Rifle calibers and cartridges

Morning all, slowly venturing into the pest control area as a way of getting out of the house and into the country side and am wondering if anyone can recomend a good site that explains rifle calibers, cartridges and their uses. For example, a colleague has a .177, .22, .222 and a few other rifles. To me they're almost the same caliber but using different rounds have different jobs.

Do the (to my unexperienced eye) differences make that much difference? I realise that a deer need a bigger round than a fox but can someone give me a basic run down?

Don't know of any educational sites offhand but the differences do make a difference, although some are very slight.
Biggest differences are velocity & muzzle energy which will help determine how hard they hit their target and their optimum ranges to the target.
Not getting into air weapons (commonly .177 & .22) the cartridge firearms basically go from small calibre Rimfire to large calibre centre fire effulump type guns.
A .22rf or .17rf are commonly used for short range targets & pest control. Centrefire like the .222 are higher velocity rounds and used for pests/vermin at longer ranges. Some parts of the UK allow .22c/f for some smaller species of deer. Larger calibres for larger quarry & longer range shooting.
So for Rabbits at reasonable ranges (IMO to about 70 yards) the .22lr is the most commonly used tool.
The .17 HMR & .22 magnum ghive a bit more range
Next step up would be a centrefire such as .22 hornet,.222, .223, 22-250 and the list goes on and on.
Depending on where you shoot & for dear over Roe size you'll need at least a .243 calbre.

Target shooting, again depends on what type you want to do, basic full-bore tend to use the 7.62 x51 but the .223/5.56 and various 6 & 6.5mm are also very popular nowadays.

Maybe some good info on the BASC site, that might be worth a look; otherwise just google your questions.

Happy shooting.


Half of the forward I wrote for a book to start in my retirement based on my sporting experiences, still not yet retired so this may be useful;
Foreword; Sporting rifle is a great discipline; it covers most rifle shooting activities against most quarry species and also targets for practice. It can be practiced on miniature rifle ranges, woodlands and farmlands of sufficient size and also with an air rifle in your own back garden! It teaches most of the shooting skills required by other disciplines and combines safety with skill, speed, accuracy and judgement.
Safety; as always safety is paramount be it firing an air rifle in your back garden or firing a centre fire rifle of a deer calibre on open farmland. Safety of those around you and your own safety are a high priority. There have been few deaths or serious injuries caused by sporting rifles in the UK since the last war but those that have happened are usually avoidable.
You must always consider a rifle loaded and dangerous until proved clear. Normal safety precautions (NSP’s) apply here as on a rifle range and you must always remember that you only aim the rifle at a target that you wish to kill. Rifles when carried in the field unless in a secured slip should always be carried slung over the shoulder. They can when in the shooting field be loaded and made ready but the safety catch must always be applied and the direction that your muzzle is pointing must always be known. The area of the trigger and safety catch must always be kept clear of snagging on knife sheaths and pouches on your belt!
Some stalking guides may insist on novice stalkers keeping the rifle “made safe” until needed, in the made safe condition a rifle is loaded and the weapon does not have a round chambered. It is safe!
Normal woodland stalking in low ground will usually call for the rifle to be made ready!
There are also other things to consider when out with a rifle, obstacles for instance such as fences and styles call for care and consideration, high seats if climbed will require the rifle to be unloaded followed by a reload but made safe!
It is your responsibility as the firearm user to ensure that safety is foremost in your mind.
Safe Backstop; what constitutes a safe backstop? Obviously this may vary from rifle to rifle dependent upon calibre but we can safely assume that a rising earth bank without much surface stone or flint showing can be considered a reasonable safe back stop. This can be created without a bulldozer by the simple use of an elevated firing position such as high ground downward or a high seat.
High seats come in many forms from a simple board nailed in the bough of a tree to an elaborate heated tree house. In between are various lean to and free standing three legged and tower models either prefabricated from timber and or steel or made from locally available materials.
Whatever high seats you may choose or find installed already must be checked regularly for wear and tear and serviceability, if you happen to be the stalking tenant or the pest control person using the stalker high seats (with the stalkers permission of course) then you must ensure that the seat is safe to use and that the owner is aware of any problems.
That just about covers your liabilities, which brings us around to insurance. Whilst not a legal requirement you will find that having the relevant insurance (usually included in a shooting sports associations membership) will open more doors than not having any will. In today’s blame and claim culture where the stupid actions of trespassing members of the public causes themselves to be injured on your high seat or heaven forbid struck by a ricochet or more likely scared by the sight of an armed man into calling the police the relevant insurance will cover your legal costs provided the activities that you were undertaking are legal.
Risk assessments whilst not yet mandatory for the lone rifleman are not a bad habit to get into and will prove to the court (heaven forbid) that you have considered the possibilities and made allowances for these in your shooting! These assessments can be downloaded from various organisations websites for free and should be peer reviewed if possible.

