Name That Round!

Hey, don’t be surprised if it throws you. It sure threw us, and we thought we knew guns and ammo!

Need a hint? It’s .30 caliber, and a bit of a Frankenstein monster with a rebated rim and a sharp shoulder.

Need another? It was created as a deer-taking round, gerrymandered to fit a unique state law.

Give up? Explanation after the jump.

The cartridge is a wildcat called the .30 Wagsal, and it was created in response to Illinois laws that banned pistol hunting with rifle cartridges. It’s normally chambered in single-shot pistols including the Thompson-Center Contender, the unkillable Remington XP-100, or this Savage Striker, which is actually the mate to the round above:

Wildcat means, for anyone who doesn’t know the word, a cartridge created by an individual or small shop, not a national arsenal or gigantic gun or ammo business.

The Wag in Wagsal is for Neil Wagner, who made the cases from the Winchester Super Short Magnum or the .284 Winchester, shortened to 1.4″ to meet the Illinois requirement, formed to a sharp shoulder for max powder, and normally loaded with 43 grains of TAC powder producing around 2,500 feet per second from that pistol barrel.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources does not allow deer hunting with rifles, only with shotgun, pistol, or black powder. Because some hunting pistols have begun to approach the dimensions of rifles shorn of stocks, in the 1990s the DNR placed some limits on the allowable pistol round: straight-sided cartridges were OK, but bottlenecks had to be no longer than 1.4″ — the exact length of this little guy. Another cartridge with a similar genesis is the slightly lower-performing .30 Bellm. It is available in rimmed (formed from .444 Marlin brass) or rimless (from 7mm BR) varieties, and the designer says you can think of it as a “.30 BR Improved”.

Since the invention of these two rounds, the Illinois DNR has changed its limits again, but the .30 Wagsal and .30 Bellm were grandfathered in.

Bonus: Mike Bellm’s site, which we found in researching this post, is chock full of information about break-action guns, including some fascinating information about headspace in break-actions, and the limits of headspace gages.

25 thoughts on “Name That Round!

  1. DSM

    2500fps is screaming from that short of barrel. Very impressive. My pet load for a 175gr 308 shoots that speed out of my go-to 18″ M700 using an old school IMR4895 loading for gee whiz apples-oranges comparison.
    Wildcats are some incredibly interesting cartridges and experiments. The whole process of case forming is fascinating in its own right.


    WTF is wrong with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources? Everybody in the world shoots deer with rifles. In parts of Australia it’s illegal to shoot certain deer species with anything that’s not a rifle, and it has to be of .270 or above.

    Shotguns, black powder and pistols on deer?? I wouldn’t dream of hunting deer with a pistol. Are they off their rockers, or am I missing something?

    1. gebrauchshund

      I believe the original thinking behind the law was concern about the potential range of rifles in a state that is very flat and fairly densely populated even away from the cities.

      So while it is probably kinda stupid, it might not be completely insane.

      1. gebrauchshund

        Oh, and I don’t think it’s really a “unique” law. I think there are several midwestern states with similar regulations, if not statewide then at least for certain areas.

        1. James

          Massachusetts(the birthplace of this great country/WTF)only allows shotgun and blackpowder rifles for deer hunting along with bows.I will say where me mum lives the island of Marthas Vineyard is to say the least abundant with deer!The only predators are hunters and the rare car/deer meet up,one of the largest populations per square mile in country at times.My mum thought perhaps a few pair of breeding mountain lions in order,noted she might want to check with the dog on that one!

      2. Tam

        I believe the original thinking behind the law was concern about the potential range of rifles in a state that is very flat and fairly densely populated even away from the cities.

        While that’s widely accepted as the reason now, it turns out that it’s not the original reason behind the laws.

        If you find a map of where the whitetail deer had been hunted to extinction around the turn of the 20th Century and overlay it over the states with “shotgun/pistol-only” laws, the correlation is near 100%, including the lines in Minnesota and Michigan where it’s “rifles north of the line and shotgun-only south of it.”

        Whitetail had been extinct and had been reintroduced to these areas and for many years there was no legal hunting at all, and when hunting seasons were re-started, it was very much of the restricted sort using inefficient weapons.

