Busting the Magnum Myth! – Choosing YOUR Ideal Hunting Cartridge

by Administrator on October 21, 2012

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Choosing YOUR Ideal Hunting Cartridge

by Ross Seyfried

The humble .270, with 150 grain Nosler Partitions in the hands of the finest game shot I have ever known flattened this big lion with a single shot.
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The same .270 that worked so well for the grand master on most game in the World was also perfect for his very young grandson and an impala.
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One of the most successful Huntress in the world uses a .270 and Winchester Failsafe ammunition exclusively. It is not about size and power, but precision and great bullets.
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Cartridges like the (from left) the .270, 6.5 x 55 Swede and the .300 Winchester are all wonderful and effective cartridges that do not handicap the hunter; while the .30 and .33 G&A (Now the Remington Ultra) offer little advantage and often a huge handicap.
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Bullets are the second half of the formula for success. On the left is a 270 grain .375 of poor design that failed to penetrate. On the right is a much smaller Nolser Partition that worked to perfection.
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The headstamp on the case does not matter] (L) 7 x 65R which is a rimmed version of the .280 Remington is odd, but the rifle has never missed. .30-06 needs no introduction and works for almost anyone. My favorite .30, the ancient .300 H&H . . . critters cannot tell the cartridge is old when the bullet hits them. All of these are easy to hit with, like the .22 LR and very unlike the .577 Nitro (far right)
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A tale of three rifles: (L) My son’s first centerfire, a Remington .30-06 that served him very well. (C) My go-to meat gun for bad days or bad conditions; a long-extractor Model 70, .300 Win in stainless and plastic. The rifle is bullet-proof and will answer almost any hunting question anywhere in the world. (R) My wee Blaser falling block 7 x 65R is like a .280 Remington, weighs only 6 pounds, has taken 14 head of big game and never missed. The three rifles are very diverse, but all work perfectly and make hitting easy.
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A big bull and an old rifle for a small caliber; nothing fancy, everything perfect.

Kinetic energy does not matter. Accuracy almost does not matter. The headstamp on the case certainly does not matter. Having more shells in the magazine does not matter. How well you can hit with your rifle is almost all that matters!

What if I were to tell you that there is a rifle out there that will let you take more deer and elk; and bears and sheep and caribou and coyotes; and kudu? Yes, there is a rifle out there that will make you more successful in virtually any hunting situation you can imagine. Now your mind immediately goes to the biggest, fastest, largest, longest and most expensive kind of machine modern technology can create. But alas, this is going to be much simpler and down to Earth than you might imagine.

I am about to offer you the keys to the kingdom of hunting-rifle success; keys gleaned from several decades of hunting and the observation of more than 1000 head of big game being taken. This is not about me, but about the dozens of men, women and young shooters I have guided or known around the world. Folks just like you who I have watched succeed and fail, often very simply because of the rifle, or more accurately the cartridge they have chosen.

Perhaps my most succinct quote is, “you cannot buy skill.” I firmly believe that. I began to form the opinion in my competitive pistol shooting days. At the time, and for quite a while I lived on top of the hill. I watched others, who were actually more technically skilled than I, begin to approach the level that could possibly beat me. They were close, very close but one by one I watched them get to the top of their game and never be able to beat me. The reason was that they thought that as they reached that upper eschelon, they had to buy the new widget, holster or fashion-pistol, and that it would be this, and not pure practiced skill, that would best me. When I saw them go for the gear, I knew I still had them. They gave up their thinking that they could beat me by practicing harder and learning their game better, and vested their faith in what they thought was superior equipment. They failed because they gave up on their own ability to keep doing the next thing right. Gear was not the answer.

Too, here in Oregon where we have guided lots of successful elk hunters, I see hunters with the most expensive, plastic super-accurate “elk rifles” often fail miserably. The hunters did not need a rifle that would shoot the expensive and claimed half-inch group, with the flattest trajectory and loudest roar. Instead they needed a rifle that would allow them to hit a soccer ball at 150 yards. So, while you cannot buy skill, it is in my opinion very easy to buy a false sense of security that turns into what amounts to a handicap!

As we begin this journey of practicality I will share another important concept that leads to success. Your dedicated editor and I worried about the seasonal timing of this story, worried that this is not big game hunting season and that it was unreasonable to bother you with hunting rifles months before hunting season. We thought that this might be the wrong time of year to think about your deer rifle. However, in reality, it is the perfect time to think about rifles. You should spend some time and effort thinking about the choice, this critical and very important choice. If possible you should go to the range where hopefully other shooters will let you test drive their rifles. And then once the choice is made, you need to spend the summer practicing.

If there is a way to buy skill with a rifle, it is to buy ammunition or the reloading components to make ammunition and then pull the trigger… a lot!

So far I have incorrectly referred to this as a “rifle” choice, but in this article we are going to focus on the far more critical choice of the perfect hunting cartridge. The rifle that fires the cartridge is important, but with the correct kind of cartridge, a wide variety of rifle shapes and actions can allow you to perform very well. In a way the rifle you use can be determined by personal preference. I would caution, as you consider your perfect rifle, that thinking about making up for a bad first shot, with a second or third shot; is heading in the wrong direction. While I am bothering you with my philosophies, here is another that I believe to be a fundamental truth of shooting, “you cannot miss fast enough to win.” Focus your mind on a very basic principle, make the first shot count.

Shooters and hunters like horsepower. I am as or more guilty than the next guy, but in my “maturity,” I have begun to see the reality of it all. Perhaps the best example of what almost every hunter does not want would be the two really big, fast, flat, high-energy modern super-magnums. These are the .300 and .338 Remington Ultra Mags. Now before you think I am picking on Remington, I am not. I detest these cartridges and can do so on the most honest grounds . . . I designed them.

Before Remington adopted them as factory rounds they were the .30 G&A and .33 G&A, invented, designed and perfected by yours truly. They are based on the .404 Jeffery case and offer more or less 200 fps more velocity than the existing kings of the day. The numbers are impressive; but do they really give you anything that will help you catch your buck? The subject of “energy” is a long-debated one, but rest assured it does not matter at all.

Accuracy can be dismissed, because while rifles cause accuracy, cartridges do not. So we are left with trajectory. If you drive a 180 grain 30 caliber or a 250 grain .338” bullet 200 fps faster, will it help you take the buck or bull? If we begin with a sensible 200 yard zero we see that the super 300’s bullet path will drop 5 ½” at 300 yards and 16 inches below the point of aim at 400 yards; while the pokey old .300 magnums are below the point of aim 6.3 and 18.4 inches respectively. The .338s are similar; the fast ones are essentially 7 inches low at 300 and 20 inches down at 400; while the slower bullets are 8” and 23 inches low. So at the end of the day we are talking about an advantage of about three inches in trajectory at 400 yards.

Are you good enough with your rifle to prove three inches at 400 yards in the field? Probably not! Can you, with any rifle, hold ¾ minute of angle out in the woods or plains, without a bench rest? Now, can you hold that ¾ minute in the face of very intimidating muzzle blast and recoil? In my experience there are very, very few hunters who can hold three fourths-of-a-basketball at those ranges. Worse yet many, when armed with my two magnum “children,” otherwise known as the screaming cannons, cannot hold ¾ of a basketball at 100 yards! Dammit, practicality is an ugly thing. But remember I only used my cartridges as examples of the kind of mistake that is often made when trying to buy skill and success.

Within the realm of cartridges that are capable of taking big game, success in bringing down any animal, your actual animal, is dependent on two things, where your bullet strikes, combined with the bullet that does the striking. Those two things and those two alone will determine your success or failure. Bullets are a subject for another time. But notice that left out of this are the issues of trajectory of the bullet, retained energy, and many other buzz phrases that have been used to burn up many a hunting magazine page.

A cartridge that you like, that you are comfortable with, have confidence in and one that does not intimidate your subconscious goes a long way to helping you make that precise hit. The same cartridge needs to offer you reasonably flat trajectory, penetration and “killing power”. Of course there is not just one cartridge that will do the job, but we can begin to define the performance level and to a degree the cartridges themselves that will help you.

Without any drum roll, they are not magical, mysterious or spectacular; most of them have been around for a long time. You may have the greatest hunting rifle of all time standing right in your rack. Essentially we are looking at cartridges that can drive a sensible hunting bullet at something between 2500 and 3000 fps. That velocity range will give a hunter all of the trajectory he can reasonably use. We now need only to define bullet weight and caliber to answer the question.

But before we do, we need to digress for a moment and realize that shooters are not created equally. That is, some shooters are more able to hit well in the face of relatively heavy recoil and muzzle blast than others. I can say that heavy recoil makes precision more difficult for any shooter. That is, more recoil requires more muscle tension to control the rifle; to keep it from hitting you in the head or jumping out of your hands. There is nothing easier to hit with than a .22 and few things more difficult than a .577 Nitro.

