9 Top-Selling Rifle Cartridges of All Time — Maybe

Data is hard to nail down, but these nine cartridges are classics and have been selling out for decades or, in some cases, more than a century.

9 Top-Selling Rifle Cartridges of All Time — Maybe

Left to right: .22LR, .223 Rem., .30-30 Win., 6.5 Creedmoor, .30-06 Sprg

Since “all time” is such a wide-open parameter, and data from way-back-when isn’t available or consistent, it’s hard to nail down exactly what cartridges have sold more than any other. Sales vary dramatically by region, and trends have changed over time. However, we do know some calibers have consistently been popular and widely used for decades. An internet source for “best-selling rifle cartridges of all time” reveals lots of lists; sometimes they match each other and sometimes they don’t, but the cartridges listed here are on just about every list — which must count for something. The one thing just about every list agrees on is the first caliber on our list, the can-never-have-enough .22LR.


.22 LR

Far and away the king of rimfires (popularity wise), the ubiquitous .22 long rifle remains a perpetual best-seller practically since it was introduced in 1887. Popular for plinking, small game and target shooting, the .22LR seems destined to rule the roost for the foreseeable future.


.223 Remington / 5.56x45mm NATO

The AR-15 puts this one toward the top, of course, and the .223 is popular for target shooting and varmint hunting in addition to military and defense use.



The AK-47 put the 7.62x39 on the map and makes it a worldwide top seller.


.30-30 Winchester

A classic lever-action rifle cartridge, the .30-30 has been dropping deer and other game for more than a century.


.308 Winchester

Known for its versatility, the .308 is widely used in bolt-action and semi-automatic rifles for hunting and long-range shooting.


.30-06 Springfield

It’s been said that the classic .30-06 is enough gun for just about any game in North America. The wide variety of bullet weights and constructions you can get for the .30-06 make it an especially versatile hunting option. Plus, it was a military cartridge for decades, which contributed to its popularity.


.270 Winchester

Once the flattest-shooting cartridge of its day (it was introduced in the 1920s), famed writer Jack O’Connor’s favorite .270 still gets it done today.


.243 Winchester

They keep trying to improve upon it, with varying success, but the .243 is still beloved as a hunting cartridge for varmints and medium-sized game. Since the .243’s introduction in the 1950s, many a kid has taken their first whitetail with this versatile, capable and relatively soft-shooting cartridge.


6.5mm Creedmoor

The 6.5 Creedmoor, accurate and flat-shooting, is popular for long-range precision shooting and hunting. It got so popular so quickly that it sparked a bit of an internet meme backlash — how many other cartridges can boast that?

Honorable Mentions: .300 Win Mag, 7mm Rem Mag, 375 H&H Mag. Plenty of other cartridges are popular but haven’t been around long enough to make the “all-time best sellers” list. What would you add?


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