All Handgun Calibers
History of Handgun Ammunition
All modern firearms cartridges are assembled with the same basic components: a casing plugged with a primer at one end, filled with powder and capped with a bullet at the other end. Since the 1830's there have been remarkable improvements in handgun ammo, yet the fundamental design is unchanged.
The .22 Short was the first self contained pistol ammunition in production. This rimfire cartridge received a positive reception and is still being produced today. The .22 Short, with a small charge of black powder and a bullet weighing 29 grains, is only suitable for hunting the smallest game and exterminating small varmints. It is fun for shooting, and the small recoil and quiet report have contributed to ongoing demand for the .22 Short. After the introduction of the .22 Short, rimfire cartridges of larger and larger size were introduced all the way up to .58 caliber.
In the 1870's, centerfire revolver cartridges became popular. The 1873 Colt Single Action Army revolver became the most popular in this era. Called by many "The Gun That Won The West," the Single Action Army was chambered in the iconic .45 Colt, and went on to inspire the development of many other single action revolvers of the time. The Colt Single Action Army revolver was also chambered for the .44-40 ammo cartridge. This cartridge was initially designed to be fired in a lever action rifle, but handguns followed quickly because the cartridge was effective and versatile. A person could fire the same ammunition from both a rifle and a handgun, a real advantage.
Several cartridges were developed in the late 19th century and early 20th century for the latest innovation in handgun design, the semi-auto pistol. The .30 Luger and .30 Borchardt were somewhat successful, but the introduction in 1902 of the 9mm Luger changed the face of handguns the world over. This cartridge rapidly became the dominant centerfire pistol cartridge around the world. Armed forces from many countires jumped to adopt the cartridge. The U.S., however, was intent to blaze their own trail when it came to handgun cartridges. The .45 ACP cartridge was adopted in 1911 by U.S. Army officials who determined that bullet weight, as opposed to velocity, would be the factor that influenced their choice for military issue handguns.
The general construction of handgun ammo has not changed much since the early 1900's. Specific cartridges have appeared, however, over the years. The .357 Magnum and .44 Magnum, the .40 Smith and Wesson and the .380 ACP have all influenced to a large extent the development and improvement of modern ammunition for handguns.
There are so many options in handgun ammunition available to today's shooter that it might overwhelm the novice shooter. There are varieties in bullet shape, bullet weight and bullet design. Case construction varies, and ammunition designed for special purposes is available for sale. The choices for handgun ammunition today are better than they have ever been.