Young shooters or others learning the art of rifle shooting simply should not be exposed to violent cartridges. And different people of all shapes and sizes perceive recoil and noise differently. Some are quite intimidated by a .30-06, more are handicapped by a .300 Weatherby; while on the other extreme I know a couple of riflemen who shoot a .378 Weatherby with absolute precision. All of this is to say, “you be the judge of what works for you”. But, be honest with yourself.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with admitting to yourself that you do not like the recoil and noise generated by a .300 magnum. There is much wrong with crippling a deer because you fired the shot with your eyes closed and a trigger finger that lashed out like a shark bite. There isn’t really an absolute answer to the question, but I think we can crowd it into a relatively small corner.

The game we hunt has some bearing on the caliber we choose, but not as much as you might think. I suppose 90 percent of the critters we chase will be in the deer-size realm; whether they are white tails, mule deer, antelope, goats, caribou, sheep, impala, wildebeest or pigs. Elk and the larger African plains animals may fit into a slightly larger category, but again the larger and tougher a critter is, the more critical bullet design and placement become. So, when asked to make a choice between a hunter who hits the “heart” with a light rifle or the “green stuff” with a big .375, I opt for the little gun every time.

As we begin to sum up, let’s say the .243” bores are probably a little on the light side. That is not to say a 6mm cannot be a good, or perhaps even a great white tail rifle. It certainly can, but the bullet mass and momentum can leave us with marginal penetration. On the opposite end of the spectrum, let’s rule out the .375” bores and probably the .338s as well. They are fantastic calibers, but with too much recoil to make it “easy” for most. We are beginning to zero in on the .25 to .30 calibers and will toss in the 8mms just because some of us like them. Now it is time for the different case sizes to weigh in.

I began by saying the super-large, beyond-magnums are a bad idea, but how much gun powder do we need? It is easy to say a .25-20 is too small, but as soon as we get to the .257 Roberts we have plenty of speed with 100 to 120 grain bullets. The smaller 6.5mm cartridges like the .260 Remington work very well, as illustrated by more than a century of almost invincible success of the 6.5 Mannlicher Schoenauer and 6.5 x 55 Swedish. The 7mms become magnificent and while it is ancient there are few better cartridges on Earth than the 7 x 57mm Mauser and its grandchild the 7mm-08 fits in the same performance realm.

Of course the mid-sized .30 caliber cartridges need little introduction or discussion. To me, the .308 does not put the 30 caliber’s best foot forward, while the .30-06 has enough case capacity to push the 165-180 grain bullets at interesting speed without undue recoil. Of course my personal favorite .30 caliber cartridge the .300 Holland & Holland only proves two things. First I am archaic and that critters really cannot read the headstamps on your brass.

There is a certain intrigue and much success in the land of belted magnums. The .257 and 270 Weatherby rounds are wonderful things. They generate lots of speed and very flat trajectory, while the light bullet weights keep recoil at manageable levels. We can add the short beltless magnums of the same calibers to this list also. (However, the added speed demands bullets of very special design and quality, or penetration and success may fail.) The 7mm Remington Magnum is almost legendary. But, it now has enough bullet weight to generate significant recoil and comes with the same bullet-design demands as the smaller magnums.

Ah, I see the guy in the back of the room waving his hand. He feels like the kid on Christmas morning who did not find a package under the tree . . . “errr, maybe you forgot something?” No, I just saved perhaps the best for last. When in doubt . . . get a .270 Winchester!

Now the guy in the front row is gasping, “Yes, but what about Elmer Keith, and I want to hunt elk.” First, like my dislike for my super-power cartridges, I can make a pretty honest case for my .270. I grew up, not a student of Jack O’Connor, but as a pure disciple of Elmer Keith. I not only read everything he wrote, but had the great good fortune to know him well and to become his friend. At the time his opinion was perfectly founded and honest, “only big bores and bullet weight can make a rifle that will kill well.”

The equation at the time was valid, for him. But there were two parts of it that the old master did not factor in. First, he possessed almost super-human skill with any firearm. He could shoot his .577 like it was a .22. He thought we were all like him. The humble gentleman thought of himself as normal, but he was not. His advice would not apply to the majority of us who are intimidated by the flash and recoil of the bigger magnums of today. The second part is that he did not have the great advantage of the “super-bullets,” we have today. Bullet design and construction are far more important than size, and today’s bullet technology has stretched the results of what the smaller, less powerful cartridges can produce.

The most successful African Safari I ever guided was shot with a .270 Winchester loaded with 150 grain Nosler Partition bullets. The rifle was ancient and worn, a pre-war Model 70. The “driver” was past 70 years old and this was his only rifle; a rifle that he has used for many decades in most of the hunting grounds of the world. He shot two extremely tough animals, a zebra and a wildebeest, first. Each fell to a single shot, as did a huge lion. He broke a sitatunga’s neck (that was the only target) offhand, in the wind, at 300 yards. An elk-sized kudu bull tumbled when the bullet hit the point of his shoulders. There was no real magic; just a great rifle, fine bullet and unimaginable skill on the part of the rifleman.

Over the last dozen years my son and I have guided for more than 100 elk here at Elk Song. They have been taken with a remarkable spectrum of rifles ranging from 4-bore to 6.5 mm, with a good selection of .577s, .416s, .375s, 338s and .300s in the middle. Many of them have been taken with .270s and I can tell you that no cartridge puts an elk on the ground more quickly than the .270 Winchester loaded with the magnificent (and now non-existent) 140 grain Winchester Failsafe bullet. (Some of the Barnes X designs are producing similar results.) The reason for the grand success is twofold, and returns us to the beginning: first the hunters hit very precisely with the gentle rifle and second, the bullet performance is off the scale.

So, at the end of the day, which cartridge is the best one for you? There is no absolute answer, but moderation is a very good idea. Choose a normal-sized cartridge case, with a .25-30 caliber bullet; then practice, practice, practice. When you gain complete confidence in your rifle it will almost hit for you.

 

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{ 70 comments… read them below or add one }

Rick Foster September 18, 2011 at 8:51 pm

This is the best shooting article I have read in 50 years.
Thanks Mr. Seyfried

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Bob H. October 30, 2011 at 7:25 am

Ross has been my hero since I was a teenager in the early 80′s!! This should be required reading for all hunters. Practice, practice, practice and GET OFF THE BENCH!!!

p.s. +1 for the .300H&H. I’m not a collector but the one rifle i want to acquire some day is a Winchester M70 P-64 in .300H&H. Since my funds are limited I bought a new M70 extreme weather in .300WM as my primary rifle. As much as i love blued metal and wood I have to admit that stainless and composite make a rugged hunting tool.

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Alan Atwood November 11, 2011 at 11:51 pm

I would also recommend at LEAST 200 rounds of your hunting ammo for practice, and 10x that much .22 ammo. And once you have established zero, GET OFF THE BENCH. Practice prone, sitting, and kneeling w/ a sling. Practice offhand, and know your limitations. If you will be carrying a pack, shoot prone over the pack. And do not take a shot beyond where you can reliably place a bullet in the boiler room the way you are shooting.

Outstanding article!

Alan

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dpepper November 19, 2011 at 2:48 pm

Pretty common sense stuff…wish it was practiced more.

Curious when the author ‘invented’ the RUM’s? Certainly not an original idea…Aubrey White was selling his Imperial Magnums built on Sako’s and had factory headstamped ammunition well before Remington produced ‘theirs’….guess because he was from Canada, it doesn’t count.

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Dewy Riesterer November 20, 2011 at 2:57 pm

Correct, I still have rifles built for me by the guy who built the Imperial Magnums, knew Aubrey fairly well, from 1982 and know many of his former colleagues in the RCMP, shoot with one sometimes.

There were many rounds based on the original Jeffrey case, in the UK, here in Canada and even Australia as well as the USA. Seyfried, has always been this way, knowledgeable, but, overstating his “expertise” and making claims about himself, that are questionable. His actual experience with North American BIG game is minimal compared to many of my friends and former colleagues here in BC, AB and the “territories” and I do not share the seeming “awe” than some have for him……Elmer Keith, a personal friend of some BC “oldtimers” from whom I learned shooting over 50 years ago, WAS a man for whom I still have great respect.

