By Shane Adair
How does one choose a caliber? It’s really determined by what you think your use will be. I hope to shed some light or give you some food for thought to help you make an educated decision with your next purchase.
One thing I know for sure is that what we thought or intended use of our firearm was for, is always changing. What someone bought to strictly hunt deer with, now is used to go elk hunting with. Then a buddy invites you on a last minute bear hunt. Sound familiar?
So if you’re looking for one caliber that will get most of your work done for you, then I have a few suggestions. Stick with one rifle you are comfortable with, shoot it well, put a good optic on it and have some fun. How do we find that one caliber that will do most of what we are looking for? I am going to approach this from a hunters stand point first, then a shooters stand point second. These calibers I will talk about are all good, proven ones that work well for both applications.
I first look at what the ammo availability is and has been for on a caliber, especially over the last few years. The market has been so unsettled with ammunition shortages and availability and this can play a major role in what caliber you choose. Let’s talk about some of my favorite calibers. With these calibers, there has usually been ammo available for them even during these unsettled times. I’ve stayed away from some of the wild cats, just for ease and availability purposes. I also try to get as much horsepower behind me as I can without going crazy and I want to keep these in relatively light platforms. As we get older, we like recoil less and want to shoot lighter rifles.
If a muzzle break is not for you and you don’t want to have a heavy rifle, then I would shoot a .270 WSM or a 7MM Mag as my smaller calibers. These are both great shooting calibers and give you some great options for big game hunting. Many rifle manufacturers are producing these with quite a few options in size, weight and shapes. These two calibers will harvest most of the large game species on the planet and will be more than adequate with the proper ammo.
The .270 WSM finds its sweet spot with a 129grn- 140grn bullet flying at 3200-3350 fps, while being very flat and fast. It bucks the wind well and has proven to be very accurate. The 7MM Mag finds its sweet spot with the 140-175 grain bullets, running from 2900-3250 fps. As you notice, both of these calibers will run a 140grn bullet at pretty close to the same speed, with great ballistic coefficients and with many different options. Both are great and won’t punish you too bad on the bench, although many are adding muzzle breaks to these calibers to keep them extremely tame. Without a muzzle break, they will be too uncomfortable for smaller shooters, women and children.
If a muzzle break is not a problem for you, then I would seriously look at the 30 caliber family: .300 WSM, .300 Win Mag and the .300 Remington Ultra Mag. Ammo for these calibers is usually available and they all have proven to be very accurate on the range. They all will shoot bullets very well from the 150grn-200 grain range, the most popular is the 180 grain.
The .300 WSM and .300 Win Mag will shoot a 180 grain bullet at around 3050 fps, while the .300 RUM will shoot that same bullet at 3300 fps. The .300 RUM has been my caliber of choice in the muzzle break category for quite a few years. The muzzle break tames them well and allows any shooters, young and old to shoot them well. My wife and daughters have all shot them and shoot them with ease. In a 9lb platform, with a great optic, it has been a great option and a very balanced rifle. It will harvest just about anything with the right ammo and bullets. It will shoot well at 1000 yards or just as a regular brush hunting gun. From 100 pound Coues deer in Mexico to Alaskan moose and bear, this has been a great one and done caliber.
I know that there are many other great calibers on the market and many animals have been harvested with smaller calibers. These are just some of my favorites with a lot of punch. For the smaller shooters the .243, .25-06, .270 Win, 7mm-08 and 6.5 x 284 are great deer calibers, with the 6.5 x 284 being the more expensive ammo of them all, being the only draw back to it.
Make sure you are hunting with high quality, BONDED or COPPER bullets and you will have some great success in harvesting your animals, even when the shot placement doesn’t always happen like you intended it to. With bullet technology where it is today, it makes these calibers perform better than ever, making some of these smaller calibers perform like larger ones, which in hand greatly enhances the larger calibers. So head on down to you closest Sportsman’s Warehouse and see what rifles get you excited and feel confident in your new purchase or purchases. Shoot a lot and shoot well.