Ammunition

Choosing the Right Caliber for Deer

Female hunter scaling a mountain side carrying a rifle

If there is one way to get folks talking off the cuff, it is to broach the subject of deer rifles and calibers. Everyone has a favorite their dad, granddad, or aunt used to tame the Wild West and deplete the Elk herds in downtown Burbank. The problem is what works for one doesn’t work for the other, at least it doesn’t work as well.

Upset Federal 62-grain JSP .223 Rem bullet
Federal’s 62-grain JSP .223 is a very desirable loading with excellent characteristics.

We don’t talk about the stove as much at the shop, but we set the wire ablaze with opinion. The facts are difficult to discern by the beginner. Those with experience know the deal and often learn from a well-written opinion. The emotional imperatives must be divorced from the subject, so instead, let’s climb the logic ladder.

A rifle is an interesting and useful instrument. Handloaders and recreational shooters may have a different idea of what is best—compared to the average shooter who fires a box of ammunition a season to get sighted in before hunting. (Some of those guys get their deer every year—the rifle is just a tool.)

It’s not just the rifle; it is the weight of the rifle, the scope, and the type of game. I cannot cover it all. However, I can get you started. Meet me halfway, and do your study and research.

First, consider who will be using the rifle. If you are going to find a rifle for the other half there are low recoil deer killers aplenty. The 6.5x55mm Mauser enjoys an excellent reputation for accuracy, penetration, killing power on thin-skinned game, and low recoil. A rifle that may be a light kicker to a seasoned shooter will batter a slightly-built female or a youngster. The first shots may be the last they wish to take, and even if they grit their teeth and manage to fire the rifle, they will not shoot to the rifle’s potential.

Female hunter scaling a mountain side carrying a rifle
Consider the terrain and the likely range before investing in a rifle.

Another good choice is the .243 Winchester. This caliber is not only a decent deer rifle—given good shot placement—it is a great varmint caliber. The .223 is popular for many uses but still seems a bit light for deer, but at least there are good bullet choices that allow good penetration.

As one example of recoil and its different perceptions, a shooter could not get his wife to fire the AR-15 .223. She did not like the blast and noise. Recoil isn’t there to most, but then most of us have become used to the .223’s blast. Well, on the same outing, the shooter brought along a .30 carbine. The lady took the rifle and fired 100 rounds through the carbine. She would have fired more had the ammunition supply not gave out.

Yet, most of us would reckon the .223 and the .30 carbine are pretty much in the same light-recoil category. The .30 carbine—accuracy and power, wise—isn’t a deer caliber. But this is a good example of the differing perception of recoil. Too much recoil results in a missed target, flinching, and an overall negative experience. By the way, did this shooter work her way up to the .223? Yes, she did.

Over the shoulder of a hunter aiming at a wild boar
At close range, a short rifle and low magnification scope are ideal.

While the .30 carbine wasn’t an ideal deer caliber, after some acclimation to centerfire shooting, this lady was able to get up to speed with the .223. The Federal bonded 62-grain load would be an acceptable deer load in .223 if the shooter has the opportunity this season.

Men tend to choose a heavier caliber than they really need. If you are an experienced shooter, and feel limited by the .30-06 Springfield, then by all means consider a 7mm Magnum or .300 Magnum. But only if you have the experience to handle these cartridges.

Range is increased and so is short-range killing power. As for myself, if I need more than the .308 Winchester, the .30-06 Springfield is my rifle. With careful handloading and the Hornady 168-grain A Max, I feel that I can do just about anything that may be done with the .300 Magnum— with less overbore and recoil. But that is a very personal decision.

Bob Campbell shooting a rifle with a sling
The author practices getting into action and taking an offhand shot, making him ready for the longer shot.

A caliber I respect a great deal is the .270 Winchester. Often called the rifleman’s caliber, the .270 is accurate and flat shooting. I simply began with the .30-06 as a teen and never looked back. Had my first rifle been a .270, I would have been well served. There are other very good calibers such as the 7x57mm Mauser, a wonder cartridge that hits hard with modest recoil, and the 7mm-08.

