Some hunters have claimed that works best for them. Yet, they may own several rifles – each one for a particular task with some overlap. As a possible example: a rifle in .223 Remington for small game and varmints, a .308 Winchester for general big game, and a .375 H&H for large game and DG.
For a dedicated hunter, rather than just a shooter, that would make some sense. A hunter may have limited time due to other commitments so can’t spend his days and weeks trying multiple loads for his various rifles; one good load for each may be sufficient for all the hunting he can afford both in dollars and time.
On the other hand, a single rifle using a single load for all creatures on a bucket list might be more challenging but still doable. If that concept should involve small, medium and large game, where the hunter is intent on using a single load for his pet rifle, that ups the challenge even moreso… but still within reason as it’s been done by many mature hunters who know their load, rifle and game exceedingly well!
< While many handloads from 300gr to 500gr were test fired at the range from this CZ550 in .458 Winchester Magnum, yet only one was chosen and used in hunting: the 350gr Barnes TSX at 2750 fps.
One such hunter was our oldest son’s father-in-law. While he owned several rifles, his favorite was a Winchester 94 in .30-30 using factory ammo. He’d killed deer, bear and moose with that rifle. And he never was a handloader, but he knew the game, the rifle, and could shoot! Of course, WHO he was and WHERE he lived were the keys. He was born and grew up in central New Brunswick that, at the time, was mostly forest and bush country. On top of that, his family poached game (as did most families of that time and place). At a very early age he had a real rifle in his hands, as did his brothers. They poached a lot of game during their youthful years. In later life as a married man with children he became a successful entrepreneur, and repented of his past misdeeds, but still clung to his .30-30 for hunting. And he still lived and hunted where the deer, bear and moose lived. A long shot was 50 yds.
Indeed, a hunter I ran into on a particular day during deer season, had one rifle for all big game, and didn’t handload. And he already had a whitetail on the ground. It was a well used ’94 Winchester with little blueing remaining on the metal and chambered in .32 Winchester Special. But that doesn’t make me an advocate of the ubiquitous .30-30 Winchester or .32 Special as a single rifle for all game. A number of years ago, when our second son was newly married and youth pastor of some churches on the Nova Scotia side of the Bay of Fundy, he struck up a frienship with a young man who owned a fishing vessel, but also did some hunting of the plentiful whitetail population. He invited our son to hunt with him. One day as they were leaving a hunting area to return home, a healthy doe jumped into their path. His friend was quick in putting a 150gr into the neck of the doe! It went down but soon jumped up again… and our fearless son jumped on it’s back trying to cut it’s throat! After the rodeo was over, the wound from the 150gr bullet was examined. It was found not far under the hide, and if our son hadn’t manage to cut it’s throat, it would have survived unless the shooter had been able to quickly unload the remaining bullets somewhere into its vitals. His rifle was a .30-30 Winchester.
For a few years, my only big game rifle was a M70 in .30-06 for which I made handloads. Prior to that I’d owned two military rifles for hunting purposes: the first an Argentinian Mauser in 7 x 57, still in it’s grease. Cleaned up, it was the most beautiful and perfectly engineered rifle I’ve ever owned. I bought a box of CIL 160gr RNs, went to a gravel pit for sighting – in, then to the deer woods. As soon as I heard a buck bounding past at about 100 yds, through dark timber, the rifle was up and aimed… but no chance for a shot. Then, I realized a riflescope was needed! But I was not about to have that beautiful rifle multilated by having the bolt handle bent, removing wood, etc, to mount a scope! I took it back to the dealer (Army Surplus in downtown Toronto) and got another military castoff: a ’98 Mauser with laminated wood, used and chambered in .30-06… How’d that happen… I’d expected a 8 x 57! Till this day, I don’t know. Anyway, my handloading career began with that rifle and within a year it was traded at a “real” dealer – an elite one – for a lightly used Winchester M70 in .30-06.
