# Question of the Day: How Do You Choose Your Hunting Round?

A lot of thought should be given to the proper cartridge/bullet for the wild game you’re after. Harvesting deer, elk, bear, etc. should be quick, clean and humane. As in all things many of the Armed Intelligentsia have strong opinions on the subject. Let’s give some thoughts to what you’re shooting and why . . .

As some states only allow certain bore diameters for game such as deer, sheep, elk, moose, or bear, and some states only allow shotgun for deer, I’ll stick to varmints and medium to large game, and narrow that to metallic cartridges. Having only hunted birds with a shotgun, I have very limited knowledge on shotgun slug shooting, or which works for bucks.

First, let’s re-visit the older Taylor Knock Out Factor, or TKO, as it pertains to hunting game. It was an early attempt at determining if a cartridge/bullet combination was enough for hunting. Here is his equation:

$\mathrm{TKOF}=\frac{m_{\mathrm{bullet}}\cdot v_{\mathrm{bullet}}\cdot d_{\mathrm{bullet}}}{7000}$                                                                                                                                                                      (Equation 1)

Where the mass of the bullet is in grains, times the velocity in feet per second, times the diameter of the bullet in point inches. Mr. Taylor’s equation may have been OK back in the day, but back then, we didn’t have bonded core bullets, X-frames, solid copper rounds, copper and lead-tipped with a co-polymer….

John “Pondoro” Taylor had quite the opinion, and it lasted for years. It was also taken as gospel by a good many big game hunters. Mr. Taylor was quite the hunter and also, reportedly, a poacher. He had a fondness for the .450/500 Nitro Express and the .375 H&H and was said to have killed over a thousand elephants. In short, his opinion was that you shoot the biggest, fastest bullet you can.

The great thing about the free market system is that the ammunition industry tends to listen to those of us who shoot and hunt. They are constantly modifying jackets, bullet shapes, bonding the jacket to the core, extending the jacket inside the core, mixing lead with hardening agents. Anything to improve the ballistics and stopping power of their rounds.

The number of manufacturers is mind-numbing. Federal, Nosler,  Hornady,  Speer, HSM, Berger, Winchester, Herters, Barnes. Just to name a few. Then there are the bullet types, Scirocco, Partition Gold, Silvertip Trophy,  Bonded Tip, FTX, DGX, InterLock, Accubond, Partition, Grand Slam, Core-Lokt, Core-Lokt Ultra Bonded, InterBond, GameKing BTSP,  A-Frame. And that just scratches the surface.

But back to our subject. When going after small game (under about 50 pounds), almost anything works. Almost.

What’s needed here is a fast, rapidly expanding pill of pillage. If you’re hunting camp meat, try not to blast the bunny with your .454 Casull. Stick with maybe a .22 mag. For varmints, — coyote, fox, etc. — I like the .22-250 for its speed and rapid expansion. The most common semi-automatic rifle in use is the 5.56 or .223 in the AR platform. It’s an excellent choice for predator predation. The Hornady 40 grain TAP round is a pretty decent choice here. The V-Max also works very well.

Then there’s the medium game such as mule deer, white tail deer, antelope, (speed goat). These tend to be animals greater than about 50 pounds and up to 250-300 pounds. They’re usually thin-skinned and have a lighter bone structure. For these, we want a relatively rapidly expanding bullet to give a decent temporary and permanent wound cavity. It also needs to be able to break bone and stay together for those shoulder shots. We’re talking calibers are usually in the .25 to .30 range. The venerable .30-30 has probably harvested more deer than any other. A personal favorite is the 7mm magnum. It’s flat shooting, has a varied bullet weight and type, and doesn’t hammer my shoulder. I do like the Swift Scirocco, too. It holds together quite well and expands decently. It also has a good G-1 ballistic coefficient, meaning it’s very accurate.

As Nick showed us recently, the Lehigh Defense 110 grain pill in the 300 Blackout works quite well without over penetrating. I’ve also taken deer with .243, .256 mag, .270, and .308, and 7 mag. They all work, especially with good shot placement.

Large game, such as caribou, elk, moose and bear will need a different bullet and probably a larger diameter as well. Their hides tend to be thicker and bones bigger. I’ve seen elk drop like a sack of concrete and others run off because some loud sound just spooked them, even though they were ‘running dead’.  These are animals that can go from a few hundred pounds to a half a ton or better.

On a trip to Africa, a friend hit a a 2,200 pound Eland with seven shots from a .338 ultra mag before it went down. All were good chest hits. Apparently not good enough, according to the Eland. Here’s one of the rib cages…(mmmm, rib-eye steaks!)

It expanded to .710 at it’s widest point, and as the scale shows, and likely retained all of it’s weight.

For these larger animals, we should be looking at Barnes X, Nosler Partition, Swift A-Frame, or Federal Trophy Bonded. (Just a few suggestions that come to mind.) Maybe solid constructed bullets? Rounds that hold together quite well after busting through heavy bone while still having the velocity to traverse 24-36 inches of a well-muscled critter is the key. I’m not suggesting a quartering away shot is acceptable, but it can happen. Quartering away shots need either more velocity or a stronger bullet to be effective. This is where bonded cores, solids, or plain dumb luck come into play. Personally, I like some type of bonded core, or an A-frame type design. Berger, Swift, Federal, to name a few, all make good pills.

A few years ago, a buddy of mine and I were after bear. He had a .300 Win Mag, and I had a .264. We had a nice bruin about 150 yards out, feeding on berries. We had the time to get prone and do the count of three thing.

