Classifying cartridge calibers

I’m building a database of cartridge calibers, mostly for my own use, but perhaps for general publication later on. One of the first steps is trying to classify - on a broad level - the category that a caliber may fall into.

This is an extension of the chapters in Cartridges of the World, and is therefore somewhat arbitrary. Disagree with Barnes all you like, it is still the first book most collectors ever get, and probably colors the way a lot of people categorize cartridges.

Here’s what I have come up with, and I invite any and all to contribute their thoughts:

Early & Patent Ignition
Pistol & Revolver
Industrial Device

Sporting Rifle:
American Sporting Rifle
English Sporting Rifle
European Sporting Rifle
Propriety Caliber
Wildcat (Pistol and Rifle)

Military Rifle (Small Arms)
Heavy Military Rifle & MG (to 15mm)
Light Cannon (16 to 40mm)
Large-Bore Military (over 40mm)
Specialty Military

What do you think?

Possibly break the handgun (particularly) and military categories into metric and inch designations?

In terms of chamberings, especially since 1950, there’s probably been as much done with civilian handgun cartridges in the US as in the rest of the world combined. I’m sure John Moss will come by and smack me, and I freely admit handgun rounds are not my thing, but I honestly can’t think of single new civilian handgun cartridge other than the 5.7x28 which originated outside the US in the last fifty years. Where there’s virtually no market, there’s no incentive for R&D.

The division is less dramatic in military cartridges, but a single large category strikes me as ungainly, especially in respect to small arms loadings.


I agree with Iconclast about breaking the pistol and revolver into metric and inch. You might also want to further divide them into military and civilian loadings. As for Military Rifle, you might want to break them down by major load types such as Ball, Tracer, Incendiary, AP, etc. If you are interested I can provide you with fairly comperhesive listings of U.S. .30-06 types (about 200) and German 7.9 Mauser loads (again about 200+ types). Send me an email if you want these lists.

Randy–I don’t know how long you have been collecting cartridges, but I gather that you are relativly new at it. You may not be aware that the database you are building, if it just includes the names, has been done. In 1973 and then in an updated version in 1984 (and I assume it has been updated since then) by the ECCC. The 1984 list is single spaced and runs about 250+ pages. Even if you still want to continue your own datbase, you might want to obtain a copy of this list as a guide. If interested, send me an email and I will scan the introduction and 2-3 pages to show you the layout.

[quote=“Iconoclast”]Possibly break the handgun (particularly) and military categories into metric and inch designations?

Good call, thanks. Makes a lot of sense.

Randy? Who’s Randy? ;)

Uh…not really. I’ve been at it, oh, about thirty years or so.

I’m familiar with what’s been done by the ECCC, although I disagree with their code system. Plus, it isn’t available on the web, which is my ultimate goal. Although I will probably borrow from it, presumably it is copyrighted. Plus, I’d like to do my own research. I’m stupid that way.

Regards - Dan

I was waiting the “must be new to this response”…

I think these are great discussions…as each of us classify…index…sort …computerize some different way. Since I only do “small stuff” (<= .50 BMG) plus the larger

Dan–Sorry about calling you “Randy”. I had just sent an email to a Randy and my brain was not up to speed at the time I wrote the respnse to you. I wish everyone would use their real names instead of online nicknames. Once I looked you up (the only “Dan” in Houston in the Membership Directory), I immediatly knew who you were. I have been collecting for almost 50 years and at least recognize the names of most of us “Oldtimers” of the hobby. I went to almost every Chicagoland show from 1967-1988 so have met almost all of the older collectors. I was with George Kass as part of Forensic Ammunition for 8 years.

As for the ECCC list, I agree the numbering system is a bit confusing. I was not suggesting using their format. I just thought it would be a good list for the names of the case types as it probabily lists 90%+ of all the known types.
If it is not on the internet already, even on a subscription basis, I would be surprised, since it is, and has been since it’s inception, a computerized list.

Anyway, good luck on your database. I look forward to someday seeing it up online. We can not have too much info online.

Are you creating a simple list of calibers, or a database of historical and identification information?
Good to see you re-activated,

I started out doing a similar thing years ago.

I have to blame George Hoyem here, he got me started with this adiction. (really big smile here)

I wanted a “Super” version of COTW so I made one using Access.
I now have about 3500 cartridges documented. My goal is to get photos, dimensions and historical data. I began adding photos of boxes a couple of years ago and have over 8000 of them documented. I know that this will be a lifelong endevour. I need to re-write it and simplify my database code, but it keeps me occupied.
Now all I have to figgure out is how to get this thing printed and bound (smile)

I have not seen the ECCC database.
I found that the the MSELECT website ( is an excellent place for some information. There are a number of lists that break down cartridges into some basic categories (great for dropdown boxes).

Have fun with it!


Is the ECCC database that is being discussed the same as the ECRA database (ECRA Caliber Data Viewer)?

Unfortunately, these cartridge collections that we enjoy so much and that we spend so much time on have little interest to the vast majority of people, often including our spouses and children. As a result, the databases that many of us have created for our own use will likely gather dust or be thrown out when we are gone. It seems, rather than having a lot of people spending many hours trying to develop different versions of the same thing, that the manhours involved would be put to better use working on a joint project. While the end result might not be exactly what each person had envisioned, it would be a more ‘complete’ database and would continue to benefit other collectors long after those who worked together to create it are gone. The ECRA database is impressive, and they welcome contributions, including measurements and pictures of new cartridges as well as items already listed.

Guy–No, the listing I refered to is not the same as the ECRA Caliber Data Viewer. It is strickly a computer printout with no data beyond the name. Here is a typical listing:

11052BBC050 11 x 52 R DUTCH BEAUMONT M.1878 NL RI

The first number is the Cheinisse-Regenstreif number. the “NL” is the abbreviation for the country of origin and the “RI” indicates it is a rifle cartridge.

I was unaware of the ECRA Caliber Data Viewer until you mentioned it. Having now seen screenshots of this on the ECRA website, I would have to say that it would be a much better database than the list I mentioned. I note that it uses the same Cheinisse-Regenstreif numbering system, so I would guess it is an outgowth of the former ECCC list. Especially for beginning collectors, the $95.00 price would probably be a good investment as it has all the diminisions and a picture plus can be searched by inputing what diminisions you have to ID an unknown cartridge.

In addition, it is constantly being updated, and these updates can be downloaded to your copy of the database. There are some search functions that I have not looked into; it may have the capability of searching based on dimensions to allow you to identity unknown cartridges.

Guy–According to the information on the ECRA website the database can be searched using any key (measurements, shapes, headstamps, countries, etc.) and the records sorted can then be sorted in any order, sub-selected, etc.