All Purpose Caliber


August 26, 2004, 08:01 PM
What would be a good caliber for whitetail to brown bear.
I do plan to do my own loading!


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August 26, 2004, 08:07 PM
I'd pick .338 WinMag.:D


August 26, 2004, 08:20 PM
I like the 30/06 for almost everything in North America. I suppose one could go with the .300 mag, as well.

August 26, 2004, 08:24 PM
30.06.. If it was good enough for my granddad's to kill Germans, Japs, Chinese and North Koreans, it is good enough for deer and bear. :D

August 26, 2004, 09:23 PM
The good 'ole 30-06 is certainly a very good round and certainly capable of taking all North American game. Anything bigger/faster will only serve to give a slight increase in effective range. For brown bear, I might be tempted to go with a .375H&H, but it's not necessary.

Personally I'm a huge fan of the 6.5x55 Swede round. The Swedes and Norweigans and Finns used that as their most popular moose cartridge for decades. If it can take a moose, it can probably take a brown bear (though this probably wouldn't be my first choice for a charging griz). It has the advantage of lower recoil than the 30-06, and certainly lower recoil that anything bigger.

Since you're going to be handloading, there's a good selection of .264" bullets ranging from 90-160 grains that are available for the 6.5 Swede. The 150-160's will be your moose/griz/elk rounds, the 129-140's for large deer, 120-130's for smaller deer, 100-120's for antelope, and 90-100's for varmints.

Art Eatman
August 26, 2004, 09:53 PM
If you're gonna handload, I'd say the '06 is plenty good for all NA game except the big brownies. Yeah, it'll kill them, but it might not do that quickly enough that you, yourself, would be interested in the size of your trophy...

Given the total cost of an Alaskan hunt, adding up air fare, license and guide fees, motels, etc., the cost of a bear-specific rifle isn't all that much to add on.

Generalizing, 80 or 110-grain bullets for varmints, 150-grain bullets for most deer, and I'd go 180s for elk or meese. IMR 3031 for the light bullets; 4064 for the 150s and up. Those have worked for me for, hmmm, 54 years, now.

:), Art

Dave R
August 26, 2004, 09:54 PM
Almost any of the major calibers from 6.5mm through 7mm through the .30's up to .35cal could make a case as best all-around.

My vote would be .30-06

August 26, 2004, 10:24 PM
If you're gonna handload, why not get a rifle chambered for the 35 Whelan (sp?). Given the range of the game you desire to hunt, the 35 Whelan would appear, to me, to be an excellent choice for a one-rifle guy.

August 26, 2004, 10:34 PM
Well since you included Brown bears I'd go with a 338 Win. I might use my 300 Win or '06 on one but it wouldn't be my first choice. Keeping in mind though that I've never shot a brownie, now if you're talking about little eastern black bears then an '06 would fill the ticket quite well.

August 26, 2004, 11:57 PM
White tail to Grizzly is too broad a range. It's meaningless. Pick one end of this huge spectrum or just buy 2 guns.

August 27, 2004, 12:26 AM
Actually, the more I think about it, for whitetail to grizzly.. I would get a 45/70. It works great on deer, and I would trust it against a Griz.

IMHO, of course. I wouldn't recommend it if you're a long range shooter, unless you like pretending to be an artilleryman... :D

August 27, 2004, 01:20 AM
The 30-06 is a great all around round, probably my favorite. But, since the Griz was included I might have to bump up to .300 WSM.

I would rather kill the whitetail too much than not kill the Griz enough. :uhoh:

August 27, 2004, 01:33 AM
my personal choices for that range of critters would be the 6.5x55mm for everything up to angry grizzlies and the .375 H&H for the charging brownies.

but since you want only one calibre and you are willing to load your own, i'd go with the .375 H&H. why batter yourself with a .338's recoil?

August 27, 2004, 07:37 AM
45/70, or a Remington 1100 mit slugs for under 150 yard work. Either will serve the 'one caliber hunter', altho both will be a compromise somewhere within that spectrum.

August 27, 2004, 08:42 AM
The .30-06 will kill anything on the North American continent. It may be a little iffy for moose or brown bear (pick your shot well and use a heavy load), but if you can't kill it with .30-06 you probably shouldn't have been hunting it to begin with.

