This phrase doesn’t come around too often, usually only when someone is discussing a new cartridge from an ammo manufacturer, or a wildcat they are contemplating. That doesn’t mean this saying isn’t still asinine. The heart of my entire point is this: whether cartridges are redundant or not depends completely upon how narrowly you have defined the role it is meant to fill.
[For the purposes of this article, I’m only going to be considering factory-available rounds. The nature of wildcat cartridges means that multiple people could see the exact same void in their line up, conceive the same solution, and independently create redundancies.]
Are there redundant cartridges out there? Absolutely. Kinda. Well, it’s complicated. If a cartridge is redundant or not entirely depends on how specific your requirements are. Alright, let’s get started.
As with everything in life, a well-defined problem is halfway solved. So, what are your requirements? For example: Are you trying to put holes in paper? Are you trying to put holes in paper beyond 800 yards? Are you trying to put holes in paper past 800 yards, but inside of 1,200? Are you competing with other world-class marksmen to put holes in paper, between 800 and 1,200 yards, for cash prizes? At each level of refinement of your goal, your viable options become more and more limited, and the small differences between those options become relevant.
In regards to examining the minutia between options, hunters may be even worse than competitive shooters. For as many different animals as there are on Earth, there are just as many cartridges to take them with. Now, does that mean that the perfect whitetail cartridge is completely useless against mule deer? Of course not. There are definite overlaps (bullets tend to shoot below their weight class better than above), but there is no reason not to specialize in what your will be focusing on. Going to shoot a lot of prairie dogs? .22-250 is a great option, with .204 Ruger and .224 Valkyrie being viable alternates. To choose between those three options would mean to further refine your criteria. At what distance are those p-dogs at? What are the usual wind conditions? Bolt gun, or semi-auto? Factory ammo, or reloading?
Really, the people who tend to say that there are ‘too many cartridges’ are people who don’t appreciate the small differences in roles. Going back to my first example, if the only level of refinement you can come up with is ‘punch paper at 800 yards’, then you only need one rifle and there are dozens and dozens of options, all of which are just as viable as the rest and redundancy runs rampant. It is when you go beyond the surface level that the variety of options starts to make it’s worth known.
The worst about complaining about the selection available to them, are the generalists. These are the people who try to hunt, shoot, or really just do about everything. There’s nothing wrong with that (I’ve written about diversity of skill before), but there is something wrong about assuming that your needs and wants are the same as everyone else’s. If you want to spend your money on flying all over the continent and hunting all kinds of game, and don’t want to end up with a collection of 20+ specialized rifles that each get used maybe once a decade, then choosing a few select calibers is a prudent idea. Buy 3 or 4 guns in wildly different calibers and start booking your next adventure. That being said, do not believe that your logic is the same as the person who hunts prairie dogs in the summer, coyotes in the winter, and whitetail deer one week in between. The specialized shooter can buy 3 or 4 guns in seemingly-redundant calibers and actually appreciate the difference between them.
Now, don’t get me wrong, there are redundant calibers. I wrote about one 2 weeks ago, and am currently working on a post about a few more of these.
As I said in the beginning, whether cartridges are redundant or not depends completely upon how narrowly you have defined the role it is meant to fill. Most of the time that people complain about there being too many calibers, loadings, cartridges, whatever, is usually because those individuals don’t have the ability to appreciate the different roles that all those calibers set out to fill. There are some redundancies out there, of course, but the majority of the diversity is based on real world needs. We’ll discuss some of the redundancies in a future post. See you next Friday.