Favorite sub-.30 caliber rifle cartridges for White Tail Deer


December 24, 2008, 09:57 AM
I wanted to get some pros and cons on the sub 30 caliber deer cartridges. I have never fired one of these, and am looking for something easier on the shoulder than 30-06 or 308.

I was considering 243 and 25-06. How do these compare? What other good choices are out there. I don't want anything uncommon. I would like to be able to walk into any Wal Mart or gun store and find ammo on the shelf.

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December 24, 2008, 10:30 AM
a 270 is proly the king of the sub 30 cals, and is much milder, in my opinion, than a 308 or 30.06. I had never fired a 270 before this year, in my whole life, but had done plenty of 30 cals and bigger. I was absolutely amazed at how much more mild the recoil was on the 270.
That being said, if limiting yourself to deer, I believe a 243 is the perfect rifle, nothing more is needed, it is fast, flat and accurate. Loaded with 100 grain softpoints, it will drop any deer/antelope/elk , that you can put it on.
to me, the 25.06 is just a faster/flatter 243, so the rounds are more expensive, but if you need a 500 yd shot, the 25 can pull that off...
then you have 6.5's, and they are all great, plus the 257 roberts, another fab round. The 6.5 swede is a fabulous round, there are great new rifles made for it, by CZ, and plenty of swiss made milsurp rifles, and ammo out there as well. which will all be amazingly accurate. even the milsurp ammo is accurate; heck it is swiss made. and cheaper. The 6.5 will do anything you want as well, and is a long range shooters preferred choice with heavy bullets.
It is a mild recoil as well, less than the 270, more closer like the 243.

December 24, 2008, 10:32 AM
I was sort of leaning toward 243, or maybe 25-06. Is there a noticeable difference in recoil between these two? Ballistics look fairly close. I don't think I would ever need to shoot longer than 250 yds max, and that would be a really really long shot.

December 24, 2008, 10:33 AM
Ranger, I'd lean more toward the 7mm Mag being more popular than the .270. Not that the .270 is any kind of slouch, but mostly because I know more people with 7mm Mags, 7mm-08's, 7x57's, etc... The only other .270 I hear anything about is the 6.8SPC, and it's not as populr as it probably should be. But that's probably due to it's newness, and the lack of real support, and or lack of mass production/adoption... but either way, both the .270 and the 7mm classes are great deer rifles...


I personally have a 7mm-08 and love it... recoil isn't unmanagable, accuracy is excellent, ammo is available at all the WalMarts I've been to... I reload my own though... If you want the 30 cal, but without the recoil of the .308 pr 30-06, there's always the 30-30 Win. Marlin and Winchester both make great rifle for in that caliber....

December 24, 2008, 10:35 AM
I'd stay in the .308 family with 7-08 or .260. For woods and close range, the 7-08 managed recoil load with a 140 gr bullet has .30-30 recoil but much better ballistics. And of course full power long range loads are there, but I don't know that they have much less recoil than the .30s. Then there's .257 Roberts. I personally would like to see more rifles in 6.8spc.

December 24, 2008, 10:38 AM
I guess I should have reworded my post... I am more interested in 25 caliber rounds than 27 caliber rounds.

December 24, 2008, 10:44 AM
Well, ok, there's the 6mm Rem and or the 260 Rem... but if you're leaning toward 25 cal, and being reasonably available pretty much anywhere ya go... the 25-06 is probably your best bet. Although, the 260 Rem is quickly becoming a very popular cartridge just about everywhere....

December 24, 2008, 10:45 AM
am looking for something easier on the shoulder than 30-06 or 308.
I feel your pain. I know this is not in answer to the question you were asking, but those new Limbsaver recoil pads in slip on or screw on configurations take the sting out of the .30-06. I was amazed, it is now like shooting my .243. They are a little pricey at around $30, but they do work.

December 24, 2008, 11:14 AM
If you're looking for something that much smaller, you probably won't find a better round than the .243.

Easy recoil, good ammo availability means it can be found just about everywhere, and it's available in almost every rifle the .308 is.

Incidentally, the rifle is every bit as important as the round. A five pound youth model .243 will feel similar to an eight pound .308.

