The home of Shooting Times and Sporting Gun

All about small calibre cartridges

Bruce Potts helps a reader who is wondering about rebarreling a rifle

small calibre cartridges

There are cartridge options for .14 or .12 calibre, but cleaning rods and equipment can be an issue

Q: Do you have any information on the .14 or .12 calibre cartridges? I would like to rebarrel a rifle in one of these calibres but what’s your advice on small calibre cartridges? 

A: There are some worthwhile small calibre cartridges around. The .14 is a unique calibre and a couple of cartridges are worth a look.

The .14-221 is based on a necked-down .221 Fireball case. It is really overkill on such a small bullet, but velocities of 4,200fps can be achieved with only 16 grains of powder. The .14 Walker Hornet is better balanced. It is a .14-calibre version of the .22 Hornet, but has improved body taper. A 15-gr Genco hollowpoint bullet on top of 12 grains of Reloder 7 powder achieves a whopping 4,003fps velocity and 534ft/lb energy, enough for any marauding squirrel or rabbit.

If you really want to get silly, the microscopic .10 and .12 calibres — the brainchild of Bill Eichelberger, from the US — are available in suitably necked-down cartridges as diverse as the .22 Jet, .30 Carbine or even .32 H&R pistol case, to name a few.

When you get to this small a size, cleaning rods and equipment become an issue, and sourcing reliable, accurate, expanding ammunition also can be problematic.

A more practical small calibre is the .17 Squirrel, which is a shortened .22 Hornet case, 0.965in long with the neck diameter reduced to accept .17 calibre bullets. It can shoot 15-gr Berger bullets at 3,500fps, with a meagre charge of only eight grains of powder translating into a mild 150-yard vermin rifle. Norman Clark Gunsmiths, of Rugby, is building one and might help you.

A little different

Personally I am always looking for something a little different. Not that the normal is insufficient for the task in hand, but sometimes it’s nice pushing the boundaries and exploring. I have owned many small-calibre rifles and have a passion for anything smaller than .22 calibre, especially in the form of speeding .17 or .20 calibres (0.172in and 0.204in).