Safer cartridge portfolio


March 10, 2008, 04:50 PM
I have always been concerned about putting the wrong ammo into a firearm. As such, I avoid owning firearms that could create some confusion between similar looking cartridges. So far, I have basically only two real rifle calibers (besides .22LR): .30-30 and .308 Win.

I have had my .30-30 since I was a pup. It was standard issue back then to all who were reared in deer country and was a present received as I graduated from the .22LR squirrel gun. Incidentally, I also recently bought a BFR in .30-30, but I digress...

Many years ago, I decided to get another cartridge, so I added the .308 Win. I chose this on several factors including versatility. The .308 is very plentiful and there has never been an issue getting ammo. I can load a variety of bullet weights, which seems to me like the widest range of weights of any caliber. Just about every rifle I liked came in .308 as well. But, very important to me is that a .30-30 will not lock up in a .308 rifle, nor will a .308 feed in the .30-30 rifle. So, to intermix the two calibers on the shelf cannot result in me taking a dangerous load to the range. Also, it has been convenient to have just .308 diameter bullets -- I have single-shot spitzers from the .30-30, and a round-nose from the .308, and can do so without worry or confusion. I have .308 rifles that include an ultra-lightweight SS mountain rifle, a heavy barrel "varmint"/target rifle, an M1A, etc.

BTW, I do the same with my sidearm rounds. I selected the calibers based on their compatibility (or lack of attemptable use) with the ones I already own. Starting with my government-issued RemRand, I worked from .45ACP to include other cartridges that I felt could not be chambered in that .45 and which would not allow a .45ACP to chamber in a sidearm of the new caliber.

Now, I find myself wanting a smaller caliber rifle. But, even though I think I am a careful sort, I want to select a cartridge for my portfolio which has this compatibility to my .308 (and .30-30). I also want versatility, since I am not likely to choose a dozen or so calibers so that I have a special one for every job. So, I am looking for a single cartridge that can do real varmint, target, etc., but not be easily confused with the .308 or even other cartridges, has a wide range of bullet weights, and reloads well. I considered the .223 Rem, but it seems not near the top of any varmint, target, or other favorite lists, although ranks high on the cheap list.

I like the looks of the .22-250 and .243 Win, but either of these looks like it could chamber in the .308 Win. What I don't know is if firing either of these from a .308 chamber results in really bad stuff. I suppose I could accept a situation where a .243 Win fired in a .308 just results in missing the target, but a spray of brass, steel, wood and hot powder would be a negative. Certainly, a .308 won't fit a .22 or 6mm barrel, so I think a 6mm Rem is out of the running.

So, after a long set up, my questions are: what caliber is a good selection? does anyone have any experience (bad or not-so-bad) with firing smaller calibers from a .308? Not that I would do such a thing on purpose, but since I have a chance to make a decision now to lessen the possibility of screwing up, methinks I should ask the wisdom that is.

Thanks in advance for your kind responses.

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March 10, 2008, 04:53 PM
I have always been concerned about putting the wrong ammo into a firearm.

It's like anything else gun related, just be careful.

I've fired .44Mag in a .45 Colt revolver before, scared the pee out of me when I realized what I'd done.

It's going to be tough to find something that is just flat impossible to mix and match.

But, while it can certainly happen, I guess my question back is, should that really be top concern?

As for .308 I haven't mixed up that particular one.

March 10, 2008, 04:54 PM
Just be carefull. I don't really understand how people can get the rounds mixed up.

March 10, 2008, 06:48 PM
maybe a 25-06, its a long action case so you might be able to put in in the chamber but the action will not close on the round, and i dont think the 308 would fit into the chamber of the 25-06

March 10, 2008, 06:50 PM
well seems easy enough to me, but .308 is rimless and 30-30 is rimmed... i dont think id make that mistake.

added, good to see some more MA Shooters here. what part of MA you in?

March 10, 2008, 08:22 PM
EHCRain10: The 25-06 may be just the kind of thing I was thinking to avoid. The .25-06 will sure enough not chamber in a .308, but the reverse looks like a disaster if tried. It sure looks to me, from the drawings, that a .308 might chamber (fit) in a .25-06, maybe easily with lightweight bullets or some telescoping, and if the rifle is the controlled-feed type, will ignite quite nicely. I'll have to venture out with a .308 dummy to see if I can find a 25-06 to try. Of course, the .308 diameter bullet will not fit through the .257 barrel, which means instant high pressure, bent metal, parts flying through the air, blood squirting all over my reloads, pain, lots of screaming like a sissy, funny looks from the range officer, lots of pain, etc. In other words, not the kind of shooting experience I look forward to. Yeah, I am more careful than that. But then again, I wonder how many people thought that before something like this happens.