By the time the shooting was over, we had eleven pieces of brass on the ground…and no bear. Due to work schedules, a return trip wasn’t made till the next weekend. We never did find ursis americanus. We both had good, clean, ethical first shots. That bad boy just soaked up the lead and copper. I have no doubt that the bear took a few fatal hits and I’m still sick to this day over losing him.

That was also a pivotal time in my hunting life and I decided to take Robert Ruark’s advice. Use enough gun! On muley, blacktail, whitetail, and antelope, it’s going to be at least a .308. And I prefer the high neck shot. They drop rather quickly. On elk and bear, I like the .375 H&H. This year, I’m using some Berger solids to see how they perform.

Using enough gun brings about some issues, though. Namely recoil. If caliber choice causes you to flinch, you may not shoot as accurately as you normally do. A 7mm Mag delivers about 20 ft./lbs. to your shoulder. The .308, about 18. The .338 hits you with about 35 ft/lbs. Something to keep in mind.

Mr. Pierre van der Walt has written what I consider a go-to book on bullets and cartridges for hunting. While it starts out with bullets in the 9.3 diameter range, his guidelines are applicable for the smaller cartridges, too. As he goes through each caliber, he notes bullet types that are common for it and their velocities for the most common rifle. And he has a color-coded chart that shows at what range the bullet type is optimal given its factory speed for an average rifle and the bullet performance at the bracketed speed. His book is the best I’ve read on ballistics and hunting.

While I’m not trying to ignite a caliber flame war, it is hunting season across this great country. So let us know…what caliber/bullet works for you?

1. James R says:

30-06
Readily available in lots of options at a reasonable price.
Powerful enough for anything on this continent.

1. Bob says:

I heard about a guy who shot a deer with a 30-06 (or maybe it was a 30-30). The bullet went into the deer’s backside and forward through all the organs and into the chest cavity. When he cut the deer open to gut it, everything just fell out. The bullet had basically gutted the deer from the inside. This was a lucky shot, because it only hit soft tissue, but impressive nonetheless. However, I won’t deny that this could be one of those hunter’s (fish) stories too.
I never saw, or heard of, a deer or elk running away after a chest shot from a 30-06. It usually dropped them where they were standing or in just a few feet after that.

2. Foop says:

.243 100 grain out of an old Ruger bolt action for going after white tail in North Alabama. .243 is the perfect tool for the job given the size of the deer here.

1. tdiinva says:

Same here in Virginia. Good ballistics and low recoil. I also prefer 243 for varmint like Coyote. The 3950fps 58g Hornady round is ideal. Out west I would use my trusty 30-06/180 grain round on anything given the ranges I will shoot them at.

2. Sean in Montana says:

My choice as well! By and large I shoot my .243 for antelope and some whitetail (and occasionally muleys), and the .300 Win Mag for most muleys and elk.

The thing I like best about this combo is that the ballistics of a 95 gr. .243 and a 165 gr. .300 Win Mag are identical when it comes to drop (not energy, of course). I sight both rifles in the exact same (2.5″ high at 100 yds) and then I don’t have to think about my bullet drop for either gun. Inside 300 yards, the drop is the same. Basically, I can center the cross hairs on the shoulder of a critter out to 300 yards and send hot lead down field without a second thought. One less thing to think about, as I often will bring both guns and switch one for the other as the places/species I’m hunting change throughout the day.

While it’s not ideal, I’ve killed elk with my .243 and whitetails with my .300 Win Mag. Sometimes a shot presents itself and you’ve just gotta take it. However, I wouldn’t recommend that, unless you’ve only got one gun. And if you do only have one gun, I’d recommend a .270 if you hunt where I do. So just like the venerable 30-06, the .243, .270 and .300 Win Mag with take care of pretty much anything you’re going to shoot in the lower 48 states.

I really enjoy all kinds of hunting, and one of my favorite things to do is to get a “b” tag and chase whitetail does around on the Musselshell River bottoms with an iron-sighted Winchester 30/30 carbine. That is about the most fun a guy can have hunting deer. It’s like sneaking around through the cottonwoods and willow gunch and shooting really big squirrels. So much fun!

I’m still of the mind that shot placement is the most important consideration, so shoot the gun that’s the biggest one you can shoot well without flinching. Bear in mind also that when I touch off the .300 Win Mag at an animal, I never feel the shot go off. Ever. Adrenaline is cool that way.

3. jwm says:

In Ca I use the .243 with the 80 grain copper tsx bullets. Our deer are small and the pigs aren’t all that big either. While it’s not the best load for coyotes, it works.

I opted gor a rifle that shot a big enough bullet for our game and was not punishing to carry or shoot.

In shotguns I have a variety of 12 and 20 ga. depending on what we are after. If we’re just after cottontails I have a single shot H&R 20 ga, my bunny buster, that’s easy to carry. We cover a lot of ground on our hunts and I’m not as young as I once was.

1. jwm says:

TD, it looks like a good round. But I live in CA and hunt condor country. Can’t use lead.

3. Tex300BLK says:

A .308 shooting a 165gr ballistic tip has filled my freezer for the past decade. I see no reason to change. Although recent developments in bullet design have led to what I believe is the resurgence of the .223/5.56 as a very nice medium game round (read Texas Whitetails and pigs). I have some 64 grain bonded Noslers that look more than up to the task of knocking down deer at 100-150 yards. If I can get my hand on some, I will load up some 62grain tipped TSX’s. Then there is always the tried and true Winchest 64grain power point. I find myself carrying my AR a lot more when walking around as it is about a foot shorter than my bolt action and weighs about half as much. 2point sling across the chest allows me to happily walk along for hours with my bino’s out for sighting and it is always right there if I spook something up. I haven’t shot a deer with it yet this season but I have no questions it will put one down if the opportunity arises.

