The Great Cartridge Debate: .308, .30-’06, 6.5 Creedmoor & More

We’re all guilty, each and every one of us, myself included. We’ll be at a summer barbecue, or sharing a beer at the local pub, or sitting around the campfire, and the cartridge debate will begin. And, once it begins, you’re bound to hear all sorts of boastful claims, insistent arguing points, hand-me-down tales of perfect, flawless performance in the hands of various uncles and grandsires, and all sorts of reasons why any other cartridge than the metallic hero receiving adoration at that moment is a silly, wasteful, childish design. Sometimes you’ll hear – possibly simultaneously, if the crowd is large enough and the tongues are loose – that old cartridge should be put out to pasture, as their time is over, or that anyone using a new-fangled this or that magnum is a damned fool and should stick to the tried-and-true cartridges, like the late Mr. so-and-so did.

The Great Cartridge Debate: .308, .30-'06, 6.5 Creedmoor & More

Just a few of the different .30 caliber cartridges, from the small to the tall.

Gun writers – present company included – can be equally guilty. We’re human after all, with opinions like everyone else, but the articles we write can sometimes put a skew on how cartridges are perceived. The companies themselves have a bit of culpability in this mess as well; you’ll see the newest cartridge touted as a miracle cure for all of our shooting woes up to that point. Sometimes it may be a valid point, other times a twist on numbers or lengths or velocities and such. But that’s all irrelevant, as are most of the arguments about cartridges and calibers. In many ways, it’s all been done, and in other ways, we can firmly believe the best is yet to come. But, I do feel that we beat each other up unnecessarily. Healthy discussion is always good – especially when working toward the goal of researching the perfect cartridge for a particular shooter or situation – but it seems that the discussions have turned to arguments, for reasons I can’t quite explain.

SEE ALSO: The CZ 550 American Safari Magnum in .375 H&H — Full Review

Overlap & Redundancy

Let’s face one simple fact: there is a lot of cartridge overlap and redundancy. No, there is a ton of cartridge redundancy, but that’s okay. There’s plenty of room for what we have, but some cartridges come with a caveat: depending on the mood of the market, ammunition may or may not be readily available. And there’s another valid discussion point: does the availability of a cartridge dictate its popularity, or does the popularity of a cartridge ensure its availability? Let’s look at the comparison arguments, and their validity or invalidity first, then address with the popularity/availability issue.

At the end of the 19th century, cartridges were shrinking and shrinking fast. Our American hunting rifles were coming down in size; the huge .45 and .50 caliber blackpowder cartridges were giving way to the .30 and .32 caliber guns, and then again to the .25 caliber cartridges. In England, the Rigby-designed .450 Nitro Express – released in 1898 – truly opened the eyes of the Indian and African hunters who had relied on the .500 and .577 calibers, or the behemoth four and even two-bore muzzleloaders. Mauser’s 7x57mm cartridge led to a whole lot of cartridge development on both sides of the pond, and the resulting field reports were equally enlightening and confusing. The first 25 years of the 20th century brought us some wonderful cartridges – possibly the best era of cartridge development ever – but there were no rules. Writers, hunters and guides soon developed opinions, and things sort of settled out, with some good, firm guidelines as to which cartridges were suitable for a particular situation. The projectiles available for these cartridges played a definite role in the development of a reputation, and as the projectiles went through a development phase, the cartridges limits – real or perceived – changed along with them. By 1925, we had the spectrum pretty well covered. The 7×57 Mauser, the .30-’06 Springfield, the .30-30 Winchester, the .416 Rigby, the 6.5×55 Swedish Mauser, the .375 H&H Belted Magnum, the .450 and .470 Nitro Express, the .250-300 Savage, the .270 Winchester, the .404 Jeffery and the .300 Holland & Holland Magnum; all were available to the hunter/shooter by the 1926 hunting season. I’ll ask anyone to name the big game hunting situation that can’t be covered, and covered well, by one of those cartridges.

The Great Cartridge Debate: .308, .30-'06, 6.5 Creedmoor & More

Two great combatants in the cartridge debate, the .30-’06 Springfield (left) and the .308 Winchester (right).

The wildcatters were already hard at work, including Townsend Whelen and his .35 caliber namesake, playing with those cases that would go on to become irrefutable classics, and by the late 1940s, the velocity race was in full swing. The ever-increasing speed – brought to the foreground by the .270 Winchester and Holland’s Super .30 – became the focal point, at least to some. The classic battles of Jack O’Connor and Elmer Keith, basically boiling down to Jack’s belief in lighter bullets at higher velocity against Elmer’s faith in heavier bullet weight at moderate speeds, highlighted the opposite ends of the spectrum. The introduction of Roy Weatherby’s cartridge lineup was indicative of the American love of velocity, and the resulting arguments regarding the ‘best’ cartridge design.

The .308 Versus The .30-’06

The Great Cartridge Debate: .308, .30-'06, 6.5 Creedmoor & More

– The .308 Winchester – the Army’s replacement for the .30-’06 – has been both loved and cursed by the hunting world. Look at it for what it is, and you have a very good hunting cartridge.

The U.S. Army’s development and adoption of the 7.62mm NATO, and the subsequent 1952 Winchester release of the civilian version – the .308 Winchester – sparked one of the largest in-caliber arguments; one that rages on to this very day. Is the .308 on par with the .30-’06? Why would anyone shoot this new cartridge, which can’t handle the heavy 220-grain slugs? Why would anyone still be shooting the .30-’06, when the .308 produces enough velocity, and from a shorter, handier rifle? And so it goes on, and on and on.

