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Best Deer Cartridge

Deer hunters are always wondering what the best caliber is. What they really mean is “what’s the best cartridge?”

Caliber refers to the diameter of the bullet. Cartridge means the shape AND caliber.

Ron Spomer

A .30-30 Winchester, .308 Winchester, .30-06 Springfield and .300 Weatherby Magnum are all the same caliber, but vastly different cartridges. They can and often do shoot the same bullets, but at different speeds. The .30-30 can drive a 150-grain flat nose about 2,400 feet per second (fps). A .308 Win. will push a 150-grain spire point 3,000 fps, a .30-06 will move it 3,100 fps and the .300 Weatherby will send it screaming at 3,400 fps.

They’ll all kill deer.

So which is best?

There are a lot of cartridges that fire the 7mm (.284-inch) bullets, but the third from the left, the 7mm-08 Rem., is considered by many to be the perfect one for whitetails.


None. But this doesn’t mean there isn’t an ideal deer cartridge out there.

The thing is, one man’s ideal is another man’s garbage. For argument, let’s outline what a good, all-round whitetail cartridge should have/be:

1. Accurate. Of course, but how accurate? Despite everyone’s preoccupation with sub-MOA (Minute of Angle), target-grade performance, any rifle that clusters three shots inside of a 2-inch circle is going to hit every broadside deer out to 300 yards. But most factory rifles shoot closer to MOA right out of the box, so no worries.

2. Minimal recoil. Experienced shooters can teach themselves to endure the kick of .375 H&H magnums, but the average deer hunter doesn’t shoot enough to resist flinching when he fires a .30-06. Accuracy (hitting what you shoot at) is way more important than a few hundred more fps or foot pounds.

Headstamp on bottom of a 7mm-08 cartridge. This could be the gravestone epitaph for many a whitetail — maybe one in your future?


3. Reasonably flat trajectory. The sleeker and more aerodynamically efficient a bullet, the farther it flies before being pulled to the ground. The faster it leaves the rifle, the farther and flatter it flies. But too much velocity means increased recoil, so there’s a limit here. A good rule of thumb: the bullet should strike the deer somewhere in the chest if aimed center chest. Any cartridge/bullet combination that can do that out to 300 yards is more than ready for prime time.

4. Good striking energy. Terminal bullet energy is often stated as 1,000 foot pounds to cleanly kill deer. This doesn’t mean that one landing with 500 f.p. is going to bounce off. Energy alone doesn’t kill, but 1,000 f.p. is a reasonable standard.

5. Common and available ammunition. You don’t want to have to buy ammo from a specialty shop at $80 a box. Ammo for a deer rifle should be widely available.

6. Comfortable rifle size, weight. Who wants to drag a 10-pound rifle where a 7-pounder will suffice? Who wants to fight a 24-inch barrel through the brush when 22- or even 20-inches will suffice?

Just a few cartridges that fulfill most of these demands include: .243 Win., .25-06 Rem., 6.5 Creedmoor, .270 Win., .280 Rem., 7mm Rem. Mag., and .308 Win. But the one I’m going to recommend is 7mm-08 Remington. This is the .308 Winchester case necked down to take a .284-inch bullet.

Compared to the 7mm Rem. Mag. beside it, the 7mm-08 Rem. (right) doesn’t look too strong, but nearly anyone can shoot it without flinching.


The ultimate bullet in a 7mm-08 is the 140-grain spitzer boattail. Driven 2,900 fps, it will carry more than 1,260 f.p. energy at 500 yards! Zero it 2.5 inches high at 100 yards and it will be dead-on at 230 yards and just 5 inches low at 300 yards. Aim at the center of a deer’s 16-inch vital chest and you score a killing blow to the heart/lungs every time. A 10 mph right-angle wind will deflect that bullet just 3 inches at 200 yards, 6 inches at 300 yards. You’re still in the chest with a center hold. What could be easier?

In a 7-pound rifle, felt recoil will be 15 f.p. A 150-grain load in a .30-06 of the same weight will be 21 f.p. Virtually every bolt-action repeater comes in 7mm-08 Rem. Look for one. You won’t be sorry.

Shop Sportsman’s Guide for a great selection of Rifle Ammunition!


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107 Responses to “Best Deer Cartridge”


    I live in MI whitetail country. Am 82 years old – Korean War vet and have fired everything the Army had from take cannons to all the weapons that were hand carried.

    I own about 14 deer and bird guns – my favorite is the Ruger single shot in 375 Winchester for deer. Great ballistics. Had the stock redone by a master wood man. A beautiful gun that should be published in Gun Digest. Only problem is the high cost of ammo. Going to solve that by reloading.

  2. Larry Pohovich

    I use a .308, but for very obvious reasons. Very common and lots of options. Especially when reloading. I can nearly duplicate the same performance of the 7mm08 or get close to the 30-06. I shoot a Tikka T3 Light that is easy to carry and handle. Very accurate rifle. I’m sure I would like a 7mm08 but never saw the advantage sense I reload and have all the options available for the .308 cartridge. Last winter I decided to go with a lighter rifle and lighten up on the loads. It did not affect the accuracy once I got the scope sighted in. After using a .308 for years, I can’t see why it isn’t much more popular. I guess it doesn’t have the magnum glamour or the hype associated with the 30-06. When it comes to reloading, it uses less powder and the barrel isn’t as likely to burn out. Shelf ammo is very common and less expensive too.

  3. James L Storey

    what is the lowest cartridge with a kick that i can use for a 243,308,30-30 and for a m1a1 Gerand 308. Brand &Caliber. for Deer.What about a 223 cal,for deer hunting?

    • Tom Kacheroski

      Tom Kacheroski

      James: If I understand your question correctly, I think you’re asking “what is the lightest recoiling centerfire cartridge I can use for deer hunting?” Each state regulates this, so check local regulations. The 223 Rem. will take deer if you hit them in the boiler room or neck/brain, but a better option is the 243 Winchester. It will shoot flat enough for a dead-on hold out to 300 yards with a 95 grain Winchester Ballistic Sivertip bullet. Recoil is less than 14 foot pounds energy. A 30-06 Springfield has more like 25 foot pounds recoil energy.

