What is caliber? What are the calibers of weapons

For the fifth century, one of the parameters that characterize the power of firearms is the caliber. What is the caliber, any person more or less versed in the military sphere can answer - this is the size of the ammunition and the diameter of the barrel. The French origins of the term literally meaning `` how many pounds '' can tell an interesting story of parametrization in the arms industry. There is also an opinion that the basis of the word is Arabic: "galib" - means "form". The barrel diameter of modern small arms can be characterized according to four classification systems. For example, the Saiga smoothbore hunting carbine is a 36 caliber, caliber .410, caliber .41 or 10,25 mm.

English system

Two centuries ago, both artillery systems and small arms used round ammunition. The cannon and mortar balls were made of cast iron, and in some cases were hewn out of stone. Bullets for guns and pistols were cast from lead. England, being an advanced industrial power, disseminated not only advanced technologies in metal processing, the latest weapons systems, but also an original system of measures and weights. The British principle of measuring the inside diameter of the barrel was common in all armies of the world. The standard was the British pound (453,59 g) of lead (for guns) or cast iron (for guns) and ammunition made from it. So, a core weighing three pounds of cast iron served as ammunition for the corresponding weapon - a three-pound cannon (according to modern classification - 76 mm). And the number of bullets made from one pound of lead placed in the bore of a gun explains what the caliber of small arms is. For a barrel with a larger diameter, accordingly, less ammunition was obtained. The lower the number of markings, the larger the barrel diameter. The fourth caliber is significantly larger than the thirty-sixth.

what is caliber

Today, this measurement system is only used for smooth-bore hunting weapons. Some foreign ammunition is supplied with the inscription Gauge, standing next to the number - the indicator of the caliber. Gage is a measured lead ball, which was used to determine the caliber of weapons a couple of centuries ago.

In the West measured in inches

After 1917, Russia switched to the metric system of measures, and in the countries of the British Commonwealth and in the United States, barrel diameter is still measured in fractions of an inch. In Russia, the parameters are calculated in millimeters: the caliber of the AK-47 assault rifle is 7,62 mm. In the New World, this weapon is called a thirty-caliber AK-47, that is, thirty-hundredths of an inch. Moreover, in the UK and the USA, different designation principles are applied. Zero in the English-speaking world is omitted, the separator of tenths and hundredths in a decimal fraction is not a comma, but a period. In England, the bore diameter of the legendary AK will be written as ".300 caliber", and in the USA ".30 caliber" - in thousandths and hundredths of an inch, respectively. In colloquial speech, the same picture: the machine gun we are used to will be called an automatic carbine of three hundred or thirty caliber. The most widespread are samples of weapons of the following calibers.

Caliber in thousandths of an inch

Caliber in mm

. 577


. 500


. 450


. 400


. 357


. 300


. 250


. 220


. 223


What is the caliber of a rifled weapon

Weapons firms use two systems for measuring the bore diameter. In Russia, the states of the former USSR, as well as in the armies of our former satellites in Asia and Africa, the caliber is determined by the distance between opposite grooves (the smallest distance). In the countries of the North Atlantic Union, the gauge is the distance between the bottom of the grooves (largest diameter). Thus, the most common type of small arms in the West, the M 16 rifle, has a caliber of 5,6 mm by NATO standards, and 5,42 mm by domestic standards.

main caliber

Caliber is a parameter that determines the type of weapon and small arms. Barrel length is measured in calibers. If 130/55 is written in the characteristics of the gun, this means that the caliber of the gun is 130 mm, the barrel length of 55 calibers is 7150 mm. If the barrel length is less than 30 calibers, then the gun is a howitzer, more is a cannon. The principle is the same in small arms. Rifles have a barrel length of 70 calibers, carbines - 50. The domestic AKM machine gun has a cartridge caliber of 7,62 mm, a barrel length of 54 caliber. Consequently, this type of weapon is a carbine with the ability to conduct automatic firing. The AK-74 assault rifle with a 5,45 cartridge has a barrel length of 76 calibers. According to the generally accepted classification, this is an automatic rifle. And the term "automaton" was introduced into circulation for ideological reasons.

Large machine gun or small cannon?

The countless variety of samples of small arms for military and civilian purposes according to the size of the bore is conventionally divided into three groups:

  • small caliber - less than 6,5 mm - sporting and special weapons, usually rimfire cartridges;
  • normal caliber - from 6,5 mm to 9 mm - the most common type of small arms;
  • large caliber - from 9 mm to 30 mm - machine guns for arming technical equipment and special weapons.

    12 gauge shotgun

Small arms usually have a barrel diameter of up to 30 mm. Small-caliber artillery starts from 30 mm. Ammunition for small arms is cartridges, for artillery shells. There may be exceptions to this classification. So aviation armament with a caliber of 23 mm is called a cannon, and shells are made for a heavy American 20-mm sniper rifle. In special literature, products with a caliber of 30 mm are classified as small arms. This type of automatic weapon does not have devices that absorb the recoil after a shot, which are characteristic of artillery systems.

The main caliber of hunters

This term, of course, does not apply to the field of small arms. The main caliber - these are the largest guns, which formed the basis of the power of artillery warships. The larger the caliber of the guns, the more powerful the ship was. With small arms, the situation is slightly different: a large caliber is not always convenient. Only a specialist can understand the variety of modern rifles and classification systems. The archaic English system of measures is still used in marking the parameters of smooth-bore samples. What is a caliber for a big game hunter? It is a matter of life and death. You can compare the caliber of smooth-bore hunting rifles with the metric system of measurements in the following table.

