Concealed Carry & Home Defense

HOOBER: At Last, A New Caliber That Isn’t Totally Pointless

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By Sam Hoober

Right before SHOT Show 2022, Federal Ammunition has announced a new caliber, .30 Super Carry. While new calibers are sometimes (and rightfully) viewed with a jaundiced eye, this new cartridge has a certain amount of promise.

There are already some new guns that are supposedly on the way that will chamber it as well, including offerings from Nighthawk and Smith & Wesson to start with, with Ruger said to be close behind.

While it’s a new-fangled design, it’s essentially an update on a very old concept, namely that of a .30-ish caliber bullet propelled to some zesty velocities. .30 SC is billed by Federal to achieve 1250 feet per second with a 100-grain projectile, producing 347 ft-lbs of energy at the muzzle.

How they did it is new, but what they did is not. In fact, that was the original scheme for most semi-auto pistols that weren’t intended for pocket carry.

At the end of the 19th century and into the early 20th century, one of the most common chamberings for duty-class pistols was a hot .30ish caliber loading. Examples included 7.65x25mm Borchardt, 7.63x25mm Mauser and 7.65x21mm Parabellum aka .30 Luger.

At the time, .30- and .32-caliber pistol cartridges were much more common in military, police, and civilian use. While we think of .38 Special as being the police load, .32 S&W and .32 Colt were also common. When people bought a Winchester 92 and a revolver with the same chambering, one of the most popular calibers besides .44-40 (Winchester didn’t make any guns in .45 Colt until way later) was .32-20. Lest we forget, .32 ACP is also still a thing.

The 7.62, 7.63, and 7.65mm military rounds were all hot for the era, as most propelled an 85- to 100-grain projectile at anywhere from 1200 fps to 1500 fps and 300 to 500 ft-lbs of energy. The 7.63mm Mauser would also serve as the basis (in fact the case is almost identical) for 7.62x25mm Tokarev, which is still in limited service with the Russian military.

The projectile of .30 Super Carry is a .312-inch diameter projectile, which is the same as 7.62mm Tokarev. The Borchardt, Mauser and Luger/Parabellum loads all use a .309-caliber bullet. While Federal claims similar performance to 9mm in testing, that wouldn’t be too far removed from Ye Olde Hot 30 Caliber Pistol Rounds.

However, there is one significant departure from the norm and this is where things get interesting.

The principle difference between .30 SC and previous similar calibers is that the older cartridges all used a necked-down case to get the requisite powder capacity. Smokeless powder of 2020 is vastly different than smokeless powder of 1920 or for that matter 1900, we have pistol powders today that can produce pressures (and therefore velocities) much greater than those of previous eras.

Since less powder is needed to produce the requisite pressure with modern propellant, .30 SC can be put in a straight-wall case and that’s where there’s some real promise.

Ostensibly, this would mean 9mm performance but with additional carrying capacity; most likely 1 to 3 (maybe up to 4, depending) additional rounds in the magazine. A 7+1 subcompact that has 10 total rounds in .30 SC is not trivial; a 17+1 full-size gun that now holds 20+1 or more with a flush-fit magazine is not trivial either.

A lighter projectile could also potentially mean a little less recoil, so the new cartridge presumably slots somewhere between 9mm and .380 ACP in terms of recoil energy. Felt recoil, of course, is different from actual recoil energy but we all know that by now. Presumably, though, the energy and projectile weight (100-grain) is probably close to 9mm, so it might be small improvement on that front.

Granted, the hitch here is that new calibers typically aren’t readily available nor cheap upon release. That begs the question of whether the juice is going to be worth the squeeze, and worth it enough to really latch on to the market.

Typically, the way new calibers work is that an ammunition company and a gun company get together to create a new cartridge that doesn’t really do anything new and a new gun to sell with it. Usually, it works at first but the gun and/or the cartridge are flat on their face in a decade unless the public decides it’s really worth it, and they often don’t.

The rifle industry has been at this for decades. (6.8 SPC, anyone?) The pistol industry has too, but with a lot less fervor and/or frequency.

For instance, Winchester invented the .284 Win cartridge for the Model 88 and Model 100 rifles with the promise of .270 ballistics and performance in a shorter action. Buyers soon realized their existing .270 rifles worked fine and the ammo was cheaper to boot, so they either stuck with them or bought the .308 version.

Remington did likewise with the .280 Remington/7mm Express for the same reason (it’s just like a .270) and the 740 and 760 rifles. They also made the guns in .270 Winchester, which defeated the purpose and everyone bought the .270 (because .270 still works) or .30-06 versions instead.

See also: any short magnum. See also: any super short magnum. See also: basically every metric rifle cartridge before 6.5mm Creedmoor except 7mm Remington Magnum.

Of all the pistol calibers invented in the past 30 years, only .40 S&W managed to achieve more than cult status. And it is currently in decline. Law enforcement agencies are clinging on up to a point, and .40 S&W is popular in sport shooting for shooters who want to make major but civilian sales have slowed considerably in recent years.

10mm is out there, but again – niche. .357 Sig still exists, despite the fact that Sig Sauer themselves don’t make any guns chambered for it. .32 H&R and .327 Federal are hanging on thanks to some of the revolver cognoscenti, but only just.

Once 5.7mm hit the civilian market, it did find some willing buyers but is little more than a curiosity, which is appropriate given that it’s glorified .22 WMR.

And other examples abound.

So we have a new cartridge, that actually has some promise and might actually be somewhat useful. But is it going to be so worth it that it justifies how expensive it’s probably going to be? That remains to be seen.

But what do you think? Are you interested enough? Interested enough to buy a new gun to shoot it with? Have a favorite cult caliber and/or gun to go with it? Do you have one of those rare 7600s in .223, because I might be interested. Let us know!

Sam Hoober is a hunter and shooter based in the Inland Northwest.