HGR 060 - Oddball Calibers Redux

Hello and welcome to Handgun Radio! I’m your host Ryan Michad from the wilds of Central Maine, and this is your home for all the news, information and discussion in the handgunning world. This week, TJ and I discuss some more oddball calibers that you can chamber in handguns!

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Week in Review:

Ryan: -Finally sat down to clean some guns, reviewing a new product for the Firearms Insider which should be posting very soon. They’re a Q-Tip like implement except in different sizes and are washable and reusable. They seem to work pretty good so far, look for the review on the Firearms Insider page soon! I’ll let you know when it posts via the Handgun Radio Facebook Page.

-Speaking of the Handgun Radio Facebook page, we are at roughly 265 likes right now, but we would love more! I post interesting pictures, videos and links during the week, sometimes regarding stuff we talked about in the episode but sometimes also discussing other things as they happen during the week. Please go like the page and share it with your friends if you can!

-We love having iTunes reviews as well! We haven’t had many in awhile so if you feel so inclined, head on over to handgunradio.com/itunes to leave a review!


  • I recently decided to start my next stage as a “Gun Guy”. I have been reading up on reloading and ordered the 7th Edition of “The ABCs of Reloading”
  • Other than that, I’ve just been carrying. I had planned to go shooting this weekend, but the recent rains in my area kept me from doing so.

Main Topic: Oddball Calibers Redux

Way back on Handgun Radio episode 004, I discussed some oddball handgun cartridges that really intrigued me. That was a very popular episode, so we are going to talk about some more oddball handgun calibers today! TJ and I have compiled a list of some of our favorites, and we will try to discuss some history & applications of these cartridges.

Remember, when we say “Parent Case” we are referring to the original case design that the new cartridge (which may be a wildcat) derives its design from. I.e. the parent case of the .357 SIG is the .40 S&W cartridge.

Ryan’s Picks:

9x23mm Winchester:The 9x23 Winchester is a stretched out 9mm Parabellum cartridge that is 4mm longer than its parent case, and operates at far higher pressures than its parent cartridge. Being a longer cartridge, the 9x23 requires a full-sized handgun, whereas the 9mm Para can be chambered in smaller guns. It uses thickened case walls to help prevent a blowout if the case is not fully supported in the chamber. The maximum pressure spec as listed by SAAMI is 55,000 PSI which is approaching rifle-type pressures. Compare that to the 9mm Para at 35,000 psi and you see why this is such a high performance round. Several manufacturers load for this round, but it is by no means mainstream. Cor-Bon loads it with a 125 grain Barnes copper hollowpoint at 1,350 FPS, and the load offered by Winchester uses a 125 grain Silvertip HP at 1,450 fps for a total of 583 foot-pounds of force. Quite a potent caliber! Handloading is a very appealing option with this round, as it has limited commercial availability.

.327 Federal Magnum:The product of a collaboration between Ruger and Federal Cartridge Company back in 2007-2008, the .327 Federal Magnum was an attempt to offer the power of a .357 Magnum but in a J-frame sized gun with SIX shots instead of the traditional five. Federal extended the .32 H&R Magnum parent case by ⅛” in order to make the .327 Fed Mag. Bullet weights are offered from 100 grains to 115 grains and come out of the barrel between 1,300 and 1,874 fps (the latter velocity being with a 100 grain bullet) The 115 grain bullet at 1,659 fps out of a 5 and ½ inch Ruger Blackhawk produces 702 foot-pounds of energy, making this a formidable cartridge as well. The gun can chamber .327 Fed Mag, along with .32 H&R Magnum, and .32 S&W Long. The Ruger guns had been discontinued for some time, but in July 2014, Ruger reintroduced guns chambered in .327 Federal Magnum, using the Ruger Single Six platform.

7.65 Parabellum (.30 Luger):Known as 7.65x21mm Parabellum, the .30 Luger was introduced in 1898 by DWM and was one of the early self-loading pistol cartridges. The cartridge was based upon the bottlenecked 7.65x25mm Borchardt pistol cartridge that was introduced in the C-93 Borchardt in 1893. Georg Luger shortened the Borchardt cartridge to 21mm, thereby allowing him to narrow the grip and make it more comfortable to shoot, along with allowing a shorter action movement using his famous toggle-action mechanism. The most common .30 Luger cartridge available used a 93 grain FMJ bullet traveling at 1,200 fps for a muzzle energy of 412 foot-pounds. While not a hugely powerful cartridge by today’s standards, the .30 Luger was something of a marvel in its day. The .30 Luger is also popular in countries even today where the ownership of military caliber weapons is restricted. This oftentimes precludes civilian use of the 9mm Parabellum cartridge. Oftentimes, the .30 Luger is used. Many guns have been manufactured in, or can be rebarreled for the cartridge, including the SIG P210, the Browning Hi-Power, Beretta 92, the Benelli B80 and the Sig-Sauer P220.

.440 Cor-Bon:Developed in 1997 by Cor-Bon, the .440 Cor-Bon is a necked-down .50 AE cartridge using a .429 caliber bullet. The goal of the cartridge was to produce a round that had less recoil but greater penetration than the .50 AE or the .44 Magnum. The .440 Cor-Bon tended to be used as a hunting round, and was once offered in the Desert Eagle platform, along with some AR-15 type rifles chambered in the cartridge. It uses a 240, 260 or 305 grain bullet, with the 240 grain moving at 1,900 fps, producing a muzzle energy of 1,920 foot-pounds of energy. This is a very high energy cartridge, fully capable of hunting anything in the continental United States. It operates at a pressure of 36,000 PSI and has a 1.280” case length. The parent case is the .50 AE, so remember this cartridge is what we call a “rebated rim” cartridge, where the rim diameter is less than the case body diameter.

