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Old Military Cartridges Now Popular Sporting Rounds; 308 Winchester, 7.62 NATO & More

Many old military cartridges have become popular sporting cartridges. One of the earliest is the 45-70, used in the ‘trap door’ Springfield rifles of the old cavalry days. Adopted in 1873 it served through early 20th century in Nation Guard units, with stocks being sold off as late as the 1970’s. The original 45-70 was loaded with a 405-grain bullet, pushed by about 70 grains of black powder. Modern factory loadings are still loaded to maintain pressure limits of these older weapons with bullets of about 350 grains. However, modern loadings for the Marlin 1895 lever action can realize significant improvement in performance through hand loading. There is even commercially loaded ‘bear’ rounds for the Alaskan guide. The Marlin in stainless steel has become a popular guide gun with +P ammo. Even heavier loads can be stuffed into Ruger #1 single shot rifle pushing 400 grain solids. This pushes this old war horse to within a couple hundred feet per second of the 458 Winchester Magnum.

308 Winchester & 7.62 NATO

For many years the Krag .30 US was a popular rifle for deer hunting on a budget. These surplus rifles could be had back in the day for $35 and formed the bases for the annual hunt for ranchers and farmers on a budget. But the old 30-40 Krag was soon eclipsed by the most versatile cartridge of the American 20th century, the venerable 30-06 introduce in 1906 and was still serving American and our allies up through the Vietnam war years. This served as the premier sporting cartridge for many years and didn’t begin to lose its eminence until well after the introduction of the 308 Winchester, the sporting version of the 7.62 x 51mm NATO. The 30-06 was the cartridge standard that all others where compared too. Many commercial cartridges can trace their linage to the aught-six case like the 25-06, 270 Winchester and the 35 Whelen. The .30-06 is the ideal one rifle for tackling virtually any thing on the north American continent, though it’s sibling the 25-06 would cover varmints without the overkill. But for deer and elk, to moose and bear the old ’06 has got it covered. Perhaps not the ideal for the big bears, but definitely doable. Today’s standard of comparison is the .308 Winchester. In striving to save weight, as the army ships small arms ammo by the ton, not individual round and striving to lower the burden on the infantryman they developed the military version of the .308 Winchester, the 7.62 NATO. The 7.62 NATO served the US military from just after the Korean War up through the early Vietnam years. It still is used today in sniper rifles and machineguns, including the famous minigun. It is also a very popular sporting cartridge for hunting and competition. Derivatives include the 243 Winchester, 358 Winchester and the 7mm – 08 just to name a few based on the .308’s case.

222 Remington

Back in the day the 222 Remington and later the 222 Remington Magnum where very popular varmint calibers. The accuracy of the .222 Remington is legendary. The Magnum was the basis for some military experiments in sub-thirty caliber rifles, more along the tenets emerging that limited most engagements to a maximum of about 400 yards. A more controllable round was being sought to go head to head with M43 Soviet round, the 7.62 x 39mm of the Viet Cong. Surprisingly the resultant .223 or 5.56 x 45mm NATO was chosen and became the new standard. Over time the projectile went from 55 grain to 62 grains. The civilian version is the .223 Remington a popular round for varmint hunting has driven the 222 Magnum into near obscurity, though the 222 Remington still has a following.

6.8 SPC

The 6.8 SPC is being considered by the US Army to replace the 5.56 NATO as a close quarters round from the short barreled M4 carbine. The 6.8mm SPC (270 caliber) has already gained a sport following, especially in bolt action rifles not constrained by the M16’s magazine dimensions that limits bullets to about 115 grains. With more massive bullets it is becoming a popular sporting round.

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