View Full Version : Advice on deer cartidge requested.

January 6, 2012, 04:35 PM
I'm looking to buy my first hunting rifle (http://thefiringline.com/forums/showthread.php?p=4894422#post4894422) and would like some input on which cartridge might suit me best.

A few things of relevance first.

I'm in the South East (Alabama) and do not intend on hunting outside the area, but should I get offered a job outside the region when I graduate in May I may end up in a region were the deer are different enough to matter. Most of the hunting areas in my area are heavily wooded, but there are plenty of open meadows and power line cutouts where a longer shot would be necessary.

I am a new shooter. I've been shooting .22's for a few years now (CZ bolt action) and recently acquired a Mosin-Nagant 91/30 (7.62x54R for any not familiar with it). I don't own any rifles outside of these currently.

I am recoil sensitive. I am only good for about 5-10 shots out of the 91/30 before I am done. I don't really like this as when I go to the range on a Saturday I am there for 8hrs. One afternoon a gentleman showed up with his own CZ as well as a custom Remmy 700 in .308. We traded rifles around, after 4-5 shots in that .308 I had had enough. To be fair to the .308, it was on its way to being a long range target rifle and didn't even have a rubber butt pad. The biggest issue I had with it was almost taking the scope to the eye on every shot, I think my shoulder would have adjusted eventually.

I do not have a range longer then 100yards to practice at. I've been searching but I haven't found anywhere where I can safely/legally take a shot beyond 100yards yet.

I do not reload. I do not have the time or the room currently, although I would like to get into it in the future. I mail order most of my ammo on sales, but I do not particular like the idea of shooting an exotic cartridge that I HAVE to mail order. If I can't find a good hunting and a good range round locally, I don't really have an interest in it.

Price is an issue. I'm a big proponent of proper shot placement and I will burn at least 50rds every time I go to the range to ensure that I am one with my rifle.

I have not picked out a rifle yet. This is heavily determinant based on the cartridge chosen, all though it will be a bolt action (unless I choose 30-30) and most likely it will be an 'entry' level rifle that I won't feel bad about abusing. Unless I decide to cave and buy a CZ 550 if I choose .243 or .270 that is...

Cartridges I am considering:


All that said, any thoughts on these (or any other cartridge you would like to recommend) would be appreciated.

Art Eatman
January 6, 2012, 05:04 PM
I've taken a couple of dozen deer with my .243. While most folks wisely use bullets of around 100 grains, I've been shooting for enough decades with centerfires and have hunted enough to have the skill and be picky about my shots: I've used the Sierra 85-grain HPBT, now available from Federal.

The .243 is easily a 200-yard deer killer, and as skill comes along, 300 yards is no big deal.

My little Sako carbine is only seven pounds fully dressed and ready to hunt, so with the more common eight-pound rigs the recoil should be trivial. Mine is not at all bothersome for recoil.

Good used reloading gear is readily available, saving some 50% or even more over new-retail. It lasts forever, so the cost per shot is much less and allows for more practice.

But get off that benchrest and practice with field positions which one likely would use when hunting. Offhand shots, sitting and leaning against a rock or tree, or standing with a shoulder against something. Some folks use shooting sticks. And perceived recoil is less than at the bench.

January 6, 2012, 05:05 PM
The rifle's weight and stock design have as least as much to do with how you feel recoil as the actual caliber. A 30-30 has light recoil on paper, but the crooked stock designs along with no recoil pads on most of those guns amplify recoil and make it seem worse than it should be.

My first choice would normally be 7-08, but if a 308 bothered you that much, you may be better off with a 243. It should be fine for any deer hunting, but a little lighter than I'd like for anything bigger.

Stay with a bolt rifle to get the most rifle for the money. Lots of GREAT budget rifles to choose from right now. I'm really wanting to see one of the new Ruger American rifles that were just announced this week and are not in stores yet. Based on the features and projected street prices I think they may have a winner.

The Stevens 200, Marlin XS-7, Weatherby Vanguard, and several others are out there priced between $300-$350.

January 6, 2012, 05:13 PM
I'd stick with either the 7mm-08 or the 243 Winchester. Both are pretty easy to get ammo for and neither are considered hard recoiling. I believe for the most part you can get 243 ammo cheaper than 7mm-08, so that might be taken into consideration.

