Monday, July 20, 2015

Use Enough Gun

Looking through my analytics, I see that a piece I wrote some time ago about selecting the perfect Alaska rifle is hands down the most popular piece I've written here. It has consistently generated more page views, and not unusually, more email than any post to date. You can view the original here.

In that piece I only mention 4 cartridges- the .270, the .30-06, the .300 and .338 Winchester Magnum. A guy could select one of those and be a happy hunter for the rest of his days.

Since then, I've received several pieces of correspondence regarding other cartridge choices. I tend to view such discussions as a lot of fun (who doesn't like to discuss guns and cartridges?) but as much fun as they are...they are largely pointless.

What do I mean? I'll explain. Most cartridges between .270 and the .338WM will perform so similarly in the hands of the average hunter...there's basically no difference in the field at all. Comparing the .270 Winchester to the .280 Remington to the .30-06 or the .300 Winchester to the .300 Weatherby or .300WSM are all just drawing distinctions only discernible on a ballistic chart.

Critters rarely read ballistic charts.

There is one class of cartridges though that I'm getting a lot of correspondence about though that I have to draw the line on. The cartridges all have one thing in common- small bores, average velocity and very long for caliber bullets and all are pretty much marketed for long range shooting. Typical numbers are the .260 Remington, the 6.5 Creedmoor and the 6.5x284 Norma.

For long range shooting, they are the cat's jammies and for deer hunting they do just fine when loaded with hunting bullets. Many of the target and match bullets loaded in these cartridges are completely unsuitable for hunting big game though, so choose wisely. The 6.5x284 is often compared to the trajectory of the .300 Winchester Magnum and it's true. In terms of energy and effect on game the 6.5 just isn't close. Not in recoil either. In long range target shooting, high recoil will ruin scores. Almost all the top competitors have moved from the big magnums to the .25s and the .264s.

But big game hunting isn't long range target shooting. The typical hunter won't fire more than a couple of boxes of cartridges a year. A fraction of what a competitor will fire in a single match. A hunter looking to shoot a moose or caribou will do better with something harder hitting since the accumulated effect of recoil never takes hold. As compelling as the 6.5s are for long range shooting...Alaska hunters are better armed with something heavier.

Use Enough Gun.


Phillip said...

No argument with this one, Hodge. But you probably know that.

That said, I have a solid respect for that 6.5x284 after watching it perform on both mule deer and wild hogs. No, it doesn't hit like .300, but it hits hard enough. Add that to the light recoil and screaming accuracy and you've got a pretty sweet round, especially for places where there aren't critters that might eat you.

I'm not running out to buy one, though. Given the selection of rifles already in my safe, there's very little I'm not prepared to hunt.

hodgeman said...

I really think the 6.5s are impressive. I've messed around with the old 6.5 Swede and it would be a fine deer rifle and the newer 6.5s are just more of a good thing. With all due respect to the Scandinavians though, I'm not so sure it's a moose cartridge...especially considering our moose are twice the size of theirs. They'd certainly be suitable for a caribou provided the range is reasonable. A pal of mine has shot a bunch of black bears with one, but the ranges have been in feet, not yards.

But...most of the correspondence starts asking about 500, 600 and 700 yard, I'm not so hot on that with anything.

Phillip said...

Once again, I'm with you. Unfortunately, far too many people really don't have any idea what a 500 yard shot looks like, and even less have actually practiced it to proficiency. So much of this stuff is theoretical and wishful thinking on the part of folks who spend too much time on the Internet, and not enough on the range.

Ahh... but I've started down a road I've traveled too many times. Good stuff, man. Keep it coming.