Hunting Cartridges: A Guide to Selection and Use

Hunting Cartridges: A Guide to Selection and Use

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For hunters, cartridges play a pivotal role, as successful hunting is impossible without them. The current market offers a vast variety of hunting ammunition available in specialized stores for those with the appropriate permissions and licenses. This overview will delve into the characteristics and types of hunting cartridges, including bullet types, shell casing markings, and more, to help hunters make informed choices.

Types of Cartridges

Hunting cartridges can be broadly classified into the following main groups:

1. **For smoothbore shotguns**
2. **For rifled shotguns**
3. **For non-lethal weapons**
4. **Blank rounds**

This classification excludes specialized ammunition for competitive shooting and airguns, as they do not require special permits.

Cartridges for Smoothbore Shotguns

Cartridges for smoothbore shotguns are divided into three primary categories:

- **Shotshells** (standard, magnum, and sporting)
- **Buckshot**
- **Slugs**

They are also categorized by gauge:

- **Large gauge** (12, 4, 8, 10 gauge)
- **Medium gauge** (16, 20, 24 gauge)
- **Small gauge** (28, 32, .410 gauge)

Modern hunting rarely uses 8 and 4 gauge shotguns, and the .410 gauge is often excluded from classification due to its unique properties.

Cartridge Construction

The construction of a cartridge for smoothbore shotguns includes:

- **Casing** (cardboard, metal, plastic, wood fiber)
- **Primer** (various types for ignition)
- **Projectile** (shot, buckshot, or slug)
- **Wadding** (varies in diameter)
- **Powder charge** (smokeless or black powder)

Choosing Shotshells

The choice of shotshells depends on many factors, including the type of powder, casing material, shot size, and cost. It's crucial to consider the hunting target to determine the appropriate shot size and type of cartridges.

Cartridge Gauge

The choice of cartridge gauge is critical for hunting different types of game. The gauge not only indicates the size of the shot but also its energy characteristics. A proper gauge selection will prevent excessive damage to the game and ensure a humane kill.

Magnum Cartridges

Magnum cartridges are widely used by many hunters for their increased power, meaning the bullet's energy output is significantly higher than that of similar gauge and diameter rounds. Thanks to their reinforced composition and increased power at a similar diameter, these cartridges have enhanced stopping power, making them suitable for hunting larger animals. There are also specific models of hunting weapons designed to optimally use these rounds, with barrels that are more durable to withstand the high pressures involved in firing.

Magnum slugs also have external differences in size. Their casings are longer, with the most common lengths being 3.5 inches (89 mm) and 3 inches (76 mm). The 3.5-inch magnum shells were first introduced by the American company Federal in 1987, while the 3-inch magnums have been widely used since the end of World War II.

Today, magnum cartridges are produced in 10, 12, and 20 gauges, which are most prevalent in America, with the maximum length of these rounds being 3.5 inches. In recent years, many gun manufacturers have been transitioning to the 3.5-inch cartridge length. Initially, the Mossberg company began mass-producing firearms for these longer magnum cartridges, designed for bolt-action shotguns. Following the Americans, many companies have started producing firearms with chambers sized for 3.5-inch shells instead of the traditional 3-inch.

In summary, magnum cartridges offer a more powerful option for hunting and self-defense. Today, both domestic and foreign manufacturers produce these high-power rounds, catering to hunters seeking optimal size ammunition with high power at an affordable cost. While not all hunters recognize the effectiveness of magnum cartridges, their practical application has proven their worth. The heavier shot in magnum rounds results in a denser spread, allowing for successful hits at greater distances compared to standard shotshell variants.