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Hunting Rifles and Calibers: Which ammunition to choose to shoot down your prized game?

Hunting is widely gaining popularity as adventure sports and is widely persuaded now by people of all age groups. In most of the cases, the hunters will tell you that a lot more than selecting the best rifles that suits their personal choice and style goes into shooting the prized game that they are usually after on any hunting expedition. While most of the hunting outfitters will just tell you which caliber rifles to use to shoot a particular prey, they usually do not bother enough to let you learn the art of choosing the right caliber for a particular game.

In most of the cases, the hunter learns this art over time with experience and by learning along with peers from his own mistakes and by his peers. Nevertheless, it is extremely important to know the right choice of caliber for different game animals.

If you are thinking that there is some hard and fast rule to mug up or understand, you will have to be disappointed. Though there is no hard and fast rule, things can yet be generalized. Yet if you had hard time selecting the right rifle for you or buying one for your teen age child, then selecting the right caliber of cartridges can give you a headache. This is not just because there is not hard and fast rule, but also because sometimes the choice of the right caliber of the cartridge also confuses those who are now in hunting business for years. It is also so because most of the times it is not just the knowledge of the cartridge caliber which is required to choose the right cartridge, but also the knowledge of the gun powder used and the length of the bullet. A perfect shot required to kill the prey in just one shot thus requires the right rifle, right cartridge, right amount of concentration and perfect timing, which can only be achieved after you expertise in the art of shooting. 


Caliber of the cartridge gives you information about the diameter of the bullet it encases. In general cartridges with high caliber are used to hunt down big animals, while cartridges with low caliber are used to hunt down small animals. 

Most of the manufactures of the cartridges also specify the size of the bullet it encases, that is its length. Along with it the manufactures also specify the type of charge that is used, which tell about the type of gun powder used. All this when considered at a time will give you an idea about the effective range and accuracy of the bullet, and also the potential harm that it can cause when shot.

Now not all cartridges can be used with all the rifles. Thus, it is also important to know well in advance which all calibers of cartridges your gun will support or it can effectively shoot of. Once you know the basics and have good knowledge and experience about cartridges of various calibers, you can easily go ahead in choosing the best for you.

Mentioned below are though certain tips which can help you decide the caliber of the cartridge that you should use to hunt down your favourite game animals:

  • The most common range: The most commonly hunted animals include deer, black bear, sheep and goats. These are medium sized animals and are usually shot from short to medium range. In certain cases only they are shot from long ranges. To accomplish this task the cartridges of the calibre range .243 to .300 are usually used and are effective. The greater the calibre of the cartridge used greater is the impact on the animal. Usually .243 to calibre .27 calibre cartridges is used to kill deer in the short range. The cartridges of .300 calibres are used to shoot medium sized animals from long range. The .243 WIN, .30-30 WiN, and .300 Savage are used to kill deer and black beers in short range. The cartridges like .25-06 REM, .270 WIN, .308 WIN, .30-60 SRRINGFIELD, 7mm REM MAG, and .300 WIN MAG are generally used to kill animals like elk, deer black bars, Caribou, sheep, and goats in medium to long range. It is important to note that apart from just the calibre one also need to keep an eye on the design of the bullets that the cartridges encase. The bullets with pointed edges provide higher ballistic efficiency and are more accurate while shot.
  • Killing the small preys: The cartridges used to kill small preys and games include those with calibres .22LR and .22 WMR. These along with cartridges .17 HMR, .22 Hornets, and .223 REM are commonly used to kill games like Varmints in the short range. These are shot in short range, and are thus usually round headed and charged with low power gun powders. To shoots predators in the long range most of the hunters generally use the cartridges with calibres such as .22-250 REM .2220 SWIFT, and .243 WIN.
  • Taking the big shot: Killing big animals such as grizzly, brown bears, moose, and black bears require bullets which are both long in size and have bigger diameter and thus more calibre. These cartridges are usually charged with powerful gun powders to enable the shooters to kill the prey from the safe distance. The cartridges which are commonly used to hunt down these big animals and other include .33 WBY, .338 WIN MAG, .375 H & H, .445 MARLIN, and .45-70 GOVT.

It is important to note that usually greater the calibre, greater is the range of the bullet also. Also, the bullets with the long range offers greater recoil to the shooter’s arms and shoulders and require much more practice to shoot. So, if you planning to go for a hunting expedition, ensure that you have the right kind or cartridge along with you which has the potential to kill the prey you desire to hunt on the expedition.