View Full Version : Over-bored for accuracy?

October 30, 2004, 03:41 PM
Over-bored for accuracy?

I love guns. A very simple statement and when placed on my list of passions is only seconded by my wife and family. I look at, study, shoot, and talk about guns every chance I get. This is true with most hunters and enthusiasts. We enjoy all aspects of firearms and the related discussions, debates, and opinion trials which come with our association. Bringing up gun control is this crowd is usually met with strong words and raised hackles. I have found one of my best chances to review and discuss guns is during hunting season. I look forward to opening day of deer season for two reasons. The first is the chase of the animal and another chance to put “Ol’ Mossy Horns” on my gun room wall. The second is a chance to see up close what everyone else is hunting with. If you have ever bounced from deer camp to deer camp, you have seen it all. Gun shows don’t offer the selection of firearms you will see on opening day. Another benefit along with actually seeing the guns, you usually receive a running commentary, various opinions, reloading data, and other information a general retailer or catalog can’t or won’t tell you.

One of the things I have noticed and have come to understand, is we as hunters tend to come with firearms way too big for the game we seek. The increase in popularity of short magnums has all but fueled a hunter’s need for more firepower. In our desire to hunt with the next popular cartridge, we have forgotten what it is we are actually shooting at. Big Bores have their place, but they serve to no advantage when shooting deer. Please do not misunderstand, I do not condemn excess firepower. In fact, I prefer it to being underpowered. Unfortunately, while some have firepower to spare, accuracy is often left short. Some of the classic statements I have heard in camp is “I have it boresighted”, “The guy at the store said it was ready to go hunting” and my personal favorite “I didn’t have time to shoot it yet, but it’s big enough to kill anything”.

I am recalling every deer I have ever shot or helped shoot or helped clean or seen in camp, or seen along the road. I cannot think of any that were wider across the shoulders than 24 inches. Likewise, I cannot think of a single gun that is “big enough to kill anything” without the benefit of accuracy. Deer are relatively thin-skinned animals with a thin, sleek body. Contrary to popular belief, they do not require a huge amount of muzzle energy to stop. Bore size and Ft/lbs cannot make up for the benefits of an accurate first shot. Most of today’s larger calibers are grossly oversized for deer hunting. I have used a .270 for years and found it be extremely effective. In almost every case, the bullet has past completely through the animal and in almost every case, death was instantaneous. This is not due to the size of ball which passed through the animal, but where the ball past through the animal. A .416 Rigby would have done no better.

Do not get me wrong. I love big bore cannons and am guilty of using them for smaller game. My personal favorite is “Betty Lou”. Betty Lou is a Weatherby Accumark in 30-378 mounted with a Leupold Vari-X III 6.5-20x40mm scope. Extremely accurate and powerful at long distances, the 30-378 cartridge looks more like a 220 swift on steroid. I took Betty Lou on my first hunt in the Bob Marshall wilderness for elk and deer. Whenever you are packing horses in, weight is at a premium so only one gun is allowed. I decided to use the most powerful gun I had on inventory. There are two reasons for my call to use the big bore. The first being elk are large animals with thick hide and a notorious reputation for toughness. I wanted to ensure I had enough ballistic firepower to stop an elk on the first shot with a well-placed bullet. A well-placed .270 would have probably worked just fine. The second reason is the size of bear that inhabits the Bob Marshall. Just the year prior to our adventure, a young hunter was ambushed and killed by a large Grizzly while cleaning his elk and I was not inclined to take chances. At the entrance to Yellowstone, they sell little bells to hang on your pack. The sound is supposed to ward off grizzlies. The big joke at the bar at the entrance to Yellowstone is how to identify a grizzly bear by the number of bells in his poop. Betty Lou was coming, no question.

On about the seventh day in, our party spotted a large whitetail buck. The rut was in full and bucks were plentiful so the decision was made to not shoot deer until we had elk hanging on the meat pole, however this wasn’t one to pass up. After two missed shots by members of our party, the deer was on a dead run uphill heading for the cover of timber. I took aim, lead enough to compensate for his speed, squeezed the trigger, and turned Betty Lou loose with all her furry. I my scope, I saw the deer drop like a bad habit. From behind I could here my dad laughing and yelling; “Betty Lou has spoken!” It was a highlight of my trip, but the shot would have been just as potent if I had used my old .270. I give all credit for a successful hit to the months of range time I spend practicing accuracy from all positions and conditions not the amount of firepower I was carrying.

So what is the best rifle for hunting deer? Obviously, by my own experiences, a big bore is effective however, the power is wasted on smaller bodied animals and can result in severe damage to edible meat. This question has as many correct answers as it does incorrect ones and has been argued by every hunter with an opinion. My personal choice is the .270 or smaller. The number of deer taken with a 30-30 will never be known, but it ranks as one of the most productive rounds ever produced. The 30-06 is another well-known caliber that, when loaded with lighter loads can be appropriate for deer hunting. Arguments can be made as well for .280, .260, 308, .243, 7mm-08, .257 Roberts, and countless others.

Whatever you choose to use in the mountains is your personal choice. Magnums have their advantages, but they do not compensate for an accurately place bullet. All the muzzle velocity and Ft/lbs of energy in the world mean squat if the bullet doesn’t come in contact with the animal or worse hits a non-lethal area.

High Mountain Hunting Supply

October 31, 2004, 05:52 PM
All those words just to say that you can't substitute power for accuracy !! :D Many a time I've gotten a deer under less than optimum conditions because I have accurate rifles and shoot them with precision.The title of the thread is confusing though.

November 1, 2004, 08:14 AM
Very good comments, Kelsey - thanks. You're right on. I use a .270 usually but I consider it a little too powerful for deer. Bad hit=bad hit, regardless of caliber - you'll wound the animal and not find it - bad for all involved. Good hit will get you meat. A good hit PLUS a little extra power (like a .270) could mean a little less tracking (say relative to a .30-30). Betty Lou - tee hee.

“I have it boresighted”, “The guy at the store said it was ready to go hunting” and my personal favorite “I didn’t have time to shoot it yet, but it’s big enough to kill anything”.

Oh Lawdy - hard to believe. :rolleyes:

November 3, 2004, 03:01 PM
Agreed, i would much rather bring a lower caliber gun to the hunt that I can shoot accuratley, than a high powered shoulder cannon that I have never laid eyes on.

When I was younger, my dad would sight in my gun for me before every season. Sure I would shoot it every time we went to the range, but, i wouldnt shoot it much, or try all that hard. When I started getting older, and my love of guns got stronger, I really started getting into the workings, and started sighting in my own weapon. Thats when I started being really accurate, which, only made me love guns and hunting that much more.

November 7, 2004, 11:20 PM
Talked to a fellow who had just RETURNED from an elk hunt. In the process of the discussion it came out that he had not bagged an elk--he never got a shot. After he made that statement, he followed it with the comment that he had hunted with a 30-06 rifle that he "still had not shot." :eek: