View Full Version : Best All-Around Big Game Caliber

January 29, 2006, 06:43 PM
I have recently been invited to go elk hunting in New Mexico. I'm looking to buy a good all around gun for large game. I want something capable of taking whitetail deer to black bear. This won't be my main deer gun, but I do want a gun that will be versatile. A friend of mine who is a guide recommended the .300 Weatherby Mag. It seams like a bit much. What do you all think? Any recommendations on caliber and brand of rifle would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.

On Watch
January 29, 2006, 07:04 PM
There are a lot of good calibers to choose from, the argument ranges from the .270 to the 340. My personal choice is the 30.06 using a Winchester 1895 http://image4u.org/mark/P1290001n3n.JPG
i'm a big fan of lever actions.

January 29, 2006, 07:42 PM
My all-purpose rifle is a Remington 700 in 300 Win Mag. With my handloads I brew up everything from 110-220gr rounds and use it for woodchucks to bear. A super accurate, reliable, and strong all-around rifle/cartridge combo in my opinion. If you dont reload the 30-06 probably would be a better choice with a wider range of factory loaded bullet weights for versatility.

January 29, 2006, 07:46 PM
You'll get a lot of votes for the .30-06, and for good reason as it is very versitile. But I tend to favor the 7mm Rem Mag. I've said it before and I'll say it again--the trajectory of a .270, the recoil of an 06, and downrange energy nipping on the heels of the .300 Mags. I run 160 gr Noslers in mine for deer, elk, and black bear. Running around 3000 fps from a 24 inch barrel, it provides an excellent combination of trajectory, penetration, and expansion without being really hard on the shooter. There's nothing a .30 caliber can do with any bullet that you can't do with a controlled expansion 175 gr bullet like the Nosler Partition in the 7mm Rem Mag, and you can run it 2900 to 3000 fps for decent trajectory as well. I may switch rifles in the future as I am having feeding problems with my Rem M700 BDL, but I will probably never change cartridges or scopes (Leupold) as I have been nothing but please with my choices in those areas. IMO, if you want to get appreciably more mass and diameter than the 7mm Rem Mag, you need to go to the .338 and .358 calibers, which means more recoil and usually means a compromise in trajectory as well.

January 29, 2006, 07:50 PM
Remington 700 in .308 Win or .30-06

January 29, 2006, 10:15 PM
I use a .270 exclusively, but I'd agree with the above posts - you can't go wrong with either the .06 or the 7mm.

January 29, 2006, 10:25 PM
30.06 hands down! Most versitle. Over the counter ammo from 110 grain to 220 grain. It will kill anyting that walks in North America!

January 29, 2006, 10:50 PM
.280 rem
.30-'06 spgfld
.270 win
.308 win

One of those, roughly in order. Other good choices would include 7x57 mauser, .260 rem, 7mm-08, 6.5x55mm, 8mm mauser, .338-06, .35 whelen, or if you want to go magnum, 7mm remmag or .300 winmag.

January 30, 2006, 03:13 PM
Hand down a .30-06.
If not the .30-06, I would personaly go with a .270 or 7mm mag

January 30, 2006, 03:40 PM
For just one gun that can do it all, the 30-06 comes first, with the 7mm family a close second. There are better species-specific cartridges, but those two can take care of most, if not all, big game.

January 30, 2006, 03:45 PM
.308 all the way.


January 30, 2006, 05:17 PM
I honestly think if I was limited to ONE centerfire rifle (beyond my rimfires) which I had to use for ALL North American hunting which I now or may ever do, I'd pick the .280 Rem. It splits the difference perfectly between the 2 most popular hunting cartridges of all time, the .30-06 and .270 win, and there's a wide array of 7mm bullets available (almost as many as .30 cal, and more with mondo good BCs than .30 cal). .30-06 and .270 would of course be very close runners-up. Since I'm not limited, I don't even own a .280 rem. If huge bears, moose, & bison were not in the mix, I'd change it to 6.5x55mm swede. (hey, it could happen - I could go on a bison hunt someday on a private ranch :) )

January 30, 2006, 05:29 PM
I'm with On Watch -


:D :D :D

January 30, 2006, 05:38 PM
If you prefer short actions, then 308, otherwise 30-06.

