The All-Around Cartridge
Well, first off, there ain’t no such thing. No cartridge could possible handle all of the requirements that the different hunting situations that we encounter require. I automatically exclude small game hunting and varmint hunting for the obvious reason that these require very specialized cartridges. So, following African hunting practice, I’ll divide up the game to be hunted by size and, with the big bears, their potential ability when wounded to hurt others, including the nimrod who wounded them. There is no topic in hunting that causes more controversy, which simply means that there is no such thing as the ideal ‘all around cartridge’. That said, MY choice for best all around hunting cartridge has the following requirements:
1. Sufficient energy to humanely kill within the anticipated shooting range.
2. A flat enough trajectory so that ‘Point Blank range” is within the anticipated shooting range.
3. Minimal ‘overkill’ as the bullet passes entirely through the game animal and wastes it’s energy on the rocks beyond.
My Candidates For Best All-Around Cartridge
1. Black bear and deer-sized animals -
The 7X57 Mauser case has spawned the two best cartridges for this category - the .244 Remington for varmint hunting, with deer a secondary consideration, or the .257 Roberts if you want a deer rifle primarily. Other cartridges? Ones in the 25-06 category are ‘overbore’, wasting powder, and unnecessarily increasing recoil, to gain a few more feet per second velocity of no value at all. Any cartridge based on the .308 Winchester case in handicapped by it’s short length, limiting bullet flexibility. There are lots of other candidates, the .22s, with premium heavy weight bullets, spring to mind, but my two choices, all things considered, stand alone in meeting my three requirements. The magnums? Totally unnecessary.
There is obviously some overlap with the following category -
2. Deer-sized animals on up to elk and moose -
So, we need a cartridge that will handle a mountain sheep or antelope at 300-350 yards, a white tailed deer at 25 and a moose at 150. That’s a tough requirement, but with proper bullets, the.30-06 can do it all. The .270 Winchester might be better for smaller animals at longer range, and the 9.3X62 Mauser better for bigger animals at closer range, but the .30-06, with proper bullets, can handle them all, successfully. The magnums? They’re fine, if you want to plant the ground beyond the animal, that their bullets have plowed up, for a vegetable garden. Otherwise, they’re just a waste.
3. The Big Bears -
This is the North American equivalent to the African “Heavy Rifle”. You don’t need great power, but you do need to be able to anchor the animal so that it can’t make trouble. From previous descriptions, it should come as no surprise when I state that the 9.3X62 Mauser is my choice for hunting these animals. The .35 Whelen is also fine. If you just have to have a magnum, the .338 Winchester Magnum is a good choice.
Well, I’m gonna cheat. I actually have two choices. For General All Around Cartridge, the 9.3x62 Mauser. It’s not too overpowered for white tails and is superb for the heavier animals, including the big bears. With Nosler 286 gr. factory ammunition as an example, you can hold dead on out to 320 yards. Beyond that range, it quickly develops a rainbow trajectory. Remember that Van Zwoll article? “400 yards is a chancy proposition even for the best riflemen (and women)”. However, for lighter animals out to 375 yards, the old .30-06 will get the job done very well, using Hornady Superformance ammunition with its superb 180 grain projectile.
Just for fun, below is a graph from Ballistics Explorer. Remember, this factors in trajectory and wind but NOT accuracy of the hunter, which will shorten the point blank range by a further 30 yards or more. However, it is good for showing how the super hot .30-378 only shows it’s superiority beyond where you’d ordinarily be using the cartridge. Do you want an 8 ½ pound rifle that is good for 98.5% of the time, and stretched for 1.5% of the time, or a 11-12 pound rifle that is useful for 1.5% of the time and stretched for the remaining 98.5%?