As for the rifle I like that you're a bolt action fan, so am I. I'd suggest you take a look at the Weatherby Series 2, Savage 11/111 and Remington SPS's. They are very reasonably priced and considered very accurate.

January 6, 2012, 05:18 PM
Howdy! I would suggest you choose the .243. Almost every brand is chambered for this round, so it will be easy to find a rifle you like at your LGS!

As for recoil, the .243 is the ticket. My 12 year old daughter can handle it enough to get her sighted in every year, then she never even feels it when she shoots her pronghorn.

I killed a cow elk with mine this year, so it is definatly enough gun for any whitetail.


January 6, 2012, 05:23 PM
I guess I shouldn't be as mean as I am about that .308. To be fair, that was a custom rifle on it's way to be a long range target gun. It didn't even have a rubber butt pad...

I think the big thing with the .308 is that I almost took the scope to the eye on every shot...

Until now I have done very little shooting that hasn't been on the bench. I've done some offhand with the sling, sometimes leaning against a pole, but that all depends on how busy the range is.

@jmr40 and Allen

I've added the link to the rifle discussion in the original post and what you have listed is on the list. One thing I could use is a good explanation on the difference in the Savage 10/11/12/16/17/110/111 lines... that's got me all confused.

January 6, 2012, 05:36 PM
I would suggest the .270 as it's the perfect deer rifle but the .243 will do the job.

See the recoil numbers on this chart... .243 is 8lbs., .270 is 16lbs., .300 Win Mag is 23lbs. etc.


Rifles will make a difference also. A Ruger .270 gives you a little bump but the .270 out of my Remington 700 gives me no problem. Difference in stock designs I guess.

.243 is probably what would suit you.

January 6, 2012, 06:06 PM
Scope rings on your eye brow are not pleasant. What you need is a scope with enough eye relief so that recoil won't send the scope into your face.
It's not a recoil problem, it's a scope problem.

Don't worry too much about cartridge. A heavy rifle with a good recoil pad will tame hard shooting rounds and a light rifle with no butt pad will be painful.

Start haunting your local gun shops and look at all the used guns. Find the one that fits best. That's the one to get.

January 6, 2012, 06:12 PM
I like the 30-30 myself, its a great deer cartridge. Plenty of power with very little recoil and available everywhere. Comes in a number of rifles, the marlin 336 is my favorite. Great in thick woods, and with a scope can reach out to 200 yds with the right ammo.

January 6, 2012, 06:19 PM
Thanks warbird

@ Buzz, I agree with you, I think the way he had it set up on the bench for himself was just not agreeable to the way I like to shoot.

Part of the problem with something used is that there is only 1 shot local to me that I am aware of that carries used rifles. Beyond the 'in town' it's about an hour drive, a bit farther then I would like to go to peruse the shelves.

Can a rifle be sold to someone from out of state? I've never actually thought about that but I am pretty close to the Georgia line.

@ rockfish, I really love lever guns, I've had to talk myself out of getting one several times in .22....

January 6, 2012, 06:56 PM
270 and 25-06 are good cartridges, but if you are especially recoil sensitive, I would choose the 243 or the 7-08. 30-30 is a good cartridge, but the rifles chambered for 30-30 tend to be lightweight carbines, and that means more recoil.

January 6, 2012, 07:55 PM
30-30 is a good cartridge, but the rifles chambered for 30-30 tend to be lightweight carbines, and that means more recoil.

Folks assume 30-30's are lightweight. A set of postal scales are very informative. My Marlin 30-30 carbine's weigh exactly the same as my 300 mag and more than my 7mm mag. The Winchester 30-30 is about 1/4 lb lighter than the Marlin, but only slightly lighter than the longer barreled magnum rifles in weight. They are anywhere from 1-2.5 lbs heavier than my 308's.

30-30 leverguns seem to kick harder than they should because of their stock design and lack of recoil pads.

January 6, 2012, 11:17 PM
The fit of the rifle has a lot to do with the felt recoil.

Unless you are hunting power lines the 30-30 is an excellent choice. I hunted south Louisana for a number of years and it served me well.

I also have had good results with a 243.

The 308 should not be dismissed because of one session. Try a different rifle before you totally reject this round.

If you check the rifle positng you will note that I suggested the Remington 600. It is a good rifle for heavy cover and will also serve you off a stand on a power line or wood line.

Have you access to a deer lease? That is something you need to check on.

