Moose-size game cartridges is our current topic, and will extend over a month or more. At our range there are quite a few members who hunt moose annually and will be preparing and practising over the summer for that upcoming event in late September through early November, depending on what region of North America or Europe.
But this is about “moose-size game”, not just moose! Alaska-Yukon moose can attain 3/4 ton, while some Canada mature bull moose have been recorded at 1400 lbs, and usually a mature bull can easily attain 1100 -1200 lbs. A Shiras moose from the west is generally smaller at around 800 – 1000 lbs for a mature bull. Scandinavian moose are usually in the class of the Shiras.
In the west, southwest and northwest of North America, elk is often sought by sportsmen. Some exceptions are noted but elk are mostly smaller and lighter than moose, and cartridges for moose or elk are also suitable for African plains game — and obviously anything smaller or lighter among thin-skinned wild animals.
Having thus established a general consensus of the cartridge class, we’ll begin our comparisons. However, keep in mind that it’s not possible to deal with every particular detail in finite degrees that will cover all possible experiences.
The parameters of this discussion will start with common deer cartridges that might also be suitable for elk or moose size game under particular circumstances. And we’re NOT accepting in THIS discussion anything that resembles STUNT shooting of large game. If it’s NOT a cartridge ordinarily used for soft-skinned game that might go at least 1/2 ton on the hoof under most conditions, then it’s NOT an acceptable cartridge as understood in normal terms.
Therefore in our first comparison there will be three contenders that I’ve met up with at the range in preparation for a moose hunt, or in the field in actual hunting of moose. But there’s a distinct difference between what might be chosen by a local hunter where ANY moose on license may become the target in a tightly wooded area, from that of a moose hunter who has to travel some distance from home to a remote north or northwestern area for a trophy bull. Nonetheless, the cartridges chosen MUST serve well under all conditions and circumstances when and where a shot is taken.
The first competitors are: a 7mm Remington Magnum, a .30-06, and a .300 Winchester Magnum. “Let the games begin…” — err, no that’s the Olympics! “Drivers, start your engines!” — sorry, that’s NASCAR! “Hunters, start yer arguments!” — hey, that’s it!
The 7mm Remington Magnum:
On my second hunt to the “Far North” of Ontario for moose — I’d previously done a few moose hunts to the “Near North” of our Province — I was showing my son, Phil, the country with dozens of logged-out areas on both new and old logging roads. It was the day before the hunt could start and we were scouting. In the process, we came across a camp of moose hunters about 10 km (6 miles) from our camp. They had high-walled tents, wood-burning stoves with smoke pouring from their pipes, neatly stacked piles of wood, several ATVs and 4 x 4 pickups. And beyond belief, among their seven or eight hunters was a sportsman from a street next to mine 1600 kilometers away! We had never previously met! Currently, I routinely walk that street in my physical workout and have yet to meet up with him again though I’ve chatted with a fellow hunter on that street making enquiries.
But the real point is that the moose hunter I met 1600 kms/1000 miles from home had a new rifle chambered in 7mm Rem Mag that he wanted to introduce to me and my son– he was very proud of it, stating it should be better than what he’d previously used during a few moose hunting adventures in that area. Whatever he’d toted in former seasons was believed to be improved on by the magic of this new stainless 7 Rem Mag. And if I’m not mistaken, his former “thunder” was a .30-06! And he’d yet to shoot a moose with his new-found toy, using store-bought ammo!
That’s not to pass condemnation, as the majority of hunters are like that — they believe the hype! So, having spent some years handloading those three, I’ve gained some knowledge as to their ballistic potential without having shot “a ton” of game with either of them. So, we’ll stick with ballistic facts and not arguments based on subjective experiences or Internet claims. No doubt, some claims are objective realities, but it’s impossible to verify actual physical circumstances unless an objective video was made without editing. And even then, the guide, outfitter, PH or bystander might present a more objective view of what really happened than the shooter whose claims might exceed reality by more than 100 yards!
In my experience, and view, the best weight bullet for soft-skinned game that could go to, or exceed, 1000 lbs is a premium 175-gr, which was the original bullet weight promoted by Remington for large or dangerous game. Without being picky in the extreme, my findings are that no other 7mm weight bullet can match 175-gr in end ballistics for large game at up to about 400 yards from that particular Remington Magnum cartridge.
I’ve had no problem attaining 3015 fps from the 175-gr Nosler Partition from the 26″ barrel of my Ruger No.1 using Remington cases, WLRM primers and 72 grains of RL-22. That’s pretty close on the heels of a .300 Win Mag firing a 180-gr Partition, and has a better BC and SD.