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David F. Fowler February 2, 2012 at 10:13 am

Mr. Seyfried,
Great article. I have hunted in Africa 7 of the last 8 years and take different guns each trip. I was there for a little over three months this past year and actually work on one of the hunting ranches doing culling and pest animal control. My hunting and board is free for doing this for the owner. He liked me because he said I was a hunter and could shoot. I used a .17 HMR with .17 gr. CCI hollow points this past year to take out monkeys out to 200 yards. I was out looking for monkeys one day and say a beautiful bush buck. I took the video camera out and shot some video and it just kept coming closer, I sat down slung the little Marlin 917VS, put my elbow on my knee and waited for him to turn for the perfect angle. The crosshairs of the Nikon BDC fell just below his right ear and I squeezed the trigger and he jumped 3 feet in the air and spun almost 360 degrees. Blood was gushing out of the now severed vein in his neck. He is shaking his head and I put another into his skull and he did not take a single step. My rifle for smaller plains game and the baboons was a .25 WSSM Winchester model 70 using factory ammo in 115 and 120 grain bullets. These devestate a baboon and actually took one at 500 yards that was pure luck but he went down. I am taking the .223 WSSM with me this year for the boons and monkeys. Neither of these rifles kick and a child could and does shoot them. I do have up to a .458 for the requirement of dangerous game. I have taken many hunters out in the field in Africa and have seen them unable to make shots like you say they are scared of their guns. My grandaughter went with me one year and took her .270 Winchester and used 150 gr. BST factory ammo. She took four animals with one shot each and could have taken a monster kudu but she was about 8″ too short and could not see over the bush. I made her practice standing using shooting sticks at 100 yards shooting at gallon milk jugs filled with water. I had 5 scattered around and would call out which one to shoot and give her a maximum of 5 seconds to fire or consider the animal gone. Some would say that is not very accurate but we were not trying to hit the X ring just the heart.
I try to convince hunters going to Africa the same as you, be able to shoot your rifle standing, sitting lying on cactus and thorns and shoot enough to not be afraid of the gun. While in Africa I go to the range every week and shoot all my rifles just to keep me confident.
Great article and I will share with future hunters.
Sincerely,
David F. Fowler

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Norm March 6, 2012 at 12:33 am

As I age, I become more appreciative of lighter rifles, lighter recoil and aids to aiming like crossed sticks or a walking stick. For many years, a Ruger #1 in .30-06 loaded with 165 gr. Ballistic tips (deer) or Fail-Safes (elk) were great, and still are. That said, the last several deer have fallen to a 7×57 with Hornady 139 gr. Interbonds (they act a lot like partitions) from Mexican or Yugo Mauser-actioned rifles. Next year I try the 6.5 Grendel on deer, on a former 7.62×39 Mini MkX action, 129 gr. Hornady SSTs. Practice is the answer. Though it’s been years since I competed, 5 years of access to all the .45 ACP hardball I could bring back the empty brass for on a National Guard pistol team still produces results few shooters who have not been semi-pro can match even with lesser calibers. Good coaching helped a lot too…I couldn’t figure it all out by myself. Ross offers excellent advice, and if you still need more improvement, seek out the help of an experienced shooter or shooting coach (usually a current or ex-match shooter will be more knowledgable about technique development). Keep up the good work, Ross.

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Norm Mastalarz October 1, 2012 at 12:20 pm

This article contains more useful information and common-sense advice than 99.9% of the material on shooting that I have ever read. I am 70 years old and have been interested in shooting and accurate guns for more than half my life. I grew up in a Chicagoland household where guns were feared and abhorred – as a youngster my father witnessed firsthand the actions of gun-toting organized crime underlings. As a result he hated guns his entire life.
Thus, until I entered the military, my sole connection to the shooting sports was reading the works of O’Connor, Page, Whelen, Keith, and others. I devoured their writings, blissfully unaware that my “heroes” were mere mortals with feet of clay and human failings. Their works and experiences offered me invaluable knowledge and guidance which would benefit me for my entire shooting life. I believe Mr. Seyfried belongs in their esteemed company. Many years ago I was exposed to, and embraced, a philosophy of living characterized by the phrase, “Principles above Personalities”. Boiled down, it means don’t allow personal feelings to prevent absorbing valuable knowledge offered by someone who may have personality traits with which we disagree. Failure to follow this philosophy could deny us knowledge beneficial to all aspects of our lives, not just our shooting. Even at my autumnal age, I have not ceased trying to learn, and Mr. Seyfried, imperfect though he may be (just like the rest of us), has much of value to share. Thanks for this excellent piece.

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HJ Lamb October 29, 2012 at 3:28 am

I recently slid into my 66th year on the planet. Duringb that time, I have hunted for almost 50 of those years. My very first hunting gun was a .22 pump winchester that my dad had removed the firing pin and made me practice dry firing in prone, sitting, standing, kneeling and with both left and right hand with a penny n the end of the barrel behind the front sight. I had to fire all positions 10 times without the penny falling off before I was allowed to use live ammo. It was a real pain to say the least but it taught me breath control, trigger squeeze and concentration that has lasted me throughout my lifetime. As I matured and entered the military I was introduced to a variety of long guns including the M2 carbine, M1 Garand, M1A, M16, .38 M-10, 1911 and p-92 along with a variety of other weapons that I used throught my 23 years of military service. I was able to hunt in a variety of places and almost every state that I was assigned to in the military. My favorite rifle was a Winchester Model 70 featherweight in .280 remington topped with a leupold 2.5 X 8 V-II. I used it on everything from Antelope to and Elk and never once had to use more than 1 shot. My favorite load was a 160 grain grain bullet backed with 53.2 grains of IMR 4350 using new brass and a BR primer. Ballistic data indicated 2800 fps at muzzle and almost the same ME (288 ft lbs). My longest shot was on an antelope near Valentine MT at slightly over 275 yards. Everything else was taken much closer and averaged about 80 to 110 yards. I counted over 40 mulies, and white tails with about 18 antelope and 12 elk over the years not to mention the hundreds of coyotes, richardson ground squirrels and other such varmints that contributed to many a pot of hassenpffer or rat stew as my grampa use to call it. My favorite round now is a .22 and I can still cut center quite a bit at 25 to 50 yards. I don’t hunt much anymore, the arthritis in my legs and back have put a damper on that but I am looking forward to teaching the basics to my grandson with that old winchester .22 pump I learned with so many years ago.

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HJ Lamb October 29, 2012 at 3:31 am

I got some arthritis in my hands and can’t type too well either! I meant to say 2800 ft lbs and not 288!

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Dave Morrill October 29, 2012 at 3:36 am

Ross: I am 66 years old and my hunting is winding down. I have owned in excess of 70 firearms. I am working with my wife on showing stepchildren and grandchildren about how to hunt and shoot. I have emailed your article to them with the following: “Warner – I am sending an article that I wasn’t even looking for. Please forward this to Mike, and your friend you took Antelope hunting, and give me your word that you and Wyatt will read it by week’s end; and again in December; February; and March and then practice what it tells you starting in April? You could print it out and post it. I found it hit me between the eyes, as I am as guilty as all of you for not following what I have always known to be true. It all falls back on respect for yourself, the animals you hunt, and the people you hunt with.”

With all the new calibers and fancy gear around today, it is easy to get caught up in the hype. I am going to go back to the caliber I started with, .30-06 Govt, and a Winchester Model 70 to finish my hunting career, with no regrets.

Thank you for putting this article out for us./dm

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Peter Psomas October 29, 2012 at 6:19 am

thank you i have had an assortment of rifes & pistols over the past 50 years , my son is coming of age to go hunting with me , now i know what to buy him this christmas :
Remington
MODEL: 7600
TYPE: Rifle
CALIBER: 270

perfect for him, hell i may buy 1 for my self as well, thank you for a great article

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OLD MAD JACK October 29, 2012 at 7:18 am

Practice, Practice, and more Practice. I know folks that have so many rifles, that they could start a gun store. But, they don’t shoot them, except to check zero, each year before opening day. I’m not talking about just deer season here. I sat through many a range briefing in the military, where I heard the Range Officals, tell the shooters to not worry about hitting targets past 200 meters???? In Iraq, the number of wounded insurgents where always higher at the beginning of a units deployment, than after the half way point. IMHO, the cut backs in spending only get the troops to the range enough to qualify. resulting in 0 practice, and very few center mass hits, until enough shooting had been done to “correct” for the lack of practice. The same goes for hunting. If you shoot one good rifle enough, at different ranges, in varying weather, you will be deadly with that rifle. You will be able to place the bullet exactly where you want it on target. Use that money for ammo, instead of the latest, greatest, super widget.

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Chris in California October 29, 2012 at 8:21 am

I have an Arisaka that was sporterized and re-barrelled to .257 Roberts. It has a weird trigger pull, almost like a set trigger, you pull it back and pull it back and then there’s a slight increase in tension, then it breaks. I put my first 5 reloads into a 2″ group using peep sights at 100 yards using my shooting bag as a rest. I would be happy to keep it forever!