4. LJM says:

^This^ What James R said. A lot of truth in the statement that if you can’t take it with a .30-06 you probably shouldn’t shoot. Now very large game or dangerous game (Moose or Brown Bear), I would enter in the .338 or .375 realm.

But for most North American medium/big game, .308 or .30-06 will do.

5. RockOnHellChild says:

.30-06 and Remmy Core-Lokt (150gr or 180gr)

Readily available, cheap, and it works.

But, I’m seriously thinking about dropping the Core-Lokt due to Remmington’s QC as of late.

1. I’d drop Remington from your line up. They just aren’t the company they used to be. Besides recalls, crappy guns, and the R51, I’ve got newly manufactured ammo from them that was seriously oxidized. Sure, dirty ammo can shoot fine, but I wouldn’t trust the success of a hunt to dirty Remington ammo.

My $.02. 1. RockOnHellChild says: Yeah, I’m probably gonna end up moving to Federal or Hornady. But, I’m going to finish the last few boxes of Core-Lokt. 1) because I don’t want to change loads during deer season 2) because I’m cheap and don’t want to waste the ammo. 2. RLC2 says: I’ve been wondering about that- the CoreLokt I have used in my .270 is not working out in comparison to the Federal and Winchester of comparable price (can you say Wally World) and I was not sure if it was me or the gun or the bullets. 1. RockOnHellChild says: If the gun is proven, and you’re honest with yourself about pulling shots, then it’s probably the ammo. Good fundamentals on a good rifle should yield a good result, unless the ammo is sh*t. 2. Chris. says: .30-06 shooter also. MN whitetails, in my stand as I type actually. Reason I use it is simple. It’s what my father uses. (And his father used). And it’s effective & works. I have only once had a deer run, and that was due to my fault mis judging the range. (My first time hunting after a 15 year hiatus from it) I usually shoot the Federal “premium” 150grain. About the same as the Remington core-lokt 6. GWHNick says: I love the 280AI. It is on par with the 7 mag for performace with better brass life and less powder. I push a 150gr Barnes TTSX at an avg. of 3112 fps using 60 grains of R19 seated .030″ off the lands In a Kimber Classic Select Grade. I cannot wait to get a Silencerco Harvester on that rifle too. 7. The Senator says: .303 British for feral hogs, .38 special or .22mag in a bang stick for gators. 1. Cameron B says: 303 is my favorite caliber, If i ever go for elk i’ll probably switch up to a 30-06 just for the extra oomph and range. I’ve decided that if you aren’t going to overgun your animal you need to make a sure shot. the (previous) record colorado elk was killed with a 30-40 krag. 8. cmeat says: ooh, caliber porn. .44mag and .308 have me covered. .22- 250, .35rem and .45- 70 are most intriguing. after shooting one .375 h& h i had to ponder a bit when offered a second opportunity. 9. uncommon_sense says: For very large/tough/dangerous game: Use the largest caliber that you can shoot and use heavy hardcast lead bullets with large, flat meplats. These bullets make huge holes and have the greatest ability to penetrate mammals and crush bone. Depending on the exact bullet weight, caliber, and impact velocity, they will typically penetrate at least 36 inches and make a hole on the order of 1 inch or larger. In my opinion bears and wild hogs fall in this category. The tried and true .45-70 government cartridge is quite capable for shorter ranges. For longer ranges, you need the likes of .375 H&H Magnum and larger. For medium game such as white-tailed deer: I like anything from the .243 Winchester (shooting 100 grain bullets) and up for shots up to 150 yards. If you are considering shots out to 400 yards, I believe .270 Winchester, 308 Winchester, and .30-06 Springfield are the minimum. Beyond 400 yards, .300 Winchester Mangum shooting 180 grain bullets is the way to go. 10. Troutbum5 says: .243 with a 95gr Nosler Ballistic Tip over 42 grains of IMR 4350 for deer and antelope. .30-06 with a 165gr Partition over 45 grains of 4350 for elk. Working on a .338 load with a 210gr Barnes TTSX over…wait for it…4350. Haven’t worked out a good load with 4831 yet, but I’ve got all winter. 1. Tom in Oregon says: 4350 is magic powder! I buy it whenever I see it. 1. Troutbum5 says: I managed to find 8 lbs a few months ago. Now if I could just find some Unique, Bullseye, Blue Dot and H110. 11. Joel Bice says: .270 Win for most all medium game. If you guessed I read a lot of Jack O’Connor as a kid you would be right. I don’t have a use for the magnum 7mm options as they have more recoil and the performance is roughly equal within my comfortable shooting range >300 yards. 1. TheBear says: +1 on .270. It’s a fast, flat shooting round and I find it relatively easy to reload too. 2. Mark N. says: An old boss of mine has been hunting elk for over 30 years with a .270 and a very expensive scope. Only once did he fail to get his elk, and he blamed that on the yahoos he went with. One year he came back all scraped and bruised. He’d slipped and fallen on a scree while maneuvering for his shot, slid 20 feet while protecting his scope, and got his elk at about 300 yards off hand when he could stand up. 3. RLC2 says: KISS on the .270 for me too. =<300 yds for hunting with off the shelf premium ammo works for me. Read a lot of those Jack O’Connor articles on inheriting this rifle from an uncle, whom I honor by learning to use it well. More time in the field scouting and at the range, will improve my hunting odds, before I need to hand load, for longer range, tighter groups, but looking forward to it when the time and money equation is better. 