Hoppy590: Yes, I have never switched 30-30 for 308. That one is too obvious. But, the firearm still will stop me if it gets that far. I also don't confuse .357sig, 45LC, and 45ACP -- way too different. With these I really don't need the firearm to help me, but it still will if I were to reload in the dark. (I am often in the dark, or at least so they tell me. :D ) I am in metrowest.

March 10, 2008, 08:36 PM
In all honesty, I can tell 8x56R from 7.62x54R and 7x57 from 8x57 at arms-length.

Despite my cartridge-guessing ability, you raise a valid concern, but it should never be a factor with proper weapon handling. How often do you have two very similar calibers loose and with the risk of interchanging?

March 10, 2008, 08:56 PM
I see your point but I think you are worrying a little too much. I can see how you could confuse a 7mm-08 with a .308 at a glance, but you would really have to work at it to confuse a 25-06 with a .308. Seems to me the .223 wuld make a good next rifle. They can be very accurate, make a great varmit round, plus are cheap to shoot.

March 10, 2008, 09:35 PM
I'd go with the .243 and not worry about it being based on a .308 case. The bullet diameters are visibly different.

I reload, and I keep various calibers in Dillon plastic boxes, with large plastic tape labels. I don't work on more than one caliber at a time.

When I go to the range, or go hunting, I take the box(es) for the rifles that are going. (Usually not more than 2...)

Take one out of the case at a time, select the box that matches, and so on.

I can see how dumping rounds in your pocket could get them mixed up. So, like the old doctor joke, "Don't do that!"

March 10, 2008, 09:37 PM
Vaarok: Hopefully never. But, there are opportunities. Maybe I dropped ammo on the floor. All the ammo sits on a shelf, in MTM boxes, nicely labelled, but the ammo had to be put in the box -- maybe I thought I checked the label, but filled the box with something else. Maybe just one round sneaks into a magazine. It happens -- I don't know how or why -- I've never had a problem, but the first time could be the last. I only figured that if there is an easy solution that does not compromise too much, it would be silly not to use it. Even though there is that safety between the ears, I still use the one on the gun.

There are other places where things could get messed up. I could try sticking a .308 bullet in a .270 case that went through the wrong resize, or some such... That could be a problem, too. But, I could not get a 243WSSM into any 308 die, nor into a 308. Too bad the WSSMs are quite dead (and hard[er] to reload).

jmr40: Yes, a .223 sounds pretty good. I think the .223 might have been chosen by the military partly because it cannot chamber a .308, nor will a .308 fit in the .223 breech. Other than being cheap, you are the first to recommend it to me, for varmint or accuracy. Others look more to the 22-250 or some BR-like variation (or even 222Rem). The 6mm seems to be more flexible, going to weights high enough to take deer, but also the go-to round for varmint on windy days in lighter weights. But, the .223 is worth another look.

March 10, 2008, 09:48 PM
dmazur: I do like the 243 -- popular, wide range for reload, fairly reasonable cost, lots of rifles to choose from, etc. I guess I would feel better if someone knew what the consequences of firing a .243 from a .308 rifle were. If only Ackley were still experimenting. I suspect that the bullet would hit the ground 10 feet from the muzzle with no other real harm done, but ... That is why I hoped someone here had some insight. Maybe I can sacrifice my old Spanish Mauser and rig it with a remote release from the machine rest -- really remote. Ackley would be proud.

At least if I do go .243, the .223 Rem is still an option down caliber for the next purchase! :)

March 10, 2008, 09:48 PM
I write the calibur on the magazine with a magic marker to help me from mixing them up.

Ed Ames
March 10, 2008, 09:56 PM
Doesn't seem like a big deal to me.

I deal with mixed buckets of brass (for reloading) from time to time and I've never had any problem sorting the .380, 9x18, 9x19, 9x21, .40, .45, .38, .357, .44 special, .44 mag, et cetera... some of which is closer to identical than the rifle rounds you are talking about.

I really don't think I'm going to have a hard time sorting out these: (

Left to right: 9.3x62, 30-06, 8x57, 6.5x55, and .308. From

Or these: (

"Left to Right: .17 HM2, .17 HMR, .22LR, .22 WMR, .17 SMc, 5mm/35 SMc, .22 Hornet, .223 Remington, .223 WSSM, .243 Winchester, .243 Winchester Improved (Ackley), .25-06, .270 Winchester, .308, .30-06, .45-70 Govt, .50-90 Sharps" --

Small differences in theory big differences to the eye. Same is true for just about any cartridge you can think of... the difference is usually pretty obvious.

