How to choose a cartridge

ndking1126

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I like it. I once made an excel spreadsheet that calculated a weighted score based on my priorities and the ballistics of each round. (Ex, I gave a higher priority to lower recoil than all out power since it was going to be a deer rifle). It was posted on a different forum. I may dig it up for old time sakes. My inner nerd definitely came out while making it. 🤣

Another thought is that I pick the cartridge without consideration for the gun, scope, etc. In my opinion, the cartridge and bullet is the tail that wags the dog. Figure out the cartridge and then worry about the rest. Id guess we have a higher-than-average number of custom built guns in this community, so we can get what we want.

The study actually swayed my opinion, too. It had a few surprises I wasn't expecting. It wasn't at all a waste of time.
 
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LeddSlinger

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The biggest thing that I see hunters having an issue with is knowing when to say, “Nope, not taking the shot because I’m not comfortable”. I’ve hunted with a few people that talk about having killed animals at long range, even have rifles I’ve seen proven on paper at long range from a bench. But when with them in the field, I see miss after miss on shots they claim to make “all the time”. Be humble and honest with yourself about what your abilities really are based on experience when you are trying to ethically take a life. Taking a shot in the field on an animal can sometimes be very different and much more difficult than making a shot on paper at the range. Nothing is more gut wrenching and sickening to me than not being able to recover a wounded animal.

One instance we were lucky to have recovered an animal. I was lined up to take a shot at 525 yards but didn’t feel comfortable due to a poor rest and the buck was moving around too much. A hunting partner was lined up on him as well. I decided to hold my shot and I heard BANG! from my partners rifle. I looked thru the scope and the buck was dragging the bottom half of his rear leg by a shred of skin. My hunting partner shot a couple more times and missed. Out of ammo now and trying to reload. The buck was about to get up over the ridge in that non-lethal wounded condition so I mustered all my confidence and took a single shot while he was on the move that dropped him. Really lucky in a sense too because I was dialed in for 525 yards on the scope from earlier and had no time to dial the turret. I had to quickly guess my hold over with the reticle at the new range of 655 yards as well as the lead on a moving animal. But I had practiced with my rifle at that range and much further so I knew roughly how much extra drop I would have from 525 to 655 yards. The key word is “practice”. Had I not spent a lot of time at the range with my rifle that year, I highly doubt I would have pulled that shot off and we would have lost a wounded animal. Tho I will admit luck definitely played a significant roll in me pulling that shot off in the very short amount of time there was to react and from the rest I had.

And I understand that if you’re a hunter you’re gonna miss or wound an animal on occasion. We all do. But don’t let that happen because you are taking a shot you don’t really know how to make due to lack of practice and experience. The goal is to make the chance of wounding an animal as minimal as possible. If anyone tells you they’ve never missed or wounded an animal then they probably haven’t killed very many animals or they are just flat out lying. Point is to humble yourself and realize that because a rifle can shoot a long ways doesn’t mean that’s always the best choice. No matter what the situation, if I can get closer to the animal with what the terrain offers me and how much time I have to get there, then I will do it.

Practice long range shooting but don’t ever go out in the field looking to make a long range shot just so you can brag to your buddies. That’s stupid. Practice at long range much further than you think your shots might be so your skills are honed to the point where your actual shot distances feel like a walk in the park. I do the same thing with archery. I will shoot up to 80 yards and sometimes even 100 yards just playing around. But I would never shoot an animal at those ranges. 50-60 yards is my personal max. So when I’m practicing at 70-80 yards, a 50 yard shot that I would actually take seems pretty easy to me.
 
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DartonJager

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A Tikka SS light in 30-06 or 7 mag should probably be the standard by which all others are measured. Put a nice VX-5 or whatever you like on top and you’d be set for a lifetime in North America.
My thoughts exactly
I decided to buy as light weight rifle as I could find and afford for specifically high elevation mountain hunting after MUCH research I kept on coming back to the (now discontinued) Tikka T3 Lite the reviews of which I found in the hundreds and hundreds consistently rated the T3 as vg to excellent.
So I bought one

I have no explanation for it but recoil for me truely is a non issue and I have more experience with very harsh recoiling rifles than most as 90%+ of the CF rifles and shotguns I own are in magnum calibers such as 7mmstw 300wm, 300wsm, 338wm, 12ga 3.5" turkey guns and 12ga sabot slug guns and a smokeless Savage 10ML-II that my favorite load launches 290-300 grain projectiles at a MV of 2550-2650fps
My Tikka T3 is in 300wsm and my most accurate load is using either 180grn SGK or 190grn NABLR and both run about 2950ish MV and yes it recoils quite noticeably but it's no worse than my 10ML-II and less punishing than my 12ga A- bolt launching a 601 grain/1-3/8 Oz sabot slug at 1550fps/mv
If recoil is a serious issue for a shooter then your options in mitigating said recoil in a rifle weighing under 7lbs are very limited if you wish to keep the rifle Lite as possible
 

LeddSlinger

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Ive had really light rifles and honestly don’t like them too terribly much. Not as steady in any position. I like right around the 10-11 pound area.

Im the same way with binoculars. Too small and light is harder for me to hold steady.

Good fit/feel and especially good balance is what really matters in rifles and binoculars if you ask me
 

nksmfamjp

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Alex’s first post cannot be topped. Hit all the key points for me. A very logical process to get a great round selected.