12. Lance says: I’ve used a host of calibers, and for dropping an animal on the spot, a lot of it comes down to luck. I grew up in Florida hunting wild boar. First one I shot was a 250lb sow with a .243. Round entered one shoulder, exited the other, and she dropped on the spot. Several years ago I was hunting in the same are, and I was carrying a 300WM because we had been doing some longer range shooting leading up to it. At 100 yards I shot a 200lb sow through the heart and both lungs. It ran a mile, and was finally brought down by a shot to the base of the skull from a 30-06. When we cleaned it, there was little heart left to speak of, and both lungs had gaping wounds. The exit hole in one rib cage was large enough to put my fist through. Some animals just don’t know when they are beat. 1. Russ Bixby says: Which is why I hunt with bayonet in place. I didn’t need to re-sight my li’l WWII veteran, and it can come in handy given the low rate of fire. Case in point: Once when I let one off in Bambi’s general direction I inadvertently flushed a boar; it’s nice when one’s rifle can double as a boar spear. Hell, after that I was tempted to add a chain and a couple dead-man stops just in case. I still get goosebumps when I think about it. Turnabout might be fair play, but I do not like being prey. 1. Bob says: Reminded me of something Ann Coulter said a few years ago: “Freedom of speech isn’t working out so well for liberals now that they aren’t the only ones with a microphone. It’s not so much fun when the rabbit’s got the gun.” LOL 13. Swarf says: What, no 7.62x54r? 1. Calvin says: 7.62x54R or borscht! 14. Russ Bixby says: Since I use the “Russian 30-06,” I use Hornady plastic-tipped 7.62x54R. It’s an easy choice, as its very powerful, has better ballistic properties than any other type of expanding round, is utterly predictable and is deadly to anything I’m likely to face. Further, it’s ballistic properties are virtually identical to Russian ball ammunition, so it’ll behave pretty much the same as my [inexpensive] practice stuff; thus, I’ve no need to adjust my gun or my habits going from one to the other. A Mosin makes one Hell of a hunting rifle. 1. Terry says: What’s your setup with the Mosin, Russ? Iron sights or optics? I haven’t read any good things about putting glass on one, but have been curious about taking mine out with irons for hogs or medium sized game locally (central Texas). 1. Russ Bixby says: Iron sights. It’s my one mod to the beast – adding an extension to the pin on the front sight to zero it at 100 metres rather than 300. One of these days I might move Heaven and Earth in order to mount a scope, but so far mine eyen are still up to iron. Be careful around boar, though; they’re one of the few critters for which I’d recommend a semi-auto and a decent magazine – think SKS, AK or AR. Those things just don’t know when they’re dead. Myself, I keep a bayonet on her – just in case. 2. Russ Bixby says: EDIT: If I’m looking for a quick dinner while in the bush (put your dirty minds away) I use a fifty-some year old Crossman® .22 calibre single shot pellet pistol that clocks just shy of 650 FPS; it’s silent, reasonably effective and disgusticatingly inexpensive to feed. I enjoy wascally wabbit stew, wegulawly. 3. Phil COV says: Good to know. Thanks! 15. Marcus (Aurelius) Payne says: Maybe some experienced hunters can set me straight on this. My understanding of .308 is that it’s basically a sibling of .30-06, but used newer powders to produce similar velocities in a shorter case. It’s a bit lower power but not by much. Is that difference enough to make it less suitable for north American game than the ought six, or can they be thought of as somewhat interchangeable for hunting purposes? 1. Tex300BLK says: Nope generally speaking the 30-06 has a few hundred fps over the 308 in the less than 168gr bullet weights, 175 and up the difference is even greater 2. jwm says: IMHO the only real advantage the 06 has over the .308 is when you start using bullets heavier than 165 grains. The case on the 06 has more room for the longer bullet and still has room for powder. The .308 has to start using less powder, meaning less velocity, with the heavier bullets. IMHO either round with a 165 grain bullet is good for any game in America with the exception of the big bears. 1. James R says: Also I hear 30-06 can be made with some seriously hot hand loads if your rifle is up to it. I will need to try that someday since I deliver my 30-06 pills from a Weatherby Mark V which I’m quite sure is up to the challenge 1. PerplexedPistolero says: I could see some seriously good hot loads with 175 gr to 210 gr bullets for that Weatherby of yours. Have you worked up any yet? I’m working on 175 gr and 200 gr Barnes LRX loads, but finding starting data is a little bit of a pain. 2. Tex300BLK says: You would better off buying a 300win mag or get a competent smith to ream yours out to a 30-06AI if you want more speed. Hand loading is not for everyone and playing at near or even beyond posted max charges is a dangerous game even if you know what you are doing. You decrease your brass life, work the bolt face and locking lugs harder etc. if you regularly push till you are seeing pressure signs you have already well exceeding max pressures. Proceed with caution. If you are determined to push your 30-06 try Alliant RE 17, it has unique properties that might lend themselves well to heavy bullets from smaller cases, it should give you 100 maybe fps over a similar powder like 4350 but pressure is more stable. People are shooting 208 amax’s at 26-2700 fps out of 24″ barrel 308’s no idea if it will do similar in an 06 though as it really shines with heavy bullets that signicantly decrease case capacity which isn’t as big of an issue with the 06. 