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Michael October 29, 2012 at 8:24 am

So you forgot the 308? With a Barnes X all copper, the 308 outclasses the 7×57 you tout so loudly. The heavier bullet gets more penetration without appreciable recoil increase. Everyone seems to skip the 308. Ha. The 308 is one of the most accurate rounds out there to boot. Shorter action, smaller rifle. Easier to handle and to shoot.

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Michael November 1, 2012 at 9:31 pm

I’m amused at all the various calibers and wonder rounds out there! I’ve got a few mean rifles in my possession, but my favorite is still my Rem 700 in .308 Win! When I do my part, I’m touching 3 rnds and have 5 within 3/4″ at 100. Just for fun a buddy and I went to 300 yds a few weeks back, still way sub-MOA! For me, it’s all about the theory of being worried about with the man with the one gun, AND knows how to use it!

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Wild Bill October 29, 2012 at 9:11 am

You guys are all nuts. While you folks are out shooting .243′s and .270′s, I go to black powder season with a reproduction 12-lb Napoleon firing cannister. Despite the blast, recoil and huge puff of white smoke, I’ve never missed a deer yet with cannister. I admit it’s harder with solid shot. For longer range game, such as antelope, I roll out my 3″ Parrott. The rifling makes it far more accurate at common antelope ranges (e.g. 300-400 yards). Sure, it’s tough to camoflage out on the prairie. I’ve started digging it in to lower the overall shillouette, and using old camo netting.

I’ve also found that prairie dogs are no match for my MK82 Barrett. That 750 grain Hornady AMAX makes short work of them, even when the duck underground. Damn cannibalistic vermin. I hate them like I hate commie college professors.

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John McCall October 29, 2012 at 10:44 am

……..and when I go fishing, I like to just toss sticks of fuzed dynamite in the water. Unless the fish are small, however, and then I use a hammer and long nail.

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Dave in California February 6, 2014 at 9:38 pm

You too, huh? :)

Game wardens love that.

On a slightly more serious note, my gun hunting Highly benefited from attending an Appleseed marksmanship clinic, over one long weekend. They employ .22 rimfires @ 25m to teach old fashioned U. S. military style shooting from the standing, sitting and prone positions. Roughly similar to NRA Highpower competition. The goal is to get people shooting 4 MOA from field positions.

Out of two hundred some odd attendees, maybe half a dozen of us met this goal. The first day, I couldn’t. I stuck it out, and early on the 2nd, met and then consistently exceeded this standard.

I highly recommend the inexpensive Appleseed weekend shooting event to any hunter who would like to radically improve his marksmanship. It did wonders for me. Inexpensive, competent, formal marksmanship instruction will get you where you want to go.

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Muhjesbud October 29, 2012 at 1:02 pm

You’re right. the often ‘taken for granted’ is some how marginalized in the incessent quest for ‘greater things’ in our human psychology. Never mind that according to Law Enforcement statistics the .357 magnum was always the all time winner for high percentage one shot stops. And of course the G is loading up on .40 caliber for the carbine uppers for their ‘anarchy-control’ the HS agents ‘might be using ‘some-day’?! Agreed, shot placement, not necessarily rifle magnum moa groups, means more at shorter ranges than brute higher kinetic energy. But the problem is that few practice enough to ensure that their ability remains in the high consistency skill percentages for this. Which like you said, is the advantage of pistol cartridges, especially if you reload. Ergo, cheaper ammo means more practice makes better shot placement skills and thus changes the whole debate. I’d be much more worried about you and your son shooting at me with your pistol round carbines under 200 meters, than say, a non regular shooter with his .270.
What do you think of the .44 mag in a carbine compared to what you are using? Might be a little less handloading required for some awesome performance???

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Muhjesbud October 29, 2012 at 1:20 pm

WB! right on! The real Wild Bill and his girlfriend Annine always used shot cannisters to break their tossed in the air plates. Remember at one time there were NO magnum rifle rounds and Bucks were hunted with ‘Buck SHOT’! Yeah, I agree with having enough ‘gun’ for the job especially on those filthy little plague infested Wood Chunks. I don’t have to shout at them across the lake to ‘quit stealing my wood’. I just use the top secret military 900 grain long range exploding zombie bullets in my .50 for those vermin. It actually makes them disappear like Spock in the Enterprise transporter. Poof! and when the dust settles from the concussion blast of the impact…gone, not a trace! Just like Spock vanishing in the transporter room. Then you don’t even have to touch the disease ridden little bastards afterward . And the round doesn’t continue on into eternity to go through a school bus 10 miles down and crack the drive shaft causing it to ram up sparking into the gas tanks exploding and killing 34 grammar schoolers and the last WWII CMOH winner still alive! And Also the turkey buzzards won’t spread infected birdshit all over the place after their dinner.

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Donn October 29, 2012 at 9:30 am

This article reminds me of the “evolution” in my own thinking. Having grown up being able to site chapter and verse of the ballistics of all the latest rage cartridges, I have come full circle. After over 50 years of hunting, shooting and competition, my taste for bellowing magnums has long since been retired. It’s just not fun anymore. My youngest son will turn 16 this month. His favorite rifle is a Marlin lever gun in .357 magnum. Now a .357 in a rifle is a whole different critter in a rifle on the business end, but it has virtually no recoil and won’t even make your ears ring without hearing protection with maximum handloads. With a LBT hardcast 185 grain bullet doing about 1900 at the muzzle, you really have to see what that little gun does to deer and hogs to believe it. It will drop a 400 pound hog like it was hit with lightning. The secret of course, is perfect shot placement and dependable bullet performance every single time. I’d put him up against anybody with the biggest rifle of their choice out to about 125 yards here in the pineywoods of East Texas. I now shoot a .45 Colt (long) in a Winchester 92 lever and it hits like the hammer of Thor with a WFN hardcast, again with virtually no kick and very little muzzle blast. Both of these rifles deliver complete pass through every time and if the animal doesn’t drop on the spot, massive blood trail out both sides that Stevie Wonder could follow. The advantage of the pistol calibers is that they are so easy and cheap to reload. We shoot at least every week and probably average 600-1000 rounds a month between us with just those rifles, plus at least 1500 in .22s. I have to agree totally with Ross on this one. Proper shot placement with dependable bullet performance equals DRT (dead right there). Would we shoot that much with a bellowing magnum that made our shoulders hurt after only a few shots? No way! I have come to believe that the old timers knew what they were talking about. The ONLY advantage that increased velocity gives you is a trajectory that make hitting at long range somewhat easier. But, there is a point of diminishing returns even there. If you can’t shoot it, it doesn’t matter how much power you’ve got!

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Mike October 29, 2012 at 9:51 am

Great article and reminds me of why I chose a .270 some 35 years ago. Over the years I played with a .300 mag, .444 marlin, and .338 but still grab the .270 for just about everything and it gets to be a better choice all the time on my aging shoulder. I gave my wife a Remington 700 in .270 but for her small frame thought the recoil was too much so back in the late 1980′s we had Sam May, a custom barrel maker in Flagstaff, AZ, re-barrel it to 7×57. Sam also suggested gain twist rifling as you could get a little more velocity without more recoil. What a concept. So on went a 20 inch barrel and I shortened the stock about 1.5 inches for her and the last three elk she shot were one shot kills. It produces low recoil, is easy for her to handle and to shoot accurately, and has plenty of knock down capability. Over the years a few other hunting ladies have come to her to ‘borrow’ it for their hunts.

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Kevin October 29, 2012 at 10:16 am

Good article. However, I have owned a .270 Weatherby mag and it is not the marshmellow you have indicated it to be. The rifle shoots the most violent cartridge I have ever dropped the hammer on. I’m sure you will correct me if I’m wrong but I think the .270WM uses the same case as the .300WM with the case necked to the smaller cal.
In my humble opinion, the 3006 is the most versatile round ever: Available in off the shelf ammo from the 55 gr accelerator to a 220 gr soft point and everything in between. This caliber will stop any animal in North America without crossing your eyes when you pull the trigger and if you forget your ammo, any sporting goods store has it. Try finding .300H&H at Joes Beer, Bait and Ammo. Remember to re-sight your rifle when you change bullet weight or even brands.
You are right about practice. I hunted with a relative for several years and before the deer season opened he would sit or stand on his front porch behind the screen and, from a carry position, would pull up and sight in hubcaps on passing cars. Yea, I know, sounds crazy and unsafe, but he removed the bolt beforehand and made sure that he couldn’t be seen from anywhere so as not to cause any panic issues. He also hunted rabbits with his .308 during the off season. He was the best shot on a moving target I have ever hunted with.