Brian Williams
December 24, 2008, 11:14 AM
If you are leaning towards, the .25, go with the 250-3000, It is a very good cartridge, but have fun finding it on shelves.
I like the 243 but prefer the 7mm-08.
With todays loads anything between 243 and 308 is good for most deer, it just depends on what platform you are shooting it out of for the cartridge.

Redneck with a 40
December 24, 2008, 11:19 AM
243 winchester is perfect for deer.

December 24, 2008, 11:35 AM
.25-06 or .257 Weatherby Magnum which is now available in the Vangard. I personally do not care for the .243. From personal experience the deer just don't bleed. It makes tracking a deer 30-40 in a cutover or thick stuff a daunting task. MY .270 doesn't kill any better but they just bleed way more.

December 24, 2008, 11:42 AM
My favorite sub-.30s for deer are (in order of preferrence) 7x57mm Mauser,7mm-08 Remington and 7mm Rem.magnum. The first two for mild recoil and the magnum for extended range shots.

December 24, 2008, 12:06 PM
I like the 7mm's personally. I have a 7mm-08 and a 7-30 Waters. If you reload you can load them how you like. A 243 is a good round and cheaper to shoot I just like to throw a little bigger chunk of lead at deer.

December 24, 2008, 12:37 PM
I think the .243 or the .25-06 would be fine for your needs. I have a .243, but I currently hunt deer with a 7mm-08 or 30-30. At least where I live, .25-06 ammo is much less available than .243 though. That might be different where you live though. .243 ammo is generally cheaper as well. For deer inside 250 yards and most shots much less, .243 is fine. If you were expecting shots on the longside of that range regularly, .25-06 might be preferred.

December 24, 2008, 12:46 PM
You should skip the 7mm mag if you already have a 30-06 and you are looking for something easier on the shoulder. Also, if you are shooting at ranges of less than 250yards, the 7mm mag offers you nothing that a lesser recoiling, flat shooter like .270/.25-06/.243 does.

December 24, 2008, 01:50 PM
I've got a 280 (7mm Remington express)
Ruger Mark 2 stainless,shoots good,seems to kill stuff better than it should.
Rangerruck is right about the 243 if all you are shooting is deer,IMO it's the best of the "deer rifle" rounds.
Accurate in everything I've shot it in,and plenty of power for deer.
.223 is okay too,just have to be sure before you drop the hammer.

December 24, 2008, 01:58 PM
"...I am more interested in 25 caliber rounds... "

As you probably know, the three most common .25 calibers are the .250/3000 (aka .250 Savage), the .257 Roberts, and the .25/06.

All of them are very, very good deer calibers out to at least 300yds.

Factory ammo for any of them is generally available but not to the same extent as ammo for the .243 or .270 or 7mm calibers.

The .25/06 will be available in a wider variety of rifles and models than the other two.

The .25/06 really requires a 24" or 26" barrel to be notably more than the .257 Roberts.

The .25/06 and .257 Roberts will do an (arguably) better job of handling the larger .25 caliber bullets (100gr. - 120gr.) than the .250 Savage.

The .25/06 is close to the .270 in recoil. Its' muzzle report is quite loud and sharp.... notably more so than the other two .25s.

Good Luck !

December 24, 2008, 02:42 PM
I am more interested in 25 caliber rounds than 27 caliber rounds..

As Shawnee noted, there is a slim difference between a 25'06 and a 270.
You probably would be happy with a 243 for deer. You would be happier with a 260 or 6.5x55, because of the amazing BC & SD of these bullets. The performance of the 6.5 caliber gives you an edge on angling shots over the 243 and is still easy shooting on the shoulder.
Regardless of your choice, proper bullet and shot selection is the key to success.


December 24, 2008, 02:44 PM
don't forget the 257 weatherby mag.

December 24, 2008, 03:21 PM
I think one of the requirements I had specified was easy to find ammo... Some of the choices I am seeing look like it might be hard to find ammo in small stores or Wal Mart.

December 24, 2008, 03:33 PM
I think ammo availability is often over-rated in threads. I would think one would enter hunting season with plenty of ammo. I can't really imagine needing to find it on the spur of the moment at some small store. I wouldn't base a rifle or cartridge choice on ammo availability. Likewise, I'm not shooting thousands of rounds a year from a hunting rifle so ammo cost would not be a factor for me. By the way another .25 not mentioned is .25-35, a cartridge that I'd love to see make a comeback.

