(..and some mildcats too) by Steve Puyear
Modern day wildcatting
Throughout firearms history, there has always been a mindset that there is always something better, we just have to look hard enough to find the improvements. With all the cartridges today one could say there's nothing left to improve upon; it's often said we are splitting hairs if we come up with a case design that only slightly betters something already available. In fairness to the majority opinion, I will agree with the exception of a purpose built cartridge. All cartridges produced are used for a wide variety of application and so if the said cartridge fails in one aspect it is labled worthless by the opinionated majority.
Wildcatting a cartridge for a specific animal with a specific bullet at a specific velocity is still a very prudent way to go about design, function and hunting. This is my idea of wildcatting, a specific purpose built cartridge/rifle combination that does one thing better than all else because of the research that went into the design. Blowing cases out to get the very last grain of powder possible internally, then sticking a lightweight bullet on top that disintegrates on contact is not wildcatting. There has to be purpose, and there has to be a forethought predictable outcome or its a worthless endeavor from its inception.
When the idea to begin a wildcat project, it's best to start with the animal being hunted - let's say Elk for this discussion. Elk are not impervious to a proper bullet put in the proper location in the low shoulder heart/ bottom of lung shot. They will die as quick as anything else with a properly placed bullet but even a slight miss-hit and you could likely be eating lunch and dinner in the woods tracking them. Okay, so we're Elk hunting, let's pick a caliber known to make a substantial enough hole in the heart, to immediately cause rapid blood loss, which in turn nearly immobilized the animal in just a few steps after being hit. We can use .308" cal for instance, now let's figure out an impact velocity within a normal hunting situation out to 300yds, 2, 800fps will work fine here. Notice now we're delivering a 165gr to 180gr well constructed bullet at modest velocity and the only outcome can be low recoil and likely a well placed bullet so do you think this said Elk is dead from the scenario above. A quite simple yes as we used the perfect tools for a very specific purpose.
Is the above scenario perfect a blanket fix for every animal that walks the Earth - a quite resounding no! Do we need other cartridges to deliver more speed and energy with properly constructed bullets? A quite resounding yes! That's where wildcatting can play a part, but we still need to have a specific end goal and work backwards to the cartridge that will deliver the projectile and also the firearm that will house the cartridge.
Wildcatting is not the all out reach for speed, you can actually reduce case capacity to get a better end result and therefore you have IMPROVED a cartridge. Look at the 6.5 Creedmoor for example, it has taken the world by storm. It does not have blistering speed or super flat trajectory but what it does have is light recoil and incredible accuracy. Aren't those two aspects we look for in accurately placing the bullet into the heart of a living animal rendering a quick death? So when one thinks about wildcatting, look at a specific purpose first and let the rest fall into place and tell you what case you need to launch a proper bullet at a proper speed to get the terminal ballistics required to cleanly take game. Doing so with that in mind will make hunting a much more rich experience when you harvest an animal with something you've created in your mind with your own two hands!
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