      To my knowledge the Garand autoloading service rifle shoots a 30-06 Springfield, which shoots a .308-inch diameter bullet. The 308 Winchester cartridge is a shortened version of the 30-06 that can only be fired in a rifle chambered for 308 Winchester. It also shoots a .308-inch diameter bullet.

      Hope this helps.


      • Frank Vinchiarello

        Tom, I have a 257 Roberts Model 70 bought new in 1951. I have killed quite a few deer with it over the years and found out it was dead on shooting a 110 grain bullet but not the case with 117 grains. Is there a reason for this?Also, would you know what this gun is worth in excellent condition? Thank You.

        • Tom Kacheroski

          Tom Kacheroski

          Hi Frank:
          Here’s a reply from our Shooting Expert Ron Spomer:

          Rifles rarely throw different weight bullets to the same point of aim. This is due to several variables including muzzle velocity of the departing bullet and barrel oscillations due to the intense pressures of exploding gases (45,000 to 65,000 psi) and rifle grabbing and torquing under the pressure of the passing bullet. The barrel muzzle could be moving up, down, right or left when the bullet leaves. With most rifles you need to re-zero for each load.
          Ron Spomer

      • Eugene Sanborn

        For many years Minnesota regs stated that the minimum cal. for a deer cartridge was .23. The big boys in St. Paul decided that they wanted to be able to shoot deer with their toys and in and around the Twin Cities. SO they enacted a legal cal for deer as any center fire cartridge which includes they.223. DNR does not like that as there are too many deer running around (limping) that are not downed when hit by the .223. Hell some of the higher calibers wont drop some deer. I have seen deer hit five times (not by me) with a 180 gr. 30.06 Rem. power Point ,all hit in the chest behind the front shoulders.
        It even jumped a 5 ft fence and ran off.

        • Eugene Sanborn

          Oh! And I shoot a 30.06. reload my own. BUT I can go to any podunk mom and pop hardware store in timbuckto and buy 30.06 ammunition. Can’t say that for any of the other calibers.

          • Jefrey L. Frischkorn

            I know that point is often made but honestly I’ve never actually encountered the problem if for no other reason than because when I have gone on a trip I’ve always done so with enough ammo not only to hunt with but also to sight a rifle back in to zero. Nor have I ever actually encountered another hunter who had actually been troubled by this issue. I’m sure there are some out there but I wouldn’t let stop me from using a my .257 Roberts or any other rifle drilled with some lesser known or else a so-called obsolete caliber.


      Minimum for some states on deer is 6.0

  4. David Morris

    Excellent article that I will forward to the net person that asks me this common question. I use a 30-06 simply because that was my first rifle as a teenager and it has never failed me. However, I agree with the author. If I were to go out and buy a new bolt gun for deer I would get it in 7mm-08 for all the reasons stated above.

    • Charles Grissom

      I have a Model 70- 270- Win I bought the rifle from a old man whom bought it new 1953 I have taken bear, elk, Deer, and won many comps and have shot with just about every rifle up to a 1000 yd I just done a shoot at 700 yd no one in the party that was there beat me i got the rifle 1963 and i have shot many rounds i reload my own I hit the target 10in-W 24in Tall 8 times out of 10 we had two crosswinds one to the left at 400 and one to right at 700 so i guess i will stay with my 270 and i have a 700 mag also and 30-06 30-30 and many more But i love this old 270 hard to beat

      • Sid Paraski

        I have always wanted a classic Winchester Bolt action rifle in .270. I have always marveled ant the wide variety of factory ammo in so many different grains and almost all are flat to 250+ yards with plenty of power, but alas a poor City of Detroit retiree so I have used Military Surplus rifles like a Steyr straight pull carbine and even a Mosin Nagant , all with surplus ammo and iron sights, and once got a big doe with a Ruger Super Redwawk in .44 Magnum north of Lake City. But I was surprised at amount of locals that would take a deer every single year with a bolt action .22lr at 75-100 yards, yes I and they know it is Illegal and almost every case was a head shot and it was meat for winter. They are locals and use CB radios in morning to find out where DNR have been hanging out. Last time out for me it was with a $89.00 SKS purchased in 91. It is all about practice and familiarity with weapon system. I know have a AR 10 w 5 round mag in .308, but still looking for a pre 64 Winchester Bolt in 270, wanted one since 10 years old. Many a meal at Missaukee Sportsman Club in late November and Bubbling Springs area was favorite spot up at Earl Hamm’s place. He was a good ole guy. And all my kills were in the 50-75 yard range from ground.

  5. Charles Grissom

    I would like to add that i have used 4831 powder for years back in the days i would buy the powder by the keg and i used 59 grain of powder and a 150 grain bullett it seem to be the best for this model 70-270 Win, I shot a big brown bear at 350yd he droped and layed for 45 min, then got up but i had blew out the neck bones and i had to shoot again to finish him off he dressed out at 580 lb that was in 1968 sept 8 at 8:am I have pictures of this bear

  6. David Vaughn

    Just got my first rifle that wasn’t a 22. It appears that Indiana will have it’s first ever rifle season next year and so I wanted to be ready. After looking around and after talking to common folks like most of us are, I settled on the Remington 783 in 270 and here is why: (1 )this gun shoots outrageous groups right out of the box; (2)bullets are relatively inexpensive and (3) available just about anywhere; (4) I intend to go to Colorado where my son lives and try antelope, mule deer and hopefully, elk hunting. This gun should be sufficient for all of these species. We will see.

    • Mike Madden

      Always enjoy articles like this. I think the author is probably dead on with the 7-08. My only concern is availability in remote areas. I use a Win. Mod 70 in 270. I’m not sure it is any better but I have never found an ammunition stocking store that didn’t have it on hand. It does have a little longer bolt travel but that only matters if you need a quick second shot. When I think I’ll be in that situation, like hog hunting, I take a Remington pump carbine in 308. Both rifles are very sweet to shoot . The 270 has given 3 young adults one shot kills with their first shot ever from a centerfire rifle. I enjoyed watching that as much as shooting one myself, maybe more.

