I posted over this in hog hunting, but then realized I should have posted it here:
I had a conversation with some guides on Sunday and the upshot was this: the guides love hunting with their .223s, everything from hogs to buffalo.
I was on a long trip and had six rifles with me. I was there to hunt razorbacks and I had intended on using my new Marlin .44 1894, but I was shooting Hornady Leverevolution for the first time and I wasn't satisfied with my accuracy.
I had a Browning .308, a 1873 .357, and a Steyr .223. When I said .223, all the guides smiled and said "use the .223!" I had thought that .223 didn't have the stopping power for a big hog, but these fellows say they hunt buffalo with them and they only use .223 on hogs.
I was shooting 150 yards on the range. I shot my .44 into some steel plates that were 1/4-inch thick. the .44 put a serious dent in the plates, but did not penetrate (same at 75 yards). The .223 didn't dent the plates at all, but just put clean holes through it.
I understand the stopping power of bigger caliber bullets. I understand that the bullet will do a lot more damage to the animal when it deforms. But that said, the .223 is going to penetrate anything (right?), and when I examined the hole on my 400 lbs razorback...I mean cripes, it was a big hole with an exit wound.
And yet .223 is called a varmit round. What am I missing? Does anyone have examples of shooting .223 and failing to drop an animal? Any animal?
The .223 can kill any north american game animal with a responsible shot. There are hits that won't kill, but that goes with any round. A marksman with a .223 will perform more clean kills on big game than the average guy with a .300 winmag.
It's not politically correct, or even legal, in many areas to hunt big game with the .223 - that doesn't mean, however, that it's not a great little killer in the right hands.
That being said - it's not 'ideal' for bigger animals, but it's certainly capable.
I've seen older hunting videos of the American Inuit hunting Polar Bear on the ice with a .222 Remington along with their slid dogs. It seems they would let the dogs harass the bear and stand him up right; then walk up and dump it with one or two rounds to the head. When .223 Rem came out, they changed their rifles over and started using M193 ball'..., to them the new cartridge was like a lighting bolt compared to the .222 Rem; the 223 Rem ammo was like gold up there for awhile... You could almost name your price for a'....., Mil 440 rounds ammo can of it. Those were some very good trading days back them; the gun shops would move the ammo North like a cartel king pins.
So will the .223 Rem handle large game? Sure it will; like the man said' it's all about bullet placement'..., as with any cartridge used by hunters. Get it were it needs to go '..., it will do the rest.
Would I hunt large game with one? No. There are too many other ones that would service me better.
Have I hunted large game with a .223 Rem?.... yep... when I lived in Idaho... and for a few years in Washington before they made it illegal to do so. It killed quite well within it range, when the round(s) were placed correctly on the target. Never had an animal get away, but then I wasn't trying to shoot them across canyon or off hill tops, it was usually under 250 yards.
Today with bullets like Barnes and Berger and better barrel twist; the distance could be stretched out quite a bit. Right now my favorite long range paper puncher in the 1k game is my .222 Remington Magnum with a 80gr Berger VLD's.. It was originally in a .223 Rem that I re-chambered'..., it wasn't that the .223 Rem with the same bullet couldn't perform out at 1k'..., I wanted a little more powder pop to keep it over 3000 fps day in and day out. Now and then the .223 Rem would drop vel's on me, going just under the speed of sound before it got there, problem solved.
Just my .02
Your point is well taken, and ethical; here's a guy that didn't get memo.
Walter D.M. Bell has become a legend among elephant hunters due to his great success in the ivory trade during the golden age of hunting in East Africa. He is known as “Karamojo” Bell because of his safaris through this remote wilderness area in North Eastern Uganda. He is famous for perfecting the brain shot on elephants, dissecting their skulls and making a careful study of the anatomy of the skull so he could predict paths of bullet travel from a shot at any angle in order to reach the brain. Using mostly 6.5mm and 7mm caliber rifles, he was an advocate of shot placement over big bore power for killing efficiently. Modern writers on the internet and in magazine articles have tended to refer to him and his tally of elephants in this vein, “He shot most of his 1000 elephants with a 7x57mm rifle” or words to that effect. In fact, Walter Bell killed 1011 elephants with a 7x57 in the course of his career. Since most people refer to him for his small caliber prowess and his elephant tally I thought I would try and break it down, because there are a great number of people quoting what “Karamojo Bell” did or didn’t do and I have noted a common tendency in the last few years to play down what he did with small caliber rifles. Perhaps this is in direct relation to the resurgence in popularity of magnums and the larger safari rifles. Craig Boddington is quite apt to mention the "few hundred elephants" that Bell took. (Mr. Boddington, I believe, is an erstwhile heavy rifle enthusiast.) Bell recorded all of his kills and shots fired. It was a business to him, not pleasure, and he needed to record expenditures.
He shot exactly 1,011 elephants with a series of six Rigby-made 7x57mm (.275 Rigby) rifles with 173 grain military ammo.
He shot 300 elephants with a Mannlicher-Schoenauer 6.5x54mm carbine using the long 159 grain FMJ bullets.
He shot 200 odd with the .303 and the 215 grain army bullet.
He went to a .318 Westley Richards for a while, which is a cartridge firing a 250 grain bullet at about 2400 fps, but found the ammunition unreliable and returned to the 7mm.
He also recorded that one of the reasons why he favored the 7x57 was that the ammunition was more reliable and he could not recall ever having a fault with it. Whereas British sporting ammunition, apart from the .303 military ammo, gave him endless trouble with splitting cases.
The balance of his elephants were shot with this .318 and his .450/400 Jeffrey double rifle.
He wrote about being able to drop an elephant with a light caliber rifle if he shot it in the same place that he would have shot it with a heavy rifle.
It was unmentioned, but understood, that 7x57 ammunition cost a tenth the price of large caliber .450/400 Jeffrey cartridges and money is always a factor in business.
Just out of interest, I will mention that to judge ammunition expenditure and his own shooting, he calculated an average. He discovered that with the .275 (7x57mm) he fired an average of 1.5 shots per kill. This means that half the time he only needed one shot. That is a fair performance for such a large number of elephants killed and considering that it is common today to fire an insurance shot, anyway.