Choosing a Hunting Rifle: Common Calibers and Cartridges

Choosing a Hunting Rifle: Common Calibers and Cartridges

If you are looking for a hunting rifle, choosing the right caliber can be difficult.

With so many options, choosing a caliber and cartridge can take forever.

We’d like to help by taking a look a five very popular hunting calibers and showing you the advantages and uses for each round.

.17 HMR

Developed in 2002, this is a relatively new cartridge on the hunting scene. Delivering a small yet high-velocity bullet, the .17 HMR has a longer range and flatter trajectory compared to a .22 long rifle. They are also relatively cheap to shoot compared to larger calibers, making them popular among target shooters.

There is a distinct disadvantage for the .17 HMR, however. If there is any crosswind, the light bullet is likely to be thrown off target. Under good conditions, however, this is a great cartridge for taking small game at long distances.

Typical game for the .17 HMR:

  • Rabbit
  • Squirrel
  • Rats

.22 Long Rifle

If you learned to shoot as a kid, the chances are high you learned on a .22 rifle. These are the all-American cartridges of small game and target shooting, with an affordable price and nearly universal availability.

Like all calibers, performance for the .22 will depend on the gun being used, but in general they are less accurate and have a shorter effective range than the .17 HMR, as well as other large rounds. A .22 Long Rifle round can be used on coyotes, but a close, accurate shot is a must.

Typical game for the .22 Long Rifle 

  • Raccoon
  • Rabbit
  • Woodchuck
  • Foxes

.223 Remington

Used in the popular AR-15 semi-automatic rifles, the .223 Remington has launched a near revolution in modern hunting, competition, and target practice. Many firearms owners would rather keep their .223 rifle than any other gun in their collection, thanks to it’s versatility, affordability, light recoil.

There is still a debate on whether a .223-caliber bullet from a “black gun” is a viable deer-hunting option. Many hunters feel it is a decent deer cartridge, depending on the specific bullet. It can deliver a clean, ethical shot, but is not as reliable for long or difficult shots. However, the .223 is still a favorite for many small to mid-sized game.

Typical game for .223 Remington:

  • Coyotes
  • Wild Hogs

.30-06 Springfield

Developed for military service before World War I, the .30-06, commonly called the “thirty-aught-six,” is one of the top cartridges for modern big game hunting. If you purchase a .223 rifle for deer hunting, you’ll have to debate the ethics and effectiveness of the round. There’s no debate with the .30-06.

It is one of the most commonly produced rifles in the country, making it easy to find for both hunting and target shooting. It remains a popular choice in large part to its excellent power with tolerable kick. For most hunters, the .30-06 Springfield is right at the edge to acceptable recoil, while still delivering a fast, accurate trajectory.

  • Black Bear
  • White Tail Deer
  • Mule Deer

.338 Winchester Magnum

This is often the first choice among heavy or dangerous game hunters. If you need something that puts the stop on a big, charging brute, the .338 Win Mag is one of your best options.

This is a powerful bullet, and that’s reflected in the price. It’s not uncommon for rounds to cost $3 to $4 apiece, meaning an afternoon at the shooting range can be an expensive hobby with this cartridge. However, if you want a bullet for some of the biggest game in North America, this is your round.

Common game for .338 Winchester Magnum:

  • Moose
  • Grizzly Bear
  • Brown Bear

Find Performance Hunting Apparel that Matches Your Needs

Calibers will change with the game you are pursuing, but the need for quality hunting apparel never diminishes. Browse the online selection from NOMAD and you’ll find layered hunting apparel that will keep you comfortable in any weather.