View Full Version : Alaska Wildlife Gun Cartridge Article

September 3, 2009, 10:00 PM
I found this article and found it extremely interesting, particularly the latter part about magnums. I hope you do too. Be safe out there.


Cartridges of Alaska's Hunters – Too Much Gun?

Southcentral Alaska's five most popular rifle cartridges for big game:
7mm Rem. Mag., .30-06, .300 Win. Mag., .338 Win. Mag., .375 H&H Mag.
As Southcentral hunters prepared for the 1999 hunting season Lee Rogers, rangemaster at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game's Rabbit Creek Range in Anchorage, conducted a survey of 1,848 Alaskan hunters. Rogers surveyed hunters to find out what cartridges Alaskan hunters are choosing for their big game hunting. According to Lee, hunters sighted in rifles using 70 different cartridges during the July to September survey.

The most popular cartridge with Southcentral hunters is the tried and true .30-06, used by 387 or 21 percent of hunters. The .30-06 was closely followed by the .300 Winchester Magnum with 342, and the .338 Winchester Magnum with 339. Lee says these three cartridges combined are used by almost six out of ten Southcentral hunters. There was a huge drop from the .338 Winchester to the next most popular cartridge, the 7mm Remington Magnum with 157 users.

Lee also looked at cartridges by caliber. The 30 caliber, for almost 60 years the choice of the U.S. military, boasted 912 users or almost exactly one-half of all hunters surveyed. The highly popular .30-06 and .300 Winchester Magnum are joined in this group by the .308 Winchester, .30-30, .307 Winchester, .300 Savage, .300 Weatherby Magnum, and the new .300 Remington Ultra Magnum.

Cartridge # of Hunters %
.30-06 387 20.9
.300 Win. Mag. 342 18.5
.338 Win. Mag. 339 18.4
7mm Rem. Mag. 157 8.5
.375 H&H Mag. 116 6.3
.270 Win. 108 5.8
.308 Win. 65 3.5
.300 Weath. Mag. 64 3.5
45-70 Gov. 25 1.4
.280 Rem. 20 1.1

Taking a distant second place were the cartridges using .338 diameter bullets. The increasingly popular .338 Winchester was joined in this group by the wildcat .338-06 and the .340 Weatherby Magnum. Almost one out of five hunters are using these medium-bore rifles for their big game hunting.

The third most popular caliber proved to be the 7mm. Led by the 7mm Remington Magnum, the 7mm clan had 202 users or about 1 of 10 Southcentral hunters. The 280 Remington, 7X57 Mauser, 7mm-08, and 7mm Shooting Times Westerner were used by a total of 42 hunters.

The classic Alaskan brown bear cartridge, the .375 H&H showed well, being used by 116 or 6.3 percent of all the hunters surveyed. Cartridges with the word “Magnum” in their name accounted for 1086 or 58.7 percent of all cartridges used.

This last statistic is the most interesting, according to Lee Rogers, who talks with and watches over 15,000 shooters each year. Many hunters, says Rogers, are uncomfortable with their loud, hard-recoiling magnums. Lee says that when a hunter is shooting a hard-kicking slobber-knocker" magnum, he or she often sights-in the rifle from a bench rest as quickly as possible and then packs up and leaves the range. Sometimes the hunter may even have to quit before the rifle is fully ready for the hunting fields.

To confirm his theory that too much gun frequently results in too little practice, Rogers conducted a short study on hunters' ability to shoot their rifles from hunting positions at game-sized targets. During the summer of 1999, Lee asked more than 80 hunters to chronograph their hunting loads to determine the actual velocity. Hunters sighted in their rifles under Lee's expert supervision on a secure, stable bench rest. After sighting in, hunters were asked to shoot three shots at the vital, heart-lung zone of a full-sized moose silhouette, standing broadside at a distance of 100 yards. The individuals in the study averaged 19 years of hunting experience.

Rogers says that less than one-half (46 percent) of hunters placed all three shots in the 16-inch by 24-inch vital zone. Twenty-eight percent of all shots taken would have wounded rather than immediately killed the moose. Most of the wounding shots are, in the opinion of Rogers, the result of too much gun and too little practice from the basic hunting positions of sitting, kneeling, and off-hand. Only about one out of ten hunters practices shooting from these hunting positions after sighting in their rifle, states rangemaster Rogers.

This lack of practical practice, compounded by the use of a gun that is simply unpleasant to shoot, is likely to result in wounding and crippling animals. In a Department of Fish and Game telephone survey of Alaskan hunters, 38 percent said they had killed a big game animal that had been previously wounded by another hunter. According to Rogers, the results of this survey seem to confirm what he sees daily.

