View Full Version : What is the most powerful rifle cartridge?

February 19, 2002, 05:12 PM
What is the most powerful rifle cartridge?

I've heard 460 Weatherby and 50 BMG


Steve Smith
February 19, 2002, 05:30 PM
How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?

February 19, 2002, 05:38 PM
I suppose that technically that would be whatever is the largest navel gun to use a cartridge instead of a shell and powder bags.
If it were just the most powerful rifle I would say the 16" guns on battleships...sure the Japanese had 18" guns, but they aren't even around in a museum now.

Mike Irwin
February 19, 2002, 05:39 PM
How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?

I answered that here a couple of weeks ago...

"This reminds me of the middle ages when there was a great debate about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin."


That number was determined by a secret meeting of the heads of all the world's great Christian faiths, held 2 years ago at the Ponderosa Steak House in York, Pennsylvania.

I stopped by for dinner. Imagine my shock and surprise when I turned around at the salad bar and nearly ran over the Metropolitan of Moscow in the salad bar line.

Even worse was that the Pope got ahead of me in the desert bar line and grabbed the last two pieces of peach cobbler. When I mentioned that sharing would be the Christian thing to do, he looked at me like I was nuts, and then one of his Swiss guard bonked me from behind with his poleax.

Mike Irwin
February 19, 2002, 05:40 PM
Rifle can be a kind of open-ended definition.

Some of the WW II era antitank rifles developled some SERIOUS energy levels.

Johnny Guest
February 19, 2002, 06:14 PM
- - -but the question is an ineresting one.

nsf003- - - Would it be within the spirit of your original query to limit this to either over-the-counter-in-a-sporting-goods-store, or perhaps, available-without-special-licenses/tax-stamps?

If this were the case, contenders would include .50 BMG (Yes, there are commercial loads available)
or .700 Nitro Express - - -Was this ever an over-the-counter item? Is it currently available, other than as a collectors' item? At a hundred bucks a pop, when introduced, I bet they didn't sell many!
Or something like the .378 Lapua? I don't have tables at hand.


PS--MIKE--Are those the standard size angels, or the compact version?

Art Eatman
February 19, 2002, 06:43 PM
Seems to me if you consider practical shoulder-fired rifles, the .50BMG is out. Further, IMO, the various one-offs are interesting but not really in the game.

Most anybody can pick up a phone and get a .460 Weatherby; it's as near as your VISA card. :)


February 19, 2002, 06:54 PM
HAH! I call BS! There is no Ponderosa in York! HAH!:p

February 19, 2002, 07:23 PM
How many pins in the hair of an angel ?

Velocity ?
Muzzel energy ?
Energy remaining at 1,000 yds ?
Bullet weight ?
Bullet diameter ?
etc ?


February 19, 2002, 07:38 PM
shoulder fired rifle? I do believe there is a .700 Nitro Express double Rifle out there in the world...

I have SHOT a .500 Nitro, and seen a .600 Nitro...

Maybe Sam or someone has the specs on the Nitro guns...

Commander Fan
February 19, 2002, 07:40 PM
The .50 BMG is a baby. There are several shoulder fired 20mm & 25mm bores. The 25mm versions are 15 times more powerfull than the little .50 BMG. They also penetrate 4 times more steel.

Although I can't find the weight of the 25mm OCSW, the smaller 25mm Solothurn weighs in at 120lbs.

These look like GIAN bolt actions. There is a full article in the 2001 Special Weapons for Miltary & Law Enforcement.

I'll try and get the article read and supply more information.

February 19, 2002, 07:41 PM
Without a doubt, it has to be the .22 short.

February 19, 2002, 07:53 PM
The most powerful rifle known to me is the Type 94 18.1"/45-caliber naval gun fitted to the battleships Yamato and Musashi.

Muzzle velocity is 2,559 fps, with a 1,460 kg APC Type 91 factory load. I do not believe +P or +P+ loads are available in this caliber.

February 19, 2002, 07:55 PM
.40 S&W!

{edited:{ oops wrong thread. ] http://www.stopstart.fsnet.co.uk/smilie/moreek.gif

February 19, 2002, 08:51 PM
What do you mean when you say "shoulder fired"? To me that means that you can fire it offhand.

The Soviet 14.5 is well beyond the 50bmg and IIRC was used in anti tank rifles.

The 50 bmg was/is available in the Rhino was slightly shorter in OAL than the the Steyr Scout and went about 16lbs which is in the same wt range as many sniper rifles or old matchlocks used in combat.

February 19, 2002, 09:01 PM
.500 Nitro Express....ME 5850
.600 Nitro Express.....ME 6850
.460 Weatherby Mag..ME 8245

Nuttin on .700


February 19, 2002, 09:23 PM
Where the hell was the angel/pin thing going?:confused:

February 19, 2002, 10:14 PM
Well, if by rifle you mean a fairly conventional looking shoulder-fired weapon weighing under 15 lbs, I believe that the .577 Tyrannosaur takes the cake.

