Given all of the things going on in our country sociologically, politically, as well as supply and demand wise, it could be very tough for those of us that live for the chase, and especially those that chase all year long. Years ago before I started working at a well-paying job, I hunted almost exclusively with a bow. It just made sense, you reuse your ammo, and day hunts, package hunts, and leases were cheaper for bowhunters. Those days have gone for me, I haven’t “needed” to bow hunt for close to 25 years. I also haven’t picked up my archery gear during that time. If I need to, in order to afford the expense of hunting I’m sure I could jump back in and return to form.
The biggest issue is “I don’t want to”…I like using my guns. I’ve invested money and effort into building them, finding them, and learning to be proficient with them. However, it is no secret that finding ammunition or components for ammunition can be tough to impossible. There are promises from suppliers and manufacturers that supplies will become easier to find, but one powder executive from one of our largest manufacturers has said, that it could be late 2021 or early 2022 before supply catches up to demand. Then only if there are no further delays, setbacks, or “emergencies”. If you are the type of hunter that goes and buys your annual supply of hunting ammo in one transaction, then you can probably hunt down your needed ammunition over the next few months. If you are someone that shoots and hunts all year long at various animals from prairie dogs to elk and buys ammunition, then you might have a hard time locating your necessary supplies. This is where being a reloader makes things not quite as bad, but depending on the condition of your supplies it could be prudent to be as miserly as possible.
Personally, I’ve decided to use fewer big magnum or higher powder capacity rounds this year, just to help with my powder consumption. As well as not pursuing new load development with untried powders. Luckily, I’ve already got enough loaded ammunition for my bigger capacity rounds to be able to use them for hunting through this year and next.
On the subject of high powder capacity rounds, my personal limit for this year is 45 grains of powder. If it uses more than 45grs. then I’m restricting its use to the ammunition that is already loaded. Using this as my yardstick, I can easily use almost any normal short-action round. The 308’s, 7mm08, and 260’s are all in play, including medium-sized rounds like 6.5×55 and 7×57. So for western hunting mule deer, pronghorn, or Coues deer, I’m good to go. Sadly, it eliminates 270’s, 338-06’s, and even some lever actions. Thankfully I have always enjoyed hunting more than shooting, so closing the distance to inside 250 yards is what makes the hunt, a hunt for me. I also enjoy hunting with a handgun and any normal handgun round will meet the powder capacity criteria, be it 357 magnum or 500 Linebaugh. This allows me to continue hunting with normal hunting handguns, and they have taken game to 100+ yards.
Lately, the 6.5 Grendel has been made available in some very nice bolt actions. This is a round normally found in MSR’s (Modern Sporting Rifles) as such it is a capable round and one I’ve used extensively for destructive animal abatement. In a bolt action, this round is one that, provided you are a hunter and can close the distance to your target to reasonable distances, will take game well out of its presumed weight class. Game as large as elk have been taken successfully with the little Grendel, and it uses powder charges weighing 30grs. and less. Using bullets in the 100 to 130 grain range suit this round very well, I’ve used both 100gr. and 125gr. Nosler partitions as well as 120gr. Hornady GMX. This round will see a lot of use this year with our family for everything from 40-pound coyotes to 250-pound feral hogs, and other game out to 250 yards. My powder of choice for the Grendel is Accurate Arms 2520.
Another round I’m familiar with that fills the requirements of low powder capacity is the 25×45 Sharps. This necked up .223 Remington does very well with bullets ranging from 87gr. to 100gr. and uses powder charges smaller than the Grendel. This little round and its older sibling the 6mm/223 have been taking game for quite a few years. Both of them work great on medium game, both provide very acceptable trajectory for use out to 250 yards as well. My 25 Sharps does well with modified 120gr. Nosler partitions, however, shots need to be limited to 150 yards with that load, simply due to acceptable trajectory. The powder I favor for the 25 Sharps is H4198.
If you have a need for taking larger game or prefer using heavier bullets then calibers like 30-30, or 35 Rem. will also use less powder. Two of my favorite lever actions are chambered in these calibers and are a joy to carry in the field as well as provide more than enough accuracy.
My Marlins are both scoped, the 30-30 in a scout-type configuration and the 35rem. in a normal configuration. The 30-30 runs a 150gr. bullet at 2200fps from its short 17” barrel, and the 35rem. uses a 220gr. bullet at the same velocity from its 20” barrel, Hodgdon’s Leverevolution is the powder of choice for both. I would not feel hindered in any way with game up to elk using the 35rem. out to 200 yards. I often refer to it as a mini 45-70, it is probably one of the most underappreciated medium bore calibers we have. In years past and even in hidden pockets of the country today it has a following that is cult-like. The platforms it was commonly available in fell out of favor and new shooters were convinced that more power was needed to kill game. The 30-30 and the 35rem. simply lost out to faster, bigger, and flatter shooting calibers. Those calibers use more powder and don’t really do anything better at reasonable hunting distances.
