June 28, 2012
Campfire cartridge controversy is lots of fun, and we all have our favorites, but there are lots of popular calibers that are actually pretty darned close in diameter. It's a very subtle progression as you go from, say, .257 to .264 or from .277 to .284. How many of us can tell at a glance a bullet that is just .007 inch fatter than another? (Wait, let me get my glasses on!)
With diameters so similar, there are a lot of calibers- and cartridges within the calibers- that are virtually identical in effect on game. Most of our campfire arguments are based largely on personal preference (based on limited personal experience) and, from a purely objective viewpoint, are pretty thin. But there is one irrefutable concept: Regardless of the caliber or the cartridge, it's always the bullet that does the work.
I've hunted with virtually all of the popular bullet diameters, generally multiple cartridges in each. My word isn't law on the subject, but my purpose here is to offer my preferred big game bullet weights in the popular hunting calibers.
Pretty simple: 180-grainers for the 8x57, 200 for the .325 WSM and 220 for the 8mm Rem. Mag.
While originally a 250-grain man, Craig has recently been shooting 200- to 225-grain bullets in the .35 Whelen and similar cartridges.
If you must. Where it's legal to hunt deer-size game with .22 centerfires, go with bullets of 60 grains and up. Just be sure they're specifically designed for big game.
A more sensible choice for deer-size game. Use bullets of 95 grains and up and, again, be sure they're specifically designed for big game.
While he doesn't like the low BCs of this caliber, Craig admits bullets in the 115- to 120-grain range are good choices for deer-size game.
You can't go wrong with 140-grain bullets in this caliber, although for deer-size game in open country, 120 to 130 grains works fine.
Take your pick: 130, 140 or 150 grains. Base your choice on whether you're looking for speed (130), penetration (150) or a little bit of both (140).
Can't go wrong with 140- to 165-grain bullets. The 7mm-08 and 7x57 are best served with bullets on the low end of that weight range, the 7mm Rem. Mag. on the high end and the .280 in the middle.
In .30-06-class cartridges, 150s for deer-size game, 165s as a compromise while the 180 remains a top choice for heavier game. In the fast magnums, Craig's choices are 150s for deer, sheep and goats, and 180s for everything else.
Milder rounds such as .338 Federal and .338-06 are good with 200-grain bullets. The .338 Win. Mag. may be the ultimate elk round with 225s, while 250s are good for the fastest .33s — if you can handle the recoil.