7 Exotic Deer-Rifle Rounds

Guest Post by Todd Woodard, Editor, Cartridges of the World.

With Thanksgiving only a few days away, the question of how to best kill a whitetail or mule deer intrudes on many hunters’ minds, since during the holiday break we might get a chance to walk a few draws or sit in a stand. What we shoot in these times afield is important to us. There are millions of deer hunters with tens of millions of rifles that are used for deer hunting, and cartridge discussions are some of the most entertaining camp talks I’ve had over the years.

Because I’m the editor of Cartridges of the World, when friends or acquaintances get hot for a new rifle, I’ll naturally get some questions about what it might be chambered in. All too often, I see custom rifles set up for a variety of magnums that their owners can’t shoot worth a hoot, and it makes me sad for folks to be overgunned and under-accurate. More than most, I admire the judgment of my dentist, who hunts with a lever-action Winchester Model 88 in .243 Winchester at his lease outside Fredericksburg, Texas. He has tailored his set up for the distances he shoots (>300 yards) and the deer he encounters. Just like picking the right bit for the dental drill, he has picked exactly the right hunting tool for his conditions.

The cartridge advice I usually dispense is to stick with what’s known and proven. The .30-06 Springfield is a fabulously accurate and varied cartridge that can be found in almost every sporting-goods store ever opened. Ditto that with the .30-30 Winchester, the .308 Winchester, and the .270 Winchester, among many others. But what’s known and proven doesn’t have the sizzle of what’s new, flashy, or offbeat.

So for the sake of discussion around the dinner table next week, I selected 10 rounds from the 14th Edition of Cartridges of the World that are exotic enough to mark their owners as being in the vanguard of rifle shooting, but which offer the convenience of loaded rounds being available for them.

6XC Tubb

The 6XC is a development of well-known rifle competitor David Tubb. It is intended for the AR-10 rifle, as well as bolt-action rifles, such as the Tubb 2000, that utilize the AR-10 magazine. The 6XC case is in improved version of the 6mm International, a cartridge created during the early 1960s by avid benchrest shooter Mike Walker. Walker worked for Remington at the time, and the 40X target rifle built in the custom shop of that company has long been chambered for his cartridge. Whereas the 6mm International is the .250 Savage case necked down with no other change, the 6XC is the same case necked down and blown out to the Improved configuration with .015-inch of body taper and a 30-degree shoulder angle. When loaded with match-grade bullets of extremely high ballistic coefficients, such as the 105-grain Berger, 107-grain Sierra MatchKing, and 115-grain DETAC, the 6XC bucks wind as well as cartridges of larger caliber, but its lower level of recoil makes it easier to shoot accurately. Currently, only Norma and DTAC offer loaded ammunition for the 6XC Tubb.

6XC Tubb cartridge
The 6XC Tubb nearly duplicates the velocity of the .243 Winchester with a smaller case, so it is commonly loaded to slightly higher chamber pressures than the .243. Photo courtesy of DTAC.
.25-45 Sharps
The .25-45 Sharps was made to duplicate as closely as possible .250-3000 (.250 Savage) ballistics with an 87-grain bullet. Graphic courtesy of the Sharps Rifle Company.

.25-45 Sharps

The .25-45 Sharps cartridge was developed by Michael H. Blank of the Sharps Rifle Company (SRC). The modern Sharps Rifle Company specializes in AR-15 styles of rifles, and that is the platform the .25-45 Sharps was developed for. The goal was to provide optimum ballistic performance from the .223 Remington (5.56 NATO) case. Blank felt the best all-around option was a .25-caliber bullet of 100 grains or less and ultimately settled on a .223 Remington case necked up to .25-caliber with a case length of 45mm and a shoulder angle of 23 degrees. Federal manufactures a factory load for the .25-45 Sharps, under the Sharps name. The cartridge does have merit, with its performance being close to that of the 6.5 Grendel with a similar weight bullet. With modern, lightweight, mono-metal bullets, like the Barnes 80-grain Tipped TSX, the .25-45 Sharps should be a very effective deer and hog cartridge that offers very mild recoil from a bolt rifle or an AR-15.