January 7, 2012, 12:29 AM
Has anyone tried the Winchester Powermax 150 grain ammo in their 30-30 rifles yet? What is your opinion of it compared to the LEVERevolution and the standard Winchester Powerpoint ammo?


January 7, 2012, 01:26 AM
Here's some thoughts from upstate from you.

I've shot a Mosin a bit, and thought the thing kicked like a mule. Much had to do with the ammo, heavy ball. I did not care for it, but we shot a bunch from that old rifle that day.

The calibers you list are pretty diverse. You mention a rifle for use out of state after graduation and that makes me think bigger game and out west. That rules out the .30-30 and the .243 since you list better options. The 25-06 too, as it kinda of stops at the bullet weights one likely wants to start at in an elk and big muley rifle.

That leaves the 7-08 and the .270. I have never owned or shot a 7-08 but like the short action rifles and am a fan of its big brother, the .308. (another good choice BTW) The .270 has a heck of a reputation as a versatile cartridge and is fast and flat with its best bullet weights.

Plus one on all comments on reloading and practical practice.

January 7, 2012, 01:39 AM
Imo 243 would be good & if you plan to hand load down line a 25-06 would be my first choice its just a great all around cartridge for most hunting in the south east even ALA.LOL. Just kiddin.:D Good luck.

January 7, 2012, 02:28 AM
Can a rifle be sold to someone from out of state? I've never actually thought about that but I am pretty close to the Georgia line.

You can buy out of state depending on the laws of the state where you're buying. You will have to ship the gun to a local FFL near you to handle the paper work.

Lever actions in any caliber are fun. I started hunting with a Winchester Model 94.
The same cartridge in a Marlin 336 will have slightly less recoil.

Art Eatman
January 7, 2012, 10:50 AM
Rifle selection (and shotgun, as well): Mount the rifle to your shoulder with your eyes closed and get a good cheek weld to the comb. The length of pull should be comfortable.

When you open your eyes, you should be looking through the sights with no need to move your head--whether iron sights or scope.

A scope should be mounted such that when all is righteous, the distance between your forehead and the back of the scope is three, maybe four inches.

January 7, 2012, 10:31 PM
Your Mosin/Nagant is a fine choice for deer.There is alot of softpoint ammo out there and it is somewhere between a 308 and a 30-06 in power.It is also a very accurate round as well.Any of the calibers you listed will do well.I think you should think about the availability of ammo when making your choice and price of ammo as you stated budget is a factor.

January 8, 2012, 02:03 PM
.270, 308 and 30.06 can't go wrong with any of those. Decisions, decisions, decisions. Selecting calibers or guns can be almost as fun as buying vehicles. Just buy many rifles in different calibers, solved.....:)

January 8, 2012, 02:15 PM
Just to be different...

.260 Remington. It's based on the .308 case, just like the .243 is. It will shoot a much better bullet for deer than the .243, with very little more recoil.
I imagine the .260 with a 120-125gr bullet would be just about the best "beginner" rifle there is.

January 8, 2012, 05:34 PM
I would bet if you took a poll the best/most popular, light recoiling, and flat shooting rifle around was a .243. A close second would probally be a 6mm(.244) but these are not made anymore and rounds are hard to comeby it seems. On another note, if you travel out West I think a 20 cal. is not legal, maybe a Westerner will chime in on this info?

sasquatch found
January 8, 2012, 06:19 PM
you have a pretty good list of deer cartridges there. the 243 will most likely have the least felt recoil and is enough for deer, along with the versatility to take smaller game without butchering it if you ever start hunting varmints. The 270 is another great deer cartridge and has a little more bang for ur buck, but kicks a bit more. The 25-06 may be my favorite on the list. its a very flat shooting round with the right load and hits pretty hard, and again is quite versitile. Like you said if you go out of state to another type of deer country that round would suit just about anything the country can thro at ye. i have no experience at all with the 7-08. The 30-30 is another great deer round and in a heavy marlin 336 barely kicks at all and its a great deerwoods brush popper with the capeability to reach out a bit. all that being said youve made a hard list to choose from. id say buy them all eventually :p but if you must chose id start where i started with the .243 good luck

January 8, 2012, 09:56 PM
If recoil is an issue for you you might consider picking up a recoil shield such as http://www.midwayusa.com/product/284105/past-mag-plus-recoil-pad-shield-ambidextrous I have one that I use when I shoot my Mosin Nagant off the bench, that steel butt plate is a killer. The recoil shield would be great for practice with any caliber you chose allowing you to practice more. When it comes time to actually shoot the rifle at a game animal, I promise you that you won't even feel the recoil. Of all the deer I've shot I can't say I felt the recoil even once and barely remember even hearing the shots.