December 24, 2008, 04:00 PM
"I think ammo availability is often over-rated in threads. I would think one would enter hunting season with plenty of ammo."

Gotta agree with "Woof" on that one. The old "it's sold in every backwoods gas station" is just outdated holdover "knowledge" from Jack O'Conner talking about the .30/06 back in the 1920s.

Three boxes of ammo will last a deer hunter a very long time.


December 24, 2008, 04:06 PM
Three boxes of ammo will last a deer hunter a very long time.

What if you don't have them with you? I went hunting a couple hundred miles from home a few years ago. Want to take a guess what I forgot to bring? It was nice to be able to find 30-06 ammo everywhere. So I think its an issue, at least for me. I would rather have something common.

December 24, 2008, 04:18 PM
Most of the cartridges mentioned are availabe at walmart to some degree... might not carry every brand or every option, but you can find at least one or two boxes of just about everything mentioned... Today would not be a good time to go look... as deer season just ended (rifle season) and everyone is in a panick buy due to the President Elect... go figure...

Good luck...

December 24, 2008, 04:27 PM
I have never seen .257 Roberts, 6.5x55 Swede, .250 Savage, 25/3000, 6.8 spc, or even 7mm-08 in a Wal Mart around here.

December 24, 2008, 04:37 PM
A realy nice sub-thirty with low recoil is the oft forgotten 250 Savage. I've been successfully hunting with it's offspring the 6.5-250. 140 grain bullets at 2600 fps with low recoil. Yes, I know you want off the shelf, just providing info for something resembling a 250 or 260. The 7mm-08 is in the same ballpark.

If you must have what friend calls utterly boring ordinary for off the shelf availability then you're probably going with the 243 or 270. At that point personally I'd pick the 270 as it's even more ordinary than the 243. As a range officer, I've helped a lot of people sight in and shoot, both cartridges offer enough recoil reduction from the 30-06 to make easier shoot and that's much more important than more speed.

December 24, 2008, 04:38 PM
.243 hopefully to be followed by the 6.8 that haven't shot yet.

December 24, 2008, 05:07 PM
Any shop that sells weatherby rifles will most likly have 257 wthb mag in stock as they still produce guns chamber in it.

December 24, 2008, 05:11 PM
"I have never seen .257 Roberts, 6.5x55 Swede, .250 Savage, 25/3000, 6.8 spc, or even 7mm-08 in a Wal Mart around here."

Local conditions may vary but, in general, the .243 ammo will be easier to come up with than .25/06 ammo.

Whatever you can do to deer with a .25/06 you can also do with a .243. The .243 can be had in rifles of shorter OAL and lesser weight than the .25/06, and also in action types other than the bolt-action. There is a big difference in recoil between the .243 and the .25/06.


December 24, 2008, 06:21 PM
Lone, You're joking right? You're going to pick a rifle based on ammo being sold everywhere in case you forget to take your ammo? What if you forget the rifle? your hunting license? your pants? :)

December 24, 2008, 10:11 PM
Lone, You're joking right? You're going to pick a rifle based on ammo being sold everywhere in case you forget to take your ammo? What if you forget the rifle? your hunting license? your pants?

No not joking. If i forgot my rifle, license, or pants I guess I would have to buy more of those too.

Have you ever lost anything while travelling? Maybe you live in a big city, I am not sure. What I am telling you is that in the town I live in, I cannot buy uncommon caliber cartridges. I could probably find any caliber within an hours drive, but finding 257 Roberts, for example, would be kind of hard to do on the spur of the moment.

December 25, 2008, 12:24 AM
I really don't find much of a diff between the 243, and the 25.06 as far as recoil goes. not that there isn't a diff, but the 25's rifle is heavier, generally speaking, a heavier , longer bbl, and a longer action. the diff in round weight is about 20 grains max. The amount of powder burnt is similar as well.
Again, Wetherby rounds are not common, and expensive, and 257 roberts, is a necked down 7x57, which is more common and a great round as well, but still not near as common as a 243 or 25.
I think you could be quite happy with either, and both are pretty interchangeable for what they do.
As for the 270, I have a friend that just finished working at Carter's Country, in Houston for years. He said, for the last 10 years, the number 1 rifle cal sold through their stores was anything in 270, and that for the last 10 years, it was also sold as the number 1 rifle for specifically for hunting deer.
it is a darn good round, and just as fast as a 25.