January 30, 2006, 05:42 PM
You'll get a lot of votes for the .30-06, and for good reason as it is very versitile.


There are many rounds which have tried to improve on the 30-06...

They have only succeeded in creating specialty rounds... none are more versatile.

25-06 thin-skinned small deer/antelope

27-06 (.270) thin-skinned big deer/coyotes/javalina

7mm-06 (.280) thin-skinned "____________________"

7mm-08(7mm short) thin-skinned "____________________"

.308 (30-06 Short) thick-skinned Elk, Black Bear, Moose

8mm-06 thick-skinned "___________________"

338-06 thick-skinned "___________________"

.35 Whelen (35-06) thick-skinned "___________________"

and others... all of these can kill most anything, but none are better all-rounders...

The 30-06 is the one. :)

January 30, 2006, 05:51 PM
.308 drawbacks against the .30-06:

Ballistics for any given bullet weight between .30-06 and .308 will have the .308 trailing in speed by about 1-2%. Power is practically identical.

.308 benefits against the .30-06:

Same bullet selection is available in both calibers, from 100gr to 220gr. Shorter bolt action. Same variety of action types, from auto (M1a) to lever (BLR) to bolt. More economical to reload since a smaller case / less powder provide the same power level. Mil surplus ammo is available out there in 7.62 NATO for plinking and such. Milsurp is getting harder to find in .30-06 for the same prices.

Te Anau
January 30, 2006, 05:59 PM
And if you want "out of the box" precision in a factory rifle, the .308 is hard to beat. While it may not be the "ulimate" 1000-yard cartridge or short-range paper-puncher, the .308 remains one of the best cartridges in the modern arsenal, with versatility that few other calibers can match. As a "do-it-all" cartridge that can take game, win shooting matches, and defend against foes, the .308 has few rivals.
.308 is a dang good round

January 30, 2006, 06:03 PM
Owning both a .308 and 30-06, I agree they are ballistic twins essentially. The main difference I see is the 30-06 is loaded with some heavier bullets. Whether you need 200gr or 220gr is another question.:rolleyes:

:) :D

January 30, 2006, 07:20 PM
There is absoulutely nothing wrong with the middle 30's( 08 and 06). Budget minded folks can find a good deal on a Savage 110 variant. A little more will get you a Winchester Model 70, but you better act fast if you want one of these as the factory is closing. The Remington model 700 is also a good choice for a little more. The Ruger model 77 is also a fine rifle in this price range. Go to a gun shop and shoulder them to see which you llike. See if you cannot borrow one at the range and shoot it. These are all American made rifles that should serve you well for the balance of your life.

January 30, 2006, 08:11 PM
One of the reasons I picked the 30.06 although I personally prefer a .270 is ammo availability. You find yourself stuck between podunkville and hunting camp with your ammo sitting back in your garage, you'll find .06 ammo in hte general store before you'll find any other except maybe .22LR. There's lots of good rounds out there, even listed in this thread, but I'd still go with the 30.06.

January 30, 2006, 08:17 PM
There are a lot of rounds that will handle coytes to Elk.

260 Rem
270 win
7mm Rem mag
7-30 waters
30-30 (iffy on Elk)
300 Win Mag
8mm mauser
338 Win mag
35 wheelen
358 Win
375 H&H (a bit much for 'oties)

...just to name a few.

But, if you go to that gas station/ dinner/ liquor store/ gun shop out near where you hunt, you won't find ammo for them all. You do well to get a rifle that's easy to feed.....


147 Grain
January 30, 2006, 08:46 PM
A 30-06 shooting Winchester Supreme 180-gr. AccuBonds at 2,750 fps will do the trick on deer or elk.

So will 180-gr. Nosler Ballistic Silvertips at 2,750 fps on deer and 180-gr. Federal High Energy Partions at 2,890 fps on elk.

