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Old February 10, 2013, 11:51 AM   #1
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Which caliber for first deer rifle?

I know this probably has been discussed a lot.

I'm looking to get a Ruger American in either .243, 7mm-08, or .270.
I know that .243 and .270 are more plentiful. I don't reload, (not yet, at this point).

I would use it on some private land for whitetail out to 200-225 yards being the max shot available. I have shot a friend's Sako in both .243 and .270. Recoil difference with the .270 was noticable but not uncomfortable. My understanding is the 7mm-08 is somewhere in the middle.

Recoil, price of ammo, versatility for white tails and similar sized animals--these are the factors I'm considering.

I'd love to hear your experiences with any or all of these calibers.
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Old February 10, 2013, 12:02 PM   #2
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I think you should go with the 243 since you won't be taking any really long shots. its what i started with and had no problems on deer and antelope out to 250 yard
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Old February 10, 2013, 12:12 PM   #3
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I'd rank them in the exact order you listed... .243, 7mm-08, .270.

I'd put .25-06 between .243 and 7-08 but why going past #1?

None of them are any more effective on target than the others and they're all excellent, potent rounds.

The .243 has the lowest recoil and ammo is as available and inexpensive as any, for non-reloaders.

It's a fantastic deer round, at any distance the shooter can make the shot.

Otherwise, pick whichever gives you the warm fuzzies. They'll all do a great job.
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Old February 10, 2013, 12:25 PM   #4
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Yup, all of the above.

For whitetail in your scenario, I'd go with the 7-08 as a first choice.
The 7-08 is based on the 308 and Military 308 is still easy to get and often free, so when you start to load your own you may as well have free brass.
The 243 is also made from 308, but the 7-08 is simply a more versatile round and can be used on elk with more bullet weight if such a day ever comes. Necking down from 30 to 24 is ok, but going form 30 to 28 less of a jump.
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Old February 10, 2013, 12:53 PM   #5
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I vote for .277 win. Great cartridge and it's easy to convert to .280 rem, 30-06, or .35 Whelen if you ever wanted more punch or 25-06 for a bit less.
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Old February 10, 2013, 01:04 PM   #6
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I must vote for the 7mm-08. I think it is a very effective and versatile round with minimal recoil. IMO the .243 is a little light for large deer. With perfect shot placement and given the perfect rib to rib shot it is plenty of gun but if only presented with a quartering shoulder shot as your best oportunity I prefere more gun to ensure a passthrough.
Also it comes in short action rifles that are generally lighter and handier. Any one of the three will do the job, can't really make a mistake here.
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Old February 10, 2013, 01:57 PM   #7
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My favorite out of the ones you listed is the 7mm-08. I have had GREAT results with it in GA on all kinds of things including white tail and hogs. Other than that I would personally go for the .308 or 30-06. But that depends on your size. I am 6'3"/220 so that may be why anything under 30-06 or .308 I prefer semi auto
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Old February 10, 2013, 02:08 PM   #8
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I'll disagree with the .243. While yes, it is a suitable deer caliber it can also be a deer wounder in the hands of an inexperienced hunter. I'd rater a first timer use something that throws a little more lead downfield.

My vote is 7mm/08. Recoil is low like the .243 but shoots a much heavier bullet.
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Old February 10, 2013, 02:10 PM   #9
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My American in .270 is flat from 100 to 400 yards, nice to not have to hold over to adjust for distance
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Old February 10, 2013, 02:17 PM   #10
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.243 or even a .223 with the 60 gr. Nosler. Once you get recoil, muzzle blast, and flinching teamed up, it will take years to get the kids interested again.

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Old February 10, 2013, 04:19 PM   #11
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I love my .243 (Savage 110). Around here , the current availability of ammunition of the cartidges you listed seems to be 7mm-08, .243, 270. If I had silly looked into ammo availability before I bought my American in .308, I'd probably have picked the 30-06 next to it.
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Old February 10, 2013, 05:53 PM   #12
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All three of the calibers you mentioned will get the job done very well on average sized whitetails at the range you mentioned. If versatility for bigger deer and other big game is a deciding factor, go ahead and X out the .243. I have one, love it, and have taken several decent sized for NC deer with it, but I wouldnt take it hunting to other parts of the country that have much bigger whitetails, nor would I think of hunting mulies or elk or bear with it. So that leaves the 7-08 and .270. For your uses at under 250 yards, you will probably never notice the difference between the two and neither will the deer. If you ever went on a hunt where a longer range shot was a possibility, say 500 yards, the .270 would have a slight advantage. So for versatility, my vote goes to the .270, but just barely. The price and availability of ammo for both calibers will be cheaper and more plentiful by comparison than most other centerfire rifle calibers out there. Around here .270 is a little more plentiful but your hometown may vary. You mentioned recoil. The .270 will recoil the most of the three calibers but as you said you experienced, it wasnt that bad. The 7-08 is a little lighter kick and if thats an issue for you it might be a factor to help you decide.

