This page lists the Best Caliber for Deer Hunting . After reading this page, feel free to check out the Best Rifles for Deer Hunting which are broke down by price so you can purchase a rifle in the caliber you want that best fits your budget.
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Best Caliber for Deer Hunting
With deer being the most hunted big game animal in North America, it is not surprising that there are an incredible amount of calibers that are designed to hunt deer. The thing is that deer come in all different sizes depending on location and deer species. Whitetail deer alone consist of over 20 subspecies and range in size from 100 lbs to 300 lbs, and mule deer can be even bigger yet.
So What is the Best Caliber for Deer Hunting:
To pick out the best caliber for deer hunting is like picking the best motor oil for your pickup. Most legal calibers will get the job done, but it is up to the hunter to put the bullet in the right spot.
Just Remember: too much bullet is better than too little.
For all deer that will be hunted in North America, there are 3 calibers that we at Artifact Outfitters considered the best calibers for deer hunting:
.243 (6 mm) 243 Ballistics Chart
.270 (6.8 mm) 270 Ballistics Chart
.300 WIN Mag (7.62 mm) 300 Ballistics Chart
Note: when reffering to any of these calibers, the decimal point is dropped and the whole number is used. So, .270 would be referred to as a 270.
- Best for whitetail deer in areas that the body size is on the smaller side from 100 to 150 lbs, generally in the southern states.
- The .243 is a fast, flat shooting caliber that is great for other game such as varmints, especially when loaded with light grain bullets
- After about 400 or 500 yards, bullet drops velocity and height quite quickly.
- Easy to find anywhere ammunition is sold.
- Great for midsized to large whitetail, blacktail, and mule deer.
- Good, accurate caliber that delivers a midsized 130 grain bullet at moderate distances and sustains its velocity.
- One of the most popular calibers for deer hunting so bullets are easy to get anywhere
.300 Win Mag
- Great for Mule Deer and big Whitetail.
- Heavy bullet with a lot of powder for great knock down power
- Will travel long distances, great for long range shooting (we do not endorse long range hunting for helpless animals)
- Great all round caliber for North American big game
- In addition to large deer, will perform well on elk, moose, caribou, and even brown bear.
If there is any debate as to which caliber will be the best for deer hunting in your area, a good rule of thumb is to go with the higher of the two calibers. Like I said before, the deer is not going to survive due to the fact the caliber of rifle you used was too big. Likewise, if you shoot the animal in he right spot (right behind the shoulder) then you wont waste any more meat either regardless of deer hunting caliber. If you should happen to make a bad shot, which most will sooner or later, then the extra knock down power a big bullet has will help to ensure the deer does not go far.
Another thing to consider is the price of buying and shooting a rifle. The larger the caliber, the more expensive it will be as the parts need to take more recoil and move a bigger load.
For the most part while hunting, not enough bullets are shot so the price of each bullet does not have a lot of affect on what caliber of deer hunting rifle you buy. If you plan on doing a lot of target shooting at the range however, the size of these deer hunting calibers can affect the price of ammunition quite a bit.
.243 bullets have the least amount of powder, lightest bullet, and the smallest casing of the three. It would stand to reason that these bullets would be cheaper than the lager deer hunting calibers. Same goes with the differences of the .270 and 300 win mag.
Here is the average cost for a box of 20 shells:
- .243: $15-$23
- .270: $18-$25
- .300 Win Mag: $20-$30
Likewise, the cost of the deer hunting rifle its self will be determined by the caliber with the bigger costing more due to the larger size of components such as barrel and bolt.
One thing to remember is that the performance of deer hunting calibers can also be manipulated by variations in the amount of grains that a bullet is. For instance a .243 can be loaded with 50 grains or 100 + grains, thus affecting the weight and knock down power of the bullet. For a light deer hunting caliber such as a .243, it is suggested that you go with a heavier round.
Here is a list of the standard grains of bullet you will want to use for deer hunting.
- .243: 100 grain
- .270: 130 grain
- .300: 180 grain
These are generic standards. Each rifle shoots different bullets differently, so you will want to find which size and load shoots the best out of your rifle. Follow the links below to buy what we have found to be the best rounds for deer hunting to start with for each of these calibers.
That’s right, Federal Fusion are the best loads for deer hunting for just about every deer hunting caliber.
Bullet Velocity and Drop
The velocity at which the bullet leaves the muzzle is what most people look at when comparing deer hunting calibers as well as bullet drop. Each round is different with regards to the bullet weight and the amount of powder, both measured in grains. The more powder and the lighter the bullet, the greater the velocity of the bullet will be right out of the muzzle. The catch is though that the bullet velocity and weight will greatly determine the accuracy of the bullet, so a happy medium between all three needs to be found.
Of the three best calibers for deer hunting, all have a muzzle velocity of about 3100 feet per second (fps) when shot with the recommended bullet grain. All three are relatively flat shooting rifles and have the ability to shot quite long distances with ballistics charts and the right scope.
Deer Hunting Scopes:
The best rifle of the best caliber for deer hunting is only as good as the scope that is mounted on top of it. We have put together a page on scopes as well that have different brands broke down by price range so you can be sure you can get the best scope you can afford. Click this link to go to check out the Best Scopes for Hunting.