Guide to The Best Hunting Rifle Caliber’s by Species
Do you know what the ideal caliber is for hunting rifles for different game?
Hunting Rifles, ballistics, long range shooting, etc is an area that is full of experts and debate. I am not about to get into all the technical aspects of hunting rifles, actions, and so on, as I am not an expert. So instead I am going to focus on what I do know. Which guns I have seen work for my clients and myself on different species.
Its funny, most people know me as a bow hunter, but the truth is I have taken a number of animals with a rifle as well as guided a great many rifle hunters. So, I may not be a long range hunting rifles nut, I may not be able to talk the pro’s and con’s of different bullets, calibers, etc with those who eat, sleep and breathe firearms, but I know which calibers perform well for hunting.
I get a lot of questions from hunters, or those thinking about getting started hunting, about what what hunting rifles to get in which calibers to use for different species. So with that being said, I have put together a simple guide to give you an idea of recommended calibers hunting rifles for specific game.
But before I get into the details of the best calibers for hunting rifles, let me just say the absolute best hunting rifle and caliber for each person is the rifle you can shoot accurately and consistently. It doesn’t matter if you have a super fancy Weatherby 30-378 or a full blown custom long range rifle that can shoot the wings off a fly at 1000 yards if you can’t shoot it well. I had a client I was guiding for elk who had an amazing custom Weatherby Rifle chambered in 338-378, this rifle had a Swarovski long range scope on it and was set up to be an amazing long range hunting rifle. The problem was the client couldn’t handle the recoil, which led to him missing 8 shots on bull elk inside of 200 yards.
He would hunch up every time he got ready to pull the trigger and then his barrel was jumping all over the place, which makes it really hard to hit what you are aiming at. I would have much rather had him shooting a .270 that he could shoot accurately as we would have been tagged out on a big 6×6 within the first 30 minutes of the hunt. As it was he finally connected on a bull on the last day of the hunt that I was able to call in to about 70 yards.
So I hope this guide is helpful, but at the same time, be honest with yourself and don’t let your ego make your shoot a hunting rifle in a caliber that you can’t shoot well.
Hunting Rifles Caliber Guide:
Recommended Use Recommended Caliber
- Vamints (short and medium range). .17 HMR, .22 Hornet
- Small Game (short and medium range).22 LR, .22 WMR
- Predators (long range) .223 Rem, .22-250 Rem, .220 Swift, .243 Win
- Deer (short range) .243 Win, 30-30, .300 Savage
- Deer, Sheep and Goats (Longer Range) .25.06 Rem, .270 Win, .308 Win, 30-06, 7mm
- .300 Win Mag, 6.5 Creedmoor
- Black Bear .30-30 and up, .444 Marlin, .45-70 Govt
- Elk, Stag, Plains Game .270 Win, .308 Win, .30-06. 7mm, .300 Win Mag
- Grizzly, Brown Bear/Polar and Moose .300 Win Mag, .300 Wby, .338 Win Mag, .375 H&H
- Africa Dangerous Game .375 H&H, .416 Rigby, .458 Lott, .470 Nitro, .500 Nitro
I realize this guide doesn’t address every caliber or every species, but it should give you a pretty good idea of what calibers work best on certain size animals. At the end of the day find a caliber you can shoot well and spend as much time as you can firing lead down range. Also, I get that long range shooting/hunting is all the rage right now, but my belief as a hunter is if you can get closer do it. Part of the challenge of hunting is pitting your wits, skill and mental toughness against those of the animals we pursue.