3. The .30-06 Springfield is a 7.62 x 63mm. The .308 Winchester is a 7.62 x 51mm / 7.62 NATO. The greatest difference is cartridge overall length. While the .30-06 enjoys a nominal power and capacity advantage (about 80-120 FPS faster with standard weight bullets), the .308 is more efficient and accurate. Some of the disparity comes from the fact that 180 grain and heavier bullets are a bit more difficult to find in .308 than .30-06 regarding some premium hunting rounds more suitable for large game. There isn’t much effective difference between the two calibers. Unless you’re really into a tad more power, the .308 will do everything a .30-06 will do in a short action reciever (bolt) or AR-10 (semi auto). Both calibers are readily available, but the .308 tends to be less expensive. Wikipedia describes the calibers with decent relevance. Hope that helps. 4. RockOnHellChild says: Everyone stated the basic differences above, so I won’t reiterate them. But, in my opinion from years of hunting, here are the only real practical differences which will translate into which one to buy based on your needs. The .308 has a shorter throw and it’s a slightly lighter cartiage, giving you a lighter, more portable package. The .30-06 comes in more bullet weights giving you more vestility across game size. Other than that, you nor your game will be able to tell much difference. I use .30-06 because if a gun company decided make one only rifle or an ammo company decided to make one only bullet, it’s gonna be in .30-06 Springfield. 5. ropingdown says: The .30-06 case has 20% greater capacity, allowing it to produce greater velocities and handle heavier bullets. The attraction of the .308 is that it can be built on a lighter shorter action. 6. MarcusAurelius says: Thanks for the info everyone. 16. RDSmith says: When I get some spare moolah, I’d like to pick up a CZ in 6.5×55 Swede. 17. Southern Cross says: The largest game I hunt are feral pigs and goats if they are available. So my criteria in a hunting round are good all-round performance with availability. I have had great success with 6.5×55, .303″, and 8mm Mauser. The latter isn’t as available but I have reloads made from Turkish milsurp ammo with the 154g FMJ replaced with a 170g round-nosed soft-point with the charge reduced to 44.5g. This chronographs at 2720 fps. The one cartridge I will not use is .243. I will admit the failings I have seen are more to do with the ammunition selection by the user (varmint loads selected for accuracy). The varmint projectiles made shallow cratering wounds requiring 6+ shots to stop the pigs and a .22 to the head to put them down. The 6.5×55 made a single entry wound and no exit for a one-shot-kill. The 8×57 just knocked them over and killed the pigs instantly. 1. Ryan says: Varmint rounds aren’t meant to be used on hogs, they are meant to be used on small, thin-skinned varmint where rapid, explosive expansion is desired. Failing to kill a hog with a varmint round has less to do with caliber choice and more to do with poor ammunition choice. 1. Southern Cross says: I know and I put it down to the shooter choosing the wrong bullet for the wrong reasons. That said, IMHO the .243 is too heavy for varminting but too light for anything else. I much prefer the 6.5s as the bullets are a size and weight that makes for accurate shooting with little recoil, and combined with great effect on the animal. The 8×57 just knocks things over and makes sure they don’t get back up. 18. I like entrance and exit wounds in the game I’m shooting. With that being said, every deer season I ponder my expanding collection of guns and wonder which one I should take hunting. Then I grab a scotch, call my buddy, and get his opinion. I’ll call dad a few weeks later. Maybe we’ll talk over beers. Then I’ll scour the ‘net for loads, ballistics, and penetration tests. This year it’ll be a 300 BLK with 110 grain Barnes TSX from a 16″ AR, a 20″ .308 LTR (Timney trigger due to Rem recall) with Hornady SuperPerformance 165 GMX, and a 460 XVR 8 3/8″ with CorBon 200 grain or Hornady 200 grain SST. Well, probably. I might need to mull it over some more. 19. Winston Smith says: .375 H&H. One planet; one rifle. 20. RT says: .308, with 175gr SMKs for whitetail, and hogs. 21. Gene Forsythe says: My (now deceased) father grew up in the depression, served in WWII and Korea, and felt that anything in America could be cleanly and safely killed with an arsenal of 3 weapons: a .22 LR, a 12 gauge shotgun, and a .270 winchester (his was a 1949 Win featherweight with a leather stock boot). He shot 150 gr silvertips out of the rifle his entire life, generally at the rate of 3 rounds per year, and only cleaned the rifle once every 20 round box of ammo. His singular shot on deer and elk was the top of the neck/base of the ear head shot, and I saw him pass up numerous animals over the years because he didn’t have a clear shot that would drop the animal immediately. He hated tracking more than anything except duck blinds (I think he really hated the ducks, not the blinds). He shot everything in the U.S. and Canada with that rifle and those same 150 gr. silvertips except for brown/grizzly and polar bear, always at a rate of 1 shot per animal. Our last hunt he had a nice South Texas buck that he really wanted, but couldn’t hold on the head, so he gave in and took the classic shoulder shot. I found it in less than 10 minutes and had it back to the blind in 15, but he decided it was time to quit, and never fired another round at anything in his last three years of life. That gun is in my safe along with a partial box of ammo. Me, I shoot a Sako 7mm Rem Mag with 168 Noslers. Its my personal “everywhere, everything” load for the U.S. 22. John M. says: Tom, congrats on getting your own blog account. I like reading your stuff. 