Choosing the right rifle for hunting is a challenging task. However, it’s nothing compared to selecting the ammo that matches your hunting preferences.
But worry not—you’ve come to the right place. In this article, I will put my 15 years of hunting experience to use and explain the difference between various rifle cartridges and tell you when to use them. t
There’s no time like the present, so let’s get to it.
Rifle Ammo Types Explained
The four most common rifle ammo types are:
- Full Metal Jacket (FMJ) bullet has a soft core (most often made out of lead) encased in a harder alloy metal like copper. These bullets hold their trajectory and do not expand upon hitting a target. This allows them to penetrate deeper into soft tissue and keep going until they hit another object (living or inanimate).
- Hollow Point (HP) bullet has a hollowed tip which allows it to expand upon hitting the target. As a result, HP ammo has shallower penetration but produces greater stopping power.
- Soft point bullet has a soft metal core enclosed by a stronger metal jacket, just like FMJ. The difference is that a soft point bullet has an exposed tip and is not fully enclosed like the FMJ one. Because of its hard jacket, this bullet will penetrate deep, but its soft tip will cause a larger wound cavity. As a result, you’ll get a bullet with a steady trajectory and great stopping power.
- Ballistic point bullet has a polymer hollow point tip that makes its trajectory more stable for longer periods. Because it is hollow-pointed, a ballistic point bullet will expand upon hitting the target. Its aerodynamics is what makes them one of the most accurate rounds out there.
Now that I have covered the basics, let’s see what the six most common rifle cartridges are and when to use them.
The .30-06 is one of the most versatile cartridges available. A 150-grain soft point .30-06 bullet can kill a dear with no trouble at all. If you want to shoot smaller animals such as rabbits or squirrels, I recommend you use 130-grain ballistic point .30-06 rounds.
Going after larger prey like bears or elk will require 240–260-grain bullets with a round nose made out of solid bronze.
2. .308 Winchester
The .308 Winchester ammo is the standard hunting cartridge for medium to large-size games. A 150–grain .308 Winchester has enough power and velocity to take down a deer and other similar-sized animals. However, if you dare go after a black bear or some other big predator, you should use heavier .308 rounds—ideally 160–180-grain ones.
3. .270 Winchester
In theory, a .270 Winchester’s heavier rounds could be used for big-game hunting. In reality, most rifles that chamber these rounds don’t have a sufficient rifle twisting rate to stabilize 160-grain and up bullets. So, I would use below 160-grain .270 Winchester ammo for medium-game hunting.
4. 7mm Remington Magnum
When it comes to 7mm Remington Magnum, you will find that the most common options available are 140-grain, 150-grain, 160-grain, and 175-grain rounds. It is the beloved ammo choice of many North American hunters that use it for hunting deer, moose, bears, and elks.
The 7mm Rem Mag has a flatter trajectory and great kinetic energy, which makes it an efficient round for both short- and long-range urdughr hunting.
5. .416 Remington
The .416 Remington is a true beast among rifle ammo. It is one of the rare cartridges that can take down an elephant (not that you will ever need to kill an elephant) or Alaskan bull moose.
Providing you have the right rifle, like Winchester Model 70, that can tame .416 Remington 400-grain bullets, you can confidently go after buffalos or any bear species and lay a killer shot from 200 to 400 yards range.
6. .22 Long Rifle (LR)
Because of its small size and light recoil, the .22LR is the best cartridge for beginners and smaller-framed shooters. It is the go-to ammo for small-game hunting and pest control. It will not blow a smaller animal to pieces which is a great scenario if you are hunting for food.
Keep in mind that this lightweight ammo is only efficient from a 100 yards range and below. For anything more than that, you can count on the accuracy and lethal power being significantly compromised.
When choosing rifle ammunition for hunting, it is important to consider the game you are hunting, the range, and the degree of accuracy you need.
Nonetheless, I hope this article provided you with everything you wanted to know about rifle ammo for hunting, its types, and when to use it.
Good luck with your next hunting adventure.