Classification question(s)

When sorting/classifying some of my cartridges, I find myself faces with the question of weather to slot them under “wildcats”, or to put them in a specific “factory” category (the Ackley’s and Gibb’s are easy). Some headstamps I’m looking at right now

“Norma 257 Condor” (my understanding being that only about 12 rifles were produced, by a custom gunsmith)
“300 Aija K” The box shows they were made by Sako.
“Hornady 38 TJ” and “A P 38 Super RL” Both are a rimless version of the 38 super
"Cowboy 45 Special" About the same length as a 45AR, but the rim matches a 45 Colt case
"Corbon 500 Special" Shortened 500 S&W case
"RG 600 Overkill" This one being from the first batch of Hornbouer(sp) cases (the originals were lathe turned)

Well, I’ll give you my opinion. Ray might disagree. None of those cartridges are “wildcats.” Just because an individual who is not an employee of the firearms industry, necessarily, designs a cartridge doesn’t make it automatically a wildcat. All of the cartridges you mention are in properly headstamped, factory-made brass.

One could argue that they are proprietary cartridges, and I would agree with that classification for most of them.

These are not even like the case of, say, the .22-250, where the cartridge was a wildcat for some years before it became “legitimatized” by factory production. As far as I know, in each case you mentioned, the first production of the cartridges was with properly headstamped brass made by a recognized manufacturer. I am not talking about prototype loads, but rather cases and ammunition presented to the public. That is certainly the case with the Hornady 38 TJ, AP 38 Super RL, and the Cowboy 45 Spec. I am not 100% sure about the others. I suppose there is a chance that they appeared around as wildcats first. Regardless, to me, they lost that status the minute properly headstamped brass from recognized manufacturers became available.

If they were only made for one individual for his own use, like the .257 Condor seems to have been, or one individual to sell exclusively, like the .45 Cowboy Special, that actually is the purest use of the term “Proprietary.” Wildcats are not generally “proprietary,” in that once the dimensions are released, anyone can have dies made and make the cartridge for sale (if complying with whatever licensing laws would apply in their region), or for their own use. In the case of a round like the .45 Cowboy Special, the brass maker will not sell the cases to anyone except the party that contracted for their manufacture, and thereby has the exclusive sales rights. Even then, he is probably not protected, unless there is some patentable feature about the round, from another ammo company making the rounds, even if under another name if the name is copyrighted.

Again, just my opinion. Other opinions welcome, but please use a lightweight truncheon when beating me about the head and shoulders for my comments.

Tailgunner & John

It might surprise you John, to hear that I agree with you for the most part. The proliferation of new brass cases with proper headstamps, new proprietary cartridges, and, most importantly, new so-called wildcats that duplicate what was done 70 years ago certainly does cloud the issue. Even the Ackley’s are no longer sacred. Nosler makes factory brass for the 280 Ackley, although most shooters and collectors are not aware of the fact that Ackley had nothing to do with cartridge.

The only area where I tend to disagree is when an old wildcat is legitimized by one of the factories, whether it be a big one like Winchester or a small outfit like Qual-Cart. To me, for collecting purposes, I still catalog an original wildcat as a wildcat. The 22 Varminter is a good example. Remington making it a factory cartridge (22-250) doesn’t make an original Varminter any less collectable, to me at least. The same for the Rocky Gibbs cartridges, the Linebaughs and the Wildeys to name a few.

Cartridges like the 257 Condor are still a bit of a mystery. I have one made from a 7mm S&H case that I think is one of Dr Somovia’s original wildcats. The Norma headstamp came later but for some reason they will fetch a price far exceeding the wildcat. I realize that the Norma production was very limited but there were probably fewer made from the S&H brass. Like all things, this too will probably change someday. Just look at the prices that some very common (to me) wildcats are bringing on some of the auction sites.

I suppose I am fortunate to have a collection of the old wildcats from the golden age since most of them may never be resurrected. Notice that I said “may”. Also notice, directly below, I list only Pre WW II Wildcats as my interest. :) :)


I agree with John. The 257 Condor was produced as both loaded ammunition and components by Norma. It doesn’t matter whether there were 12 guns or 12,000 made and used. It was a distinct production run of purpose built ammunition by Norma.