      • Dave Homlotis

        I think we all should take a good look at the 260 Remington. Less recoil than a 7-08 with better bullets and downrange ballistics. also, REMARKABLE PERFORMANCE ON GAME ANIMALS.

        • Mike Warrak

          .260 is certainly a great round. But so is the 6mm Remington. The problem with those rounds is cartridge availability (and price). .243, .270, 7.08mm are all reasonably priced and available.

          • Glen

            I couldn’t agree more with this statement. Unless your a handloader the .260 and 6mm are not viable options IMO. Shame too, because both are excellent deer cartridges. Sadly too, is the higher price of 243 and 7mm08 ammunition in comparison to the 308. Guess it’s the law of supply and demand at play here. I think if your a handloader the 7mm08 is just as good as if not better than the 308, but for those who use factory ammunition alone the 308 may be a better all-around choice in terms of ammunition availability, selection and price.

    • Brian R Gard

      I have a model 783 7mm Remington Magnum – astonishingly great rifle, also own 4 270’s and believe me they are good for elk, of he 10 friends I have that hunt elk, half own 270.s many good choices in 150 grain bullets, but 30-06 hard to beat, or 308 Winchester, 7mm Magnum also good and there are many other calibers, but I like the common well established ones, bullet selection can make a big difference, for me .243 and antelope cartridge and .223 – well poor choice for deer size game, varmit – maybe coyote gun, lots of folks using them for big game hunting, but eventually they have sad stories of wounded game getting away – don’t use them.

  7. Mike Warrak

    .243 and .270 are my choice for deer. Both are plenty big, but not too big. But like you said, bullet placement is more important than bullet diameter and speed.

  8. Wilton Adriano

    Ron deserves allways thumbs up very nice article!!!!! No abracadabra ideas.

  9. David Groves

    My 7mm rifle is the 7X57 Mauser. It has a longer case than the 7-08 (57mm vs. 51mm) and therefore can be handloaded to about 100 fps MV more than the 7-08, but only when used in a modern, strong action. Don’t try that in a sporterized M93, M95, or any other pre M98 Mauser military action. Factory ammo is downloaded to 2660 fps MV in 140 grain, and 2440 fps MV in 175 grain loads for use in old military actions.

    Not going to find 7X57 ammo in too many rural areas, but when I do, the prices are 2 or 3 years out of date – cheap. Found 2 boxes of Federal Premium (Gold Box) 140 grain Nosler Partition for $24.50 a box! In a little rural “Farm supply” store about 50 miles south of Abilene, TX.



    • Matt Dybedahl

      Matt Dybedahl

      Hi Gerald,

      I recently did some research on an old Remington 12A that I received and might be able to help. Do you have any pictures of the rifle? Is there any engraving on the barrel, receiver or anywhere else on the firearm? If I have that information, I think I can find at least some general info for you.

  11. Josh

    I like the 6.8 mm SPC. It is basically a .270 round, shoots extremely flat, and the recoil is so light I would let my 7 year old daughter shoot it (if the wife would allow it).

  12. james rice

    I agree with the idea there is no “perfect” caliber of rifle to hunt deer. I also believe one must consider the area one hunts in to arrive at the best weapon, caliber to hunt with. The Michigan deer woods can be quite thick, making a longer barrel rifle harder to move around to get a shot off, quietly.
    Personally, I hunt with a Remington pump action, 30-06. A few years ago I harvested a beautiful 12 point, scoring in the 170 range. I shot it in the deer woods, public land, at approximately 165 yards.
    Using a Barska scope purchased from S/G, he was in clear viewing for about 100 yards going left to right through the woods before getting an opening to shoot him.
    I’ve shot many a deer, one shot kills with this weapon and they dropped on the spot.
    Several moved sideways, from the bullet. One, from a neck shot flipped, end over end.
    So for me, 30-06 works fine, out west with distance more in mind, a 300 win. mag may be better.
    No matter what, the more you practice with a weapon, the better you will be in accuracy. Which is THE most important thing about hunting. Being able to hit where you want the bullet to impact.
    As always, safety first, and good hunting!

  13. james rice

    By the way, the 30-06 cartridge is also available just about anywhere, is common enough to find relatively reasonably priced. Reloading accessories are reasonably had as well.

  14. greg williams

    I have the 7mm08 in a Thompson center encore . My daughters favorite gun for shooting deer ,since she only weights 90 pounds . I to also love this rd, last buck I shot with this rd only went 20 yards

  15. TrailMixNC

    7.62x54r makes for a surprisingly effective – and affordable – deer round.

  16. Albert Nygren

    Thank you for this information, it was very interesting. For recoil sensitive deer hunters your pick of 7mm-08 with the cartridge you mention should be an excellent deer cartridge. I became disabled and can’t hunt any more but could hunt up to 58 y/o. I checked ballistic charts and decided on the Remington 165 grain boat tail ammo. At 500 yards it had over 1000 foot pounds of energy and was as flat shooting as your 7mm-08. I tried different rifles and found that the one I liked the best was the Remington semi auto. Yes if you fire more than 2o rounds at the range your shoulder will get a little sore but because of the semi auto’s reduction in felt recoil, when I was hunting I never felt a thing when I shot at a deer. The big advantage of the 30-06 is it’s versatility. Change the ammo to a 180 grain soft nose and you can hunt elk or moose with it. Drop down to a 130 grain cartridge and you can hunt varmints. For someone who can afford to have a different rifle for all of the different game he hunts or likes to hunt, I agree that the 7mm-08 is perfect for most deer hunting but for someone on a budget that still wants to hunt a variety of game, I think the 30-06 is the rifle for him or her.


    Personally my favorite, due to my handicap, is shooting the 6.8 SPC through the AR15 Stag Arms platform. It gives me the most comfortable and more importantly that last second steadiness that I require right before I squeeze that trigger.

  18. Scott

    Still debating on getting a 7mm-08, a 7mm Rem Mag, or a 7mm Rem Ult Mag. Going to use it for deer hunting and I’m willing to pay up to $1,000 on the gun itself without a scope and add one after i get it. Any advise or opinions are welcome, thanks.

