Whether you're hunting, target shooting or plinking, it's important that you be aware of the maximum range of the gun and cartridge combination you're using. The maximum range is the greatest distance a projectile can travel when fired at the optimum angle of elevation of the gun barrel. This optimal angle of elevation is usually around 30 degrees from horizontal. Note that the maximum range is far greater than the effective range of the cartridge, which is the maximum distance at which a projectile can be expected to be useful. This is usually determined by factors such as accuracy and, for hunting or military uses, striking energy.
The importance of maximum range stems from the safety rule "Know your target and what is beyond." A bullet from an errant shot or a miss may fly several miles before it impacts the earth. A knowledge of maximum range (as well as what lies beyond the target area) can help a shooter assess whether it is or is not safe to fire.
The following table contains representative figures for the maximum range for many common rifle and handgun cartridges. Note that these figures are approximate and are useful for rough comparison only. Variations in barrel length, the velocity level of the load, bullet ballistic coefficient and more will affect the actual distance attained by a particular load in a particular gun under specific conditions.