Sometimes, it can be difficult to find a solid resource you can rely on to answer your ammunition-related questions. When I found one several years ago, it made my research of firearms and ammo so much easier. That book is Cartridges of the World.
When I wrote my original Cartridges of the World review a few years ago, the book was on its 12th Edition. Since then, the book has been updated three times and is now on the 15th Edition. I figured it would be fair to let readers know if the current version of the impressive tome remained a credible resource and what, if any, reasons there might be for buying a new copy if you already own an older edition.
Listing more than 1,500 different cartridges from all over the world, this book is likely to have the answers you seek – even for obscure and obsolete cartridges. Sure, nearly anyone can tell you about the development of the .40 S&W, but what about the .425 Wrestly Richards Semi-Rimmed Magnum?
Or the 6.5×53.5 Daudeteau?
What about the 11 gauge, 15 gauge or 9mm rimfire shotshells?
The chapters are arranged to help the reader quickly locate a specific cartridge, and to allow an enthusiast to browse by category. Some of the chapters include:
- current American rifle cartridges,
- obsolete American rifle cartridges,
- wildcat cartridges of the world,
- proprietary cartridges,
- military rifle cartridges,
- handgun cartridges,
- European sporting rifle cartridges, and
- many more.
There are also sections on identifying cartridges, nomenclature and the descriptions and identifications of US military ammo up to 20mm. The book is fairly comprehensive.
Cartridges of the World also includes seven feature articles that go into depth on a range of topics including the 10mm Auto, .45 Colt and .300 Win Mag. These are magazine style articles with full color photography and a bit more meat than standard cartridge entries found in the rest of the book.
The feature articles and cartridge nomenclature sections are printed on slick, glossy paper. The majority of the book is printed on catalog-style pulp. Considering the book is nearly 700 pages long, I imagine that the less expensive paper was the only viable solution to print the tome for a reasonable cost.
Cartridges of the World was written by Frank C. Barnes who died more than 20 years ago. The book continues to be updated on a regular basis, with the most recent version, the 15th Edition, edited by W. Todd Woodard. Interestingly, Woodard also edited the Shooter’s Bible Guide to Cartridges that I reviewed here.
I do not have the Kindle version of this book, but feedback on the Amazon store suggests the formatting of the Kindle book is sub-par. This is unfortunate, as there are many really great examples of properly formatted e-books on the market. Having Cartridges of the World on my iPhone and Kindle would make this a portable reference.
This book is published by Gun Digest Books. I’ve been critical of Gun Digest Books in the past, but this is one of the company’s better efforts. It seems that the company will publish darn near anything rather than insisting only on quality manuscripts. While I still urge caution when considering any book published by Gun Digest (the Standard Catalog of Remington Firearms, for example,) I want to be clear that this is a very good book.
Quality, Quantity or Both?
I’m sure you’ve heard the old adage about quality over quantity. My question is – “Why is it an either/or proposition? Why can’t you have both?” In some circumstances you can, and I think the 15th Edition of the Cartridges of the World book is one such case.
The book lists more than 1,500 cartridges and uses nearly 700 8.5″x11″ pages to document them. In general, each entry features a photo of the cartridge along with general information and historical notes about it. Some of the entries have an engineer’s drawing instead of a photo.
Many of the cartridge entries also have a short list of load recipes (typically, less than a dozen) to get you started on developing a load for your gun. For some of these cartridges, this is a real benefit as some of them are not included in modern loading manuals.
From my standpoint, the book is fairly comprehensive. It is not a perfect book, however. I would like to see Cartridges of the World expanded slightly and include both photos and engineering diagrams for all of the entires. While I expect that some obsolete cartridges would be difficult or impossible to find drawings for, they are certainly available for most entries.
Comparison to the 12th Edition
There are a number of updates to the book that might make you want to update your book collection. To start with, there are actually more than 100 new pages compared to the 12th edition. While some of that is taken up by the featured articles at the front of the current edition, there are also numerous new entries.
From just the 14th Edition, the editor added in roughly 50 new cartridges. So, from the 12th Edition, there are bound to be 100 or more new entries. These are likely biased toward recently introduced cartridges. So, if you are looking for information on older and obsolete rounds, an older edition of Cartridges of the World will likely make you happy.
If you need an authoritative reference on firearms cartridges, stop right now and go buy Cartridges of the World. It is the best modern reference book that I have found on the history and development of all kinds of gun cartridges. I don’t know how I could more strongly relate my views on this book. The price is reasonable, and it will provide you with hours of reading as well as a top caliber choice for ammo research.
For a writer like me, solid reference books like this one are a “must have.” For the enthusiast, this book is a great read and a wealth of information. If you have any interest or need for reliable information on small arms cartridges, I recommend you buy this book.
Cartridges of the World is a very thorough encyclopedia of all small arms rounds. It contains a broad variety of cartridges including modern, obsolete military and wildcat rounds. At nearly 700 pages and more than 1,500 entries, the book is an excellent resource for researching ammunition. I highly recommend it.
Last Update: July 30, 2021
I include a clear disclosure on all products I review because I respect you, my readers. Like me, you probably can’t buy everything you want, so you have to carefully choose how to spend your money. I’ve wasted a lot of money on poor quality gear, and I do not want you to make the same mistakes. Therefore, I write honest reviews on gun gear and let you know what biases may have influenced my articles. Then you can best decide if the thing I am talking about makes sense for you.
I just wish all reviewers disclosed what was behind their articles.
To start with, this is not a sponsored review. Sponsored reviews are nothing more than a manufacturer paying for the placement of an article. In other words – advertising disguised as a review.
I purchased Cartridges of the World (both the 12th Edition and the current 15th Edition) with my own money. No one asked me to review them, I received no discounts on the purchase nor am I being paid to publish this article. This is a copy of my Amazon receipt for the current edition of the book:
This is a copy of my Amazon receipt for the 12th Edition of Cartridges of the World:
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