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If you could only have one caliber for hunting in Utah, what would it be? I'm just trying to get some of your thoughts on the different versatile calibers for the hunting we do 90% of the time (deer, elk, antelope).
 

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Elk makes me think slightly larger. If me and only one gun then it would be a 7mm mag. Go lighter bullet on the smaller antelope, Isn't America grand, I don't have that dilemma. :lol:
 

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I am stuck with one rifle. I have shot a 270 for the last 25 yrs. Used it for everything from jackrabbits up to elk. Works great on all of them.
 

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30-06.
 
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Both 270 and 7mm Mag are excellent choices for Utah big game hunting. I own only one big game rifle and I strongly considered both of these calibers when I was shopping for it. I went with the 7mm Mag just because I wanted a little more knockdown power on elk but I still think you could not go wrong with a 270. Shot placement and accuracy are the most important thing so you want something you can shoot comfortably. Magnums are not for everyone. I dont think you can go wrong with the good old 30-06 either. With loads and bullet selections ranging from 100 grains all the way to 220 grains it is by far the most versatile caliber for north American big game hunting. If you want more power and effective range than a 30-06 can offer, and you are comfortable shooting a magnum, the 300 Win Mag is tough to beat, its just a little overkill on mule deer, and it would not be a good choice for whitetail or blacktail deer. The 308 is a fine caliber for deer but a little too light for elk IMHO. For elk I would draw the line at 270 or 30-06. I have never shot any of the new short magnums, like 300 WSM and 270 WSM, but I hear great things about them. They may very well be the way of the future.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
WeakenedWarrior said:
I dont think you can go wrong with the good old 30-06 either. With loads and bullet selections ranging from 100 grains all the way to 220 grains it is by far the most versatile caliber for north American big game hunting.
I agree with the 30.06. But this segways into my next question, which is comparing the 30.06 to the 7mm. Any comments on the two?
 

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I vote for the .300 mag, either the original or short mag. If you are recoil-sensitive, a .30-06 would be almost as good with a little less kick. .270, .280, 7 mag, .270 wsm and similar calibers are not bad either, but in my experience you'll want a larger diameter bullet for elk if there's any possibility of having a shot past 200 yards. If you did go with a .270 or 7mm sized bullet, I'd for sure get the magnum if elk are on your agenda. That would extend your effective range a little.

Now if you could have 2 guns, a .338 would be ideal for elk. Or, if not, get the biggest caliber you can shoot effectively. And a .270 or 7mm, magnum or regular, would be just right for deer.

Gumbo: The 7mm shoots flatter, making it a better choice for long-range deer (past 400 yards). .30-06 gives you more frontal area and heavier bullets, which are both more desirable for elk or moose. The differences are not huge but those are the differences.
 
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El Matador said:
.270, .280, 7 mag, .270 wsm and similar calibers are not bad either, but in my experience you'll want a larger diameter bullet for elk if there's any possibility of having a shot past 200 yards.
I've killed 3 elk with my 7mm, all at ranges beyond 200 yards (one about 300 yards). All three were clean one-shot kills. Again, the key with any rifle is shot placement. If you hit them right in the boiler it won't make much difference whether the bullet diameter is .270, .280 (7mm), or .30 caliber, they are going to go down. Shooting high quality bullets is also important. A high quality bullet will offer uniform expansion and high weight retention to penetrate deeply and maximize the amount of energy that is transferred to the animal. I shoot 165 grain Barnes bullets and they have performed extremely well.

If I could have two rifles I would probably get a 300 Win Mag for mule deer, elk, moose, etc, and a 243 for whitetails, coyotes, varmints, etc. My next rifle is going to be a 243.
 