Licensing and the type of quarry you may wish to shoot; most of us of a certain age grew up with an air rifle or even a catapult roaming freely over the neighbouring farms taking whatever pest species we thought ourselves capable of taking for the pot! Nowadays written permission, some level of experience, competence or training is required before the local constabulary will consider granting a firearms certificate for the pursuit of live quarry.
The alternative route into the licensing system is by the application for a shotgun certificate, the granting of which can be secured through membership or regular attendance at a clay shoot. Invitations for an afternoon walking around a fellow shots farm to help dispose of a few crows and rabbits may follow should you become proficient and perhaps a day on a shoot either walked up or walk and stand may follow should you impress. The pest control aspect of shotgun shooting tends to restrict itself to feather than fur due to the limited range of the humble scattergun and eventually that warren in the open at 60 yards begins to call and only the .22 rimfire will deal with those pesky coneys.
This is where the sporting rifle comes into its own!

The sporting rifle falls mainly into two classes of calibres with some calibres crossing over from one to the other class by virtue of their flexibility in loading. Perhaps a little explanation is required here;
Calibre: This is a designation usually made by combining a measurement of the bore with the dimensions of the case and in some cases followed by an additional annotation indicating an improved or altered case in some way.
Some classic examples are the .303 British (just 303 if you are British!) this is a designation which isn’t actually a true measurement, the bullets are generally 0.311 of an inch in diameter and the case overall length (OAL) is actually 2.22 inches.
Then there are metric cartridges such as the 7.62 x 51, the bore size is .30 of an inch or 7.62mm and the case length is 51mm. This is the standard NATO ball ammunition for machine guns and is also known as .308 Winchester, its diameter is a nominal .307 actually!
There may be two almost identical rounds for instance such as 7 x 57 and 7 x 57R, the latter having a rimmed case and the former a rimless case. There are also cartridges with names from the era of black powder such as .30 .30 or “thirty thirty” so named as they were .30 of an inch in diameter bullet over a 30 grain loading of powder. In the rimfire field what was once a massive market had reduced by the mid 20th century to the humble .22 rimfire in its short, long, long rifle and magnum sizes. Since the late 1990’s .17 rf has become a popular if expensive load in various forms. It outperforms the .22 for range and velocity and tends to have a lower chance of ricochet increasing its popularity amongst pest shooters and Police Firearms Licensing departments.
The choice of calibre for pest control is mandated by the pest species size, the distance or likely range that they are to be encountered and the available ground and its suitability for the safe use of the calibre.
The Police licensing officer (often a civilian without much firearms experience) will be tasked with checking out the land you are nominating on your license application with a view to public safety. It is in your best interest therefore (especially if you are reasonably experienced at shooting) to accompany the officer and assist in getting your named land added to the register. Once the land is added to the register it will include information any suitable calibres or restrictions and it may include information on the likely quarry species encountered in the area such as deer and wild boar. This is all in your favour and after a suitable period of usage of named land the restrictive conditions on your Firearms Certificate can be amended as you will be deemed competent by default to asses for safety each piece of land you have permission for. I will quote from BASC here;
“It is BASC’s firmly held opinion, supported by the findings of the Firearms Consultative Committee, that checks to see if a particular area of land is suitable for the use of a rifle of a particular calibre are a waste of time. It is the user of the rifle who is “safe” or “unsafe”; not the rifle itself; and certainly not the land.”
Some Constabularies have had a reputation for blanket banning of certain calibres for no better reason than inherited prejudice; there is a Home Office publication “Firearms Licensing Guidance” which should be quoted in your defence should this situation occur but that in itself isn’t perfect and relies on calibre recommendations made by organisations committees such as BASC for the .270 as the minimum calibre for Wild Boar despite it being hunted successfully in Europe with much less powerful calibres and I have had recent dealings with both the Police and BASC over the arbitrary restriction which bans the 6.5 x 55 140 grain load which develops the same muzzle energy as its 6 thousandths of an inch larger bullet .270 140 grain load both developing 2600 foot pounds at the muzzle.
Thus are restrictions made and be prepared to offer advice based on experience and published data to the Firearms licensing officer when he or she attempts to restrict you on your choice. Remember at all times to be polite, helpful and show the FLO your evidence which will back up your claim and also hopefully impress upon them that you are a safe and competent shot!
more to follow.