For most shooters, most of the time, the .308 Winchester is a good choice. There are more highly developed loads for the .308 Winchester than any other caliber—save perhaps the .223 Remington—and each load offers good performance. As an example, my personal Remington 700 SPS Tactical loves the Fiocchi 155-grain SST and delivers excellent accuracy.

The next step is to look at the lay of the land. Will you be hunting in thick brush or heavily wooded areas? If the shot is likely to be 25 to 100 yards, the .30-30 Winchester may be what you need, or the hard-hitting .35 Remington.

Man shooting a rifle from a bench rest
Bench time is important to ensure your rifle is sighted in and you are familiar with the action.

I find a short fast handling .308 works better for me, but the lever-action rifle is practical, fast handling, and affordable. For those preferring a modern self-loader, the list is short. The Browning Automatic Rifle is available in several calibers. The Browning Stalker in .308 is my favorite. Fast handling, accurate, and reliable, I find it a fine choice for most uses.

These rifles, the BAR, and the lever-action rifles such as the Marlin, are light enough, fast into action, and hit hard. One of my personal favorites is a much used Remington 1903A3 .30-06 Springfield. The rifle handles fast enough, and the aperture sights are excellent for short-range deer and boar. It hits hard.

For longer shots, and stretching the average in open terrain, the popular combination rifle purchased with a bore-sighted scope isn’t a bad choice. Available in a number of popular calibers, the Savage Axis and Mossberg Patriot offer good performance for the price. I suppose the reader may have detected a preference for the .308 Winchester. Well, the .308 just works for me, and I have plenty of brass and a number of good loading combinations.

Bob Campbell shooting a lever-action rifle.
The lever-action rifle may not be ideal for all circumstances, but it puts a smile on your face!

The .308 requires only a short action while the .270 and the .30-06 demand a long action rifle. The .308 is about all of the recoil the occasional shooter will like and the .308 is accurate and powerful enough for deer and even elk to 200 yards. The old adage of 200 pounds of game at 200 yards may be stretched with the .308 and good shot placement.

Another consideration is the material the rifle will be built of. Steel actions sometimes have modern cast bolt handles. Decide just how much of this type of material you will be able to tolerate. It is better to bite the bullet now and purchase a Remington 700 over the Remington 770, as an example, if the utilitarian rifle will lose its shine. On the other hand, consider this, the Remington 738 isn’t expensive but is often a first class shooter with excellent accuracy.

The Savage Axis rifle also delivers good performance. Are you happy with a 2 MOA rifle at 100 yards with average hunting loads? The Remington 738 may actually turn out to be a 1 MOA rifle, but the glass you choose to mount and the shooter, mean much.

Bean field rifle
This is a bean field rifle. It is heavy and accurate.

As for synthetic stocks, the rifle is less subject to corrosion and warping of the stock. My two favorite rifles wear the exceptional Hogue Overmold stock, so you see where I stand. A big consideration is weight. A 6.5-pound rifle kicks more than an 8.0-pound rifle in the same caliber using the same load. If you are going to trek across a mountain, the lighter rifle is better, given good accuracy. Just be sure to practice recoil control.

Sometimes the walk is short and the range long. That is when we need a bean field rifle. The bean field rifle is designed for firing at longer range. It may have a 26-inch barrel, good optics, and weigh 10 pounds. It will be very accurate. As an example, my personal Remington 700 SPS Varmint rifle will group the Hornady .308 Winchester ELD load into less than an inch every time at 100 yards, and often enough, it will break .7 inch when I do my part.

As you can see there are many choices. The best rifle for you is the rifle you have, and the one you have mastered. Be aware of the choices and make a choice that suits your needs.

What is your favorite caliber for deer hunting? What is your favorite model deer rifle? Share your answers, and a hunting story or two, in the comment section.

