Hunting Ammunition : Best Bullet For Your Game Without Destroying It?

Opinion: Jay Chambers reviews the right hunting ammunition for the right game.

Best Bullet Ammo Ammunition iStock-176827240
Hunting Ammunition : Best Bullet For Your Game Without Destroying It?

USA –  -(AmmoLand.com)- When it comes to hunting ammunition calibers, most shooters are concerned that their round will not have enough power. However, it’s possible to have too much power. And, hunters usually err on the side of having more power than they need. This often leads hunters to use a round that destroys more of the animal than necessary.

So, we’re going to help you zero in on the right hunting ammunition for each type of game. That way, you can get a rifle and round that perfectly meets your needs. We’ll start with the smallest animals.

Hunting Ammunition Varmints

22lr 22 ammo rimfire ammunition
22lr 22 ammo rimfire ammunition

Small caliber rounds work well for varmints. They have enough power to deal with small animals at typical varmint hunting ranges.

Use these rounds for varmint control:

  • .17 HMR
  • .22 Hornet
  • .22LR
  • .22 WMR
  • .223 Remington

If you’re hunting varmints with thicker skin and fur, like possums and raccoons, you should use a pointed round like the .17 HMR or .22 Hornet. .22LR and .22 WMR work well enough for a thinner skinned game like squirrels. .223 Remington is best if you’re shooting varmints at longer ranges. If you don’t need the extra range, you can save some money by going with one of the other small-caliber rounds.

Hunting Ammunition Small Game

Norma Unveils New Jacketed Hollow Point in .22 Mag
Norma Jacketed Hollow Point in .22 Mag

If you’re hunting small game for food, the .22 family is ideal. It’s powerful enough to kill rabbits, squirrels, and most birds. However, the bullet doesn’t cause excessive damage, which is important if you’re trying to get as much meat from a small animal as possible.

These are ideal small game hunting rounds:

  • .22 LR
  • .22 WMR

Hunting Ammunition Predators

223 Ammo Brass
.223 Ammo Brass

Most predators are too large to hunt with a rimfire round. But, they’re often small enough that there’s no need for a high-powered round. So, the midrange family of cartridges is ideal for hunting predators.

Use these rounds to hunt predators:

  • .223 Remington
  • .22-250 Remington
  • .220 Swift
  • .243 Winchester

You should only use .223 Remington for small predators such as coyotes. For anything more substantial than a coyote, like predatory cats, stick with the largest three rounds in this category.

Deer

Some 30-30 loaded ammo with a Sierra bullets with the Magnum Research BFR Revolver
Some 30-30 loaded ammo with a Sierra bullets

Deer vary quite a bit in size. As such, there are quite a few rounds which are suitable for deer hunting.

However, if you’re hunting average size deer-like whitetail—you can stick with the more moderate rounds in this category. Also, if you typically take short-range shots, you can stick with a smaller round.

If you’re hunting in Alaska or another region with larger species of deer that often requires long-range shots, you should size up.

These are the best deer hunting ammunition cartridges:

Short-range:

    • .243 Winchester
    • .30-30 Winchester
    • .300 Savage

Medium and long-range:

    • 25-06 Remington
    • .270 Winchester
    • .308 Winchester
    • .30-06 Springfield
    • 7MM Remington Magnum
  • .300 Winchester Magnum

Black Bears

Various 45-70 Ammo
Various 45-70 hunting ammunition.

There are two general directions you can go for black bear hunting: lever action and traditional centerfire.

The lever-action rounds — especially the small-bore rounds—are best for short-range black bear hunting. If you anticipate taking medium to long-range shots, a centerfire cartridge delivers better performance.

These are your options for black bear hunting:

Short-range:

    • .30-30 Winchester
    • .300 Savage
    • .444 Marlin
    • 45-70 Government

Medium and long-range:

    • .25-06 Remington
    • .270 Winchester
    • .308 Winchester
    • .30-06 Springfield
    • 7MM Remington Magnum
    • .300 Winchester Magnum

Hunting Ammunition Sheep and Goats

30-06 M2AP cartridges
.30-06 Ammo

We’re not talking about hunting cute little billy goats here. Large wild sheep and goats can actually be rather tough. Some sheep are larger than most deer. So for the best hunting ammunition in this case, you need a decently powerful round to hunt sheep and goats.

The midrange family of rounds will give you the range and power you need to hunt sheep and goats.

Here are the best rounds for sheep and goat hunting:

  • .25-06 Remington
  • .270 Winchester
  • .308 Winchester
  • .30-06 Springfield
  • 7MM Remington Magnum
  • .300 Winchester Magnum

Caribou

Aguila 308
Aguila 308

Caribou have thick skin and fur, and sturdy bones. So, fast pointy rounds are your best bet for caribou hunting. Fortunately, the ideally shaped rounds also offer enough range to hunt in the regions where caribou live.

These are your best caribou hunting rounds:

  • .25-06 Remington
  • .270 Winchester
  • .308 Winchester
  • .30-06 Springfield
  • 7MM Remington Magnum
  • .300 Winchester Magnum

Elk

California Elk
California Elk

Elk are like giant deer in many ways. As such, you should use a larger round from the spectrum of cartridges that are suitable for hunting deer. But, just like caribou, fast pointy rounds are your best options.