From my 24″ Remington 700, I could quite easily get 2940 fps from 175s using the same brass, primer and powder. So let’s consider these potential results:
Bullet: 175-gr NP
BC = .519
MV = 3015 fps/3532 ft-lbs/69 MTE
100 = 2830 fps/3112 ft-lbs/61 MTE
200 = 2651 fps/2731 ft-lbs/53 MTE
300 = 2482 fps/2394 ft-lbs/47 MTE/1175 lb game optimum
400 = 2317 fps/2086 ft-lbs/41 MTE/1025 lb game optimum
500 = 2158 fps/1809 ft-lbs/35 MTE
Recoil = 30 ft-lbs from an 8.5 lb rifle
Speaking personally, I’d consider a 7 Rem Mag (or equivalent) a 400 yard moose cartridge, maximum. And I’d really want to be closer.
The .30-06 Springfield:
If I chose the .30-06 as a moose gun for Northern Ontario, the 200-gr Nosler AccuBond would be my choice, hands down.
Bullet: 200-gr Accubond
SD = .301
BC = .588
Barrel = 24″
MV = 2700 fps/3237 ft-lbs/72 MTE
100 = 2544 fps/2874 ft-lbs/64 MTE
200 = 2394 fps/2394 ft-lbs/53 MTE
300 = 2249 fps/2246 ft-lbs/50 MTE/1250 lb game optimum
400 = 2110 fps/1977 ft-lbs/44 MTE/1100 lb game optimum
500 = 1974 fps/1730 ft-lbs/39 MTE
Recoil = 26 ft-lbs from an 8.5 lb rifle.
I fail to see enough distinction between optimum handloads for the 7 Rem Mag and the .30-06 to choose one over the other. The .30-06 shows a slight advantage in MTE from 300 yards on, but not enough to quibble over, whereas the 7 Rem Mag shoots somewhat flatter at all ranges.
Those optimum loads are for those particular bullets at what I’d consider max MV. In addition they’d need to be placed into vitals. So I’d prefer to be closer.
The MVs are from a 26″ Rem Mag and a 24″ .30-06, respectively. In my view, both are at their best at less than 400 yards on game between 1000 to 1500 lbs.
The .300 Winchester Magnum:
Barrel = 26″
Bullet: 200-gr AccuBond
BC = .588
SD = .301
MV = 3000 fps/3996 ft-lbs/89 MTE
100 = 2833 fps/3564 ft-lbs/79 MTE
200 = 2674 fps/3175 ft-lbs/71 MTE
300 = 2519 fps/2818 ft-lbs/63 MTE/1575 lb game optimum
400 = 2370 fps/2494 ft-lbs/56 MTE/1400 lb game optimum
500 = 2226 fps/2200 ft-lbs/49 MTE/1225 lb game optimum
Recoil = 36 ft-lbs from an 8.5 lb rifle.
< 1600 kilometres from home!
I’ve made it clear in several previous blogs why MY choice for game of that nature would be a .300 Win Mag over anything less. And that’s NOT to say it would be my premium choice for DG or game that exceeds 800 lbs. But it would be hard to argue against a .300 Winchester Magnum as an all-around choice for North American game, or soft-skinned animals of that size anywhere else in the world to +400 yards. But to be brutally honest about it… there are better for that size game to 400 yards and beyond… IF recoil is NOT the main focus!
And let’s face it – today’s hunters want and choose light-weight rifles and then complain about recoil! Plus the fact that the majority live in or around cities where a good day’s work consists in sitting before a computer for 8 hours! So to be used to a rifle that has proper weight for shooting moose-size game under all conditions means work of another kind – get a rifle that weighs at least 9 lbs ready, and carry it around for at least two weeks in rough conditions. Then recoil will be a faint memory! Or — if not a REAL rifle, carry weights or a bar of at least equal weight for a month or so… or work out in a gym on a regular basis… or as I do — walk a mile down hill, up hill, down hill and up hill, swinging 4 lb weights in each hand in rhythm to my steps (2200 of them) back to my front door. Three times a week. In between, I work out in my room with 15 lb weights in each hand (total 30 lbs) doing a series of exercises for 20 minutes, including pushups and squats. Then, when I bring my 10.3 lb Ruger No.1 in .458 Winchester Magnum to the range (or in the woods for a workout) it seems just right!
(The “Far North” with my CZ550, .458 Win Mag for moose — weight +11 lbs.)
Next up are some mediums compared: the .340 Wby Mag, .375 Ruger and the 9.3 x 62 — optimum handloads for each in typical rifles for large soft-skinned game. I don’t have experience with the .375 Ruger but I do with the other two, and also with several .375 H&H’s.
MTE = Mitchell Terminal Effect — It’s how I calculate the terminal effectiveness of ballistics at impact.
Let the arguments continue… but to argue against hard facts is an exercise in futility.