[bob]

The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (50)

  1. This is a dangerous article and should not be published. The reason is that young people could read this and act upon many of the suggestions you stated. I am a personal example of how articles like this can harm people, basically damaging not only their personal finances, retirement savings, and even causing damage to relationships with spouses. It happened to me After killing my first 3 deer with a $20 British 303, I read that the 243 was a great caliber, so I bought one. A half dozen deer later I read that the 243 was inferior to the 308 so I bought one. Then I learned my mistake in that the 30-06 can give you about 150 fps more, which is like 35 yards more range. And, it gets much, much worse. You cannot keep doing this without needing to go to the Rockies and hunt, then there is the huge expense for tags and travel. And the problem with hunting in the rockies is meeting all those idiots from California and New York who finally teach you that only the Weatherby calibers are adequate for truly long ranges, buy a couple Weatherbys and try and explain that to the wife when the kids need shoes and food. Please do not write things like this, somebody will believe it. Be well.

    1. I agree. I’ve found that articles like this create urges. Like having to buy the perfect varmint rifle, and having two or three in different calibers or the perfect elk rifle, which has resulted in the need for several 30-06s , a couple of 300 winmags, and two .35 Whelens. Then, of course, there are the (necessary) companion side-arms; .44 magnums with various barrel lengths, .45 ACP’s and .357 magnums, and at least one .44 magnum camp rifle for camp security. For a while, that wasn’t a problem, but then my wife found out that they don’t really breek in the closet or the gun safe…..

  2. I have been hunting for about 13 years and I used 2 calibers that I feel are a good deer round. The first is a Weatherby Vanguard 308 win. I have taken over 15 deer and a black bear with it and have no complaints. I have shot many 1″ groups at 100 yds.The second is a 303 British Enfield( it has been sporterized so I am not sure of the exact model). I have taken about 10 deer and a Russian Boar, all I can say is it is a hard hitting round that puts a bigger hole in the deer than the 308 and is accurate. I have shot many 1″ groups at 100 yds.

  3. I grew up with a marlin 30-30. I like them, but I’ve drifted to bolts with more versatile calibers. However the author mentioned levers being cheap. I’m not sure of that anymore. Best sale I can find around me for a Marlin 30-30 is plus $400. My sons bought Thompson Center Ventures in 300WM. Once they each shot well under an inch, caliper measured, my F-I-L bought on sin 270. Just as accurate, and $335 on sale. The 30-30 has it’s place and that’s 100-125 yards with most of them.

    1. The T/C Venture is an excellent shooter, but also sells at a noticeably higher price point than the Savage Axis, Remington 783, or Ruger American.

      Hence the relatively new Compass from T/C at a lower price point than the Venture.

  4. The Thuty-Thuty, a.,k.a. 30-30. Talking deer only, this caliber rules the stats on numbers killed! I don’t use it, but that don’t change the stats;) Someone once noted that all the deer killed with the thuty-thuty would require more than several LARGE warehouses to hold’em! There are caveats with this OLD boy. At 2300 fps w/150 grain bullet, it is more than adequate, at ‘nearly’ any range deer are taken. Zeroed @100 yds (2300fps), you only start exceeding that 8″ kill zone just past 220 yards! In my state, if you can “see” a deer out to anything like 200 yds, you are looking across some valley into a “clear cut!” Truth be known, you can kill a deer with about anything, slingshot to .22 short, or one of the largest Grizzlys ever recorded w/.22 Long! As well as watch one of those ‘weak’ deer, lock it down, and run off as if NOT shot, after getting blasted with some belted magnum. There is a reason the .556 or .223 are NOT acceptable “deer” rounds, but the 30-30 is no .22….

  5. As a teen and my early 20’s, I used my dad’s 303 mk4 Enfield(cut down “hunters” stock) as an all-around deer/bear/moose rifle. That mentality has stuck with me and i’ve been using 308’s for the last 20 years. Not faulting anyone for changing calibers often, but I like having one gun do many things for me.
    Great article!

  6. My 2 cents: 25-06 deserves to be mentioned in these articles and never is… Ballistically superior to the 243 with little more recoil – more stable at distance, less wind drift, lots more power without being overkill. If I’m going out where I might be shooting beyond 150yd at a deer, this is what I take – and I wouldn’t be afraid to take a sensible shot at a black bear with it. Some even say that you can load it for elk, but like the 22s for deer, I’d just pick a more appropriate cartridge.