The other Condor calibers were apparently never produced as new built ammunition and all are Wildcats to me.

The gray area for me comes from military work. The Armanent Lab at Eglin AFB was doing some testing of barrel characteristis for 4000+ fps cartirdges. They rebarreled a maching gun (German or Austrian I think) for 22 SWIFT, but the semi-rimmed case caused feeding problems so they designed a 5.56-06 cartridge useing 5.56 bullets in a 30-06 case. They bought dies for their loading equipment and loaded unfired 30-06 cases and fired them in the machine gun that had been rebarrelled for this caliber. A purpose built military experimental, but it also fits many people’s defination of a wildcat. I guess it is up to each collector to decide on this one.


OH good, here I can give 2 cents & let the chips fall.

I define a wildcat as a case type made / designed by an individual, not a commerical company or arsenal. 

The .257 Condor was made here in Prescott AZ by Fred Wells (now deceased) at the Wells Sport Shop for / with Dr. Somovia and it was he (Dr. Somovia) who ordered the components from Norma (he was quite well off). Norma, as far as I have been able to find out (Just asked Rube Wells [Fred's son) did not load the ammunition but only supplied components. Rube tells me he "thinks a CUSTOM LOADER (Hollywood?) put Dr.Somovia rounds together for him once they got going" 

That they were headstamped and are found “factory” loaded was Dr Somovia’s doing, not Norma’s. This might very well take it to the proprietary class but none-the-less (to my mind) it is still a wildcat.

That a (large or small) ammunition company later desides to manufacture loaded ammunition and a commerical gun maker offers that caliber to the public, (<- important) now transforms that case type into commerical production and it is no longer a wildcat. The original rounds are still wildcats, but the later are not original wildcats, but are modern reproductions and / or commerical production ammunition (As to where you file these I'm not getting deep into, but if I have an original wild kitty, it goes next to it, and I just consider it later production). 
Pre-production would be the classification of rounds (using on-hand cases or unheadstamped cases) from a (large or small) commerical developer / maker or arsenal.

So to sum up: 

individual maker / designer = wildcat
Arsenal or commerical ammunition designer / manufacturer = non-wildcat regardless of production numbers.
the KISS principle !
AZ kid


OK, that clears that up. Any more questions? ;) ;) ;)


PS - Anybody wanna buy a wildcat collection?


As you know, that 22/06 military experimental wasn’t the only one. Most of the early work on SCHV by guys such as Gustafson and Davis was done the same way. With commercial brass and bullets, shop made loading dies, on an RCBS loading press. Wildcats or experimentals???


Beat me with a stick! Here I am again. sorry, I do not consider any round purpose-built by military personnel or employees on government time, for government purposes, to be a “wildcat.” These are military experiments, hence “experimental.”

I am not at all sure I would consider a round designed and made by an indvidual, even using brass he made himself, as a wildcat either, if it is not an improvement or alteration of any existing type - that is, if it is a completely new cartridge. If never adopted by any factory, I would tend to call it an experimental as well. One of the criteria to me for a cartridge to be a “wildcat” is that it be an alteration of a pre-existing design. I am sure some will think I am all wet on that, but its just the way I look at it. I honestly can’t think of any cartridges that fit that description, but to give an example, although incorrect, just to explain what I mean, suppose the 7.65mm Borchardt cartridge had been designed and made by an individual working on his own, and that it had never been adopted - that is, it never became a commercial round, morphed into the 7.63 Mauser and 7.62 Tokarev, was shortened to the 7.65 Luger and expanded to the 9mm Luger (all these rounds are based on the original 10mm head of the Borchardt). The original Brochardt round was not a copy or alteration of any existing cartridge - it was totally new. I wouldn’t consider it a wildcat, if that had been the case, but rather a failed experimental. Of course, the example cited is false, as it did not fail, but morphed into one of the most popular auto pistol rounds in history, the 9mm Para.