I said all that to say this:

I think you should get the .270 unless extra recoil bothers you. If thats the case then the 7mm-08 will be ideal for you
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Old February 10, 2013, 06:01 PM   #13
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I personally have used a .243 for many years and have never lost a deer with it. I have used both .308 and .270 as well but, if I were looking for a first deer rifle I probably would go for the 7mm-08. It is considered by many to be the best all around deer cartridge on the market. Also keep in mind that while .270 isn't terrible on recoil, the Ruger American is a fairly light weight rifle and the lighter the rifle the more you will feel the recoil. I also feel like the .270 is more gun than is needed for the distances you are speaking of. Might as well have the .284 bullet moving a little slower at those ranges than the .277 at a higher speed.

Last edited by CTS; February 10, 2013 at 06:07 PM.
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Old February 10, 2013, 06:17 PM   #14
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I'm not a fan of 24 caliber for deer. Especially for a first time rifle. I know it is used a lot, and can be an excellent choice for an experienced hunter, I still would opt for a little more umph. 7-08, or 270 for sure.
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Old February 10, 2013, 06:23 PM   #15
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If the American was offered in .25-06 I'd suggest it over the .270 or 7-08 but... they dont.

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Old February 10, 2013, 06:36 PM   #16
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Old February 10, 2013, 06:40 PM   #17
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Eh, they're all good. If you need a more powerful round to make up for a lack of skill you shouldn't be taking the shot anyway.
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Old February 10, 2013, 07:12 PM   #18
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I like all of your choices, my order of your choices would be 270, 7mm 08 and last is 243. My favorite deer rifle is chambered in 25-06. Over the years I have done my share of helping others locate a shot deer. Good shooters do make less than perfect shots on deer.
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Old February 10, 2013, 07:13 PM   #19
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The OP listed his probably range, but not where he's hunting. Deer can easily be twice as large in one part of the country than another. Where I used to live, hardly anyone used .243s, but they are very common where I am now, and that reflects the size of deer taken.
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Old February 10, 2013, 07:16 PM   #20
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How big do deer have to be before they can't be killed by a 243?

Shoot straight and the 243 will kill all deer quickly and humanely. Don't shoot straight and a 12 gauge won't kill them quickly and humanely.


In that order.

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Old February 10, 2013, 07:22 PM   #21
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I have a .243 that my family fights over during deer season. It has killed more deer than a plauge. Many deer took thier last steps in its cross hairs.

That said. All of the calibers you listed will do great if you do your part. Get the one that you can shoot the best, and buy the most ammo to practice with. As well as the one you will like shooting.

As well as that pay for an insturctor when you get your rifle. Learning the proper fundamentals without letting realy bad habbits set in from the get go will make a huge differance.
No matter how many times you do it and nothing happens it only takes something going wrong one time to kill you.
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Old February 10, 2013, 07:26 PM   #22
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How big do deer have to be before they can't be killed by a 243?
Most people will agree that shot placement is the most important factor, but at some point, one gun will be more reasonable than another. If shot placement was all that mattered, we could all hunt elk with .223s, but there are better options available in some situations.

Depending on the OP's situation, a .243 may or may not be his best option.

Last edited by idek; February 10, 2013 at 07:32 PM.
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Old February 10, 2013, 07:30 PM   #23
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7 mm-08, it duplicates the old 7x57 Mauser, one of the neatest cartridges ever. The 140 grain 7mm projectile at 7mm-08 velocities, will kill everything thin skinned, everything, but I wouldn't recommend it for bears and lions.
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Old February 10, 2013, 07:39 PM   #24
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You are going down the right road....what kind of hunting? Driving brush piles, driving woods, walking coulee's out west, plains hunting, tree stand, stand hunting fields....basically I need more info.

First deer rifle brings to mind a Win 94 30-30, 308 or 243 bolt rifle, 45 colt lever gun, 870 12 gauge 20" rifled, 30'06 bolt rifle....
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Old February 10, 2013, 07:49 PM   #25
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7mm-08 for the option of using heavier bullets and a little more umph ... it has just a tad more kick than the 243 .... second the 243 and practice practice practice... with good shots either will do just fine.
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