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"Cartridges of the World" Book

About.com Rating 4 Star Rating


Cartridges of the World, 11th Edition, by Frank C Barnes

Cartridges of the World, 11th Edition, by Frank C Barnes

Image Courtesy of Gun Digest Books

The Bottom Line

"Cartridges of the World" is an interesting book, with loads of useful information inside. Most of the commentary is practical and accurate, although you may find things with which to disagree, as with any matter of opinion.

Dad introduced me to this book years ago. Mom never could understand how he could spend long periods of time reading about different types of ammo, but I guess some of it rubbed off on me, because I still enjoy looking up both new and old cartridges in this reference book.

It’s a good book with lots of good information, and will always remind me of my father and of his love of guns and ammo.

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  • Contains lots of data about hundreds of different cartridges.
  • Frank Barnes' original advice was generally good and practical.
  • Indexed fairly well.
  • "Cartridge Identification by Measurement" is a good feature, which I've used to ID old ammo.
  • Many cartridges are pictured at actual size.


  • Commentary on newer cartridges is necessarily not by Barnes, so the value of his opinion is lost.
  • Dimensioned drawings are not always provided, even for current cartridges.
  • Like most books of this type, it has some gaps and gets sketchy at times.
  • Some info is dated.


  • "Cartridges of the World" 11th Edition, ISBN-13 978-0-89689-297-2, ISBN-10 0-89689-297-2
  • 552 pages, soft cover, 8.5” x 11”
  • Calls itself “A Complete and Illustrated Reference for Over (sic) 1500 Cartridges.”
  • Includes cartridge nomenclature, current & obsolete American rifle cartridges, wildcats, proprietary cartridges...
  • ...handgun, military, British, European, and rimfire cartridges, shotgun shells, and more.
  • Contains some interesting articles on particular cartridges, such as wildcats based on the 50 BMG.

Guide Review - "Cartridges of the World" Book

Here is a book that’s very interesting and useful for anyone who’s interested in ammunition, both old and new. No matter what edition you pick up, it will have good, useful information within. Newer editions include newer cartridges, of course, and for this review I have the now-current 11th Edition in front of me, but much of the data is timeless.

Sure, this book can be picked apart by folks who don’t like reading “dated” material, but all in all it’s a great reference, and I for one appreciate the preservation of older articles. It interests me to read what someone had to say about something that was new at the time, which is now either common or long gone. I’ll add the caveat that such articles should be dated as to when they were written.

That said, the book really does need a fine-tooth combing for outdated content. Terms such as “recently” are vague at best, considering that the book was first published more than forty years ago (1965), and subsequent editings were not always thorough.

I use this book often, and I wouldn’t like to be without it. It’s one of my standard references when I want to know more about a given cartridge. Technical data is sometimes present and sometimes not, which can be frustrating, but one must learn to appreciate what is included, and forgive the rest.

After my father’s death, I faced the task of sorting through his old ammunition. He had some military stuff that wasn’t marked with the cartridge name, and I ended up turning to this book for cartridge measurements, and thus identified most of the old ammo.

It’s also interesting to discover things about which I had no clue. Ever heard of the 338-223 Straight? 6.53 Scramjet? How about the 257 Mini Dreadnought? I hadn’t, until I found them in this book.

If you like reading about guns and ammo, chances are good that you’ll love this book.

- Russ Chastain

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