Choosing the right combination of cartridge and ammunition could make or break your next hunt. You might choose the old stand by that you have hunted with for years, or want to try out something new. In either case, there are a few things to ask yourself before you head afield.
First on the list, what species are you hunting? Logic would dictate the larger the critter, generally speaking the larger the cartridge. With advancements in modern bullets, smaller rounds are effective on larger animals at longer distances than was generally accepted years ago. Antelope, deer and hogs are regularly taken with 22-26 caliber rounds. Larger rounds are certainly just fine to use, but generally are not necessary. Black bear, sheep, goats and caribou are often taken with 24 caliber and larger. Elk and moose are often taken with 25 and 26 caliber and larger. The biggest bears are usually hunted with 30 cal and up, but some guys choose and use 7mm successfully.
I used a 338 RUM to take this Vermont moose. In reality, a 6.5 would have killed him.
Anticipated shot distance plays a big role in the right cartridge. Magnum type cartridges certainly add range. Lots of hunting takes place at ranges where magnums are not necessary. If your ability or general range is under 500 or so yards, magnum cartridges generally are not necessary, but never hurt.
Open terrain like this Colorado mountainside favor magnums for the extra reach.
Standard cartridges work well in confined areas like this northern Michigan landscape.
Your ability to tolerate recoil and still shoot well makes a big difference. People tend to shoot rifles better if they don't get their eyes crossed when they pull the trigger. I have shot a lot of heavy recoiling rifles and I still have to admit, I shoot them better with recoil management. Reduced recoil improves shooting, plain and simple. Smaller rounds shooting lighter bullets recoil less. Heavier guns recoil less. Stock fit alters the way you perceive recoil. Muzzle brakes and suppressors reduce recoil on any rifle. Do what is necessary to reduce recoil and help yourself shoot better. Smaller cartridges are the first place to start.
These muzzle brakes make all rifles easier to shoot accurately. 6.5 CM radial, 6.5 CM 3 port, 28 Nosler 2 port, 300 RUM 3 port, 338 RUM 3 port
By now, you have your new favorite cartridge and rifle picked out. Now is time to pick the perfect ammunition for your hunt. All bullets are supposed to destroy vital organs and tissue to put an end to your quarry quickly. There are two general schools of thought on how a bullet is suppose to do that. Frangible bullets will deform and break apart after impact, causing massive trauma in a short, but wide wound channel. As fragments break off the main bullet, the remaining pieces will loose energy and eventually come to rest. The result is often a large diameter, but somewhat shorter wound channel. The flip side is a bonded or mono metal bullet that is designed to hold together and penetrate. These bullets will still mushroom up front, but retain most of the bullet mass. This retained mass will retain energy and aid in straight line penetration. The result is a wound channel that may be less dramatic in the diameter, but will most likely be much longer. The more frangible bullets are ideal for thin animals and broadside shots. If you like to break shoulder bones or take angled shots, bonded bullets offer a better chance of reaching and destroying vital organs. The trick is learning how much is enough.
This perfectly mushroomed bullet was pulled from a nice Michigan buck. 6.5 CM 130 SSII
Putting it all together is the fun part. There are a lot of cartridge/ ammunition combinations that work well on a wide variety of game animals. You can take the minimalist approach and have one that does it all, or pick specialty rounds for each hunt.
The flat shooting, hard hitting 6.5 PRC 130 SSII was a perfect match for this 500 yard pronghorn.
Which ever you choose, North American Ammunition Company either has or can develop a custom ammunition solution for you.