The eternal question (for cartridge collectors at least)

It has been asked on The Firing Line

How Many Cartridges Have There Been, EVER?

I’m sticking with my first answer:“”(infinite for those who forgot the useless bits of maths)


I don’t know but I have a question of my own: How many ammo-related forum-type discussion boards are there on internet? I am very comfortable here at IAA, but just curious if anyone wants to advocate for a different forum and why? Do they know something better?


That’s a Sunday question. Or better yet, one to ask during the SLICS when all the big kids are off-line.

I’d say 3 brazillion.

That’s a blonde joke. A blonde went to buy coffee and the clerk told her the price was $10 per pound. She said, “Wow, how come it’s so much?” The clerk said, “We import it from Brazil and have to pay 8 Brazilian dollars per pound.” The blonde said, “How many are in a brazillion?”



There’s a bunch. And that’s no joke. I visit a few other than IAA and none can compare. Most have nothing to do with collecting but rather just ammunition in general.


A gorgeous blonde moved from her seat to the first class section. When flight attendant told her to move back, she said: “I am blonde and I am on vacation to New Zealand”. Attendant complained to the pilot, pilot got up, went to talk to her and returned to the cockpit. Co-pilot asked him what happened when he requested the blonde to move back. “She just says “I am blonde and I am on vacation to New Zealand”, he answered. Co-pilot said: ”My wife is blonde, I speak blonde, I’ll talk to her” He whispered something to the blonde and she moved back. “What did you say?”, asked the pilot. “ I said, “First class does not go to New Zealand”
The blonde also carried live ammo.

Vlad, I am a member of several different forums that each serve a different purpose. One is a general firearm forum (VERY well-moderated), another is specific to my favorite firearm brand (Ruger). While other forums have some knowledgeable folks, the IAA forum is the quintessential cartridge collector forum. Period.

There are many other forums that have a section on ammo but, as previously noted, they cover ammo in general, but not collector ammo so much.

If you’re talking about metal-cased cartridge calibers, there are roundabouts 1500 if you include the wildcats & experimentals. If you want to talk relevant and legitimate production calibers, there’s basically 500. It’s a subjective topic. At they show about 800 cartridges in their list, but I know they don’t have all the oddball experimentals and many of the very old pre-1890 cartridges.

BOCN -British Ordnance Collectors Network is pretty good and everything is seperate. Falcon put me on to it. Well organised but the fact that it is segregated means that you miss out on interesting threads that you wouldn’t normally look for. They are inert items only though. I tend to post there for British items and while this forum was down.


Back about 1975 or so in ICCA Issue 244 page 3, I had a reprint from a American Rifleman issue from about 1936 published that asked this exact question of “How Many Cartridges Are There”. It is an entire page. If someone has that issue handy or has the Archive CD, perhaps you could look it up and post it here.

Counting Wildcats and Experimentals, I am not sure that 1500 would even be half of the case types that have been tried or manufactured. I do not have files on probably half of the calibers ever tried, and yet I have seven file drawers, filled to capacity, of files on case types. That means, for example, the .45 Colt, .45 Auto, and .5 Schofield are three different files. Now, admittedly, some files file more than one folder. 9mm Para, a specialty of mine, fills on whole file drawer. The majority of files, though, have from one to three or four pieces of paper in them. I have never counted them, and never will, but I dare say it is probably more than 1500, and again, I even have cartridges in my own collection that I have no file on simply because I have no documentation, other than perhaps in books which are not counted in the files (although some of the monograph-type books are in some of the file folders if they pertain to a single caliber).

Ray might know better than I, but it would not surprise me to find out that there have been 1500 wildcat cartridges alone!

John Moss

Ron - it would be interesting to see that 1936 list. It would certainly be very incomplete even for the year, as there would be lots of experimental European rounds that due to the climate of secrecy in that era, would not have been known to any American civilian magazine. With all the new proprietary sporting calibers, pistol calibers, and military rifle case types there have probably been more additions since about 1945 than were made in the whole history of solid-case ammunition from 1936 back.

John Moss

Re wildcats.

I have a round of 7-7.62x39 and as far as I know there is only one rifle in the world chambered for this. Same with 6.5mm Collie. I have a round of .303 Pygmy and I would guess that there are maybe 10 rifles in this chambering.

If we consider those kind of things where an experimenter has come up with a round… I’m still going with infinite.


John Moss–The article I referred to from the American Rifleman was NOT a list of cartridge types, but was more of a philosophical discussion of the subject. I hope someone posts it here. Again it was ICCA Issue 244, Page 3. BTW, It was reprinted by the ICCA after I got permission from the NRA.

~ 10000

I’m just a novice/hobbist, and I’ve got something over 500 different production cartridges already and my want list of different ones is even longer.

I think I have some of those unique NZ made wildcats in my collection also.
If you would like to nick and cross post the photos below, it might give that gentleman some idea of the range of shoulder/hand fired cartridges out there.

Rimfires, 22LR in the middle

The one on the right is a 22 short, the 2 in the middle are centerfires

Some wildcats, with a 2 3/4" 12ga round for comparison

Well , I have about 800 distinct cartridge calibers in my collection , so I think that 1500 is a number that could fit to pistol/revolver cartridges only ( including wildcats & experimentals) .

Considering obsolete and modern rifle wildcats and their variations , even between cartridges with the same name ( for example I found three distinct and not interchangeable cartridges both called “416 Taylor” ) , I think that the whole number would be well over 10000

The ECRA (European Cartridge Research Association) has spent a lot of effort to document all the different calibers. They have a pretty stiff criteria on what constitutes a “caliber”, so the silly rounds that were not intended for a gun are weeded out. They do include cartridges that have the same size case, but distinctly different loadings and are not interchangable between guns (9mm Luger and 9mm Glisenti) listed as seperate calibers. I have my copy on another computer and no access right now, but someone must have a copy and can tell us what the number is.

First, it is the minimum number and second, it is growing constantly.

Most of the numbers offered on Firing Line are so low that they are funny.



I guess I was not including all of the ridiculous wildcats or proprietaries of which only a few hundred might have been made for, or which a barrel has to be custom made by the user to fire in a gun. I know there might be 40 variations on any given cartridge case, but let’s be serious, of all the production cartridges of which more than 100,000 were made for use, there aren’t well over 1500 - right??. I think 100,000 is a fair production number limit since this implies 2000 50rd boxes. Like the .50GI cartridge for example; it’s a seemingly legitimate proprietary cartridge for modified 1911’s, but I don’t think they’ve moved more than 2000 boxes of ammo? If you want to throw in all the specimens of which there might be less than 100,000 made, then sure you’ve got 10,000 different calibers.

We’re really chasing our tails here because it’s an impossible question to answer without some definitions. I shoot only wildcats in competition and I have my own chamber reamers ground to my specifications. I once asked my reamer grinder how many different chamber prints he had on file. He said roughly 5000. He’s only one grinder of many, both present and past. Of course, most of those 5000 are one-offs but each is unique in some way. So, do they qualify as a “cartridge”? It all depends on your point of view.

A blonde goes into a lumber yard and tells the salesman that she wants to buy fifteen 2 x 4s. The salesman asks, “how long do you want them?” The blonde says, “Well, my husband is using them to build me a new closet so I’d like to keep them.”



A blonde goes into a lumber yard and tells the salesman that she wants to buy fifteen 2 x 4s. The salesman asks, “how long do you want them?” The blonde says, “Well, my husband is using them to build me a new closet so I’d like to keep them.”


Ah ah ah .It is too sad that this story wouldn’t work in italian