December 25, 2008, 01:15 PM
.25-06 to me is more of a Varmint/designated antelope round (well that's what I've used it for). Lots of .25-06 rifles are heavy barrel varminters. Thing the heaviest bullet I've fired from a 25-05 is 117gr. It's "enough" for game up to Elk (some people use it for that) but I'd MUCH rather have a 30.-06 and a heavier bullet.

My .243 is a single shot, also a varminter. I think most of what I've fired from it is 70 gr ballistic tips. Federal makes a 100gr partition bullet that would be well suited for whitetail.

Lots of .243 rifles out there in a variety of actions. In a bolt action the 243 is a short action, the 25-06 a long action. The .243 is 'faster' for a follow up shot.

one eye joe
December 25, 2008, 04:31 PM
I had a .243. Nothing wrong with it, just didn't care for it. Recoil is mild, and lots of people try to lessen it even more by using lighter bullets. BAD move! I have used a .25-06 since 1972, It kills deer with shots I would be afraid of with the .243. Recoil is quick, but not necessarily hard. 120 grain bullets recoil apprecaibly more than 100 grainers, and come fairly close to 130 grain bullets in .270 (which has an even quicker recoil cycle). My current favorite round is the 6.5x55. Recoil is more of a push than a quick jab, and is easy to take. Your fear of forgetting ammo may be justified in your mind, but most people will disagree. You can order ammo online, if it isn't available locally, and you can always carry the .30 caliber as a back up in case your scope fails, the stock breaks, you forget ammo, or any of the other gremlins that could possibly happen. Since you are leaning toward a .25, go with the .257 Roberts if you have a need for greatly reduced recoil, the .25-06 if you can take a reasonable amount. If it were me, I would look for a .260 or 6.5x55, buy a supply of ammunition, and double check everything before a trip, and then check again.

December 25, 2008, 04:42 PM
If it were me, I would look for a .260 or 6.5x55, buy a supply of ammunition, and double check everything before a trip, and then check again.

What happens when the airline loses the bag your ammo is packed in?

I guess just cancel the hunting trip and fly back home.

Float Pilot
December 25, 2008, 05:31 PM
6.5x55 Swede Mauser
7 x57mm Mauser
257 Roberts (a necked down 7x57mm)

Or the two newer cartridges that do exactly the same thing in a slightly shorter case.

260 Rem (just a 6.5mm in a 308 case)
7mm-08 (same case with a 7mm bullet.

The only problem with the shorter cases is that they do not do well with heavier bullets in case you decide to hunt something larger.

December 25, 2008, 05:43 PM
I'd like a .260 Rem and/or a .257 Roberts myself...

December 25, 2008, 09:26 PM
Shawnee and I often battle it out about the .25-06 and the .243. He likes the .243 and I like the .25-06. I can't remember how many .25-06s he has owned but I sure know he favors .243 and .270 over the .25-06. I personally think that the .25-06 is a MUCH better bullet than the .243. I will agree that the other two calibers are more available and that they have more load options, but having used all three I can faithfully say that the .25-06 is the most fun of them all. That may be because I handload. If you handload I bet you will end up liking the .25-06 more. One more thing.

The .25/06 is close to the .270 in recoil. Its' muzzle report is quite loud and sharp.... notably more so than the other two .25s.

My experience has been that .25-06 is no where near as much recoil as the .270.

December 25, 2008, 09:33 PM
I would think the .25-06 and the .270 would have identical recoil with the same weight bullet.

December 25, 2008, 09:53 PM
A well made 30-06 (Remington, Browning) with a Limbsaver recoil pad really isn't too bad at all.

December 25, 2008, 10:12 PM
another fan of the 7-08 and the 7mag. 7's are very good ballistically speaking...

Deer Hunter
December 25, 2008, 10:43 PM

Big Bill
December 26, 2008, 12:10 AM
.25-06 HANDS DOWN!!! Don't bother with any other cartridge for deer. I have a Ruger m77 and wouldn't trade it for anything.

