TFB’s Big Freakin’ Cartridge Test! Introduction

    Through the Modern Calibers series of posts, we’ve covered 40 different rifle and pistol calibers, ranging from the diminutive .22 Winchester Magnum to full power calibers like the 7.62x51mm NATO. The series was intended to give readers a baseline picture of how different calibers compare to each other in performance, but its biggest limitation has been that it is entirely theoretical. The ballistics graphs in that series were created based on numbers spat out by a conventional calculator using nominal muzzle velocity and static ballistic coefficient figures – and while this is accurate enough to give us an idea of the performance of different rounds relative to one another, it is imperfect. Well then, it’s time to get empirical: Introducing the Big Freakin’ Cartridge Test.

    What is the Big Freakin’ Cartridge Test (BFCT, for short, I guess)? It’s a series of ammunition tests intended to establish performance values for different kinds of ammunition through different weapons systems. In short, it is the empirically-driven counterpart to the Modern Calibers series. With the BFCT, I hope to produce a more reliable and even dataset that can be used for reference when discussing small arms calibers, and I intend to do this via stricter test standards and better control over variables. We’ll get into that later.

    The first round of tests was massive, conducted over three full days at the range, with nearly 500 rounds of ammunition expended, and one set of Oehler sun shades shot to oblivion (oops). Six varieties of 5.56mm and .223 Remington ammunition fired through three host upper receivers: A 20″ FN barreled upper, a 16.1″ barreled Colt 6920 upper receiver, and a 14.5″ Criterion barreled upper receiver. The rounds tested were the Golden Tiger 55gr FMJ, IMI 77gr Razor Core OTM, RUAG SS109 surplus, PMC XP193, PMC M855 LAP, and Federal T556TNB1 (Mk. 318 Mod. 0).

    This initial testing did not go quite as planned, to be honest. There were numerous problems and delays on the range, which meant I am not able to bring you quite as much data at this time as I had originally intended. However, this is just the beginning; I plan to conduct much more testing in the future. I will discuss these issues in more detail in a future post, but for now, sit back and enjoy!

    Nathaniel F

    Nathaniel is a history enthusiast and firearms hobbyist whose primary interest lies in military small arms technological developments beginning with the smokeless powder era. He can be reached via email at [email protected]