One of the things I picked up on at both SHOT and SCI was that shooters may be getting away from cartridges that cause your eyeballs to pop out of their sockets, and back to rounds that normal humans can handle.

Part of this, I’m told, is due to the growing popularity of ARs and their small cartridges. Last September, when the young guy next to me stared at my cartridge block full of .30/06s and asked, “What’s that huge cartridge?” I knew a different day was dawning. If you were weaned on a 5.56 or a 6.8mm, you’re going to think that a .300 RUM, for example, is an artillery round.

Part two is the proliferation and near-perfection of laser rangefinders and range-compensating scopes and binoculars. Up to this point, the only way to hit at long range was with some horrific round that had an ultra-flat trajectory, courtesy of a colossal powder charge and its side effects of short barrel life, killer recoil, and ear-shredding report. Now you can take a mild-mannered cartridge, consult with your scope, and drop a bullet right where you want to without walking in circles afterward.

Mark Bansner, the gifted Pennsylvania rifle maker, put it succinctly:
“All my young customers are computer geniuses. They crunch the numbers and they see that you don’t need to get your teeth kicked out to hit at long range. So they order a 6.5/284 instead of a .300 magnum.”

On the other hand, at SCI at least, I’m seeing a lot of dangerous-game rifles built for the really big rounds such as the .500 Nitro Express and the .505 Gibbs. If you’ve never shot one of these, you have a fulfilling new experience awaiting you. In the meanwhile, you can shoot your .257 Roberts without shame. It’s OK now.