The Best Hunting Rifle Calibers for Each Type of Game

Video best caliber for small game

Any hunter knows the importance of having the right equipment for any hunt. A small game hunt isn’t the same thing as a bear hunt, and your level of success depends on the equipment you’re bringing with you. And what piece of equipment is more important on a hunt than your weapon of choice?

When you’re about to take off on a hunt, you want to make sure you’re bringing a weapon with you that can get the job done. Deciding the best all-around rifle caliber through the sea of the most popular rifle calibers can be tricky — read on to learn which rifle caliber is best for your needs!

The Best Overall Hunting Rifle Calibers Based on Versatility

When it comes to finding a reliable and versatile rifle, there are a few different attributes you want to look for. Understanding the difference in these attributes and how they can affect your hunt will help you in your rifle caliber comparison.


In regards to firearms, flexibility refers to how many different types of cartridges it can fire. Different cartridges are built to take down different sizes of targets/animals, and if you’re looking for versatility, you’ll want a rifle that can handle a variety of different cartridge sizes.


When a bullet hits a target, it disperses a large amount of energy throughout the target. The energy of the impact is determined by the mass of the bullet and the velocity of the impact. Since wild game can come in all shapes and sizes, the amount of power that you want the animal hit with varies: too small of an impact won’t successfully kill the animal, and too large of an impact could tear the animal apart and ruin the meat. A versatile firearm can shoot a multitude of cartridges so that you can adjust based on the game you are hunting.


In the world of firearms, reach refers to the range that a firearm can successfully hit a target from. Different types of hunts will have you firing from different distances, and you’ll want a firearm that you’re comfortable with from a variety of ranges.

Although no gun will be perfect for every type of hunt, you can find a gun that will provide you with options. Here are a few of the most popular rifle calibers that people choose when looking for versatility.

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A .30-06 is perhaps the most popular cartridge in the world, and versatility may be one of the main reasons. It’s been used to hunt game in all sorts of countries, and the velocity that it provides on impact makes it a great choice for big game hunts.


If you’re hunting something with a smaller or a medium-size, then you’ll want to look into a .308 cartridge. These cartridges are deadly accurate, meaning that not only can they help you hit a smaller target, but if you get the shot just right, you can even take down some larger game.

.375 Holland & Holland

A bullet shot out of a .375 Holland & Holland cartridge will have plenty of power and velocity, making it possible to take down a variety of even the largest game. It also can provide you with a sharp, clean kill without destroying the hide, which a variety of trophy hunters look for.

The Best Deer Hunting Calibers

When deer hunting, you want something powerful enough to take down a deer, but accurate enough to hit the small vital region of a deer. Any of the following cartridge sizes will help you have a successful deer hunt:

.270 Winchester

A .270 Winchester cartridge is very popular due to its long-range reach, which is essential in the deer hunting world.

.308 Winchester

Even though a .308 Winchester cartridge doesn’t pack a massive punch, it offers plenty of velocity to take down even the largest of bucks. It is also the perfect size for you to keep the size and weight of the rifle down, which is crucial for long days out in the field.

The Best Calibers for Hunting Elk

An elk is a notoriously difficult animal to take down due to its dense muscles, heavy bones and thick frame. You’ll need an impressive cartridge to take one down, and these are the best caliber for elk.

7mm Remington Magnum

The downrange ballistics and power of the 7mm Remington Magnum cartridges can pierce the hide of an elk and get through to the vitals, all while offering a manageable recoil for the hunter.

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.280 Ackley Improved

The .280 Ackley Improved is accurate, a heavy hitter, and incredibly popular with people who are hunting larger game. It’s also a great cartridge to use at a distance, which makes it a great choice for elk hunting.

The Best Calibers for Moose Hunting

Surprisingly to most, despite a moose’s large size, they aren’t particularly tough creatures. Most deer-sized cartridges can take down a moose, but you’ll still want to make sure you have the right caliber for the job.

.338 Winchester Magnum

Despite the heavy recoil that this cartridge comes with, it’s a great choice for taking down a large moose. The velocity will drive the bullet straight through the moose, which leads to a clean, ethical kill.

6.5-300 Weatherby Magnum

This cartridge is accurate, powerful, and effective from long distances, making it a popular choice for any hunter looking to take their shot from hundreds of yards away.

The Best Calibers for Hog Hunting

Hog hide can be deceptively tough — especially if you’re targeting the larger hogs out there. Finding the caliber is key to a clean kill on your hog hunt.

.270 Winchester

Although this is commonly known as a deer rifle, it packs plenty of punch to take down even the thickest of boars out there.


Even in the hands of a novice hunter, the .30-06 is powerful, accurate, and will get the job done on your hog hunt.

The Best Calibers for Black Bears and Grizzly Bears

We don’t have to spell out the obvious here — when you’re hunting a bear, you want a gun that’s going to get the job done on the first try. You’ll need something powerful and reliable, and these calibers should be the first place you look.

.375 Holland & Holland

The cartridges fired out of these rifles are dependable, powerful, and reliable enough to take on a bear from a variety of different distances.

416 Remington

Bear hunters need something that is guaranteed to pack a punch, and a 416 Remington caliber does just that.

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The Best Calibers for Small Game Hunting

Conversely, when you are small game hunting, packing a punch goes out the window completely. You’re looking for accuracy, and ideally, you’ll want something that won’t completely destroy the animal upon impact. These options will help you get the job done.

.22 Magnum

If you’re looking for a cartridge that hits fast and hard, then the .22 Magnum is exactly what you need. It can tackle everything from prairie dogs to coyotes, making it the perfect choice for a variety of small game.

.17 Winchester

It’s an accurate cartridge, it’s fast and it provides a devastating blow to a small surface area, making this a popular choice for creatures like bobcats, coyotes, woodchucks, and more.

The Best Calibers for Hunting Sheep

Sheep live in a tougher environment, which makes them surprisingly tough creatures to take down. The following cartridges can help you improve your chances of having a successful sheep hunt.


Just as it’s a reliable caliber for deer and hog hunting, the .270 is a great choice for sheep hunting due to its accuracy from a distance, which is critical in mountainous terrain.


As mentioned earlier, the habitat of a wild sheep causes it to have a thick and tough hide. Because of this, you’ll want something powerful like a .30-06, which has the velocity necessary to break through the hide and successfully puncture the vital organs.

Choosing the Best Hunting Caliber for Your Needs is Essential

As you can see, it’s important to pick the right rifle before you go off on your hunt. Having the right rifle can be the difference between a wounded animal and a downed animal, and any hunter knows that giving the animal a quick death is the most ethical and humane way to do things.

And if you want to take your hunting to another level, think about adding a suppressor to your toolkit. Not only do they protect your hearing without sacrificing situational awareness but they can help reduce recoil and the likelihood that you’ll scare away game. Contact us today and get ready to have the best hunt yet!


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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>