The best grain to use for deer hunting is generally in the range of 60 grains to about 300+ grains, but this will differ depending on your rifle’s caliber. When choosing the bullet, consider the distance you are shooting from and the rifle you are using.
Let’s dive into the four most common caliber rifle classifications to see the best grain weight range for each. I will also discuss suitable bullet styles for each classification and go into more depth about a couple of popular cartridges.
Best Grain for Deer Hunting With Small Caliber Rifles
There is no “perfect bullet” for deer hunting, but there are a few things you need to take into account when choosing bullets. The best deer hunting bullets have rapid, controlled expansion, deep penetration, and at least a 50% weight retention.
The best grain for deer hunting with small caliber rifles is between 60 and 100 grains. Small caliber rifles, like the .223 Remington or .243 Winchester, are best for short-range deer hunting. Pay attention to state laws because some states may not allow certain small-caliber rifles for hunting.
Great types of bullets for small caliber rifles include all-copper, where nontoxic bullets are required, or premium bullets. Premium bullets rely on technology to ensure the correct expansion and penetration are achieved.
Outdoor Life classifies the .223 Remington as the “underdog” caliber for deer hunting. This caliber doesn’t meet the minimum requirements in several states in the USA, so check before hunting with a .223 Remington.
The .223 Remington cartridge is fantastic for hunting whitetail deer. It is a great cartridge for all conditions and is a good choice for first-time hunters. According to Outdoor Life, an awesome choice of ammo for your .223 Remington is the Winchester 64-grain Deer Season.
You will have an excellent hunting trip if you have the right ammo in your .223 Remington. For the most part, the ammo is relatively cheap, and there is minimal recoil.
.243 Winchester cartridges are best for beginners or hunters shooting at a closer range. It’s that smallest caliber size that’s still suitable for deer hunting. When choosing ammo, consider Barnes 80-grain TTSX.
The .243 Winchester’s moniker is that of a child’s deer cartridge since many state game departments determined the minimum caliber for big-game hunting to be 6mm, or .243 inches. Since the caliber is the minimum, children and first-time hunters often use it.
Best Grain for Deer Hunting With Standard Caliber Rifles
Standard caliber rifles, like the 6.5 Creedmoor or .270 Winchester, are best for medium to long-range deer hunting. These rifles shoot at medium to fast velocities, generally between 2500 to 3000 feet per second (762 to 914.4 meters per second).
The best grain for deer hunting with standard caliber rifles is 115 to 180 grains. Bullet types that work best with standard caliber rifles in deer hunting include all-copper, ballistic tipped, or premium bullets.
Ballistic tipped bullets that are best for deer hunting are not the “traditional” types, but those with thin, tapered jackets, lead cores, polymer tips, and a boat tail base are more commonplace.
One of the newer hunting rifle cartridges, the 6.5 Creedmoor combines incredible accuracy and terrific “shootability” with the best big-game hunting bullets.
The 6.5 Creedmoor is a match-grade cartridge, which means that it dominates at shooting competitions, such as the NRL Hunter. The Hornady 143-grain ELD-X is an optimal choice of ammo when hunting with a 6.5 Creedmoor cartridge.
On the other hand, those against the 6.5 Creedmoor claim that it cannot do anything that classic rifles cannot do. Others claim that the 6.5 Creedmoor doesn’t perform as well technically as other rifles of the same caliber.
One of the oldest rifle cartridges in deer hunting, the .270 Winchester first debuted in 1925. Although it has lost popularity over time, it is highly unlikely for the caliber to ever drop below the top ten for deer hunting.
The .270 Winchester is one of the best long-range cartridges for standard caliber rifles. A classic choice of ammo when using one is the Remington 130-grain Core-Lokt Tipped.
The .270 Winchester is a great choice for any angle or distance when deer hunting due to how powerful it is.
Best Grain for Deer Hunting With Straight-Wall and Lever-Action Caliber Rifles
Straight-wall caliber rifles, such as the .350 Legend or .444 Marlin, are best for short to medium-range deer hunting. In contrast, lever-action caliber rifles, like the .30/30 Winchester or .45/70, are best for deer hunting at close range.
The best grain for deer hunting with straight-wall and lever-action caliber rifles is between 150 to 300+ grains. The types of bullets best for deer hunting for straight-wall and lever-action caliber rifles include jacketed soft points and jacketed hollow points.
The soft point bullet’s jacket is usually not bonded to its core, which is made of soft lead, which makes the bullet expand quickly after impact. Hollow points are also designed for rapid expansion in straight-wall and lever-action calibers.
The .350 Legend is a new, specialized rifle cartridge that was created for a specific area in the hunting world, with formal approval from Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers’ Institute (SAAMI) in 2019. A great ammo choice for deer hunting is the 160-grain Winchester Power Maxed Bonded.
The .350 Legend was created to help hunters use straight-walled cartridges in states with very strict regulations. These states are primarily in the midwestern USA.
The original lever-action cartridge, the .30/30 Winchester, was first introduced in 1895 along with the Winchester Model 94 lever gun. It is still the top-selling lever-action, even beating out the newer .45/70.
The .30/30 Winchester is perfect for deer hunting at 200 yards (182.88 meters), good for 95% of shots on deer. Outdoor Life suggests the Federal 150-grain Fusion for ammo in deer hunting.
Best Grain for Deer Hunting With Magnum Caliber Rifles
Magnum caliber rifles, such as the 7mm Remington Magnum or .300 Winchester Magnum, are best for medium to long deer hunting. These calibers shoot heavier bullets at high velocities.
The best grain for deer hunting with magnum caliber rifles is When buying ammo, 150+ grain. For deer hunting with magnum caliber rifles, look for bullets that are jacketed soft point or ballistic tipped.
While magnum caliber cartridges sometimes have a large recoil, jacketed soft point bullets are great for new deer hunters.
7mm Remington Magnum
The 7mm Remington Magnum is one of the few metric-style cartridges Americans are not averse to using. The cartridges have been in circulation since 1962 with the Remington 700. A fabulous ammo choice for the 7mm Remington Magnum cartridge is the Black Hills Ammunition 175-grain ELD-X.
These cartridges are terrific for long-range hunting, with point-blank zero of 365 yards (333.76 meters) when sighted at 3.9 inches (9.9 centimeters) high at 100 yards (91.44 meters) with a 175-grain hunting bullet at 2900 feet per second (883.92 meters per second).
.300 Winchester Magnum
The .300 Winchester Magnum has a seriously sharp recoil, so you need to be an experienced hunter if you are going to shoot one. When deer hunting, a great ammo choice is the Winchester 190-grain Accubond LR.
Despite the intense recoil, the .300 Winchester Magnum is an excellent deer-hunting rifle for basically any distance a hunter can imagine.
It may be the best caliber cartridge available once you’re adept at shooting the .300 Winchester Magnum.
Choosing the best ammo when deer hunting is essential. When choosing your bullets, you need to consider the type of cartridge your rifle takes and the distance in which you hunt. On average, the grain (weight) you look for in your ammo for deer hunting is between 60 and 300+ grains.
For more, check out Bullet Grain Chart By Caliber.