6.5 Creedmoor

Cartridges of 6.5mm-caliber have never really caught on among American hunters, but some have gained a good bit of ground with long-range target shooters. The 6.5-284 Norma and .260 Remington are excellent examples. The .260 Remington has become popular not only among those who use bolt-action rifles, but among those who shoot AR-10 rifles. In that rifle, the .260 works fine with most hunting bullets, but when loaded with extremely long match bullets, such as the Sierra 140-grain MatchKing and Hornady 140-grain A-Max, they have to be seated quite deeply in the case in order to keep overall cartridge length compatible with its magazine. Engineers at Hornady solved that problem by developing a shorter cartridge called the 6.5 Creedmoor. Maximum length of the case is 1.915 inches, compared to 2.036 inches for the .260 Remington, but since the 6.5 Creedmoor case has a bit less body taper combined with a sharper shoulder angle, its gross capacity is only about five percent less.

6.5 Creedmore cartridge specifications
As a big-game cartridge, the 6.5 Creedmore is in the same class as the excellent 6.5x55mm Swedish. Graphic courtesy of Hornady.
.26 Nosler Cartridge Info Graphic
The .26 Nosler utilizes a standard .30-06-length action and likes a 1:9-twist barrel. Graphic courtesy of Nosler.

.26 Nosler

The .26 Nosler, the first cartridge to bear the Nosler family’s name, was designed to take advantage of inherently accurate and high-BC 6.5mm (.264-caliber) bullets. Based on a shortened .404 Jeffery case, the .26 Nosler case is non-belted, thus, it headspaces off of the shoulder to further enhance accuracy. Bob Nosler, CEO and president of Nosler, Inc., said this is a quintessential deer, antelope, and long-range target cartridge. The case is necked down to 6.5mm with a 40 degree shoulder. The rim is rebated to .532-inch, so a belted magnum bolt face requires no alteration. The Trophy Grade Ammunition load No. 60110 fires a Nosler 129-grain AccuBond Long Range bullet at 3,400 fps out of the muzzle. Zeroed at 350 yards, the .26 Nosler has a point-blank range of zero to 415 yards. Loaded with the 129-grain ABLR, the .26 Nosler retains as much velocity at 400 yards as the .260 Remington produces at the muzzle.

.300 AAC Blackout

The intent behind the .300 AAC Blackout was to offer a .30-caliber cartridge that would function in AR-15 rifles without a reduction in magazine capacity, that was also compatible with the standard bolt, and that would offer both supersonic and subsonic performance. The .300 AAC Blackout was developed by Advanced Armament Corporation (AAC), a subsidiary of the Freedom Group, and is almost identical to the .300 Whisper that was originally developed by J.D. Jones. Another way of looking at the .300 AAC Blackout is as a standardization of the .300/.221 Wildcat cartridge. AAC standardized the case dimensions and submitted the cartridge to SAAMI, which has established the cartridge with a maximum average operating pressure of 55,000 psi. Hunters can expect performance on game to be similar to the 7.62×39 or the .30-30 Winchester. Much of the appeal of this cartridge is its subsonic performance, but there is some contention that optimum performance from an AR-15 is unattainable with either supersonic or subsonic suppressed loads. It is also arguable that a single twist rate offers optimal stabilization with both a 125-grain bullet at 2200 fps and a 220-grain bullet at 1050 fps. AAC suggests that a 1:8 twist be used, and most commercially offered rifles will come so equipped.

.300 AAC Blackout 7.62x35mm cartridge
The .300 AAC Blackout offers performance similar to the 7.62×39 Soviet cartridge. Graphic courtesy of AAC.

.325 Winchester Short Magnum

After introducing its Short Magnum family of cartridges in 2,000, Winchester recognized the need for another cartridge capable of launching 200-grain bullets (and heavier) with high inherent accuracy, energy capable of stopping the largest North American game, and lower perceived recoil. After considering different calibers, Winchester engineers determined the .325-caliber provided the best performance using the Short Magnum case. Released in 2005, the .325 WSM cartridge delivers similar energies as the .338 Winchester Magnum using a smaller case.