Now to answer the original question, I'd lean towards the 7mm-08, however the .243 would be a good choice also since you are recoil sensitive.


January 8, 2012, 10:43 PM
For beginners as well as veteran hunters the 30-30 is probably the best gun for the money. They're short making them easy to point, and carry. Ammo is everywhere and don't believe that crap about they kick because they really don't. They're a big bore that moves relatively slow and can make up to 200 to 250 yard shots and really shine at 100 yards. I also like the Marlin. As far as ammo goes, I'm a reloader myself but store bought stuff buy 3-5 different brands / bullets and shoot them and see what produces the tightest patern, your gun will show you what it likes best and then set your sights or your scope and then your ready. I personally like store bought 150 grain stuff but my reloads for my gun I load the 160 grain FTX's with Varget powder.

January 12, 2012, 12:34 AM
So far it looks like the .243 is leading, which I kind of expected.

I got a PM to consider the .260Rem and it looks like a solid choice, but I'm not sure the availability is there.

After that it looks like 7mm-08 would be my fall back plan, then onto .270 and .308. 30-30 will be an option if I come across a nice lever at a nice price.

That sound like a plan?

January 12, 2012, 02:21 AM
It's a jump from the 7mm-08 to the .270.

There are several cartridges you should look at. The 6.5x55Swede and the .260Rem are ballistic twins worth looking at. .250-3000 Savage, .257 Roberts are also good rounds.

Dr. Strangelove
January 12, 2012, 04:52 AM
So far it looks like the .243 is leading, which I kind of expected.

I got a PM to consider the .260Rem and it looks like a solid choice, but I'm not sure the availability is there.

After that it looks like 7mm-08 would be my fall back plan, then onto .270 and .308. 30-30 will be an option if I come across a nice lever at a nice price.

That sound like a plan?

Though any of the above will be a great rifle, I'd look strongly at the .270 and the .308 as having the most versatility. Though I dearly love my .270, the .308 is a bit more versatile in commercially available loads, and has the advantage of being a short action, together with the availability of surplus govt. ammo.

January 12, 2012, 05:09 AM
I would add:
250 Savage
257 Roberts
7mm Mauser
44 mag in Bolt or semi auto rifle

These should all provide very low recoils and 243 class stopping power. The 243 win is probably the most versatile. I would guess you would find a 44 rifle limited to about 150 yards or less, but I'm a bolt gun or semi auto, it should recoil very little.

January 12, 2012, 05:17 AM
There are several cartridges you should look at. The 6.5x55Swede and the .260Rem are ballistic twins worth looking at. .250-3000 Savage, .257 Roberts are also good rounds.

Those are good ideas for something different than .243 Winchester.

I'm thinking strictly of you being recoil sensitive.

While many people will scoff at the idea of the .270 Winchester, or .308 Winchester kicking hard, off of the bench they may bother you.

My grandfather used a .243 Winchester for 40-50 years and the deer, hogs, etc he killed with it looked just as dead as those killed with more powerful rifles.

January 12, 2012, 07:43 AM
From your initial post, you only have two choices, the .243 or 7mm08. Cartridges like the .260, .257 Bob, etc aren't readily available and cost a fortune compared to standards. The LA rounds are going to be a handful to someone who is recoil sensative.

A .243 with 90-100 grn bullets a proper shot placement will drop any whitetail or pig around. Step up to a 7mm08 and you can do a bit more. 120grn bullets will drop whitetails and shoot relatively flat. 150grn bullets mimick the performance of a 165grn in a .308 and are flat devastating on pigs and wood goats. IMHO the 7mm08 is the perfect whitetail deer round for nominal responsible shooting ranges 99% of hunters encounter.

January 12, 2012, 12:19 PM
I have been using a .300 Win Mag for years. Never got nailed over my eye because and "old pro" at the range years ago told me when shooting a heavy kicking rifle to "stick my chin out" and move your head to get a good view through the scope. This keeps you from tilting your head forward toward the scope and getting nailed. Believe me it works. And after doing it awhile it becomes a normal part of your setup.

