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A Consideration of Calibers
-Some of the cartridges that have been in my life- 

By Jim Taylor 

These are just random thoughts of my experiences with the calibers listed. Note that they are personal experiences and should be taken as such. 

.22 Rimfire – I have used these (and continue to do so) in both handgun and rifle.  This is the most useful round that was ever invented. Ideal as a survival tool, a person can pack 500 rounds of ammo in a very compact space with no weight when compared to the larger center-fire ammunition.  For a proficient marksman the cartridge can be pressed into duty for almost anything from self-defense to providing meat for the pot.  Are there better cartridges?  Of course.  But none that can do it all like this one can – provided the user is a decent shot who can keep his head in stressful situations.  

Personally I have only taken one deer (a large Mule deer) with the .22 sixgun.  One shot in the back of the head and the wounded buck was down for good.  Another hunter had shot the deer in the pelvis and had used up all his .30-06 ammo shooting at the retreating deer.  All I had with me was the Single Six but I do not remember even worrying about it.  I scouted out where the deer had bedded, got up to within 20 feet of the poor critter before it jumped up to make run and as it turned from me I shot it in the back of the head. 

I shoot more .22 ammunition than I do of anything else, and I shoot quite lot. It is one cartridge I would not want to be without. 

.22 Magnum – This little round has been on the scene for a long time. In my Single Six they are very accurate and I like them for long-range work.  I have killed jackrabbits at well over 150 yards easily.  Recently in front of witnesses I made a 300+ yard shot (verified by laser range finder) and knocked over a critter on the 3rd shot at that distance.  

From the rifle the .22 Magnum is a totally different creature than from a sixgun.  Penetration is increased by quite a lot, though it does not take a long barrel since the Magnum has built most of its power in about 10 or 12 inches.   

When my oldest daughter was 11 I built her a single-shot .22 Magnum with a 16” barrel.  She used that gun to take her first Javelina.  At 40 yards on a running boar, she whacked him a little high above the shoulders and took out 2 ˝” of spine!  I have always been impressed by its performance from a rifle/carbine configuration.  I have an Ithaca Model 49 that AK Church gave me.  Very accurate, the little single-shot has accounted for cats and dogs around the ranch, and I would not hesitate to use it on something larger should the need arise.  

.243 Winchester –This has been THE meat gun in the family and has accounted for a truckload of deer and Javelina.  The only bullet we have used for deer until recently has been the Nosler 95 gr. Partition bullet. With a healthy charge of IMR 4350 this little bullet beats 3100 fps and is deadly.  We have never had one stop in a deer, even the large Mule Deer out West. 

I never experimented much with the .243.  When I found an accurate load I just stuck with it.  Why mess with success?   Here in Missouri though, the deer are much smaller and the distance much closer than in the West.  For my daughter I loaded the Hornady 80 gr. HPBT bullet at about the same velocity as the heavier Nosler bullet.  All the deer we have shot with this bullet have dropped immediately, and all bullets have exited the deer.  

This is one gun and cartridge combination that while it may not be exciting, it will do the job every time you pull the trigger. 

.25 ACP – An anemic little round, I have in past years played with it “just for fun”.  In a decent gun the round is fairly accurate.  Shooting it from Beretta’s little “Jetfire” I was able to get nice, small, consistent groups at 15 and 20 yards.  

My Dad made me a nice little truncated-cone bullet mold that threw a 48 grain bullet and I used these in working up handloads to see just what could be done with tiny little round.   Eventually I worked up handloads of over 1000 fps from the 2” barrel, nothing to sneeze at by the way.  I found the brass to be weak though.  High-pressure loads blew the primer pocket completely out of the cartridge case on the first shot. 

Keeping the velocity in the 900 fps range, I shot a number of rabbits with the .25 ACP and they died just like they were hit with a real bullet! 

I really don’t recommend it, but as Mr. Keith said, it will work if you can’t carry a real gun. 

.30-30 Winchester – No lineup would be complete without a .30-30 of some sort.  I happen to prefer the Model 94 Winchesters but that is purely a personal thing and has nothing to do with whether they are better than any others.   

My favorite Model 94 these days is the 16” Trapper.  The gun is handy to use, easy to carry and develops enough power for most anything I will run into in my day-to-day travels.  I hangs nicely behind the seat and does not attract undue notice when it is taken out.  (“What’s he doing? Oh, that’s just his deer rifle.”)

For years I shot the longer Model 94’s with cast bullets pretty much exclusively and that with mainly one bullet, the RCBS 190 gr. gascheck flatnose bullet.  I ran these at 1800 fps from the Winchester and used them for deer, plinking and long-range target work.  I found them to be accurate out past 1100 yards – which was a heck of a lot of fun!   