Use these rounds for elk hunting:

  • .25-06 Remington
  • .270 Winchester
  • .308 Winchester
  • .30-06 Springfield
  • 7MM Remington Magnum
  • .300 Winchester Magnum

Hunting Ammunition Hogs

.308 WINCHESTER (7.62x51)
.308 WINCHESTER (7.62×51)

Hogs are usually smaller animals. But, they’ve got super tough hide. So, a medium-caliber, fast, high-penetration hunting ammunition round is ideal for hogs. That way, you can get through their skin and dense bones without destroying too much meat. Avoid flat-nose rounds.

These are the best hog hunting rounds:

  • .270 Winchester
  • .308 Winchester
  • .30-06 Springfield

Grizzly, Brown Bears, and Moose

458 Lott, .375 H&H, and 458 Win.
458 Lott, .375 H&H (center), and 458 Win. Big game Hunting Ammunition.

These larger animals are not only larger, but they also have thicker bones and hides than many other large game animals. So, you’ll want to step up in caliber for these animals.
This is one category where erring on the side of having more power is the best choice. These animals live in areas that often require you to take long-range shots. That means you need a round that will carry a lot of energy over a long distance.

These are the rounds that will get the job done:

  • .300 Winchester Magnum
  • .300 Weatherby
  • .338 Lapua
  • .375 H&H

Heading Out

You probably noticed that there’s a lot of overlap in each hunting ammunition category. Clearly, you can use a single round for hunting quite a few animals.

In fact, .270 Winchester or .30-06 Springfield makes a great multi-purpose round for most hunters. And, .243 Winchester is a great option for young shooters.

If you decide to get a large round and use it for smaller animals (i.e., using a .338 Lapua as an all-purpose hunting round..?), use a lighter bullet for smaller animals. That way you won’t lose too much flesh to your round.

But, financially and practically, it makes more sense to use the right round for the job. Using a smaller round when you can is also better for shooting comfort since you won’t get punched in the shoulder every time you shoot.

So, choose wisely. And, choose appropriately. That’s how you get the cleanest kills.


Jay Chambers is a pro-free speech business owner based in Austin, Texas. Having lived through several natural disasters and more than a few man-made ones (hello 2008), he believes that resilience and self-sufficiency are essential in this increasingly unpredictable world. That’s why he started a business! Jay writes over at Minute Man Review.

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DanO
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DanO

Bullet construction has been entirely overlooked. For fast moving bullets to work at short range, premium bullets like Swift A Frame, Norma Oryx, Barnes TSX, Woodleigh PPSN, and Nosler Partition are superior choices because they are most likely to retain their mass, or at least their cores. That isn’t to say a “cheap” bullet like Speer Grand Slam isn’t appropriate in some circumstances, even for large, tough animals like moose, elk, and caribou. A 180 gr GS fired from a 308 Win would likely produce terrific results, even on moose, out to about 200-250 yards. The same billet fired from… Read more »

Will
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Will

.308 best all round !

JPM
Member
JPM

The ammo isn’t as important as being able to make a clean kill. Get close enough and be able to put the bullet where you need to put it every time is more important that the size of the bullet or the so-called “knock down” power of the bullet/round. I’m not saying use a .22 rimfire for elk, but many elk, moose and bear have been take over the last century with a .30-30 by hunters willing to work at making a clean kill.

John Dunlap
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John Dunlap

I would have to assume that this article is aimed at the brand new novice. A huge collection of worthwhile choices in every category has been ignored in favor of the most commonly available chamberings, with a lot of overlap. If a new shooter happens to be small framed and/or recoil sensitive, some of this is bad advice. I would not, for example, hand one of the big belted magnums to a budding 120 pound female hunter with limited firearms experience, for her first moose hunt, and expect a positive result.

Knute
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Knute

He also says that a .25-06 is adequate for elk but not for feral hogs. That’s patently ridiculous, but far from the only errors. The industry has for decades been saying a .270WIN with the heaviest and toughest bullets is minimum for Elk, which are nearly as tough as moose, albeit not as bad tempered. So he says .375 H&H is the minimum for a moose, but use a .25-06 for Elk? Where’s the sense in that? My personal advise is a .270 for Elk and a 7 mag, .308, or -06 for moose. I’m not particularly recoil sensitive, so… Read more »

RoyD
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RoyD

This collection of words comes across as something written by someone who hasn’t been there nor has he done that. What a waste of time at the very least.

Ryben Flynn
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Ryben Flynn

I have ARs in calibers .22LR, .223/5.56, 300BLK, .308Win (AR10) and .458SOCOM. I also have a M1 Garand in 30-06 and a 1918Enfield SMLE MKIII* in 303 British. I think that covers everything from squirrel to moose.

Knute
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Knute

You sound like a multi cartridge AR guy. I’m currently working on a project AR in a new cartridge, the 7.62 X 39 case, blown out to a slight taper .416. I would be interested in knowing what you would think of an AR15 in .416 X 39 that would push a 300 grain bullet at about 1500 fps?

Knute
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Knute

I would add to the “hunting small game” category the following advice; Avoid .22RF hollow points. Perfect for varmints, the .22 HPs tend to shatter into pieces upon hitting a small animal, anchoring them quickly. If one desires to eat the little critter though, picking the little chunks of lead out of your mouth is rather annoying. Better to use solid bullets that just pass through. The rimfire still has sufficient energy to anchor small game, like squirrels and such.