I’m not sure I add much to the op other than think about rifle weight as part of caliber selection. No reason to select a caliber in a vacuum. If you have to have a 7lb rifle, stick with 270 Win max. If you want a long range 338 mag, it should probably weigh 15 lbs scoped to be shootable. I’d consider 10lbs a light 338.

That said, lots of good hunting can be done with a 9.5-10.5 lb rifle in a 30-06 offspring. 6-06 through 9.3x62.....even long range when you consider the Sherman’s... Did I mention they hold 5 in the mag?
 

Rich Coyle

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I'm not a fan of brakes on a gun and I refuse to wear ear plugs/muffs while taking a shot at game. I want to be able to hear things, and this is just me.

I will wager a pile of money hunters who use electronic hearing protection can hear more than you can. I remember hearing buzzards gliding on the currents above me one time. One time I shot a deer which ran over a little hill. I couldn't see it so I turned up the hearing protection all the way and could hear it breathing about fifty yards away. It took a minute to find it in the sage.
 

memtb

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I will wager a pile of money hunters who use electronic hearing protection can hear more than you can. I remember hearing buzzards gliding on the currents above me one time. One time I shot a deer which ran over a little hill. I couldn't see it so I turned up the hearing protection all the way and could hear it breathing about fifty yards away. It took a minute to find it in the sage.

I really need to invest in some good, quality electronic hearing protection! My Smith XVR has emphatically and very loudly explained that to me! ;) memtb
 

LeddSlinger

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I’m not a fan of muzzle brakes either, at the range or in the field. But if you want to shoot the big magnums comfortably and accurately a good brake is a necessary evil. Really no way around it for a rifle light enough to pack on your shoulder.

Electronic hearing protection works well to deaden loud noises and amplify quiet noises. I just don’t like the short battery life in the small in-ear style buds that I prefer. Usually when I go for a hike I’m out for most of the day, many times from first light to dusk. I have a small packable battery case that will fully charge the buds 3 times, but they aren’t much use when sitting in the case getting a charge every 2-3 hours
 
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nealm66

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Man, I can see where picking one cartridge would be hard these days. I will say that new bullet technology is helping to widen a cartridges boundaries. I think gun design has helped lessen the recoil quite a bit as well. I think if you’re a bigger guy with a built in padded shoulder, it’s really hard to beat the versatility of the 30 calibers. I’ve wore out 4 300 win mags through the years and only one had a brake. Personally, I wouldn’t go back to an unbraked one. Not that it can’t be shot well but definitely allows more range time. I think for hunting purposes it’s a really good idea to see where a cold and follow up shot groups if a guy wants to reach out very far and find a cartridge that you can make decent shots from a variety of positions so having something that doesn’t destroy your shoulder or feel unbalanced is a heavy factor.
 

LeddSlinger

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Yeah I shot an unbraked fairly lightweight 300 win mag for about 10 years. Shot so many animals with that rifle. In the field of course you never feel recoil when taking a shot on animal but at the range I could take about 20 rounds of 180gr bullets going 3230 fps before I’d had enough. I’m a good size guy too at 6’0” and 225 lbs but my shoulder still didn’t like it at all. Granted, the recoil pad wasn’t the best so that didn’t help anything. A couple times I shot more than 20 rounds at the range with just a cotton t-shirt on and I literally had large bruises on my shoulder the next day. After that I made sure i would plan my range time for no more than about 5-6 three shot groups (15-18 rounds) and wear a coat or hoodie sweatshirt for extra cushioning when practicing at different ranges with that rifle

The recoil of my 338-375R and 300 Norma Mag Improved rifles is much higher than that old 300 WM so they both wear good brakes. After having used brakes on various rifles for a handful of years now, I would never go back to shooting a large magnum without one. No reason to physically punish yourself that way
 
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Alex Wheeler

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Yeah I shot an unbraked fairly lightweight 300 win mag for about 10 years. Shot so many animals with that rifle. In the field of course you never feel recoil when taking a shot on animal but at the range I could take about 20 rounds of 180gr bullets going 3230 fps before I’d had enough. I’m a good size guy too at 6’0” and 225 lbs but my shoulder still didn’t like it at all. Granted, the recoil pad wasn’t the best so that didn’t help anything. A couple times I shot more than 20 rounds at the range with just a cotton t-shirt on and I literally had large bruises on my shoulder the next day. After that I made sure i would plan my range time for no more than about 5-6 three shot groups (15-18 rounds) and wear a coat or hoodie sweatshirt for extra cushioning when practicing at different ranges with that rifle

The recoil of my 338-375R and 300 Norma Mag Improved rifles is much higher than that old 300 WM so they both wear good brakes. After having used brakes on various rifles for a handful of years now, I would never go back to shooting a large magnum without one. No reason to physically punish yourself that way
Ya I dont think anyone likes the noise but I'll never build myself an unbraked rifle again.
 

Reemty J

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Electronic ear protection, what do you guys recommend? Rich Coyle very interesting on the hearing protection… I just purchased a 7mmSTW shooting 195 Berger’s at 2990 FPS, it is amazingly accurate and comfortable to shoot with the brake, but you could not do it without protection. The rifle is a McWhorter and it sure accurate and fun to shoot…deer, elk, black bear and wolves will be on the menu.
Alex thank you for stating this “ interesting thread “ all input is sure appreciated and interesting. You cannot put a price on experience 👍🤝🇺🇸🇺🇸
 
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