If you have any doubt, check the headstamp. If you can't figure it out from the headstamp get out some calipers and check it that way.

March 10, 2008, 10:14 PM
Checking the specs for the .243 and .308, the length to the base of the shoulder is 1.560" for both, both have 20 shoulder angles, and both have the same head.

So, (guessing), firing a .243 in a .308 would probably fire-form the .243 case to .308 dimensions. Bullet would probably tumble out the end of the barrel without forming an obstruction.

I can't find any tests of this, but as it doesn't involve excessive headspace, this error isn't likely to tear off a head or rupture the case.

So, even though it sounds strange, it might be reasonably safe...check with other sources.

As you said, as long as it isn't blown up rifle!

March 10, 2008, 11:39 PM
i had a friend fire a round of 9mm out of my XD40... it worked... but the case blew out to the dimensions of the chamber... funnny stuff.

March 11, 2008, 12:50 AM
Hopefully never. But, there are opportunities.
Think about how much more likely you are to be killed in a car wreck, than by swapping ammo into the wrong gun. For that matter, you're more likely to be hit by lightening. Do you change your life for those things, or worry about them? It's good to be careful, but..........

March 11, 2008, 01:11 AM
I may have accidentally shot 7mm-08 in a .308 before. :uhoh:

You just gotta be careful, and make sure that the only cartridges near the gun you're shooting at the moment are the ones that are for that particular firearm.

This is real important with 12 and 20 gauge. I've heard of people unintentionally turning shotguns into pipe bombs by accidentally loading a 20 gauge shell into a shotgun, chambering it (which will get it lodged partway down the bore) and then loading up a 12 gauge shell right behind that and pulling the bang switch. :what:

March 11, 2008, 01:49 AM
I just read a caution by a moderator to try to answer the OP's question, if you reply.

That is, if he's asking about rifles for home defense, don't recommend a shotgun...

So, I'm trying. I really am. I understand your concern for mixing up calibers, and see some value in making it impossible, in your environment to have a "chambered wrong caliber" accident.

I still recommend getting a system (which it sounds like you have) and following it without deviation. This is the best way to ensure safe gun handling. It will work for you even if you visit somewhere with different calibers, someday. (Like a hunting camp with hunting partners whose calibers aren't compatible with your fail-safe system...)

Think of it as an industrial lockout/tagout procedure. You devise a list of breakers, valves, etc. that will isolate all forms of stored energy for a particular maintenance task. Then you follow it each time you do that task. If you acquire a new task (caliber), you add it to your procedures. You never, never skip a step or alter the procedure while it is being used as lives are at stake.

This will reduce firearms accidents to bad steel (Tikka?), bad design (Mossberg?) and things like that. :)

Art Eatman
March 11, 2008, 11:38 AM
I just don't see how a person can load a wrong cartridge if he's anywhere near paying attention. The factory box says what it is. On my plastic boxes for reloads, I just use a piece of masking tape with the cartridge designation written in ink--along with the reloading data.

I dunno. I figure if I grab my 7mm08 rifle, I'm not gonna grab a box of .243 ammo...


Vern Humphrey
March 11, 2008, 12:57 PM
The .30-06 and 8X57 can be a disaster waiting to happen to careless shooters who have both. In the study of Spingfield K-Booms, some of them were traced to firing 8X57 ammo in a .30-06 chamber.

On the other hand, you'd have to have pond scum for brains not to realize you're about to load a significantly shorter round into your magazine.

March 11, 2008, 01:41 PM
If you can't trust yourself to put the right ammo in the right gun, then you had better get a system down to avoid such a thing. Now I have showed up at the shooting range and yes even at deer camp with mismatched ammo (6mm vs .243 is pretty danged tough to see laying side by side), but I have NEVER placed the wrong caliber in a gun.

And I am not saying that like I am anything special. It is just as simple as not pointing a gun at someone or yourself. It is simply one of THE basic safety principals. Whether you reload or not, you can take a big fat magic marker and write the caliber on top of the box so that it is easily identifiable when in an ammo bag with other calibers.

I was just hunting this past weekend with .338, .375 & .300 winmag ammo - all in the same ammo bag. It simply took a concentrated effort - even during high stress SHOOOT... SHOOOOOOOOT times to make sure you grabbed the right box.

If you drive with a blindfold on, you might hurt yourself. If you stick your face in a campfire to light a cigarette you might hurt yourself. If you load the wrong ammo in a gun you might hurt yourself. It really, really is THAT simple.