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WeakenedWarrior said:
I've killed 3 elk with my 7mm, all at ranges beyond 200 yards (one about 300 yards). All three were clean one-shot kills. Again, the key with any rifle is shot placement. If you hit them right in the boiler it won't make much difference whether the bullet diameter is .270, .280 (7mm), or .30 caliber, they are going to go down.
I don't doubt that at all, in fact it's pretty common to hear experiences like this. But, keep hunting and you may change your mind. The longer the shot, the less likely you are to hit the "boiler room" dead center, and that's when you really need the extra knock-down power. I shot a spike at 300 yards right in the lungs with a .280 and he ran off, never to be recovered. I also shot a 6-point at 80 yards twice right behind the shoulder and he ran 120 yards into heavy trees before collapsing. That's not how a good elk rifle should perform. But I've also seen elk shot at fairly close range with similar calibers and they went down pretty quick. Hence, my assessment that a 7mm class rifle is best for short range where you can reliably hit the center of the vitals, and where your bullet still has a lot of energy. Do some reading, or talk to someone that hunts a LOT of elk, and most will agree that a .338 or similar is the best elk gun. 7mms are not bad for elk, but in my experienceare lacking in power to bring down a big animal if your shot placement is less than perfect.
 
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I agree completely, elk are TOUGH animals and it takes a lot to put one down. And clearly a 338 or 340 is a "better" elk rifle than a 7mm. The only thing I am saying is that for an all-purpose rifle for big game hunting in Utah you are probably going to be better off with something smaller... much smaller. The most common big game opportunities in Utah are deer, elk and antelope (in that order), with moose, buffalo, goat and sheep being once in a lifetime opportunities. So my list of best choices for Utah big game hunting, among the traditional calibers, are 270, 7mm, 30-06 and 300. Again, I would also give a serious look at the new short-magnums as well. If I could afford two rifles then I would add several other calibers to both ends of the spectrum. And, as I said, IMHO, the best rifle for elk, or any other animal for that matter, is the one you can shoot well, and for many people this is not going to be a heavy magnum. Better to use a rifle that you can shoot comfortably and accurately then a heavy magnum that punishes you and causes you to flinch.
 

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Well, if I had to get rid of all my hunting rifles but one; I'd keep my .270WSM!
 

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My vote goes to the '06 as well. I agree with almost everything that has been said so far with the exception of the .308. If you look at ballistics tables and reloading data, the .308 is actually ballistically SUPERIOR to the .30-06 with the lighter weight bullets. They are almost identical with the 165gr bullets and the '06 benefits from greater case capacity with the heavier bullets. The biggest advantage to a .308 over the '06 would be overall cartridge length allows the .308 to be chambered in lighter, short action guns. Plus, have you ever shot the "sabot" loads? 55gr .224 bullets at 4000 fps from your .30 cal rifle. Smokin'!!!!

Personally, I would take the .308 over a .270 ONLY because of the wider variety of bullet weights available and because of the larger frontal diameter. It is, however, a very tough decision and you really couldn't go wrong with any of the calibers discussed so far as long as you could feel comfortable shooting it. For that matter, a 7mm-08 makes a pretty good all-around type caliber.

Since elk are in the picture, I would have to say the '06 still has my vote.
 

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The last question was to compare the 7mm mag. to the 30-06. Well, most, ahem, gun writers that I have read consider the balistics of the two rounds "equal". The 7mm mag has more velocity and flatter trogectory while the 06 loaded with heaver bullets retains more energy down range. I will relate an isolated experience. On a guided hunt in Colorado many years ago I shot a mature bull elk in the shoulder with my 30-06. The 180 grain Nosler Partition shattered the near side shoulder, penatrated the hart/lungs breaking ribs on both sides and lodging just under the skin on the opposite side with most of the bullet still intact. On aproaching the downed anamal it rolled over down hill and fearing it was going to get up the guide shot it in the "Texas Heart" with his 7mm mag. When I butchered the elk I found that the 7mm round penetrated only a couple of inches and completely disintigrated not ruining much meat. My point is that velocity is the enemy of bullet performance. With 30-06 velocity, you might get away with bulets of lesser quality but at 7mm mag. velocities, bullet construction is very important. With well constructed bullets I think the 7mm mag and the 30-06 are "a wash". My humble 2 cents.
 

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I love short actions and shorter overall length rifles, so the 308 family has always been my favorite. The 308 will do the job on anything in Utah, least it has for me.
 

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I was considering the same guns when I bought my last rifle. I think performance wise the 06 and the 7mm are very similar. So close in fact that the deciding factor for me was price and availability. And the 30-06 won out. not that 7mm rounds are that much more expensive or harder to find. Another factor was reloading. I don't reload but I've considered it and think I will probably do it in the future. I got the impression that the 06 was more convenient to reload with more options. I know that the differences in availability, price, and reloadability are minimal but since the 2 rounds are so close in performance that is what was the deciding factor.
 
