A full-powered cartridge is a military battle rifle cartridge with a minimum effective range of 1,000 metres (3,300 ft). Most full-powered cartridges have their origin in the turn of the 19th century with the advent of smokeless powder. Examples include 7.62×51mm NATO, .30-06 Springfield, 7.62×54mmR, .303 British, 7.92×57mm Mauser, 7×57mm Mauser or 8mm Lebel. Today they are primarily used only in medium machine guns and marksman/sniper rifles.
An intermediate cartridge is a military assault rifle cartridge that is less powerful than typical full-power cartridges such as the 7.92mm Mauser, .30-06 or 7.62×51mm NATO, but still significantly more powerful than handgun cartridges used in service pistols and submachine guns. As their recoil is significantly reduced compared to full-power cartridges, fully automatic rifles firing intermediate cartridges are relatively easy to control. This reduced recoil impulse also allows for rapid, accurate follow-up shots with semi-automatic rifles or rifles with a semi-automatic fire mode. However, even though less powerful than traditional full-power cartridges, the external and terminal ballistics of an intermediate cartridge are still sufficient for an effective range of 300-600 metres (980-1,970 ft), which are the typical maximum engagement ranges for ordinary infantrymen in combat.
The introduction of intermediate cartridges allowed for the development of the assault rifle concept, which is a magazine-fed, selective fire weapon lighter and more compact than battle rifles firing full-power cartridges. The first intermediate cartridge was the German 7.92×33mm Kurz for the StG 44, the world's first assault rifle. Other examples include the Soviet 7.62×39mm used in the AK-47 and AKM series, the .280 British round developed for the EM-2, and the 5.56x45mm NATO for the AR-15/M16/M4 series rifles.