Over 11,000fpe at the muzzle.

Absolutely vicious recoil seems to virtually eliminate the chance at a follow up shot--aim carefully.

February 19, 2002, 11:21 PM
the only problem with 11,000 fpe is that it'll be brontosaurus for breakfast, brontosaurus for lunch, brontosaurus for dinner, brontosaurus for breakfast, bronto.... oh you get the idea.

Art Eatman
February 19, 2002, 11:43 PM
JohnKSa, there's a reason I said practical! Well, I guess a .460 Weatherby is practical. :) Glamdring, I don' wanna shoot a .460 any other way than offhand. The very idea of benchresting sumpn like that is, er, "off-putting". And just flat-out forget prone position. :(

What's all this about pin-headed angels? Fatelvis, I'd say it was headed down. Far enough down that the angels would become little demons!

:D, Art

Steve Smith
February 20, 2002, 10:06 AM
Fatelvis, what I meant to do was show that it was an open ended question. The answer is infinite...unless the Pope is getting two helpings of peach cobbler.

February 20, 2002, 10:13 AM
Shoulder fired rifle, would that include rpg's like Carl Gustaf 84mm?

Johnny Guest
February 20, 2002, 10:49 AM
Never examined one, but I don't believe the Carl Gustaf 84mm RPG has a rifled tube. "Course, I could be wrong. Left my copy of Jane's Cherished Destructive Devices home this morning.:p


Cain R
February 20, 2002, 11:04 AM
R.B. Rodda 4 bore:eek:

Chad Young
February 20, 2002, 11:17 AM
The most powerful rifle cartridge in the world is the one in the gun that is pointed at you at the time the question is asked.

February 20, 2002, 11:24 AM
I do not believe +P or +P+ loads are available in this caliber.


Art Eatman
February 20, 2002, 11:41 AM
Hokay. Chad's the winner.

:D, Art

February 20, 2002, 12:33 PM
The primary competitor to the Type 94 for title of "most powerful rifle" would be USN's Mark 7 16"/50 caliber rifle.

This gun fires an APC Mark 8 18,900,000-grain bullet, with a fairly conservative loading of 4,652,200 grains of gunpowder for a muzzle velocity of about 2,500 feet per second. As with the Type 94, +P and +P+ loads are not available, however hand loadings are quite possible.

As the design of this weapon dates back to 1941 and most of its value is due to the fact that it is a very rare design, it falls into the category of "curios and relics". It is therefore legal to own a Mark 7, although unfortunately ammunition is very hard to obtain.

Ammunition availability aside, the Mark 7 is an excellent competition weapon due to its high accuracy and extremely long range -- it is accurate at ranges of over twenty miles, more than ten times that of even the best .50 BMG rifles.

The Mark 7 is also a superb choice for home defense in both urban and rural areas; even the largest elephant rifles or big-bore shotguns cannot compare to the sixteen-inch in terms of both stopping power and intimidation effect. Overpenetration may be a problem, even using hollowpoint rounds.

February 20, 2002, 12:55 PM
Never examined one, but I don't believe the Carl Gustaf 84mm RPG has a rifled tube

A CG84 has fully rifled barrel (or is it a rain gutter) I know by hands on experiense.( The preassure from that thing is bad, one shot and i got myself a bloody nose and the ears did not have much fun either:eek: )

February 20, 2002, 01:03 PM
The Carl Gustav is NOT an RPG. An RPG is a rocket-propelled grenade, i.e. a rocket launcher. The CG is a recoilless rifle.

February 20, 2002, 01:20 PM
You are (partly)right. it is a recoillessrifle but it do have rocket propelled grenades.

February 20, 2002, 01:26 PM

:D :D :D :D :D :D :D

however hand loadings are quite possible.

With what, a wheelbarrow for a powder dipper?

I've got a baby asleep in the bed behind me and you are making it very difficult to keep quiet! :eek:

Who let this kid in here?


February 20, 2002, 01:38 PM
Yes...on further research, it is BOTH! It is a recoilless rifle that fires rocket-assisted ammo.

February 20, 2002, 02:08 PM
wath about RPG's for home defence?:D :D :D :D :D

February 20, 2002, 02:24 PM
This is the only rocket launcher for me:

The Davy Crockett.

Johnny Guest
February 20, 2002, 02:24 PM
- - -about the CG84. I was thinking of another weapon.

strider - - Probably right about the C&R status of the 16"/50 naval rifle. And, i imagine the $200 tax per shell wouldn't be too expensive, given the (probable) cose-per-projectile for explosive shells. I'm trying to imagine the kind of mould you'd use to cast solids for your "handloads." I know: Don't cast 'em. Swedge them--from compact cars.;)

Has this gone from the sublime to the ridiculous at some point?