.45-70 will also do the trick.

August 27, 2004, 09:05 AM
Why would any rational human being want only one rifle???

Get yourself a big gun for big game, a little gun for varmints, and a medium gun for medium game, a .22 for practice and squirrels, a short gun for women and children, a lever gun for cowboy matches, etc.

One gun for deer to brown bear? Sheesh.....


August 27, 2004, 10:37 AM
Either a .375 or .338 since you included the big ugly beasts------the deer ain't gonna care what he's been shot with.

Ohen Cepel
August 27, 2004, 10:49 AM
I have a 35 Whelen and think it fits the bill fine.

30-06 and all the others are fine choices.

I just like the Whelen concept (and I got it cheap. :D )
Ammo is readily available and brass can always be easily made from 30-06 brass.

August 27, 2004, 10:59 AM
444, in a nice short quick handling lever gun. And for Brownies, it wouldn't hurt to bring along a slow clumbsy friend.

August 27, 2004, 12:54 PM
[CZ-100 voice]
8x57IS ... If it was good enough for my granddads and greatgranddads to kill Americans, Brits, Frenchmen and Russkies, it is good enough for deer and bear.
[/CZ-100 voice]

Doug S
August 27, 2004, 01:27 PM
I quit hunting about 8 years ago after selling my old standby Remington 700 30-06 & Marlin 30-30. Recently I started thinking I might give it a try this deer season. I picked up a CZ 527 carbine for this purpose in 7.62x39 caliber because I could use it for deer & even if I didn't hunt, to compliment my AK & SKS rifles. Got to thinking a little further about larger game during mountain hikes & decided to pick up a couple of cheap Mosin carbines in 7.62x54r. I figure this round would be adequate for most North American game. I've heard it called the Russian 30-06.

August 27, 2004, 01:45 PM
The 8x57 is also a really good choice, especially if you get one of the really good quality, strong military barreled actions (that hasn't seen much use), or a new Reminton 700 (the only new manufacture 8mm rifle I know of). Also the Husquvarna sporters that were made in the 50's would be a good possibility. That way you can safely cook up some really hot handloads. Downside to it though is that the heaviest bullets were designed for the higher velocities of the 8mm Rem Mag, and are too toughly constructed to expand reliably beyond 150-200 yards when shot from an 8x57.

Still, when it comes to hunting griz, as Okiecruffler said, your best choice is to also bring a slow, clumsy friend.

August 27, 2004, 02:53 PM
The quintessential "all around caliber" is the .375 H&H
That is my next big purchase (when funds permit).

August 27, 2004, 06:09 PM
I agree this is a very broad range and If I had to pick just one gun for everything I would probably go with a .30 caliber, 300WM probably. Please oh please let me pick 2, Ok I can pick 2? 270 win and 338 WM no contest.

Chris Pinkleton
August 27, 2004, 06:30 PM
...but I am a handloader, and the sort of nerd who studies over loading data for calibers I don't own. With that said, how about the 9.3x62? Assuming you can find a decent rifle in this caliber in the U.S., it should take bear fine if it can reliably take Cape Buffalo, shouldn't it? And it'll have a lot less kick than a .375. Plus, it should result in less meat damage on whitetail than any of the magnum cartriges.

Just my $.02 -- which probably isn't worth $.01 in this case.


August 27, 2004, 07:30 PM

August 27, 2004, 08:10 PM
The '06 IS a great hunting caliber, and I've used one more than anything else, BUT if we're including the big bears the 35 Whelen, 338, or 375 H&H offer a bit more "insurance" if things go wrong. I use the larger calibers even if I'm not hunting bears, but hunting in their area.

I don't think the 375 H&H recoils too bad if the stock fits well and it has a good pad like a Pachmayer Decelerator.

I like the 45/70 very much, and carry one (1886 Browning carbine) for a summer gun, but for meat hunting the scoped bolt gun gives me more chances to fill the tags.