It continues;
In Britain we have some strange calibre anomalies where licensing and deer law are concerned. In Scotland you may shoot Roe deer with a .22 centrefire cartridge using a 55 grain bullet developing 1000 foot pounds of muzzle energy. In England and Wales to do so would be a criminal offence as these calibres are restricted to the small deer species, Reeves Muntjac and Chinese Water Deer.
In England and Wales Roe Deer and larger must be shot using a .240 minimum calibre cartridge developing 1700 foot pounds of muzzle energy. The Winchester .243 is accepted as the lowest suitable calibre in common use as the .240 English cartridges tend to be chambered in custom rifles and therefore very expensive. There are centre fire calibres which don’t develop the required muzzle energy in .22 or larger in a factory load. These can still be used provided a decent handload is developed and tested!
So certain calibres are deemed mandatory as a minimum by act of Parliament and some others are merely Home Office guidance. Please remember that the Home Office guidance is just that and can be challenged but the list below is built from experience and common sense.
The list below isn’t exhaustive and there are many calibres all closely related either through commercial development or wildcatting. To include all of them I would write a cartridge manual so I have included the reasonably popular or easily available ones here in the UK. Don’t let this put you off; I have used cartridges that without handloading wouldn’t make the deer legal limits, to find out for yourself is a fun and interesting journey but for the purposes of this exercise I will try and restrict myself to cartridges chambered off the shelf so to speak.


That neatly covers the tables


The last bit I have written for now;

The legal list of quarry species in the UK isn’t published regularly if at all as a single data sheet by any government agency. The best publications are the annual season giveaway cards by such publications as shooting times etc. In the UK we tend as a nation to treat even pest species as if they were actors in a Disney family film and that active hunting of pest species is a necessary chore rather than the all consuming passion it becomes.
There is still no need to show disdain or disrespect for your quarry, there is also no reason to be ashamed or embarrassed by your choice of sport. The top shelf system of magazines for gentleman is not necessarily how the sporting magazines are viewed in the countryside!
For birds that are considered pests such as Rooks and Magpies using a rifle is sensible provided the safe backstop rule is applied, a .17 rimfire rifle against such corvids over a rabbit carcase is a handy way to reduce the nest thieves in your area. The problem is of course what to do with the remains as they shouldn’t be left out but a friend with a ferret may be glad of the free feed and you can always use them as bait for bigger targets such as fox. The important thing to remember is to ensure that the target is in range and the shot can be taken safely, judging distance isn’t an art but a science and with practice you will soon know the distances across the fields that you shoot and if they are in range or not.
The thing to remember is that you should only take what can be eaten or the landowner/tenant farmer has asked you to deal with. Some farmers like the Hares left alone and are willing to tolerate the moderate damage they cause but will raise Cain to remove the rabbits on their land and heaven help you if you don’t keep a tally and can prove that you are earning your right to shoot on his land!
Some areas of land are either too open to be able to approach to a reasonable distance and some areas the bunnies may be shy of human contact. It doesn’t take them long to learn. At times like this using a lamp with or without a filter may be the sensible option but even then they can become lamp shy. Remember that in the last decade both sporting rifle fatalities have occurred during lamping sessions. You must always visit the land in daylight before you undertake a night time lamping visit, to miss this important reconnaissance out is a recipe for disaster. You must know where the public footpaths and houses are and also where the safe backstops and no shoot areas are!
Using a vehicle can aid your lamping session in many ways, not for chasing quarry but for giving you a little more height and assisting with a safe backstop and also meaning that you can move from one field to another reasonably quickly should one field prove to be less than fruitful. Points to remember are that no weapons must remain loaded when travelling on a public road even if it crosses your land and also that carriage of persons in a vehicle on the road must comply with the law.
The type of rifle used when lamping must be suitable for the quarry and the land, its pointless hoping to take foxes on 50 acre stubbles with a .22 rimfire when a .22 centre fire is available and plainly more suitable. If you intend to lamp rabbits for the pot then using an explosive centrefire cartridge defeats the purpose and too powerful a lamp will simply scare away the rabbits before you can get in range!
Using a .22 rf is a great tool for pot filling rabbit trips but you must get in range and head shots reduce meat damage.
Using the .17 rf will have a flatter trajectory and less ricochet risk but head shots are even more important as the round just about detonates on contact and will destroy any meat it contacts.
The centrefire rifle calibres are really reserved either for pest destruction or larger game animal control as the meat damage can be localised on deer but on a fox is usually massive and with the very high velocity rounds available can be as explosive as the.17rf.
Using a deer calibre rifle with factory loaded ammunition on small pests may be fun once or twice but soon becomes expensive and also may be breaching the conditions on your firearms certificate. Centre fire rifle ammo from the top factories can cost almost £2 per shot although handloading can reduce this to almost a quarter of the factory cost it does seem to be wasteful. A cheaper to feed .22 centrefire is thus ideal especially when tailored handloads are used.
There is no short cut to accuracy, some rifles seem to be more accurate than others and obviously quality tells its own story but even a cheap rifle and telescopic sight combination can be capable of astonishing accuracy in the right hands, this is all down to practice and familiarity. Nothing I’m afraid will replace practice and that shouldn’t just be limited to prone work on the range but simulated field firing conditions wherever possible. There are obviously times and places where firing a lot of centre fire ammunition would be unpopular or impractical. A cheap .22 rf from the same manufacturer as your other main rifle would be a real bonus allowing cheaper and much quieter practice! Those of us with our own ground where such practice is available are at an advantage but I have always maintained that training should include a large element of practical and realistic scenarios to allow the instructor to pass on as many hints and tips as possible to the student such as firing position, holding the weapon, snap shooting and many more.
To use a similar sight as your centrefire rifle on your rimfire can be expensive but will mean that when you raise your rifle to take on that big buck you will instantly feel comfortable and there will be no need to adjust yourself to a different sight picture. It pays real dividends but as for buck fever only familiarity will lessen its effects.
The British Army taught four basic marksmanship principles which are as true today as when I learnt them as a 16 year old boy soldier.
1. Position and hold must be firm enough to support the weapon.
2. The weapon must point naturally at the target.
3. Sight alignment i.e. aiming must be correct.
4. The shot must be released and followed through without disturbing the position.
Once these basics are mastered you can concentrate on your breathing. The breathing techniques employed by match and target rifle competitors who have 15 minutes for 12 shots may seem excessive but with practise can become automatic and even truncated for that snap shot!
As stated before practice makes perfect and the great rifle and pistol shot Walter Winnans espoused the virtues of every young man to be proficient with both rifle and pistol. Those are sentiments I can sympathise with but alas the law has intervened considerably since he last fired a shot!
Nice work Ugly! I'll look forward to reading the rest of the book.