March 11, 2008, 01:55 PM
I have a 308, 30-06, 6.5x57mm, 223, 22lr.

What you need is a 220 Swift. It's based on the 6mm Lee Navy (Obsolete now). It is as fast or faster than the 22-250. Do not listen to these people who tell you it will burn out a barrel. I had one that had shot well over 3000 rounds and was just as accurate the day it got stolen as the day my grand father bought it. Firing a smaller caliber out of a 308 will not do much harm other than maybe a case speration. The bullet will just simple exit the barrel and fall to the ground in a matter of feet. if it even exits the barrel.

You really have to be doing something wrong to mix things up. I just keep my 223 ammo on one shelf 308 and 6.5x57 and 30-06 on one shelf and 45acp 22lr on another and 12 ga on another. That takes up just about half of the gun safe.

If you reload it is up to you. I buy the clear (Smoke, red or blue) see through ammo boxes. I do not worry about color matching and all that. What I do is get the business card sheets from wal-mart or staples that are perforated and make load cards. These are easy to read threw the clear top of my ammo boxes. If I am working up a load like I did recently with my 308 I make one card per powder charge and stick it in with them with one main card on top. I load in small patches for my rifle. As I am always tinkering with something.

Mine have the following.
Caliber ( large print for quick id)

Load Date
Bullet type and manufacture
Powder Type
Powder charge
Case manufacture
Amount loaded.

This card goes in the boxes on top of the ammo. No matter what ammo it is. Or you could get some clear packing tape and tape them to the top. While I am at the range shooting I take the card out when I am done shooting all of thoese rounds and staple it into my load book where I record all my velocity data and weather condition data.
Here is a picture of what one of mine looks like.

Deer Hunter
March 11, 2008, 02:48 PM
My cousin just got his 7mm magnum, and wanted to know if I was interested in shooting it.

Well you know what the answer was there.

So he gets it out, loads it (mistake number 1) with the safety on, hands it to me. I take a rest, look through the scope at the target about 100 yards away, flip the safety off, and squeeze the trigger...

on a round of .270.

Bolt flew open, magazine flew out the bottom, I got hot sparks and brass in my cheek, and my ears are ringing. I turn to look at my cousin, who looks like he needs a new change of pants, and said "I think something's wrong."

March 11, 2008, 03:50 PM
I just don't see how a person can load a wrong cartridge if he's anywhere near paying attention.

I'm with Art. If you don't know your cartridges well enough to know what they are by looking at them, (nevermind the headstamp!) you need to spend more time educating yourself.

Safety is more than developing a mindless system to avoid confusion, it is forming the body of knowledge that makes a mindless system unnecessary.

March 11, 2008, 10:29 PM
I have always been concerned about putting the wrong ammo into a firearm. As such, I avoid owning firearms that could create some confusion between similar looking cartridges

Just learn to differentiate. Not counting rimfire and shotshells, I keep ammo on hand in 47 calibers, some of which are extremely close, And I've never mixed them up:

On the left are 6.5x50 Arisaka, 6.5x52 Carcano and 6.5x55 Swede. On the right are .30-06, 7.7x58 Arisaka, 7.5x55 Swiss, 7.5x54 MAS, 7.62x51 Nato and 7.35x51 Carcano.

March 11, 2008, 10:45 PM
Look before you load the gun. Simple...guns are dangerous and all aspects of handling and firing a gun should require your attention. The question you ask is similar to asking " what can I do to make sure my bullets don't shoot to far and kill someone?" The answer to both is to think before you act. Become familiar with your equipment and the ammo it fires. I own many rifles/shotguns/pistols and can load them blindfolded because I have taught my self what each gun should have.

As for firing bullets through a gun it's not designed for....Very bad. Sure, sometimes its just scary and doesn't operate the gun right...other times it might cause the bullet to squib and cause a violent explosion. Basically, if your not careful enough to load the correct rounds...I think its safe to say your not careful enough to safely operate a firearm.

March 11, 2008, 10:51 PM
If you can't trust yourself to put the right ammo in the right gun, then you had better get a system down to avoid such a thing.

or don't handle, load or shoot guns.

I don't trust myself on a motorcycle, so I don't own one.

"every man has to know his own limitations" -Inspector Harry Callahan

Wes Janson
March 11, 2008, 10:54 PM
I'm going to concur, and state that the real issue here isn't ammunition compatability, but the poster's fear of a mishap. There are many ways to screw things up, but chambering the wrong ammo shouldn't be one to worry about. If it's a continual, nagging fear, then perhaps that relates to some sort of other underlying issue.