After thinking over some of the replies I wanted to add a bit.
'....meaningless.." to want one gun far a wide range of game? What? This has been a goal of many for a LONG time. I thought we all liked to think of how versatile our favorite caliber is. I hope we haven't fallen into the gun magazines way of thinking that we feel we NEED a gun for every concievable niche, and nothing else will do? As has been said many times and places " You can load a big gun down like a small gun, but a small gun will always be a small gun". Even without handloading, the heavier calibers simply offer more flexibility. For most guns that I have hunted with, I find ONE load it shoots well (on the heavy end) and use it for everything. Like someone said, the deer can't tell the difference,...... but, the bigger animals may be able to tell the difference.

I LIKE having different guns for a variety of shooting or game, but they are not "necessary" in the sense that I "can't" hunt deer with the 35 Whelen or 375. They actually work very well for deer, and I prefer the heavier guns when hunting deer in grizzly country.

August 28, 2004, 05:38 AM
I think you would be better served by 2 rifles, but if one is your goal, then a necked up 30-06 is the way to get it done.

I'd pick the 9.3x62 because of better bullets available for the big boys. When in doubt err on the side of caution.

But the 35 whelen is just as good, with more bullet selection on the lighter side and more vesitility (lots of cast bullets and pistol bullets for practice/varmits).
The 338-06 is fine too, but only certain bullets will expand well on small deer at range. The heavy bullets designed with the 338 Win Mag and 340 weatherby in mind penetrate more at 338-06 velocities do to reduced of expansion. They also seem to penetrate straighter. Matched with the 210 grain partition is an almost ideal for the in between game.

Any one of these should be flat shooting enough to take 275-300 yard shots with ease should the need arise. The 35 Whelen and 9.3x62 are also available in factory rifles that aren't going to break the bank.

If you don't load your own, you'd be better served with a 338/300/30-06 because of ammunition selection.


August 28, 2004, 10:09 AM
If you are a good shot in the field then the 338 WM should be o. k. but i would lean more to the 375 H&H, this is way overkill for deer but the last thing you want to do is chase a wounded grizzly in the brush because you didn't have enough rifle to get the job done.

August 28, 2004, 06:22 PM
Yup... if you aren't planning on making hits past 200 yards or so, and you are going to load your own, I think the 45/70 would be tough to beat.

For longer shots, I'd imagine any serious cartridge from 6.5 to .35 caliber would be just fine.

Personally, if bears are involved, I'd want the biggest diameter bullet possible.

August 28, 2004, 06:48 PM

Handload from 125gr to 220gr round noses... plenty of medicine for anything in the lower 48.

Get a bigger gun for brown bears.

August 28, 2004, 06:57 PM
If you hadn't said brown bears, I'd of said .308 Win. but you did so I say 30/06. Everything about it is less than the other bigger calibers the others mentioned so you can practice more and make it work.:uhoh:

August 28, 2004, 07:20 PM
.338/06 comes to mind. You can choose a 200 grain bullet at a respectable 2700 fps or move up to a heavier 225 grain or even a 250 grain bullet at over 2500 fps.

August 28, 2004, 08:15 PM
as i read through this thread, i'm more conviced then ever that you'd need somthing heavy like the .375 H&H for brown bears.

for eveything smaller, in the lower 48...or anywhere else for that matter, the 6.5x55mm will get it done with less recoil and fuss than any calibre larger than it.

if you really wanted to "reach out" for somthing like pronghorn could go with the 6.5/06

August 29, 2004, 10:55 PM
What would be a good caliber for whitetail to brown bear?


I think you have a great excuse now to buy 2 rifles!

August 29, 2004, 11:14 PM
i've heard it opined that if you can't kill it with a 30-06, you've probably got no business trying ;)

August 30, 2004, 12:36 AM
Of course, like everyone else I was going to say .30-06 until I got to the part about brown bears.
In that case I would go with a .338 Win Mag as a minimum: there is no reason you can't shoot 180 grain bullets loaded to .30-06 velocities out of the .338 Win Mag.
But, if I was doing it, I would go with the .375 H&H

Killing the animal isn't the issue: the .30-06 will certainly kill anything that walks on planet earth. The issue is making a quick clean kill. I have never hunted brown bear but I assume it is like hunting anything else: you don't always get a perfect, standing, broadside shot. And for the less than ideal shot, and for an animal as big as a brownie, I would prefer something with more bullet weight. Of course brown bear also has one characteristic that makes it different from whitetail deer and that is the fact that if you don't make a quick clean kill, you might become that bears next meal.