The forward reads like I speak, rambles off at different tangents, too much booze and big guns in my youth, my old age I have decided should consist of more booze and loud guns, it seems the right thing to do!
Cheers Ugly, most useful. Have you covered ammunition yet?!

Edit: having actually read what you've pasted I can see you have touched on it, hopefully I should have enough to feed my brain on for now.



In what sense, most ammo is there, we use expanding for pest control. You could try Box of truth, be warned its addictive. He has an archive of tests that are used to myth bust gun lore!
I was interested in different rounds and their speeds, combined with a Moderator the affects can be small/large. I was out on Friday and my colleague who shot 4 foxes, he was using a .222 with a Mod and the noise (by us) was greater than I expected. I (probably wrongly) expected it to be suppressed a lot more. He said that if he had been using a different round then the effect would have been different. Being inexperienced would this mean a different rifle or can you get a mixture of ammunition for a rifle/caliber?
As far as differing ammunition in the same calibre, to be used for multiple disciplines a good example might be the choice of bullet weights and types in .243. If you were permitted to use a .243 for both foxes and deer then you would perhaps use 55-75gr for foxes and 80-105gr for deer.

One piece of advice (from someone who has sold thousands of rifles and owned a good few dozen) is to ensure you buy run of the mill calibres for your first purchases. This is because you WILL sell your first rifles within a year- 18 months and having it in a calibre people can pronounce (and buy factory ammunition for) will help you get rid of it! Don't be tempted by custom chamberings or obscure European calibres (although many are excellent) until you have settled on what you really want from your collection.


What happens when a normal velocity round is fired in a rifle with a moderator is that the sound is dissipated so the target cannot tell which direction the shot is being fired from. Senich collated some work into a very good book on moderators. bearing in mind that Hiram Maxim built the first effective moderator there has been a lot of work done in the intervening years.
I am really a numpty novice with moderators despite reading lots about them and even conducting experiments.
The best ammunition in a moderator to reduce sound is subsonic. This ammo travels much slower, slower than the speed of sound and it means thet you need to have a sight setting for subsonic ammo.
It has been issued and used but never for general use or much beyond fielld trials outside of the SF circuit.
Stalkers need to use moderators for several reasons, dissipation of noise, hearing protection and flash reduction. The rounds though have to be capable of meeting the minimum limits in the deer act otherwise they are breaking the law.
You wouldnt be able to tell the difference out of the packaging until fired.


Book Reviewer
Wanna signed copy!


I'm concerned some of the characters may be recognisable!!!!!!!
I'm concerned some of the characters may be recognisable!!!!!!!
inside the front cover > "Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, would be to fantastically incredible for words"
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