Special Report

The Most Versatile Hunting Rifle Cartridges

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

9. .45-70 Government
> Overall versatility score: 2.1 out of 5
> Performance at 100 yds; depending on bullet mass: 895-2,158 ft./lbs.; suitable for small game to the toughest game
> Performance at 300 yds; depending on bullet mass: 636-1,083 ft./lbs.; suitable for small to medium game
> Performance at 500 yds; depending on bullet mass: Not recommended
> Number of bullet weights considered: 3; 250-410 grain

An old cartridge, .45-70 caliber guns were popular with hunters as far back as the 1800s. Rifles chambered for .45-70 caliber rounds are capable of firing large rounds, with masses up to 500 grains – but for this analysis, we only considered 250, 325, and 410 grain bullets.

While larger bullets often do not travel as fast as smaller ones, their mass can compensate for the lower velocities upon impact. With a 325 grain bullet, a .45-70 caliber rifle can take some of the toughest game at 100 yards. When loaded with a 410 grain bullet, the rifle can take smaller game at 200 and 300 yards, though longer range shots are difficult and not necessarily recommended with this caliber.

8. .300 Winchester Magnum
> Overall versatility score: 2.6 out of 5
> Performance at 100 yds; depending on bullet mass: 2,973-3,297 ft./lbs.; suitable for the toughest game
> Performance at 300 yds; depending on bullet mass: 2,026-2,587 ft./lbs.; suitable for the toughest game
> Performance at 500 yds; depending on bullet mass: 1,333-2,033 ft./lbs.; suitable for medium to large game
> Number of bullet weights considered: 5; 150-200 grain

The .300 Winchester Magnum is one of the most popular hunting calibers in North America – and also among the most versatile. Though notorious for having heavy recoil, a .300 Win. Mag. rifle can take on virtually any large game on the continent, including elk, moose, and bear.

Deer hunters carrying a .300 Win. Mag. should stick to longer range shots with lower grain ammunition. Those looking to hunt small game would be well advised to use a different, smaller caliber rifle.

7. .376 Steyr
> Overall versatility score: 2.7 out of 5
> Performance at 100 yds; depending on bullet mass: 2,714-3,373 ft./lbs.; suitable for the toughest game
> Performance at 300 yds; depending on bullet mass: 1,694-2,283 ft./lbs.; suitable for large game to the toughest game
> Performance at 500 yds; depending on bullet mass: 1,023-1,500 ft./lbs.; suitable for medium to large game
> Number of bullet weights considered: 2; 225 & 270 grain

The .376 Steyr caliber round, introduced in 1999, was specifically designed for versatility. At 100 yards, a 270 grain bullet can take the toughest game in North America and even large African game, while a 225 grain bullet is well suited for medium sized game at 400 and 500 yards.

Source: Courtesy of Ruger

6. .375 Ruger
> Overall versatility score: 2.9 out of 5
> Performance at 100 yds; depending on bullet mass: 3,660-4,052 ft./lbs.; suitable for the toughest game
> Performance at 300 yds; depending on bullet mass: 2,110-2,786 ft./lbs.; suitable for the toughest game
> Performance at 500 yds; depending on bullet mass: 1,174-1,880 ft./lbs.; suitable for medium to large game
> Number of bullet weights considered: 3; 250-300 grain

Though perhaps not among the most popular rifle calibers, the .375 Ruger, introduced in 2007, is certainly among the most versatile. Capable of delivering a 4,052 foot-pounds of energy at 100 yards with a 270 grain bullet at 100 yards, the .375 Ruger is a contender for the most powerful rifle chamber on this list.

At 300 and even 400 yards, it is still suitable for some of the toughest game in North America. And with a slower 300 grain bullet, the .375 Ruger is also a reasonable choice for taking medium sized game beyond 400 yards.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

5. 7mm-08 Remington
> Overall versatility score: 3.3 out of 5
> Performance at 100 yds; depending on bullet mass: 1,579-2,274 ft./lbs.; suitable for large game to the toughest game
> Performance at 300 yds; depending on bullet mass: 1,057-1,784 ft./lbs.; suitable for medium to large game
> Performance at 500 yds; depending on bullet mass: 685-1,381 ft./lbs.; suitable for small to medium game
> Number of bullet weights considered: 3; 120-150 grain

The 7mm-08 Remington is effectively a .308 Winchester round necked down to hold 7mm bullets. Though less popular than the .308, the 7mm-08 offers shooters a lighter rifle with lower recoil. Rifles chambered in 7mm-08 are capable of taking some of the largest North American game, including moose and bear, as well as smaller game like deer and hogs. The rifle is also capable of taking most game on African plains.

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