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Old April 30, 2012, 07:54 PM   #1
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favorite all-purpose rifle/caliber?


I have my eye on a new rifle, but it definitely isn't a "need". I have several rifles but what I don't have is something all-purpose. I have varminters, "police" heavy barrels, "evil rifles", and a 7mm magnum.

I mostly have "precision" rifles set up to be shot either from the prone or from a rest. I'm now looking for a rifle that can be slung over a shoulder and carried out on a hunt... what and where are still to be determined. So, not knowing the target, what do you recommend?

I never saw much use for "budget rifles" before, but I think I'm coming around. I think the Ruger American in .243 fits the bill pretty well. Lightweight, American made, and affordable. I usually spend big money on accurate rifles, but something that will likely be shot standing or crouched with makeshift shooting sticks doesn't need to be a 1/2 MOA tackdriver....

30-06 is the default answer, but I already have a 7mm Mag. Too much overlap? 30-30? Please help.
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Old April 30, 2012, 08:50 PM   #2
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I've used basically 3 rifles for hunting over the years. For many years I used a Winchester model 94 SRC in 38-55. It's been great for me and was taking game for it's previous owner since the 1920's.

My Griffin and Howe .270 with 2.5x Lyman Alaskin scope was pretty much my favorite where any distance was an issue. But my Steyr Mannlicher Model M, 7x57 carbine with Leupold scope has it over the others for just all around comfort, while carrying and shooting. It's similar to the 270, but with less recoil and is an accurate game getting cartridge. I should give that rifle some credit as well.

In europe that cartridge is extremely popular and for good reason. I don't reload and can't be bothered with discussing bullet weights and trajectory and so on and so forth, cause that's for the experts to discuss. I just know how easy it is for me to hit something with it and for a lack of a better expression it kills real good. Just my opinion.
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Old April 30, 2012, 08:53 PM   #3
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I don't have a lot of rifles, so this is more of a biased response than an informed one, but you might like a .357 lever action. You mentioned a 30-30 which might be good, but a .357 carbine might overlap less with what you already have. It could take deer and hogs at conservative ranges, but, with 38 specials, it can also take small game without blowing them up. It would likely be among the nicest carrying guns you'd own and one of the cheaper ones to shoot at the range.

I wouldn't say it's an all-purpose rifle, but it may fill a niche that you don't currently have filled.
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Old April 30, 2012, 08:58 PM   #4
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You say that you already have varminters, and the 7mm mag you mentioned is certainly fine for the largest of American game, so I assume your "all-purpose" desire falls somewhere between the two extremes - something that is not necessarily too much for varmints, but could reach far enough up the spectrum for medium or even some of the smaller large game. There are certainly many options, and good arguements for each of them, but here is my two cents:

.243 or .270

The .243 is on the lighter side, and therefore the better of the two for varminting, but with bullet weight going up to around 100 gr, it is perfectly capable against deer.

The .270 is a bit much for the varmint side of things, with available bullet weights starting right about where the .243 leaves off, but it can stretch high enough for bigger game like elk or even larger.

You didn't mention whether you reload, so I don't know if cost is a factor, but if you do, or if you are OK with more expensive bullets, a .25-06 might be a good option. It reaches below the 100 gr mark for semi-reasonable varminting, but also stretches high enough to be acceptable for elk, though many would not recommend it as a large game round. In other words, it will cover all of the middle ground, and some of the upper and lower ranges, but not as high or low as the .270 or the .243 respectively.
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Old April 30, 2012, 09:15 PM   #5
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SInce I live in Bama.....

and won't encounter any large bears or moose while out hunting/bumming around the woods, I have fallen back to my boyhood favorite of an old Marlin 30/30 as my general purpose rifle. It is about as "all purpose" as you are going to get here - unless sitting in a stand on a huge soybean or cotton field is your main hobby. I shot a deer with it last season and it went clean through him from about 50 yards. It has a lot more "oomph" than people give it credit for.

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Old April 30, 2012, 09:28 PM   #6
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I feel my Remington 700 SPS Tactical in .308win is my all-purpose bolt-gun.

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Old April 30, 2012, 09:37 PM   #7
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I'll give another vote for the 243 Winchester. It is a fine deer sized game cartridge and can also be loaded with lighter bullets to become a great varmit killer. I have read a number of post on this forum from people who also believe it is enough for elk although all admit shot placement is the key factor.
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Old May 1, 2012, 02:04 AM   #8
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I have a Ruger M77 in 6mm Remington that I bought back in the day as my 'One gun rifle'. Over the years it delivered just what I bought it for, varmints to deer. In addition I reload for it and it does not break the bank to take out to the range for some target practice.

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Old May 1, 2012, 02:59 AM   #9
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Wow, thank you all for the quick responses.