January 30, 2006, 08:55 PM
I bought a Remington 700 Classic in .350 Remington Magnum back in 1985. I figured it would work for deer and it would be great if I ever got a chance to hunt elk. That rifle and caliber have done all my big game hunting since then. Well, until this year when I finally used a black powder rifle and then a Ruger Deerfield Carbine. Everything else has fallen hard to the .350 RM with a Sierra 225 grain Game King SBT with a max load of 4064. Wonderful cartridge. As I read in some magazine recently, it was 35 years ahead of its time!


January 31, 2006, 06:56 AM
sako 75 in 338 federal. topped w/ VX3 3.5X10X40 duplex.

January 31, 2006, 07:18 AM
300WSM. It's not as powerful as the 300 Weatherby but powerful enough to take down anything in North America. I say this because when used for the dangerous bears it can launch the 220 grain faster than the venerable 06. The added 300 fps can mean breaking the bone and punching through the vitals. It's versatility in shooting 165 grain pills can reach out and still not overly powerful to take out a mulie. I'm not an 06 hater I just see the advantage of the 300WSM. josh

January 31, 2006, 08:31 AM
Like Stiofan, I use .270 exclusively but also agree - .30-06 1st choice for versatility. If doing a rifle-specific elk hunt you would like to purchase for or what you'd like to specialize in, .300 Win Mag and will do mulies quite well also. As much rifle as you'd ever need in the lower 48. In a 2 gun battery: .270 for deer, .300 WM for elk. Contemplating (seriously/regularly) Alaska? You can kick the latter caliber up to .338 WM though you would not be undergunned with the .300.

January 31, 2006, 11:16 AM
My vote is Win70 Feather wt, in 30-06:D http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v292/PDshooter/Guns/06004.jpg
Leupold 2X7

January 31, 2006, 11:21 AM
"Best All- Around Big Game Caliber" ??? There is NO such thing. As has been stated by many here already....there are many cartridges that will do nicely. A magnum cartridge is not necessary for Elk, unless shots are to be taken at long range (beyond roughly 300 yards). In the US, for commonality and easy availability of ammo, as well as a good all-round cartridge....the .30-06 will do very well.

January 31, 2006, 12:16 PM
There are MANY good cartridges that will suit your needs. It is just my opinion that a 35 Whelen is one of the best. Personally I have a 35-284 which equals and with some bullets will slightly surpass the 35 Whelen. I think you will find the 35 as accurate as any rifle out there., mine will shoot 1 3/8" groups at 200 yards. I use 225 Sierra's which will shoot as flat and most of the choices if driven at around 2700 fps. I would have no problem shooting at 300 yards or more if absolutly needed ( i prefer to get closer). The 35 works very well on deer, although, that much power isn't needed, but I have never had a problem with too much power, just with those that shoot underpowered rounds. Elk are not bullet proof, but I have seen them take a lot of lead before going down and some that have dropped at the shot. The 35 is not so powerful to create a bad flinch as are some of the Magnums yet it has a proven track record on all North American game. Good luck on your decission.

January 31, 2006, 12:20 PM
1. 6.5x54 mannlicher-schoenauer(mice to elephants!!) 2. 358 winchester. (no elephants yet) Jim up in God's Canada! Americans welcomed !:) ;) .

January 31, 2006, 12:47 PM
Packing DDS ,your buddy is right ,if you want a great rifle in a great cal the 300 Weatherby is it .they do cost a bit more ,but you get your money's worth and then some .best rifle you will probably ever own.very hard to beat at any price .if you are only going to have one rifle the 300 Weatherby in a Weatherby Mark V is a no brainer. check CDNN they may have some left at some rock bottom prices .;)

January 31, 2006, 02:30 PM
PDshooter - nice chair, beautiful rifle. What is the stock made of? A rifle like that looks great in any caliber!:)

January 31, 2006, 03:17 PM
Wow PDShooter, that is a gorgeous stock on that Winny. Nice rifle. How's it shoot?

Anyway, my pick for a one gun would be a .30-06, no question. It represents the upper limit of what I will willingly sit behind for more than 5-6 rounds or so. (I've fired a Ruger M77 in .300 WSM. It caught my forehead on the first shot, but didn't make me flinch. It placed 3 rounds into 1" at 50-yards, factory Ruger-lawyer trigger and all, with the first type of ammo tried. Should shoot equally well at 100, but I digress.) It has enough range and power for most situations, and is effective to further ranges than most shooters I know.