The .30-’06 Springfield may well be one of the most useful cartridges ever developed, and though it is over a century old, the design is still perfectly sound, not unlike the round rubber tire. It worked in 1906, it worked in 1956, it worked in 2006, and will continue to work for as long as copper/lead bullets are propelled by smokeless powder. The .308 Winchester is indeed a shorter, lighter, and possibly more efficient cartridge design. The fact that the early rifles wouldn’t handle the heavy 220-grain bullets had all to do with the twist rate of the initial barrels, and nothing to do with the case. It does run a bit slower than the ’06, but so what? It still produces energy and velocity figures that will cleanly and effectively kill game out to sane hunting ranges, and makes one helluva target cartridge. Should we still be arguing over this? Seems a bit silly to me. I have used a .308 Winchester for a quarter-century, and have killed all kinds of game with it, yet wouldn’t hesitate to use a .30-’06 in its place. Same goes for the .300 Winchester Magnum, I’ve used it for years, but it’s no magic design; like the ’06, it works. In the .308’s case, the modern, premium bullets have made it even better, but the same can be said for the ’06 and the .300 Winchester Magnum.

.300 Magnums

The Great Cartridge Debate: .308, .30-'06, 6.5 Creedmoor & More

The .300 Holland & Holland was once the .300 Magnum, but the release of the .300 Winchester Magnum forced it into near obscurity.

Speaking of .300 Magnums, perhaps we should take a look at those as well. When you said “I shoot a .300 Magnum”, prior to 1963, you were more than likely referring to the .300 Holland & Holland (the .300 Weatherby was in existence, but rare in comparison). The 1950s trio of Winchester Magnum cartridges – the .458, .338 and .264 – was based on the .375 H&H case, cut down to 2.500” and necked to handle their respective bullet diameters. Norma beat Winchester to the punch, regarding a .30 caliber version, introducing the 2.560”-cased .308 Norma Magnum. It gave a significant velocity increase over the .30-’06 (just as the .300 H&H did) and works just fine on any game animal you’d use a .30 caliber bullet for. However, the 1963 release of the .300 Winchester Magnum (with a case length of 2.62” and a short neck, for more powder capacity) and the rifles and ammunition available for it ensured that the Winchester variety pushed the Norma, and subsequently the H&H, version off of the stage. Does that make the .300 Winchester the greatest incarnation of .300 Magnum available? Well, it’s certainly the most popular, and it’s served me very well all over the world, but I wouldn’t hesitate to use the Weatherby, Norma or Holland version at all. All are good cartridges, and in the opinion of this author, arguing over a few tenths of an inch of cartridge or bolt pull is a silly prospect. If you can shoot any one of them from field positions, and put a decent bullet from any of them in the vitals of your game animal, it is a moot point.

The Great Cartridge Debate: .308, .30-'06, 6.5 Creedmoor & More

 (Left to Right) The .300 Winchester Magnum, the .300 Holland & Holland Magnum and the new kid on the block, the .30 Nosler

Is the 6.5 Creedmoor all fluff?

The Great Cartridge Debate: .308, .30-'06, 6.5 Creedmoor & More

The 6.5 Creedmoor (left) and the 6.5-284 Norma (right), two excellent means of launching the efficient 6.5mm bullets. Both owe a huge debt of gratitude to the 6.5×55 Swede, which is an excellent choice to this day, in spite of being released in 1894.

Sometimes a cartridge comes to the forefront, being touted as the best thing since sliced bread; the 6.5 Creedmoor coming quickly to mind. All sorts of beneficial facts are quickly spouted by those who are proponents of the cartridge, while the non-believers bring the negative points to bear with equal speed. Using the Creedmoor – which has been both praised and damned equally – let’s take a good hard look at what it is and what it isn’t. It is 6.5mm, meaning that it will have the full gamut of sleek, lean, long bullets with excellent Ballistic Coefficient and Sectional Density figures. It is a smaller cartridge, meaning that it will not punish the shoulder, and longer shooting sessions will result in less shooter fatigue. With all this in mind, it is a cartridge that will make a good choice for the shooter who enjoys long range shooting, without breaking the bank, or the shoulder. What it isn’t, is a radical design; if you were to compare the Creedmoor to the .260 Remington or the venerable 6.5×55 Swede. I am a huge fan of the 6.5-284 Norma, for both its accuracy and its velocity, but ironically enough the most accurate handload I’ve found runs at the same exact velocity as the Creedmoor. If you had a well-tuned rifle in any one of the four cartridges I’ve mentioned, you’d be very well suited. Does that mean the Creedmoor is a fraud, or a bad choice for the shooter? Not at all. I’ve used it at long ranges (read 1,200-1,500 yards) and it works just fine. So does my 6.5-284 and the others I’ve mentioned.

Big Game

The debates among big game rifle cartridges can be the most heated. Truly big game, like the African elephant, Cape buffalo and hippopotamus, require a big stick and a serious confidence level. With that, usually, comes ego. Additionally, safari requires the employment of a Professional Hunter, the man responsible to not only handle all the affairs of a journey into the wild, but save your bacon while dealing with the biggest beasts on earth. He will be carrying a big rifle, and underneath it all we all want to be him to some degree. When it comes to African cartridges, there is also the pedigree of your choice thrown into the mix; there are those who would only use a cartridge of British descent, and those who swear by the American developments. Truth is, how you shoot your chosen cartridge/rifle combination will be much more important to your Professional Hunter than the diameter of the hole in the barrel. Obviously, it must be legal – and the .375 H&H/.375 Ruger is usually the legal minimum for dangerous game – but your PH would prefer you with a smaller rifle that you can handle effectively than with a small cannon that causes you to flinch. This is one of those situations where you, as the shooter, must be totally honest with yourself regarding your acceptable recoil limit. Personally, I can handle the .375, .404 and .416s, and the .470 Nitro Express, but some of the faster safari cartridges get a bit snotty for me. I have a .378 Weatherby, and it is not a rifle I shoot much, as the recoil is substantial. Even the .458 Lott can be more than I like, depending on the fit of the rifle. I’ve spent some time with the .505 Gibbs Magnum, and while it’s great fun to shoot, it’s more gun than I am comfortable with. Can I say that the cartridges that recoil too hard for my liking are bad? Absolutely not. My pal Mike McNulty handles both the .458 Lott and .505 Gibbs just fine, and Lord knows they both kill game very well.

The Great Cartridge Debate: .308, .30-'06, 6.5 Creedmoor & More

The .450-400 3-inch Nitro Express has been described as underpowered. Please don’t tell the all the buffalo and elephant that it has accounted for.