The Trapper gets shot mainly with 130 gr. jacketed bullets.  These are all that are needed for what this gun is used for. 

.303 British – My first deer rifle!  Back in the early 1960’s the Yellow Front chain of stores in Arizona imported various British guns by the shipload.  Dad and I went to one of the stores one day and they had all these guns stacked in wooden barrels, marked at $17.50 each.  Dad went through them and picked out 2 that had good bores.  One he kept for himself and one he cut down for me.  I think I was 13 at the time.  He chopped the barrel to 18”, removed a lot of the wood and sporterized the stock.  

The old military load thumped me plenty hard so Dad handloaded some 130 gr. bullets he dug up from somewhere’s for me.  These worked just fine.  I carried that gun all over the mountains for several years.  I am not sure what happened to it.  I think I traded it for some car parts when I was about 17 … dumb things teenagers do. 

.32-20 Winchester – This is one my favorites of the “old” cartridges.  There is no practical reason for my liking it.  There are other cartridges that can do the same job and do it better.  It’s just a nostalgia thing with me.  I enjoy using it with all its faults and weaknesses. 

In past years I experimented with hot-loading it and developed loads for the rifle that ran 120 gr. bullets at 2100 fps.  I have shot deer with it and it worked well.  I don’t do that any longer and have come back home to ‘sedate’ loads and even blackpowder at times. 

In the Colt Single Action the little round is fun to shoot.  With full-power loads there is no recoil with the heavy sixgun.  Freedom Arms now offers a .32-20 cylinder for their Model 97.  One constant that seems to come up is the fact that it’s harder to get consistently accurate loads for the sixgun as compared to the rifle. 

My rifle is a Marlin 1894CL from the early 1980’s.  It has been accurate with almost anything I have fired through it.  These days almost 100% of my loads are with the Lyman #3118 cast 120 gr. flat-nose bullet at 1200 fps.  It is a mild load, equivalent to factory loadings, yet is easy on the brass, the gun and the pocket book.    

This is just plain a fun gun and load. 

.348 Winchester – This is another caliber that I like for no particular reason than that I like it!  There are other cartridges that can do the job the .348 does and while maybe not do it any better, at least do it easier.  Try finding .348 ammo in a strange town when you suddenly need some and you will know what I mean.  Part of my fascination is firearm itself.  I like the Model 71 Winchester!  It is a classic big-bore Winchester, the last of the big-bore leverguns made by Winchester.   

Power-wise the cartridge does not have to take a back seat to anyone.  It runs in the lower end of the .35 Whelen class and will do the job on Elk, Moose and big Bears.   

I don’t experiment with the .348.  I found several loads that were accurate with the 200 gr. Hornady bullet or the Barnes Original 250 gr. bullet and have stuck with them.  These 2 are good for anything I will use the gun for. 

9mm – I owned one 9mm, a Colt Combat Commander.  I bought the gun almost brand new.  I don’t think the owner had fired a full box of ammo through it.  I used the gun for a year, experimented with the various types of bullets available, wrote magazine articles about and shot several critters with it.  I had no complaints about it.  The gun was reliable.  The ammo was accurate enough for its purposes and it put down whatever I shot, but I am not especially a fan of semi-auto handguns and when the opportunity to trade it off came I jumped at it.   

Now for some of you, that may seem like a bad choice.  However, the trade was for two 1st Generation Colt Single Actions!  And I didn’t have to kick in but a few hundred dollars.  To me it was the deal of a lifetime.  There are plenty 9mm’s if I ever want one again. 

.38 Special/.357 Magnum – I use this caliber a LOT!  In both sixgun and levergun it is one that I probably shoot as much as I shoot the .22.  I know that I always have a thousand or two empties that I am running through the loading process.  I cast a lot of bullets for this caliber also. 

Mostly I shoot the .38 Specials with 158 gr. flat-nose cast bullets, though I load quite a few cast SWC’s also.  Usually I run 3 gr. of Bullseye or 4 gr. of 231.  In both the sixgun and the rifle these are mild loads and extremely fun to shoot.   

Jacketed bullets are reserved for full-power .357 Magnum loads. These are used either for hunting or for social purposes. 

While it is fashionable these days to look down one’s nose at the .357, yet this caliber is one that will do the job when it is called upon.  In the sixgun it is not the best hunting round available but in the hands of a proficient hunter who knows when and when not to shoot and who can place his shot, it works very well.  Out of the rifle the cartridge runs at the low end of .30-30 power and works very well on deer.  As has been said, the .357 is a whole different creature when fired from a rifle. 