    • Tom Kacheroski

      Tom Kacheroski

      Here’s a reply from Ron Spomer:

      Hi Scott,
      You can’t go wrong with any of these 7mms. It comes down to gun weight, barrel length and recoil tolerance. I don’t find any of these too harsh to shoot well, but the RUM requires a magnum length action and minimum of 26-inch barrel and ideally a 30-inch to get full potential from all that powder. Ammo will also be the most expensive of the three. The 7mm Rem Mag. is the compromise in the middle and does well in a 24-inch barrel, fits a standard length action (.30-06 length.) Ammo is more readily available in more bullet types and weights, too.
      The 7mm-08 Rem. is the efficiency king. It shoots farther, drops less, drifts less in the wind, and carries more energy far downrange than the 308 Win., which everyone thinks of as the long range sniping “king.” While this 7 doesn’t have the potential reach of the other two, how often do you shoot deer beyond 400 yards anyway? And if you do want to shoot long, bullet drop doesn’t matter much if you have an accurate range measurement. Just dial or use the correct reticle line and you can hit to 1,000 yards with the 7-08. As for sufficient energy, fret not. No deer is going to walk away from a solid hit in the vital zone with any of these. Just use the right bullet.
      Bottom line: do you want a lighter, shorter, and easier to handle rifle or heavier, longer, slower handling rifle? More recoil or less? Have fun.

      Ron Spomer

      P.S. The new 28 Nosler delivers the same velocity as the RUM with about 15 grains less powder in a standard length action and 26-inch barrel. Something to consider.

      • Glen

        Great reply… Concerning the 400yd question… I couldn’t agree more. Most hunters will never even get close to, let alone beyond 300yds. And for that matter, don’t possess the required skills to even have any business doing so. A lot of variables come into play at a much MUCH greater degree once that 300yd threshold is crossed.

  19. Jerry Combden

    A friend of mine just bought a 300 Thompson Center and asked if its too big for Deer?? Thoughts??

    • Tom Kacheroski

      Tom Kacheroski

      Jerry… here’s a reply from Shooting Expert Ron Spomer. Thanks for checking out Guide Outdoors!

      Hi Jerry,
      I’d need a bit more information to precisely answer your question because, to my knowledge, a “300 Thompson Center” isn’t a cartridge. T/C makes several firearms, but this doesn’t really matter since it’s the cartridge you wonder about. So, is it a 300 Win. Mag., 300 Blackout, 300 Weatherby Mag., 300 WSM,… Since you mentioned “too big for deer,” I’m assuming its one of the 300 magnums, in which case it’s more powerful than needed, but not too powerful if you can shoot it without flinching. “Too big” is a subjective assessment, and we always say you can’t shoot any game “too dead.” Of course, you and I know excessive power/bullet destruction can ruin too much meat, so there really is a problem of “too much gun,” so to speak.

      I’ve used various 300 magnums to take everything from the world’s biggest antelope (2,000 lb. eland) and deer (moose) to pronghorns, whitetails and even coyotes. With soft bullets, meat damage can be excessive. Harder bullets minimize this and often sail right through. Range at which the target is hit always changes this. Every bullet, regardless of size, eventually runs out of steam due to air drag. So, impact from a 150-grain bullet from a 300 magnum at 100 yards is going to be a lot more destructive than the same bullet at 600 yards or even 300 yards.

      Another way to look at this: the 300 magnums shoot the same bullets as the 308 Win. and 30-06, just at higher speeds, roughly 200 fps faster than the 30-06. That means flatter trajectory and less wind deflection and more energy at all ranges. You can get this same ballistic performance, minus the higher energies, with many smaller cartridges/bullets, which is why a better balance for whitetail hunting might be a 7mm, 6.5mm, .270, .257 or even a little .243 of some kind. With the right bullets, all so called “deer cartridges” can be remarkably effective if bullet is parked in the right spot. A gut shot with a 300 magnum will be no more effective than one with a 223 Rem.

      Personally, I’d deer hunt with something like a 6.5 Creedmoor, 260 Rem, 6.5-284 Norma or one of the 7mms from 7×57 Mauser though 7mm Rem Mag. And I’d go with the magnums only for the extra range and reduced wind drift, not the energy. Energy doesn’t kill deer; vital tissue destruction does, and the right small bullet does that as effectively as bigger ones.

      Hope this long winded answer helps more than confuses, Jerry!

      Ron Spomer

  20. eric hubel

    only drawback it availability of ammo everywhere.

  21. Kevin Troisi

    I couldn’t agree with you any more. My Savage 7mm-08 is a tack driver. Not as much kick as my 30-06. But shoots straight and has enough punch ( I use the Winchester Ballistic silver tips 140 grains.) to drop a whitetail everytime.

  22. PaTim

    Got a question…I understand that the caliber is very important…BUT me Question is…What type of bullet is recommended? I shoot a .308 – In PA – and have used SP and a few times HP… I am a average guy living on a small disability pension… I hear of Ballistic tips and HPBT..SP and such…What is every ones thoughts? Can you give me the top 3 -5 and the pros and cons?? Thanks everyone

    • robert gambino

      i use 30/06, 308, .300 winmag, 45/70,.243, .35 whelan, 7mm remmag the favorite deerbuster for me is my custom 6.5×55 swede, all are exceptional but my swede a gem.

    • GlennMaine

      Tim, as I understand it, for deer you want a bullet that doesn’t come apart. You want it to mushroom and stay together. Everything I have read says stay away from “varmint” bullets.Ones that are designed to break apart and do their most damage that way. Those are intended for coyote and smaller targets. I am hand loading Nosler Partition bullets. A version of a soft point with another piece on the back end that slams forward helping the projectile expand to it’s maximum size as quickly as possible.

  23. Sterling Proffitt

    I have a .280 and love it. Not enough hunters are aware of this caliber’s attributes, but it shoots a bit better than the .270. Haven’t had one get away from me yet.