Getting back to the popularity vs. availability issue, I believe it is a double-edged sword. It seems undeniable that the military cartridges always seem to be available – the .308, .30-’06, 7×57, .223 and .45-70 either are or were military cartridges – but the commercial developments have ebbed and flowed over the years. There was a time, during the 60s, 70s and 80s, when ammunition for the Nitro Express double rifles was simply unavailable. Today, the sheer demand for them has seen Federal, Hornady and Norma producing what may be the best ammunition ever for double rifles. Winchester developed and released not only their family of Winchester Short Magnums, but a series of Winchester Super Short Magnums. I know many shooters who bought and enjoy shooting the rifles chambered for the .25 WSSM, but simply cannot find ammunition for their rifles. Even the handloaders have no access to component brass. Perhaps Winchester will feel that demand soon enough and dedicate some time to fill the void, or perhaps those rifles are doomed. The availability of component brass for a particular cartridge, or the ability to make brass cases from an existing, more popular case, should be a factor in choosing a cartridge.

The Great Cartridge Debate: .308, .30-'06, 6.5 Creedmoor & More

The .375 Holland & Holland Magnum is – quite possibly – the most useful cartridge ever invented, and remains a perfectly viable choice for any and all big game.

The Great Cartridge Debate: .308, .30-'06, 6.5 Creedmoor & More

Rigby’s big .416 cartridge is a wonderful choice – if you can handle it effectively – and hits harder than the .375. Does that make the .375 a poor choice? Not at all.

When discussing cartridges, I do my best to take a good, unbiased look at the performance, and then give an honest assessment. As stated, I think we’ve developed just about all the different .30 caliber cartridges we’ll ever need, but I’m not about to pronounce cartridges like the .300 Ruger Compact Magnum and other obscure choices as bad designs just because I happen to have rifles chambered for another design.

If your cartridge uses a bullet of sensible diameter and weight for the animal you’re hunting, and generates a suitable amount of killing energy, go for it. Do your research, and make sure you can actually find the ammunition for whatever tickles your fancy, but if you’ve chosen an oddball, or even something a little left of center, don’t worry. The following statement is what I believe to be the most important: whichever cartridge you choose, learn its capabilities, and spend your time learning how to shoot it. That, to me, is paramount.

For more information about Hornady ammunition, click here.

For more information about Norma ammunition, click here.

For more information about Federal ammunition, click here.

To purchase ammunition on GunsAmerica, click here.

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  • Todd Haines October 15, 2021, 7:03 am

    I have settled the proper rifle and round for african big game, all the big game the world over and long distance big game shots its a rifle called the semi auto 50 bmg. You can also humt small game with it but you may not have much game left.

  • V May 26, 2021, 3:26 pm

    Variety is the spice of life. Most don’t appreciate market hype. Personally, I think many gun scribes discredit themselves by hyping a new cartridge and then hyping a newer one by comparing it to the aforementioned-Lol ! They are so obvious. That aside, variety is good even if many overlap in performance. There is something for everyone. And we have to allow for marketing hype to some degree if not terribly over done. After all, America is a capitalist nation. Until recently, 22lr,12gauge,30-06 and a .223 (3 of each too) ; were all I felt I needed. I like having double back up for each caliber I own. But I got bored of having three of each and tried a couple of 325wsm, two 30-30s,a 44Win mag lever, 5.56×45, and even 7.62 x39. Now I’m bored again and may get a 6.5cm just for the fun of it. We only need one, but certainly may want more. Besides, if the SHTF, I have enough to have friends and family protect themselves. God Bless America and the Bill of Rights.

  • Robert Thompson March 15, 2021, 11:34 pm

    That was a damn fine , and educational article. Thank you!

  • Hawkeye October 10, 2019, 5:37 pm

    I\’ve got a NICE NEAT 7X57 commercial Mauser that I believe was made by Krupp\’s gunsmithing guild the proof marks are pre WWII with a spoon ibolt handle, twin set triggers and Krupp barrel (hexagon shape at the receiver going round most of the barrel\’s length with a raised rib that runs the whole length 😉 Sould I keep it or get rid, ammo is not very easy to get 🤔😯☹️

  • William June 24, 2019, 8:51 pm

    If you barrow it down to two calibers its the 270 and 30-06. Nothing else can stand up to these traditional calibers especially the 6.5 Creedmoor. On paper and shooting paper vs hunting are different.

  • Lee February 6, 2018, 10:32 am

    “How much case do you need to push what projectile to what velocity out of what length barrel?” That is the answer to the great cartridge debate…

    • Hawkeye October 10, 2019, 5:35 pm

      I’ve got a NICE NEAT 7X57 commercial Mauser that I believe was made by Krupp’s gunsmithing guild the proof marks are pre WWII with a spoon ibolt handle, twin set triggers and Krupp barrel (hexagon shape at the receiver going round most of the barrel’s length with a raised rib that runs the whole length 😉 Sould I keep it or get rid, ammo is not very easy to get 🤔😯☹️

  • OFBG November 3, 2017, 8:16 pm

    As others have alluded to, the issue is less about the cartridges themselves than about “need” versus “want,” a discussion I often have with one of my best friends.
    If you typically shoot and hunt with an AR-15, the new cartridges may indeed be a “need.”
    If not, considering all of the older cartridges available, you may just have a “want.”
    Just today I saw an article in Firearms News about a 2-bore rifle. How many people “need” one? I imagine that the gunsmith who crafts these beauties could not pay the rent if people didn’t “want” one!

  • Sgt. Pop October 23, 2017, 8:00 pm

    This kind of discussion has been going on as long as I am old, which is old, for christ’s sake, just pick one and get good with the darned caliber you choose. geez………….

  • Doc Loch October 23, 2017, 7:50 pm

    Application, application, application

  • TOM FARKAS October 23, 2017, 7:18 pm

    I’ve hunted over 50 years,mostly deer, and have forgotten how many nice bucks I”ve taken . But for my money, it’s the 30-06 that produced one shot kills out to 200 yards every time. The “06’s wide range of bullet weights makes for the most versitle of all calibers in my humble opinion, plus the fact that you can get 06 ammo in any back water place on this earth and you can’t do that with a lot of the newer or hot rodded rounds out today.