    1. There are a number of good but somewhat obscure calibers that don’t get mentioned simply because they’re somewhat obscure. There are fewer choices of rifles and ammunition, and it’s less likely a writer will have any personal experience with them.

      Then again, 7mm-08 was discussed – which was rather surprising.

  7. I am thinking of getting into deer hunting in the Pacific NW (California). I don’t have a specific “deer rifle” but I do have an HK-91 in .308. With decent optics, is there any reason I can’t use that to hunt with? When I think of a deer rifle, I think “bolt-action, wooden stock”. Would something like the 91 be out of place?

    1. .308 will provide plenty of power. Make sure you can handle the weight hiking up and down the hills though. ~Dave Dolbee

    2. In response to deer hunting in California, be aware of the non-lead ammunition requirements. I and my son are both new to hunting, but we have been shooters for many years. I have a number of battle rifles that would make good deer rifles, but finding non-lead ammo for them is a non-starter. If I ever want to use any of them for hunting I will have to load my own. I ended up buying a couple of Remington 700s in .308 and 30-06. Federal Power-Shok Copper is plentiful [and can be found for] for $24.54 a box. It gets rave reviews or I would have gone for the twice as expensive Barnes. My son took a 150# boar last month.

  8. After missing out some for sure trophy bucks 4-5 times good old thirty thirty i up graded to a 300 win. mag over twenty five years ago now and
    since then nothing has escaped .. i hear camp fire story’s about over kill but the truth is it just puts a 30 caliber hole trough the boiler room ..
    end of stoy

    1. I understand completely Hoak. The .300WBM has been my first choice since I got my first one in 1967.
      It’s my favtoite Dall Sheep platform and cartridge. Moose, Caraboo are meat in the freezer.

  9. Thanks for another good article. I am a firm believer that you should hunt with what you are comfortable with. I have a friend here in Missouri that kills a deer every year with a 223 out of a 16 inch barreled AR. The first deer I killed was a doe at less than 20 yards with a 243 with 100 grain Remington Core-Lokts and as Ol’ Dap says, I shot her in the face. It did not kill her and I had to take a close range follow up shot. To me that was not a clean kill and at my younger age it bothered me to see her suffer. So since then I only hunt deer with .30 caliber bullets or larger. Smaller calibers work but shot placement becomes all the more important. So as the saying goes. Practice, Practice, Practice!

  10. Do not bring your 223 to Colorado to hunt deer as anything smaller than 25 cal. is illegal for big game. A 243 is allowed, which is a real good deer caliber, as are the ones mentioned.

  11. Everyone believes that their gun is the best at whatever they shoot. My dad shot a turkey with a 246 wm and it looked like it swallowed a grenade, very funny. Some people in discussion take scripts too serious. Always shoot with what one is comfortable with and state allowed. There has been people say “You can’t kill a hog with a 556 { not a 223 } or a deer, well I have killed both 1 shot and it’s not hard too do that. Discrepancies are sometimes debatable, but doesn’t mean that it’s not true. Good hunting and 2A too everyone.

    1. Deer have been successfully taken with 22 LR. That doesn’t make 22 LR a good choice for deer or something you should recommend to others.

      The same goes for 5.56 NATO/223 Rem.

    2. I am not a regular deer or any venison hunter. Quail on the other hand is another story= mmmm mmmm good. 22lr has more energy than a bow or crossbow, by all means none of that was any recommendation, just an observation. Whether it’s over powered or under powered as long as it’s state legal your good too go. .I have 10 sections leased too an outfitter. There is some hunters coming from WV, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee and say that 100 yards is about their limit on range. Here in Texas I have up to 1 mile. if one wants too do any long range kill. So Adam, 30 cal would be a good choice or larger if one wants too do long range hunting for a challenge. 6.5 mm is a good choice. Ethical kill is only as good as your shot placement.