March 12, 2008, 08:58 AM
I think some posters might be missing the intent of my post. Of course, I have and will have a system. I do check my cases when I pick them up to ensure that they are not someone else's. I sort cases by brand, weight, number of loads, etc. When I reload, I take steps to ensure proper loads into proper cases. I label everything. When I load, I do observe not only the type of cartridge I am loading, but also the condition of it.

I think that safety includes all steps that one can take to reduce the likelyhood of mishap. For instance, I drive carefully, but I still wear a seat belt. I could be struck by lightning, so I avoid standing in a thunderstorm with a large metal stick. While walking from my car onto the range, I not only keep my finger out of the trigger guard, I leave the rifle unloaded. I not only avoid setting fires in my home, but I have smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, and I store powder in a type 4 magazine and primers in a smaller separate magazines. My firearms are stored in a safe, and I lock the door to my house and turn on the alarm system when I leave. Safety is often common sense, and common sense dictates taking any additional steps that may be seemingly unnecessary, but are taken just to be sure. Yes, I can look at a cartridge and catch an oddball, but can I run through 10,000 cartridges and spot a similar-looking oddball? after 9,999 have all been correct? I have seen so many procedures like this fail, it seems prudent to take additional steps, even more so when I may have a choice that costs me nearly nothing to avoid it.

I have worked nearly 30 years in high reliability systems design. If I have a system that can deliver 99.99% of the time, I can feel pretty confident that at any one observation, it will be working correctly. However, that 99.99% of success indicates that the system is screwing up almost one hour every year. If two systems can be combined, each delivering independently of the other, and each giving this 99.99% assurance of success, the combined system delivers 99.99999% assurance of success. The 99.99% assurance means that I could just miss that one cartridge out of the 10,000. If I can say that 99.99% of possible wrong cartridges I could have loaded would be benign, I can leave the rest to the safety glasses.

It is my observation that most things break because people are involved. Considering that these people were well trained, had good procedures, and yet still failed shows a general capacity of even the best people to make a mistake. I know I have made mistakes. People do not make mistakes because they know they are doing it. People make mistakes because they either don't care, don't have sufficient information to make a decision, just are not smart enough to apply the information, they are physically incapable, or some combination of these. Because I care enough about this to desire correctness, I desire to gather all the information I can so that I can make an informed decision. In no way should my question be misinterpreted to assume that I do not intend to be careful to load the correct caliber. It is not paranoia, it is prudence.

So far, the .223 Rem does seem to be a candidate. I had discounted the .223, but a mini-14 would look nice in my collection. So does the .243 Win seem to work. The .243 Win I also dismissed too early, because I was thinking that I did not want the round to even fire, but it appears that the .243 is okay, even moreso if I Ackley the .243 chambers so that my reloads will not even go in a standard .308 (the .308 still will not chamber even in an Ackley 243). It even looks like I can do .223 and .243! The .22-250 is kind of short, so the headspace in the .308 chamber could allow for head separation. The 220 Swift may also work well for this -- it is too long to lock in the .308 off the shoulder, and a .308 case is just long enough to block lockup all by itself from the case mouth.

So, thanks for all the help!

March 12, 2008, 09:14 AM
For instance, I drive carefully, but I still wear a seat belt. I could be struck by lightning, so I avoid standing in a thunderstorm with a large metal stick.

It sounds like your job has influenced your decision making ability by oversensatizing you to minute possibility. Your OP suggests that, all things being equal, the danger of an auto accident are such that you would only drive your car on roads with no other cars, or never go outside when it's raining... Do you see the flaw in the design of your cartridge system?

Ed Ames
March 12, 2008, 10:55 AM
I appreciate the desire to reduce error opportunity. I have a similar background and have spent more time than I'd care to admit contemplating failure modes.

One problem is that your analogy is faulty. 99.99% from one system and 99.99% from another system doesn't automatically give you greater reliability. If both systems share similar types of flaws the combined rate will still be 99.99%. In the real world the flaws can compound to reduce total reliability if you aren't careful.

Imagine a imperfect dam. A 99.99% dam. Let's say that the difference between 100% and 99.99% is a single 3" hole. What good will a second 99.99% dam, placed immediately behind the first, do? Will the amount of water that flows through the hole change? No. You can have an infinite number of 99.99% dams and the water levels will still go down. If the holes are at random places on the various dams eventually the water will flow to the highest hole and that's the only dam that makes any difference. That's the only safety net that matters.

That's an imperfect analogy as well of course, but it illustrates the core problem.