    • Kent Yoder October 24, 2017, 8:30 am

      You Are 100% Right. I Shoot Many Different Calibers, Because I Like Shooting Sports. I Have Taken All Kinds Of Game With Many Different Fire Arms. The 30/06 Is One Of The Best Fire Arms Ever Invented. But No Matter What Weapon You Prefer It All Comes Down To Shot Placement.

  • Dr T October 23, 2017, 4:50 pm

    Bottom line — 308 one of the most accurate competition calibers ever invented. Good hunting round on big game to about 500 yards. 6.5 Creedmoor is one of the most over hyped yet underperforming calibers ever invented — good hunting round to 500 yards. There’s a reason why the competition guys don’t use the 6.5 Creedmoor — lots of reasons why big hand hunters don’t either. It’s a decent hunting round to about 600 yards.

    If you want a super accurate competition and hunting round look at the 6.5×284 or better year the 6.5 saum! Period, end of article!

    • Mike H. October 23, 2017, 5:16 pm

      You say the 6.5 Creedmoor is a good hunting round up to 600 yards. What in the devil are you shooting at beyond 600 yards? This round has given me excellent results on deer up to 200 yards. I wouldn’t take a shot at much more distance. I would like to be able to walk to my kill in less than a week?

    • Steven Giguere September 26, 2019, 10:56 am

      Never understood the debate about the “best” caliber. Does your tool box have more than one wrench and a single screwdriver?

  • Jeffrey L. Frischkorn October 23, 2017, 4:49 pm

    As former U.S. Senator from Texas Phil Graham once opined: “I have all the guns I need but not all the guns I want.” Really, is there any better way to put why shooters appreciate the diversity and cherish the uniqueness of so many different firearms models and a plethora of different calibers? Via la difference!

  • Paul crosley October 23, 2017, 3:27 pm

    It comes down to your personal tastes and reason for hunting. It can be and is a hobby. Do you like to hand load and tweak the best performance out of your rifle, or are you just trying to put meat on the table. An $89.00 Mosin (back in the day) with cheap surplus ammo will work and is a very affordable way to practice. If you are going for the long shot in the Rockies, then it makes sense to extract the best performance out of your rifle.
    No one is right or wrong, that’s the beauty of firearms.

  • G.R. Gores October 23, 2017, 3:16 pm

    I’ll take the granddaddy of them all, the ever reliable 7×57 Mauser. It has proven itself virtually everywhere in the world, and under every conceivable condition. It is deadly accurate, well-mannered (meaning no vicious recoil or muzzle blast, light to carry, versatile and economical. Sure, other cartridges have similar attributes, but only a few have all these traits to the same degree as the good old 7mm Mauser. Even the wonderful 7mm’08 lacks the 7×57’s ability to handle the heavier bullets i.e. 160-175 grains. And if anyone doubts its credentials, let them argue with Bell, O’Conner, Aagard, and a regiment of others who have put their trust in the old, but ever reliable 7mm Mauser.

  • Dave October 23, 2017, 3:04 pm

    A few comments above about great old cartridges that just seemed to fade away are right on the money!! First of all, one of the greatest deciding factors in cartridge success was and still is military adoption. The availibility of cheap military surplus arms and ammo was the number 1 factor in determining popularity of non-dangerous game hunting cartridges IMHO. I think that the 7mm Mauser was the first smokeless cartridge that really changed everything. A smaller bullet with higher velocity in an accurate rifle changed American military thinking and led to the 30-06. I think that the reason that the 7mm Mauser didn’t become the #1 white tail round in America along with the Savage 250-3000, 6.5×55, .257 Roberts (necked down 7mm Mauser) and some others was that the big American gun manufactures refused to mass produce economically priced guns chambered in those rounds. If you wanted a good non-surplus 7mm Mauser chambered rifle it would cost you a pretty penny or have to be special ordered. I think the 250-3000 was only available in the Savage lever action. Very few rifles were chambered in .257 Roberts even though in the 20s when it was developed it was lauded as the perfect mid-size game round. Compared to the .243 which IMHO is inferior to the above mentioned Whitetail rounds, but countless rifles and ammunition by all major manufactures were immediately introduced for it, insuring its popularity. Don’t get me wrong, I think the .243 is a great round for smaller game like antelope, small bodied deer and varmints. So I think nowadays the biggest factor in popularity of a given cartridge is not performance but availability of ammunition and economically priced firearms. There have been many wildcat cartridges developed that were, and still are ballistically superior, but never became mainstream because of the big manufacture’s reluctance to bring them to market. We also have seen the big boys bring out and hype bad ideas like the .243 WSSM (flame suit on!) and some others mentioned above. I think cartridge popularity nowadays is greatly affected by the Internet (both good and bad), the AR15 platform with its ease of interchangeability, and the countless small manufactures that are more willing to take a chance on a new idea. Firearms enthusiasts seem to be much more willing than in the past to spend more money on the latest fads and gadgets. Also with the internet it’s much easier to obtain that non-mainstream firearm or ammo. In the end I totally agree with the author that “it’s not so much what you shoot but how you shoot it” as long as the bullet design and terminal energy are appropriate for the game being hunted. My choice for MN big bodied Whitetails is .257 AI. Mainly because a few years ago I purchased at auction a beautiful unfired 1981 Winchester model 70 Feather Weight bolt action in .257 Roberts. I got it for $400 with a Leupold VXII 3×9 scope, sling, and case. Nobody else bidding was familiar with that “obsolete” cartridge, so were nervous and I got it for the starting bid. After some research, I had a local bench rest gun smith ream the chamber to .257 Ackley Improved, free float the barrel, bed the action and lighten the trigger. It now pushes a 117gr bullet at around 3000fps. Equal to a 25-06 but with less powder and a lot less recoil. But the main reason it’s such a consistent deer slayer is that I only take good ethical shots and do it with accuracy because I practice before every hunt, not because of the caliber or gun.

    • Victor Castle June 29, 2019, 12:21 pm

      Then there is the fact , that as some of us old folks get older, we don’t tolerate the recoil, we use to be comfortable with.

  • Colonialgirl October 23, 2017, 2:49 pm

    I just smile happily as I look at my two Enfield surplus rifles in .303 and the boxes of surplus ammunition I have. They have been around since before WW 1, mine are from WW 2 and they performed quite well in Korea too.
    Then I fondle my Win Model 94 Saddle Carbine in 30-30 inherited from my Grandfather who used it for deer hunting in PA.
    It dates BACK to 1917.

    • Mike H. October 24, 2017, 11:07 am

      Good for You! Doesn’t matter what caliber or gun. Bottom line is the shooter. I’ve killed deer with 30-30,30-06,.270, and more with 50 caliber muzzleloader than anything. I too own a model 94 carbine and have taken several deer with it.

    • Butch November 14, 2019, 6:51 pm

      I killed my first PA buck, a little six point, when I was 14 years old with a war surplus British Enfield .303!

  • Tripwire October 23, 2017, 2:46 pm

    I love all these “This is best arguments” It’s like saying a hot blond is better than a hot redhead. Having said that… I have hunted and taken game with many different cartridges and all worked just fine. Bullet placement is a requirement.
    I hunted for over 20 years with a 338 Win. I loaded my own and never loaded it even close to max. I got the big punkin roller going fast enough to hit like a Mack truck and there it stayed. I got it to hunt Elk with but when I quit going into the high country I still used it for deer. I love that round.
    But.. I always said if I ever got flush enough I’d have the best real gun builder I could afford to build me three identical rifles.. In 30-06 , 25-06 and 35 Whelen.. All using 06 cases of course. Why? Beats the hell out of me except I loved the ol “ought-six” and figured those three would tackle anything I would ever hunt. Beware the gent who owns one gun and knows how to use it. Sadly now that I can afford it I’ve since passed that phase of my life.

  • Ronald Hagler October 23, 2017, 2:39 pm

    30-06 is my personal favorite and has taken every type of small, big, and dangerous game on the planet, but i would never say it is the best (although it might be:). Anyone that seriously claims one above the others as absolute best…is a fool! The rifle (quality, barrel, trigger pull), Optics, and the ability of the shooter are more important than the cartridge. Nice article, thanks!

  • jay October 23, 2017, 1:48 pm

    I settled on the 308 over 50 years ago and never regretted it once! Bagged more game than I could keep count of.over the years!

  • Grant Stevens October 23, 2017, 1:24 pm

    Considering the fact that Col. Townsend Whelen killed a variety of North American big game at the turn of the last century with the then new .30-30 smokeless cartridge, this entire “debate” is moot to those who know how to hunt and put bullets in the right place. When Jack O’Connor showed the big-bullet boys in the late 1920s what the then new .270 could do with a well-placed 130-grain bullet, there was very little left to debate. And with today’s bullets and propellants, these two old cartridges really shine on North American big game. But each to his own, and it’s always good to have choices and opinions. Along with gun writers and publishers, it certainly keeps gun and ammo makers smiling.

  • William October 23, 2017, 1:23 pm

    If you are limited to one gun:
    The .300 Winchester Short Magnum is the best, and flattest shooting. Good for anything in North America!
    Next best choice: .308 Win. One of the most accurate rounds known. Good for anything in Nort America.
    Don’t ever buy a Caliber under .30 Caliber! All barrel manufacturers invest more money and better equipment, in thirty Caliber! Thirty Caliber bullet choice is endless! All dealers carry .30 Caliber bullets. A .308 barrel will last 3000 rounds! The .270 Win. It’s just .030 thousands of an inch smaller in diameter! A dime is .050 thousands thick! Why choose .270 when bullet selection alone is reason enough to go to 30 Caliber! The list goes on and on! Thirty Caliber is the wise choice period.

    • V May 26, 2021, 5:13 pm

      300wsm is great. 30-06 , 280, are great all arounders too. I’m a big fan of the wissums. I opted for .325
      because it comes in handy when there is a run on ammo. I got an 8×57 Mauser too. Most small bores from .270 up will serve any one well for many species.

  • JoshO October 23, 2017, 12:45 pm

    A lot of overthinking goes on with respect to cartridge selection. One would do well to use that wasted energy shooting more. The vast majority of hunters I know shoot their rifles twice per year — once to ‘sight it in’ which I imagine means to confirm zero and from what I can gather requires 5 to 10 rounds and then at a game animal.
    I believe the animals deserve a higher level of dedication.
    A good friend of mine was taking his daughter elk hunting for the first time (which is awesome) and I correctly guessed that she would be using a .270win. Then I asked how many rounds she had put downrange with the rifle. He asked “lifetime”? Twenty.

  • Norm Fishler October 23, 2017, 10:54 am

    A huge amount of this is marketing. After so many decades of use certain calibers are, quite bluntly, a drug on the market. This can be a good or a bad thing, depending on one’s end game. If you’re looking for an inexpensive .30 caliber rifle for deer and elk, then a .300 WM, .30/06, or .308 are good choices. There are literally decades worth of used rifles out there for sale that will serve you well, many of which remain almost unused. All one needs is a modest bit of base-line of knowledge to know what to look for and make your choice accordingly, based on your needs, wants and budget. The waters are muddied by the firearms and ammunition manufacturing companies who see the need for increased sales and profit margins, thus do we see introduced cartridges like the .300 WSM, .300 STW and the .300 RUM. It seems as though these days, everybody’s out to build a better mousetrap. But stop and consider; is a small, single digit of improved accuracy or velocity worth the double or triple extra outlay in expenses? If one needs extra range with a .30 caliber projectile, there is, and has been for a considerable while now the .300 Weatherby Magnum. Don’t get me wrong, I too have heard the siren call of rounds like the .223 WSSM and the .17 Hornady, but have somehow/someway managed to resist. With a well placed .308 caliber, 180 grain projectile, that elk will never know the difference as to whether it came from a .308 or the brand new .301 Mashemflat Meggaboom. As an unrepentant, hard core gun junkie for the past six and a half decades of my life, I can well understand wanting the latest and best of everything. However, as the years have flown by, I have found that moderation is a good thing to have in one’s psychological profile.

