Which Caliber for first Bolt Action


February 26, 2010, 10:22 AM
I'm interested in a bolt action rifle for target shooting and maybe hunting. I'm trying to decide which caliber to get my first rifle.

Initially, I was thinking .308 WIN as an all around versatile round. But then started looking at .243 and then .270, and know back to .308.

I like to be able to go deer hunting next season and would like to use this rifle. I'm not sure if there is a 7mm or larger restriction here in VA, so that might affect my choice.

I'm thinking of a Savage with an AccuTrigger and maybe an AccuStock.

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February 26, 2010, 11:21 AM
You will find that the majority of this board thinks highly of the savage rifles, and also .308, but to give a good recommendation it would be helpful for you to describe the terrain on which you will be hunting. Is it wooded? How long will your shots, be? Many will say that .243 is inadequate for deer and that you should stick with .308. I haven't shot a deer or seen a deer shot with either one so I don't really know.

As for target shooting, the .308 is a very good round and there are plenty of accurate factory loadings and also match grade bullets available.

February 26, 2010, 11:24 AM
Others here know much more than I, but since no one has responded yet, I'll offer a few comments.

1. Calibers like .243, .25-06, and 7mm-08 seem to be very popular for shooters who want lower recoil but still enough gas to hunt deer. The downside is that ammo for these calibers is not as widely available as other choices and typically you will have fewer choices in bullet weight when you do find ammo.

2. Calibers like .270, .308, and .30-06 are plenty for deer hunting on up to larger game. They are the most widely available center fire calibers and as such are relatively affordable to shoot, given the amount of brass, powder, and lead they require. You will find ammo for these calibers in any shop that carries centerfire rifle ammo. Check out this link to Cabela's offerings for Federal Fusion ammo. I chose Fusion because it is only offered in the most popular hunting calibers:


Note the available bullet weights and prices for each caliber.

3. I don't own a Savage, but everything I read about them suggests that they are a great value. If I were buying a new bolt rifle Savage would be at the top of my list.

Btw, here are is a link to Chuck Hawks site regarding recoil of various rifle rounds:


February 26, 2010, 11:39 AM
270, 30.06, .308, 7mm-08, 7mm mag, 25-06, 243, 257 roberts

All very fine calibers and all will work well on deer. My personal favorite is the 30.06 due to a little more umph than a 308, and larger bullets than a 7mm, its also more prevalent in my area.

February 26, 2010, 11:48 AM
All good choices for calibers. My all time favorite for 32 years has been the .25-06, more then enough for hunting deer or varmints, recoil is not bad and it is accurate and flat shooting. Almost any of the other choices are good too. I'm not a 6mm fan though as the .25 just does it better.

You haven't said what the terain is though. The .25-06 is a long range cartridge, if you can see a deer you can hit it. This cartridge is at its best in open country where shots are long. But if you're hunting bushy terain where there won't be long shots I'd go with a different cartridge.

February 26, 2010, 11:55 AM
I like the .308, but I think you were confusing the caliber restriction with 6mm (.243) and over. Never heard of a 7mm being the minimum. And I don't know what Virginia's minimum is offhand.

David Sours
February 26, 2010, 11:55 AM
I am not sure what kind of shooting experience you have but for me recoil is a concern when ever I am at the bench. I have hunted with and shot .280 for almost 20 years, love the gun very accurate performs well on deer and black bear, I have harvested both with the gun. I love the 280 and any thing in that family but I will say this IMHO the .280, 30-06, 7mm Mag. gets a little recoil heavy at the bench for ME in a sporter weight rifle. This past year I wanted something that would be fun to shoot for long outings at the bench and still have the capablity to deer hunt. I settled on an T/C Icon Precision Hunter in .243. The .243 has been a pleasure to shoot at the bench and has peroven to be a very accurate round in this particular rifle. I also had a chance to harvest a couple of white-tailed deer with it this year as well and it did a great job.

If I were in your situration and wanting a bench gun and deer gun I would look hard at the caliber below. All but the Creedmoor where on my short list, if I did it over again I would either stick with the .243 or look at one of the 6.5's.

.243 Win (Plenty of Ammo selection out there),
.257 (Great round but limited factory ammo, good choice if you reload)
6.5 Creedmoor (Another that would be limited in factory ammo, but great to reload)
.260 (Again limited factory ammo, but great to reload)
6.5x55 Swede
7mm-08 (Great all around gun)

Good Luck and have fun,

February 26, 2010, 11:55 AM
I'd go with a 30-06....Same caliber, more power. .308 is plenty for a deer and even somewhat for elk but I'm sure once you get a .308, you'll want more power :) One way to think of it is in a nutshell, .308 is what it is..... .243 is a .308 next down.... .270 is a 30-06 basically necked down to .27 cal and a 25-06 is a 30-06 necked down to .25 cal. One thing to also consider is with the military taking a bunch of NATO rounds, .308 could be hard to come buy and when you do, could be expensive. Not saying it will be, just could be. That's if you're buying factory ammo.