.41 Magnum – The .41 Magnum in the sixgun is my favorite Whitetail gun here in Missouri.  I have taken quite a few with mine and it always works well.  Heavy bullets are not required.  In fact, my personal philosophy is that heavy bullets defeat the uniqueness of the .41 Magnums.   

My standard load is a 200 gr. or 210 gr. jacketed bullet at around 1450 fps.  These are flat shooting and will completely penetrate a good-sized buck even at over 100 yards.  This is the gun and load that I know will be going with me on a deer hunt, even if I am taking other firearms. 

I have shot a few deer with the .41 from a Marlin leveraction 1894 also with similar results.  The last deer shot was a young buck at about 50 yards.  He was quartering away from me.  The shot took him just in front of the right hip and exited the left shoulder.  He piled up right there.  The bullet was a 200 gr. Speer SWC – the “half jacket” type – running around 1600 fps from the rifle. 

Extremely accurate, the .41 has a special place in my life.   

.44 Special – I had never messed with the .44 Special and probably would have not done so had not The Shootists commissioned USFA to build a 20th Anniversary Commemorative this last year.  Now that I have one I wonder why I never had one before! 

The cartridge is easy to load, fun to use, accurate and can be loaded to power levels high enough for serious work on about anything in North America!  My standard load is the Keith 250 gr. cast SWC at about 700 fps.  This load is nothing but pure shooting pleasure!   I have used the “Keith” load of 2400 to push the big slug to 1100 fps from the sixgun and while packing plenty of punch they are not uncomfortable to shoot.  And they are accurate!  A prime consideration with any load. 

I have shot this one quite a bit this last year and plan to do more with.  A deer hunt looms in the future! 

.44-40 WCF – It has been years since I have used the .44-40, but it was my first levergun.  And old El Tigre Spanish copy of the Winchester 92, I bought the gun from the Jewel Box Pawn Shop in Phoenix, AZ sometime around 1960.  I think they were going for $40.00 then.  I know it was hard for a teenager to come up with the money!   The pawnshop owner threw in an original box of UMC .44-40 blackpowder loads with the gun.  (Whew .. those would be worth something today!)   I shot up all of them pretty quickly.  Even though they were 50 years old they all fired, though a few of them sputtered and hissed for a few seconds before they went off. 

I handloaded cast 210 gr. flatnosed bullets for the .44-40, some over smokeless and some over blackpowder.  I experimented with high velocity smokeless loads but these were so hard on case life that eventually I gave it up. 

Somewhere’s about the time I got a car and discovered girls liked to ride in it I traded the gun off for a 2-carb setup.  These days I sometimes think how silly that was. 

.45 ACP – Over the years I have had a number of guns in this caliber.  The first was the old war-horse, the 1911.  I bought my first one when I was about 15 years old.  It was a shot-out Remington Rand that someone had chrome-plated.  The plating was peeling and there was not much rifling left in the bore but I plunked down my hard-earned $37.50 and was thrilled to take it home. 

The cartridge works quite well, especially if one does not try to hot-rod it.  Use it like it was designed and it will do the job for you.  The best thing is to learn to put the bullet in the correct place. 

I have used this round in sixguns and while not a particular favorite it is fun to use.  Some years back I had an old-model Ruger .357 rechambered and rebarreled to .45 ACP.  With a stubby 3 ˝” barrel the gun hid easily under a coat or vest and I carried concealed for some time. 

I have shot enough stuff with the .45 ACP that I do not consider the cartridge as magic as some true believers, but it does work.  As to arguing its merits against other calibers, I leave that to the armchair gunfighters. 

.45 Colt – Referred to as the “45 Long Colt” by some hardcore fans, the old .45 Colt has been a longtime favorite.  I got my first Colt SAA in .45 Colt back in the 1960’s, a nice 2nd Generation 5 ˝”, nickeled with factory walnut grips. I have not been without a .45 Colt since then. 

In the 1970’s with the big-frame Ruger Blackhawk in .45 Colt I began experimenting with 300 gr. bullets after corresponding with Elmer Keith about his work with heavy bullets.  I wrote to ammo companies, called and talked to them and could not get anyone interested in listening to what could be done. In fact, more than once I was told that it was crazy to try such a thing. 

The loads I used were not hot in comparison to some used today.  I ran a 305 gr. cast bullet at 1100 to 1200 fps.  Pressures were less than 30,000 CUP.  The loads were not hard on the gun as shown by the fact that I still have that gun and it is still tight and in good condition. 