.325 WSM Winchester ammunition box
The .325 WSM is well suited for elk, bear, moose, or other large and dangerous game, where a lightweight short magnum rifle is desired. Photo courtesy of Winchester Ammunition.

In addition to delivering excellent ballistics, the .325 WSM also exhibits exceptional accuracy. Initially, Winchester fielded three loads for the .325 WSM; a 200-grain Nosler Accubond CT, a Winchester 220-grain Power-Point bullet, and a 180-grain Ballistic Silvertip. Hunters can expect delayed, controlled expansion and deep penetration through thick, tough skin and heavy muscle tissue and bone, with ballistic coefficients ranging up to .477 for the 200-grain Nosler bullet.

.375 Allen Magnum

Kirby Allen of Allen Precision Shooting ( made the .375 Allen Magnum for big-game hunting, but the round’s larger bore diameter also makes it suitable for extreme-range target shooting. Like its smaller-caliber brother the .338 Allen Magnum, the .375 Allen Magnum is extremely effective for big-game hunting at long range. With the larger frontal area and heavier bullet weight, this round is suitable for the heaviest animals, especially elk, moose, and other big game at long ranges. With the weight and diameter of this bullet, the .375 Allen Magnum will easily take big game at any supersonic range, assuming the hunter has the ability to put the bullet through the vital area. Even if bullet expansion is minimal, the .375-caliber projectile is effective at cleanly killing big game because of its large frontal area and subsequent large amount of tissue displacement. Fully formed custom brass is available from APS with rifle orders. Rifles for this round are long and relatively heavy, starting around 16 pounds. For more information, check the website or e-mail Kirby Allen at

.375 Allen Magnum hunting cartridge
With its primary bullet (350-grain Sierra MatchKing), the .375 Allen Magnum will sustain supersonic velocity to a range of roughly 2,800 yards, depending on elevation. Photo courtesy of Allen Precision Rifles.

Adapted from Cartridges of the World, 14th Edition, copyright Gun Digest Books. Reprinted with permission. Paperback, 688 pages, available December 19, 2014. Click here to preorder.

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 decicions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (74)

    1. I don’t know what your price point is or how your planning to use your 6.8 or at what ranges you plan to focus as its envelope.
      NightForce provideds excellent across a wide spectrum but are expensive. They are best know for their Long Distance optics but also produce surburb Hunting and mid-range optics.
      Swovorski, Schmidt Bendet, and Sheapord also offer an excellent group of choices for this caliber.
      If your looking for something that is less hurtful to the wallet check out Burris. They have a MiltiPlex retinal 3-9×40 scope that I use on many of my hunting and mid-range platforms (those shooting 600 meters and under) it’s got a very clean sight picture. Little or no parallax, fair to middling light gather, and most of all its robust. Will take mocks in the field and stay on zero.
      If your interested in something more unique take a look at Trijicon. I belive they even may have something specific for the 6.8 .

      The more expensive listed are all worth the money. You actually get what you pay for with optics. This is not to say that the lower priced optics are not good, they are, often they are better that the price you pay for them. The Burris is an example of this.
      Figure out how you expect to use you 6.8 and at what ranges. What expectations you whould like and/or expect from a scope and use this information for a search. Do not by on line until you can see one at a store. THEN buy it on line! It’s often much less expensive on line. Good on line sources are CTD and Optics Planet.
      You might want to Google “how to choose a rifle scope” or something like that and read up on some of that wisdom after deciding what your needs are going to be. Lots of useful info to be found there but decide what you expect and want first.
      Optics are very important and should not be an afterthought in the process. Get what works, is comfortable and if you have to save for it do so! Don’t short yourself or your platform by mating it with sub-standard optics because they were . . .cheap.
      Just saying, hope this is helpful. Pete sends …

    2. @ Pete in Alaska.

      Hey, Pete. Schlar gut gestern Abend. Did you the information I sent on caliber alternates and the correction of IOS rifle scopes. I hope your friend wasn’t bent to much of of shape, over the corrections.