  • Walt Kuleck October 23, 2017, 9:21 am

    Let me make it clear from the start that I’m not a hunter. I’m a historian, an engineer, a collector, and a psychologist. The reason for mentioning the latter should become clear in a moment.
    With my engineer’s hat firmly affixed, my perspective on cartridges starts with the bullet. It’s the bullet that’s the rubber that meets the road. Bullets are intended to have particular terminal effects, given diameter (caliber), velocity, and design/construction. Were I a hunter, I’d be starting with the bullet. What’s the distance to the game? What effect on the game do I expect? E.g., what is the acceptable tradeoff between expansion and penetration? Some calibers lend themselves to bullets of certain shapes. Those shapes, when combined with weight and diameter help determine what velocity will be retained by the time the bullet meets the game.
    The role of the cartridge case is simply that of a combustion chamber. Imagine the chamber as the cylinder of the engine and the bullet as the piston. It’s the capacity of the case that determines how much energy is available to propel the bullet. The shape of the case, from the standpoint of internal ballistics, is, within reasonable limits, irrelevant*.
    However, the case shape is relevant from the standpoint of rifle design. The 6.5 Creedmoor is, for example, compared to the 6.5×55 Norwegian/Swede (that’s the historian speaking) as though in some way they were interchangeable, so why do we need the CM? Let’s imagine that the Swede and the CM hold the same powder. Should be no difference, yes? The rub is that the Swede’s cartridge is 55mm in length, while the CM is a hair under 49mm. Thus, it’s a lot easier to adapt the CM to rifles designed for the 51mm case of the .308/7.62-MM, .243, etc., to the CM. Heck, I have Fulton Armory M14 in 6.5 CM. No way is a Swede ever going to fit.
    Here’s where the psychology comes in. An ammunition manufacturer introduces a cartridge that has the desired terminal effect, whether on elk or elephants and fits in a desirable rifle envelope. Let’s say that a gaggle of buff book writers hail this new offering as, well, new. Voila, it’s the new wunderPatrone.
    My point is to suggest that a hunter should start with a bullet, then find a cartridge that delivers that bullet to the game as desired and that will fit in a preferred rifle. Let’s say I want to use the Hornady 250 gr FTX. I could select a .45-70 cartridge or a .450 Bushmaster cartridge. The former won’t fit into a Ruger Scout Rifle, for example, but the latter will. I’ll know the difference, but the game won’t. But, if I wanted to use a handy single-shot instead, I could select a Ruger No 1 in either chambering. If I want to carry a Sharps, perhaps the .45-70 would be a better choice.
    So don’t get too hung up on this vs. that. The game doesn’t care.
    *Benchresters have determined that short, fat cartridge cases seem to burn their propellant more uniformly from shot-to-shot than do long skinny ones. The trend to shorter and fatter coincides nicely with the trend to shorter and lighter rifles, but the terminal differences may be illusory.
    My two cents. Your mileage will vary.

  • Norm October 23, 2017, 8:04 am

    I’ve decided about two years to get use to one of my Finn M39’s VKT using only 7.62x54r Russian Military Surplus Ammo. Yes, the rifle is heavy after a full day of hiking and it gets all of the attention & respect you could imagine. This one rifle in particular is very accurate using only open sights.

    • K KING October 23, 2017, 8:45 am

      I find it interesting that there is still a lot of discussion about 6.5 cartridges that really go nowhere. Since you are discussing them I would like to throw inone more that has been around for 70 years of more and in large quantity. It is the JAP 6.5. From the book “Cartridges of the World” it appears to be equal to many of the recently talked about ones and was available in quantity for a cheap price for a long time. I have a few of these as well as a Belgium 25-06, and a Savage 250-3000. The lever gun is more fun to shoot, to me. I think that a lot of what is being said is because of where and how people shoot and is it a stationary target or a moving one.

  • Kevin Spargur October 23, 2017, 7:52 am

    I just hit the “Submit” button and realized that I forgot one thing… I have shot most of the calibers mentioned in the article though my experience with the 6.5 has been limited to the 6.5 Jap. I have shot the 6.5 Jap and the 7.7 Jap. Even owned the 7.7 Jap. Other than kicking like a Georgia mule, they’re both fun to shoot. I have shot deer with all of them. For the gentleman who owns the 6.5 Jap, check both Norma and Hornady for ammo. Norma used to be the only company that sold ammo for the Japs and it was expensive, even by today’s pricing standards ($20-$25/box in 1984) which is why I sold them. (Kick myself every time I think about it too!) Anyway, I digress. ALL of the cartridges discussed are excellent and I shoot deer with which ever one I feel in the mood to use at the time. Having the variety of choice gives me these options and I pick one according to how I feel, physically, at the time. I will say that my .30-06 is my favorite all-around rifle though I use my .300WM or my 7mm-08 most of the time.

  • Zorro lives October 23, 2017, 7:41 am

    So why is it that you people write these reviews and comparisons but in the end you always leave the book open – as in no picked choice, are you afraid of making the ammo manufacturers mad …???

  • Kevin Spargur October 23, 2017, 7:37 am

    Love the article and the comments which follow. I have at least two observations and that is all I’m going to say on the subject.

    Comment #1) When discussing effectiveness of a chosen form or discipline for hunting, archery versus rifles, there are some things which you just cannot do. To compare these to each other is comparing apples to oranges or night to day. There simply is very little. One gentleman said it is compromising the vitals that is important and not energy transfer. He is only partially correct as every legitimate study ever made has proven that energy transfer is a definite necessity when hunting big game with rifles. Energy transfer is tantamount when hunting with something that is traveling at supersonic/hypersonic speeds. I would rather have a round which mushrooms perfectly and is still found inside the animal resulting in a very short (if any track) than something that is traveling so fast that there is no deformation and transfer of kenetic energy into the target. Here is one thing that is almost irrefutable… bullet deformation (NOT destruction) translates into energy most of the time. While there is a very big difference in shooting thin-skinned whitetails and thick skinned African big game, I can state that most of the whitetails I have shot dropped where they stood. Shot placement is everything and a bullet that expends most of its energy into the target is much preferred over one that passes completely through with little to no energy transfer. (Btw; I have never shot a deer in the head either.)

    Comment #2) This one is more of a personal pet peave of mine and is coming from someone who remembers the development of the Creedmoor and when it was originally referenced as the Grendle (sp?). While this article is an excellent article and makes the best statement of all (“chose a rifle-cartridge combination that you are comfortable with, can handle well and know what it can and cannot do) regrading our choices for hunting. However, my “dislike” is for a misconception that is being portrayed, and has been, since time immemorial. The “6.5” in NOT a true 6.5mm in size. It follows the same naming concept/conventions as do other cartridges. For example, a .38 caliber cartridge and a .357 cartridge use the exact same bullet. The designation refers more to the brass and not the bullet. If you actually do the conversion, 6.5 is actually .256 (.2559055″), NOT .264… the actual bullet diameter used in nearly all 6.5 cartridges; think the 6.5×55 Swede and the 6.5 Jap. The 6.5 Creedmoor actually shoots a 6.7-6.71 mm (.2637795″-.2641732″ respectively) and NOT the 6.5mm/.256″ projectile. Like I said earlier; this is just a pet peave of mine and coming from my observations in the development of the 6.5/6.7 round dating back to when it was first published as the Grendal (Grendel). The projectile used in the 6.5 Creedmoor is not actually 6.5mm in size.

    Anyway… just my observations. I still love the article and most adamantly agree with everything stated in it… that is except for saying the 6.5 Creedmoor is 6.5mm in size .

    • Phil October 23, 2017, 10:56 am

      Isn’t the 6.5 Grendel a short cartridge made to fit in AR15 rifles?

      • Brad October 23, 2017, 4:47 pm

        Having recently purchased a 6.5 Grendel AR-15 upper and a 6.5 Creedmoor AR-10 upper, I can attest the two rounds are entirely different classes of cartridges. Similar to the differences between the .223/5.56 and .308/7.62 NATO. The 6.5 Grendel is based on the Russian military 7.62×39 case; while the 6.5 Creedmoor is based on the .308 Winchester (7.62×51)case.

        The 6.5 Grendel was designed for use in AR15’s; while the 6.5 Creedmoor fits AR-10 types of platforms. The 6.5 Creedmoor holds more gun powder therefore it shoots the same (6.5) diameter of bullets faster than the 6.5 Grendel. The 6.5 Creedmoor is approximately 300 fps faster than the typical 6.5 Grendel.

        The two rounds have never been interchangeable as they require different platforms to be shot out of.

    • Jordan K October 23, 2017, 3:43 pm

      Mr. Spargur,
      Regarding your comment #2, you may find it informative that there are generally two conventions in use for naming cartridges and referring to calibers.
      The United States generally refer to the caliber as the groove diameter or the diameter of the bullet. In the case you reference here, that diameter is .264” or 6.7 mm.
      Europeans generally refer to the bore diameter (i.e. the diameter of the lands) when in naming cartridges and referring to caliber. In this case the bore is 6.5 mm, which is 0.255”. The conventions may not be directly interchanged as you attempted to do – at least not without confusion.
      As we have seen, U.S. cartridge designers have and do use both conventions when naming cartridges. The 6.5 Grendel, 6.5 Creedmoor, 260 Remington 6.5×55 Swede, 6.5-284 Norma, 6.5-06 A-Sq, 264 Win Mag, et. al. all use the same bullet, and have the same basic bore and groove dimensions, and all are appropriately named by one of the two above conventions.
      Regarding your reference to a bullet of 6.5 mm diameter: Do note that a projectile diameter of 6.553 mm -0.076 mm (2.58” -.003”) is used in 25 caliber cartridges, often referred to as quarter-bore. And the bore diameter, well, it is 0.250” as the moniker would imply.
      One final note: The 6.5 Creedmoor was never called the 6.5 Grendel. The Creedmoor and the Grendel are separate developments of different patronage and descend from different parent cases, the 30 T/C and the 220 Russian, respectfully.
      I hope this helps to clarify some points.
      Best regards.

  • Kb31426 October 23, 2017, 6:42 am

    Thank you Winchester for the great gift of your WSSM cartridge family! Their release was a great personal benefit for me. Our local Walmart put all of their rifles on clearance to make room for the new wunderkinder, so my dad and I were able to purchase five Remington 700 and Winchester 70 rifles with scopes for $225 each in 30-06, 270, and 300 Win mag. My wonderful wooden stocked 700 in 270 is my favorite deer rifle, and has vanquished its share of deer, all while using inexpensive readily available ammunition.
    I’m can’t remember the last time I saw WSSM ammo available at any price.

    • Kevin October 23, 2017, 8:57 am

      I am so jealous. Way to be at the right place and time.

  • Praedor October 23, 2017, 6:14 am

    I am settled on .308. I like it, components are plentiful, it’s usable for a wide range of uses, and is good out to 800yds for sure, up to 1000yds with the right bullet (Alco). I acknowledge that the 6.5 Creedmoor has superior general ballistics (except when the .308 is an Alco – then they are very similar) but parts are harder to get, thus more expensive, and worse, the 6.5 rifle suffers bore erosion at a much higher rate than .308. I don’t have the cash to constantly be changing out barrels as my latest erodes away. A 30-06 has a brutal recoil and simply seems to be over kill.

