Need a versatile rifle, which caliber?


December 8, 2006, 04:17 PM
Hello all,

I am looking to purchase a rifle that I can use for hunting as well as fun to shoot targets at the range. I reload my handgun cartridges and probably will reload rifle also. Which cartridge would you recommend that I can shoot game effectively and also shoot targets without getting too beat up. Would be hunting whitetails, but possibly larger animals in the future.

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one eye joe
December 8, 2006, 04:26 PM
You don't state what you want to hunt. If you plan on hunting small animals, say up thru coyote, I would get a .223. If you want to hunt deer, will it be in heavy timber or open areas. For the timber, a .30-30 works fine, though it isn't a great target gun. For all around use for a reloader, take a hard look at the 6.5x55 Swedish. It has won many target matches, is used on animals up thru moose, and doesn't recoil much at all. It can be handloaded to .25-06 levels with lighter bullets, and .7-08 levels with the heaver bullets. Works faily well in timber, and is a good long range round. Factory ammunition is anemic, so you have to reload to bring out it's potential.

December 8, 2006, 04:28 PM
Well, you didn't mention what kind of "game" you're going to hunt, or where, but very, very few animals on the North American continent will not go down very quickly with a good hit from a .308 Win.

Also, it's not an expensive caliber with which to practice, and it won't "beat you up" after a practice session.


December 8, 2006, 04:38 PM
Check your local hunting regulations. .223 is a cheap, accurate, and comfortable to shoot round that is good for target shooting and hunting. Some states do not allow .223 for deer, but it is a good round for anything smaller. A good bolt action should be able to place rounds on target out past 800 yards and the cheap price of ammo will let you put a lot of rounds down range.

If you are going to be hunting deer then I would sugest stepping up to a .243 or .270. .30-30 is a great round and lever guns are fun to shoot, but usually don't have the range of bolt actions. More powerful rounds like the .300 and 7mm get more performance but are more expensive and more specialized.

If you want a nice gun that is good for the range or popping rabbits, get something between .223 and .270. If you want to be able to hunt deer, go .270 or .30-30.

December 8, 2006, 04:39 PM
Well, it depends on what you want to hunt.

You state you don't want to "get too beat up" so I assume you mean low felt recoil.

Without any more information from you, I'd suggest looking into a .243, 7mm-08, or .270.

A heavier rifle will reduce the felt recoil. Shoot lighter loads at paper, heavier bullets at game. A .270 will work for anything from coyotes up though (arguably) moose.


December 8, 2006, 04:42 PM
OOOps, disregard.

December 8, 2006, 05:09 PM
7mm-08, especially if you reload. Light recoil, flat shooting, and lethal enough for any kind of game you are likely to go after. The 7mm-08 and .243 are both based on the .308 cartridge, with the neck sized down appropriately. Some people (like me) don't like the recoil of the .308, and the .243 is kind of anemic for elk or large pig. 7mm-08 ballistics are essentially the same as those of the 7x57 mauser, also called the .275 Rigby. That caliber was used all over Africa and India to take large or dangerous game, as well as ordinary meat animals.

December 8, 2006, 05:32 PM
I do not know about larger animals than whitetails, but in all other respects, I would recommend a .243.
You might just love the Remington 7600 pump in that caliber, especially with 10-rd mags.

Fully floating barrel for bolt-like accuracy, fast follow-up shots, powerfull cartrige, excellent ballistics on 100gr bullets that you can push out at 3000+
At the same time, you can load lead 80-grains at 1500fps for 22-like feel.


Joe Gunns
December 8, 2006, 05:42 PM
If you're not a reloader, .30-06 offers wide range of cmmercial rounds from saboted .22's to heavy bullet loads adequate (tho not ideal) for the biggest North American game.

December 8, 2006, 05:45 PM
I would say .223, but many states dont allow deer hunting with that round so for you its out of the question. If you reload then ammo cost isnt much of a factor, you may want to look at the .308win. Other posters seem to have overlooked that you want to go plinking with it, and the .308win is a better choice for that than a .270, 7mm, or 30-06 for fun shooting. I have dropped a few whitetails and with a good hollow or soft point .308 is more than up to the task.

December 8, 2006, 05:46 PM
I'd recommend a .308.