  24. dhamilton

    This is supposed to be for someone which has no experience with hunting deer and caliber selection. It certainly is a travesty to be talking about 300 yards to kill deer. Please think about this…
    This is not about the art and responsibility of hunting any animal. At 300 yards? That is for people who are snipers. These magazines who encourage this stuff should address the shame which is upon them. As a friend says “ALWAYS FOLLOW THE MONEY” which is the case here [but also virtually always is the main culprit in society where there is hurt and pain in interpersonal relationships]. Please punch paper at 300 yards and share the thrill. STALK and kill deer at 100 yards and share the thrill of being a true hunter. This is so sad that this is the norm.

    • Steve Schammel

      Depending on where in the country you live hunting is different. In the northeast woods you stalk the timber. Hunt the Great Plains and the timber is quite sparse and you sit in ambush and your range is longer. In south Texas you would scoff at what I call a tree. Here it is impenetrable brush almost all of which is thorns and stickers with cactus varrities too many to count. Here you hunt from blind on roads cut though the brush or over crop fields all on private land as there is really no public land to had. Regardless of the style of hunting we need to be on the same side, that is the side that preserves the right to hunt, protecting it from those who would seek to take it from us.

      • dhamilton

        Yes, I should have covered my rear when I wrote earlier today. however, obviously, my point was to suggest the person not be led down a path by those who do not know or care about responsibility to the animal. paper? it does not matter. but articles like these contain no good advice for novices to learn to shoot at 50yds or 100yd because it will take several years to develop the skills needed to make the long shots.

        I have been a teacher of 19th century African style of down stroke banjo for 45 yrs now… thus I can ask, where do you see writers insisting on the acceptance of the all important discipline of “stop, look, and listen” in the learning process. in the many hundreds of banjo students over the years and the instructors they have had, I seldom see anything which teaches the student to learn the rhythm first. all they want is a continual list of tunes they can feed on. whether hunting or playing music or whatever, it is always about learning rhythm first. no rhythm, no music. to accept the discipline of learning the basics first, this simply means a .22 @ 25-50 yds as a parallel.

        • Steve Schammel

          I agree, too little attention to the art of the rifle. Was at the range one time and the guy just down from me was blasting a wary with a magumum and obviously displeased. Looked at his target and it was a mess. No pattern or consistency. He said he bought a magnum too make up for inaccuracy. If he had backed off to a milder round accuracy wold have increase and it would have been a more enjoyable experience all around.

    • Joseph

      I agree with (dhamilton) comment 100 percent, The variables are to many for the average guy
      with a new rifle out of the box, and some factory ammo to make clean kill shoots at 300 yards.
      I didn’t much care for your article reason being is that you advocate just about any rifle and cartridge, You have little care for a clean kill with your “shoot them in the chest , or neck or head”
      also the information you give has a lot to be desired, especially in deer anatomy. I see to many
      crippled and unrecoverable deer, because of people like you who just don’t give a damn about a fine animal that feels pain just as you do and deserves better from those who hunt them.
      Shot placement at a reasonable distance that will put that bullet where you want it for a quick clean kill.

  25. S C

    I am shooting a 208 grain soft point bullet, shooting a “Muzzle Velocity (f.p.s.): 2,297” and “Muzzle Energy (ft.-lbs.): 2,437”. With an approximate 19″ barrel with a bullet diamiter of .325. Is this a sufficient choice for whitetail/ muledeer at 100 yards and less? YES? – NO? & WHY?

  26. Steve Schammel

    My go to is a .270 Winchester, with a .300 win mag for heavier game. For my son it was time to move beyond the .223 to something with more power and range. I complied the list and came down to the 7-08 and .308. He’s a lefty which meant full retail price for a rifle. In the end I went with the .308 by a close call. It won for two reasons. More bullet option in .308 caliber than 7mm and Hornady managed recoil. For now he shoots 125 grain rounds effectively making it a .243 and later he can move up to full power rounds. My daughter just inherit my dads 6.5×55 swede in as sporterized mauser action made in 1901. I bought it for my dad and she will use it in the coming years. The 6.5 and .260 are under appreciated and ballisticly increadable. Her first hog hunt just before she turned 9 was with a Winchester 73 in .45 colt. At 50 yards more than powerful enough and shot from bag in blind there was no recoil. The short story, there are many great cartridges, have fun.

  27. Charles Karolewski

    AH !
    Interesting info . . . BUT . . . what about folks like me who can only use a shotgun to hunt deer . . .?

    What’s the “best” slug . . . best slug-gun . . . hmmm?

    • Southerner

      Indeed, shotguns are deer guns and not just with slug ammo. Using big buckshot loads for thick cover hunting is quite common along the Coastal South. My own ammo choice is Dixie TriBall – three .60 caliber 315 grain pellets at 1100 fps – this is a great 12 gauge deer and hog round!

  28. Customcutter

    While I agree with the authors comments concerning bolt action firearms, a lot of hunters are moving to an AR platform. I have to recommend the 6.5 Grendel. It will do anything the above mentioned cartridges will do. Actually ballistically out shooting the 150gr .308 past 600yds with a 123gr Amax in the AR15 platform. Yes the 6.8SPC is more popular and ammo more available, but if you want to reach out past 300 yds the 6.5 Grendel easily starts to outshine the competition. Also if you reload, you will use half the powder of the bolt action deer rounds mentioned.

  29. Ron

    Well in my situation I am looking through brush and trees with a maximum range of any shot being less than 75 yards. I gave up the 30 calibers and went to a Ruger 44 cal. Doesn’t seem to deflect as much and is dead on at 100 yards when sighting in. Plenty of knock down power, short and light weight gun.

  30. Art Jackson

    I have little to add to cartridge choice. I will say however that after hunting many year at long range, teaching others to shoot long range and writing a book on this subject as well as building precision long range rifles, hunting long can be and to many of us is just as rewarding as hunting close. In nearly 50 years of hunting I have only missed 1 deer and I did miss not wound it because of a bad scope and have only had to shoot one twice.

