In Class Two I’d go with my 9.3 X 62 for thin-skinned dangerous game. Anything from the .338 magnums to the .375 magnums making at least 4000 ft-lbs would be excellent as well.
For Class Three, the large and heavy non-dangerous game over 1000 lbs, I almost chose a .300 magnum — the Winchester or Weatherby — but on further reflection, I chose the .45-70 with modern loads in a strong single-shot or a Marlin. The reasons were expressed in the former blog. My 22″ Marlin and 22″ H&R would both shoot a 465 and 470gr hardcast bullet with GC at 1900+ fps into MOA. That bullet also has an excellent BC of .365. With a zero of 180 yards it reaches a max elevation of about 4.5″ and is around -22″ at 300 yards. If you hold is on the hair-line of the hump the bullet will impact at over 1400 fps and plus 2000 ft-lbs mid-ships for any large game, like moose or bison in North America.
Next up is a rifle for CLASS FOUR – medium game. That is any non-dangerous game animal from about 60 lbs to less than 1000. That is a very large territory and why most hunters favourites embrace cartridges such as the .308 Winchester, .270 Winchester, .30-06 and 7mm Rem. Mag. Nonetheless, the .300 magnums are very popular for this class as well, especially in the West and in mountainous terrain. And why several suggest that’s all anyone needs for all North American game, plus most others throughout the Planet.
Most of the game harvested with these cartridges include the various deer species up to moose, black bear and even smaller grizzly, goats, sheep, hogs and some predators among the canines and cats. They also serve well, I’m told, for most, if not all under all conditions, for the PG of Africa. That’s a bunch and why they are so popular. They differ somewhat in ranging ability and why the .300 magnums are at the head of that class.
But please keep in mind what I’ve been preaching throughout this current series: There IS a crossover effect or possibility for any of the cartridges mentioned. For example: the .308 Winchester is considered a very good target rifle, a varmint rifle, a small game rifle, a medium and a BIG game rifle if not a dangerous game cartridge for most applications, though it has accounted for the likes of leopard and grizzly bear! It is also a favourite among our local moose hunters as shots are rarely if ever over 150 yards. In fact, if I were to choose a medium game rifle on purpose with known limitations, it would likely be chambered in .308 Winchester because through the best handloads it matches or exceeds former factory .30-06 loads but in a lighter, handier package that has less recoil.
However, even though I’ve done handloads for a friend’s .308 Winchester, I’ve never owned one. So instead, I’ll choose what I know best and that is a .300 Winchester Magnum, or the .300 WBY. I’ve owned and used eight .300 magnums, six of which chambered the Winchester case with barrel lengths from 23″ to 26″, and I’ve never owned a more accurate rifle for medium game. I once shot and cleanly killed a jack rabbit at a paced-off 285 yards from a single shot fired in leaning against a tree. The rabbit was facing away from me! The load was a 180gr leaving the 26″ barrel at nearly 3200 fps! On the other end of things, I flattened a nine-point buck at 35 yards that dropped so fast from a chest hit (no CNS) that it didn’t even have time to blink! So if I were to choose, what I have chosen, for most N.A. medium game under most conditions it would have to be another .300 Winchester Magnum as I just have too much experience with one, and too much brass lying around with nothing to do. I do have a barrel in .308 Norma though… I just need an action to screw it into and a cheap plastic stock!!
(That’s a .300 Win Mag helping to keep the hunter confident in a bear stand. The load is a 200gr AB with an exit velocity of 2970 fps.)
Hey, after all, I’m a Magnum Guy! So my choice for game to 1000 lbs is a .300 magnum under most conditions. In fact, if that’s all I had, I could live with it.
However, let’s not be too critical of someone choosing a 7-08 for moose hunting. It would not be my choice under all conditions but I once knew a man who was 83 at the time, preparing for a moose hunt with his 53 year old daughter. He was at our range trying factory and handloads in his daughter’s 7-08 for their planned moose hunt in Northern Ontario. That was his daughter’s rifle… his was chambered in .308 Winchester. I’ve owned a very good M70 Featherweight in 7-08, but for me it would not be a primary moose gun for certain parts of N. Ontario where possible ranges could vary from a handful of yards to over 500! In travelling that far (1000 miles/1600 kms), I’d want at least a .300 magnum, and prefer what I’ve chosen — a medium in .338 Win Mag or .340, a 9.3 X 62 or .375 Ruger or H&H. Bullet effect on impact is a factor of velocity, caliber, construction and sectional density. Oh yeah, AND placement! (I’d never live that down if I didn’t mention it! I get tired of hearing: “It’s not what you hit ’em with but where you hit ’em”. Huh? Now that was a deep thought, I think… Was it really Einstein who made that a principle of physics? Or maybe Newton himself?)
Another thing that downright irks me: Posters on forums who speak in such general terms about success with their rifles for deer, elk, moose or whatever, in these terms: “I killed 3 elk last year with my .270 Winchester”. You have to guess the details of whether they were
shot with 110gr varmint bombs or all copper 150s, or which brand and weight, range, and size of the animals. I submit there is a huge distinction between an immature cow elk that may weigh 300 lbs at 100 yards from a 750 lb bull at 350 yards! Then, the “little matter” of whether an outfitter was hired, or was it a DIY hunt? All of that, plus other important details, are pertinent to the chase!
(These are all .458-cal. bullets. There’s some very good ones among them for large game and dangerous game, and at least one or two that could serve for medium game and varmints. .458″ is a very versatile caliber.)
I once knew a gun shop owner by the name of, we’ll call him “Sam”. My son, Phil, and I used to visit that shop on a fairly regular basis when we lived in Toronto since it was just around the corner from us. Since “Sam” was Italian, he had lots of Italian friends who got together for a moose hunt “Up North” on an annual basis. “Sam” used his “three hundred maguem”. He had lots of “goodies” in his shop and was an excellent salesman. Yet he knew little to nothing about ballistics except that he “knew” his “maguem” was good for moose at any range — no matter how far. So he described to us his latest adventure for moose upon his return, in which he took shots at “a moose” (sex not determined) at an unknown distance. He “assumed” he hit it but “da moose” was never found!
Let it be known that I don’t write for “Sam”, as everything in this current series would be lost on him, and for any others who think their “pet rifle” is good enough for any game animal, anywhere under all possible conditions.
To this point, we’ve looked at four of the five classes of game and suitable rifle cartridges. The final class is SMALL GAME and VARMINTS. Some would separate these into two groups. However a rifle suitable for varmints like coyote would be more than adequate for small game like rabbit. Eastern coyote and “brush wolf” in particular can reach a maximum of around sixty pounds. What would I recommend? And perhaps more importantly, what would I use? The answer might surprise you — then again, perhaps not!
’til the next…