And this doesn't even mention the ammo availability or ease of reloading I've found with this caliber. The .30-06 seems to be one of those handloader's delight rounds, very "docile" and "forgiving" (if I may use those words) to inputs on the loading bench. Brewing up good loads is a piece o' cake with the ol' warhorse.

But I don't know too much, for despite of all of these advantages, I chose a .260 Remington as my big-game rifle. Load 'er up with some 140gr Partitions doing full-tilt boogy and I have what I would consider an adequate elk and black bear round. Toss a 129gr Hornady SST or any of a dozen other bullets and it's a dandy whitetail buster. Just think of it as an American-ized 6.5 Swede.

Jack O'Conner
January 31, 2006, 05:37 PM
I've hunted elk successfully in Wyoming, Montana, Colorado, and Oregon. Most animals were taken for freezer meat and weighed 500-650 lbs live weight. Young bulls and cows were shot in timbered parks at distances no farther than 225 yards. However, I did take one large 6X7 bull that weighed nearly 800 lbs!

I've taken elk with the following hunting cartridges: 30-30, 300 Savage, 30-06, .308, 35 Remington, and 6.5mm Swede. I've witnessed many elk taken by other cartridges including 257 Roberts, 7mm-08, 7mm Remington MAG, 270, and 300 Savage. Each animal died and none got away. But some are certainly more lethal than others.

Average hunter dreams of a big bull but less than 5% actually harvest that trophy first time around. In other words, odds are that you'll take a young bull, average bull, or cow first time elk hunting.

Planning to take a 400 yard shot at a huge trophy is what helps sell magnum rifles. But fact is that any good .308 or 30-06 loaded with plain 180 grain ammo will kill any bull that ever walked. Premium bullets may increase shooting distance slightly by flattening trajectory slightly. Premium bullets typically penetrate deeply and retain weight better after breaking heavy bones. But truthfully, plain Hornady Interlocks and Remington core-lockts have slain countless elk with zero fuss at all.

My best advise for you is to practise practise and practise some more from sitting and kneeling positions. Plan to hit an empty one gallon paint can at 200 yards each and every time. Plan to walk several miles each day and run up and down stairs as much as you can. Elk country is typically way above sea level and the best shape you're in will make a difference in accurate shooting.

Hope this is helpful.

January 31, 2006, 06:02 PM
If I had to have only one rifle it would be a 7mm Remington Mag. Best caliber of all time. Everything a 30.06 dreams of being.

January 31, 2006, 10:27 PM
Thanks for the complments on the stock..( Laminate)?...It came that way from the factory. It's a "Camo" stock straight from winchester.I bought it used when I used to work PT at a gunshop for $275 about 20yrs ago. The owner said he used it only for 1 seaon. It had a real "El Cheapo" scope on it. I put a Leupold VXII 2X7 paid about $170 for scope........
Hope someday my furture son-in-law and daughter who live togethere:mad: in AK invite me for a hunt up there way!:D

January 31, 2006, 11:05 PM
Is there such a do-all caliber? :confused:
+ 1 for the 30-06 :)

270 would be my second choice :)

February 1, 2006, 01:31 AM
From mice to meese and then some, the .30-06 will drop everything in North America and most of Africa. More commercial loadings are available for the.30-06 than any other cartridge.
If you think you need more whomp and don't handload, Federal Vital-Shok High Energy and Hornady Light Magnums magically turn the '06 into a .300 H&H and they're loaded with premium bullets.

February 1, 2006, 10:18 AM
It is more important that you try several different rifles in the calibers you are interested in. A buddy bought a .300 weatherby because it looks great when you compare the ballistics to a .308 or 30-06. Unfortunately it was too much for him to handle and he developed a nasty flinch. The best he could do with it was around 3" groups at 100 yds. He ended up going back to his win 70 in .270 because he could shoot it well.

Pick a caliber that you can manage and practice. Any of the above mentioned calibers will do the job very well as long as you can handle them. Some people love the kick from the big mags and can do amazing things with them, but they practice often and can handle the recoil.