February 26, 2010, 11:58 AM
The minimum rifle caliber in Va is .24, so your ok with .243 and above. Some at the state level decided .223 was inadequate, ( shakes head, walks away)

Arkansas Paul
February 26, 2010, 12:02 PM
If you're wanting to target shoot first and hunt second, I would go with the .308 Win. And this is coming from a .30-06 fan. The .308 round is ideal for target and plenty for any game you're going to be shooting at in Virginia. Ammo is readily available and if you handload the opportunities are endless.

As far as the rifle, that's personal preference. I like the Weatherby Vangaurd. Can't beat it for the money.

February 26, 2010, 12:08 PM
If you reload, I would suggest one of the many 6.5mm cartridges, including .260Rem., 6.5mm Creedmoor, and 6.5x55mmSwede. If not the 7mm-08 is a great choice. If you want something a bit larger for hunting elk (or larger), then a .280Rem. or .30-06 would be a good choice. FWIW, all of the aforementioned cartridges are good choices for both target and hunting.


February 26, 2010, 12:14 PM
I'm surprised that no one has mentioned the 7.62x54r yet

February 26, 2010, 12:29 PM
For punchin paper I prefer .22lr or .22 WMR, for deer I have been reduced to shotgun only here in OHIO!:fire::banghead::cuss: But in normal places 243 and 30-30 covers everything else.

February 26, 2010, 12:29 PM
I'm surprised that no one has mentioned the 7.62x54r yetNot much choices for match ammo in x54R, nor projectiles for handloading. There aren't many good rifles available either. Not a good choice for a target rifle IMO.


February 26, 2010, 12:32 PM
True, I was being sarcastic since half the threads here seem to be about nagants lately

February 26, 2010, 12:36 PM
True, I was being sarcastic since half the threads here seem to be about nagants latelyDoes seem that way doesn't it?


February 26, 2010, 12:43 PM
nor projectiles for handloading

Reloader's nest has quite a few recipes

February 26, 2010, 12:48 PM
Reloader's nest has quite a few recipesThat may very well be, but the selection of .311cal. bullets (particularly match grade) are much less than the .308cal.


February 26, 2010, 02:49 PM
I've taken deer with the following rounds/rifles:
6.5mm Swede AG-42B
8mm Mauser K98
7.62x54 Mosin Nagant
.303 British Enfield mk4
All of those dropped the deer in it's tracks except the Nagant. IMO even a SP round has too much velocity. On top of that, it was only about a 50yd shot. My favorite of the 3 is the Mauser. It "hits" harder than any of the others, although it's been several years since I used the Enfield.

Mr. T
February 26, 2010, 03:37 PM
I've been hunting for 30 years now and anyone of the calibers you just listed in the beginning of the post would work just fine for Whitetail Hunting. I have even seen a .243 used for hunting Elk....now that I would say is irresponsible for the average person, but the guy I new was a hell of a shot. He was an NRA Director at one point and claimed to have used a .243 to take an Elk. Anyway the .270 Win and the .308 Win are both excellent hunting rounds and those two could be used to harvest Elk for the average person. I would honestly go with which ever round you can find the most available in your area. .270 Win is popular where I'm at probably more so than the .308 Win, but not because I would say it's a better round, it just is. Many people will say the .308 Win and if you're going to target shoot and hunt, I would recommend the .308 Win; our military uses that caliber for a reason as a sniper round. Which ever one you decide on I personally don't think you could go wrong with any of them, but I would personally prefer the .270 Win or the .308 Win.

February 26, 2010, 03:42 PM
What kind of target shooting are you doing? Do you want to get competitive or are you just punching paper for your own enjoyment? I tend to agree with some of the above posters in that a .308 will do you well. If you plan to punch a lot of paper, then get one with a med-heavy bbl. If you plan to walk a lot when hunting, then get a lighter bbl, and let it cool down more often when punching paper.

Boba Fett
February 26, 2010, 04:03 PM
When deciding on a caliber for my first bolt action, I asked around at the gun stores I trust and several friends and my barber what they would recommend for a quality hunting caliber with wide availability.

308 and 30-06 were the most common replies I got. As one guy put it, go with 308 because when you forget your ammo and drive out to the middle of nowhere and the Bubba's Bait and Fuel shop is the only thing for 30 miles, if they have any ammo, they're most likely going to have 308.

I personally would guess that 30-06 would also be pretty common at the "Bubba's" places.

I did end up getting a 308 and it is really a nice caliber to shoot. Very comfortable.

And there are many debates over 308 and 30-06 and X other caliber. But I've found that there is some good info on SniperCentral.com. They have an ammo section that gives good unbiased info on various calibers: http://www.snipercentral.com/caliber.htm

As for the rifle, I have a Savage 10FCP and I love it. As mentioned above, you may want to get a lighter rifle if you plan on hunting with it a lot, but a Savage is going to be a quality, accurate firearm that won't break the bank.

Nico Testosteros
February 26, 2010, 04:09 PM
Regen, I was in your exact shoes before Christmas. I have this to say: Marlin XS7 in .308.