    3. Thank ya all for the responses. I’m looking to use it for hunting, so definitely don’t need anything over 600 yards for sure. I think our sportsman club range tops out at 600 yards as well. I did see that Trijicon had one for the 6.8, but definitely not looking to fork over that much cash. Maybe if I had more of a tactical use for it, i’d go that route. I did read somewhere that Leupold can set one for the 6.8, but haven’t found any confirmation on that.

    4. @ Tom.

      If price is a problem, then go for the Hawke Optics Panorama 3.9×40 EV Scope @ $131.99 USD. If price ISN’T a problem, then try Leopold Model 110995 Mk. 4 Hamr 4×24 Scope @ 1,299.00 USD. or, the Leupold Mk. 4 3.5-10x Scope @ 1,349.99 USD.

  1. @ Pete in Alaska.

    I’m sorry Pete, I just couldn’t help it. It’s almost out of my system, but with Flashback Moments. The IOS system you two were referring to, are actually two systems, not one. The Standard model is made of Polymer and can be used with iPhone/iPod Touch 4 or higher, and goes for $69.99 USD. The second Pro Model in made of billeted 7075-T651 grade Aircraft Aluminium with an Rubberized-Armor to protect the Aluminium and Internal Electronics. And is available for iPhone/iPod Touch 4 or greater and Android devices, and goes for $129.99 USD. Christmas Special Only for the latter. I’m going to bed now, before I accidentally Soil Myself…

  2. @ will.

    If you keep a low profile and don’t try to draw to much attention to yourself. I don’t think you going to have any problems. Like Hans said to Chewbacca, in Star Wars V, The Empire Strikes Back: “Fly Casual”.

    Oh, by-the-way, drop the Mister. Just call me S, you earned the RIGHT in my book. Talk to you later Will…

  3. @ Secundius.
    I’m still here Mr. S. It takes 600mg at bedtime+100mg 3x day C-3 thru C-6 wedge w / C6/7 compression;. T-7 to T-!0 wedge w/T-10 /11 compaction; L1-L5 wedge w/anterior spurring @L-4/5 disc interspace; Ostosis, Stenosis, and Foramenal damage; Plus whatever old-age brings us, and with which I am sure you are familiar also. It gets me through the day without having to take any OXY. Aside from that- everything is thumbs-up. Hope you’re doing as well as can be expected? Watching You, Pete, and Carl, giving whatever to whomever
    and thought I’d just stay out of this time, and monitor for a change. Maybe someday they’ll [the whomevers] will learn some manners. I’m gonna sit back and rest a while. You, Pete, and Carl give ’em what-for, and stay loose.
    Catch you later…. WILL

    1. will.

      I didn’t mean to pry. I’m allergic to OXY, I take on 300mg of Neutronin to make easier to sleep, it doesn’t kill the Pain, just Dulls it. 600mg of Neutrontin, would have Climbing the Walls. I have Stage Six Gout in both feet and Stage Four Bursitis in both elbow’s. You’re not going too find Stage Six Gout on the Internet, it only goes up to Stage Four. Stage Six, is associated with 3rd, 4th, and 5th World Countries Health Care. It extremely rare in Modern Nations. The last I looked the were only 5 cases in North, Central and South America. There were 6, but now only 5. If you ever encounter Stages 5 or 6, it’ll make your stomach turn. Talk to you, whenever. Secundius,,,

