Do larger calibers really compensate for bad shots?

Wraith Hunter

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I have seen this mentioned in several threads lately. My experience has been a gutshot animal with a 338 is just as bad as a gutshot animal with a 243. I am not convinced bigger calibers allow for a materially greater margin of error, especially if you are shooting a berger type bullet or one that expands well. What are y’alls thoughts?
When harvesting an animal the size of the animal and the hide makeup are what causes me to choose which weapon I shoot.

If I were looking to kill an Elk or Deer sized animal I would use a bullet that has considerable hydrostatic shock, .257 Weatherby Mag or .300 Weatherby Mag. However, neither of those two would instantly drop an Elk or Deer if they were gut shot. If I were to hunt an animal with thick skin, such as Elephant, Rhino or Cape Buffalo, I would use a caliber that would penetrate deeply into the target with sufficient terminal energy to cause rapid incapacitation. .460 Weatherby Mag. Again, shot placement is critical.

I believe, in North America, where animal skins are thin and chest cavities are not deep, any caliber with high hydrostatic shock will work. I personally prefer the Weatherby .300 Mag and the Weatherby .257 Mag. My wife made a very low gut shot on a deer with her .257 Weatherby Mag and the deer ran approximately 200 yards before it died.

A few years ago I shot a 410 pound bear with my .300 Weatherby Mag, with a 180 grain SP BT, high the lungs. The bear fell with no additional movement or sound. The hydrostatic shock instantly killed the animal!
 

Marc Gauthier

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I have seen this mentioned in several threads lately. My experience has been a gutshot animal with a 338 is just as bad as a gutshot animal with a 243. I am not convinced bigger calibers allow for a materially greater margin of error, especially if you are shooting a berger type bullet or one that expands well. What are y’alls thoughts?
The power to stop the game first is due to the precision of the shot, and then to the caliber as well as the power. So you're absolutely right, precision first.
 

Peregrine82

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Shot placement rules the day. For elk, I prefer a big .30 or a .338 caliber bullet just because the construction of those bullets plus the weight of the projectile give me more insurance if I have to break through a shoulder. As far as taking game, I believe I owe the animal enough respect to take the time to place my shot true. If I am uncomfortable with the shot or the conditions such as high winds which may have me guessing, I will pass on the shot. I will say this in some respects. I have shot a cow elk with a .257 Weatherby up to .338 Magnums. Sometimes the ultra-high velocity of those smaller calibers with a bullet that expands rapidly will destroy a lot of meat if that is a concern at all. With high-velocity cartridges, I opt for a monolithic or bonded type bullet that will penetrate well and destroy less meat.
 

funhunting

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I have seen this mentioned in several threads lately. My experience has been a gutshot animal with a 338 is just as bad as a gutshot animal with a 243. I am not convinced bigger calibers allow for a materially greater margin of error, especially if you are shooting a berger type bullet or one that expands well. What are y’alls thoughts?
Bad shot is bad shot. Rather make it with a .30+ than smaller if it happens, generally speaking just more energy. As far as the bullet type I have no qualms making those quartering shots with bergers. Pics of 225+ lb whitetail, 30-06, 168 gr vldh @2700 mv, 110 yds. Clipped last rib on my side going in, broke the off shoulder, deer went less than 20 steps, running. Lungs and top of heart shredded. At less than 300 yds with those ballistics this round makes it to vitals. I would have taken that shot with a 115 gr .25 berger as well. Realize this is LRH, would have taken that shot out to 600 on a stationary animal with the 215 hybrid. If I am going to make a gutshot give me a big berger to dump as much hydrostatic shock and shrapnel for a chance to slow them down and make a follow up. Don’t have that gutshot experience (yet), but that’s where I am. Have had to dump more than 1 in the chest, if their still standing I’m still shooting. Contrary to tv, great shots don’t always result in a drop/dead right there, some old boys are stupid tough.

Materially greater margin, eh, yeah, some, maybe. As some had pointed out, not enough to shoot something you aren’t comfortable with.
 

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Will Gray

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I have seen this mentioned in several threads lately. My experience has been a gutshot animal with a 338 is just as bad as a gutshot animal with a 243. I am not convinced bigger calibers allow for a materially greater margin of error, especially if you are shooting a berger type bullet or one that expands well. What are y’alls thoughts?
No doubt, a bad shot is not enhanced by some new amazing caliber or bullet. Blowing the jaw off the deer's head will happen with any rifle shot if the head shot is blown. However as mentioned in this thread, a kill shot on a crippled animal (elk hit in the leg and walking away) where stopping the animal is the issue, a big bullet from any aspect (butt to the heart) is best done with a big bullet that will go the distance: 375RUM is a good example where a 6.5 will not likely stop the animal in its tracks. 30 Caliber or larger with heavy bullets on medium and large game is a good path in my view. I built a 416/300RUM (really makes the dirt fly) and may build a 375RUM but those are just for fun. I hunted with a 338 EDGE last year (nothing took a running step) and will try the 358 Winchester this year. I still shoot Sierra Game Kings: less expensive than the new trendy bullets and they get the job done.
 

Ingwe

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Would you be DEADER if I shot you in the heart with a .22 rimfire or would you be DEADER if I shot you in the heart with a .460 Weatherby magnum ?
I think the point that you are missing is this: "Would YOU rather get shot in the guts with a 22 rimfire or a 460 Weatherby mag?"

