Question of the Day: What’s Your Favorite Hunting Caliber?

“Buffalo Bore’s Mr. Sundles’ has two 45/70 magnum loads that will fill the requirement for a deep penetrating round to use on dangerous game,” Major Van Harl writes over at ammoland.com. “Both the 8D 500 gr Barnes FMJ-FN bullet moving at 1650 FPS and the 8A 430 gr LFN-GC travelling at 1925 FPS will provide approximately five to six feet of penetration on large dangerous animals with practically no expansion of the bullet. Shooting those cartridges will get your attention.”

I think Major Harl’s talking about recoil, which ain’t no big thang IMHO. In fact, .45-70 proved a suitable caliber for an eight-year-old sportsman shooting a white tail, as above. On second thought, maybe the Major’s “getting your attention” bit has to do with the big ass Barnes bullet’s effectiveness. Anyway, what’s your favorite hunting caliber? Yes I know: different guns and calibers for different game. So . . . list ’em! Gun, game, caliber. And why you chose that caliber.

comments

  1. avatar A Brit in TX says:

    .308, availability, versatility, not too powerful, not too weak. Took a beautiful 10 point buck on my first ever hunt (in Michigan) so .308 is lucky too!!!

    1. avatar Eric in Oregon says:

      +1

    2. avatar The Gray Poseur says:

      .308 works. But it’s not fancy enough for some folks.

    3. avatar Matt in TX says:

      Yup, .308 works for me.

    4. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

      If you could have only one rifle the .308 strikes the perfect balance.

  2. avatar Donimator says:

    Easy for me. The 6.5X55 SE is murder on white tails and hogs.

    1. avatar Southern Cross says:

      +1 on the 6.5×55 from me. Always delivered the bacon with efficient one-shot-stops the usual order of the day. But any standard cartridge between the 6.5s to the 8mm range will do the job.

  3. avatar No one of consequence says:

    I’ve been hunting for the elusive 0.9mm caliber for years, but so far haven’t been able to find it.

    I know it must exist because the papers say so, but it’s doing a darned good imitation of the pip-squack bird.

    1. avatar Gman says:

      Jeaz Louise let it go! That was like so last year.

    2. avatar Ralph says:

      @No one of consequence, I switched to the 40mm and never looked back.

      1. avatar Desert Dave says:

        I got the 40 mm with the laser ranging that sets the round to air burst over that whitetail. Works great if you like whitetail hamburger!

  4. avatar Gman says:

    Hands down 30-30 for deer.

    1. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

      I’ve been really warming up to the .30-30 lately. Light recoil but with the right am mo it will do the job out to 300 yards. Makes one hell of a defensive rifle IMHO as well (especially with Federal 125gr. hollow points).

  5. avatar matty 9 says:

    .270 winchester.

    for everything, YES, EVERYTHING!!!

    1. avatar gargoil says:

      +1 for this one as well

    2. avatar JoshFormerlyinGA says:

      Well maybe not for everything, but anything in North America is reasonably taken with the .270 win. Flat trajectory out to the distances I feel comfortable taking game, with ample power.

    3. avatar Jeff the Griz says:

      .270 was too much gun for me. Most of my shots are bow and arrow distance in the swamp, it puts a giant hole in whitetail but the deer would run 50-150 yards.

    4. avatar RocketScientist says:

      “for everything, YES, EVERYTHING!!!”

      Oh c’mon now. 85%+ of my hunting is squirrel, rabbits, nutria, and various birds… what on earth is left of a squirrel after you hit it with a .270?? 🙂

      1. avatar matty 9 says:

        head shots man, head shots.

  6. avatar Bill says:

    30-06 and .303. 30-06 because that’s what I was raised on. .303 because there’s just something so right hunting with an Enfield.

    1. avatar A Brit in TX says:

      +1 to the .303!

    2. avatar Chris. says:

      I’m a .30-06 person too. Though if I were buying a new deer rifle now It’d be .308 instead.