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Michael October 29, 2012 at 9:14 pm

308 turns a rabbit to mush and is illegal to use on them in Louisiana. Down here if you don’t eat what you shoot you are not a native. Course hit em in da head and ok, but if ya say he does it on a running rabbit I say u been smokin bad rope.

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Terry Landenberger October 29, 2012 at 10:21 am

Couldn’t agree more! I used to work at Cabela’s gun dept. and when asked what is the best cal. for elk, I always replied, one you can hit one with. If you can control the rifle with the large magnums, then use one. (most hunters can’t) I new a lady in Jackson , Wy that killed a bunch of elk with a .243 (not that I would reccomend it) I use a 280 almost exclusively anymore. Nice to see a common sense article! Terry

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Matt October 29, 2012 at 10:27 am

Good article but verbose.

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Muhjesbud October 29, 2012 at 1:28 pm

Shame on you, Matt, verbosity is the child of free speech in America. Its called bullshit walks money talks. This ain’t Red China where its only yin and yang, yah o’ nee, Where do you live? On ‘shut-the fuck-up’ street? So I can do my text messages while i drive through red lights? It’s a COMMENT FORUM, for Romney’s… oops, i mean Christ’s sake?

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John McCall October 29, 2012 at 10:32 am

There is a lifetime of wisdom here. I would have liked to read his take on the .30-30 with Hornady’s leverevolution bullet and modern powder. I love my two in that caliber. One is a 1923 Model 94 carbine with 2/3 magazine and the other is a 1940 Model 63 Deer Special carbine. I have a 1940 Winchester Model 70 in the scarce carbine length and the only thing that would improve its .30-06 chambering would be – following the author’s comments – is if it were a .270.

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Pete October 29, 2012 at 11:15 am

Not only a good article but a great article. Notice the author dotes on shooting a lot vs caliber, special loads and fancy bullets. Read the part again about how there is only about 3″ of difference in trajectory at 400 yards. Like he said, ” success in bringing down any animal, your actual animal, is dependent on two things, where your bullet strikes, combined with the bullet that does the striking.” So, enjoy shooting more with perhaps less recoil, make a good shot and collect your game.

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Carl October 29, 2012 at 12:20 pm

What a great article. I’m 71 years old, was raised on a ranch in SW Kansas, with nothing to do when bored but hunt. I have hunted elk on three states and deer in 4.
With some 100 deer kills and 25 elk, the .270 was the most favored and best game dropper with just one shot. Only two of the shot game needed more than 1 shot. One, was to blame, the round used. An old Winchester silver tip 130 grain bullet, first shot was through the left shoulder with deer standing quartering facing me. It went the front of the shoulder and exited left flank, the deer stumbled and face me with left shoulder exposed so being the second deer I had ever shot, I shot him with a hold on the left shoulder and the bullet exited right flank. The second shot was wasted, along with destroying a lot of good meat. One was a elk that I hit to far back on a running shot at 150yds. and to shoot again as his spine was broken on first shot.
I used several calibers, 30-30, 243, 240 super pooper, 257, 308, 30-06, 300 H&H, and 22-250.
Most were used only once, because if I wanted a clean, quick kill, the 270 was chosen. This was a rifle that I carried all the time in my pickup while on the ranch, and it shot anything from crows, to dozens of coyotes. It only shot 1 1/4 inch groups (a ruger 77, the first year available to buy). My dad owned a gun shop and I had available to me any caliber that I wanted to use. Out to 300+yds most things were one shot attempts. With all the choices available in factory cartridges now, how could you miss. I used the Remington Core-loct 130 grain for 95% of my kills, a hand load that group best. I rattled on enough, but you younger hunters, try the .270.

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A. Yohey October 29, 2012 at 12:31 pm

Great opinion:
Living here in the west “Nevada” and hunting game over the world for 40yrs I have learned it is ” never the length of the train Its The Engineer”. Velocity, trajectory, accuracy, practice are the most important keys when owning a hunting rifle. Never try to overshoot your caliber,know what 100 200 300 etc. yards are and where your bullet goes at all ranges.If you drive a Model A dont expect Corvette performance. Yes I started with a 7.65 Argentine mauser,and six calibers later have ended up with a 300 RUM. Tens of 1000′s of rounds have been fired for fun and Serious hunts. Gophers at 500yds no problem, point blank Elk is always appreciated. Be ready for your shot and know the caliber, learn to handload. Happy shooting

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Muhjesbud October 29, 2012 at 12:35 pm

Good pointed article. You are correct in all of the above. The only caveat, IMHO, I’ll add after, oh, maybe almost 50 years, now, of firing almost every cartridge ever made in all forms of combat, target, and hunting, inclulding a few African encounters ‘of the third time’, of once winning a ten thousand dollar bet with a big game person proving that i could hunt and instantly kill a white tail with a .22 long rifle Jennings saturday night special i took off the mean streats as a young cop, (i ‘Indian stalked’ a grazing deer in heavy enough wind to cover all sound and did a head shot from less than a few yards, a few variables adding to a couple of your opinions. Here’s the general reality check:
1. Any and All so called ‘high powered’ rifles, (which also probably is subject to assessment, but i’ll irk some ire in many ‘experts’ by including from the bottom up, the .30 carbine round.) can ‘do the job’, if the round hits a vital area. Almost All rifle trajectories are about the same flatness at this range. (hell, got a glock 22 with that short homeland security carbine upper on it getting only a 3 inch drop at 100 meters with good Magtech ammo.) Up in early grizzly bowhunts for magazine pieces with Fred, the guides all used 30-30′s all day long for the 1/2 ton brutes without any problems.
2. Most of the above will also do just fine on all game including the two legged kind out to 200 yards
3 Out to 300 yards some of the ‘lower’ high powered rifles might start to need more attention paid to trajectory and wind deflection but there’s still enough foot pounds of energy to drop most game with the right bullet in the right spot.
4. MOA barrel accuracy is not necessary for situations 1,2,and 3. Correctly zeroed in to point of aim is all that’s required if the barrel is good and point blank spread should still be in most of the big game vital areas.
5. After 300 meters the lighter ‘high powered’ rounds will begin to drop kinetic energy on a higher curve than the heavier and magnum cartridges generally, and the trajectory and windage requires much more consideration in shot placement than the average, ‘one-box-a-year’ hunter/shooter can manage.
6. After 500 meters, which in my humble opinion nobody should be taking hunting shots at anyway due to the fact that unless you are a trained sniper using a minimum of a very flat shooting magnum, or preferably a .50 BMG, just to eliminate all trajectory and wx variables, due to the sadly disproportionate number of crippling and wounding of animals in the cases of so-called big game hunters taking that kind of long range ‘trophy’ shot.
Assuming the above basics, then there are three factors that also enhance or mitigate the choice of one universal allmight god fearing cosmic cartridge and bullet, optimal ballistic co-efficient bullets, like the 7mm(l), not withstanding.
These factors, of course, are different today, than they were a generation ago.
A. Cost.
B. Ubiquity v. scarcity (which affects cost relative to its actual intrinsic overall functional worth/value in terms of utility and versatility)
C. Proportionate skill/practice level of the shooter relative to the firearm platform used
As alluded to in your article above, a master shooter can do unimaginable stuff with a BB gun.

Therefore, again, in my subjectively humble opinion (like it all is anyway), that leaves only one cartridge for the winner. ‘Pass the envelope please….’
The 30-06. Second place, .308 Third, well, could be any one, make your own choice. There are few rounds with so many off the shelf varieties of bullets and power loads. You can get everything from a box of 30-06 big game loads that equals or exceeds a 300. mag for have the price, to a sabotted varmit round shooting flatter than a 22-250 @ 400 meters. And even a match grade police sniper round right of the shelf. Brass is cheap, .30 bullets like mana, what can you say bad about it? Plus it has to be the all time most ubiquitous general rifle and round of all time. Any mom&pop hardware store in boondock North Dakota will always have at least one box of 30-06 along with those vintage boxes of .38 specials. lol!
There are even enough lower priced rifles that can do dual purpose as an ‘accurse-ed’ forbidden god-awful assault weapon! All those relatively cheap Remington 7400′s at swap meets and such can take an aftermarket 10 round magazine and do a good imitation of the proven miltary 30-06 BAR? Zombies would never know the difference compared to say a high end

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BLH557 October 29, 2012 at 12:56 pm

My 300 RUM has the recoil of a .270 and my .270 recoils like a .223. The reason? A nice muzzle break. And, yes, I can hit an 8″ gong repeatedly at 340 yards in the seated position with either weapon. I just had a Teludyne Tech Straightjacket Barrel System placed on my 25 year old Ruger M77 MkII and it shoots like a dream. Never lost an animal with it, my 300 RUM, and only one, a pig I shot low on while trying to make a head shot, with my Ruger M77. I agree with the the MAIN premise of the author: shoot a gun you can hit with. It doesn’t matter what caliber it is as long as you can place the round where it needs to go. On the other hand, I like the added trajectory of the 300 RUM and with my hand loads and 26″ barrel it is much better than the author’s 3″ at 300 yards.

