View Full Version : Best caliber for long range medium-big game

February 27, 2002, 04:55 PM
I was trying to find a good cartidge for hitting medium "big game" in open spaces. It seems that most cartridges do well out to 300 yards, but beyond that you need a real flat shooter. Where I hunt, many shots are taken at 350 yards plus. But at the same time, the animals are not all that big (antelope, deer) so there is no reason to carry around a hammer of thor.

What calibers are good for game at 400-500 yards, while not too powerful for an animal like the size of an antelope or deer?

Is 300 win-mag too much? Is something like a 25-06 a good choice? What else?


Would this post get better response in the Rifle forum?

Dave R
February 27, 2002, 05:33 PM
7mm Mag? .270?

February 27, 2002, 05:34 PM
7mm mag seems like a good choice to me also. But then again I have no idea what I am talking about, so that is why I am asking.

Where I am torn is that if I cam getting a 7mm mag, why not just get a 300 WinMag?

February 27, 2002, 05:49 PM
I don't think any hand carried rifle is too powerfull for Pronghorn or deer.

Takes a mighty good shot to be reasonably confident of a CLEAN kill at 500yds.

Bout a half second of bullet travel. Time to walk a ways.


Brian Williams
February 27, 2002, 05:55 PM
I really like my 7mm-08it is a real flat shooter and loaded with the right bullet will put down any deer sized animal at those ranges

February 27, 2002, 06:26 PM
The original question still stands, but to add to the question: in reality will a 7mm mag do anything under my circumstances that my .308 will not?
I mean, we can talk paper ballistics and such, but I have never shot these animals, and I have certainly never done it at 300-400 yards. Should I just stick with my .308 or in the real world will a 7mm mag make that much difference? Is a cartridge that shoots a few inches flatter at 400 yards really that big of a difference? Maybe I should just buy a rangefinder and dial in the .308?


Art Eatman
February 27, 2002, 07:31 PM
As near as I can tell from reading a lot and doing a lot of shooting: The primary advantage of a 7mm Mag over something like a .308 is the flatter trajectory of the 7mm allows a bit more room for error in estimating range out beyond 300 yards.

"Less the killing than the hitting."

In long-range country, it's common to sight in a .308 at around 3" high for 100 and 200, which puts you dead on at 300. (Round numbers.) It's up to you to know what the bullet is doing out at 350 to 500 yards. If you expect long shots, and take a laser range-finder, your .308 will do a proper job of killing.

You're better off getting to be a really good shooter with your .308 than in switching back and forth. It's the old "Beware of the man with just one gun. He probably knows how to use it."

The good thing about a .308 is the cheap ammo for shooting beer cans, offhand at 100 yards.

:), Art

February 27, 2002, 08:44 PM
I think you may have talked me into sticking with my trusty .308. I am a great shooter with it, and do not think it is worth getting a new rifle and caliber and trying to learn it just for a tiny bit of flatter shooting.

What might serve me better would be to stick with what I am good with, and get a rangefinder, that way a few inches of trajectory is easy to accomodate.

Now, where to get a good rangefinder for 400-500 yard desert distances? I also need some good binoculars, I wonder if anyone makes a both in a package?

February 27, 2002, 09:04 PM
I agree with Art about sticking with the .308 but to get back to your original question, do not underestimate the 25-06. This is a very flat-shooting cartridge that packs much more punch that you would expect from a bullet weighing 117 or 120 grains. It is probably the best antelope cartridge available and will also do a good job on big deer with good shot placement.

February 27, 2002, 10:51 PM
Fill some two liter pop bottles with water and set a dozen or so out at assorted ranges from 300 to 500 yds.

Then shoot em without using a bench. When you get so that ninety percent of your shots are hits, you maby ready to work on live game.


Al Thompson
February 27, 2002, 11:31 PM
At long range you need one (both are better though) of two things. Superb range estimation (+/- 50 yards) or to get closer.

I don't have time to do this at the moment, but past 400 yards, for every 50 yards, most bullets drop at an alarming rate. Misjudging by a small amount can lead to a miss (good!) or a wounded animal (freaking horrible).

OK, I do have time - from the speer #12 Manual, a 180 grain spitzer started at 3200 FPS drops (200y zero) almost 11 inches from 300 to 400y, almost 18 inches from 400 to 500y. If you zero at 300y, drop to 400y is almost 9 inches, drop to 500 is a mere 15 inches. These amounts are cumulative - 300y zero - 500y drop is almost two feet.