You can control your chambers but you have far less control over the types of ammo you are exposed to. The world is a complicated place full of all sorts of error. Your ammo suppliers, your buddies (and strangers) at the range, the list of potential sources of error just grows and grows. Therefore you need to excert full chamber/cart. discipline at all times. The additional layer of chamber choice doesn't buy you any real security...

But let's say you think it does... deep down inside you know you are safer. The fact that you "know" that your choices are "safe" may reduce the quality of your chamber/cart. discipline. That's the human factor for you. False senses of security are a real source of error. Suddenly you go from 99.999% reliable (most people go their whole lives without such a failure...many have never even seen such a failure... so 1 in 100,000 as the base chamber/cart. failure rate sounds about right to me) to maybe 99.993%. Not much of a shift but it's in the wrong direction.

So -- since the manual process will still be essential -- a better area of obsession is the consequences of error. Try to find firearms that, if they blow, minimize the risk to the user.

That doesn't mean you can't choose safe sets... but leave that choice for range days. When you pack up to go shooting pick a set that won't cause confusion at the range. I do that myself... well, actually I don't... but I can see myself doing that in some strange alternate universe.

March 12, 2008, 11:17 AM
It sounds like your job has influenced your decision making ability by oversensatizing you to minute possibility. Your OP suggests that, all things being equal, the danger of an auto accident are such that you would only drive your car on roads with no other cars, or never go outside when it's raining... Do you see the flaw in the design of your cartridge system?

No, sorry, I don't see it.

If I have two ways to travel, one with cars and the other not. Even if the way with cars is 1% shorter than the one without, I am likely to go the longer route to avoid the traffic (aka the other stupid drivers, the risk of a tie-up, etc.). Now, if the longer way was significantly longer, I might opt to take the shortcut -- this is called risk assessment. If the cost of the option is too high, I might risk the consequences. But, what is the cost of .243 Win AI over selecting 6mm Rem? Only a few ft/sec? But the .243 Win is cheaper per round, so...

If it is raining, I don't cut the grass. I don't golf in the rain. I don't do many things in the rain. All other things being equal, there are some things I choose to enjoy in the sunshine rather than in the rain. So, I can choose, if given the luxury to do so. I am now given the luxury of choosing a new caliber. The question I ask is, what does it look like to walk in the sunshine -- then I can decide if the cost of waiting for the rain to stop is too long for me. If there are options to choose from, like the .243Win, .223Rem, or .220 Swift, then I don't see why it is unreasonable to consider this. Now, if these were rare or underperforming or otherwise problematic calibers, I can see the question as to whether avoiding a caliber mixup is worth it. But, I thought the question worth asking, and the offering of these calibers has demonstrated that it was indeed the best course for me.

It is true that the best safety is between the ears, but I still use the one on the gun. I may be choosing the narrow way, but I prefer it. Yes, my sensitivity to details is why they gave me this job. I assess everything. I identify my target, look beyond it, and between me and it. The small caliber is my target; the cartridge performance, costs, weapons choice, reloading, laws, and other things are between me and it; but I desire not to fail to look beyond the target, should I miss.

March 12, 2008, 12:01 PM
Ed Ames,

Let me build on the dam analogy. The chasm between the two dams is normally empty, until a fault emerges in the dam holding back the water. If the chasm begins to fill, you know you have a fault and you can take corrective action (e.g. fix the hole). In the case at hand, I always check the cartridges anyway, so once I see that this one is different than my mental image of what it should be, I have detected the fault and can take action (including failure analysis to see why the fault happened and try to stop that source from re-occurring). Fault detection is important for any hi-rel solution. Yes, often people try to build hi-rel by simply adding what they think is redundancy, but actually add complexity and correlated faults.

Now, let us say that the water detection between the dams fails, the second dam may provide protection from the collapse of the first. This keeps the downstream town dry. If the second dam is found to save the town, you once again can take corrective action. How many who have fired a wrong caliber have redoubled their efforts to check carefully? I mean the ones who lived and can still see. Indeed, there are articles in gun magazines that speak of this.

I do agree that knowing that there is a net under your performance may lead to complacency. This can affect things a bit. There is a psychological component. However, I already know that manufacturers make mistakes and I can get an oddball. I have a whole selection of ammunition I did not buy -- one of 20 or 50 that is different, a couple of time a whole box. So, I check. But, I don't need to increase the likelyhood of failures in the input stream. Using your dam example (gee, that sounds nasty if you say it out loud) I don't need to make the input dam out of weaker concrete. Will my diligence wane still knowing that my manufacturers and even my own reloads can fail me? I hope not. I check today and I am not going to give this up just because my choice of another caliber is safer than one that can burn me.