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I don't have the ballistics right in front of me and I can't go to the Federal website at work, but I have compared the two in the past and they are essentially equal out to 300 yards or so, but the 7mm pulls away beyond 300 in both trajectory and energy because of its higher ballistic co-efficient. Don't get me wrong, I have the highest respect for the venerable old 30-06, and for pure versatility I don't think you can beat it. But for Utah/Wyo/Nev big game hunting I still like the 270 or 7mm just because of the wide open terrain that dominates the region, and the long shots that often entails. But if you are going to take the same rifle outside of the region and 300+ yard shots are not a big factor then I think the 30-06 wins out. I don't see how reloading makes a big difference though. Sure there are more choices available in .30 caliber, but there are still more than enough choices for .280/7mm, and the difference in price is negligible. Factory ammo is on average about $2-4/box cheaper for the 30-06 so that is something to consider if you plan to shoot a lot of rounds and don't reload.

As far as 308 vs 30-06, if you look at the ballistics for factory ammo (I like Federal) you will see that the 308 sacrifices on average about 200 ft/lbs for 165-80 grain loads. And you don't see any factory loads for 308 beyond 180 grains. For deer sized game this is negligible, but for elk I don't think it can be spared when the 30-06 is already borderline for elk. Of course the 308 can and has killed a lot of elk, but for me, given the choice of the two, would prefer the 30-06.
 

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WeakenedWarrior said:
I don't have the ballistics right in front of me and I can't go to the Federal website at work, but I have compared the two in the past and they are essentially equal out to 300 yards or so, but the 7mm pulls away beyond 300 in both trajectory and energy because of its higher ballistic co-efficient. Don't get me wrong, I have the highest respect for the venerable old 30-06, and for pure versatility I don't think you can beat it. But for Utah/Wyo/Nev big game hunting I still like the 270 or 7mm just because of the wide open terrain that dominates the region, and the long shots that often entails. But if you are going to take the same rifle outside of the region and 300+ yard shots are not a big factor then I think the 30-06 wins out. I don't see how reloading makes a big difference though. Sure there are more choices available in .30 caliber, but there are still more than enough choices for .280/7mm, and the difference in price is negligible. Factory ammo is on average about $2-4/box cheaper for the 30-06 so that is something to consider if you plan to shoot a lot of rounds and don't reload.
Oh don't get me wrong the differences are minor but they tipped the scale for me when comparing 2 such capable calibers.
 

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WeakenedWarrior said:
I don't have the ballistics right in front of me and I can't go to the Federal website at work, but I have compared the two in the past and they are essentially equal out to 300 yards or so, but the 7mm pulls away beyond 300 in both trajectory and energy because of its higher ballistic co-efficient. Don't get me wrong, I have the highest respect for the venerable old 30-06, and for pure versatility I don't think you can beat it. But for Utah/Wyo/Nev big game hunting I still like the 270 or 7mm just because of the wide open terrain that dominates the region, and the long shots that often entails. But if you are going to take the same rifle outside of the region and 300+ yard shots are not a big factor then I think the 30-06 wins out. I don't see how reloading makes a big difference though. Sure there are more choices available in .30 caliber, but there are still more than enough choices for .280/7mm, and the difference in price is negligible. Factory ammo is on average about $2-4/box cheaper for the 30-06 so that is something to consider if you plan to shoot a lot of rounds and don't reload.

As far as 308 vs 30-06, if you look at the ballistics for factory ammo (I like Federal) you will see that the 308 sacrifices on average about 200 ft/lbs for 165-80 grain loads. And you don't see any factory loads for 308 beyond 180 grains. For deer sized game this is negligible, but for elk I don't think it can be spared when the 30-06 is already borderline for elk. Of course the 308 can and has killed a lot of elk, but for me, given the choice of the two, would prefer the 30-06.
I trust the heavier and wider 06 bullet anyday over the 7mm. There are more factors than energy that go into killing power. Whoever said the 06 is borderline for elk needs to learn to shoot. I've seen enough 1 shot kills on elk and moose to remove any doubt. Plus I can load up a 9mm to have alot more energy on paper than a 45 but which one are you gong to trust more. Going off of energy is very misleading, and too much of it will ruin the performance of many bullets.
 
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