In the Colt SAA guns (and replica’s of the same) I have stuck with factory weight bullets.  My standard load today is the old Lyman #454190 bullet cast fairly soft and running about 850 fps.  This fine old load will still do much of what needs to be done with a sixgun. 

454 Casull – My initiation to the 454 was at the first Shootists Holiday in 1986.  I have had one ever since.  Billed as “The World’s Most Powerful Handgun” my fascination with it involved the accuracy that could be had from it.  Oh sure, I tried to see how fast I could get it to go.  Who wouldn’t?  But overall I was more intrigued with the fact that this gun was close to perfection when it came to tolerances, and that it could made to shoot as if the bullets were wire-guided missiles, as long as the shooter did his part correctly. 

Over the years I have used bullets from 180 gr. up through 390 gr. in the 454 but kept coming back to more or less “standard” weight bullets.  A 240 gr. to 260 gr. JHP at 1500 + fps is a deadly deer round.   A 300 gr. JHP at the same velocities is also and is good for larger stuff. 

These days my standard load is a cast 305 gr. at 1450 fps.  It is easy on the shooter and the gun, accurate and more importantly, fun to shoot.  As I have gotten older I discovered I don’t have to hurt myself to have fun!  What a concept.  

.475 Linebaugh – John Linebaugh built my .475 in 1990 and for 14 years I used it from Missouri to Arizona and back shooting large hogs, small dogs and a lot of stuff in between.   

My standard hunting load was a cast LBT 400 gr. at 1225 fps.  Not a full-power load it generated enough thump that nothing I ever shot with it got up and walked or ran away. 

I experimented with some “specialty” loads in which I used a .45 ACP cartridge as the projectile, but other than that I never fooled with too many bullets, preferring to use something I was familiar with and that I knew worked. 

A couple years ago I decided that since I was about 60 years old and my wrists and fingers still worked just fine I would keep it that way and traded the .475 for some lighter recoiling guns.  

The cartridge itself is a wonderful design.  The original is simply a .45-70 case cut off at 1.4” and blown out straight.  The newer design with the smaller rim was brought out later on so the cartridge could be chambered in the Freedom Arms guns. They have a different “center” (the distance from the center of the cylinder to the center of the chamber) dimension than the Rugers that were rebuilt into .475’s.  

The thing I always like about the Linebaugh guns  - and the Freedom Arms guns for that matter – is that they can be worn on the belt, day in and day out, just a good old ‘packin’ gun, unlike the huge models put out by some gun companies today.  Those things need either a gun bearer or a wheel on them and are by no means “handy”. 

480 Achilles – This cartridge is a specialty cartridge that a group of us designed.  Based on the .45 Colt cartridge, the idea (in my mind at least) was to re-create a modern version of the old .476 Eley cartridge and gun. 

Using .45 Colt cases cut to .90” and loading a heel-based bullet in them, the cartridge is not a high-performance one by today’s standards.  In fact it is retro – back to the 1800’s!  Finding data for designing a heel bullet and how it should be used was like finding the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow… pretty much non-existent.   

In the end we came up with a 290 gr bullet that worked very well.  A nice flat-nosed design, velocities run from 650 fps to 900 fps.  I used this bullet at about 850 fps to take a nice Javelina a couple years ago.  I plan to take a deer with it if I can get the shot I am looking for. 

Having no practical purpose, it was one of the most fun projects I have been involved in a long time. And it was fun working with the other guys to come up with the concept and then turn that concept into reality.  I thoroughly enjoy shooting it.  All I need is someone to make me a bunch of brass! 

You will note that I don't have listed many of the standard cartridges such as the .44 Magnum, the .30-06, .270 Winchester and so on.  While I have shot firearms in those calibers I have never owned any.  I am not sure why.  One reason is that for many years I owned only 2 handguns and one rifle.  The handguns were in .357 Magnum and .45 Colt and that was all that I shot.  I shot them every day and looking back I can see I was a much better shot in those days then after I started playing with other guns and calibers.

But those listed above are the cartridges that have been a big part of my life.  Sure, I have used others.  I have loaded and played with the .45-70 in both an 1886 Winchester and a restored Remington Rolling Block.  When younger I had a nice old .30-40 Krag.  There were handguns of various calibers that came and went; a little S&W in .32 Long, an Astra in some weird 9mm offering, and some foreign military rifles.  At various times I tried the .30 Carbine in both rifle and handguns. They never made much of an impact in my life and I did not spend a lot of time with them.  The ones listed above were used, if not every day, at least every month for a long period of time. Many still are. They are my favorites. You will note that I don’t have just a few favorites!  If I did life would be much simpler.. but not near so much fun!






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The 480 Achilles