To answer some: yes I do reload, so cost isn't as much of a factor as other issues. I'm primarily concerned with weight, pointability, and "functional accuracy" (ie humane shots on medium sized game out to about 200yds).

I guess I'm leaning toward the 30-30 even though I didn't expect to. I started this thread leaning toward a .243/.308 bolt rifle. When I think all-purpose rifle I think 308/30-06, but there's quite a bit of overlap with what I already own. A 30-06 out of an ultralight rifle is pushing the comfort limit.

My intention for an all-purpose rifle is something lightweight that I can mount a low-power scope (and/or ghost rings) and harvest medium sized game (small pigs up to large deer). I'd also like it to be modest in recoil so that I enjoy shooting it at the range. My 7mm, while fun to shoot, is fun to shoot in small quantities.

Any other ideas?
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Old May 1, 2012, 05:04 AM   #10
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I vote for a 25-06 in the rifle of your choice,Its flat shooting,fast plenty of power for most anything.And everybody & theyre brother dont have one, Low recoil pretty good choice of bullets. Just makes a great all-purpose or truck gun. good luck.
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Old May 1, 2012, 05:35 AM   #11
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6.5x55. Accurate, flat trajectory, extremely low recoil. I could spend all day on the range with it and it's powerfull enough to use any game I'd be hunting.
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Old May 1, 2012, 05:40 AM   #12
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I'm torn, honestly, and am always looking for that all-purpose rifle. The plain, honest truth is that there is a lot to like in all the choices so far proposed. It's a heck-of-a-note that we've got so much from which to choose.

One thing I've noticed lately is that some guys really like to push the .30-06. Back in the day, the standard .30-06 load was about 47 grains of IMR4895 with a 165/168 bullet. That bullet cruised along at about 2700 fps and took lots of game. It wasn't punishing and was a pretty standard Garand load.

If you go to the Hodgdon site and look at the 165/168 bullets, they recommend a minimum of 48 or 49 grains of IMR4895 powder as a starting load. At the upper limits that bullet is pushing semi-magnum velocities. In this case, the loads are getting stouter. Physics tell us that if you push a bullet faster, you get more recoil on the other end. I'm leaning toward the lower end of the chart on the .30-06, keeping the bullet whistling along at about 2700 fps. Maybe pushing a 150 grain bullet at about 2800 fps.

Last summer I spent a lot of time playing with the .308, in three different rifle. Good choice in that cartridge, but it doesn't hold any particular appeal to me. It does everything well, and nothing great. I guess I spent so much time with it during my Army years that it holds no mystique. This year I'm playing with a .25-06, having a years-long affection for that cartridge, still the .30-06 is probably my favorite cartridge. It satisfies like nothing else.

Still, the choices remain, anything from the .243 on the lighter end to the .30-06 on the upper end. There is a lot to like in the .30-30, the 7mm-08, or any of the other cartridges mentioned.

Happy hunting!
Dennis Dezendorf

Last edited by PawPaw; May 1, 2012 at 05:49 AM.
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Old May 1, 2012, 06:24 AM   #13
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I guess I'm leaning toward the 30-30 even though I didn't expect to
Sounds like a good answer to your question, especially with the more specific desire you mentioned:

something lightweight that I can mount a low-power scope (and/or ghost rings) and harvest medium sized game (small pigs up to large deer).
A 30-30 will do fine out to your stated 200 yards, it has pretty reasonable recoil, and medium sized game are right in its wheelhouse.

Also, the list of rifles you already have did not seem to include a lever gun, so the 30-30 gives the opportunity to add more than just a new cartridge to your lineup.
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Old May 1, 2012, 06:39 AM   #14
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Most of the time your 1st thoughts are the best. Have you priced 30-30's lately? A budget bolt rifle in 243, 7-08 or 308 can be found for almost 1/2 the price of a Marlin 336C. While a 30-30 is adequate, any of the above rounds will do the same thing with much better range and accuracy, and no more recoil or cost. With modern bullets a 243 will work on everything from varmits to elk, and at ranges farther than most can shoot.
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Old May 1, 2012, 10:56 AM   #15
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I've messed around with a good many rifles and cartridges, through the years. What with old age, weight seems to be more important than most other factors.

The majority of my hunting has ranged from prairie dogs to mule deer. No elk or moose.

I have an old L579 Sako Forester carbine in .243. Works fine for everything from prairie dogs to deer. Weighs seven pounds. I also have a Remington 700 Ti in 7mm08. Great for deer and maybe elk, but a bit of "a bit much" for prairie dogs. But, it's only 6.5 pounds with a Leupold 3x9 on top. Both rifles are reliably sub-MOA.