December 26, 2008, 02:40 AM
the equation that we need to look at is not "what do i like best" it is "what do i want to achieve" the answer might be "to buy a rifle to efficiently kill a deer at reasonable ranges(200yds-) within the parameters of the recoil "comfortz0one"" so you need to look at how that is to be achieved. "i need to deliver a bullet to the animal that is capable of killing the animal at a speed that will allow it to work so we might look at a hunting bullet between 100-150 gr. "i want to deliver 130 gr bullet at 2800+ fps (muzzle vel) (for example)

then choose a round that gives that performance midway through it's possible bullet wieghts, that way you are more likely to get the twist rate right, or at least, close enough.

if you choose a rifle and want to shoot the heaviest bullets from it ie a .243 win and you wish to shoot 100-105 gr bullets that removes a degree of flexibility and gives a margin of error with bullet wieghts. I have a ruger that does not stabalise 105's very well at all and is just passable with 100s but excellant with 80s.

Where as my 7mm08 shoots rounds fromm 100 gr to 175 gr so 120-130-145 are well within that range and it shoots them well. I currently shoot 120 gr bullets through it. it has a really short barrell and lighter bullets mean faster powder which means better efficiency in this rifle.

Finally choose your rifle based on the bullet you want to shoot, the rifles twist rate barrel length and what you like.

If i was buying my model 7 again, i would n't. I would buy a 700 with a 24 inch barrel. this would allow me to make better use of heavier bullets and slower powders.

In my opinion the rifle is a "delivery platform" to allow you to deliver the bullet you want, where you want to and fast enough.

7mm08, 260 rem are both great rounds. 6.5 x 55 is a classic round as well. 7 x 57 mauser is another great.

i hope this explanation of my logic in round selection helps (but i doubt it)


December 26, 2008, 07:03 AM

A very fine post.

December 26, 2008, 06:41 PM
I love my .270 and it gets my vote. That said, my next caliber will be a 7mm-08.

December 26, 2008, 09:45 PM
243 or 260

December 26, 2008, 10:22 PM
.270 WBY mag

December 26, 2008, 10:33 PM
A well placed shot from any of the calibers listed and the deer won't know the difference.

December 26, 2008, 11:17 PM
well you gotta think if you will be hunting more than whitetails

the .243 will be great for deer and it little bigger, i knew a guy that whan he was a kid shot his first elk with one because his family needed food and that was what he had to use, its been said before shot placement is key

the .25-06 is a great round and will be fine for elk just like the .270 but id trust a .270 a bit more for stuff like big moose

any will do fine really they all are pretty flat shooting and pack enough punch for deer

December 26, 2008, 11:38 PM
I jumped in and did not read all the responses, so forgive any repetition:

I think a Swedish Mauser in 6.5x55 is perfect for your needs. The round will not be as available as 30-06, 30-30 or .270 in the gas stations on the way to go hunting, but it is plentiful in sporting goods stores. Also - it is one of the best (if not THE best) military rifles for hunting ever made. You can still get them for $300-$400, and their value is unlikely to decline.

.243 is a good choice, but the ammo is probably not much easier to find than 6.5x55 - at least not around here.

For managing recoil, you may want to check out an autoloading rifle, a heavy 30-30 (long, octagon barrel), or a .44 magnum rifle.

30-06, .308, 30-30, and .270 (which is NOT much less of a kick than a 30-06 IMHO) will always be the easiest to find. And as I am sure has been mentioned...there are reduced recoil rounds available.

December 26, 2008, 11:47 PM
My favorite?, the 7mm-08. Basically any .308 based cartridge is a great choice. 6.5x55, .257 roberts (and .25-06) and many others are good.

Dr. Tad Hussein Winslow
December 26, 2008, 11:48 PM
I too will give praise to interlock's analysis. Most all the great sub-30 calibers have been mentioned. As some may know, I'm a fan of the 6.5x55 round, but also the .243 Win. The 6.5 grendel and 6.8 spc ought to probably be mentioned as good intermediate game rounds. Another old one is the .25-20 wcf. I have killed deer with a .25-06 but then got rid of it as it seemed too duplicative of .243 (6.0x51mm), 6.5x55mm, and .270 (6.8x62mm), all of which I have. The .270 win does also need to be given its proper respect as the nearly perfect all-purpose round.

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