Speed goats: so fast, they often fly right by the radar of American big game hunters. Overlooked and underappreciated, pronghorn antelope offer one of the best hunting experiences in North America. For consideration, pronghorn antelope are not large critters. A mature buck will rarely tip the scale past 130 lbs. Accordingly, you don’t need a lot of firepower to effectively harvest even the biggest bodied antelope. For bullet choices, those with higher BCs and good expansion properties perform best. Without further ado, I present my top four antelope cartridges.
The Cartridge List
4.) .243 Winchester: Developed in 1955, this necked down .308 case has taken every animal in North America, up to and including moose. While on the lighter end of the caliber spectrum, it delivers excellent ballistics on pronghorn antelope. I shot this caliber exclusively for a decade when I started hunting and can attest to its performance. Production rifle and factory ammo options are endless.
Factory Ammo: Remington Premiere 90 Grain Swift Scirocco
-Muzzle Velocity: 3120 FPS
-Muzzle Energy: 1945
-G1 Ballistic Coefficient .419
3.) 6.5 PRC: With a crop of new 6.5’s coming out, the PRC may be the most promising. This relatively new round is based on a necked down 300 Ruger Compact Magnum. For Creedmoor haters, the PRC offers roughly an additional 100-300 FPS in bullet velocity while being able to run in short action receivers. More and more hunters and target shooters are switching to the 6.5 PRC as it falls in the sweet spot of 6.5 offerings with fantastic accuracy and solid bullet velocities with high BC and longer barrel life. Many bullet and rifle manufactures are creating new offerings in this red-hot popular round. The 6.5 round certainly seems to be here to stay!
Factory Ammo: Hornady Precision Hunter 143 Grain ELD-X
-Muzzle Velocity: 2960 FPS
-Muzzle Energy: 2782
-G1 Ballistic Coefficient .620
2.) 270 Winchester Short Magnum: The 270 WSM is an absolute gem of a cartridge. With performance matching that of the 7mm Remington Magnum, the 270 ‘short-mag’, like the 6.5 PRC, also accommodates short action receivers; perfect for today’s ultra-light, compact, and highly accurate rifles. I used this round in an HS Precision Pro Series rifle last year on two antelope and both dropped in their tracks. For Western big game hunting from antelope to elk, the 270 WSM is hard to beat.
Factory Ammo: Federal Premium Edge TLR 136 Grain
-Muzzle Velocity: 3240 FPS
-Muzzle Energy: 3170
-G1 Ballistic Coefficient .508
1.) 25-06 Remington: One of the most underrated cartridges, the ‘quarter-bore ought-six’ may be the perfect antelope round. A necked down version of the American sweetheart 30-06, the quarter bore version pushes perfect pronghorn bullets at velocities exceeding 3,000 FPS. Why the 25-06 is not more popular is beyond me. For antelope and deer in the wide-open West, look no further.
Factory Ammo: HSM Trophy Gold 115 Grain Berger Hunting VLD
-Muzzle Velocity: 3165 FPS
-Muzzle Energy: 2559
-G1 Ballistic Coefficient .466
Effective Sleeper Cartridges
Sleeper #1: .224 Valkyrie: On the lighter end of the spectrum, this relative newcomer outperforms its size. Build to squeeze every ounce of performance out of .22 caliber bullets. Black gunners/semi-auto enthusiasts will favor this load as it was developed for use in AR-15 type platforms. Likewise, you get the added bonus of having the perfect prairie dog round along for your hunt, as the two species often occupy the same area. Above all, this .22 caliber on steroids is an effective antelope rifle round.
Factory Ammo: Federal Premium 78 Grain Barnes TSX
-Muzzle Velocity: 2850 FPS
-Muzzle Energy: 1407
-G1 Ballistic Coefficient .383
Sleeper #2: 28 Nosler: On the other hand, if you prefer something on the heavier end of the spectrum, we have the 28 Nosler. All of Nosler’s recently developed cartridges were engineered and designed to perform at extended ranges and the 28 may very well be the crown jewel. For the one-gun American hunter, the 28 Nosler would be hard not to pick up and take to the field every time. You can bet that it would turn a pronghorn into pot-roast before it even hits the ground. Consequently, the 28 is gaining in popularity, and rifle and bullet manufacturers have taken notice.
Factory Ammo: Nosler Trophy Grade 175 Grain AccuBond Long Range
-Muzzle Velocity: 3125 FPS
-Muzzle Energy: 3806
-G1 Ballistic Coefficient: .672
We are in the midst of maybe the greatest surge of interest in caliber focus. Because of our great capitalistic country, antelope hunters have an endless choice of calibers, rifles, and bullets to choose from to pursue these prairie speed demons. If manufacturers aren’t producing highly accurate, match performing centerfire equipment, they are considered prehistoric. While it doesn’t take an elephant gun to bring down an antelope, the debate for the best choice is a fun one. However, these six cartridges will give you a great starting point.