The last handful of years have seen an increasing rate at which new cartridges hit the market. This seems to show no sign of slowing down. Of course, it’s in the interest of rifle makers and ammunition manufacturers that we keep tinkering at the edges. It rallies an excitement around new products, and that drives sales. Most of you who have followed this series on cartridges for the last ten years will have likely also come to the conclusion, as I have, that all the cartridges we really need have already been in existence for decades.
So what will be next? Recent years have seen a drive from Nosler with their .22, .26, .28 and .30 Nosler, pushing speeds and laser straight down range ballistics. Hornady has driven its own agenda with the advent of the 6mm and 6.5mm Creedmoor. This year also saw their 6.5 PRC jump into delivering a cartridge with just a bit more umph for longer range. Other additions have come from Weatherby with its 6.5-300, although it has slipped under the radar, certainly as far as the UK is concerned.
Turn back the clock a bit, and it wasn’t all that long ago that the .204 Ruger was the hottest varmint cartridge around. The .17 Hornet became the first .17 centrefire to hit the market for many years. It has been around for some time now, but as far as the history of cartridges go, even the .17 HMR is a fairly recent addition to the ranks.
Of course, now we also have the .17 WSM, which is yet to find a strong hold, but is available on UK shores through Edgar Brothers.
I would be lying if I said I knew for certain what was up next, but we can hazard a guess. There is no denying that the 6.5mm and 7mm calibre has seen the most attention in the last few years, and for good reason. Ballistically, they are superb projectiles.
My guess is that we are going to see something else in the 6mm range. Not a Creedmoor equivalent, which very much pits against the venerable .243 Win, but a larger, faster cartridge. Something with .30-06 type capacities, but possibly in a shorter, fatter case.
I also have a gut feeling that we may see a 7mm based cartridge from Hornady; something along the same lines as their PRC. There is also a possibility of something in the true varmint range. A calibre that has missed out on recent developments is the .25 projectile, which crosses the bounds of varmint and medium-sized game. I have long been a fan of the .25-06 and too the .257 Roberts, but a modern incarnation with new powders and case design is a rather enticing prospect.