23. Tiks895 says: 8mm Mauser from my K98 with good old iron sights in the woods of Pennsylvania! But you gotta use the high power European ammo. I use Sellier & Bellot 8x57JS 196gr SPCE 24. Ralph says: Alas, for safety’s sake, there’s no true rifle season for deer in MA. MA deer hunters are limited to shotguns, muzzle-loaders and bows. Crossbows for handicapped hunters are permitted with a permit. Why safety? The excuse is that MA hunting areas are compact and rifle shots travel too far compared to buckshot, slugs, muzzle-loader ammo and arrows. Sounds like BS to me. Neighboring Rhode Island also has compact game management areas and rifles are permitted. 1. David Schlesky says: Shotgun-only laws are based on pseudoscience, not fact. A traditional old slug shot at a 15 degree angle (not uncommon) will travel out to, and be lethal, for one mile. A rifle allows the shot to be placed with better accuracy, making them safer than shotguns. 2. Mark N. says: There are a number of states that have similar restrictions, including Ohio and, I believe Illinois. And I agree with your assessment. Two years ago, an Ohio hunter didn’t get anything, so he went home and unloaded his muzzleloader by firing it into the air. The .50 caliber slug came down a mile and a half later, killing an Amish girl who was riding in a buggy. I had an argument with someone on the internet once who claimed that a muzzleloader is no good beyond 100 yards. But then, the 1861 Springfield rifled musket was considered effective to 300 yards when using .58 caliber Minie balls, and accurate to 500 yards in the hands of a trained rifleman, all with good old black. 1. ropingdown says: For 2014 Ohio has allowed straight-walled cartridge mostly-pistol-caliber rifles during the “gun week” of deer season: “Legal deer hunting rifles are chambered for the following calibers: .357 Magnum, .357 Maximum, .38 Special, .375 Super Magnum, .375 Winchester, .38-55, .41 Long Colt, .41 Magnum, .44 Special, .44 Magnum, .444 Marlin, .45 ACP, .45 Colt, .45 Long Colt, .45 Winchester Magnum, .45 Smith & Wesson, .454 Casull, .460 Smith & Wesson, .45-70, .45-90, .45-110, .475 Linebaugh, .50-70, .50-90, .50-100, .50-110 and .500 Smith & Wesson.” Various studies in Ohio and elsewhere are revealing that going “shotgun-only” does not actually reduce hunting accidents, or the danger to non-hunters. 25. Dyspeptic Gunsmith says: If one were seeking a “one rifle to hunt absolutely anything on the North American continent,” I’d say that starting with the idea of a .35 Whelen or 9.3×62 would be a good place to start. They’re both the same idea, just on two different cartridges. The 9.3×62 was developed in Berlin in 1905 by Otto Bock, a German gunsmith. It was nothing more complicated than a 8×57 cartridge opened up to take a 9.3mm bullet, typically of 286 grains in weight. People like John Taylor, Ruark, etc said that there wasn’t much discussion of the 9.3 in Africa among big game hunters. Everyone agreed it pretty much did what it claimed to do, in pretty reasonably priced rifles (converted M98’s). The .35 Whelen is simply the same idea on the .30-06 cartridge (and first built on 1903 rifles). Take the .30-06 cartridge, neck it up to take 0.358″ bullets and go on from there. Both of these cartridges will give you 3400+ FPE at the muzzle, a substantial increase over what you’d get with the 8×57 or .30-06, they both fit into standard-length actions, with attending magazine capacities of standard cartridges. For those who don’t want to hunt heavier/bigger game and want to stick to deer/pronghorn/elk/goat/sheep in North America, something throwing a 7mm bullet of 140 to 180 grains would be ideal. .280, or .280AI, 7×57, 7mm “magnums,” etc. For recoil-sensitive hunters who are willing to get closer, the 7-08 is a wonderful little round. 1. David Schlesky says: Handloads will push the 9.3×62 past 4,000 ft.-lbs. 1. Dyspeptic Gunsmith says: Oh, yes, absolutely. The CIP pressures on the 9.3×62 are very conservative – down at about 46 to 48K PSI. 26. T. McNamara says: So many great choices out there that it’s hard to choose a single cartridge. Terrain and distance are a factor as is the size of the game. Are you shooting antelope or Grizzly bear ? I tend to favor the .45 / 70 for close range work and the .270 for distance. A 405 grain lead flat nosed bullet at 1500 fps will solve most of the heavy work and a nice 130 grain .270 at 3000 fps will reach out with some authority. Somewhere in the middle resides one of the great old cartridges, the .30 06 and with bullet weights up to 220 grains and a nice big case for lots of powder, I figure the old ’06 will be trucking along well into the next century or until we get Martian ray guns. 27. PerplexedPistolero says: .30-06 with 165 gr Federal Trophy Copper or 168 gr Barnes Vor-Tx for blacktail. 28. Bobby says: .35 rem for thick brush in East TN. Can’t be beat. 29. Tiostiont says: ᴜᴘ ᴛᴏ I sᴀᴡ ᴛʜᴇ ᴅʀᴀғᴛ sᴀʏɪɴɢ$5385 , I ᴅɪᴅ ɴᴏᴛ ʙᴇʟɪᴇᴠᴇ ᴛʜᴀᴛ…ᴍʏ… ᴍᴏᴍ ɪɴ-ʟᴀᴡ ᴀᴄᴛᴜᴀʟɪᴇ ᴇᴀʀɴɪɴɢ ᴍᴏɴᴇʏ ᴘᴀʀᴛ ᴛɪᴍᴇ ᴏɴ ᴛʜᴇɪʀ ᴀᴘᴘʟᴇ ʟᴀʙᴛᴏᴘ. . ᴛʜᴇʀᴇ ʙʀᴏᴛʜᴇʀs ғʀɪᴇɴᴅ ʜᴀs ʙᴇᴇɴ ᴅᴏɪɴɢ ᴛʜɪs ғᴏʀ ᴏɴʟʏ ᴛᴡᴇɴᴛʏ ᴏɴᴇ ᴍᴏɴᴛʜs ᴀɴᴅ ᴊᴜsᴛ ᴘᴀɪᴅ ғᴏʀ ᴛʜᴇ ᴍᴏʀᴛɢᴀɢᴇ ᴏɴ ᴛʜᴇɪʀ ᴀᴘᴀʀᴛᴍᴇɴᴛ ᴀɴᴅ ᴘᴜʀᴄʜᴀsᴇᴅ ᴀ ʙʀᴀɴᴅ ɴᴇᴡ Sᴀᴀʙ 99 Tᴜʀʙᴏ . sᴇᴇ ᴛʜɪs…………………….http://2.gp/Fgra

