Today I’ll discuss a relatively unsung, yet still capable cartridge that just arrived too late to achieve fame in taming the American west: the .50-110 Winchester. Similar to its little brother, the .45-70, the .50-110 Winchester began life as a black powder cartridge and fires big bullets at a slow to moderate velocity. Though the .50-110 may have fallen out of favor in comparison to newer, high velocity cartridges, it still delivers bone crushing power and was one of the most powerful cartridges in North America when first introduced.
When John Moses Browning designed the Winchester Model 1886 rifle, he intended to create a rifle capable of handling the largest and most powerful cartridges available at the time. He was wildly successful in this regard and the venerable Model 1886 quickly earned a reputation as a stellar rifle for potent cartridges like the .45-70 Government and .40-82 Winchester.
Shortly after Winchester released the Model 1886, they rolled out the .50-110 Winchester cartridge. First introduced in 1887, the .50-110 Winchester (also known as the .50-110-300), used the same nomenclature as similar cartridges of the day and fired a 300gr, .50 caliber bullet on top of 110 grains of black powder. The original black powder load propelled the cast lead bullet at about 1,600fps (1,720 foot pounds of energy), which was one of the most powerful loads available at the time. Winchester later released a high velocity 300gr load using smokeless powder (2,245fps and 3,300 foot pounds of energy).
In the 1890s, Winchester also introduced the .50-100 Winchester (.50-100-450) cartridge, which was a close cousin to the .50-110 Winchester. This load fired a 450gr bullet at approximately 1,455fps (2,190 foot pounds of energy). The .50-110 and .50-100 Winchester cartridges were virtually identical and could be safely fired in a rifle chambered for either cartridge.