  31. RAPTOR555

    I started out with a Remington 30-06 that I bought new in 1962 and never looked back. Of course the first time I used it I found the kick to be excessive but I got used to it without flinching. As long as it brought down the deer and other big game consistently I never considered changing. I no longer hunt but but still have the same rifle I started out with because I figure ‘Ya never know when you may need it’ for other than hunting especially in today’s political environment. It’s been buried correctly in dry earth with 500 rounds of ammo and the cleaning kit for the past 13 years.

  32. Howard Robinson

    A 7mm-o8 is a good cartridge but it’s parent ,the .308 win. has take a very large number of deer for me so I will continue to shoot deer with it and my “pet load”.

  33. Tommy Birdsall

    Excellent article. I have a savage Axis 30-06. It is light accurate and can take a beating. Plus, you never worry about your grand dad’s nice rifle getting all scratched up. The 30-06 has some kick, but I can find it everywhere! Thanks again!

  34. David Eustache

    Although I have bragging rights against anybody at any time for accuracy I always thought bigger is better and I was wrong and have always been wrong. I used to use a large bullet for whitetail and a gunsmith talk me into using 150 grains and it is extremely effective far beyond my expectations. A professional opinion is always the best.

  35. David Stinson

    I just had this discussion two weeks ago at Gander Mountain. A salesman was trying to push the 7-08 on a father for his son’s first deer rifle. I own a Tikka T3 Lite in 7-08 and wish I hadn’t bought it. There is little to no difference in recoil between the 7-08 140 gr. and a .308 150 gr. hunting load. The price for Remington Core lokt hunting rounds are almost double for the 7-08. The availability and variety is another negative because you have to get them at a big sporting goods store. I would recommend a .243 or .270 for hunting rounds.

  36. Carl

    I find a 270 wsm with a Winchester 130 grain blistic silver tip. Exelint for deer. Never had to follow any farther than 25 yards.

  37. Alan

    Great article, but now I hunt with a handgun. Ruger Blackhawk Hunter in .45 Colt.
    Not for everyone, but very rewarding.

  38. Mike Crampton

    Ron, I’m not hearing much about the 6.5 Creedmoor. I know ammo at this point is a little hard to come by. But the numbers on this match grade cartridge with the Hornady GMX bullet makes for a low recoil Deer/elk capable firearm. And, I hear the new ELD-X bullet is going to set new standards for the industry. What are your thoughts on the 6.5 Creed for deer and elk?

  39. Tom Lowery

    This information is right on and really could not be better.

  40. Joe Cisneros

    I hunt deer and elk with a 7mm remington mag. I would like to know what is the best cartridge for hunting both. I use federal premiums with 160 grain for distance and knock down power on the elk. I also would like to know if I can use the 7mm-08 on my 7mm remington mag.

  41. Richard Holmes

    I’ve shot the 7mm-08 for many years with outstanding results. Over the years, I’ve used other calibers but the 7mm-08 is by far my favorite. The majority of the white tails that I’ve taken with it have dropped in their tracks and the ones that didn’t, running no more than 40 yards. For me this is one of the best if not the best cartridges for white tail on the market. It is flat shooting, accurate, very little felt recoil, not very expensive, and does not sacrifice knock down power,

  42. victor noto

    putting it all together:……rifle size, caliber, bullet weight, velocity, recoil, accuracy, sights, expected shooting distances, size of game etc. It always comes down to the gun you love to shoot. All roads
    lead to Rome.

  43. Bob Rhoton

    I have killed several mule deer with my 22-250 out to 300 yards. One shot one kill. Of course I realized that the flat shoozing accuracy of the 22-250 in the vitals is the key. And I am dead on with the Remington 700. Not for everyone but works for me.

  44. Steve Dienger

    I have a number of rifles ranging from 22-250, .223, .243. 250-3000, .270, .30-.30, 30-06. Although I realize the smaller .22 caliber guns are capable of taking a deer, I personally believe they are too light and don’t use them for that purpose. I used the .270 the most with high success. I believe the fast flat trajectory is advantageous. I am not really recoil sensitive, but then again the gun is only being fired one time in most cases. I do prefer the .30-.06 for hogs because of the power and due to the fact it is auto loading. On the places I hunt, 120 yards is generally the longest shot that is going to present itself, so all this about 300 & 400 yard targets does not apply in my case. In fact, I myself would not take such a shot — to me it is not ethical — other hunters must have much greater abilities than myself. If I were to purchase another rifle it would be in .308. I like variety. In the end, it is shot placement that makes or breaks any caliber.

  45. Dennis Stewart

    Good article. I think the 7mm 08 is a good cartridge. I have hunted deer in Pennsylvania for over 40 years. My favorite rifle cartridge in the .243 Win. in 100gr. It shoots very flat, has plenty of power and comes in a light enough rifle to carry all day.

    The one thought I think you left out is to consider expected distances. I have never had a chance to shoot a deer at more than 150 yards because of the topography here and the density of the woods. This makes the smaller rifle even more important, since it is up and down hills and through sometimes dense cover. A quick handling gun can be very important.

  46. ted

    It would be nice if the pictures of the bullets did not cover up half the words i was trying to read. Putting that aside the information was nice to read keep up the good work. Ted

  47. Robert Cecil

    I shoot a .223 Rem or a .300 Whby Mag . With either one the main requirement is trigger squeeze not jerk. All I can say about recoil is, that comes after the trigger squeeze. Just hang on with .300 Whby With it an Elk is down in it’s tracks at 300 yards. One way too really check for flinching is the next time you go time you go to the range let a friend load your gun. Shoot a few rounds with him doing the loading so you don’t know when the chamber is empty. That will show the flinch EVERY TIME! With the .223 Rem I soot them in the head. With the 300 Whby I shoot for the neck because the target is so large. ps- I’m also a Korean War vet, 82 yrs old an have shot every thing from a pellet gun to practice nuclear weapons. Yes by all means do your own reloading. The Whby cost about $80.00 a box

  48. Ronald McAlpin

    Great caliber, I bought my son a youth model 7mm08 when he was 12 years old, he killed a 185 lb. 8 point buck at 125 yards with one shot.

