Rifle actions come in different lengths to accommodate different lengths of bullets. Knowing the action length of a rifle is important to understand what length of bullet you can put in the rifle.

In general, cartridges under 2.8″ in overall length are considered short action. Cartridges between 2.8″ and 3.6″ are long action, and cartridges over 3.6″ require a magnum action. However, there are many exceptions such as the 6.5 PRC, which is considered a short action cartridge despite its 2.955″ length.

The problem with that general rule is that there are so many exceptions. The exceptions occur because rifle and cartridge makers like to bend and shape what we consider “short action.” It also depends on the particular rifle. For example, Browning may make the action slightly longer than Winchester, so Browning may consider a cartridge as “short action” which would require a standard action in a Winchester rifle/magazine. It just depends.

It simply isn’t possible to give specific numbers such as those bolded above to say what is and isn’t a short action cartridge. Those are general guidelines, but there are many exceptions.

Common Rifle Cartridges, and Their Action Lengths

Rifle Action Length Table

CartridgeAction LengthCartridge Overall Length (in)
.17 HMR.22-Length Action1.35
.17 Hornet.22-Length Action1.72
.17 WSM.22-Length Action1.72
.204 Ruger.22-Length Action2.26
.22lr.22-Length Action1.00
.22 Creedmoor.223-Length Action2.83
.22 Hornet.223-Length Action1.72
.22 Nosler.223-Length Action2.26
.22 WMR.223-Length Action1.35
.22-250 Remington.223-Length Action2.35
.220 Swift.223-Length Action2.68
.222 Remington.223-Length Action2.13
.223 / 5.56.223-Length Action2.26
.224 Valkyrie.223-Length Action2.26
.240 Weatherby MagnumLong Action3.10
.243 WinchesterShort Action2.71
6mm BRShort Action2.44
6mm CreedmoorShort Action2.80
6mm RemingtonShort Action2.81
.25-06 RemingtonLong Action3.25
.257 Weatherby MagnumLong Action3.21
.26 NoslerLong Action3.34
.260 RemingtonShort Action2.80
.264 Winchester MagnumLong Action3.34
6.5 CreedmoorShort Action2.83
6.5 GrendelShort Action2.26
6.5 PRCShort Action2.96
6.5 Weatherby RPMLong Action3.34
6.5 x 55 Swedish MauserLong Action3.15
6.5-284 Norma MatchLong Action3.23
6.5-300 Weatherby MagnumMagnum Action3.60
.27 NoslerLong Action3.34
.270 Weatherby MagnumLong Action3.25
.270 WinchesterLong Action3.34
.270 WSMShort Action2.86
6.8 Remington SPCShort Action2.26
6.8 WesternShort Action2.96
.28 NoslerLong Action3.34
.280 Ackley ImprovedLong Action3.33
.280 RemingtonLong Action3.33
7mm MauserLong Action3.07
7mm Rem MagLong Action3.28
7 SAUMShort Action2.83
7 STWLong Action3.59
7mm Weatherby MagnumLong Action3.25
7 WSMShort Action2.85
7mm-08 RemingtonShort Action2.80
.30 NoslerLong Action3.34
.30-06 SpringfieldLong Action3.34
.30-30 WinchesterShort Action2.55
.30-378 Weatherby MagnumMagnum Action3.69
.300 BlackoutShort Action2.26
.300 PRCMagnum Action3.70
.300 RUMMagnum Action3.60
.300 Ruger (RCM)Short Action2.83
.300 Weatherby MagnumLong Action3.56
.300 Winchester MagnumLong Action3.34
.300 WSMShort Action2.86
.308 WinchesterShort Action2.80
7.62 x 39mmShort Action2.21
.325 WSMShort Action2.86
.33 NoslerLong Action3.34
.338 FederalShort Action2.75
.338 Lapua MagnumMagnum Action3.68
.338 RUMMagnum Action3.60
.338 Win MagLong Action3.34
.338-378 Weatherby MagnumMagnum Action3.65
.340 Weatherby MagnumMagnum Action3.60
.35 WhelenLong Action3.34
9.3 x 62mm MauserLong Action3.23
.375 H&H MagnumMagnum Action3.60
.375 RugerLong Action3.34
.378 Weatherby MagnumMagnum Action3.65
.350 LegendShort Action2.25
.416 Remington MagnumMagnum Action3.60
.416 RigbyMagnum Action3.75
.416 RugerLong Action3.34
.444 MarlinShort Action2.55
.450 BushmasterShort Action2.26
.45-70 GovtShort Action2.55
.458 Win MagLong Action3.34
.50 BMGMagnum Action5.45

What is a short action rifle? The term “short action” refers to a rifle designed to accept cartridges up to approximately 2.8″ in length, or similar to the length of a .308 Winchester. However, specific rifle designs sometimes accept slightly longer cartridges up to 2.955″ in a short action.

What is a long action rifle? The term “long action” means a rifle which accepts cartridges between approximately 2.8″ and 3.6″. A common example of a long action is the .30-06 or the .270 Winchester. Long actions are sometimes referred to as “standard-length action.”

What Happens if an Action is Too Short for the Cartridge?

As you can see in the image above, this cartridge will not load in this rifle. This is a short action rifle, with a cartridge that is too long to fit. The back of this cartridge is pushed all the way back against the bolt face, but rear wall of the magazine, but the front of the bullet can’t fit down into the mag well. Even if this rifle were chambered for this round, it wouldn’t load because the cartridges wouldn’t fit in the action or the magazine.

This is a common issue when selecting a VLD bullet on a cartridge that is very close to the limit for the action.

Suppose you hand load a cartridge such as the 6.8 Western. Its cartridge overall length is 2.955″, which is right on the edge of what we could possible call a “short action” cartridge. You select a Berger VLD hunting bullet which is very long and slender, and you want to seat that bullet far out from the mouth of the case for better accuracy on your particular setup. It’s possible that the cartridge may not chamber in your particular rifle if the action is too short.

Each rifle will be slightly different in how long the “short action” will be. It may chamber in one rifle, but not another.