  12. In OHIO, only straight walled cartridges are allowed for deer gun season.
    However, calibers range from .357 to .50 or shot guns 10 gauge or smaller. All are limited to three rounds loaded in chamber and magazine combined. Your choices of .223 or .270 etc, will not fly with the game wardens here.

    1. Living here, one forgets at times that for many a hunting trip to Alaska May very well be a once in a lifetime adventure. I try and bring new friends And family from the lower 48’up to expierance what Is more often than not a “fill the winter freezer” hunting trip for me and a unique expierance for them. It keeps my head grounded and aware of the fantastic place I get to live an play in.
      Should enjoy hearing of you Alaska expierance!

      Pete sends…

  13. Then there are those of us who live in states (Ohio) that will only allow pistol caliber (straight wall) cartridges.
    Sure, I’d like to use a .44 Magnum or a 45-70 but that would entail spending many more hundreds of dollars on yet another rifle, since I’ve already got both .357 & .45LC lever guns, and would like to think that the Uberti.45LC 1873 with a 20″ barrel (using -tailored for the action- handloaded XTPs?)might be adequate for the under 100 yard shot I’m figuring on luring Mr. Buck into from the tree stand in my back yard.
    Is this realistic, or should I follow the Postman’s advice and use my 12g A5 with the smoothbore slug barrel & it’s rifle sights?

    1. I have rarely used a shotgun for larger game hunting. However, there is a good case to be made for a smooth bore these day given the advances in shotgun munitions in the past several decades. Repeatability within the 125 yard hunting envelope is quite good to extremely good. There are a number of ballistic slugs and sabots that are excellent performers. I’d suggest looking at Federal 12ga offerings and those of DDuplex and their Monolite 32 And Hexolite 32 shells. When salmon fishing here I often carry a 12ga with one or both of these DDuplex shells in the tube. Very accurate, and offer a huge bang for your buck.
      As far as a sights are concerned if they allow you to try a RedDot instead of iron rifle sights or even a fixed long eye relief 4x optic.
      don’t limit your search either! Google “shotgun ammunition for hunting” all kinds of great options out there.

  14. Was reading thru the comments and just wanted to make the observation that on average 95% of the majority of hunters in the US make their shots within the 150 yard engagement envelope. For most that’s a long shot for the once a year hunting trip guy or gal.
    The discussion about Long Distance hunting is an entirely different subject. Calibers, platforms, bullets, … everything is a different conversation.
    We’re talking about deer and Elk rifles and calibers here and primarily hunting in the lower 48 states I think.
    I think most hunters with a .308 who knows his skill set and ability will not chance a 1000 yard, or longer, shot at a Mule Tail or Elk let alone a White Tail. Not even sure that most would take one at 500 yards for that matter. I know there have been those claims and in as sure that even a few of them are true but that’s just not the normal hunting envelope most hunters preform in.
    I don’t hunt with a .300 WinMag because I always take long shots. I hunt with a .300 because it performs well on the animals I hunt and am challenged by here in Alaska. It works as well on Sitka Black tail (head or neck shots) as Moose, Caraboo, or Muskox. It’s also got the power for Southeast Brown Bear, Grizzley, Kodiak or large Black Bears if needed.
    I’m just thinking that it may be a good idea to stay on point with what Bobs writing about. Not Magnum platforms but the bread an butter of rifles in the deer hunting world. 6mm thru 30.06 maybe 7mm. Just think it’s important to remember were many of our hunting brother and sisters actually find themselves as the skill level, ability, and the best options in platform and caliber for their type of hunt and area.
    I like to hear good hunting stories as much as the next hunter. The ones I like to hear most are those of first time hunters and what a thrill it was an the good time they had. Let’s not spoil it for them by handing the a .300WM for their first time out is all I’m saying. Been at this hunting for 57 years now, mostly as a subsistence hunter. It’s been my pleasure to bring along another generation or two of hunters as well. Want to see that continue.
    So, tell me more stories and facts an information on these bread an butter platforms and calibers! Ones never to old to learn, information is power, and I like to empower those who I can.

