Cartridges of the World book review

Review: Cartridges of the World, 17th edition

Cartridges Of The World has been the definitive reference on the subject for decades and even in the internet era that remains true with the arrival of the 17th edition, edited by W Todd Woodward and published by Gun Digest Books.

The latest edition adds more than 30 cartridges to an already comprehensive line-up, now totalling over 1500 different cartridges ranging from long obsolete 19th century black-powder pocket-pistol rounds to the absolute cutting-edge modern ammunition like the .277 SIG Fury or polymer-cased True Velocity cartridges.

Cartridges of the World book review

What makes Cartridges Of The World so useful is that its appeal is not just for collectors or armchair gun enthusiasts, but for hunters and reloaders too. 

Each entry covers a brief history of the cartridge in question, some notes about its practical performance, and then lists factory or arsenal-made ammunition performance specifications along with some load data using commercially available (in the US) powders.

While definitely not a substitute for a good quality reloading manual (such as Nick Harvey’s Practical Reloading Guide, written by Sporting Shooter’s very own Uncle Nick), it’s still very helpful for knowledgeable shooters looking to get a general idea of what sort of performance they might be able to get from handloading a given round.

There really is an incredible wealth of knowledge in the latest edition and I was impressed with the additional content which had been added since the 12th edition that’s been on my reference shelf for some time.

While much of the new info is for AR-platform specific rounds that we’re unlikely to ever see here in Australia, the reality is that’s where the industry is going — particularly in the US, where the book is written and published.

Given the sheer size of the book (more than 704 pages) it also has info on a lot of obscure-even-in-their day cartridges where there is either no information on the internet about them, or what there is just paraphrases Cartridges Of The World.

The 17th Edition contains 12 sections on cartridges, covering sporting, military, handgun, rimfire and shotgun shell ammunition of various types, and even includes a section on identifying cartridges by measurement — helpful for anyone who’s ever acquired old mystery cartridges from somewhere and wanted to work out what they were.

The book isn’t perfect, however — for starters, some of the ordering doesn’t make a great deal of sense, eg, the .223 Remington cartridge is listed before the .222 Remington cartridge.

And since the book is divided into both “Sporting” and “Military” cartridges (as well as “Handgun”, “Rimfire” “Shotgun Shell” and “Obsolete”, among others)  there’s quite a bit of doubling up and not all of it seems logical. 

For example, .303 British, 6.5×55 Swedish, and 8mm Mauser are listed in both “Sporting” and “Military” sections, with different entries — yet the .45-70 round, famously developed as a military cartridge, is only in the “Sporting” section.

Don’t get me wrong, information on whatever cartridge you’re looking up is almost certainly in the book somewhere, but if your experience is like mine, then you’ll spend a lot of time using the index to find it.

Personally, I also could have done without the glossy-paper feature articles. I’m buying the book for factual, reference information on pretty much every cartridge ever made, not to get someone’s thoughts on “The Creedmoor Family Dynamic” or read feature articles about “The .404 Jeffery – An Unsung Hero” (both articles in the book).

They’re great for a magazine but not, in my opinion, a reference book that could potentially be on your shelf for a decade or more.

These issues are very much outweighed by the positives of the work, however, and it really is difficult to overstate the sheer amount of information in here and its usefulness for shooters and firearms enthusiasts of all types.

If you have any interest in ammunition beyond “will it go bang when I load it in my gun?” Cartridges of The World 17th Edition is an essential addition to the bookshelf, particularly if you either don’t have any of the previous editions, or currently have a much older edition.

RRP: AUD$69.99, but it is available for around $50 online.

Cartridges of the World back cover




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Royce Wilson

Royce is something rare in Australia: A journalist who really likes guns. He has been interested in firearms as long as he can remember, and is particularly interested in military and police firearms from the 19th Century to the present. In addition to historical and collectible firearms, he is also a keen video gamer and has written for several major newspapers and websites on that subject.