    3. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

      I had a Lee-Enfield for 20 years but sold it a year ago. Then I went looking for a Ruger no.1 and ended up with one in .303. Excellent round though as long as you’re willing to keep your shots under a quarter mile (not everyone is bright enough to do that). I’ve noticed that when you first fire off a round you really can’t tell the difference between .303 and .308, but that 10% reduction in recoil means I can shoot twice as many rounds before it gets old.

  7. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

    .300 WSM for anything in North America.
    .375 H&H for most African game.
    .416 or .470 for dangerous game.

  8. avatar RidgeRunner says:

    30-06, though i’m warming to .308, both for whitetail deer.
    And, of course, Schwacker 100 grain.

  9. avatar roger says:

    500 Magnum.
    light load for practice,
    heavy load for mailboxes that look at me funny.
    “hey I see you sticking up that red flag at me as i drive by. you think you are sooo funny”

    1. avatar Andrew Lewis says:

      I don’t know bout no mailboxes, but them judgemental watermelons needs ta die.

  10. avatar Mikele says:

    30-06 because that’s what I first hunted with and now still hunt with- (1954 M1 Garand)

  11. avatar Ralph says:

    It’s been a looooong time (more than 50 years), but I used to favor the (then) fairly new .243 Winchester for white tails.

  12. avatar knightofbob says:

    .22 LR. I’m more a fan of shooting squirrels and bunnies than bigger game (less messy to dress). Why .22? .17 HMR didn’t exist yet.

    1. avatar sagebrushracer says:

      me 2.

      I have scores of tree rats and piles of ground squirrels all chalked up to .22 lr. I enjoyed my .17hmr also, it is even better at the .22LR’s job, I had to exterminate some feral cats once. Cats are tough critters, but the .17 anchored them, no fuss no muss.

  13. avatar Kapeltam says:

    444 marlin for white tail. Also handy for bear.

    1. avatar tsbhoa.p.jr says:

      agreed.

  14. avatar Senior Gun Owner 1950 says:

    Metallic cartage round is 30-30 for deer. Grew up with it and it’s a slow heavy effective round for shooting in mixed woodlot and farm field environment.

    But where air rifles are legal for deer, ther’e a lot of fun and a real challenge in shooting a .357 pellet out of an AirForce Texan Big Bore Air Rifle or a Shrouded Benjamin Bulldog .357 Bullpup. Of course you’re shooting at 50 yards or less. But the stalk is a great part of an air rifle hunt.

  15. avatar Alan says:

    .308

    Or ANYTHING based on the ’06 case from .25 to .35. I do love my .25-06!

    1. avatar Stusherman says:

      25-06–YES!!
      Shooting a 117 gr. Hornady STT droped an 8pt in his tracks last year. A little less recoil than my 308.

  16. avatar hgonc2 says:

    big fan of 9.3X62 Mauser w/ a 286gr RN…. drops whitetails like an invisible truck!

    1. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

      The 9.3×62 and the American cousin, the .35 Whelen, are more than enough rifle for anything up to grizzly bears, bison and other very large game.

      The 9.3×62 has been around since 1905. With modern powders and bullets, there’s no need for for modern “magnums” like the .338, et al. The .35 Whelen has been around the 1920’s.

      The first custom rifle I made for myself on a Mauser 98 action was a 9.3×62.

      1. avatar DrewN says:

        When I was a kid, my grandfather who was a devout big game hunter, set me up with a .22, a 12 ga, and Mausers in 6.5 (it was actually a 6.5-08 though) and 9.3. Told me that was all the long guns I’d ever need and if I wanted more to buy them my own damn self.

  17. avatar Jeff the Griz says:

    Im a fan boy. .17hm2 for squirrels, .17 hmr for varmints, 300 blackout for deer. I used a 270 winchester until this year, it’s too much gun at the short swamp distances I hunt. Sold the 270 to a family member for a young one and added Ruger American Ranch in 300 BO for my deer rifle. I had one large buck I had to pass on at 200 yards,I have done the math, my load keeps velocity for correct expansion to about 165 yards, so I keep my shots at 150 or less. Still tagged out in 2016.

  18. avatar ActionPhysicalMan says:

    I used to shoot clams with Sgt. Yemana, we both used .38s, but that was back in the ’70s.