My expectation was that “this” rifle would satisfy “forever” with nothing more needed for any game, large or small. And “many” hunters would concur with that assessment, being a handloader or not. An Argentinian Mauser in 7 x 57.
A single factory load of a 180gr could do how much if you didn’t want to re-sight your rifle for coyotes using a 125gr load? We know that a factory load of a premium bullet, like the 180gr Partition, should be good for a bull moose to +300 yds under ideal conditions: ie – broadside, little wind, not near a lake or river (the moose may travel 100 yds or more), steady rest, ample time – not rushed, etc. My M70 in .30-06 had a 22″ barrel so would not likely make 2700 fps from a factory 180gr… say – to be generous – 2650 fps with an impact velocity at 300 yds of around 2125 fps/1805 ft-lbs. With a hit through the lungs, that moose will not go down but travel some distance. Will it run… and in what direction? Another shot perhaps? Maybe two? One of the two might make a hit… but where? “Oh! It ran into those trees over there”! “What’s over there’?” “I dunno!” And so on…
The point I’m trying to make should be obvious…. I think. There ARE conditions over which we have no control – physical conditions: Snow, wind, rain, the terrain, distances, angles of the shot (“But wait until the moose turns…”?). What if the moose decides (something else we have no control over) NOT to turn, or turns to walk away in the opposite direction? Just maybe there’s no time to wait – the “trophy” or “meat” bull had just decided (on his own) to leave in a trot! Can we catch a moose troting away? How about a walking moose? Going away? And where HE wants to go – not where WE want! So now my .30-06 is looking more and more like, what? … a .17 varmint round in effectiveness on that fast disappearing meat or trophy bull?
If it were I, I’d want something in my hands that would make a bigger hole than a .30-caliber/ 180gr at 2125 fps/1805 ft-lbs at 300 yards! First off, hunting and shooting moose isn’t a precision sport! And the “What ifs?” are never ending… at least in my experience! A LOT has to go right! And that includes some of the “What ifs”!
And one of the “What ifs?” is, did I bring the right rifle? And foreshadowing that is: “Did I buy the right rifle?”… IF it’s a matter of “one rifle and one load”?
To put a face on this: It would be foolish to expect a .30-06 to do everthing a .300 Winchester Magnum can do! Maybe for some hunters the .30-06 is adequate because they have no plans for hunting anywhere or anything that would make demands for their .30-06’s that could NOT be performed! “What if” that moose was at 500 yds, on a windy day, would you take the shot if your .30-06 was loaded with a 180gr, factory round or even a handload? And “what if” you couldn’t afford $3000 for an outfitter who says “We’ll try for another on another day”? And “What if?” you’ve waited for years for this last chance on a bull, and it’s walking away? At 500 yds, on a windy day, with my .340 Wby in hand I’d have taken the shot… I kid you not! I was fully prepared, and that’s not mere arrogance!
Conditions: logged out areas, lakes, streams, brush and forest. I had hunted the area the previous year and was familiar with it. That year I found a moose rut pit that was fresh. Scouting prior to hunting is absolutely essential to success. The moose I shot the following year was in the area of that rut pit, and so were the cow and calf. I knew it was possible to actually come in contact with the moose that had previously made that pit. And I knew the potential variable conditions of the hunt. At 2:30 pm on opening day, wiith the cow and calf nearby, I shot the bull.
If we don’t know the probable conditions, go with the worst case scenario in mind, and that means in equipment, including the rifle and it’s load.
That .340 Wby was my dedicated moose-hunting rifle. While I had developed other handloads, the 250gr NP was the only bullet loaded for hunting. One rifle… one load! And for all my rifles the goal is the same: A single hunting load for each rifle. Yes, I test many loads but choose one for the purpose of the hunt for each rifle. Once that’s settled and sighted, I leave “well enough” alone.
But time, effort and $$$ are involved in finding that one ideal bullet and MV that perfectly matches the rifle for its intended purpose. Otherwise, it’s a guessing game… a game of chance!
Till the next…