Bernie Kuntz: The rash of new cartridges
Hunters and shooters are notoriously eager to try anything new, and the proliferation of new
center-fire rifle cartridges during the last two decades is evidence of that.
Remington got into the act with its "Ultra Mag" series—a 7mm, .300, .338 and .375—all with oversize cases designed to be used in long-action rifles. Unfortunately, each of them requires an approximate 20% increase in powder capacity to gain 5% of velocity with the resultant additional recoil and muzzle blast. And don't forget that the 7mm Ultra and .300 Ultra, at least, require a 26" barrel to properly burn those large charges of slow-burning powder! I predict these three cartridges will one day be among Remington's other bad ideas—the 6.5 Rem. Magnum and the .350 Rem. Magnum. The latter was introduced in 1955, the 6.5 in 1966, and both have been defunct for decades.
Winchester took a different approach, introducing a plethora of short, squat new cartridges that
it named the "Winchester Short Magnums" (WSM), addressing hunters who like short actions. The new WSMs were introduced in .24, .25, .27, .30, and .325 (8mm) calibers. The .270 WSM and .30 WSM have some dedicated fans, but the entire lineup was a solution looking for a problem. Look for the .270 WSM and .300 WSM to survive, but two decades from now the rest of the short magnums will go the way of the .264 Win. Magnum...long since discontinued.
The .257 WSM duplicates the fine .25/06, which has been a commercial cartridge since 1969. And here's a big surprise for those infatuated with the .300 WSM—it has almost identical ballistics as the fine old .300 H & H Magnum, first introduced in 1925! The Holland & Holland round, of course, requires a long action. But if you ever have chambered a .300 H & H round with its long, sloping taper, you probably would be disappointed cycling the stubby .300 WSM.
The .325 WSM no doubt was to compete with the .338 Win. Magnum, introduced in 1958 and one of the finest big game cartridges for elk, moose and the big bears. The .325 WSM is nowhere in the league of the 8mm Rem. Magnum that Remington introduced in 1977 but never developed a following. Look for the .325 WSM to go the same dead-end route.
Federal, the Anoka, Minn. ammunition company also has gotten into the cartridge development business with its .338 Federal, and Ruger Arms with its .204 Ruger and .375 Ruger. Again, the big drawing point seems to be that these cartridges can be used in short actions. (Saving an inch of overall rifle length with the short action doesn't close the sale for this writer.) Again, I would be shocked if the .338 Federal survives. And regarding the .375 Ruger, what is wrong with the wonderful .375 H & H Magnum, introduced in 1912 and used all over the world? (I own a custom rifle in .375 H & H on a pre-war Model 70 action, and would no sooner trade it for the Ruger cartridge than I'd shop for an AMC Javelin.)
The .204 Ruger is interesting, and many varmint shooters are nutty over it. The .204 is nothing more than the old .222 Rem. Magnum necked down to .204. Prairie dog shooters love the new .204 and I believe it will survive just because of that.
Most recently, Hornady came out with the 6.5 Creedmoor, which has many shooters reaching for their wallets, and now a 6mm Creedmoor, which is almost identical to the old .243 Win., introduced in 1955. Why would anyone buy the 6mm Creedmoor instead of a near-identical cartridge that has been a roaring success for 63 years?
Nosler also has gotten into the cartridge business, chambering new over-bore cartridges in that company's own fine rifles in .22, 26, 28, .30 and .33 calibers. All of the Nosler rounds enjoy ballistics slightly exceeding the Weatherby cartridges. Weatherby magnums have been around for a long time, some since World War II.
One might get the impression that I hold all new cartridges with disdain, but that is not entirely true—I just believe most of them are a duplication or a poor attempt to fill a niche that doesn't exist.
New for the sake of being new never has set well with this old curmudgeon.