"Wildcat" when and where began this term

I love the idea of individuals creating the gun performance they need.

Why the wildcats are called wildcat?
When it was used for the frist time?


According to Earl Naramore , an american writer ,the term was taken from the slang used by oil wells drillers . This explanation was published in his 1954 book , “principles and practice of loading ammunition”

This term was used to described the oil taken from a formerly unproductive zone . If you analyze the two parts of the word “wildcat” , you will find “wild” as “senseless thing” and cat as “catty behaviour”

I think that Ray will be more helpful than me .I also have some difficulties to translate this story in English…

I also think that the exact date of introduction of this word is almost unknown

The oil industry in the US had a similar term: “wildcatting”. “Wildcatters” were oilmen who drilled exploration wells in areas not already known to have oil.

Then there is the possibility that it refers to the idea that factory offerings were too tame, like a domesticated cat confined to the comfortable interior of a house. The wildcat is free to roam when and where it pleases. And if you do something wrong, it could easily hurt you.


I doubt if anyone can answer either of your questions.

Wildcatters and shooters generally believe that the term had it’s roots in oil drilling slang where a wildcat well was one drilled in an unproven area, based primarily on instinct, with a large dollop of faith and hope. Since wildcat cartridges and wildcat oil wells both fit that definition, and both appeared on the US scene at about the same time (1880s) there may be a connection. Or maybe not.

There was a time, not long ago, when most shooters could quickly tell you what a wildcat cartridge was, and they knew one when when they saw it. But today, the definition is wide open for arguement and most of us old-timers do not care to go there. Some things are best left for the young.

And, lest anyone get the impression that I’m an expert on wildcat cartridges, or anything else for that matter, get that notion out of your head.


What is the saying? “The more I learn, the more I discover how little I actually know.”

I like Dan Shea’s term: RKI - Relatively Knowledgeable Individual.

Richard Simmons in his book “Wildcat Cartridges” says while he was working with Charles Newton he had a rifle chambered for the .220-250 in 1914.

His definition of what a Wildcat was/is wouldn’t apply now. In my opinion…but what do I know :)

Thanks for your answers.
Some of you know I write for a small “hunting & fishing” magazine here in Argentina. They are publishing some of my articles about cartridges and Im doing some reserch about Wildcats for a new article. Wilcating as a concept is almost unknown here, even thou we have some “wildcats criollos” like the .311 Win.Mag. or the .43-70 developed by my friend Leandro Maloberti.

Im not an expert but try to get as much information as I can.
I have get some very good ino from you my friends, many thanks!!!

One more question:
1880 Wildcats?

Yes, there were wildcatters that long ago. Some shooters experimented with cartridges like the 22-10 Maynard, 22-15 WCF, and even the 22 Rimfires. But, there wasn’t a lot that could be done with those tiny cases. In 1894 one of the first succesful wildcats was introduced to the shooting public - the 22-20-55 Harwood Hornet, which was the 25-20 SS necked to 22 caliber. That cartridge was later wildcatted itself, resulting in the 22-3000 Lovell and all of it’s iterations.

If you want to consider the US trial cartridges leading to the adoption of the 45-70, you could say that wildcats can be traced back to the 1870s. It can be argued that they were actually experimentals, but they fit the definition of a wildcat. But here we are back at the arguement that I wanted to avoid.


What is “wildcat” in other languages, other than English? Just curioso.

I am writing ( well,it is already written and ready to be published) an article about wildcats for an italian magazine too

We ( in Italy) use the english word “wildcat” instead of an italian term.
It can be translated literally as “gatto selvatico”

In Argentina we also use the word “wildcat”.
I do not know a word in spanish for wildcat

In the UK anything other than .303 is a wildcat ;)


Thanks John,
Beg your pardon for my English.
What I was trying to say was that I do not know any other word in spanish for wildcat refering to guns and cartridges (not cats) Sorry.
In Argentina we use may foreing terms like “frame”, “timing” etc…
You can even find the word SALE on most shops.LOL