Not a good thing - any range error past 300y is serious.


February 27, 2002, 11:38 PM
Or......Get closer!

Stalk and ambush.

If you INSIST get a .50 BMG and shell your antelope from a mile out! :)

February 28, 2002, 01:25 AM
I have gotten within wrist rocket range of Pronghorn.....once. Patience and work the terrain.

Can often get real close to em on horseback.

I don't like long shots on game animals. Long odds on getting a clean kill.


Art Eatman
February 28, 2002, 01:41 AM
I have a Bushnell 800-yarder. It is accurate. I have checked it on various known distances all the way out beyond 800 yards. I'm a believer.

For years, I've sighted my '06 for 2" high at 100. That's dead on at 200, and 6" low at 300. It's said by most books to be 21" or so low at 400, and around 44" or so low at 500. All my shooting bears this out, and that includes "Kentucky windage" at 500.

The .308 ain't quite as good as my hot handloads out of a 26" barrel, but they're not far off.

You must do your own research with your own rifle and verify the behavior at longer ranges. No table, nor Art's "expertise", can help you.

:), Art

February 28, 2002, 04:46 AM
Lots of good replies here.
I hunt Caribou in the big open spaces, probably similar to hunting the prairies. I have a .300 and a 25.06. My thoughts are:

At the distances you are speaking of, even flat shooters like these are dropping a lot. I prefer to shoot the .25, but I usually take the .300. At these longer ranges the .300 still has enough snort left to work on a less than perfect shot. Added benefit if larger or nastier game happens by.

Range finder is a must in open treeless country. At these ranges a guess that is off by 50 yards is a miss or a gut shot. Leica makes binocs with internal laser range finder for about $2600. They are only 7X and look heavy. Buy a bushnell 800 yard compact model range finder. It will fit in a large pocket.

Scope power - An antelope at 500 yards gets puny real fast. I have a 3.5x10 on the .25-06 and a 4.5x14 on the .300. Don't cheap out on the optics.

Bipod - With exertion and adrenaline, I find a bipod is a must. If you are shooting at 500 yards, chances are good you will have the time to use.

Know the actual drop of your bullet in 50 yard increments. My stock is synthetic so I print out the drops, stick it to the stock and tape over with packing tape.

Know the approximate body size of the critter you are shooting at. Knowing that the bullet will drop 43 inches is only part of the battle. You need some way of determining 43 inches above the intended target.

Wind and/or running animals. The lead nessecary on a running animal at 500 yards is considerable. Study the charts or pass on the shot.

Good ammo - 1.5" variable at 100yds = mess at 500 yds.

You will no doubt come to some different conclusions. but I do know for sure you will have fun finding them.

February 28, 2002, 08:11 AM
I agree with our Alaskan friend about a rangefinder if you are taking longer shots. Absolutely essential. I have guided antelope and mule deer hunters all my life and I can assure you a shot beyond 300 yards out here on the plains of eastern Montana is seldom seen or needed. Very few antelope are shot beyond 200 yards and very few mule deer beyond 150. Stalking is still the name of the game.

February 28, 2002, 10:37 AM
Thank you Ezra. I think your range numbers would also hold true for central AZ.


February 28, 2002, 11:22 AM
With a 300win. mag. and 150 to 165gr ballistic tips you could reach that far with ease. I have a 300win mag. I like it a lot and would be confident in taking a shot that far with it. I will say if you use 150 to 165gr standard bullets (read not premium) don't shoot at a medium size game animal up close, you might witness impressive bullet blow up, have seen this happen. I would have to say the 300 would be far better at longer ranges that the .25-06, couldn't go to far wrong with a 7mm either.

Art Eatman
February 28, 2002, 11:25 AM
Excitement is exciting because it's uncommon. "Beanfield" shooting--at very long range--gets written about in the gun rags because it's exciting. It ain't common. And, the factories love these articles because it helps sell a whole new line of product--rifles, optics, accessories.

I'd bet most any amount that 90% or more of all game animals are taken well inside of 200 yards, 2/3 of them inside of 100...23

However, buyin' all that new-toy stuff is fun, whether you need it or not. :D


March 1, 2002, 12:07 AM
Well, I have admitted that I am new to taking these game so I only am going on what I hear. My friend and his dad hunt Arizona a lot. I told them the statistic that "most game are taken within 100 yards, and the rest under 200....very seldom are game taken beyond that". They smirked and shook their heads. They said that on these type of game (Elk, Deer, Antelope), every shot they have taken was 200-350 yards. So...that is where I decided to get a rifle that reaches out. I am told that in Arizona stalking is not so much an option because of the open desert. Sure there is brush, but it is common to be on a hillside and see an animal a few hundred yards away. Apparently you all are saying it is still easy to stalk closer to them, whereas my friends (who are avid hunters of many years, but that does not mean they are the best) decide to shoot from where they see them.