  19. avatar Aven says:

    When you hunt in steep rugged mountains with a lot of timber and undergrowth, there is only on good logical choice . Almost everyone I know uses a shotgun with 00 Buckshot. You never need a long range rifle because of the short sight distance you have.

    1. avatar jwm says:

      Where is it legal to hunt with buckshot?

  20. avatar Jp says:

    .308 winchester for me.

  21. avatar tdiinva (now in wisconsin) says:

    .243 Winchester. The most versatile caliber ever invented.

  22. avatar Will from Oregon says:

    .270 for deer
    .338-378 KT for elk
    .22 TCM for small critters

  23. avatar Warren says:

    .308 for Texas whitetail. That’s the only thing I hunt with any genuine regularity.

  24. avatar strych9 says:

    It depends. .243 win has proved pretty versatile for me.

  25. avatar Steve says:

    CZ side by side
    28 ga
    Grouse / Woodcock / Quail

  26. avatar TravisP says:

    12 gauge seems to work mighty well.

  27. avatar Stuki Moi says:

    .270 win. It just feels right, and works for everything in the lower 48. In lead free jurisdictions, it even makes some real sense (at least I keep telling myself that…), compared to the slower moving, less reliably expending (again,what I keep telling myself……).30s.

    30-06 extends all-use utility to Alaska.

    For those who aren’t wusses, .338 win mag does everything 30-06 does better. I have a feeling Mr. Sundles would agree…..

    But since I’m a wuss, I’ve lost my heart to a Whelen, if I ever get around to spec a nice Alaska rifle….. Or a 9.3, if I end up with a CZ.

    In conclusion, one rifle: 30-06. If I could have 2: .270 & Whelen.

    1. avatar tdiinva (now in wisconsin) says:

      30-06 will bring down virtually any big North American game animal. The Army set its performance requirement to bring down a cavalry horse at 1000 yards. It is over kill for Whitetail. I can see moving up to 300 winmag if you are taking Elk at more than 300 yards.

      1. avatar Mark N. says:

        A guy I used to work for hunts elk every year in Wyoming and for the last 30 years, it has been a .270 with a scope worth more than twice the gun, ranging out to 500 yards.

      2. avatar Stuki Moi says:

        No doubt 30-06 is plenty. Heck, .270 is arguably overkill for white tail. Isn’t Roberts and 30-30 supposed to be the ultimate Goldilocks for deer?

        On larger animals, if you don’t flinch or is otherwise burdened by recoil or blast, .338 allows for taking shots from more awkward angles. And gives better, and shorter, blood trails, all else being equal. Reducing the opportunity the bull has to find the absolutely most inaccessible place in a mile’s radius, before finally deciding to lay down. Or the time the charging Griz has to get in that decisive backslap, before ditto. All without the perceived short-stroke proneness under stress of .375, for hunters who spend most of their time shooting 30-06 or .270.

        The latter, whether true or just superstition, is a reason to choose a standard length caliber for hunting, versus a .308 class one: If you ever hunt something where the quickest possible followup can be critical, that is exactly when you want your accustomed to bolt movement to not end up a half inch too short……. Just another ultimately pointless fear to geek out about on the internet, I suppose…..

  28. avatar Turd Ferguson says:

    35 Remington for everything deer+
    Marlin 336 iron sights
    I may be youngish, but I like old-school

  29. avatar Klaus says:

    For the hunting I do, 257 Wby Mag. I can load them down for our smaller Florida deer, load them hot for the Antelope in Wy and last year took a turkey headshot with a Graf 75gr ACP copper bullet.

  30. avatar RCC says:

    .223 using 55 grain handloads for foxes, kangaroo, hares

    30-06 with 110 grain for goats and pigs

    150 grain red deer

    240 grain for buffalo and scub bulls – feral cattle that are in national park and shots range from 5 to 75 metres. Generally no fear of humans

    Probably over influenced by USA hunting magazines back in the 1960’s

    1. avatar DrewN says:

      Some of those Red boomers get pretty damn big, .223 is enough for those monsters?

