What was the first Wildcat


What was the first Wildcat round ?


That would depend on what your definition of a Wildcat is. Cases have been necked down and re-formed since the beginning of metallic cartridge cases, e.g., making the .56-.46. .56-.52, and 56.-.50 as modifications of the original .56-.56 Spencer case, the .38-40 from the .44-40, etc. Likely to be an endless number of similar examples as performed by individuals, companies, and governments.


Good question. By definition a wildcat is a cartridge that has been modified by the user to create a non standard cartridge. A cartridge that is based on a standard cartridge like the .44-40 by a mfg. and produces firearms and ammo is not a wildcat. If a wildcat has enough popularity for long enough it can become standardized and no longer a wildcat. So it does beg the question what was the first recognized wildcat???


Defining a Wildcat may not be as simple as it seems, as virtually all cartridges went through a period of development before becoming standardized and commercialized (and in most instances they didn’t get that far). Therefore at least in the early stages, many, if not most, cartridges started as “non-standard” Wildcats in someone’s mind. For example, many experimenters tinkered around with the .30-'03 (or .30-'06) case by necking it up, down, changing shoulder angle, shortening it, etc., from the earliest days of its existence, and it eventually morphed into the .270 and a bunch of other “standard” calibers based on the same general case dimensions.

I couldn’t say where the line could be drawn to determine what the first Wildcat was, but I’d guess it was sometime early in the last half of the 19th century and involved some black powder number. Witness the number of 19th century cartridges based on necking down the .45-70 case, and even those may have been latecomers to wildcatting. And that does not consider what happened in England, Europe, Russia, etc., at the same time.


If we limit it to hand/shoulder fired rounds, I would vote for buck and ball. Cheers, Bruce.


The question is, of course, unanswerable. If we can speak of a cartridge which was provably a wildcat that filled a need and eventually attained catalog status, the answer is probably the .25-20 Single Shot. In the early 1880s American rifleman and experimenter F.J. Rabbeth began working with the .32 Wesson Extra Long, seeking flatter trajectory and higher velocity for varmint hunting. His first variant of the Wesson was a .28 caliber cartridge in which Wesson’s heel-type bullet was replaced by a .28 caliber bullet of conventional form.

He didn’t get the velocity increase he sought, so decided to neck the cartridge down for a .25 caliber bullet. He had Remington make him a .25 caliber barrel and supply him with cartridge cases of his design, that is the .32 Wesson Extra Long necked to .25 caliber. This was the cartridge he wanted; high velocity (by black powder standards) and flat trajectory (ditto). The Maynard firm saw the potential of Rabbeth’s development and began offering a rifle in this chambering; the cartridge was added to the lines of the ammunition firms. The round was a success, and with the advent of smokeless powder, led to various .22 caliber offspring. This story was told by Harvey A. Donaldson in the January 1936 issue of The American Rifleman. Jack


In Germany, Reinhard Stahl began modifying 11mm Mauser cartridges to produce several unique case types for Target purposes before 1877. Later his factory produced most of these with “ST. -o-> 1887 <-o-” hs so their ‘wildcat’ status was shortlived.

Heinrich Utendoerffer had done the same from about 1872 but these could be considered factory production. The first was the 9.5x47R Bb Target which means that this was one of the first purely CF sporting cartridges ever designed.


Around the turn of the 20th century the Gunsmith Harry Pope did several Wildcats. I was once in possesion of 1890s era Stevens Rifle originally made in 25-20 SS that used the 32 Everlasting round necked down to .28", It had the Pope Rifling. It was stamped with Harry’s results of his testfiring of the rifle, a special Pope service. It was not designed for muzzle loading ie the 33-40 or 39-55.


The British too have a history of necking down existing calibres to re-invent them. I am going to stick my neck out (waiting for it to be chopped off) and say how about the 577/.450 from the original Snider? A bit tongue in cheek but early.