Caliber value

Caliber in mm





















Civilian models of small arms around the world are produced in the range from 4th to 36th. In Russia, the most common hunting calibers are twelfth, sixteenth and twentieth. It should also be borne in mind that each weapon manufacturer has its own specifics for making a barrel. Even in such serious arms concerns as Izhmash and TOZ, the 12-gauge bore has a difference of almost a millimeter.

13 caliber

Twelfth gauge

The 12 gauge shotgun is the most popular among hunters these days, although it was not very common in the past. This is a very powerful weapon. The target can be hit at a distance of up to 35 meters. Due to its versatility, it is used in fishing for any type of game - from squirrels to elk and bear. A shot from a gun with an 32mm buckshot is equivalent to nine shots from a XNUMX-gauge pistol.

Renaissance smoothbore

In the seventies of the last century, smooth-bore guns began to return to combat service, first as a self-defense weapon, and then as equipment for combat units. Many weapons experts believe that the most effective melee weapon (up to 50 m) is a tactical rifle, providing a density of fire no less than an automatic weapon. Smoothbore ammunition has a significant stopping effect. The most common among police shotguns is 12 gauge.

20 caliber

In some countries, smoothbore guns are classified as assault weapons and are in service not only with law enforcement forces, but also with special forces. Shotguns of this caliber are used by the US Marines guarding foreign embassies. The 12 gauge gun is universal and allows you to use various types of ammunition: from rubber bullets to special devices that throw cats on rooftops. Samples with the ability to conduct automatic fire have been created. The most successful example is the South African Protecta twelve-shot assault carbine.

Sixteenth caliber

Lighter recoil - 16 gauge. This type of rifle in Soviet times was most widespread due to the mass production of Tula gunsmiths. Nowadays, domestic manufacturers, focusing on the foreign market, practically do not produce guns of this caliber. Hunting rifles are produced in Italy and France. The weapon is lighter than the twelfth, but more powerful and cheaper than the twentieth. Very often, samples of weapons of this caliber have a pump-action design without a stock. 16 gauge is popular with security personnel, although some hunters call it "dying".

Selection of professionals

20 gauge is mainly used by professional tradesmen. It has less destructive power than the first two options. The weight of the ammunition is 10-12 grams less than that of a 12 gauge. The main advantage is less weight, which is not the least important during long pedestrian crossings. 20 caliber got a second life with the advent of the new Magnum cartridges with a shot weight of up to 36 grams. The owners note a significantly lower recoil force with the same weight of ammunition and the comfort of using such weapons.

16 caliber

Experienced reviews and advice

Which caliber to choose depends on the shooter himself. There is no definite answer. The choice depends on several factors: the quality and caliber of the gun, the type of ammunition, the fishing conditions, the type of game and the skill of the shooter. It is clear that the big game should be taken with a powerful weapon. There are arguments and counterarguments for any model. For example, 20 gauge is controversial. Reviews about him are diametrically opposite. For some, it is very pleasant to have powerful and light weapons, while others see no reason to overpay for ammunition. Moreover, there are lightweight samples of the twelfth, and the domestic weapon of the twentieth caliber does not gain much in weight. Some people do not like the strong recoil of large-caliber guns, this is especially noticeable with several shots in a row during the autumn flight of a bird. In addition, the weapon must be carried on hands for a long time and quickly thrown up. When hunting from the approach, the twelfth is not the best option.

Go duck

Less popular are 24 and 28 gauge shotguns. They have not been produced in Russia since the forties of the last century. For this specific weapon, cartridges with fine shot for a duck and a hare are intended. Small game hunting with these guns requires a lot of skill and accuracy. The owners of these rifles note the excellent accuracy of the battle and significant savings in the case material. Small-bore rifles produce significantly less noise when firing. However, such items are quite rare and it is difficult to find ammunition for them.


Hunting with pneumatic weapons is gaining popularity. Caliber 5,5 mm is produced by many domestic and foreign gunsmiths. Pneumatic weapons require preliminary pumping of the reservoir before firing. In the West, this system was called Pre Charge Pneumatics, abbreviated PCP. The pistols use a replaceable compressed air cartridge.

12 caliber

Caliber 5,5 is used when hunting birds, including wild goose. Experienced hunters with pneumatics go out to small game: hare, marmot, fox. This weapon is designed for aimed and accurate shooting. Air rifles must be well-aimed, and are supplied with expensive optics and bipods to increase efficiency. The use of a "sound moderator" will negate the already low sound of a shot. If you miss, you can use a second try.

Other types of smoothbore weapons

Hunters are offered 32-gauge and 36-gauge smoothbore shotguns. The thirty-second is designed for a similar cartridge of rifled combat weapons. Also used in sports designs. The 36th came into use in our country with the start of production of the Saiga self-loading smoothbore carbine for an unusual ammunition - the 10,25x76 magnum cartridge. This weapon is used for amateur and commercial hunting, as well as fighters of some special forces and security organizations in Russia and Kazakhstan. The eighth caliber is used for special weapons that shoot with syringe cartridges with sleeping pills to euthanize cattle and when capturing large animals in the wild. 4 caliber have flare and starting pistols. In Russia, a four-shot gun of this caliber was developed for commercial hunting under the Selezen-4 brand, but after the release of a small series, it was discontinued.

And one more caliber

Some today are trying to find an answer to the question of what a 13 gauge is. We answer. This is not a sample of small arms, but the largest weapons store in Moscow and the region. '' 13 caliber '' directly cooperates with many world weapon brands and carries out wholesale and retail sale of all types of hunting, sporting, traumatic weapons and ammunition for them.

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