  15. Great write up Bob! Always a pleasure to read your thoughts and considerations.
    My first was a 1903A3 Springfield in 30.06 for my 11th birthday. It took a year or so to fully grow into it but it took its share of moose an caraboo in the early years. Was my trapping rifle till I was 14 when I was gifted a Ruger .44 carbine. Perhaps one of the most under rated bush/brush rifles made. I still have both, along with the other nine Springfields in consecutive serial numbers that Dad bought in 1960! Mine is the only one been used the others are in their original packaging and wooden crate.
    Hunt mostly now with a .300 WinMag in a Tikka T3 ultra lite Stainless / Composite. If I’m backing up another hunter or guiding I prefer the .338 WinMag in either my T3 or 4×4 Mossberg. Neither are common calibers for hunting in the lower 48 but here in the north the serve quite well. Weight is a huge consideration here as many hunts are long distances on foot. Also shots present at greater distances here to with the exception being in Southeast Alaska. I wouldnt be comfortable with a caliber much smaller than .308, 30.06. or 7mm mag , here but that’s just me.
    Thanks for the good read!

    1. Hey Dave! Thanks for the shout out!
      Good to hear from you too! I will try and not be do out of the loop as I’ve been this past year. Not been commenting a lot of late but still read it all. Look forward to your next write up. Pete sends…

  16. I am surprised Bob Campbell did not talk about a Scout type rifle available from Ruger, Savage, Styer or Savage. They are light, short, chambered in .308 and have the forward mounted scope for quick target acquisition. My choice.

    1. Richard
      Thanks for reading.

      I am working up just that type of feature, on the new short Ruger American in 7.62 x 39mm

      Still shooting, sighting in and selecting glass that is reasonable

      Might be a couple of months or so before it is posted.

      Best,

      Bob Campbell

  17. 30-30, 45-70, and 44 magnum are great for heavily wooded areas. For open fields I would go with 243, 7mm-08, 308, 7×57 and 8×57 Mauser, 270, 30-06, 25-06, and 6.5 Creedmoor are all good rounds for open areas. For long distance shots I would use a magnum caliber and the most I would use is 270 win mag and 7mm rem mag. 5.56×45 is a good round, but some states won’t allow it. There’s so many options on good calibers. Cost is also a factor for ammo. I personally like .308, 8×57 Mauser, 6.5 Creedmoor, and 7.62x54R for my hunting uses. Those work good for deer and elk.

  18. Never thought of the .223 as a deer round, barely adequate for varmits, 4 legged, or 2 legged. Plus, my go-to round id the .308/7.62×51. Have made 1500 meter, one shot kills, with this round, hunting deer as a civilian and 2 legged varmits in the military. Now, as for the .30 cal., used this round; .30 carbine, in a Ruger Super Blackhawk, 7in. barrel (?) to take down whitetails(deer, that is,) at 25/30 meters. As in all things, shooting, it’s always about shot placement.

    1. 1500 meters and/or yards is a far stretch for a .308. I’m going to guess the DA hit the “0” key one to many times and didn’t catch the error! That’s hsppened to all of us at one time or another I’m sure.
      1500 is more within the .408 CheyTac or a TRG42 in .348 Lapua like I have. The .50 Barret and certenly the Barret .416.
      Let’s not be to hard on a typing error!

    2. See????
      Even me !
      Didn’t catch my fat finger typing! LOL
      That should read …
      “…. in 338 Lapua….” not .348!!!

    3. I call BS to your 1500 meter kills with a .308.
      Sgt. Gilliland is credited with the longest confirmed kill with a 7.62 NATO at 1250 meters. This is a fact not a wantabe dream. A very skilled shooter might be able to hit a target at 1500 m in ideal condititions but I doubt very much your that person or your name is Gilliland. Even if it was your still 250 m short. Stop with the Bs and go troll in a place that you can get away with your lying ways.

  19. Now we need a discussion of bullet selection. Maybe we can resolve the issue of penetration vs. expansion – NOT.

    I shoot the .30-06 due to the variety of bullet weights available from 150 gr for deer to 180 gr for elk or other large beasts. Yes, you can take a deer with a lighter bullet, but if you only can carry one gun . . .