        When folks tell me that the reason you couldn’t hunt deer in Indiana with a rifle is because it’s flat, I point out that you can hunt coyote and even squirrel with a 7mm Rem Mag, and it’s only for deer that they make you hunt with one hand tied behind your back. ;)

      1. "Greg"

        I’m not an expert, but I think iowa has some hunting laws like that… none of the typical *rifle* calibers are allowed, but lots of bow, shotgun & blackpowder. Like gebrauchshund said – flat land and long range rifle rounds has a greater chance of hitting unintended objects

    2. Hognose Post author

      A number of US states, especially very built up ones, require shotguns for firearms seasons. For safety. Bow hunting is popular in those states, too.

    3. SemperFido

      While growing up in Indiana we hunted whitetail with shotguns and .357 six inch barreled pistols all the time because you could not use rifles in the cornfields. My brother and I took several deer with both. And that was indeed the reason, because of the proximity of roads and houses, as well as cattle in cleared fields eating drop.
      I still hunt hog with a six inch .357 and custom reload rounds for it to make it a tack driver.
      Here in Florida the deer are rather small, but in Indiana they run 170 pounds and up field dressed.

    4. James In Australia

      “Our” deer are bigger species. A Sambar is roughly equivalent to an Elk. The safety aspects of hunting are covered in other laws, rather than restricting calibers or type per-say they restrict hunting to suitable calibers for a given area and game. Hunting anything with a pistol in Victoria is illegal.

      1. LSWCHP

        Ok…thanks gentlemen…it starts to make a bit more sense. When I hear “deer hunting” I think rugged mountain ranges and Sambar, which could look over a tall mans head and weight about 500 pounds. I’ve hunted them, but they’re incredibly wary animals, and so far I haven’t even managed to fire a shot at one.

        I used to work with a keen deer hunter, and he upgraded his Sambar rifle from a 30-06 to a 300 Win Mag because he didn’t think the aught-6 was enough gun for the game, so deer hunting with pistols seemed more than a little odd.

        1. Hognose Post author

          We have several species of deer in the USA, the common whitetail deer is a 150-pound or so animal, some more, some less. West of the Mississippi are populations of the larger mule deer (so called because of its larger ears) and in the Rocky Mountains we have elk (really big). Caribou and Moose are more northerly animals; Caribou is like a European Reindeer but AFAIK there are no domesticated populations. Moose has very different horns, is really big (adults larger than a horse) and is hunted here in New England; in my own state there are occasional moose strikes by automobiles which can be fatal to moose and occupants. To my surprise, moose are also present in northern Europe.

          Apart from these native species, trophy hunters have the option of pursuing many introduced species on wildlife ranches. I guess that’s for the guy who must have an impala in his trophy room but doesn’t want to take time out to go to Africa?

          We actually have an Australian wildlife issue here that I had never heard of until last week. Apparently there are people who think wallabies (wallabys?) would make great pets, because babies (joeys?) are cute as all heck. Of course, all baby mammals are cute. So then Susie’s pet wallaby grows up into full wallaby-hood, and bites and kicks and can’t be house-trained, so there are actually people who have made it their cause to rescue abandoned pet wallabies (wallabys?) and rehome them on Texas ranches, which are like Australian cattle stations, only smaller.

          So far they haven’t become a problem and no one is hunting them from helicopters. Yet.

          There are probably Americans — given our national pastime of breeding knuckleheads — that think Australia’s snake species would make great pets, but you don’t hear about ’em because the snakes bite ’em, and that’s that. (A few Christian sects here handle poisonous snakes to show their faith in the Lord. Their members frequently get to Jesus ahead of schedule).

          Hey, it’s a free country.

    5. John Distai

      As a kid growing up in Colorado, I’d watch hunting shows where they showed people hunting from deer stands in trees. I never understood this. We patrolled while hunting. There were no tree stands in Colorado. I don’t think they were allowed.

      Big game hunting in CO also had caliber restrictions. 6mm caliber centerfire was the minimum back then. This wasn’t an issue for us, as we were using long action calibers in the 30.06 case family.

      Then I moved to NC. In NC I believe you “must” use a tree stand if you are hunting with a centerfire rifle. That doesn’t appeal to me, as it seems too boring. If I wanted to be bored I’d take up fishing. Certain parts of the state that allow you to hunt via patrol.

      I have not been able to find any significant caliber restrictions for the NC big game hunting rifle seasons. I think a .22 is allowed, but it doesn’t seem ethical.

      The bowhunting seasons seem very popular here. I believe there is even an “urban archery” season to thin the suburban deer populations. Deer and vehicle collisions are quite common, and it seems like roadsides have more roadkill deer carcasses than squirrels or other rodents.