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Steve Amann October 29, 2012 at 2:11 pm

This is an article that I am in total agreement with. Bigger, faster and louder are not necessarily better. There isn’t any game on this continent that a 6.5 x55, a 7x 57 or a 308 can not take care of. Marksmanship and skill are the keys not the roar. If you want the big blast get some fireworks. They are cheaper.

Steve Amann

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bhp9 October 29, 2012 at 2:54 pm

Finally, A gun writer that knows what he is talking about. My hunting experiences have been much like yours. My favorite cartridges have been the .270 win. 6.5 Swedish with the 160 grain slugs, and 7×57 and .280 Rem with the 175 grain pills when shooting really big game. None have ever let me down as long as you place the bullet correctly and all will kill like lightening out to 300 yards. The .270 is easy to hit with if sighted in at 3 inches high at 100 yards. A dead on hold will get you a good hit out to 300 yards. Elmer Keith was a braggart and a showman, he took credit for many things that he had no hand in inventing or even using. His bad mouthing of the .270 and his mythical 600 yard pistol kill with a hot loaded .44 special was pure bunk. Try duplicating this shot even on paper and you will see that it never happened. Most gun writers have stated much the same in their writings about this 600 yard shot down through the years. They too said it was pure bunk.

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brent375hh October 29, 2012 at 7:37 pm

Elmer wrote that he used a .44 magnum, not a special for the already wounded deer he shot. He did not claim to be able to do it on command. He realized it was a lucky shot. I don’t know whether he made it or not. I do know that it is possible. Shooting at a gallon jug on a private pond at 500 yards will get you within a four foot diameter circle often enough to hit the jug once in a while. Search Youtube for “long range revolver”. There is a guy who shoots a 5″ revolver at 300 yards. 4 out of the 5 shots could be covered with a small pizza.

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bhp9 October 30, 2012 at 11:25 am

My own testing on Keith’s 600 yard shot showed that even at 200 yards the round out of a 44 magnum failed to penetrate even an 1/8 inch plywood board. The elevation even at 200 yards was such that I could not even see much of the target let alone try to elevate the sights to hit anything at 600 yards.

Jack O’Connor in his excellent book “Confessions of a Gun writer” interviewed people in regards to many of Keith’s bull-crapping stories. They refuted everything Keith said. In one story Keith was hired as chief cook and bottle washer and never even left camp as verified by the people who were there.

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brent375hh October 30, 2012 at 4:28 pm

I have not shot 1/8′ plywood at 200 yards, but a quick look would show that a 44 magnum is still doing over 1000 fps at that distance. I do wish Ross would read these replies and comment on them. There are plenty of people who do shoot .44 magnums out to 600 yards and beyond.

http://www.elmerkeithshoot.org/EK-8.Report.htm

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Muhjesbud November 1, 2012 at 10:22 am

Yeah, but I’ll bet there was no wind. Don’t forget there were heavy caliber pistols with ‘rifle type’ sights graduated out to 6 0r 7 hundred meters. I guess somebody found a use for using a pistol as a mortar out to those ranges ?

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larry white October 29, 2012 at 3:25 pm

I MUST DISAGREE,I HAVE OWED ALL LOT OF GUNS OF DIFFERENT CAL.S IN MY EXPERANCE THE 7MM, SHOOTS FLATER FASTER AND HITS HARDER WITH MORE PENATRATION THAN MOST OTHER CALS. THAT BEING SAID YOU CAN ALSO GET BULLETS FROM 120GR.TO 185GR..IT HAS BEEN THE BEST CAL. FOR THAT REASON!!! I HAVE FOUND OUT THAT HAND LOADING THIS CAL. IS DEADLY ACCURATE,WITH NO MORE KICK THAN YOUR 270,WITCH DOES NOT SHOOT AS FLAT NO MATTER WHAT YOU SHOOT IN IT!LIKE I SAID I HAVE OWEND BOTH CALS. IN DIFFERENT BRANDS ,SO THE BEST OUT OF THEM IS ALWAYS THE 7MM!!!!!!

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bhp9 October 30, 2012 at 11:32 am

Most 7mm magnums come with a 24 inch barrels which really takes the fire out of the cartridge. In many cases with all but the 175 grain bullet (which most people never use) the .270 will come so close in velocity that the difference is not even worth talking about. You only get about a 2,000 round barrel life out of a 7mm Mag. yet the .270 can easily reach the 5,000 round mark. The .270 can also turn in some really respectable velocities out of a 22 inch barrel which makes it a much handier gun to carry in the field. The same barrel length in a 7mm Mag. turns it into an ear blasting fireball with only .270 velocities.

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tom wolak November 6, 2013 at 4:45 pm

You really should engage your brain before opening your mouth because the 270 is not even close to the rem 7mm in velocity .A 160 nosler has the same velocity as the 130 grain 270 and does a ton more damage when it gets there .I would like to also add that the greatest african hunter described in the authors article took the male lion at a range of 300 yards not the typical 30 yards in heavy cover.Had he been using his 270 with that type of situation the lion would have been telling his fellow felines how great he tasted.In short it all comes down to using enough gun and placing the first shot in the vitals.Just because you have a love affair with a certain caliber like jack did with the 270 dont perceive to tell me what to shoot because you make yourself out to be an expert which i doubt you are .

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love the 7mm November 6, 2013 at 5:05 pm

Gotta agree 500 percent .I had a 270 for a few years and it was a good rifle i can agree but i didnt realize how average it is till i got my 7mm remington magnum.I used to have to shoot game as large as elk twice ‘ even three times through the lungs to bring them down with even premium bullets .Yes it killed them but i wanted a faster one shot killer.all that changed with my 7mm and 150 grain swift scirroco bullets.Now its boom and down they go. [dont believe me ] take your best 270 load and pit it against a 150 grian swift at 3200 fps and the 270 loses every time especially in killing quickly and humanely as we all should strive to do .we all owe it to the game we hunt to kill it as quickly as possible.there will be those that will say im bashing the 270 ‘ not at all im just being realistic your the ones living in dreamland.

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right on October 29, 2012 at 4:17 pm

I started out with a .308 when I was a very small kid, and I’m back to a .308 in my mid 30′s. I went through the whole magnum thing because everyone else was buying them, but I eventually came back to sanity. Great article.

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William-Dahl October 29, 2012 at 4:39 pm

What? No mention of the venerable .45-70?

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Donald Conner November 3, 2012 at 7:48 pm

Glad you brought that up. I wondered it that too. Grizzly and Buffalo (?) Bore both make some very powerful loads, getting into the low end of .458 territory. Yes, they are expensive, but hunters have taken Cape Buffalo, elephant, hippo, and just about everything Africa has to offer with those manufacturers loads. Off the shelf .45-70 is anemic–which is reasonable, as some would put a Grizzly in an old rifle that should rest in honored glory above the mantlepiece. And then when they find various pieces of their extremeties in various places, despite the maker’s explicit warning, they would have some ambulance chaser down his neck. There is no cure forstupidity. Ignorance can be fixed, but not stupid. But a new Marlin levergun in .45-70 and Grizzly loads will do for anything in this hemisphere.

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Afrika October 29, 2012 at 5:45 pm

I agree….what a wonderful common sense article. I truly dislike many of the .30 calibers with the exception of the wonderful .300 H & H magnum, of which I have a 1953 example and my favorite caliber of .375 H&H. I use my .375 on everything except elephant. Recoil from this calibre does not bother me at all…as long as the scoped rifle weighs 9 pounds. I also like a .458 WM in a nice 10.5 pound double rifle. I shot a blesbok at 130 meters offhand with a solid using open sights with the double. And many other small targets of opportunity have fallen to my double. Perhaps weight and balance of the rifle has as much to do with perceived recoil and cartridge size. I find by matching total rifle weight to cartridge usually makes for a comfortable shooting rifle, which is a wonderfully accurate hunting rifle.

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Lonelobo October 29, 2012 at 7:38 pm

Hey……. Lets not forget the .280!! Every bit as good as the .270. Before deer season I would load an ammo can full of .280 with cheap Sierra 100 gr. HPBT bullets and go jack rabbit hunting. Once you start hitting running jack rabbits on a regular basis with your hunting rifle, deer size game become easy targets.

