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Try wildcatting a Badger

| Friday, March 10, 2006

During the past four decades, I have been involved in wildcatting varmint cartridges.

Wildcatting is modifying a conventional case to a new shape or caliber. Many of them had little to offer over factory shells, but one of our best varmint factory rounds, the .22-.250, began life as a wildcat.

Well, there might be another one in the making, and it is a .19 caliber wildcat. I wrote about this cartridge before. It didn't really had a name, nor was it determined at that time what factory case would be used to create the new entry. Well, that's water over the dam. The cartridge is called the .19 Calhoon Badger, and it is made by necking down .30 carbine Army case to .19 caliber. I think it's safe to say that most of us from World War II had some association with the .30 carbine cartridge.

I am not going to get involved with the 30 carbine cartridge except to say the rifle was a semi-automatic with a detachable magazine that held 15 cartridges. From what I have read, the military thought it would be more effective than the larger, heavier M-1 rifle for personnel that carried the .45 pistol and for thousands of rear echelon troops. The rifle was small and compact.

From a ballistic standpoint, the .30 carbine was no match for the larger M-1 cartridge. I believe muzzle velocity was below 2,000 feet per second. I shot a number of German deer with the .30-carbine, and I know for a fact the cartridge lacked in accuracy and killing power.

However, it served its purpose, and by taping two magazines together, (one pointing up and the other pointing down) a soldier had 30 shots available.

James Calhoon ( was not completely satisfied with his .19 Calhoon Hornet (.22 Hornet case necked down to .19 caliber and fire-formed to a straight wall case with a 30 degree shoulder angle) decided to bring out another powerful small varmint cartridge. The Hornet case is rimmed, and rimmed cases do not feed well through some magazines. Calhoon wanted a rimless or semi-rimless case that was a little larger. For two years, he experimented with a variety of cases. He finally came down to the .221 Remington Fireball and the .30 Carbine case.

I have no idea why he finally settled on the .30 Carbine, but the availability of empty brass would certainly play a major role. The .221 would be easier to form, but there aren't too many cases available. Even though the .30 Carbine case presented some problems in the swaging and forming procedures that might require expensive forming dies, Calhoon solved the problem by offering "formed" cases for $22 a hundred, plus shipping. The formed case is loaded with a lighter hunting load, and when fired, it forms to the exact dimensions of the chamber. From that point on, the case can be reloaded with full powder charges.

Just exactly what is the .19 Calhoon Badger, and what can it do that the .19 Calhoon Hornet can't do• First and foremost, the .19 Badger's case can be considered rimless, and as I mentioned, that was a problem that plagued the .19 Calhoon Hornet. Secondly, the slightly larger case could push a 32-grain Calhoon bullet out of the muzzle at 3,550 feet per second. This is about a 250 fps gain over the .19 Calhoon Hornet. The additional velocity also increased the effective field shooting range by at least 50 yards over the .19 Hornet. In other words, the .19 Badger is a 300-yard varmint cartridge.

In creating a wildcat, there is always a concern over accuracy. Calhoon's .19 Hornet offered incredible accuracy, and Calhoon had to wonder if the .30 Carbine case would do as well. To make a long story short, the .19 Badger printed 5-shot 100-yard groups that equaled the best the .19 Hornet could do. That probably was the turning point in Calhoon's decision to use the .30 Carbine Army case.

I sent my .19 Hornet to Calhoon to have it rechambered to the .19 Badger. He returned it with the proper reloading dies and 100 "formed" cases. Rifle builder, Jim Peightal of Ernest put the finishing touches to the rifle and shot groups while fire forming the cases to the Badger's chamber dimensions. Most of his 5-shot group were in the 1/2-inch category, and the 3-shot groups fired on my range were below 1/4 inch.

Two hundred and fifty thousandths equal 1/4-inch.

For more information, check Calhoon's Web site.

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