1. Richard In WA says:

Cool. I wish I had a 99 Turbo.

PS: What is this, 1978?

30. DrewN says:

.22LR,12 ga., 6.5 x 55 (or 6.5 x 51) and 9.3 x 62 pretty much cover me for everything I hunt. Very occasionally I’ll bust out the .264 for plains game or in windy conditions.

1. David Schlesky says:

The 9.3×62 is a classic caliber that works well on anything up to and including African dangerous game. As far as utility is concerned .22, 12 bore, 6.5 and 9.3 are all the long guns one would ever need.

1. DrewN says:

I agree wholeheartedly. Frankly, these days I could even leave the 9.3 off that list, I can’t imagine the old girl is going to take much more game for me. It’s time to see if one of the kids/nieces/nephews might get a little more use out of it.

31. David Schlesky says:

Honestly, modern shotgun ammunition works as well as anything.

32. Evan in Dallas says:

I think learning to shoot well is the first part of the equation. I see too many “hunters” show up at the rifle range to sight their rifles in just before the beginning of deer season who can’t hold a 6″ group with a rifle that is perfectly capable of at least 2″ groups. Then I’m sure many blame the fact that they didn’t bring down their target on their rifle, and they usually proceed to pick up a more powerful rifle that will be even harder to shoot well. Certainly one should use enough gun, but that comes after you get the basics down. I would love to get a .375h&h, but it would do nothing to make me a better hunter for what I go after.

1. RockOnHellChild says:

My friend’s daughter took her first buck awhile back, a good size one too.

Exploded its heart and dropped it on the spot with a single .223 round.

Marksmanship is everything.

2. RLC2 says:

+1. Seems harder to find good rifle instruction these days-
Its Appleseed to shoot .22lr with a history lesson, or
Tacticool sniper school.

Nothing wrong with either one of those programs, but for suburban and urban hunters with no one in the family to mentor them, what to do?

33. Dave Lewis says:

.I’m just an old dinosaur so my round is the .30-06 with 150 grain ballistic tip bullets. I don’t have my reloading book in front of me to quote the powder charge but I shoot the same “military” load out of my Garand and Model 70 Winchester. Works on man and beast. If the game is a bit lighter – lets say Oklahoma white tails or coyotes I like the 100 grain .25-06 out of a Remington 700. If I’m doing a pistol cartridge I like a 300 grain jacketed soft point .44 magnum in my Super Redhawk or Henry Big Boy.

34. Joe says:

I dropped a large doe (139 lbs field dressed) this season with a doubletap 200 gr 357 magnum (rifle) at ~50 yards. The neck shot dropped her where she stood. I wouldn’t take long shots with it, but when your hunting in the woods you don’t really have that option.

I think many people (not all) are more recoil sensitive than they let on. I don’t know how many people I’ve assisted at hunter sight-in slap their trigger and pull shots due to recoil.

35. Kevin says:

The only hunting rifle I own is a .270 WIN. It has worked just fine for mule deer & elk.

36. WV Cycling says:

I hate the sonic boom from .270. Even with someone firing it 40 feet away, the round still makes me feel like I’m getting “hydrostatic shock” to my body cavity, eyes, etc. Great hunting round, but I hate it for silly reasons.

Where does 7.62x54R fit on this list? Right there with .30-30?

1. jwm says:

The 54r is a more potent round than the .30-30. It rates with the .308 and .30-06. Having hunted in WV My preferred battery was either 12 ga. or .30-30 for deer, some areas were shotgun only. For everything else I had a 20 ga. double and a .410 single.

1. WV Cycling says:

Oh, jwm?

What areas? I’m closer to Lewis County, and love the WMA’s by the lake.

1. jwm says:

Wayne Co., Cabell Co. Mingo Co. Eastern Ky and lots of Ohio. 4+ decades ago. Live in Ca now and hunt Knoxville, Los banos and various points around.

2. Richard In WA says:

You don’t like the concussion from .270 Win but you do from 7.62x54R?

Confused.

1. WV Cycling says:

Likely because I’ve never been on the “sidelines” when a 54R has gone off.

The range at Stonewall Resort this time of year is every Bubba-fudd with 20″ of butt crack exposed zeroing in their scopes (typically) without earplugs, or just using foamies. Can’t wait to find my own property.

I used to hunt pretty exclusively in 30-06, but then I picked up a little Tikka in 270 WSM, and I have found that gun and round can take anything I have put down the scope. White Tail, Large Feral hogs, have all gone down clean with perfect expansion. I have changed out to the Barnes all copper bullets.
With that combo I find a VERY flat trajectory which I prefer over the arc of a 30-06.

38. Fritchof says:

Took my fist deer when I was 12 with a Colt Ar-15 sp1, and continue to use .223 to this day.

Like above, marksmanship is everything.

http://youtu.be/6U4sExyF98Y

39. Steve says:

Here’s what I’ve got:

Black tailed deer – .223 in my heavy barrel AR-15

White tailed deer and Antelope – .243 in Browning BAR

Mule Deer and Elk – .270 in Browning BAR

Long range Elk and Bear – .300 Weatherby in a Mark V.

40. Jim says:

I’m old school. A .30-30 will handle anything found around here.

41. actionphysicalman says:

Never squeezed the trigger hunting before. Used to carry a Bowen Nimrod in .475 and an AR in 7.62×39. I am changing over to just a .300Blk AR since I’ll probably only shoot if it is a case of hunter assisted suicide on the part of some game creature. “Closer now, and a little more profile please. Good, now don’t move.”

