before he knew he had been done in.

When it comes to fox and your smaller varmints, the .22 Hornet can’t be beat. I have taken grey foxes with little damage, the nicest out at 60 yards in an old H & R single shot with a 45 grain soft point where the fox went to the ground before he knew he had been done in.
When it comes to fox and your smaller varmints, the .22 Hornet can’t be beat. I have taken grey foxes with little damage, the nicest out at 60 yards in an old H & R single shot with a 45 grain soft point where the fox went to the ground before he knew he had been done in.

The old Hornet can still be found in CZ’s line of rifles and the occasional Ruger and Savage bolt action. The latest trend though seems to be taking the .22 Hornet and necking it down to make the .17 Hornet, which only time will tell to see if it becomes more popular than its parent.

One of the most puzzling and kicked around semi-obsolete rounds is the 16 gauge, one of my personal favorites. I have been a fan of the old 16 ever since I first started hunting ruffed grouse. I disliked 12 gauge because it was too punishing on the birds up close, littering them with too many pellets, and I found that while 20 gauge did bring them down, it didn’t hit them as hard as when I went to 16 gauge. Which is the secret to the 16 gauge’s success. The 16 has been around as long as the rest of them, and for many years had the reputation of hitting as hard as the 12 gauge but without the recoil.

One of the most puzzling and kicked around semi-obsolete rounds is the 16 gauge, one of my personal favorites. I have been a fan of the old 16 ever since I first started hunting ruffed grouse.
One of the most puzzling and kicked around semi-obsolete rounds is the 16 gauge, one of my personal favorites. I have been a fan of the old 16 ever since I first started hunting ruffed grouse.

What has kept the 16 gauge going is a strong hunting base overseas and some hunters here in the states who own them partially because of nostalgia and partly because of their performance. While they are still a good choice, the invention of the 3-inch 20 gauge really took away most of the edge the 16 gauge had. The other drawback is that there are not the variety of loads out there for the 16 gauge out there compared to the other choices. Still the 16 gauge is capable of taking everything from squirrels and grouse right up to whitetail deer and bear with rifled slugs. My uncle’s old 16 gauge Ithaca Deerslayer that I inherited more than fifteen years ago has been responsible for dozens of grouse since I inherited it, not to mention coyotes and the largest buck I have ever taken. That’s not to mention the deer and game he took with it when he got it new in 1971.

There are many other rounds out there that some have put the toe tag on prematurely. The .41 Magnum, the .300 Savage, the .220 Swift are just a few of the rounds that have been out for a long time and have been put on the back burner. That doesn’t mean they aren’t just as good at taking the same game they have for decades, it just means you might have to work a little harder with them and put some more patience in when it comes to finding ammo or even loading your own.

Don’t pass these old cartridges up, someday some of the rounds you have now that are state of the art will fall out of favor perhaps and you will be standing in front of some clerk who has no clue what you’re looking for because it’s not popular anymore. You might as well get acquainted with some of the golden oldies now, you’ll be pleasantly surprised when you do.


About David LaPell:David LaPell

David LaPell has been a Corrections Officer with the local Sheriff's Department for thirteen years. A collector of antique and vintage firearms for over twenty years and an avid hunter. David has been writing articles about firearms, hunting and western history for ten years. In addition to having a passion for vintage guns, he is also a fan of old trucks and has written articles on those as well.

  • 33 thoughts on “When are Old Cartridges Really Dead?

    1. Responding to “Roy D’s“ comment about the 357 RUGER of 1 Feb; Will the 375 RUGER, 375 H&H, and 375 Remington still work in the obsolete “Winchester 94 BIG BORE 357 Win”. I have obtained one from a very nice “widow lady” who’s departed spouse had one but to her knowledge, never fired it. It’s in immaculate condition. Problem is the ammo is somewhat hard to find. Again, my question as stated above, will these “other 375 Winchester Lever 94.

    2. The old 30-30 has taken as many deer as any caliber around down south in brush country. It will literally bulldoze a path through the things that the fast moving calibers would get deflected by. I killed my first deer with a Savage pump in this caliber and killed many more with it. As long as I put the crosshairs on the right spot it did the job every time. I have killed deer that weighed over 200 pounds with it. The 170 gr. was my choice. I still have this gun and will always cherish it. I saw my brother-in-law try to shoot a deer in the river swamp with his .243 and cut both front legs off because it was deflected by brush. There will never be a better brush cartridge made than the 170gr 30-30.

    3. Will still keep my 197’0’s Winchester 70 in .243 Win+Winchester 94 in .30-.30,+ Marlin 1895CB in .45-70. Old is still very usable, and they are all paid for without upsetting the little lady!