Another favorite levergun round is the 44 magnum. Mine is chambered in a Marlin 1894, a pre-safety gun I bought from an old gunsmith. The little 44 is not far behind the aforementioned 35rem. when it comes to performance. I recall an old Marlin ad claiming that it provided 10 rounds of powerful 44 magnum suitable for any black bear or deer around. I cannot dispute the claim, out to 150 yards I would shoot anything weighing 500 pounds or less and never worry about it. Using today’s newer tougher bullets, it simply makes the 44 magnum better and allows for improved performance at higher velocity. In a handgun, the 44 magnum is a capable round for anything on the planet. In fact, it has been used to take game as large as elephants. Here in the USofA, I’ve used 44 magnums to take deer, turkey, feral hogs, and coyotes. In a rifle, the 44 magnum gains about 300 fps over the handgun and this allows for increased performance. My little Marlin is quick to the shoulder and with a mini red dot sight, it is accurate to 150 yards for everything I intend to hunt with it. A 220gr. bullet gets 1775 fps using Hodgdon’s H110, it has become the only bullet I use in it.
The 300 Blackout in its originally intended form, 300 Whisper, is one of those rounds that I never really cared for using on medium game. The heavy bullets originally used were never intended to expand at such low velocity. It was also not intended to be used on four-legged game either. The use of lighter bullets 110gr. to 130gr. pushed at supersonic speed turn the 300BO into a better round for hunting. Its effective range is shorter than the Grendel or Sharps, but a 150-yard shot can be quite long in certain hunting areas. Utilizing some of our newer purpose built bullets for the 300BO allows for excellent results on all forms of medium game. The round is available in both MSR’s as well as bolt actions they are generally short and handy and make excellent guns for use in blinds or stands. My preference on bullets is either 110gr. Hornady SP or the 125gr. GMX from them. The powder I use is most often is Hodgdon H110, and its grains are measured in the teens for this round.
All of these mentioned rounds use very small powder charges and typically cases that are very easy to come by, except perhaps the 35rem. The standard short action rounds like 6.5CM, 260rem., 7-08, 308win., and 358win. can all be judiciously loaded and utilize less powder while giving up little to no performance. Even big thumpers like Marlin 444 or 45-70 can be loaded with powder charges that fit parameters and give up nothing in performance. Most of the commonly available centerfire 22’s will meet criteria and with modern premium bullets can be used quite successfully on medium game, and they are legal for this use in many states. Any of the rounds commonly found in small frame MSR’s, the 22 Valkyrie, 6.8 SPC, 458 SoCom, 450 Bushmaster will all fit parameters and perform very well on game.
While you might not care for MSR’s personally, there is no denying that the platform has allowed for development into some very capable small powder charge rounds. Much like the Thompson/Center Contender and Remington XP100 did back in the ’70s and ’80s during the heyday of the metallic silhouette. Luckily many of the rounds that will save us powder and allow us to hunt are available on traditional rifle platforms like bolt action, lever action, or single shot. Several of the rounds are simply ones that have been set aside and almost forgotten due to their age, they are just as effective today as they were in their heyday, a few examples are the 250-3000, 300 Savage, 7×57 Mauser, and various 6.5mm’s.
If you are a traditional handgun hunter then you really have no limitations, provided you currently have supplies to load. As I said earlier, everything from 357magnum to 500 Linebaugh will use little powder and can be used to take game from deer to Cape buffalo.
The guns and rounds can accurately be used to 100 yards and beyond. I’ve personally used my scoped revolvers in traditional straight walled calibers to 100 and 200 yards, for deer, pronghorn, and feral pigs.
A casual reading of a reloading manual shows no fewer than 25 calibers, not including the centerfire 22’s and handgun calibers that can be loaded to full or very close to full potential and still use 45 grains of powder or less. Those calibers are commonly available ones not obscure virtually nonexistent ones.
So if you enjoy hunting as much as I do, and want to continue your pursuit of game. Then do so judiciously and make your supplies last as long as possible through careful use. You’ll still be using primers and bullets on a one-for-one basis, but you can use smaller bullets and those typically are cheaper than the larger heavier ones.
Keep your powder and primers dry and in a temperature-controlled space and they will most assuredly last beyond this crisis. Keep your loaded ammunition the same way and it too will last a very long time. I will still use my larger caliber, larger capacity rounds to hunt with, especially on larger game but my local hunts and medium game hunts will be done using what I’ll call Miser calibers.
Stay safe out there, and be smart. This too shall pass.