      Does Illinois and Iowa lack trees for tree stand emplacements? Could you hunt from an “elevated” position? If you had a home that had land, you could sit on your roof.

      1. robroysimmons

        No, Illinois’ trees come complete with stand, and legal for any weapon.

        The shotgun only rule is ok and not a nefarious plot to disarm us and render us helpless in the face of blue helmeted Trigglytroopers. But in a twist if you hunt coyotes rifles are ok, thinking being there are far fewer coyote hunters out and about.

        My Illinois deer weapon is an 870 with rifled barrel with cantilevered scope mount complete with red dot, and with sabots it’s a deer slayer.

      2. Scott

        NC, with it’s varied terrain and population densities rather defies generalizations. In Wake Country (hosting Raleigh), if one hunts with a centerfire rifle then one MUST hunt from a treestand. Not that all of Wake County is flat, either.

        And in some flat environs of the eastern part of the state, where one might think shotguns and muzzle loaders might rule, instead are home to the ‘Beanfield Rifle’. A bit like varmint hunting, but for deer in soybean fields with heavier medicine.

        The deer tend to be smaller the further east (along the coast, a 90lb deer is ‘big’), and larger further west. (Though a strict soybean diet can produce some big ones in those areas.)

        NC has liberalized hunting regulations generally. Handgun hunting (contra IL) had minimum specified requirements (IIRC, straight wall .357 power and above, bottle neck .24 caliber and above), but now anything goes on handgun.

        Treestands are popular in their own right, as they help keep your scent out of equation somewhat, you can see over brush for longer shots, and deer rarely look up. (But they *do* look up at permanently placed stands in my experience.) Conversely, in other places, deer are commonly hunted with dogs.

        Interestingly, here up in the mountains of western NC, one might guess that the venerable .30-30 or other ‘brush guns’ would be popular. But as I understand it, the .22-250 has quite the following–and the local Walmarts do stock it far more than one might expect. That made no sense to me at first.

        From my new house, it is common to see deer not only close (like below the deck) but also across the ‘hollar’, 300-400yds away. Longer ranges can certainly be had–that’s just in my ‘hollar’. I imagine the conversation oft goes like this, Deer A to Deer B: “Don’t worry, they couldn’t hit an elephant at this dist…” THWACK!

        Yet, tradition is not entirely lost. My neighbor two doors down (that would be about a mile), builds flintlock rifles for a living. He sells some through , others are custom built for individuals. Now that we’re moved in, I hope to spend some quality time in his shop.

      3. Steve M.

        Bowhunting is huge on the east coast. CT will virtually let you bow hunt on a playground. There are “guides” who take hunters down to the southwest corner of CT, just outside of NY to hunt. It’s all multi-million dollar mansions with angry owners looking to save their $100,000 landscaping.

        I’m with you on stand hunting. I don’t like it. I find it too easy to fall asleep or get really, really bored.

    6. LFMayor

      .44 Rem magnum does quite the number on deer. Also, Very flat inmost of the state and enough population density that there’s real concern about where a rifle round will end up.

      Also, with the finest of legislators “at work” don’t expect any common sense to be applied to regulations. I swear it feels as if the state is a sort of rad waste storage, where excess idiocy from the east coast has been dumped. A yucca mountain for liberals got established north of Interstate 80 and has been seeping ever since.

  3. Sommerbiwak

    I think I can follow the reasoning, but a pistol is harder to shoot than a rifle and needs more skill to hit accurately. e.g. a lever action .357 Magnum sounds more useful for the circumstances that these laws try to address.


    Hognose, you should write about the laws in Graubünden pertaining hunting. Those are crazy too.

    and the workarounds people come up with like:,3-mm/1032.php

  4. Steve M.

    Initially, I thought it was that .30 AR cartridge Remington came out with. I was wrong. Wildcats are always fairly neat, however the sheer number of them is astounding. Okay, they can be rather confusing too for this amateur.

    CT is shotgun only for deer hunting on state land. There has been a steady reduction in hunting regulations over the last few years in an attempt to get more people out. I’m hoping a straight walled cartridge allowance is in the works.

  5. rocketguy

    I know that the coastal Carolinas have some buckshot-only counties. I thought that was insane until I went to the range with a fresh set of in-laws from that region. Those guys are doing some interesting work on their scatterguns and getting useful 00 patterns out toward 100 yds. Defensive shooters could learn a thing or two.

  6. Hillbilly

    If you want to see an interesting 12 gauge setup do a search for “12 gauge from hell”.
    It has some serious power and range potential.

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