    4. Personally I would not sell or trade my savage 99 or Remington 722 in 300 Savage for all the tea in China. This has Been a round I have dropped everything from yotes to Elk with the right load. This is not obsolete by any means. It is just not manufactures in a rifle anymore to my knowledge but Ammo is still plenty easy to find. I only buy new Ammo for the cases as I reload also. This is my primary cartridge for ALl of my hunting since I was 11 years old. The only exception for this is when I go to Alaska and use a Browning 30-06.
      I also own many other rifles but the 300 Savage fulfills all my needs

      1. i also own Savages, i have 4 model 99’s one in 308 which is a box mag, two in 300 savage and one in 250 savage, and they will take any game i can hunt in the lower 48.
        and i have more Rifles also in different calibers and ammo is plentiful for all of them.

    5. Like the article, I just happen to have the 16 ga. single barrel I got for Christmas in 1960. I also have a 30-30 rifle, a Contender with a .22 Hornet barrel, a Marlin pump in 25-20. All good cartridges in my opinion, I handload most of my ammo these days. Old Cartridges never die, they just get better with age like an old wine.

    6. Right now the 6.5 Creedmore seems to be the darling caliber and everywhere I go I’m told I NEED a rifle chambered in it. BS. I’ll consider it when it has been around ~50 years. However, by then I’ll be gone. Right now all my modern rifle and hunting needs are met more than adequately with .22LR, .223REM/5.56NATO, .243WIN, .308WIN/7.62NATO, and .30-06SPRG. I’ll never own a magnum. All that bang and kick for a couple hundred FPS more? No thank you.

    7. Please end all rifle production, especially lever guns chambered in that old, tired & totally obsolete 30-30. That old saw about the 30-30 taking more game than all other cartridges is pure fiction.
      Let’s abandon this underpowered cartridge and quit buying all rifles chambered in this dog so that the rifle makers will smarten up and offer better cartridges in their guns. Pro stories like this dribble try to keep alive this cartridge. Why?

      1. @Hatman, Why, you ask. Because there are buyers. The nice thing about the shooting sports is that there are so many facets. The newest, the oldest, the farthest, the fastest. What do you like to shoot, H1793?

      2. I looked long and hard for a nice Marlin level gun in .30/30, and you don’t have enough money to make me part with it. I also have lever guns, Brownings in 7.62 x 51, .44 Mag, and .357 Mag, and another sweet SS Marlin in .22 WRM. I like them all. If the makers terminate the thutty thutty it will be their loss, as some will continue to search out the old ones and keep them a thumpin’.

    8. The advent of new and incredibly powerful big game calibers — some which will blow an 8 inch hole in an elk would have us think the animals are wearing ceramic armor. The considered “harmless” .30-30 (first non black powder center fire cartridge) in a standard (NOT Hornady LEVERevolution–much more effective) 170 grain round delivers the same velocity and energy at 250 yards as a 180 grain .44 Magnum does at one inch.

    9. Speaking of old calibers, I am looking at some surplus import handguns for $200:
      Zastava M57 Tokarev Type Semi-Auto Pistol, 7.62x25mm Surplus Very Good Condition.
      https://www.classicfirearms.com/zastava-m57-tokarev-yugo

      I’ve never had a 7.62×25 anything, but looking at a few of the countless YouTube 7.62×25 reloading videos, and reviews on a few variations of this general pattern combloc firearm, that 7.62×25 looks to be one seriously _fast_ projectile. In one video the guy shows the final loading he used, after he loaded progressively hotter and hotter til he broke the slide pushing a claimed 2295 fps. All I can say is: Wow!

      I’d be happy with pushing typical 85-90 grains out at 1600 fps or so as that seems to be about a healthy load without getting crazy, according to what I have seen so far, but I am still researching and learning so don’t carve that guesstimate into stone. A number of videos talk of 1600 – to 1800 fps which really just seems impressive to me. I have simply become kind of fascinated with these, as at least some of you can understand. This round seems to be all about speed.

      The only reason I haven’t pulled the trigger on one of those $200 imports is they are out of spare magazines! Apparently, most variations used 8 round magazines and these take 9 rounds, and I simply do not know what other magazines may fit – if any – and I do not want to get stuck with a firearm I cannot get any more magazines for – even if I can safely hand load to remarkably fast / flat trajectories out of an old steel gun heavy enough to absorb the recoil. I already found that StarLineBrass.com has new brass for these in packs of 500 or 1000 so that is a good sign. Maybe somebody out there can tell me what the situation is with getting magazines and parts and such for these here in the U.S….(?) For $200 some of you guys would probably buy several just to keep one for parts. The rest of us out here in poverty acres need to make our hobby pennies count, so thus my question here .Any experts care to opine on those Zastava M57’s and where to find magazines and parts? I have everything to learn about this caliber and import. 🙂

      P.S. – I want to see video of a 85 – 90 grain 7.62×25 hollow point hitting ballistic get at 1600 – 1800 fps or better. I have to imagine that would look really impressive in ultra slow motion.