August 30, 2004, 08:50 AM
It may be a little iffy on moose and brown bear.


The majority of us folks living in the Bush kill our groceries with '06s. That includes moose and brown bears. Last year when my department purchased a rifle specifically for problem brown bears, I chose a Rem 7400 in .30-06. I don't feel undergunned when creeping in the alders. I also purchased a boat load of Federal Premiums with 180 gr. Nosler Partitions to stoke it with. Certainly standard .30-06 commercial loads and handloads do the trick.
If you feel you need a little extra oomf and don't handload, Federal High Energy and Hornady Light Magnums makes an '06 act like a .300 H&H. They are loaded with premium bullets from Trophy Bonded, Barnes, Nosler, and of course Hornady. Choosing a proper bullet is probably more important than what you gain just from the velocity increase.
For deer sized critters up to and including black bears most 150 gr. off-the-shelf hunting bullets will suffice (stay away from the Ballistic Tips unless the deer are tiny). For larger creatures elk, moose, brown bears you'll want to go up to the high performance 180 grainers like Partitions, A-Frames, X-Bullets/Triple Shocks, Fail Safes or TB Bear Claws. However, even high performance premium bullets are not going to make up for poor shot placement.

August 31, 2004, 11:56 PM
Not one mention of the Weatherby .300?

I'd choose the Weber-bee or the .338 magnum.

September 1, 2004, 12:39 AM
Not that I am suggesting it, but a few years ago I spent some time in Barrow Alaska. The natives thought a .243 Win was the ideal caliber from caribou to polar bears and walrus. A small carabou is the same size as a whitetail and the Polar Bear is as big as the Brownies. I was really suprised it was odd to see them carry any big calibers.

An 30-06 will get the job done, a 300 mag is insurance and the occasional longer shoot.

If I was restricted to only one rifle to hunt all the game on the planet my short list would look like:

300 Mag
9.3 x 62
375 H&H

Heavies not for North America:
404 Jeffreys
416 Remington ( or Rigby )

I think the 338/340 Weatherby would hit this group and a 358 Norma couldn't be discounted.

I am getting old and lazy though and don't like to pack heavy rifles, nor do I like being kicked to death on the bench. A 7mm ( 280, 284, 7mm short mags etc ) with a 140 gr bullet at 2850-2875 fps is all I need for the lower 48, If I headed north I could live with a 160 or 175 gr in the same rifle. An old 30-06 would be a close second choice.

The real reason I would carry a 300 or 375 mag to Alaska is insurance, If have spent a ton a money as an out of state resident, and I would want it just in case. In reality I would carry two guns for insurance just in case one breaks ( been there ) I would have a suitable back up.

I don't like playing with guns on hunts, I want my rifles dialed in and I know both the rifles and the loads, and if I have a problem its a lot easier to pick up my spare rifle, than have to borrow one or do a field fix ( done both at times, never agian ).

September 1, 2004, 11:25 PM
For that specific range of game tasks, if I had to pick one only, I'd probably run with either:

-- .35 Whelen
-- .338-'06 (semi-wildcat)
-- 9.3x62mm
-- .375 Win
-- .444 Marlin
-- .45-70 govt (or .450 marlin)
-- .338 WinMag (or other .338/.340 mag)
-- .376 Steyr

Roughly in order of preference, with the latter four being some overkill for whitetails and beating you up more, esp. the .338 winmag and .376 steyr. The others all also border on overkill, but when covering such a wide range with one gun, you have to go with the lowest common denominator, so to speak. The reason I put .45-70 and .444 ahead of 338 winmag and .376 is I think you'd have less meat damage on the smaller animals with those slower bullets. Heck, those 2 might be your best choices period, for this wide range of tasks, unless you need a lot of range/trajectory, like you might out West, because you're giving up some trajectory in them (.45/70 and .444). .375 Win also gives up a tad of trajectory, and it's not so common of a round, but it can be loaded quite heavy and would have pretty mild recoil - seems like a great brush gun round. There are other .35s, plus or minus, to look at, like .350 Remmag, .358 Norma mag, etc. You might even go a little smaller to a .323, like 8mm Mauser (aka 8x57JS). That's a great all-purpose round as well.