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SwampRat October 29, 2012 at 11:06 pm

I have to agree on the .270. I bought a Sig SHR970 back when they were being sold and have taken many Elk, Deer, and even an Antelope this weekend at 300 yds. I will be getting one for my son when he is old enough to carry a gun (no, he can’t have mine), because of it’s light recoil, great accuracy, and awesome killing power. I used to shoot a .257 roberts and was planning on handing that one down, but when I got the .270, my mind was permanently changed.

Great writeup!

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High hunt October 30, 2012 at 12:03 am

Great article. Less is more, sometimes. I love my .270. It’s taken many deer,bear and other assorted critters. Usually with one shot. That being said, there’s nothing wrong with a well built magnum. My ultra lightweight .300 weatherby with a brake doesn’t kick much worse than my .270 and has a little more poop for high country hunting when a longer shot is sometimes needed. Sure the brake is hard on the ears but if your used to shooting with it your not going to be thinking about recoil on the hunt if you don’t happen to have it with you. How many deer have you taken where you remember the recoil anyway.

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Lngntooth October 30, 2012 at 12:26 am

Mine is a 1948 Winchester 70, 300 Magnum. Way back then, there was only the Holland & Holland belted .30 cal magnum cartridge. I have a first year edition of the Win 70 in 30-06. Those two guns are truely accurate. Anyone that has shot them, shot them well.

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bhp9 October 30, 2012 at 11:44 am

When shooting under field conditions the average once a year hunter really has no business shooting much over 200 yards and even NRA across the course shooters who really know what they are doing often limit their hunting shots to 300 yards. Most medium range cartridges have plenty of power and a flat enough trajectory to do this with ease. Lets face facts long range shots make for a lot of horribly wounded game that is never recovered. The real mark of a true hunter is outwitting the wild game in its own domain. Even Jack 0′Connor admitted that most of his mountain sheep shots were often at 30 yards or less because he outwitted the game and made sure at close range he could not miss. Thats the mark of a true and honorable hunter, not some slob that blasts away at them off the hood of a pick up truck at long range.

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Debo Debod October 30, 2012 at 4:31 pm

Can someone tell me what would be the lowest recoil “ELK” gun shooting 300-500yards?? As I’m told most shots here in Nevada are over 300+ yards… I have bad shoulders and I am used to close range 20 or 12 gauge shotgun hunting back in New-England states. But I’m out here now and can’t afford to buy a bunch of guns. I just want one gun to hunt deer & Elk. Most everyone I talk to has either the 300UM or a 7mmMag, but was wondering if there is something else that will have the knock-down power at 300+ yards to kill an Elk, with less recoil?? Seems that the 270 is great for the 100yard shots but it didn’t say anything about a 450+yard “Big-Game-kills” as a go to gun… :o)) Please help… Thanks

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Debo Debod October 30, 2012 at 4:33 pm

I need help…. Can someone tell me what would be the lowest recoil “ELK” gun shooting 300-500yards?? As I’m told most shots here in Nevada are over 300+ yards… I have bad shoulders and I am used to close range 20 or 12 gauge shotgun hunting back in New-England states. But I’m out here now and can’t afford to buy a bunch of guns. I just want one gun to hunt deer & Elk. Most everyone I talk to has either the 300UM or a 7mmMag, but was wondering if there is something else that will have the knock-down power at 300+ yards to kill an Elk, with less recoil?? Seems that the 270 is great for the 100yard shots but it didn’t say anything about a 450+yard “Big-Game-kills” as a go to gun… :o)) Please help… Thanks

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bhp9 October 31, 2012 at 10:43 am

Few people realize that there is a lot more to hitting something at long range than using a magnum with only about an inch or two flatter trajectory. What they do not realize because they never bother to practice in the standing, sitting, kneeling and prone positions is that your trajectory changes depending on which stance you are using when you shoot. As an experiment lean up against a poll or tree to steady yourself if you are new to this type of shooting and shoot a group from the standing position and then try shooting a group from the prone position and you will see the impact zone change. Also try and shoot at a target that is down hill or uphill from you and you will be amazed at how much the trajectory changes from the original horizontal sight in target you used when sighting in the rifle. Not to mention the lighting conditions or the wind conditions or the suns mirage. And lets not forget the fact that you must be able to instantly recognize the range to the target. Lets not forget the fatigue factor either. I think now you can begin to see the Magnum fallacy philosophy. Forget long range blasting. The shorter the range the less aiming error you will encounter. Blast away at long range if you wish but be prepared to either wound the game or see it calmly vacate to the next mountain top. Jack o’Connor and his wife hunted elk too, he used a .270 and his wife a 7×57, either of which will shoot right through an elephant out to 3 or 400 yards providing you can hit one in a vital spot. Most of O’connors shots were under 200 yards. He knew the habits of game animals and there was no need to blast away at long range.

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Debo Debod October 31, 2012 at 6:31 pm

Yes I would love the 25 yard shots you get back East, Sorry, but there are no “Trees” in the Desert where they hunt, we do have 2ft shrubs but that’s nothing to lean on as they have thorns…. That’s why you can’t hide behind any trees or sneek up on them easy, that’s why if you can get up to within 500yards your doing great and you better take the shot or you might loose all the money you spent for the “many” years of putting in for a license and not getting one, as well as all the money you spend on equipment and ammo getting ready for the hunt each year that may not come for 4-6 or even 8-years…Here you pay Big $ and send in for the license, then they pick a few people that will get the license, and the rest get a little of their money back, (Not all the money back) They keep a good chunk and say better luck next year, So, When you get a license, you better make good use of it!! You said it, most of his shots were under 200 yards, So, what about a 500 yard shot?? He can get a license anytime he wants and take all the time in the world to track them down to get that perfect shot… The rest of us have to “work” and can only get a few days off… Being Handicapped, it twice as hard to move around. I have use of a 1000 yard range finder with angle adjustment. And will practice as much as I can without hurting my shoulder, So I need to find a low recoil gun that will have the knockdown power at 500+ yards… Yes, Yes, Yes, I’m hoping to get closer, but I want to know it will drop’em in their tracks at 500+yards… The one I’m going with got his 2 years ago with a 620 yard shot with his 300UM. So it will be a couple of years before he gets another license, so I want to be ready as I’m putting in for his party to get one at the same time. I figure I will have at least 2 years of practice if I get a gun now. So I want to get the right one… Some are saying 30.06, or 308, would be the smallest, Most everyone so far out here thinks the Rem 7mm Mag is the best all around out here for everything. So what does everyone in here think??

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bhp9 November 2, 2012 at 7:01 pm

Ivan Carter who makes his living as a big game guide just last week stated that there is no cartridge that he has ever used that will consistently put down a big game animal instantly with one shot, None.

Since you have already made up your mind that only a magnum will do, your best bet to make yourself happy is to get a 7mm mag with a muzzle brake. It will take the recoil down to about a .270. It won’t kill any better at any range than a .270 and the velocity difference is not worth arguing about but the important thing is that the 7mm will make you happy and make you believe that it cannot miss and will take out an animal instantly.

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Donald Mei October 31, 2012 at 3:23 pm

Mr Seifreed, the legend speaks the truth.

One thing though that I have to disagree with him on is the viability of the .308. Its for precisely his reasons that its a good round.

1) not too much recoil
2) cheap milsurp rounds that are decent quality and allow you to PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE without breaking the bank. The same is true of the 30-06, which he likes.

I recently picked up 200 rounds of 30-06 from the CMP for $96. Not cheap,, but less than most other ammo.

Don

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J Wilson November 2, 2012 at 2:02 pm

As a shooter first and a hunter second my personal experience is at odds with this article. When choosing my last hunting rifle I read and listened to many friends who said that big mags would kick too hard to shoot accurately. I saw this as a challange and bought a Savage Bear Hunter in .375 Ruger. I had experience turkey hunting with my light single shot 10 guage and knew that in a real hunting situation I would not notice recoil. The .375 was harder to shoot at first until I shot it enough to convince my subconcious that it really did not hurt that bad. After many rounds through the rifle I during load developement I could shoot as accurately with it as I can with my .243 or 7mm Remington Mag. My groups are tighter from a prone position with a bipod than from the bench. My shoulder absorbs the recoil instead of muscle tension. From the bench muscle tension is required to keep the scope from hitting my eyebrow. I will amit to jerking the trigger from the bench because I am scared of being hit by the scope. Standing the .375 is more accurate if I shoot quickly. The extra weight helps hold the rifle steady but begins to take its toll if I wait.
A couple of weeks ago I took my first elk. The 225 Hornady Interlock crossed the caynon in South West Colorado at 3100 Feet per second (starting at least) and killed him cleanly with one shot a little low on his shoulder. I might have done the same with my .243 or 7 mag but as I judged the range to be around 275 yards and my hunting partner later ranged it with a range finder to be 321 yards the difference in trajectory would have made my low shoulder shot a miss with the 7 mag. I would not have taken that long of a shot with the 243.