  • Rollin Shultz October 23, 2017, 6:02 am

    Interesting and probably very accurate. When I was in my twenties, I had a 243 and a 30-06 (mauser argentina modelo circa 1918?). After American steel died, I had to everything to heat our home. 35yrs later I own 6.5 x 55 Swedish Mauser (Husqvarna CS780). Why, simply because I walked into a store one day and there it was standing in a rack of used rifles with a shiny 1\” stainless steel bull barrel, a 12 power Weaver scope and a $400 price tag. I figured for the money it was a win and I\’ll just see how good it goes. It had been modified I suppose by the previous owner, with re-welded bolt handle for scope use and included a bipod. I could not get it to sight in properly at all. I decided to dispose of the Weaver and its leupold mount as it was not very light emissive. I tried a Picatinny rail from EGW but I couldn\’t mount it as it was a half hole off in the bolt pattern. I live close to EGW, so I took it to them and they properly machined and mounted it. After that sighting in was easy for my new Nightforce BR 12-42×56. Since I have been shooting it, I have come to highly respect this cartridge. I would love to take it to 1,000 yards, but the closest range is 4 hours away and I am unable to travel well with my disability.The 6.5 x 55 doesn\’t get much mention or credit, so thanks for giving a positive opinion of it in your article.

  • Rollin Shultz October 23, 2017, 6:01 am

    Interesting and probably very accurate. When I was in my twenties, I had a 243 and a 30-06 (mauser argentina modelo circa 1918?). After American steel died, I had to everything to heat our home. 35yrs later I own 6.5 x 55 Swedish Mauser (Husqvarna CS780). Why, simply because I walked into a store one day and there it was standing in a rack of used rifles with a shiny 1″ stainless steel bull barrel, a 12 power Weaver scope and a $400 price tag. I figured for the money it was a win and I’ll just see how good it goes. It had been modified I suppose by the previous owner, with re-welded bolt handle for scope use and included a bipod. I could not get it to sight in properly at all. I decided to dispose of the Weaver and its leupold mount as it was not very light emissive. I tried a Picatinny rail from EGW but I couldn’t mount it as it was a half hole off in the bolt pattern. I live close to EGW, so I took it to them and they properly machined and mounted it. After that sighting in was easy for my new Nightforce BR 12-42×56. Since I have been shooting it, I have come to highly respect this cartridge. I would love to take it to 1,000 yards, but the closest range is 4 hours away and I am unable to travel well with my disability.

    The 6.5 x 55 doesn’t get much mention or credit, so thanks for giving a positive opinion of it in your article.

  • scott peterson October 23, 2017, 5:10 am

    Kudos to all of the Rifel Cal’s mentiond, All perform their intended Tasks and then some.
    P,S you forgot to mention anything about the 6,5 that i have, The 6.5 “JAP Mine is of military desent,along with its rival “In Battle” tha 7.57- 7mm bolth are mousers, these trickled down the family tree and i got them bolth. My Grandfather had set them up with Vernier calibrated peepsights, for ‘i was told Bench shooting Distance’, My ponderance is i havent had the Honor to shoot these but- 1 round in the 6.5 and 3 rounds in the 7.57 7mm,lack of ammo for each .but id like anothers take on these in genral?

  • Joseph Jasniewicz October 2, 2017, 6:10 am

    My granddaughter gets a whitetail every year with a 243 Winchester , I have taken dear with a 308, 30-06, 8mm Mauser , I belive it’s more about picking the right bullet weight for what your hunting and bullet placement .

    • Jay October 24, 2017, 9:42 am

      Nothing wrong with the 243 for hunting at all. I harvested a deer on a bet at a little over 400 yards with one many years ago! Still own the rifle and still shoots great. That’s one of the very reasons I settled on the 308 why back when! Happy hunting!

  • John doe September 30, 2017, 10:55 pm

    Sad thing is that there are so many boutique cartridges that are great but the manufacturers just stop producing components. When I went to the 6.5 caliber I got a 260. I can always form brass from 7-08, 243, or 308 in a pinch. Getting reasonably priced dedicated 260 brass is still a tough one. Remington is notorious for not supporting their creations. I’ve owned quite a few good rifles that just became unviable so I sold them when the writing on the wall was clear.

  • Mark N. September 30, 2017, 2:04 am

    Interesting article. I’ve been wondering why, though, and with the exception of the 6.5 Creedmoor, there has been a trend towards more and more powerful “magnum” cartridges. In particular, I find astonishing the popularity of the .300 Winchester Magnum among hunters who will never shoot anything bigger than a white tail. Elk and moose are regularly taken with .30-06 and .270, and not a whole lot of people are out hunting grizzlies. Why tolerate the punishment of a cartridge that is far more than needed?

    • Kirk C. September 30, 2017, 12:46 pm

      Good question?
      It has become a bit of a pissing match with some folks to be shooting a big beast of a rifle when for the most part its not really needed as you indicate.

    • Ky September 30, 2017, 11:25 pm

      I have found that a lot of it has to do with energy on impact for longer range shots. With more people exchanging “knowledge” on the internet, certain “rules” become gospel for some people. One such rule is that you need at least 1500 ftlbs of energy on impact to ethically kill an elk. It makes sense if you don’t think about it, as no arrow from any bow can come close to having that kind of energy, but nobody calls it unethical even though they take a while to fall after being shot most of the time. But people take the 1500ftlb rule seriously and find that in order to make an 800 yard shot on an elk ethical they need a magnum. Energy on impact is so subjective anyway depending on the design of the bullet and especially whether or not it exits. I personally don’t care about the calculated energy on impact. I just make sure the bullet can adequately expand at whatever velocity it hits. Compromising vital organs is what ensures kills, not energy on impact.

      • Richard Pitts October 2, 2017, 8:45 am

        Being from East Texas. I shot a lot of deer with shotgun, 30-30, and 45’s easy to handel on a horse. Now that I am 63 I hunt with a new england 45lc, 30-06 and Black powder 50 cal. Lived in Wa state and hunted with a 444 marlin, 25-06 and a 357 herret TC. Learned that shock power is what it is all about. I have shot the little white tail at 150yds and hogs with the 45 long colt with no issues. 1 shot 1 kill rule – firmly believe that a singel shot rifle will encourage a better placement. As a personal defense I carry 2 pistol always. Be vigilant and always be preparred, this the world we live in now. I HAVE CHOICES TO AVOID SITUATIONS AND BEING AROUND MOST BAD PEOPLE.

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