If you want light recoil, a .308 autoloader (Remington 7400, Springfield M1A) will suit you fine. My girlfriend has back problems and can shoot my M1A all day long.

A bolt action .308 will be a bit stiffer in recoil, but probably another 1/2 MOA more accurate in general. Certainly not unmanageable, IMO.

.308 is one of the most popular long range marksmanship cartridges out there. It will kill varmints with non-expanding, ultra accurate 168gr or 175gr sierra HPBT matchking loads. It will kill deer with 150gr softpoint loads, and it will kill elk with 180gr partition loads. Just need to dial in the scope each time you change loads.

My M1A runs only 2 types of ammo: 165gr Remington Pointed softpoints and 168gr Hornady HPBT target loads. I don't need to change my sights at all when shooting either of these. POI doesn't change between the ammo, just size of groups. The Hornady is much more consistent than the Remington, but the Remington is a better value for range blasting and a better constructed hunting bullet than the Hornady HPBT.

With my 18" barrel, iron aperture sights and my less than 20/20 vision, I keep 1.5" groups with the match ammo and about 3" groups with the Remington stuff. Military Surplus ammo I have shot runs around 4-5 MOA. Other folks do much better with their .308's, having either better vision, better optics or better skill than me. Doesn't take much to have at least one of those.:p

Ray P
December 8, 2006, 06:19 PM
My question is "What distances are you planning to shoot?"

45-70 is adequate for any game on the NA continent. But it tends to have a rainbow trajectory; dropping off quickly after 200 yds.

That is not to say one can't get excellent long-range performance out of a 45-70, but you do need a vernier tang rear sight with extensive vertical adjustment. A scope just doesn't cut it.

If you hunt mostly in close cover, you won't benefit from a 223 or 308.

If you need to reach the muley on the next ridgeline over, a 30-30 or 45-70 may not be your best choice.

December 8, 2006, 07:43 PM
...260 Rem...

December 8, 2006, 07:45 PM
I'd say the .308 if you are planning on shooting large game. Otherwise, I'm rather partial to the .223.

December 9, 2006, 12:09 AM
When choosing a gun I ask myself 3 questions. Will it be reliable, is it as powerful as it needs to be, and can I get ammo and hopefully spare parts just about anywhere in the country. Common guns and common calibers are common for a reason, and that is because they work.

For that reason I reccomend you get a .308 bolt gun. Surplus .308 is scarce right now, but compared to a lot of other calibers it really is a good deal. You can get a Remington 710 in .308 for 350 bucks or so, ready to go. Comes with a scope. I'd go for something like that.

Edit- I think the 710 is a .270 and 30/06. I'm probably thinking of the entry level Remington 700's

December 9, 2006, 12:14 AM

December 9, 2006, 01:11 AM
Some several years ago, Dan Wesson demonstrated that you can take darn near anything with a .357 sidearm.

I got to see a photo a couple weeks ago of a bison brought down with a S&W 686 4-inch revolver (.357 in stainless) at 71 yards. The round went all the way through.

While everything that's been said above is good info, I would offer up a carbine that shoots Dan Wesson's versatile .357 round.

Marlin 1894C. It will let you shoot .38 for practice, .38+p for HD, and .357 for a wide range of game out to 150 yards or better.

The recoil is very manageable, so you won't suffer while practicing. The cost of .38 is pretty manageable, too.

And, for what it's worth, it's pretty and warm and cuddly and traditional-looking and unlikely to alarm common folk.

December 9, 2006, 03:29 AM
the best, most versatile handloader out there, right now is the 260 remmy. My alltime fave cartridge is the 6mm remmy. a 100 grn factory bullet moves out about 200 fps faster than a 243, with it's super long neck, it has much better accuracy, and bbl life to it... you can handload it with bullets from 80 grains up to about 105 or 110 I think. But you can buy the factory remmy rounds for 10 or 12 or so dollars a box all day.

Chuck Perry
December 9, 2006, 05:35 AM
While everything that's been said above is good info, I would offer up a carbine that shoots Dan Wesson's versatile .357 round.

Not to be confused with the Smith and Wesson 357 Magnum :neener:

December 9, 2006, 06:09 AM
Accurate, mild recoil and deadly. It's not easy finding rifles chambered for it. But they do exist.

December 9, 2006, 07:56 AM
Another vote for the humble 30-06.