    2. @ Secundius:
      No offense taken Mr. S. Things happen. The initial incident RE: these injuries occurred during the Storm in Feb. ’91. Was supervising unloading
      of our equipment on a FSS #1 hold; Scud taken out right over ship in middle of bay, debris hit the deck then my right ankle and over the side of the hatch I went; 20+ feet into the hold. Tore the hell out of 2000# bombs, 25mm Bradley ammo and a few other munitions. Woke up in 85th EVAC. at King Faad Airbase, couple days later, back at campon 14 days R+R. Stayed ’til 1 July, DROS’ed home and the rest is history. Just took about 14 yrs. to take full effect, and HERE’S WILL.
      Been retired since Sept. ’05, and taking it day-by-day . Only thing bothers me to no end, is that the as# &+@$s here wouldn’t let us take that bastard Hussein when we had the chance to back then We wouldn’t be in the crap we’re in today. BUT….. that’s another story.
      My only concern nowdays is when the S H T F and someone comes onto my property and tries to deprive me of my bought-and-paid-for personal belongings, they will be carried off in pieces, after having been given an on-the-spot lesson of 12B40 engineering. ‘Nuff said.
      Don’t mean to ramble Mr. S., but I sometimes wonder if it was worth it all. Only time will tell. Gonna take a little walk while the rain is stopped. Catch you later. ( BTW, Oxy makes me a little sick to my stomach, but I keep it on the counter just in case, and then it’s 1/2 tab only.) WILL

    1. @Secundius
      Hey S,
      I got my .43 Spanish while in Argintina some years ago as part of a sell off of obsolete Mil Surplus. It was in near factory condition with the saber/bayonet original sling and 150 rounds of ammo. Was a great deal. Dad I think also got one or two over the years that turned up in or out of South America. Both were Mauser offerings.
      I’m always looking. So if you see something of interest let me know. I’ll even buy dup’s if there good traders for something else.
      Talk tomorrow. Pete sends . . .

    2. @ Pete in Alaska.

      Thanks for the offer, but I’m pretty set for that. There’s this Military supplier in Gillette, NJ. that specializes in hard to find Accessories from Vietnam-era going back to the Revolutionary War. From all Warring countries through that time periods. But, if I think of something. I’ll let you know.

      I’m throwing this out as a by-the-way question. If you know of anybody that shoots and are Wheelchair Drivers, like me. And want a custom wheelchair mounted holster, let me know. I have somebody that specializes in making them.

    3. I’m interested in the holster. What does he make? Pistol? Rifle? Shotgun?
      I work with disabled vets and do hunts with guys in wheelchairs, paraplegic, amputats. We are always looking for new gear to make it easer.

    4. @ Pete in Alaska.

      I last contacted him about 2-years ago, he’s also a Wheelchair Driver. And back then it was pistols and revolvers, let me give you his contact info.

      Scot Shearer, owner
      Scot Works, LLC.
      500 Old Onion Mountain Road
      Wilderville, OR. 97543

      the 1863 look good, You looking at the “Custom Hand Guard Model or the Standard Model.

    5. @Secundius
      Hey S,
      Yup, not your normal out-for-a-day-at-the-range shooting stick at those prices to be sure. The few suppliers of .43 Spanish are hard to find in the first place. I reload on occasion but even that is costly. I try to keep 30 or 40 rounds loaded and have maybe 60 or 65 rounds of empty brass over an above that. I have to make my own bullits and the use of the dies is tricky. The primers are somewhat unique and hard to come by as well. I have a few hundred remaining from my last find so I should be fine for this lifetime anyway. I shoot the 45/70 much more often. Current factory production in this caliber works just fine in in the old Remmy RB. … And cheaper too. Grafs has a lot of the old out of production munitions I belive. There are only a couple of companies that , for a price, one can find some of these old cartridges. There is one in South Africa that focuses on many of the older breach loader cartridges for the many Double Guns which are still used today or produced still in those calibers.
      Thanks too for Scotts contact info. I’ll get a note off to him and see if he is interested in doing some work and if so put him in contact with our procurement officer.
      I’m thinking that I need to find a way to get You and Will and Scott up to Alaska or at the least out to Colorado for a hunting, fishing, relaxing visit perhaps we should talk a bit about that off line.
      Will, would you be interested in something like that?
      Talk soon guys . . . .

  4. @ Pete in Alaska.

    I was just thing about your “Rolling-Block” question. Both Central and South America, have a “fairly” large German population. That either fled there before WW2, and soon after, too. You might be able to obtain existing 8-mil Mauser Rolling-Block Hunting Rifles from there.

    1. Hey S,
      My collecting interest is the Remington Roller 1863 design. I’m not as interested in the German Target or Hunter Rollers as I am the Remington. But I’m always will to take a look!

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