Do Alaskan hunters need these big-kicking magnums for big game? Not really, say most biologists, hunter educators, and experienced big game hunters. Big game animals are not killed by foot-pounds of kinetic energy or some mystical “knock-down” power. Big game is consistently, quickly, and humanely killed by accurate, precise placement of a well-constructed bullet in the vital heart-lung area. A cartridge loaded with a 180 grain Nosler (partition bullet) fired from the 94-year-old .30-06 will almost always pass completely through a moose or caribou, taking out both lungs. Rogers says that hunters should find a cartridge and gun they can shoot comfortably enough to fire 30 to 40 rounds during a practice session. After sighting in, all the hunter's practice should be from hunting positions likely to be used in the field.

Furthermore, when hunters chronograph their magnum factory loads they are often surprised they are getting so much buck and bang and so little gain. For example, during Roger's survey 15 hunters using .300 Winchester Magnum factory ammunition loaded with 180 grain bullets averaged 2,919 feet per second for 45 shots. Twelve different .30-06 rifles using factory ammunition loaded with 180-grain bullets chronographed 2,644 feet per second. See, some say, you get 275 feet per second difference! In the real world of hunting that works out to a gain of about 25 yards in range in exchange for easily one-third more recoil and a hefty increase in muzzle blast!

What about bears, hunters ask? Shouldn't Alaskan hunters have a magnum in case I have a run-in with 'ol fuzzy? Bear experts say that alertness in the field and keen observation skills are better protection than a magnum rifle. Analysis of bear encounters reveals the fact that most surprise encounters with a bear are just that, a surprise. Fortunately for bear and man, the bear usually swaps ends and runs away. In the rare event of a genuine charge the distance is typically measured in feet, and the hunter most likely carrying his rifle slung over the shoulder or in one hand. Under these circumstances he has no real chance to gather himself, ram a cartridge in the chamber and make an accurate, aimed shot at any vital area. In the even more unlikely event that the hunter is carrying his rifle “at-the-ready” and is able to take an aimed shot, a well-placed .30-06 will do more good than a poorly placed .300 or even .375 magnum. Most of us are simply better off hunting with a partner, remaining alert to bear sign, avoiding dense thickets where visibility is virtually zip, and quickly moving game meat away from the gut pile.

Hunters are responsible for wise use of our wildlife resource and using too much gun that results in wounded and crippled animals is not what we should aim for when we hunt.

September 4, 2009, 12:39 AM
Interesting but not surprising. I've seen lots of people in several states drop the hammer on an empty chamber (thinking it was loaded)... click - flinch - embarassing. Or tense up visibly when squeezing the trigger while safety is on.
Lots of people have too much gun. I have a friend who bought a .300 win mag "cause that's what my Dad likes". The cartridge would be fine if he didn't buy a lightweight rifle. He can't stand to shoot more than 10-15 cartridges before he's ready to call it quits. Meanwhile I have my 30-06 in the same make/model rifle and can handle 30-40 shots per session.
What really drives it home is the fact that I'm shooting 180 gr. bullets (high B.C.) at the upper end of the reloading data while he is shooting 165 gr. light loads, making my 30-06 ballistically superior to his 300 Win. mag.
Now, I'll admit that I also have a magnum (.338 RUM) and could barely bring myself to pull the trigger until I got a muzzle brake. With the brake it kicks less than the lightweight 30-06 and isn't much louder to me. Now I love to shoot it but don't shoot it nearly as much as the 30-06 because it is a powder guzzler.

September 4, 2009, 02:45 AM
use the .270 Winchester to take a sample of every game animal on the North American Continent (not to mention numerous other animals, elsewhere). Bullet placement is more important than power, according to everything put out over the years by all the "experts".

September 4, 2009, 09:55 AM
Excellent read! I enjoyed this article a lot.

September 4, 2009, 10:12 AM
Great article, I especially like:

Big game is consistently, quickly, and humanely killed by accurate, precise placement of a well-constructed bullet in the vital heart-lung area.

Words every hunter should live by and teach to the younger generation! It should be taught right along with the 4 rules of gun safety.

I have a winter bull elk hunt coming up this year and I plan to lay down some accurate and precise fire with my 6.5x55 Swede / 160 grain Woodleigh's Protected Points.

September 4, 2009, 10:21 AM
Interesting article, but not at all surprising. I went to Alaska in '04, and was surprised by the number of people hunting with .338 Win mags. I tooks a 7mm mag loaded with 150 grain bullets.

I've actually helped people sight in their rifles when they themselves couldn't shoot the rifle well enough to get it sighted in properly. That's in Arizona, and with all the hype about big bears and such, I'd imagine it's gotta be worse with the big cartridges some want to use in Alaska.


September 4, 2009, 02:32 PM
Go most any rifle range a few days before deer season and you will see them... yuk