When the discussion arises about topics concerning firearms, there is little mentioned about standards. We compare ourselves and the weapon at hand on a subliminal standard, but rarely voice them. In regards to cartridges, we need a performance standard for comparison. The ‘standard’ cartridge should be readily available and in wide use with a broad documented experience base. This would translate to probably a military cartridge in wide use.
Small Caliber Sizes
For the 270 to 350 class of cartridge that would include the 6.8/.270, 7mm, 7.62/.30, 8mm and .350 or 9mm for rifles the 7.62 x 51mm/308 Winchester with a 150 grain flat-base or if preferred a boat-tail design at about 2700 fps would very closely duplicate the service 147 grain loading. This would provide for comparison and nearly every ammunition and bullet manufacturer offer 150 gran spitzers loading in this range. Small bore, 17 caliber to 6.5 mm, again the military standard should be used, and 5.56 x 45mm/.223 Remington as the NATO standard should again be considered. There is a plethora of data for this cartridge, which would qualify it as the standard cartridge with large data base of the cartridges use and performance in the sporting and military applications. We don’t necessarily need the best, just the most prolific and with a large body of documented data available.
Large Caliber Comparison
Larger calibers than .35 caliber are large or dangerous game and criteria slew to heavy solid bullets at moderate velocity. A standard cartridge should have a long history of use and bridge the area of performance from the relatively ‘small’ bore to the large bore dangerous, as in Africa/Asia game. For comparisons, the logical round would be .375 H&H Magnum. This a flat shooter with streamlined bullets like the spitzer or can kick out heavy solids to neutralize dangerous, aggressive game. This cartridge has taken vertically every game animal on the planet, has an established history, and represents a transitional caliber between the .35s to the large caliber 505 Gibbs. Above this caliber most rounds are loaded with round-nose jacketed deep penetrators at moderate velocities. To define a standard the 300 grain Nosler Polymer Tip Boat Tail at 2400 fps and a BC of 0.485 and a SD of 0.305 is the tentative standard. The 270 grain wonders are a consideration as well, these are factory loads. 375 H&H is the ideal bridge large caliber cartridge, shooting streamlined boat tails for distant shooting or a round nose blunt solids for dangerous game. It is the favored weapon of game guides in Africa and has a strong standing with the Alaskan guides as well.
Defensive & Field Firearms
Sidearms can be divided into two categories: defensive and field. Concealed carry favors flat sided self-loading semi autos and are intended to defeat an aggressive assailant. The most prolific caliber is the 9mm Luger, Parabellum, 9 x 19 or just the 9mm. Again, a vast body of information and history is available and the 9mm is popular worldwide and the dominate European caliber of choice. Opinions vary, but the 9mm is a logical standards choice. 115 grain bullet at 1250 fps covers most of the military loadings. Subsonic loading would include the 147 grain bullet at about 600-900 fps and is subsonic. The “9” would be the standard for all semi-auto weapons. For field use as a defensive gun, or plinker the .38 Special/357 Magnum has a long well established and documented history, for many years was the standard for law enforcement. Characteristics are well known. The 357 can be effective against a broad spectrum of animals up to black bear sized opponents makes a great choice for comparisons of .32 through 38 caliber. Basic loads would be the 158 grain bullet at 900-1000 fps. For large bore the standard is the tried and true .44 Magnum with a 240 grain bullet at 1180-2000 fps velocity. An argument maybe made in favor of the 45 Colt, that has been around since 1873 but was originally a black powder loading and modern smokeless loads are required to handle chamber pressures compatible with older firearms. But the commercial 44 Magnum or its lower powered cousin, the .44 Special has the history and power to be a standard. It is obvious that there are cartridges that are better or worse, but we use a standard for comparisons.