Art - - Please don't move this to H&R due to the projected "handloading" of the naval rifle aspect.


Badger Arms
February 20, 2002, 03:34 PM
The most powerful rifle known to me is the Type 94 18.1"/45-caliber naval gun fitted to the battleships Yamato and Musashi.

Hmmmm, 45 caliber guns have come a long way.

Speaking in legal terms, then, I can wheel my 18.1 inch gun up to the 100 yard range and tell the BATF guy that it's ONLY a 45 caliber. Better yet, I could cut the barrel down a bit and call it a 40 caliber!!! NO, NO, hack it all the way down to .75 caliber and then I'd have to buy an SBR permit for it. This is, assuming, it has a shoulder stock. Imagine the muzzle blast on that baby!!! Now, if it didn't have a shoulder stock, it would be considered unimportable by the GCA of 1968 for not meeting the point standards for importation of a pistol... or does it?

How many points does a handgun have that lacks a trigger guard, sights, thumbrest, etc. It does, however, have about a 13.5" long barrel. Does 460mm caliber show up on their charts?

What do you suggest, Ear Plugs AND Muffs? Maybe one of them cool form fitting noise canceling jobies?

February 20, 2002, 05:13 PM
Hehe, naval calibers are so fun. The only limit, I think, is you can't saw-off the 18.1 to anything less than a nine-foot barrel -- the bullets are about six feet long, and you have to have room for the powder behind that.

The muzzle-blast from battleship guns is rather scary -- it's about 100 to 200 feet long, and NO ONE can be on that part of the decks during firing operations.

Art Eatman
February 20, 2002, 05:28 PM
Strider, considering home defense--as one or two of us here at TFL have been known to do--would that naval rifle be adequate within the confines of my living room?


February 20, 2002, 06:02 PM
Fire it once, Art. The question then will be, WHAT living room?


February 20, 2002, 10:58 PM
As I said, a SLIGHT issue with over-penetration.

February 20, 2002, 11:05 PM
The naval gun would probably be a uniquely effective round in a large single-family home, if you could get the bad guy to stand in the right place (or, come to think of it, within about 40-feet of the right place). But it would probably be overkill in an apartment setting...

Art Eatman
February 20, 2002, 11:13 PM
Wuz on a trip to Hong Kong on the USS St Paul. They put on an ack-ack display for us Army Artillery types. We watched the 3" pom-poms from a good vantage point, sorta nodding and snickering at the way the swabbies didn't lead the sleeve enough.

Then, some 50 feet away, and quite unexpectedly, a 5" gun went off. A muzzle flash that looked some 15 feet in diameter...And NOISE!!!

Pain! Agony! Deafness!

It will lead you to saying, "Huh?" a lot.

Quelle bummer!


February 20, 2002, 11:22 PM
there is a anti-tank gun that is shoulder fire from the prone position in the J.M. Davis gun collection. It fires a 2130 grain bullet at 3,000 ft/sec. I believe it is around 20mm or so.. blew my mind..

February 20, 2002, 11:41 PM
I used to be a NGFS talker while I was in the Navy. That means I either called naval gunfire as a spotter or did the talking on the ship end.

Anyway, on numerous ocassions I got the chance to watch the effects of naval gunfire as it hit.

3"/50 - not much, but actually pretty effective against aircraft. Usually in twin mounts, but not something I called much. Suitable for home defense or use in apartments.

5"/54 - very impressive. The new (at that time) mounts on the destroyers and frigates were capable of putting out about a round a second (auto-loaders). Blast is pretty effective, against aircraft or personnel in the open they used "VT Frag" (Variable time fuse, fragmenting). It was wire wrapped around a small explosive charge, and the wire was notched every inch or so. Very effective for home defense!!

The 6" and 8" guns I seldom saw in action as they are pretty much limited to the older gun cruisers. However, I have heard second hand the 8" guns are extremely effective in the role of crowd control.

16"/50 - well, there is no comparison. I guess there used to be, during WWII, but not anymore. I spotted for a BB during exercises in the Carribean, I don't remember the islands name. I think the HE shells would make a whole city block disapear! You could watch the shells go over, they were so big. Not really effective in any type of home defense; actually like using a hand grenade in a closet to get the other guy.

Anyone out there remember "Splash...Out"?


February 21, 2002, 12:19 AM
Not as impressive as a 16 incher, but I spent a few months as the battalion XO's driver. We were trundling along a trail at Ft. Cartoon, CO, and didn't notice the battery of 155 self propelled howies sitting in the tree line north of us a couple hundred feet.

Until they fired.

The target area was south of us.