Pete, I originally spoke to Dr Somovia in 1967 or so and he told me he had ordered both loaded ammunition and components from Norma. I ordered two or three boxes of the ammo at the time and sold one to Jim who had never heard of the cartridge. I think I still have a box and they are typical Normal boxes. Years later I contacted Dr Somovia again and he no longer had loaded ammo but did load up some dummies for me (just case and bullet) in boxes marked for cases and included the extra bullets in Norma bullet boxes. I think he sent me a set of dies also but I haven’t unpacked that part of the dupes in a decade and don’t remember.

No question as far as I’m concerned that Norma loaded some of the ammo.

The other Condor cartridges and the early 257 Condors are wildcats of course. Somewhere I had drawings he sent of the Condor series of cartridges. If I find them I’ll put them in the Journal.

No question in cartridge classification is ever simple—that is why most of us organize our collections differently!



John your first, I agree 100% that the wildcat cartridge has to be a modification, improvement, or alternation, (even if only a single degree shoulder change) I thought that was implicent in the defination of a wildcat, & guess I should have said so.
Just that it’s a wildcat if it’s not a “factory”. mod., imp, or alt. & those by a are “factory” called pre-production (to my mind)

Lew your next, very interesting, Norma loaded them! We learn something new every day. THANKS I’ll pass that on.

I believe that in another thread I mentioned reports available from DTIC in which MG3 and M60 were rechambered to .220 Swift. They were testing erosion characteristics of experimental barrel liners and coatings.

FWIW: Bill Davis’ 1955 report on the .30 Light Rifle case necked down to .224, and Gerald Gustafson’s 1953 report on the cut down .222 Remington for the M2 Carbine are both up for download from DTIC. Davis’ report mentions that they had written up experiments with other commercial cases in previous reports for Project TS1-2.


How does one go about accessing the DTIC reports?? I’ve gone to the site on several occasions and get a summary but can’t figure how to download the actual reports. Is it something that you have to register or join??



How does one go about accessing the DTIC reports?? I’ve gone to the site on several occasions and get a summary but can’t figure how to download the actual reports. Is it something that you have to register or join??


Some reports can be directly downloaded from DTIC as PDF for free. (Oddly, NTIS will often charge for the same report.) Other reports have yet to be scanned, and must be ordered. If you are .gov/.mil, a DOD contractor, or in academia, you can order through DTIC after registration. Everybody else has to go through NTIS.

The link to the Gustafson report is:

The link to the Davis report is:


Thanks for those 2 links. It takes a little while to download them but it was well worth the wait.

Do you know, is there a report summarizing the earlier tests with the 220 Swift??? Or the other report that Davis referenced??


[quote=“Ray Meketa”]Do you know, is there a report summarizing the earlier tests with the 220 Swift??? Or the other report that Davis referenced??

The Hall Report is now available for download. There are other reports from Project TS1-2 available for order from DTIC and NTIS, but not the ones that Davis referenced in the 35th Report. DTIC probably has copies of them, but they may not have been cleared for unlimited release.

The collection of links to the report summaries can be found in one of my earlier posts.

A bunch of reports on SALVO, SCHV, and SPIW have been released recently for download. This includes the 1958 Infantry Board testing of the Winchester LMR and ArmaLite AR-15.


Once again, thanks.

As you know, the Hall Report was one of the first steps leading to SCHV, SALVO, SPIW programs and as such, it should be required reading for anyone, like me, interested in collecting those tiny caliber experimentals.


Hitchman’s report “Operational Requirements for an Infantry Hand Weapon” is also available for download.

Yes, I’ve read a summary of the Hitchman Report but not the entire thing.

Of course, there is one more required reading for those who would collect the US Experimentals. The Gun Zone Reports by one Daniel Watters. :) :)


Thanks for the kind words Ray. If you haven’t checked recently, I updated most of my articles a couple of months ago. I really need to go back and revise my SPIW and 5.56mm powder controversy articles again to reflect additional information I have found.

As a cookie, here is a link to a 1962 BRL report on the testing of a .14/222 Remington experimental.