Rifle Cartridge Deathwatch: Winchester Super Short Magnums

Musing on what chamberings will end up in the dustbin of history is always an entertaining theoretical exercise—unless of course you're the person or company who developed said cartridge. It's also a popular undertaking, with various writers in various magazines penning articles on cartridges they think will fade into "handloading only" status.

But this is the internet, where the ensuing comments are always more interesting than the article that generated them. Over the next several days, weeks, whatever, I'm going to single out a few cartridges (or cartridge families) that I think are in a death spiral.

Winchester Super Short Magnum

A few weeks ago a writer queried me on an article comparing the .25 WSSM with the .25-06. Why the hell would I want that? The race has already clearly been won by the .25-06.

The WSSM is a Hollywood turn on cartridge design: Find a good idea and keep rehashing it. The .300 Winchester Short Magnum has been the clear winner in the short magnum craze, and Winchester of course wanted to capitalize on that success. They upsized and downsized that case (not to .264, lamentably) and also created a new family, the Super Shorts.

First came the .223 and .243 WSSMs. Okay, I can almost see the .243 WSSM. I shot a .243 WSSM on varmints but frankly got my fill of that pretty quickly as it was way too much recoil to be receiving on prairie dogs. I also used it on a pronghorn, and it got the job done, but the .243 Win. would've worked just as well (the shot was less than 100 yards).

I'm not even a .243 Win. fan, but I think it's a decent choice for people starting out in their hunting careers, a choice bolstered by the cartridge's mild recoil. The .243 WSSM defeats that purpose due to stouter recoil and more muzzle blast.

And the same goes for the .223 WSSM. Why would you want the added oomph? One of the things I like about the .223 Rem. is that I can spot my own shots in the field due to the low recoil. Forget that with the WSSM version. And if I want overbore, there are plenty of options beckoning with the good ol' .22-250 or the Swift.

The latest (last?) entrant to the WSSM family is the aforementioned .25 WSSM. Here I have to confess my undying devotion to the .25-06, the cartridge the WSSM is supposed to equal, albeit in a much shorter round. Sorry, but I get the performance I want with better feeding, better rifle selection and better ammo availability with the .25-06.

And that, in a nutshell, is what will doom the WSSMs. There's nothing wrong with the ballistic performance, but I don't think anybody—not even Browning/Winchester—currently chambers new rifles for it, and nobody other than Winchester (the ammo company) loads it. (And a caveat here: We're talking major producers, not custom and semi-custom manufacturers.) I just don't see where the WSSMs have enough of a leg up on the cartridges they're up against to keep on keepin' on.

Okay, WSSM fans. Bring it.

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