That's what I wanted. It's not what I got. The wife got me a fancier gun in a different caliber. But as you've no doubt gathered, there are many calibers. Many will work for what you want to do. There are many guns that will serve your purpose as well.

I've heard nearly nothing bad about the Marlins. Or the Savage.
Buy your first gun and don't think about the purchase too much. Because soon you will buy your second. And so on.

February 26, 2010, 04:20 PM
Id say .308. You can buy some cheap plinker ammo right next to the super long range match ammo. Then next to that is a great hunting load for just about anything here in the States, except for say bears and moose.

next would be the 30-06.

February 26, 2010, 07:52 PM
If you want to hunt AND punch paper, .308. You will find more selection in bullets and factory rounds than most other calibers, it has enough power to take most game, and has sufficient range for long range shooting.

The next question is whether you want a heavy barrel (for target shooting, but heavy to carry) or a sporter barrel (lighter but heats up quickly and not very good for serious target shooting).

February 26, 2010, 08:07 PM
I don't see 280 rem in there so here it is.

February 26, 2010, 08:09 PM
I don't see 280 rem in there so here it is.Check post No. 11...


February 26, 2010, 11:15 PM
I went with a Savage in .243 Winchester for first bolt action centerfire.

February 26, 2010, 11:23 PM
I'm a .308 junkie myself its just a caliber I'm very fond of if I ever want to hunt I can harvest deer with it no problems. I can target shoot at the range and all with not alot of recoil some of the bigger calibers give ya a good thumpin.

April 26, 2010, 04:04 PM
I went with a 308 for my first hunting rifle. I wanted readily available ammo (in case somehow I ran out on a trip or forgot it or something. I didnt want to be searching for 6.5-06 ammo at the feed store in Ballinger, TX.) I wanted something big enough for almost any game in NA, but not overkill for whitetail, which will be 95% of what I hunt. I didnt want a concussion from shooting.

IMO, 243, 308, 7mm Mag, 30-06, 270 would be good options. From there it is personal preference. I think the 308, day in day out, will will be more accurate than the others given availability of handloading and factory options.

Uncle Mike
April 26, 2010, 07:52 PM
Get yourself a Savage Weather Warrior 116 in .30-06 and don't look back! Accutrigger, Accustock, Stainless Steel, it can be had in a Hinged Floor Plate style or Detachable Box Magazine format, user changeable bolt handle and adjustable trigger.

The Accustock, for a production rifle, simply put, is awesome! I am not a huge fan of the Accutrigger, but it is realy nice and best of all, it is 100% safe even set to the lightest amount of pull. And we all know the excellent accuracy Savage offers.

If you have to have the 308, the same model is offered as the model 16.

winchester '97
April 26, 2010, 08:52 PM
In all seriousness a Fin mosin would be very accurate, but my real suggestion would be a Swiss K-31, easy to install non destructive scope mounts, hard hitting caliber, and match grade ammo is readily available. Runs about 300 bucks and inch groups at 100 yards seems to be the norm for them. Also straight pull with is just plain cool.

April 26, 2010, 08:58 PM
another vote for .308! seems to be an all-purpose cartridge. i guess the caliber choice is going to come down to what your local gun shop has, huh? keep us posted on your decision!
when guns are outlawed, then i will become an outlaw

Dr T
April 26, 2010, 11:16 PM

I think you got it right the first time: A Savage accutrigger 308 will work very nicely for a first bolt action.

The cartridge is inherently accurate, the rifle is inherently accurate and the $14/box ammo from Walmart will print under 1 MOA.


April 26, 2010, 11:17 PM
Get a Mosin, 7.62x54 is a very good round and you can get them for $.20 cents each if you shop.

April 26, 2010, 11:37 PM
All good cartridges, and I'll add the 7X57 Mauser; along with the 6.5X55, have taken many game animals all over the world - they are easy shooting, available, and accurate

Mr. T
April 26, 2010, 11:52 PM
I'm a huge fan of .270 Win. There is a wide range of loads for the caliber and depending on your sensitivity to recoil, you can purchase loads for reduced recoil with no change in impact at 200 yards -- this is ideal for kids just learning to hunt. My son took his first deer with this caliber at 200+ yards and that whitetail never knew what hit it. I think it's just an awesome round.

April 27, 2010, 01:10 PM
I have lived in VA all my life. The most common cartridges I see trotted out every deer season are .30-06, .308, .270, .243, .30-30, and 7mm-08. All are effective for deer hunting. .30-06, .308, .270, and 7mm-08 are adequate for most shots on any game you will see in Virginia. .30-30 is a classic woods cartridge for lever guns. .243 is a flat-shooting cartridge with low recoil that is great more younger or recoil-sensitive deer huntings; it has enough power to take any whitetail.

For your purposes, I'd get a .308 Winchester. The .308 is an excellent all-around rifle cartridge. Match-grade ammo is widely available for target shooting, as is relatively cheap military surplus. Get a tactical or varmint-type rifle for accurate range shooting; it will be heavier than a sporter-weight rifle but if you're shooting from a stand Virginia-style it's not too much of a problem.

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