Didn't know a jeep could fly that fast!


February 21, 2002, 01:16 AM
I think the mark 7 /16" wins hand down , I read in a article that they made a mark 23 nuclear warhead that was capable to be delivered out of the Iowa/Montana classBships back in the late 50's early 60's though they were never used or unknown if the actually made it on board the ships , does anyone know of where I can see an I/M Class vessel? I think it would be rather interesting (I'm too old to enlist )

February 21, 2002, 04:15 AM
C & R Guns For Home Defense: An Analysis
- By Viet Ngo (aka StriderTeen)

Browning M2 HB .50-cal machine gun

Date: 1925

The M2 or "Ma Deuce" is a good basic weapon for home defense (note that it is also compact and light enough to be mounted on vehicles).

This highly reliable weapon fires.50BMG cartridges at a ROF of some 450-600 RPM (water-cooled version) or 750-850 RPM (aircraft lightweight version), feeding from 100-round linked ammunition belts. The standard M2 armor-piercing ammunition is a 748-grain bullet with 240 grains of powder (yieling a muzzle velocity of 2800 fps), although the M903 SLAP round is also a good choice, with the .30-cal subcaliber depleted-uranium penetrator. Picking between the two is rather like the 9mm versus the .45 ACP argument; the M2 is a much heavier bullet with a ton of hitting power and a reputation that approaches legendary levels, but the new M903 has higher velocity (3985 fps) and superior penetration.

This weapon is availiable in highly convenient hydraulically stabilized quad and twin configurations as well as more conventional single pintle mounts.

Oerlikon 20mm/70 automatic cannon

Date: 1939

The Oerlikon gun is an excellent choice for areas in which an increased threat level calls for a more powerful weapon than the .50-cal.

This potent automatic weapon fires 20mm rounds at a cyclic rate of 450 rounds per minute. The ammunition of choice for the Oerlikon in a home defense role is the Mark 9 AP-T (armor piercing tracer), a potent 1,883-grain bullet with 427 grains of powder. Standard magazine capacity is 60 rounds, but 100-round hi-cap mags (all preban) are also available.

Like the M2, the Oerlikon is available in quad, twin and single mountings.

Mark 33 or 34 3"/50 naval rifle

Date: 1945

Much like the Colt .45, the Mark 33/34 was specifically designed for maximum stopping power against berserker-mob attacks. This makes it an ideal weapon for riot defense or anti-gang duty.

While the rate of fire on this weapon is much lower than that of the M2 or Oerlikon, at a modest 50 RPM, the Mark 33/34 makes up for this limitation with extremely high hitting power. Ammunition choice is limited to the 105,000-grain HE round at 2,700 fps, but this round is a good all-around choice that should satisfy most needs.

The difference between the two marks is the mounting; the Mark 33 is a twin mount, while the Mark 34 is a single; a quad mount is not available.

Mark 16 8"/55RF naval rifle

Date: 1943

The most powerful automatic rifle in existence, the Mark 16 is highly suitable for the role of a maximum-firepower home defense weapon capable of dealing with even the most dire SHTF situations. This is a true assault weapon in that it is often used for amphibious assaults.

Rate of fire for the Mark 16 is 10 RPM, more than three times that of other brands of 8" rifles.
Recommended ammunition is the 2,345,000-grain Mark 21 APC Super Heavy round, with a loading of 546,000 grains yielding a muzzle velocity of about 2500 fps.

The Mark 16 is available only as a triple mount and comes complete with fully armored turret and Mark 54 radar fire-control system.

Mark 7 16"/50 naval rifle

Date: 1939

Considered to be the best large-caliber rifle ever designed, the Mark 7 is the ideal weapon for situations in which an absolute maximum of firepower is required. This is the home-defense equivalent of a hunting elephant rifle -- a very large and heavy weapon which is somewhat unwieldy but provides maximum hitting power.

The Mark 7 is a single-shot, breech-loaded weapon with a practical rate of fire of about 2 RPM. While this is extremely low by modern standards, no other gun on the planet can match the firepower and range of this weapon. Recommended ammunition is the 18,900,000-grain Mark 8 AP round, with 4,652,200 grains of powder propelling it to a muzzle velocity of 2,500 fps. The lighter 13,300,000-grain Mark 23 "Katie" round is also an option, although some users eschew this specialty round as an "overpriced gimmick" like Black Talon ammunition.

Like the smaller Mark 16, the Mark 7 is sold in a triple mount configuration with a fully armored turret and fire control system (including the famous DR-810 radar chrono system for measuring muzzle velocity).

Edit: For those of you not familiar with the Mark 23 round, it is a "tactical" round equipped with a "mass-to-energy conversion warhead system".

February 21, 2002, 05:07 AM
check this out... .577T-Rex
:D :cool: :D