42. Jake in AL says:

I use an AR chambered in 6.8 SPCII. 120 gr SSTs for deer, and 85 gr TSXs for piggies. Next year, when I start reloading, I’ll load some 95 gr TTSXs at around 2700 or 2800 fps for both.

43. JSF01 says:

I am actually quite surprised so many people are saying the .30-06 is the one round to have for hunting if you could only have on. I am not a hunter but I always thought that .30-06 was more of a legacy hunting round that is slowly going to fade away.

1. ropingdown says:

Not at all. A quick check of Midway or similar will reveal that .30-06 is still one of the top four rifle cartridges both in selection and sales. If you eliminate the non-hunting-related sales of .223/5.56 and .308, then .30-06 is probably #1 or #2 among centerfire calibers. Since the .30-06 has 20% greater case capacity than the .308, it is capable of firing a 220-grain bullet at reasonable velocity, making it the Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game’s recommended minimum load for Delta Bison and Brown Bear. Using (and rezeroing for) a common light load such as Federal’s 170-grain reduced recoil load, the .30-06 reliably functions with the recoil and ballistics of a typical .30-30 cartridge, making it a pleasant gun for eastern whitetail hunting in forested areas.

2. DetroitMan says:

Hardly. The .30-06 can be loaded with anything from 110 to 220 grains. You can even get it with a 55 grain .223 bullet in a sabot if you want a screaming varmint round. It is one of a handful of cartridges that will kill anything in North America, so long as you have the right load. By far it has more variety of factory loadings than any other cartridge. As long as you’re okay with the action length and weapon weight, a single .30-06 is the only hunting rifle you will ever need. Or you can build a small battery of different .30-06 rifles for different needs and only have one stockpile of ammunition. It’s a great system for anyone who doesn’t want (or can’t afford) to have a dozen rifles in different calibers.

44. lolinski says:

Little to no loyalty from me.

I use 7.62×39, 308, 6.5×55 and .22 LR. Though I would like a Mauser in 9.3x64mm Brenneke.

45. RLC2 says:

Another great artlcle Tom, bookmarked for later, and why I click on TTAG as the first place on gun info.
Re: shotgun- here’s one opinion and some info:

I hunt one place where about half the deer are in shotgun only areas, and other rifle hunters tend not to go there, which means more chances for me- and as an OFWG newb…I need all I can get, and KISS.

Heres something very useful I found while looking for slug info- by Chuck Hawkes.
http://www.chuckhawks.com/shotgun_slugs.htm
TL:DR “Not only are these shotguns with rifled barrels technically rifles, they shoot like rifles. In fact, they equal traditional big game rifle cartridges such as the .45-70 and .38-55.” IOW, big pigs, bear, in the brush.

Randy Smith’s opinion: “Poor mans express rifle”.
http://www.chuckhawks.com/more_slug_guns.htm

I got my 870 express on sale at the time for \$300, with an 18″ barrel, and the 7 round tube, for HD.
Mossberg pumps at the time were on sale with an 18″ barrel, and extra Wingmaster barrel.

Add a rifled barrel, with scope, and a wooden dowel to limit the mag to the regulatory 3 rounds,
and I am good out to about 125yds, 175 if you believe Hornady.

1. jwm says:

My son got one of those rifled barrels for his mossberg 500. We had never used a rifled barrel on a shotgun. The barrel had front and back irons on it. Swapped the smoothbore 28 inch tube out for the rifled barrel and used sabot copper slugs.

Damn thing shot a 3 round cloverleaf at 75 yards without ever touching the sights. If the recoil wasn’t so hard on my arthritis I’d gladly get one for my 500.

1. RLC2 says:

jwm, yep those copper slugs work good for pigs too, per the hunting club on Vandenburg AFB, IIRC.

Agree on the recoil – went thru four boxes of five in a box of slugs practicing at the range and just about couldn’t move my arm the next day…;)

PS; FYI to other newbs, you can shoot the cheaper foster slugs thru the rifled barrel,
fouls it a bit with lead, is all.

You can also shoot buckshot thru it in a pinch too – but the rifling spins the spread out 3X or more.
Swap back to the 18″ barrel, plug the dowel, and load ‘er up for HD, after cleaning, when home from hunt.

46. NDL541 says:

all great information everyone. just to throw it out there that you can have a mature bull elk dead to rights with 3 razor blades on a stick to the heart and take 1 step and 1 more breath, maybe we arent taking shot placement into account more than we should?

just my .02 cents

47. H.R. says:

In the Northeast, anything above .243 is pretty trustworthy on whitetails. One older gentleman I used to know used a .223 and always shot for the head. He had degenerative arthritis in both shoulders but refused to let that stop him from hunting. Didn’t matter much though – I never saw him with a deer that he hadn’t shot through the head or at the brain stem. He often aimed for the eye, and he rarely missed.

48. Ray Brown says:

What about .300 Weatherby Mag? I’ve been shooting a .270 WSM this year and it’s been great out to 250 yrds. so far..

49. shawn says:

Up in the north for whitetail I use either 30-06 or .35 Rem

50. Butch Steen says:

Great information here. Thanks for going into detail about these. Let us know how the Berger solids go!

51. Jason Carr says:

In Michigan my Savage 210 bolt action 12 gauge (fully rifled 24″ barrel) running Hornady 300 grain sst sabots for anything to 250 yards. Past that my Savage 110 HS Precision in 338 Lapua takes everything beyond 1000 yards with Hornady Match 250 grain hp bullets. Only two rifles I will ever need.