  31. avatar Wiregrass says:

    I’m a 30-06 fan. As said above, gets the job done on most anything in North America, factory ammo widely available and relatively inexpensive. And is very versatile in reloading options.

    That being said, I also like the 7mm-08 cartridge.

  32. avatar COstew says:

    .22lr, .243 win, 7mm Rem Mag… Covers everything I have any interest in hunting

  33. avatar bLoving says:

    Had to be the one weirdo who throws this in: .490 patched lead ball.
    There!

    1. avatar Andrew Lewis says:

      I hear that but I prefer the .54 patched lead

      1. avatar jwtaylor says:

        Same here. Although in conical, that .50 will do anything the .54 will do, just not as accurately from the same barell. My MOA doubles with conicals vs ball.

        1. avatar Andrew Lewis says:

          I have yet to find any firearm in functioning order that is less accurate than I am.
          But a buddy of mine has a black powder rifle in .54. Found out I really like the feel of 100gr of Pyrodex behind that ball.

        2. avatar Mark N. says:

          Slow twist rate? Conicals require a pretty fast twist–1 in 25–to stabilize well.

  34. avatar jwtaylor says:

    .54 cast ball

  35. avatar Survivordude1090 says:

    My great grandfather used 30-06, my grandpa uses 30-06, my dad uses 30-06, and I use 30-06. It’s not fancy, but it’s always been good enough for my family, and it’s always been good enough for me.

  36. avatar Killjoy says:

    .338 federal. Nice short stroke. Plenty of force out of a 20″ Barrel. I don’t do squirrel

  37. avatar Montesa_VR says:

    Another vote for the 7-08. Better sectional density ahead of a .308 sized powder charge for flatter shooting, better penetration, and less recoil. However, my best ever shooting was done with the .257 Roberts.

    1. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

      If anyone actually made one, I’d be interested in an AR10 in .257 Roberts. Unlike it’s Mauser cousins, it’s COL is actually shorter than .308. Nice bump up from .243 but way less recoil than .308. That and it would be nice if someone made cheaper am mo for it.

  38. avatar me says:

    Lets see, .22lr for any small game i plan to eat.
    .243 win for fur-bearer on up to deer.
    30/06 for deer or bigger, or maybe a coyote for fun?
    As for favorites to shoot in general, 45acp and .223/5.56 (ar15 of course) and I must say the challenge of shooting a coyote with a 4″ barreled .45acp seems interesting to me.

  39. avatar jwm says:

    12 ga. for birds and small critters like rabbits. Used to prefer the 20 but since we can’t use lead shot anymore the 12 delivers better loads of lighter steel pellets down range.

    .243 for yotes, deer and pigs. Nothing big enough to justify heavier around here and I’m too old to lug my old favorite, the .30-06, around anymore.

    Always liked the .30-30. Handy rifles in a handy caliber.

  40. avatar SouthAl says:

    .243 win in more open areas
    .44 mag carbine or .45-70 for brush/heavily wooded areas
    I always have the .243 and one of the others in the truck when going hunting in case I change location choices.

  41. avatar Timmy! says:

    .88 Magnum… It shoots through schools.

  42. avatar Charles says:

    30-06, 150 grain Federal classic. 21 years ago I bought a Ruger all weather stainless in 30-06. I chose 30-06 for two reasons: ammo availability and it was adequate for elk if I ever got the chance (I haven’t). It was to be my ONE hunting rifle. I have not missed with that rifle and have harvested many deer from 30 yards up to 200 yards. Before I shot it the first time the action was bedded, the barrel free-floated, and the bolt face was trued. The trigger was adjusted to 2.5lbs. Oddly enough it likes Federal classic in 150 grain. Sub 1 inch groups reliably. That is what I feed it and I have more than a case of it to shoot. At the time owning one good rifle was a stretch on the budget. I now own several nice hunting rifles, many much more valuable. But if you ask me to chose only one it will be my Ruger all weather in 30-06.

  43. avatar Charlie says:

    I like .308, and I have a MSR chambered in that caliber, but if I could get a MSR chambered in 30-06 I would leap on it like stink on shit! 30-06 outperforms .308 in accuracy and energy by just enough to make it my go-to cartridge for medium game.