      1. You can buy spare mags for the M57, maybe purchase them when you buy the gun, or before to be sure.
        https://www.classicfirearms.com/m57-9rd-762×25-original-factory-magazine

        I have a 1953 Cugir TTC, and the Zastava M-57 is almost the same except for the extra round. Both are a copy of Browning 1908 and well manufactured. The 7.62×25 round does not disappoint, with ballistics comparable to .357 magnum but with more penetration. Much of the surplus ammo has dried up, but Sellier and Bellot and Priv Partizan make ammo with re-loadable brass that is readily available for about 55 cent a round. Red Army Standard has steel ammo for about 50 cents a round. Surplus ammo is corrosive and loaded pretty hot, the brass tends to fracture so much it is not re-loadable without annealing and other complicated process because it’s a necked down cartridge, which tend to be more difficult to reload. Romanian or Yugo, either is a good buy and will serve you well.

      2. @pa john, your at the right place for the tokarev, I bought one from classic and its a very nice dependable shooter.
        I bought extra mags through them, but they were a bit pricey. I did find mags for them on e-bay for $13.00 apiece.
        As far as ammo goes I got it from a website thinking I was saving money, but if you noticed classic sells 7.62×25 on
        their site. its pricey but the white box it comes in holds 72rnds for just under $20.00. But they charge shipping on everything they sell. As far as the ammo, it nato ammo made back in the eighties, but performs flawlessly. I don’t know the specs but its the same ammo they used in machine guns, and yes its got some horse power. You will not be disappointed. Since you have to pay shipping anyway stock up. I have not found original ammo like that anywhere.
        If you really want to stock up they sell tins with 17 boxes of 72 but its like $300.00-$400.00, but might be worth it to you. My gun safe is to full for me right now, I just gave my brother in law a 500rnd ham can of .223 for x-mas to make a little room for my other guns I just acquired. Pull the trigger so to speak on one of those tokarev’s or zestava’s, you wont be sorry.

    10. Still looking for and affordable rifle in 38-55 win. I love that round and had a good many of them left to me by my Dad, but the rifle vanished some time in the past.

    11. These beautiful animals are not varmints. They’re just trying to make a living like you are. Come to the city and practise your skills on the real varmints — the gang bangers and the politicians who empower them. Then I’ll have some respect for your hunting skills!

      1. @Allan Morrison, If you want some undesirables in your city hunted down and shot, then you do it. Not that I am opposed to it, but “I shot him to get Al Morrison’s respect” is not much of a legal defense.

      2. You “tend” to your hood and we will “tend” to ours. Don’t expect all of the honest country folk to come clean up the mess you allowed to fester, do it yourself !!!!!

      3. Will you also pay for his legal defense, go his bail, and absorb his losses when he’s sent to the local Crowbar Hotel for too many years to count?

      4. Will you also go his bail, pay for his legal defense, and then absorb all the incidental costs of his spending many years in the local CrowBar Hotel? YOU let a nasty situation arise in YOUR town, YOU deal with it. If you can’t import a cadre of mercenaries. And laywer up, as you’ll need it.

    12. You asked a straight forward question. So Ok. I did not read any of the article but you asked a question.
      Why do we have to buy gadget rifles in boutique calibres? We KNOW the other calibres work.
      But We are constantly trying to be sold new stuff. Will the 6.5 creedmore be here in 70 years?

      If you want to wild cat do it, but do not tell me I have to replace a .270 or a 30-06 or any other calibre because
      you wish to be Madonna and think it is vogue. Fools if you wish but it is not necessary….

      1. @diamond, We don’t have to buy anything, but the business of America is business! The Creedmore is already obsolete. The 6.5 Lapua is more accurate at longer ranges. AND Hornaday has developed the 6.5 PRC an even faster, flatter, longer range cartridge. Hornaday has rendered their own 6.5 Creedmore obsolete after a mere ten years more or less. It is just business.

      2. As is said, “Variety is the spice of life.” I always fancied having a 375-300 Win Mag wildcat. My desire was fulfilled when I bought a 375 Ruger. I don’t worry about cases as I use 300 Win Mag cases to form brass. So I got my wish. And remember, we are about wants not needs, providing you can afford it.

        1. Will these 375 RUGER, 375 H&H, 375 Remington ammo work in the Winchester m94 BIG BORE 375 Winchester? Have procured the said M94 and find it difficult to locate ammo (WINCHESTGER BIG BORE 94) for it.

      3. well, at least you admitted you didn’t bother to read the piece you critique……. had you done, you would not have bothered to hack out your post.

    13. Good article David , brought back some good memories . They used to say here in Pennsylvania that the model 94 , 30/30 Winchester killed more deer then any other rifle .

    14. Hate to burst your bubble, Dave, but the 16 gauge does not ‘hit as hard’ as the 12 gauge because the 16 throws less shot than the 12. Nice try; no cigar.

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