Will the Best Medium Sized Cartridge Please Stand Up

It can be a difficult decision when trying to decide what deer-hunting cartridge to go with. So often, we are stuck on how well these rounds do at four and five hundred yards, we forget that most of time, we take shots inside of one hundred yards. We decided to take a look at some cartridges designed for medium-sized game, like Texas white tail deer. So how well do these common rifle cartridges do against each other? We took a look at some common rounds, and tried to help our readers decide for themselves.

.30-30 Winchester

The first cartridge in our list was actually the first .30 caliber round that propels itself with smokeless powder. The .30-30 cartridge has probably brought down more deer than any other rifle cartridge. Put into production in 1895 for the Winchester lever-action rifle, the .30-30 soon gained popularity as the smokeless powder it used allowed for faster follow-up shots and significantly reduced fouling in the barrel and action. This soft shooting round has an effective range of only 200 meters but with a 170-grain flat point bullet, it hits hard enough to drop all but the largest CXP2 Class animal.

.243 Winchester

The .243 Winchester is a popular round for youths and new shooters who dislike the harsh recoil of larger calibers. Though it is soft shooting, the .243 is more than capable of taking down any medium-sized game animal, from feral hogs to large white-tailed deer. BVAC’s 100 grain Grand Slam is an easy to shoot round with a maximum point-blank range out past 300 yards, depending on the size of the game animal. Hornady’s Varmint Express topped off with a 58 grain V-Maxon the other hand is an extremely fast and flat shooting cartridge that travels over 3750 feet per second at the muzzle, making it an excellent varmint round out to 200 yards. Their Superformance ammunition is even hotter, throwing a 58-grain projectile down range at over 3925 feet per second.

.270 Winchester

With the release of the Model 54 bolt-action rifle, Winchester unveiled the .270 cartridge in 1925. Writer Jack O’Connor who wrote at length about it in Outdoor Life and other publications praised it highly, but the round never enjoyed great success for nearly 20 years. After World War II, it saw an enormous surge in popularity, becoming one of the most widely chambered calibers for hunting rifles across the globe. Loaded with a 100 Grain cartridge, Remington Core Lokt PSP achieves a muzzle velocity in excess of 3,300 feet per second. This extreme velocity makes the .270 a very flat shooting round with devastating terminal ballistics. Loaded up in a heavier 150 Grain Federal with Sierra Game King the round is effective on larger game animals like moose or elk. The middleweight 130 Grain BVAC Grand Slam is a good all-around cartridge for hunting a variety of medium sized game.

.25-06 Remington

For decades, the .25-06 was just a custom round created from a necked down .30-06. When Remington began producing the round as a factory load in 1969 however, it experienced a surge in popularity. Topped off with a 120 Grain Speer Grand Slam bullet the BVAC .25-06 cartridge generates a muzzle velocity of 2898 feet per second, and when topped with an 85 Grain Nosler Ballistic Tip Federal’s V-Shok load reaches a velocity of over 3550 feet per second. This zippy little round may be a small caliber, but its flat trajectory and deadly terminal ballistics help it to remain popular among varmint and medium game hunters. Despite the small size of the .25-06, it has superior sectional density at higher bullet weights. The 115 Grain Winchester Ballistic Silvertip has a ballistic coefficient of 0.446, giving it penetration and performance comparable to larger .30 caliber rounds.

So, these rounds all work well for medium-sized game, they shoot flat and have tons of energy. They are all perfectly capable of dropping a white tail deer in their hooves. Which cartridge works best? Comment below and let us know what kind of luck you have had with these rounds. Personally, I’ve always had luck with my .270, it’s not overkill for white tail, but I can still bring down an elk if I choose. Just wish we had some elk down here in Texas.

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 (3)

  1. Once again, the .243 gets the nod while the 6mm is kept in the closet. The 6mm has a slightly larger case by 1.8 grains allowing for more propellant. Muzzle velocity is higher as well with the 6mm pushing a 100gr bullet at 3100 fps while the .243 only musters 2960, a difference of 140 fps. Granted, these differences are marginal. A well written article, however, would have discussed the .243 Win. and the 6mm Rem. together.

  2. Great comments and on point with the cartridges you mentioned. I only have one rifle. A 98 Mauser sporterized in 7×57. Taken Elk, Moose, Deer, Antelope and hogs. My only load is the Remington Core-Lokt 140gr. It will print consistently inside 2.5″ at 200 yds. I can honestly state my longest shot has been roughly 250yds. at an Antelope. By the way, I’m in my 70’s so I’ve hunted for many, many moons. That trusty 7mauser has put more than a ton of meat on the table!!

  3. Myself, my son, and two granddaughters have used successfully the ,270, .243, and 25-06 on whitetail deer and feral hogs with excellent results for each. Also the venerable.308 is one of my favorites as well.

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