The Best Rifle Cartridge for Deer

I recently read an article in a hunting magazine about what the best deer cartridge is.

There are essentially infinite rifle cartridges. I think I’m right in saying that every rifle cartridge is capable of knocking a deer over. But some are more appropriate than others.

A very small cartridge, like a .22 Long Rifle or .17 HMR, can kill a deer, but you will have no room for error. One of these small cartridges will not be as able to shoot through bones like bigger cartridges can.

Great big cartridges, like a .416 Rigby and .375 H&H, are also capable of killing deer, but the recoil and weight of the rifles make them too large to be suitable animals the size of deer.

The size of the deer will play a part in deciding the best rifle cartridge. Deer in warmer climates are smaller than deer in northern climes. The ideal bullet size will vary with the size of the deer.

The amount of cover the hunting occurs in will also affect the ideal bullet size. I’m told that a flat nosed bullet will go through brush better than pointed bullets, which are liable to be deflected by brush. Long distance shooting requires a bullet that is as aerodynamic as possible, and that means pointed bullets.

A rifle cartridge can’t be both big and small and both blunt and pointed, so no cartridge can be ideal in every situation.

But a cartridge can be ideal for many situations and good in others. I think that the best deer cartridge should be big enough to work on the heavier bodied Northern deer and flat shooting enough to work at long ranges. A cartridge big enough for big deer should be big enough for small deer. And a cartridge good at a long distance should be good at short distances.

The ideal cartridge should also be widely available so that you can buy more bullets wherever you go. And not so big that its recoil is excessive.

The magazine article I read decided that the .308 Win, .30-06 Sprg., and the .300 Win Mag are the top three deer cartridges. I’ve shot deer with all three, and the .300 Win Mag is a fine cartridge, but its size means that not many cartridges will fit in a gun, and its recoil is far more than is needed for whitetail deer.

I would suggest that the .308 Win, .30-06 Sprg., and the .270 Win are the three best deer cartridges. They are good at a distance, have been around for decades, are widely available, and are a good size for any whitetail.

That article finally decided that the .30-06 Sprg. is the best deer cartridge becasue it is the most widely available of the author’s top three. There is some merit in that argument. Anywhere in North America, and probably the world, will have .30-06 Sprg. cartridges available for sale.


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