January 12, 2012, 12:32 PM
Being recoil sensitive, and seeing the CZ550 on your list in the other forum, I really would recommend the CZ550 American or CZ550FS in 6.5x55 Swede. Very good, easygoing (on you, not game) round, IMHO the finest rifle you can get for under a grand, and beating many over a grand. Set trigger is amazing, accuracy is great, Mauser style action, very nice looking walnut stock. Hornady Superformance 140gr SST gives you very good power, while going easy on your shoulder, yet I would feel great taking any non dangerous game with it. Really,I would trust it to take brown bear, lions, etc., but I would not feel good trying to stop a charge with it.

I really urge you to at least check out a CZ550 before you buy, and look at write-ups of the 6.5 Swede, it really is an amazing round.

Jack O'Conner
January 18, 2012, 07:33 AM
Farmer Boy is right on; 30-30 is still the best cartridge for the hunter who plans to master his carbine with shooting practise. That is, shooting dozens of rounds from improvised field positions.

This older photo shows my daughter with a huge South Dakota muley she toppled with one shot with my Winchester. Distance was approx 125 yards or so.

30-30 is a keeper!



January 18, 2012, 09:12 PM
I really like the 7mm-08 that's the cartridge I started my Son when he was 10 years old,he's still using the 7mm-08 almost 13 years later.

January 26, 2012, 12:03 AM
My vote would probably go to the 7mm-08 even though the .243 ammo would be a little more universally available. It is light on the recoil and yet with a good 140gr is adequate for elk.

The .243 is a very popular deer gun (yes, even in the west) and would probably rank in the top 10 calibers when talking deer taken. However, because of it's weight limitations (105gr is about max available), ranges should be kept under 300 yards for reliable kills.

On another note, I believe you can get "managed recoil" loads for the .308 and the caliber is probably the most inherently accurate of the bunch. It can also be loaded with (standard) bullets ranging in weights from 110gr up through 200gr with excellent results. It is actually ballistically superior to the .30-06 in bullet weights of 165gr or less. There is a reason the military snipers use it for their light weight sniper guns.

January 26, 2012, 05:53 AM
...and the winner is?

Based on the low priced factory ammo criteria the 30-30 Win. With a close second being the 243.

January 26, 2012, 09:41 AM
I'd have to fall in with a few of the other guys. My 6 yr old son...4'5" tall beast he is likes the .243 and I also recomend the .270. Both are easy to find ammo in just about any gun Manufacturer flavor you prefer. I like the Marlin XL7 in .270, it's light, 22" barrel, and was dead nuts at 100 yrds out the box. To boot it had a "accu-trigger" too. Good recoil pad make a difference too.

January 28, 2012, 07:51 AM
For a short range hunter, you might think about a 243 AR or better looking Browning/Remington semi auto.

January 30, 2012, 07:17 PM
For overall versatility for the recoil sensitive, you just can't beat a .243 Win. It is also a dynamite long range varmint cartridge when loaded with lightweight bullets and equipped with an appropriate scope. While many tout the 7mm-08 as a mild recoiling cartridge, many of them come in the form of lightweight carbines, and having owned a Model 70 20" barrel lightweight carbine, it was not a light kicker. Particularly when loaded with the most popular factory ammo, a 140 gr SP at around 2700 fps. Great deer cartridge, absolutely, but not in the same light kicking league as a .243 win. Trust me, I have owned 5 different .243 Winchesters, and my current Sako A-7 is probably the hardest kicker of all them and it is mild, even with 95 gr Ballistic Tips at 3000 fps which is good medicine for any buck out to 300 yards. Some prefer the Partition, but I get much better accuracy with the Ballistic Tip. The 30-30 is a good hunting round as long as you are willing to give up half the range and a lot of accuracy compared to the .243 Win. If you want a real pussycat, recoil wise, get yourself a Weatherby Vanguard in .243 Win. They are a little heavier than most comparable rifles and will reduce the recoil even more with the extra 1/2 pound or so they carry. They are also reasonably priced and are available with a 24" barrel to give maximum performance out of factory ammo. Seriously, if you don't like recoil and want to be able to practice enough to improve your skill, get a .243 Winchester and don't look back. At least that is my honest opinion and based on actual experience.