Essex County
December 9, 2006, 11:48 AM
I'm a firm believer in rounds like the .260, 6.5X55 and the 7-08. Mild, but effective..........Essex

December 9, 2006, 11:54 AM
Depending upon where you live, you might want to consider an SKS. Cheap, reliable, enough power for whitetail, and some gonzo plinking. Just stay away from all these surplus Yugos and the "tactical" aftermarket junk.

December 10, 2006, 07:56 AM

December 10, 2006, 08:47 AM
Would be hunting whitetails, but possibly larger animals in the future.
Either you edited your post or everyone missed this. Pretty much rules out .223 and .243/6mm IMO.

Personally, I wouldn't get too excited about any particular caliber if you're going to reload. A deer really won't know if it's been shot with a .270, 30-06, or 7 mag. Doesn't matter what shape the case is, 150 grain bullets at 2,800 fps are gonna be pretty much equal in the real world.

If recoil's an issue (and no matter what someone says, it does work on you after a day at the range), I'd stick with .260, 6.5 Swede, .257 Roberts, 7mm-08 etc.

I'd buy whatever gun I could get a screaming deal on, and spend the difference on glass and practice ammo.


December 10, 2006, 09:06 AM
.243 Winchester
.7.62x39 ??? :D

December 10, 2006, 09:21 AM
Well, the 30-06 is STILL probably the most versitile cartridge out there.

But, nowadays, a .308 is not all that much different, if you handload.

Still, were it me, and I could only have one, I'd go for the 30-06, for just a little extra "oomph" that can be gained from the larger case capacity.

December 10, 2006, 09:31 AM
Look no further than the .308 Winchester. If you're a real recoil wimp (the .308 is NOT bad) try the 260 Remington. There are many others, but I love the .308 for its accuracy, power, and versatility. There's plenty of cheap, cheap surplus brass around and it's very easy to reload. It's also a short action which is a bonus to me.

the 06 KICKS, especially with heavy bullets. It's almost as bad as a 7mm Remington Magnum. I doubt you'd like it if you don't like recoil. The .308 will do anything the 06 will do up to 180 grains and if you need more bullet, just use a Barnes X in a lighter bullet. A 140 Barnes is as good on elk as any 180-200 grain lead bullet, better really since it has the sectional density of a 160 grain bullet and the velocity of a 140 grain bullet and WILL NOT fall apart. Expansion is positive right down to .30-30 velocities, too. I'll take on anything in North America short of big bears with a .308 and a Barnes bullet.

December 10, 2006, 04:03 PM
I appreciate that there are those who caution against thinking that one long gun can do all things, but when I read the threads here asking what is to be hunted, where, at what range, etc., I can't help but think that the old 30-06 probably comes as close as any to fitting that bill. Perhaps not all the way, but real close.

In the same breath I will admit little experience with the other choices mentioned in this thread, so I'm certainly not debating the issue. But the guy who can't afford, or doesn't desire to purchase, an armory of weapons, might be interested in something which has at least a long history in its favor.

I will admit that my marvelous .03 makes me (probably unfairly) prejudiced in favor of the versatile 30-06, but it is a fact that for some almost 50 years I have loaded various ammo for her which I have used hunting rabbits in Texas on one end and brownies in Alaska on the other. Perhaps a little tough on rabbits, but it doesn't matter when a head shot is always expected. :cool:

The elderly '03 is a very flexible and dependable weapon which has never let me down. I fashioned her fiberglas-bedded stock, free-floating, scoped her with a flip-mount (invaluable in wooded brownie country), and finished her off with the necessary safety modification and a Timney trigger. Nothing complicated or difficult, but the result was well-worth the effort.

Hard to beat the '03 and 30-06 in one package.

All the best,


Black Snowman
December 10, 2006, 04:17 PM
I like 308 because it's available in a shorter action than the 06 and there are far more options for compatible rifles if you expand your collection that can share ammo. Plus, some surplus 308 is still available for plinking and some of it the brass is even good for reloading. 30-06 in decent surplus has pretty much dried up. The ballistics aren't enough in my book to warrent making the jump to 06.

December 11, 2006, 03:18 AM
243 Winchester is a fine all around cartridge.

It won't beat you up, and it is plenty for anything from varmints to deer.

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