    1. I shoot my first Elk with a 130 gr 762×39 sp round. The AK round. Truly does depend on shot placement. Drop Deer with the round every year as well. Great accuracy for my shots under <200 yards.

    2. Penetration vs. Expansion? I wasn’t aware there was an issue. I always thought that these two conditions had to work hand in hand for an optimal shot?
      I was always under the impression that this formula was about what worked best in the platform and caliber of ones choice against the type of game being hunted. Also maybe, where one hunts, time of year, weather and at what distances one normally found that their shots most often fall into. Also one might also consider post impact weight retention, terminal impact energy at distance, the basic BC and the ballistic shape of the projectile. Most wont need to but it’s goid information to know do one can understand the dynamics of how this all comes togather in one shot.
      I have come to using Barns ammunition and their bullets for reloading. Solid copper, match grade in weight, shape, finish, cross section, and preformance bullit to bullit, box to box,
      I still like and use an “A” frame bullits in the 30.30 and 45/70. Although my 45/90 Sharps seems to preform better at distance with the Barns offerings. I digress, sorry.
      Penetration, is determined by the terminal energy that a projectile retains on its arrivil at its point of impact, and the ballistic shape of the projectile being used.
      Expansion is about the projectile design and how it uses that energy it arrived at point of impact with to change its configuration so that it might expend, at its optimal best, 100% of that terminal energy into and within the target mass while maintaining as high of a bullet retention weight as may be possible.
      Example: .308, 168gr TSX @ 100 meters will expend 100% if it’s terminal energy into an Elk and with proper placement drop the animal in a single shot.
      The same shot using a FMJ of the same weight will go thru an Elk having not expended 100% if it’s rnergy into the animal, creating a narrow wound track and possibly wound in the animal that it may still escape and die where one can’t find it.
      From my point of view, It’s not about one verses the but how one can make them work more efficiently togather.,
      Just my opinion,of course, but perhaps good for thought.

  20. As of late, the last couple of years, as I push closer to 66 and the walks need to be shorter, I have settled into the 6.5 Creedmoor group. A decent 6.5 like the Ruger Precision Bolt Action has been a good choice. It’s a tack driver and I would not hesitate to down a Texas whitetail at 500 yards with it. I can hold a group with it at 500 yards of 4″ or less. The ammunition of choice is the Hornady 143 grain ELD-X in a handload running 2715 FPS. At 500 yards it will remain well above the Taylor index for killing a whitetail quickly and ethically. The Hornady bullet is an excellent and accurrate bullet with good expansion and killing power. I still keep the trusted R700 .308 ready to go for a potential heavy game trip, but those don’t come as frequently as they used to.

  21. I would like to have seen more discussions about deer hunting with modern sporting rifles.

    For example, the 6.5 Grendel does very well on deer in rifles with barrels as short as sixteen inches and regularly from the muzzle out to ranges exceeding 500 yards.

    Other cartridges in these rifles including the .223 Remington, the 6.8 SPC, and the big bore 450 SOCM and 50 Beowulf are also very useful. The .223 is well suited for lighter deer within a couple of hundred yards, the SPC is good out to about three hundred yards.

    The 450 and 50 are shorter range but pack a serious wallop for large animals.

    1. The overwhelming majority of MSRs are in two calibers – 5.56/.223 and .308. Both were discussed.

      Given the space limits for this sort of article, it’s inevitable that a number of obscure calibers will be left out.

  22. When I was young, I thought no rifle other than the 30-06 existed. Some time after passing 65 I found that I liked the 7mm-08 in the Browning Lever Action. Rifle weighs about 5 or 6 pounds — don’t know exactly, but it is far lighter than any 06 I ever toted. Now, with old knees and an unrepairable torn rotator cuff, the 7mm-08 is just fine. Fast, handy and seems to leave deer dead in their tracks.

  23. Just my opinion. Before other things are considered I believe the 30 caliber rifle is the best deer rifle. That would be the 30-30, 308, and 30-06.

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