.45 Winchester Magnum:  Developed in 1977 by Winchester, the .45 Win-Mag is a lengthened .45 ACP case intended for hunting and silhouette shooting applications. The cartridge also incorporates a thicker web (the area at the bottom of the case) to help control the higher operating pressures of the cartridge (40,000 copper units pressure (cup) as opposed to 18,000 cup for the .45 ACP). The cartridge is 1.575” long and can shoot 230, 260 or 300 grain bullets, with the 230 grain moving at 1,400 fps, producing a muzzle energy of 1,001 foot-pounds. The .45 Win-Mag was chambered in the 1911-like LAR Grizzly, along with the Wildey handguns, but has fallen into obscurity in most arenas, save for the metallic silhouette shooting applications.

TJ’s Picks:

.22 TCM (Tuason Craig Micromagnum)

Created by Fred Craig and Rock Island Armory, and named for Craig and RIA’s President Martin Tauson, the .22 TCM is, essentially, a bottlenecked 9mm Luger cartridge. I say “essentially” because it was originally intended to be a shortened .223 Remington. The engineers at RIA decided to give it a slightly thicker rim, to make it more simple to convert firearms between .22 TCM and 9 Luger. The .223’s rim was too thin, making extraction unreliable with an extractor designed for the thicker 9mm. This being said, neither the 9 Luger, nor the .223 Remington can be converted to .22 TCM. Armscor, RIA’s parent company, advertises upwards of 1800 feet per second out of a 5” barrel. The .22 TCM is only currently available in two firearms: Rock Island Armory’s double-stack 1911 series, which comes standard with a 9mm conversion barrel, and their recently introduced .22 TCM Bolt Action Rifle. A lot of newly introduced, niche cartridges suffer from a lack of ammunition company support, but luckily Armscor manufactures their own ammunition.

Pinfire Cartridges

Pinfire cartridges work very differently from today’s cartridges. They were invented by Frenchman Casimir Lefaucheux in the 1830s. The primer, rather than at the end of the cartridge, is enclosed inside the case along the edge of the wall. On the opposite side of the case is a pin, where the Pinfire gets its name. When the hammer hits the pin, it then strikes the internal primer, igniting the cartridge. The original pinfire was a shotshell designed for a breech-loading firearm. It was seen as a weak action, at the time, since it “broke in the middle”. They were later used in revolvers. Because of their protruding pin, they had to be specifically lined up with a slot to load and fire properly. The pinfire cartridge was advantageous, at the time, because it allowed for faster reloading in a time primarily dominated by percussion-fired muzzle loaders. They quickly became obsolete, though, when the more modern style of enclosed cartridges began to hit the scene. The pins were somewhat of an advantage in themselves, as the firearm could be easily seen as loaded or unloaded.

9x18 Makarov

The 9×18mm Makarov may not be so “oddball” to some, but it seems a lot of people don’t know it exists. It is a Russian pistol and submachinegun cartridge. During the latter half of the 20th Century, it was a standard military pistol cartridge of the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc, similar the use of the 9×19mm Parabellum in NATO countries. It was designed to replace the 7.62x25mm. The Soviets wanted to replace the Tokarev pistols with a smaller, lighter pistol, and chose the Makarov. The 9mm Makarov is very similar to the .380 ACP cartridge we all know of, though the case is 1mm longer and the bullet diameter is .365 versus the .380’s .355. They can not be interchanged. The rim is similar enough to the 9mm Luger, and reloaders have successfully converted it to 9mm Mak. It requires the mouth and tapered case be expanded to fit the larger bullet diameter and then trimmed to fit the shorter chamber.

9x21 IMI

The 9x21 IMI is a descendant of the 9mm Luger. It was designed for countries that do not allow the use of military and police cartridges in civilian firearms. The case is 2 millimeters longer, so they will not be able to chamber in the same weapons as used by the military and police. The overall length of the cartridge is very similar, but due to the lengthened case, the bullets should be differently shaped, to allow proper feeding.

Obscure Gun We Want:

Ryan:  -Not so much a specific gun this week for me, but a concept. Offer a break-action (or falling-block, rolling block, or even a repeater if you could get it to work) rifle-type system that comes with 6 pre-chambered barrels in the calibers of your choice. Have one receiver for pistol cartridges, and have another for rifle-cartridges. The customer picks whether they want the pistol caliber set or the rifle caliber set, and then can look at a list of available pre-chambered barrels and pick the six cartridges they want. For example, I might say “I want the pistol caliber six-pack set, with barrels in 9mm Para, .45 ACP, 10mm Auto, .357 Magnum, .44 Magnum and .460 S&W (which means I can use .454 Casull, .45 Colt and .460 S&W).” I do NOT want something that uses a single barrel and removable barrel inserts; those tend to not work well. I want all barrels the shortest legal length for a rifle barrel (16”) and I want them all threaded for potential suppressor use. Some may say “Get a Thompson-Contender and be done with it” but to the best of my knowledge, everything has to be bought individually.

TJ: I would really like a concealable revolver chambered for 22 WMR with an 8-shot cylinder. It should be offered in a concealed hammer variety, like the Smith and Wesson 442 and 642. The 8-shot cylinder doesn't seem to be to difficult to achieve, as Ruger already offers an 8-shot 22lr LCR. They do offer a 22 WMR version, but it only holds 6. I think this is, in part, due to their extreme lightening of the cylinder through scallops. If they weren’t so deep, I think they could safely fit two more.


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Until next week, Have fun and SAFE SHOOTING!