Recently, we at ehuntr.com recorded a podcast discussing the best rifle calibers. When we decided to discuss this topic, we thought it would be best to get as many opinions as possible. As a result, we posed a question to as many western hunters as we could find. The question was quite tricky and really had no right answer. It simply asked, “If you could only have one rifle caliber to hunt big game, which one would it be?” We shared our poll on many big game hunting pages on social media and asked our followers to vote as well. After having the poll up for a week we ended up with over one hundred votes. We saw votes for many common and unique calibers. However, five calibers continued to show up over and over again.
Below we will list the five calibers that received the most votes. We will also give some info about each round and look into their popularity. Without further delay, ehuntr.com presents The Five Best Hunting Calibers decided by big game hunters in the western United States.
#5: The .308 – 11 votes received
From the wilds of North America to the plains of Africa, and even on the backs of our armed forces, the .308 has earned the respect and following of many hunters worldwide. Introduced in 1952 as a military cartridge, the .308 was developed from the .300 Savage casing. The same year, Winchester introduced it to the commercial hunting market. As a result, the .308 has become one of the most popular short-action hunting cartridges in the world.
The .308 provides hunters with effective big-game killing power and moderate recoil compared to other .30 caliber rifles. It also has seen popularity in the long-range competition shooting world. With the continued popularity of the .308, it’s no wonder it makes the list at #5.
#4: The .300 Win. Mag – 16 votes received
The first magnum to make the list entered the scene in 1963. Developed by Winchester, the .300 Win. Mag was based on the .375 H&H Magnum. The .300 Win design also took some inspiration from the .338 Win Mag that was developed in 1958. The .300 soon became incredibly popular with big game hunters the world over. It provides hunters with a flat-shooting high energy round that can be used for most game animals on the planet.
Nearly sixty years later the .300 Win Mag is still the most popular .30 caliber magnum in the world. We also received some votes for the .300 RUM and the .300 WSM. If you added all of those together the .300 would have moved up to second on the list. With all the .300’s out there it’s easy to see why it makes the list at #4.
#3: The 7mm Rem. Mag – 18 votes received
Much like the .300 above the 7 Mag has the .375 H&H Magnum as a parent case. The 7mm Rem Mag was introduced in 1962 and since then has become one of the most popular calibers on the planet. Because of the extreme popularity of the 7 Mag after its release, most contribute the disappearance of the .264 Win. Mag to the 7mm.
The 7 Mag offers tolerable recoil and a flat shooting nature. Add in that it has enough punch to consistently take elk-sized or larger game and the 7mm becomes a winning round for many hunters. The 7mm caliber continues to be a mainstay in the hunting and long-range communities, even garnering high praise from gun author Chuck Hawks. The 7 Mag even received votes from two members of the ehuntr ownership group.
” The 7mm Remington is one of the greatest all-around rifle cartridges.” – Chuck Hawks
#2: The .30-06 – 19 votes received
Old reliable, the .30-06 comes in at #2 on the list. The oldest of the bunch, the old 06 just keeps on dropping big-game animals. Many argue that the 06 has killed more big-game animals than any other caliber, except for maybe the 30-30. Introduced in 1906, the .30-06 was forged in the crucible of two world wars before becoming the go-to deer rifle for many Americans. The 06 has taken the large majority of game animals in the world, everything from coyotes to cape buffalo has been taken with the .30-06 at one time or another.
Recently, the .30-06 has received criticism that it is not very efficient or that it is too old. However, as shown by the voting results of our poll, many people still trust the .30-06 to get the job done. With a wide array of bullet sizes available from manufacturers (125 grain – 220 grain), hunters can find a bullet that suits what they are hunting. As new, popular rifles continue to come out the 06 may begin to slip on this list. But it will take quite a while before we see the .30-06 lose a century’s worth of goodwill and efficiency.
#1: The .270 – 21 votes received
Jack O’Connor is probably smiling right now as he looks down on how popular the .270 has become. Introduced in 1925 by Winchester, the .270 was made by modifying the .30-03 case to accept a smaller caliber bullet. For over forty years O’Connor sang the praises of the .270 in the pages of Outdoor Life Magazine. In his quest to prove the prowess of the .270 O’Connor took most of the game animals on the planet with the rifle. From the mountains of Arizona to the plains of South Africa the .270 has proved itself to be a very capable caliber.
With modern optics and ammunition, the .270 is a more than an acceptable long-range rifle, with the capability to take elk-sized or larger game. The .270 has moderate recoil and offers several bullet weight options to suit hunter’s needs. For many western hunters, there is no better rifle for pronghorn & mule deer hunting. With the popularity of new calibers like the 6.5s the .270 may see a dip in its popularity. However, much like the .30-06, many western hunters will grab their reliable .270 instead of taking a chance on a new firearm.
Honorable Mentions & Conclusion
This article & podcast are the accumulation of the western hunter’s voice. We received votes for twenty unique rifle calibers. Some of these included calibers like the 28 Nosler, the .257 Weatherby, and the .25-06. We even received a vote for the .50 BMG (even if it was a joke). For honorable mentions, we’d like to talk about the 6.5s. We received six votes for the 6.5 PRC and three votes for the 6.5 Creedmore. The 6.5s are becoming increasingly more popular and it’s not all just hype. The PRC offers high-quality performance at long ranges. Likewise, the Creedmore has mild to moderate recoil and is an exceptional rifle for new hunters or hunters that may be sensitive to recoil.
This question really had no right answers. There is a good reason that they make so many different gun calibers. It’s hard to find a gun that will hunt everything effectively, which is why most hunters will have at least a few different rifles. As for me, I always need another gun. Ehuntr.com would like to thank all the people who took the time to respond to our poll and leave us messages about the rifle choices. We truly appreciate all of you spending your time reading or listening to our content.
What are your thoughts on the best hunting rifle calibers? Did your caliber make the top five? What caliber do you think deserves more votes? Let us know in the comments!