  49. JohnnyT

    Interesting article. Logic is thought out and I have no doubt of it’s accuracy. I started with a 30.06 and still use it today. Probably more gun than I need for the woods of East Texas, but it’s never failed me. When my son started hunting, we started him with a .270 and it is flatter shooting gun with a light kick. Which I guess brings me to the point, the best gun is the one you are comfortable with. I agree, if I was just starting out, it might be one I would consider. People tend to stay with what they start with, but the 7mm-08 would be a good one to start with, if it were your first gun.

  50. Richard Bennett

    Have hunted deer with a lot of 30 caliber guns but once I started hunting with my Ruger M77 Mark 2 in 270 with Winchester 130 grain soft points it is my go to gun drops them every time.

  51. Philip Underwood

    I have used the 270 Win., 30-06, and 7mm Rem. Mag. for deer hunting and love all those cartridges but a few years ago i attained a Savage model 99 made in 1954 with a Weaver K4 scope on it chambered in 300 Savage and this gun by far is my favorite. It shoots incredible for a lever action gun! I handload Hornady 150 gr.SST’s in it and it will always shoot less than a minute of angle out to 400 yards and I have the fast follow up shots of a lever gun to boot. 2 years ago in Kentucky I had a group of deer passing in the field i was watching and in less than 12 seconds I limited out (4) and a coyote 15 minutes before at a range of 245 yards. Love this gun and deer hunting in general

  52. Lester Weddle

    It’s like the old joke, 3 guys talking what they like best for taking deer, First guy prefers a 270. Second guy really likes a 30-06. Last guy says he uses a F-150.

  53. William Ziemczyk

    It is not to much the cartridge but the shooters ability to hit the animal in the proper location I have used a 243-100 gr nosler BT and dropped the deer in a few steps.I have watch a shooter with a 7 mag and had to track a deer for a 1/2 mile. hunters must practice with their guns to be effective…

  54. Richard Smith

    My favorite is the 7X57 I built up for my wife. It puts out a 140 grain bullet at 3000 fps (chronographed) with a 24″ barrel. I have used 7mm Mag before and had the bullet blow up in the back strap. When the deer got up and took off I shot it with my wife’s 7X57 and blew the heart apart. I have worked with 7mm-06, have a 7mm-08, have built up 7x57s in 19″ barrels for my sons. They are accurate and comfortable to shoot.

  55. Dennis Baker

    This is just one persons opinion I happen to like the 308. Others like the 243. They are all the same brass the 308. just a different bullet and powder and charge.

  56. Art Jackson

    I live in a state where you can use anything you want to. I know those who hunt with .22 mags and those who hunt with 458 win mags. I have taken deer with the .22 mag up through .45/70.I prefer to hunt long over clear cuts, Ag fields and power lines. I like the 6.5/06, 7MM rem mag 300 win mag for these shots. There is a pretty large group of dedicated long range hunters here in Mississippi as well as the woods hunters. By a large margin the long shooters wound and lose far fewer deer than the woods hunters. They buy better equipment. load their own ammo and shoot many many more rounds per year many will wear out 1 or more barrels a year.

  57. jeff

    Better check that about the 30-30 (.303) and the 308, 300wby and 30-06(.30) all being the same bullet.

    • Roger S

      First off the .30-30 is not the same as the .303 British round The only thing they have in common is that they are both rimmed-rounds, the others you mentioned are rimless. The .303 actually uses .312 caliber (7.92 mm) bullets while the others use .308 (7.62mm). Additionally it is not advised to use spire-pointed bullets in the 30-30 due to the predominate chambering of this cartridge in rifles with tube magazines. (As a handloader, I used to ‘cheat’ on this when I used my Win 1894 and kept a ballistic tip round in the chamber while the rest were flat nose.)
      All are generally classified as ’30 caliber’ cartridges however.

  58. GlennMaine

    I am in Maine. Where I won’t have more than probably 50 or 60 yards clear terrain. After considerable research I will be stalking the timber with my S&W M&P15. I have a 5 round magazine to be legal and in it are handloaded .223 Nosler Partition 60 gr spitzers. Topped with a Trijicon RX06 I have the top point of the triangle set for POI at about 75 yards. The data I have indicates I can expect 3100 fps from this round. It took me months to locate 2 boxes of them but an article by Richard Mann in Sporting Deal News backed up what many old timers around here assured me. It’s all about shot placement and this is the weapon I am most comfortable using. Not something that sits in the closet only to be pulled out once a year. This is the gun I use all year to keep the poultry safe.

  59. M

    I have a tikka 7mm 08 and it is by far the best gun I have ever owned. Ridiculously smooth, and deadly accurate. I had never even considered a 7mm 08 before. I told the salesman I wanted something my young kids could eventually hunt with, and he recommended the underrated caliber. Very low kick with outstanding range and accuracy. I used to shoot a 30-.06, but never again after this little beauty.

    • James

      I shoot a 7mm-08 with a Barnett 120gr bullet and all I can say is WOW!!! One shot kill

  60. Thomas Coxsey

    My deer rifle is a sported 8X57mm 1942 German Mauser with a synthetic stock and a 6-24X50mm scope using 196 gr soft points. My father brought this rifle back from WW2, gave it to my uncle, who had it sported, then I ended up with it. I added the synthetic stock and the scope, and had it parkerized. The synthetic stock cut the recoil in half and it is accurate even out at 600+ yards. It is a very smooth shooting rifle.

  61. Rich Misel jr

    I have seceral rifles that I use 30-30 94 Winchester, 91/31 and M-44 nagants, Yugo sks and a chec 24 muaser used to have No2 and No4 brtish 303. to me it’s a matter of where I hunt I have taken deer out past 300 yards with the 30-30 and one at about 750 yards with the 91/30 nagant. I have no problem with recoil, but there are folks that do. Being accurate with whichever rifle you choose it the key thing.

  62. cmac

    My go to deer rifle is a surplus Chilean Mauser re-chambered to 308. I am over 65 wear glasses and can still center punch the target at 100 yards with it. Where I hunt 100 yards is a long shot so that is the perfect rifle for my deer hunting.