The comment on a good action is also a good one. Any suggestions here would also be appreciated. I like the Rem 700 for my own builds (strong, good quality, etc.), but I was considering Savage (mod 16 stainless) and the Ruger 77 Mark II for off-the-shelf .243 Win. I have not looked for offering in the .223Rem or Swift. I also like the CZs, but I think I have better choices here.


Wes Janson
March 12, 2008, 12:01 PM
We're all going to die sometime. It's only a question of how and when.

Worrying endlessly over one-in-a-million events destroys enjoyment and probably increases stress-related health problems. A certain exclamation from Sergeant Major Daly springs to mind. Your signature, as it relates to this, is rather telling.

Bottom line: choose a caliber because it performs a task you want to accomplish. Do not choose a caliber based on the incredibly remote possibility of a mixup error. If you're that concerned about personal safety and risk reduction, I'd strongly recommend giving up shooting entirely. There will never be 100% safety or certainty with 50,000 PSI of pressure contained in a brass and steel vessel beside your face.

Ed Ames
March 12, 2008, 12:38 PM
It depends on if you are viewing things from a process or instance failure perspective.

From an instance failure perspective -- in other words, the perspective that the dam will work at 100% until it fails -- the two dams, with monitoring, can provide a safety margin. Even there an engineer would need to calculate the relative safety margins of two dams vs. one double-strong dam.

You were coming at things from a process perspective, though, and from that point of view things are a bit different. A 99.99% reliable process for producing widgets, or a 99.99% effective dam, will pass 1 failure in 10,000 units. If you are producing 10,000 units an hour, or holding back 10,000,000 gallons of water an hour (and yeah, that's strained but you get the idea), that means 24 failures/thousand gallons will seep through every day. You expect that flow of failures.

Simply putting another check in place, even with sensors and feedback, may do absolutely nothing to change the failure rate. Disregarding evaporation and seepage the chasm between the dams will fill and then 0.01% will start passing through the second dam. Not 0.01% of 0.01%, but 0.01% of the total... which means 24,000 gallons a day in our hypothetical example. The failure rate is identical.

I understand the desire to simplify the problem. All else being equal simplicity is easier to deal with. I just don't think the simplification will really buy you the sort of gains you anticipate.

At the same time it may actually cost you real utility.

An example is cases that are within resizing or trimming/processing range of each other. Choosing pairings that way (which will naturally give you cartridges that are in the same family and therefore break your "safety" rule) may allow you to extend the life of reloading brass (reload cart. 1 util cumulative failures are excessive, anneal, resize to cart 2, and continue loading for another N cycles.

Other benefits of similarity (magazine compatibility, storage ease, etc) are also lost.

The main issue, to me, is that you are giving up your ability to choose the cartridges you really want without gaining anything of significant value. If you could demonstrate a single order of magnitude safety enhancement you may have a point but I think you'd be hard pressed to argue that the actual enhancement was above a few percent.

So... you don't gain any ease (still must check each round). You don't gain an appreciable safety marging (consequences of failure are identical). You can't demonstrate a significant difference in failure rate (emperical evidence doesn't support the contention that this is a major source of danger/failure in rifle shooting). You potentially lose flexibility, performance, economy, and other benefits.

There are problems with some of your other examples too... less traveled roads are often significantly more dangerous than their high-traffic equivalents even when the distance traveled is shorter. Compare the fatality rates per vehicle mile on interstate and rural highways... interstates have a LOT more traffic but are far safer. The presence of other drivers scares a lot of people off of interstates (even today) but that fear is actually driving them to riskier behavior. The perception of safety strikes again.

March 12, 2008, 02:01 PM
The main issue, to me, is that you are giving up your ability to choose the cartridges you really want without gaining anything of significant value.


I may as well quit here. You have said everything I have thought about this better than I have. :)

March 12, 2008, 07:07 PM
Simply putting another check in place, even with sensors and feedback, may do absolutely nothing to change the failure rate.True! You cannot simply check the same things twice. The checks have to be substantially different.

Disregarding evaporation and seepage the chasm between the dams will fill and then 0.01% will start passing through the second dam. Not 0.01% of 0.01%, but 0.01% of the total... which means 24,000 gallons a day in our hypothetical example. The failure rate is identical.Well, the dam model breaks down at some point. Yes, if we are only talking about water seepage, any dam will pass the water because each checks only by the same parameter. When I pick up a cartridge, I cannot measure dimensions to a mil, but I can assess general shape and proportion, get some idea of weight, and read a headstamp. The chamber is possibly a substantially different check, verifying maximum dimensional character in all three dimensions to a fairly great precision.

