“Classic”: a work of enduring excellence, of historical significance, balanced, refined, restrained, proven, traditional, being a model of its kind.
When it comes to hunting with a rifle, myself and many of my customers here at Lone Star Armory have a fondness for the classic cartridges. What is a classic cartridge? Well, there is no precise definition but most riflemen have an idea of what it means. Generally, it’s those cartridges that have been around for some time and have earned an excellent reputation in the game fields of the world. They seem to posses a combination of velocity, bullet weight, and bullet diameter that has proven to be effective on game and their capabilities have withstood the test of time.
The period from roughly 1888 to 1917 (the start of World War I for the United States) saw the introduction of many cartridges that are now considered to be true classics. This was the beginning of the smokeless powder revolution and cartridge development was occurring at a rapid pace. The British and the Germans especially were at the forefront of smokeless powder cartridge design and development during this period. We have better bullets and powders available today, of course, but many of the cartridges from this period are still in use today. Some examples of cartridges introduced during this period are the .250 Savage, 6.5x55, 7x57 Mauser, .275 Rigby, 7x64 Brenneke,.30-40 Krag, .30-06 Springfield, .303 British, 8x57JS, .318 Westley Richards, .333 Jeffery, 9x57 Mauser, .350 Rigby Magnum, 9.3x62, .375 H&H Magnum, .405 Winchester, .404 Jeffery, and the .416 Rigby to name just a few.
The 1920s and 30s also saw the introduction of many cartridges that are now thought of as classics. The 1920s was a period of relative post-war prosperity in America and many people had the money to spend on new rifles. Examples of cartridges introduced during the 1920s are the .270 Winchester, .300 Savage, .300 H&H Magnum, 8x60 Mauser, .35 Whelen, and the 10.75x68 Mauser. (The .35 Whelen was introduced as a SAAMI standardized cartridge in 1988 by Remington but, it was originally developed and introduced in 1922 and loaded ammunition was available from Griffin & Howe.) The Great Depression in the 1930s slowed the introduction of new cartridges but some were introduced during this period that are considered to be true classics today. Good examples are the .22 Hornet, .220 Swift, .257 Roberts, and the .348 Winchester.
After the end of World War II, the late 1940s and the 1950s again saw the introduction of new cartridges many of which are now considered to be classics. Americans were experiencing another post war period of prosperity and many Americans were starting to hunt in more distant lands thanks to advances in air transportation. Hunting in faraway lands was no longer just for the wealthy. The prospects of hunting in such places as Canada, Alaska, India, and Africa also spurred the development of new American cartridges. Examples of cartridges introduced in this period are the .243 Winchester, .264 Winchester Magnum, .280 Remington, .308 Winchester, .300 Weatherby Magnum, .338 Winchester Magnum, .358 Winchester, and the .458 Winchester Magnum.
Of course, new cartridges continued to be introduced in the 1960s, and 70s and continues to this day. But, I’ll stop with the 1950s for defining classic cartridges. Why? Well, just for the simple and admittedly arbitrary reason that I think a cartridge should have been around for at least fifty years to be considered a classic!
My personal hunting battery consists of rifles chambered for the .257 Roberts, 6.5x55 Swedish, .270 Winchester, 7x57 Mauser, .30-06 Springfield, .300 H&H Mag, 8x57JS, .35 Whelen, 9.3x57, 9.3x62, .375 H&H Mag, .416 Rigby, .45-70 Govt, and .458 Win Mag. A customer and good friend of mine, Bob, has a hunting battery of rifles chambered for the .280 Remington, .30-06 Springfield, .300 H&H Mag, 8x57JS, 8x60S Mauser, .338 Win Mag, .35 Whelen, 9.3x57, 9.3x62, 9.3x74R, .375 H&H Mag, .405 Winchester, and .458 Win Mag. Yeah, I guess you could say that we're rather fond of the classic rifle cartridges here at Lone Star Armory. -- Todd