March 1, 2002, 12:09 AM
I was ---><--- this close to buying a Blaser R93 in 300WM or 7mm Mag. Now I am thinking that will be just too much gun for the game in Arizona, and I don't need the reach.

If I don't get something like that, I am going to stick to my M1A in .308 and work on my stalking skills.

Art Eatman
March 1, 2002, 01:04 AM
Well, you already have an accurate rifle. All you need to do is get real good with it.

Eons ago, I was grumbling about the difficulty of a particular shot. My uncle looked at me rather scornfully, and sorta muttered, "When I was your age, anything jumped up inside 300 yards belonged to me." He was referring to an iron-sighted Springfield 1903.

Repeat after me: "Learn th' gun ya got." Work on eye-finger-sights coordination until it's reflex that when you put it to your shoulder, you're just all married up to it and it sorta Zenlike goes off and hits the target.

Benchrest just enough to get the basics. After that, offhand and hasty rests.

I wear soft-soled, flat-soled boots. No lugs. In rough country, the trick is to glance at the ground to figure out your next three steps. Then, look around while you take those steps. Repeat. There ain't no deer or elk on the ground under your feet. My way, you spend more time looking for game; it only takes that glance to spot rolling rocks or cactus.

Learn to set your feet down sorta flat. Heel-first makes noise or vibrates the ground. I regularly walk up to within 25 yards or so of snoozing deer at mid-day. But you can't be in a hurry. Don't march; you ain't in the Infantry. Sorta zig-zag from bush to bush.

Wool pants or old, nearly-worn-out khakis don't make that "wheep, wheep" of newish Levis or any nylon. Nylon front "brush pants" are good in quail country stickers, but lousy for deer or elk. "Noise is Bad!" And camo clothing is a waste of money. It's wonderful for hiding from people when you're sitting still, but Bambi and friends only see shades of gray. (Bird hunting is different; dove and turkey see colors quite well, thank you. Doves avoid the color blue. Dunno why.)

"Real" bucks tend to lay up just below the downwind crest of a ridge, and near a saddle. That way, when spooked, they can run into the wind and not be skylined. You walk the ridgeline, crosswind or slightly in to it. A lot of times a muley will try hiding instead of running--so you have to learn to look for an ear or an eye or the shine of an antler. Not a whole deer; not out in the middle of a clearing. (If one shows up really obviously, look around behind him. Big brother might have run him out for bait.)

There's a start; have fun...

:), Art

March 1, 2002, 01:38 AM
Don't give up on the long shot because of these posts. Just pratice with the gun you have. What is meant by most shots are under 200 yards is to expect the unexpected. More often than not while you are looking at distant skylines and ridges for that far off shot, some critter that was bedded down or in a gully will pop up right close to see what's coming down the trail. You have to be ready for the close in shot too. I always leave the scope on the lowest magnification and the bipod has a quick disconnect and attaches only when needed. You won't need the range finder for these under 200 shots. If you do come across something way out there, then you will have time to use the goodies.

I have no experience with the 7MM. I do have the 25.06 and it is probably the perfect cartridge for deer and antelope. Load a Barnes 100 or 115 grain X bullet and have at it. I much prefer shooting the .25 than the .300Win. The 25.06 is on the light side if you intend getting into Elk hunting. I usually opt for the .300 only because Moose season overlaps Caribou season, and there is always the chance encouter with Mr. Bear.

Use the gun you have for a season or two and determine for yourself the ranges you will be taking shots. Have fun.

March 1, 2002, 08:13 PM
Thanks a lot! That is some really valuable knowledge imparted on me. I will work with it.

March 1, 2002, 11:24 PM

Thor's Hammer

Sendero 25-06 with 3.5 X 10 Vari X III

119 grain Hornady SPBT at 3250 FPS

Longest shot to date, a measured 395 yards. Whitetail buck went less than 35 yards before stumbling and falling.

I would like to add that I was shooting from a tower stand with a sandbag over the railing. ROCK SOLID SHOT!!!

95% of the hunters I know have no business taking a shot at any game animal much over 150 yards without a bipod or a some other solid rest.