When people at the range give my crap about not needing a elephant gun for elk. I challange them to see who can ring the 200 yard gong the fastest, then I shoot it high on the left side where it usually knocks the gong off of its post.

My point is if you are buying your first hunting rifle buy somthing reasonable. If you want a cannon buy it but dont take it hunting until you can shoot it. At the range shoot the smaller rifle while the big one cools and make yourself forget which rifle you are shooting as you pull the trigger.

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Jacque November 2, 2012 at 9:46 pm

I’ve used rifles from .222Rem to .416 Rigby. More big game kills with one shot with the .222Rem than any other. Never shot anything over 1000 lbs. Have that for the big five and people I don’t like. Placement is everything. Have a Husqvarna Crown Grade action that would be great for a 7×57. Any ideas on a good gunsmith in the Ohio area?

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Donald Conner November 3, 2012 at 7:23 pm

As an retired OTR driver, I’ve been in a lot of towns, big and small. If ammunition is sold in even the smallest burg, there are two rifle cartridges you can be sure of finding: The venerable .30-06, and the .22 Long Rifle. Often the .22-250 and .243 are available also. But as for the rest, from the .17 Remington Jet to the .600 Nitro Express? You’d better be one of the luckiest people in the world.

The Eskimo’s have killed polar bears with the .22 Long Rifle, but they have 10,000 years of experience passed on to them, and arctic skills only a few others, mostly Special Forces and et. al., have. A 220 grain ’06 will take them nicely, with correct bullet placement. Loads can be found at retail from 125 grains to 220 grains. 150′s, 180′s, 200′s, and 220′s are the most common, and there are bullet weights and types almost beyond counting in the ’06. There is nothing in the Western Hemisphere it won’t kill. The .22 Long Rifle is good to 100 yards on all small and feathered game. Anybody can shoot it accurately, and one person can carry 1,000 rounds in a small, sturdy over the shoulder bag.

The .270 Win? Yeah, it’s a good round, but Elmer was right: large diameter heavy bullets at advertised speed make big holes that bleed well, leaving a trail, and usually are energetic enough that one shot is all that is needed. You will not find .270′s in every place that sells ammunition. 12 and 20 guage shotgun shells are everywhere. A 12 guage slug is the preferred back-up in Alaska, with the .458 Lott and .50 Alaskan coming in close at 2 place.No one needs more than those four, although I must say I do have more–I like to shoot. If they want more, go for it. Yet in the end, even the “apoplytic end”, most important is ammo can you find almost any where. And lots of practice.

I shot competively for several years, so I may better skilled than some, but I still find time to practice. I started with a Garand, then an M1A, and finished with an AR15. I do use a scope: it let’s me better see my target and be more certain of my target and what’s around it. After all, you can’t very well take Fred, the hunter you didn’t see behind your target, and eat him, can you? Well, if you’re really hungry….Leupold makes some very good scopes in the $300-$500 range, and they’ve never let me down. You don’t have to have a Hensoldt or Nightforce or Schmidt & Bender at $2500 and up a pop. Just a solid, reliable scope, and practice.

As for Africa, J.W.D. Bell killed over 1,000 elephants with a 7×57 Mauser bolt gun. Bullet placement is all that counts. Gun control is hitting what you aim at where you aim, be that between the eyes, the heart/lung, or other place that will at least anchor them so you can get a 2nd shot or 3rd if you need it. Most are not aware that in the 1st World War, the Marines were taught to hit a target at 1,000 yards with the Springfield .30-06 with iron sights. With today’s scopes and ammuntion and a solid rest, 300 to 400 yards should be easy for all but the most inept.

Semper Fidelis. Semper Vigilans.

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Henry Alau November 5, 2012 at 11:42 am

Still on the sidelines for now as my work currently takes me to Afghanistan, but WOW what a great dissertation. I have my own personal preferences, but the that first quote, “You cannot buy skill,” just tells me I need to go out and practice more. I currently have a small selection of weapons and just acquired a Mosin Nagant. I’d bet it’d make a wonderful hunting rifle…with practice. Thank you, Mr. Seyfried.

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CavScoutDM November 6, 2012 at 10:13 am

I tried your favorite .270Win, on 3 seperate occasions. I just never did get what I was expecting out of this particular caliber. I have heard others sing it’s praises and the .270 VS 30-06 battle rages on still today. I have found however that my 2 little Savage’s, 1 in .243 and 1 in 25-06, loaded with 87gr partition or equal for the 1st and 100gr partition or equal for the second have never failed to work for me out to 500M. Granted I was shooting @ age 6, taught by my Father and then polished off by Uncle Sam @ Ft Benning where I learned some very important skills but my point is, shoot what works for you. Whatever caliber you are comfortable and can put your shot @ POA every time and you CAN’T go wrong.
PS- I also have an Armalite AR-10 in .308 that works great out to 800M on everything I’ve ever shot with it. Never taken a step after taking a 165gr Partition.

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Mike November 23, 2012 at 1:55 pm

This is one of the most common sense things I’ve ever read in the gun press. Advice that I heard and read 20 years ago and profoundly ignored.

I’ve chased the strange fire of “improved ballistics” long enough. I’ve been a successful hunter over the last two decades and have never killed a critter yet that my .270 or .308 wouldn’t have killed just as dead.

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David December 11, 2012 at 12:11 pm

For those who want a little more from a 20-06 case, don’t forget the 35 Whelen, probably the highest and best use for the 06 case. Barnes data shows a 180gr at over 3,000 fps, (mine does right at 3K over the chronograph) and the heavy 250 at 2,500+. Lots of flexibility and still moderate recoil. I’ve shot lots of mulies, whitetails, antelope, and hogs with this cartridge in a rebarreled Browning BLR (long action). This gun and cartridge does just about anything on the North American continent including bears and is easy to shoot. I also agree with Ross on the 7X57, I shoot one in a custom Browning Low Wall, and use it for everything except big bears. Barnes shows this attaining 3,000 fps with a 140 grain bullet, mine goes over the chronograph as just over 2,900 fps.

David

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Rob January 6, 2013 at 9:03 am

A great article, agree with the practise part. During the years of practicle shooting, including the 1981 championships in Johannesburg I believed in dry fire exercises and this I have now carried over to keep my hunting accuracy up to standard. Living in South Africa and hunting a few times a year I made snap caps for hunting rifles, 243, 30-06 and a 375 H&H. This allows me to practise in the garden, behind 7ft walls, my target, a print of the head and shoulders of an Impala on an A5 sheet of paper. This relates to an Impala at +/- 100 metres using a 4 power setting on my scopes. Couple this to a visit to the rang once a month for live fire and you should have a successful next hunt.

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CR Rains June 21, 2013 at 12:45 am

I met Ross once when he was on a feral hog hunt, shooting a drilling on my cousin’s West Texas ranch. He to me is not as opinionated as he is malleable. Some stake out a belief, then spend the rest of their life defending it. The few here that had negative comments seemed more talking to him while holding a mirror between themselves and Ross…I am a 6’4″ 247# Texan that was educated via college football and flew with the USAF in a couple wars…BIG DEAL. The real size of a man is on the inside and the real size of cartridge is the hands & eyes of the rifleman using it. My little 7×57 with 160 gr Barnes X flattened a Tanzania 44″ Cape Buff at 142 paces (before lasers), my little 375H&H took my elephant with a quartering rear brain shot at 53 paces with a flat meplat solid…these are minimum caliber for animal kills that prove these new bullets have changed the paradigm. When you can stay in the gun…the calibre is fun. Ross has Savvy…thanks for sharing it! Like to read his latest thoughts on “fitting a rifle to the shooter”.

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GeoInSD December 7, 2013 at 2:47 pm

My family has a tradition of using cartridges on the small side. .270 Win was the biggest anyone ever used, and usually even smaller. My father never explained the tradition. Perhaps their philosophy is consistent with this article. I know my father was always more concerned about precise shot placement than anything else. He never talked about ballistics. He did mention bullet expansion and did mention once that he liked Winchester Silver Tips. Shot placement was his most mentioned topic.

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tony m March 31, 2014 at 9:24 am

This is very refreshing to read.Imagine spending the time, developing a shooting skill, learning the habits of game we pursue.This is a great read.Maybe great size can be a burden (sometimes)

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October 21, 2012