What would you use if you were a one-rifle hunter?
Thursday, September 17, 2020
As the old saying goes, you should beware the man with only one gun because he knows how to use it. A person who shoots hundreds or thousands of rounds through a particular rifle and spends countless hours carrying that same rifle afield becomes intimately familiar with it. That sort of familiarity quite often means that the rifle almost becomes an extension of the hunter, which usually translates into good results afield.
Now I’m not the kind of guy who will try to talk you out of buying a gun. If you’re the sort of person who enjoys owning, shooting, and hunting with several different firearms, then by all means have at it.
On the other hand, what cartridge would you select if you were a one-rifle hunter?
Would you choose something like the .30-30 Winchester or .35 Remington that’s perfect for hunting in thicker timber? Those cartridges don’t have quite the reach of some of the other options out there, but they’re perfect for game like whitetail deer, feral hogs, and black bear at short to moderate range.
Or do you prefer a classic cartridge of a slightly different flavor? Maybe something like the tried and true .270 Winchester or .30-06 Springfield? Either will perform extremely well on game like deer, pronghorn, bear, sheep, and mountain goat all the way out to several hundred yards. With appropriate bullets, both (but the .30-06 in particular) are also good choices for things like elk in the Rocky Mountains, African plains game, or a Canada moose hunt.
Perhaps you want something that hits a little harder or is a little better suited for longer range shots? In that case, cartridges like the .280 Ackley Improved, the 28 Nosler, the 7mm Remington Magnum, the .300 Winchester Magnum, and the .300 Ultra Mag all offer hunters a little more reach and still retain plenty of energy at extended range.
The 7mm Rem Mag and .300 Win Mag in particular are both especially popular among hunters who want a cartridge with easy to find and reasonably priced ammo, but will still get the job done on almost every species of game this side of cape buffalo and the really big bears.
Speaking of cape buffalo or the big bears of Alaska and Canada, you’ll need a bigger bore rifle chambered in something like 9.3x62mm Mauser, .375 H&H Magnum, or .375 Ruger at a minimum if those creatures are on the menu. If you never plan on hunting Africa but want a good all-around cartridge for hunting in places like Alaska, then something along the lines of the .338 Winchester Magnum is another really good choice.
Of the four in that group, the .375 H&H is just about perfect for a hunter who wanted to hunt virtually every species of game on the planet from whitetail deer to cape buffalo with just one rifle. .375 ammo isn’t cheap, but it’s pretty widely available. At the same time, while the .375 does kick more than many other popular hunting cartridges, it does not have an especially punishing recoil either.
Unfortunately, there’s no perfect rifle cartridge, and you must balance the various trade-offs offered by each one to come up with the ideal solution for the situations you’re most likely to encounter. Many hunters will never hunt buffalo or brown bear, so something like the .270, 7mm Mag, .30-06, or .300 Win Mag will fit the bill nicely for the vast majority of hunting situations. There’s also nothing saying you can’t choose something I didn’t mention here either.
So, what about you? If you could only hunt with one rifle, what would it be chambered in?
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