    For longer range and heavier work .338L is the how I roll, and I have a bolt gun in that caliber. I wish I could gotten had a semi in that caliber, but they’re about 3X the price of my bolt gun, and their accuracy sucks.

    Charlie

    1. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

      I’ve never heard the claim that .30-06 is inherently more accurate than .308, but…

      The extra ~100fps the .30-06 offers over the .308 equates to roughly 6 or 7% more muzzle energy but comes at the cost of 6 or 7% more recoil velocity and about 12 – 14% more recoil energy. Aside from the fact that no one has offered a long action MSR, the recoil advantage of the .308 seems like a pretty good trade off.

  44. avatar TexanHawk says:

    Technically not a caliber. But I’ll take the 12 gauge. I grew up in Indiana where rifles (other than blackpowder) are forbidden. Slugs for deer and hogs. Shot for quail, doves, pheasant, ducks, geese and turkeys. I cannot think of a more versatile weapon. Oh…. and home defense also.

  45. avatar Kap says:

    7mm08, good ballistics out too 5oo, have dropped moose, Black bear, Elk, Deer, racoon, barked squirrels, porky pine (good eating} rabbit, skunk, barn cats, less felt recoil then 06 or08

  46. avatar Joseph Quixote says:

    .220 swift for varmints
    .30-.30 for deer at closer ranges
    .300 win mag for elk

    Or .30-06 for all and be done with it, but what’s the fun in just one?

  47. avatar mrbadnews says:

    Choosing the perfect Deer Cartridge is like choosing the perfect fitness equipment. Most any choice will do the job properly if you just use it. And a large rock might even work well in both cases.

    But seriously… I’ve likely switched up calibers for deer more that most. 223 to 45/70. Pistol calibers too. I don’t even have a “go to” anymore. But, if I could have just one, It’d be a 30-06. No particular reason other than I have a great hand load ready to go that seems to work with nearly all the ’06 rifles I’ve owned. Just adjust the OAL for accuracy. Winchester Power points or Rem Corelokts also seem to give good accuracy on the cheap, too. I’m not a “30 cal or go home” guy. Second pick would be a 243.I really like 243. Another cart that seems to get good accuracy with shelf ammo. Lots of good choices of deer appropriate bullets, too.

  48. avatar Tex300BLK says:

    Killed my first deer with a 308, its still my “go to” although I take the AR just about as much as anything else these days.

  49. avatar Wood says:

    .38-55! But only in a proper chamber and bore. NOT a .375 win.

  50. avatar Mark Horning says:

    30-06 Because Elk are a thing.

    180 grain for Elk, 165 or 150 for Mule deer, and 125 for vermin like coyotes. It’s a bit too much for antelope, but all in all about the most versatile cartridge around.

    If I just wanted to hunt deer I’d got with one of the 6.5mm offerings, probably the Creedmore or 6.5×55 since the .260 rem isn’t really set up for heavier bullets.

    If Elk were not on the table I’d probably say grab a 25-06 for everything.

  51. avatar RCC says:

    Drew
    Sorry missed your question re kangaroo hunting
    Professional shooting you can only do head shots. Relatively small target
    22-250, .223 and some of the hot .17s all popular
    Some areas very flat and long range shots the norm. Where I used to go 150 to 200 metres was usual. Longest I ever measured was 430 metres

    1. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

      ‘Professional shooting you can only do head shots.’

      Do the people that mandate such things know how large an animal’s sinus cavity is in relation to it’s brain? You can easily blow an animals face off and have it hop away to die a slow death of starvation. Or are kangaroos different?

  52. avatar RCC says:

    Gov

    The meat works won’t take the roo carcass unless it is a head shot. But all hits count against your quota.
    You buy the tags and even if you leave animal at the dump it still has to be tagged.

    It was considered a waste if you needed two shots for one animal.

    You could loose your license if you let wounded animals escape. The result was very carefull shooting in most cases

    That said there are always idiots and I still meet people who think you can shot Roos any place and time without a permit

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