The overall length (OAL) of an ammunition cartridge is a measurement from the base of the brass shell casing to the tip of the bullet, seated into the brass casing. Cartridge overall length, or "COL", is important to safe functioning of reloads in firearms.Handloaded cartridges and commercially available cartridges for firearms are normally created with a maximum length standardized by the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers' Institute (SAAMI). A cartridge's overall length may be shorter than the maximum standard, equal to the standard, or sometimes even longer.
The maximum overall length is dictated by the need to fit into a box magazine of standard manufacture. For example, the .223 Remington cartridge, when loaded for use in the AR-15 rifle (or the military's M16 rifle), has to fit into the removable box magazine for that rifle.
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