.30-'06 Spfld seems a little light to me for brown bears -- for black bears, meese, elk, caribou, buffalo, yak-type critters, and even smallish inland grizzlies possibly, but the coastal browns (kodiaks) can be humongous and hacked off, and I'm assuming you wanted to include them as a possibility - so I'd want .338-'06 minimum with heavy bullets if there's any chance of close contact. .338-06 is not really ridiculous overkill on small deer either, and has some decent range, so it would be a nice compromise. Ditto on the .35 Whelen and it will be easier to find on gun store shelves. Ditto 9.3.62mm (I think that's a .366 diameter round). Plus, if you went with one of the bigger boys, you could add polar bears to your list, and have then entire continent covered with one gun. Now, if you eliminated coastal browns and polar bears from the mix, I'd say .270 win, .280 rem, .308 win, .30-'06, will do it all, or a 7mmRemmag or .300 winmag if you need to really reach out there some distance. Like someone said, a case can be made for just about any cartridge. But, OTOH, what do I know - like the other gentleman above, I'm mostly an armchair hunter, esp. when it comes to tuque-land (canadian/alaskan) hunting, so far. Mr. Eatman and others have been there, done that, so I'd listen to them more than me. :)

P.S. I'm surprised that I mentioned the .444Marlin, but "444", you didn't. ;) And the thought of a .375 H&H mag or other large belted magnums being used against a poor little woods-grown bambi tickles my funnybone, though I'm sure they'd work. .375 HH mag may be the quintessential worldwide all-purpose round, but perhaps the .35 Whelen or .338 winmag is the quintessential north american all-purpose round (arguably). Now, like someone said, if you're going to roll your own ammo, then something pretty powerful like the .338 winmag starts to look a lot better as the most versatile round, because then you could upload or download as necessary.

September 2, 2004, 12:36 PM
Well, yeah, for whitetail deer and the various bears, the .444 Marlin wouldn't be a bad choice. But, if I only owned one rifle and wanted to be able to hunt any animal in North America, I would rather not go with a big bore lever action. Out here in the west, you have a lot of potential for longish shots and with something like a .444 Marlin, you would need to know your range pretty exactly to dope the trajectory. It would be much easier with something like an '06.
I like to beat the drum for handloading. There are a number of good reasons to handload, but to me, one of the best reasons is the ability to tailor your ammo to your needs. There is no reason to have to shoot full bore .338 Win Mag or .375 H&H loads if you don't need to. You have the ability to make the load fit it's intende purpose whether it be full bone crushing power or an appropirate load for eastern whitetails.
All that being said, I work with a guy that does hunt everything with one rifle: a .338 Win Mag. He has taken numerous mule deer with it and says it causes no excessive damage. And, he shoots only factory ammo.

September 3, 2004, 11:36 AM
It was mentioned before. The .444 Marlin will tackle anything on the North American continent. It's probably overkill for whitetail, but can be downloaded with 240gr bullets for that mission. It has plenty of ooomph for bears and you have a wide selection of bullets for that duty.

I have a Marlin Outfitter (444P). It's light, small, and carries easily.

The downside to this caliber is the trajectory, especially with heavier bullets. You really have to practice with this round to learn proper holdover.

cleve land
September 3, 2004, 04:30 PM
35 Whelen; 30-06;308. I prefer the first :p

September 4, 2004, 07:09 PM
I spent some time in AK when I was in the ARMY. The deal is when you go after Brown Bear: The guides would prefer you have a .30 caliber!! They carry .270s but they know they are not going to miss.

September 5, 2004, 06:12 AM
From grasshoppers to angry bull elephants, I'd have to suggest .50 BMG.

It *will* kill whatever it hits.

:neener: :D

September 5, 2004, 12:40 PM

If you want 1 "do it all" rifle, in the deer to bear range, the '06 is a great choice. Loaded ammo is available anywhere, is reasonably cheap, and your choice of handload formulas, bullets, powders and rifles is huge.
It's easy to load, and easy to shoot, highly accurate, and has a significant military history.


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