So if I decide to cut back to just one hunting rifle, I'd keep the .243. I see it as generally better as a varmint rifle but also plenty good for deer.
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Old May 1, 2012, 11:07 AM   #16
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I am interested that you are leaning toward a .30-30. It is certainly a well-behaved and effective round for medium game at reasonable ranges, albeit very old. Contrary to popular opinion, it is also a very good target cartridge under the right conditions. Here is something to think about. I note you have been shooting prone and over a rest, which means you are accustomed to a high level of accuracy. Sometimes it is difficult to get a lever gun to shoot as accurately as you would like. The way I went was to get a Remington Model 788 bolt action, on the used market because the model is long discontinued. I actually have two of them now, both very accurate. Might need to look a while, but you can still find one. The 788 is a very strong action with great design features and has been quite accurate in all of the calibers it was made for. Being a clip-fed bolt gun, you can load any of the beaucoup .308 bullet designs from 110 through 180 grains, round-nose, flat, or spire-point. The handloading possibilities are practically endless, and it is a lot of fun to develop a good, accurate load for the 788. You can expect to beat 1 MOA by quite a bit. One the other hand, lever guns are fun, also, and Hornady's LEVEREvolution ammo and components give great results in these arms.
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Old May 1, 2012, 11:27 AM   #17
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.300 win mag. this is my workhorse...very accurate, reliable and already plenty of scratches!!
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Old May 1, 2012, 11:32 AM   #18
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I mostly have "precision" rifles set up to be shot either from the prone or from a rest. I'm now looking for a rifle that can be slung over a shoulder and carried out on a hunt...
Well I like the .30-30 but until you determine what you want to hunt and where you may be a little under powered or a little limited on the range. I have the Remington 788 in .30-30 as well but be prepared to shell out a lot of money for a bolt action .30-30 mine cost me a little of $500 to get it. A Savage 340 or variants of it will be a far cheaper bolt action .30-30 than the M788. Plus the ability to use spitzer bullets if you reload will allow you far more options in bullets if you reload for it.
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Old May 1, 2012, 11:55 AM   #19
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I think the 30-30 would be a good bet. It works well on Deer/Elk/Black bear. They are very fun to shoot. I would recommend an older Marlin.

My Father all ways said you only "need" 2 rifles. One to plink and shoot small game and one for big game. I originally went with a 22lr and a 45/70 but quickly saw that I needed an in between caliber so I added the 357 magnum cause it is what I shot as a kid.

The 30-30 is a great round and the older (JM) Marlins are great guns. Besides that every gun guy needs at least 1 lever action.
Shot placement is everything! I would rather take a round of 50BMG to the foot than a 22short to the base of the skull.

all 26 of my guns are 45/70 govt, 357 mag, 22 or 12 ga... I believe in keeping it simple. Wish my wife did as well...
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Old May 1, 2012, 05:40 PM   #20
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Bigger than .243, smaller than .308...

260 Rem!

Basically a 6.5mmX51mm, i.e., the 7.62mmX51mm necked down to 6.5mm.

Bullet weights of 120 gr and 140 gr, light recoil.
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Old May 1, 2012, 08:55 PM   #21
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7x57 is fun to load for.

Light varmint bullets up to heavy bonded bullets. for the larger critters.

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Old May 1, 2012, 09:11 PM   #22
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I remember reading Outdoor Life back in the day and Jack O'Conner seemed to take everything, even in Africa, with a .270. I also read about guys taking prairie dogs with .270 loaded with 90 gr. bullets. I have no experience but it seems like .270 would be an all-around caliber.
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Old May 2, 2012, 12:25 AM   #23
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Another vote for the 260 Remington. It nicely fills the niche you are looking for.
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Old May 2, 2012, 10:01 AM   #24
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Given what you already have, I would lean toward either a lever gun in 30-30, or a bolt gun in either 7mm-08 or 260 Rem.

I personally think 7mm-08 is the ideal general purpose big game cartridge for North America. You can take deer size game out to the range limits of what any sane hunter would attempt (400+ yards), and big bull elk out to 200 yards.
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Old May 2, 2012, 10:07 AM   #25
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Location is everything and good all purpose rifles change with location. I can tell you I really really try to like the .30-30 but every one I get goes down the road. While there is not much it can't get done and you "think" your shots will be 200 yards or less I've found that it just doesn't have the range I need. Same can be said for the .357 and .44 rifle/carbines.

A few years ago I decided to consolidate my guns and settled on the .243 for my location and hunting whims. 90% of my centerfire hunting is predator and varmint in open farm ground with 10% saved for bigger game if I choose. Put me out west and the .260 and 7mm-08 make a more sense and move me to a more wooded area in the east and the .30-30 regains some charm.

Still, there's not much if anything I'm gonna do ANYWHERE that a .243 won't get the job done to ranges as far as I should be shooting and I'll take it 10 fold over a .30-30.

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