At the same time it may actually cost you real utility.True enough in theory, but does it in practice. What cartridge gives me significant increases in utility that is excluded by my parameters? If the utility (value) is high enough, I might take on some additional risk. The reason for asking the question may be partly due to having already determined that the differences in value did not produce a clear winner. If there was an ideal cartridge in this space, like one with a 6mm bullet range from 40g to 140g and MVs of 4000 to 3000ft/s respectively, the question might be different, like "anyone want to buy a couple dozen .308 rifles, reloading dies, etc?"

An example is cases that are within resizing or trimming/processing range of each other. Choosing pairings that way (which will naturally give you cartridges that are in the same family and therefore break your "safety" rule) I'm not sure this does break the "rule." The .243 Win is exactly the same case length as the .308 Win. Even though it locks in a .308, it looks like it could be benign, at first glance. It fails, but it most likely will fail safe. Poking around the internet a bit more I found this article:
The .243 Win is looking more attractive. It is definitely popular It looks to be quite flexible, low cost, etc.

Other benefits of similarity (magazine compatibility, storage ease, etc) are also lost.My .308 mags for the CZ-550 are actually .243 mags. Could be a plus in going .243 then, or a minus... I have not seen an issue with sidearm calibers. I have at least ten magazines for every sidearm I own (each numbered to track them). Each sidearm caliber has its own distinctive reloading dies, plates, holders, boxes, shelf space, color, log book, storage bins, ammo cans, etc. I do the standard thing and put everything away between calibers when reloading. I have organized things to make this as painless as I know how. Only the consumable stock (powder, primers, and bullets) are located in a cartridge agnostic way. If I do a .243 CZ-550, I suspect I will be doing a bake on finish of the magazines dedicated for it to the new color for the .243 Win to distinguish them from my existing .308 ones, if I follow my SOP. For instance, currently my .45ACP mags go in a lockable container labeled and colored to the .45ACP color (blue). All .45ACP ammo is likewise in blue MTM boxes and/or in ammo cans labeled in that color, either as a paint spot or sticker. The reloading dies have a blue color spot on their mounting plate or are in a box with a blue sticker to identify them as well. A bin with a blue sticker and label holds many tools, such as dedicated .45ACP OAL gauges, reference weights, hole and pocket reamers, go/no-go gauges, etc. Another bin with a blue dot and label holds extra barrels, springs, and other small parts. Another bin with a blue dot and label holds the ziplock bags with fired brass. I think you have the idea - reuse is not a bit thing for me; I am more interested in neatness and correctness.

Okay -- enough with the Garanimals jokes...

March 12, 2008, 07:15 PM
Hey, do what you want how you want to do it, but I think you are letting fear restrict you far too much. At last count, I have guns in 12 different calibers, and I have only once ever had an instance in which the wrong round went into the wrong gun, and even that was a minor incident at worst. 7.62x39 simply won't chamber into a .223, though it will fit into the magazine!

Really, if you keep your ammo in boxes and not rattling around loose and pay just a very little bit of attention, it's darn near impossible to mix things up.

March 12, 2008, 09:03 PM
psalmsinger -

I'm an engineer, but not in high reliability design. One of my responsibilities in management is safety, and I am appropriately concerned about the consequences of failure in a lockout system. (A little patience here, please, with my analogy. I also work at a dam, but I'll refrain from dragging those structures into the discussion...)

A proper lockout system has redundancy. Not a lot, but some. Typically, you open a breaker, then check at the terminals with a DMM before beginning work while someone operates the controls that normally energize the circuit. This verification step checks for 1) wrong breaker got opened, or 2) breaker handle moved but contacts were welded closed. You don't assume the primary isolation system works. Use it, then verify.

So, if you have your consistent labeling system on your ammo boxes, you are reasonably sure nothing's improperly boxed. That's the first safety procedure. Just check the headstamp as you load. Don't get in a hurry. This can also be done if you are putting cartridges in an ammo carrier, loops, etc. That's the verification.

If you change rifles, put the rounds back in the proper box.

With a "label and verify" system, with only one operator involved (you), it just isn't going to go wrong. Be very, very careful if you add an assistant to the problem...:)

March 16, 2008, 10:19 AM
Man if I had known an Engineer started this thread, I never would have participated! :rolleyes:

Jeff F
March 16, 2008, 11:38 AM
I know of one case where a .308 got fired in a .270. It wasn't good for the gun

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