Which one would kill or disable you quicker?
 

jacknifejc

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There’s definitely a reason why there are caliber restrictions on game in many parts of Africa. Bigger calibers produce more energy and have more knock down power. You don’t see many people using a .243, 6.5, .270, or even 7mm in Alaska for brown bears. I don’t care how good of a shot any of us are: when we want to drop something quickly bigger calibers make more sense.
 

djfergus

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I have seen this mentioned in several threads lately. My experience has been a gutshot animal with a 338 is just as bad as a gutshot animal with a 243. I am not convinced bigger calibers allow for a materially greater margin of error, especially if you are shooting a berger type bullet or one that expands well. What are y’alls thoughts?
This is a question that will always be debated. I have only hunted white tails so I cannot speak of elk hunting. I suppose as far as elk are concerned caliber sizes compared in this discussion would be more appropriate to compare a 30 cal to something like a 50 bmg or 475 cheytac to quantify meaningful results if possible. Of course I don't see many folks hunting with the last two mentioned. I did shoot a white tail buck in the guts with a 300 win mag 180 sst @ 3150 muzzle velocity. It put him down. About 5 seconds later he stuck his neck up out of the sage and I put one through his neck. I don't think I would have had as much time for a second shot if I had made the first initial shot with my 25-06 and situations being the same but it's anyones guess. I have my own opinions. Like I said, you will never get everyone to agree on an answer for this question.
 

PATGARRET

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I have seen this mentioned in several threads lately. My experience has been a gutshot animal with a 338 is just as bad as a gutshot animal with a 243. I am not convinced bigger calibers allow for a materially greater margin of error, especially if you are shooting a berger type bullet or one that expands well. What are y’alls thoughts?
I decided to answer to this permanent question by a real test in SAF, 48 gnus reserved, I selected 3 calibers, a 375 HH (Blaser), a 416 REM Mag (Blaser) and a 458 Lott (Mauser K98) and for each caliber two weight of bullets, light and heavy.
This test took place with Mark Dedekind, PH, at a same shooting distance of 200 meters, full side shoulder shot, the objective was to answer to the double question :
. is a bigger caliber more efficient,
. is an heavy bullet more efficient than a light.
THe bullet used were GPA's bullet which forms 4 petals to increase the lethal efficiency with the rear forming a final solid core for the penetration.

All the shoots have been recorded and the animals autopsied...great work.

The result was :

. the key factor is the placement, more important than any other in reasonable limits,

. the terminal speed is the second key factor with a blast effect on the animals due to a large temporary cavity,

. the weight is determining factor for the penetration, important factor for big 5 heavy animals, Elephants, Rhinos, Hypo, Buffalos...

So if I had to resume :

. select a caliber with which you are able to sustain less than 1 MOA on field,

. select a bullet giving a final speed of 800 m/s at shooting distance,

. select a bullet structure allowing a wide temporary cavity with a core allowing a long pemetration,

. try to limit you to 2 rifles in order to know their ballistic performances !

In these conditions th 375 HH did perfectly, the 416 REM mag was a little bit slow, I would have prefered the 416 Wby, as far as the 458 Lott is the perfect caliber for the big 5 even if a perfectl shoulder shot in 375 HH is the good medecine for the first right shot on a buffalo's.

In these conditions I did 85 % of my animals with one bullet, which is my average rate of success on my present hunter life, the accuracy of my rifles beeing very close to .5 MOA which give a high level on confidence !
 

rbTanzan

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Sep 11, 2012
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The so-called "gut shot" argument is partially a straw man argument.
Yes, there are some gut shots that no hunting rifle can fix.

But there are many marginal shots where a larger caliber or more powerful caliber or better bullet may make a difference. Sometimes this is not necessarily the fault of the shooter. I shot a warthog once at about 200-250 yards. Warthogs tend to be nervous and do not stand as long as antelope. As the trigger broke the warthog started turning. By the time the bullet arrived on target it hit an unintended part of the anatomy. After tracking the blood trail we found a pile of guts. The pile was not from another hunter, but spillage from a gutshot warthog. We found the warthog lying down after another 100 yards and put a finishing shot in it. I suspect that the first shot from a 338WM made the final recovery more probable than had the first shot been a 243 or 270. I would happily use a 243 or 270 on a warthog, but an accurate 338 has advantages in marginal shots.
 

djfergus

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This type of question has been asked a thousand times in hunting forums and for the most part there are two schools of thought: The no replacement for displacement group and the other group that emphasize in skill, making good shots and not shooting unless you are absolutely sure that you and your rig are proven capable. A vast majority of the second group mentioned belives that you can get by with minimal lbs energy & minimal caliber size if you can consistently shoot skillfully but everyone can make a bad shot when they were sure of everything. Will a larger caliber compensate for that? Maybe & maybe not. If a fellow was at war would he rather have an enemy shooting at him with a .22 short rimfire or a 50 bmg?
 

RAGGED EDGE

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I would but only with a big for animal caliber and Barnes X type Bullet
Case in point. A 10" bull Nilgai at 210 yards wheeled at the shot and took the Barnes 210 "X" travelling 2700 ATM just in front of the left hip, travelling to the right shoulder, where the bullet was later found. We played "HECK" trying to recover that guy. There was not one drop of blood that could be detected between the point of the hit and 20 yards before the place he lay dead, which was a half-mile away. The guide was a great tracker, and needed to be. The .338-06 wasn't up to that particular task. If I had been shooting a .338 Mag. and had an exit wound, the trail would have been a lot easier and faster to follow. We were actually really lucky to have found him at all. A very frustrating 3 hours spent in recovery. Don't use "just enough" gun, or bullet.
 

Roardragon

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Aug 27, 2012
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I have seen this mentioned in several threads lately. My experience has been a gutshot animal with a 338 is just as bad as a gutshot animal with a 243. I am not convinced bigger calibers allow for a materially greater margin of error, especially if you are shooting a berger type bullet or one that expands well. What are y’alls thoughts?
large calibers misused will contribute to poor shots. If people can't withstand The recoil or the muzzle blast the shot will be off. It's better to pick a caliber you're comfortable with and make a very accurate shot
 
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