  63. Kasey Hunter

    I live and hunt in South Eastern Tennessee. I own many deer rifles and have killed deer with 223, 243,270,280,308,30.06,7mm08 and 7mm mag. They will all do the job. The 7mm08 is a dandy of a round and works great on deer here. This used to be my favorite round. However the cost of 7mm08 rounds moved me to my now favorite round the 308 Winchester. In my opinion the 308 and 7mm08 have neerly the same recoil and effect on deer. The price for 308 is alot cheaper and 308 seems to have a wider variety and selection of rounds. Not to mention its easier to find the 308 because its just such a common round. My round of choice is the 308 soft point. Its just a great round on white tail deer.

    • Phernandez

      Lots of folks want to be that “Super Sinper” and go out and buy the expensive equipment. 99.9 percent will never be that. Learn to be good at whatever rifle you have. It’s the dropped game which is proof of your skill. Me, I guess I favor the 308 since being prior military with boots on the ground experience. Old habitats are hard to break but still useful. Thanks

  64. james

    I have an 6.5×55 Swedish maser it seems to be a very flat shooter, how would this do with whitetail?

  65. gary

    i’ll have to agree, bought my son a ruger when he was fourteen he has taken two nice bucks with it with single shots. i have also taken a nice buck with it,and several coyotes. love the less recoil deadly accurate.


    Like D. Boucher’s comment, Am a 83 year old -Korean War vet & have fired most
    all the Army infantry weapons as well as AAA (M-16 – quad .50 to .40 ca. AAA, full
    tracked as well as all the hand carried weapons from rifle bayonet rifle grenades ).
    Hunting in TX, & NM for predators & Javelina, deer, elk and Oryx with various
    calibers of rifles, I have preferences due to the animal hunted.
    For deer and predators it is the .243. For elk, it is the .7mm Remington and Oryx,
    is the .338 for range and stopping power. I might add, that of all the animals taken,
    the most difficult one ever to field dress was the Oryx or transplanted Gemsbok which was
    killed on White Sands Missile Range, near Socorro/San Antonio NM, and within
    about 2 + miles of the first Atomic Bomb Test Site( back on 7/16/1945 ).
    The hunt at that time, was a “once in a lifetime” hunt permit. Today, there is no restriction,
    in obtaining that type of special license as they, like other “exotics” have become almost
    a pest, as they have few, if any predictors due to their aggressive capability & attitude, outside
    of MAN.

  67. EsoxAC

    This article warms my heart, lol. I absolutely love my 7mm-08. It is a potent rifle with nominal felt recoil. I hunt in the big woods in Upstate NY and 150 yards would be a very rare shot. Most deer are harvested at 40-80 yards. Sweet whitetail cartridge!!

    • Arky

      What type of ammo do you use for close range 40-80 yards? I’m looking for something that is fast expandable with a very pronounced blood trail?

  68. Fred Cross

    You left out one of the great deer cartridges; the .260 Remington.

  69. kelly johnson

    although I love my 270, I totally agree that the 7-08 is an awesome choice. In a rifle it is a great cartridge. I shoot a 7×30 waters in my old contender and it has never failed me, 15 one shot deer with that and the 7-08 does it all better.

  70. Jeff Carlson

    Shoot the gun you feel comfortable with and practice, allot. The caliber is not as important as confidence and accuracy. Even a 22LR will kill a Deer but stick with a legal commonly purchased round. You want to be able to buy ammo at any store or gas station if you loose yours, that will save you from missing because you didn’t re sight in your weapon. Good Hunting.

  71. Brian Cole

    I live and hunt in California. Number 5 is the most important to me because our laws require lead free ammo. So I had to choose a rifle where this ammo is available. 30-06, 30-30, and .308 are the most popular non lead rounds.

  72. Tommy simpson

    Is 308 Winchester or federal 150gr bullet all I need for deer & which is is more accurate up to 250yards


    oh my goodness. i have harvested over 100 big game.. 5 w/ rifle-hand gun..other 100 plus with a bow. an arrow blasts right thru a deer and usually an elk if you get a broadside shot. i have seen too many hunters shot a stupid deer with these large caliber rifles. what a waste of meat! a large deer maybe runs 100 yards w/ shot w arrow. a lot time they only run and drop dead 30-40 yards. in a broad head will kill an elk..?? why use a bazooka? We don’t have caliber requirements of hunting big game in Montana. The problem isn’t cailber. It’s hunters taking poor shots. Don’t shoot thru a shoulder as you will not be able to eat any of the meat anyways! Wait for the vitals to be exposed.

  74. mike sherrill

    only .243, .308. .30-06, 30-30, ..270 are readily available everywhere, and put on sale often ($15-$17/box). 7mm-08 is not. If it were, I would certainly own one. You are correct in thinking that a cartridge with more punch than a .243, less recoil, and better trajectory and sectional density than a .308 is almost the perfect round (it is also a short action round like a .308 which makes it inherently more accurate).

  75. Art Jackson

    Mike that is one of the most erroneous and parroted statements. Short actions are not more inherently more accurate than long actions unless you are talking about actions that are rear locking. All actions based on the Mauser front locking lug concept such as remington, winchester, browning and the others all lock up in the same place short, medium, long and magnum actions alike. Long and magnum actions hold many of the accuracy records the most notable being for the smallest 10 shot group ever fired at 1000 yards A remington long action in .300 win mag

  76. Steve Reed

    I love the 270 caliber cartridge for the flat trajectory and I think pretty low recoil. I have shot a number of Minnesota whitetail and they usually go down on the spot or go just a short distance from where hit. I never had a problem with the 270 win and recommend it to your readers.

  77. John munnerlyn

    The last two bucks I killed are both on the wall. I got lucky with both, one I really had to search for. Neither deer left any kind of a blood trail. I am shooting a 30 06 using 165 grain Remington Core Loc. I felt the shoots were good but with no blood trail I am wondering if I should be using other shells. I may need to aim further back for the front shoulder could have kept the shell from going through. Wanted your thoughts on the ammo.