I personally feel that a .270, .280, or 30-06 is about the most a normal shooter can handle well and all three are great for anything in north america.
Choose the correct bullets for the intended game and you will be all set.

Quickdraw Limpsalot
February 1, 2006, 10:23 AM
My .35 Rem (Marlin 336) does everything I need.

February 1, 2006, 10:39 AM
I agree with mikejonestdk.

February 1, 2006, 11:53 PM

.308 benefits against the .30-06:
Same bullet selection is available in both calibers, from 100gr to 220gr.

This might be true but the 30.06 is over the counter. Wouldn't you have to load a number of your own grains to accomplish the same selection for the .308?
I'm not so sure that you can get over the counter .308 ammo in 100 to 220 grains?

February 2, 2006, 11:12 AM
Jack O'Conner

+1 Very nicely put!

February 2, 2006, 11:36 AM
I'm not so sure that you can get over the counter .308 ammo in 100 to 220 grains?

I'm pretty sure that when you buy over the counter ammo for either the .308 or the .30-06, you will have about three choices: 150 grn, 165/168 grn, or 180 grn. That's it. I've never seen commercially loaded ammo in either caliber that is available over the counter in 100-140 grain range, or 190-220 grn range.

And that doesn't surprise me. If I want to shoot a 100 grain round, I'll use a .243 or a .25-06. If I want to shoot a 200 (or more) grain round, I'll use...something else (a larger caliber and/or a magnum round).

February 2, 2006, 01:11 PM
Over the counter, I've seen 190s in 30-06 tops, but no 200 or 220. For .308, tops is 180, not 190.

I almost forgot, if Fremmer's stories about his huntin buds have taught us anything, it's that the .460 weatherby mag is the perfect all-purpose hunter (though perhaps a tad on the light side). :)

February 2, 2006, 01:30 PM
I'm waiting for Nebraska's elephant season to open here in Nebraska before I try out that guy's .460 Weatherby magnum. :D

February 2, 2006, 07:06 PM
Fremmer and First Freedom

Without doing any further search, this is what Remington sells over the counter. I would imagine other companies could fill the gaps. I got it from their web site.

30-06 Springfield R30061 125 PSP
30-06 Springfield R30062 150 Core-Lokt, PSP
30-06 Springfield R30063 150 BR PT
30-06 Springfield R30064 180 Core-Lokt, SP
30-06 Springfield R30065 180 Core-Lokt, PSP
30-06 Springfield R30066 180 BR PT
30-06 Springfield R30067 220 Core-Lokt, SP
30-06 Springfield R3006B 165 Core-Lokt, PSP
30-06 Springfield R30069 55 Accelerator, PSP

308 Win R308W1 150 Core-Lokt, PSP
308 Win R308W2 180 Core-Lokt, SP
308 Win R308W3 180 Core-Lokt, PSP


February 2, 2006, 07:23 PM
30-06 Springfield R30067 220 Core-Lokt, SP

Wow, there it is. Yet I've never seen a store actually carry it. Must be like most things...to get what you want, you have to order via internet.

February 2, 2006, 08:56 PM
A lot of the good old mom and pop gun stores in my area have all of it on the shelves. They have steady clients like me who ask for the stuff and they keep it in stock it. Most of the guys I know shoot the .06 all the time, and we experiment with all the grains that are over the counter. None of us re-load, but we give the shell castings to whoever wants them.
Yeah, the good old mom and pop gun shops are not like Wally Word, K-Mart or the rest of the strip mall stores.

30-06 Springfield R30069 55 Accelerator, PSP

Have not tried this one yet, but it must be outragous!

February 2, 2006, 10:25 PM
Got to be 30-06.
My grandfather killed more elk/deer(whitetail/mulies) across the continent with an '06 than could be counted.
7mag, got one. 300winmag. got one too.
But his old M1 with custom scope could not be beat.
Personnaly I use the 7mm for big deer (IA,IN,KS) but in Texas, .223 is more than adequate for whitetail.

February 6, 2006, 04:46 AM
.300 Win Mag Or The Venerable Old 30-06

February 6, 2006, 12:47 PM
IMHO If it cant be kilt with a thutty-ot-six I think Ill let it live :cool: