Optimal Game Weight Table
for Popular Calibers and Loads

By Chuck Hawks


For a much expanded version of this table showing a great many more cartridges and loads including British, European, wildcat, obsolescent American and proprietary calibers, see the "Expanded Optimal Game Range Table" on the Tables, Charts and Lists Page.

If you use the Lyman Reloading Manual, 47th Edition or the BigGameInfo ballistic calculator program on the Internet you have probably noticed that there is a column that lists "Optimal Game Weight." This optimal weight goes down as the range increases and energy and momentum decrease. I thought that it might be interesting to make a chart showing the (theoretical) optimum range for some common loads on animals they might typically be used to hunt. I hope that this table will prove helpful in helping to select a caliber and load appropriate for the game to be hunted at the range anticipated.

Edward A. Matunas developed, and the Lyman Reloading Manual, 47th Edition published, the formula used to determine the optimal game weight, which BigGameInfo programmed into their ballistic calculator. The mathematical formula can be found on their web page or in the Lyman Reloading Manual. I used the online ballistics calculator, rather than work the formula for myself out of my copy of the Lyman Reloading Manual, to develop the data for the table below. My thanks and sincere appreciation to BigGameInfo for making this job easy!

Listed below are the longest ranges at which a selection of common rifle cartridges are considered optimum for shooting animals of five different weight classes in terms of theoretical killing power. Some of these numbers seem fairly conservative to me while others seem pretty liberal, which suggests that although everyone's experience is different, in general the numbers are probably not far off.

Here is how to interpret the table, using the 30-30 Winchester as an example. If the 30-30 shooting a 150 grain bullet at 2390 fps is an optimum mule deer caliber at 205 yards, it is more than sufficient at shorter distances. Conversely, this does not mean that the 150 grain 30-30 bullet will not kill a 200 pound deer at 225 yards; it just means that it is past its optimum range for that size game at ranges beyond 205 yards. If most of your anticipated shots at deer will be between 50-150 yards, with maybe an occasional long shot out to about 200 yards, the 30-30 with the 150 grain bullet would be an excellent choice. But if the majority of your anticipated shots will be around 200 yards, with occasional opportunities at considerably longer range, another caliber might be a better choice.

For the purposes of the table below I selected the following weight classes as representative of commonly hunted animals:

  • 100 lb. (45 kilo) game - pronghorn antelope, impala, small deer

  • 200 lb. (91 kilo) game - mule deer, antelope, sheep, and goat species

  • 400 lb. (181 kilo) game - caribou, red stag, hartebeest

  • 600 lb. (272 kilo) game - elk, alg, kudu

  • 1000 lb. (454 kilo) game - Alaskan moose, eland
  • Other animals of similar weight can be substituted for those named above. For example, a large whitetail deer might weigh about 200 pounds, a large black bear might run 400 pounds, and a zebra is about as heavy as an elk.

    Please note that the optimal ranges in the table are based only on the mathematically computed killing power of the cartridge and load. Other crucial factors such as trajectory, bullet design, and bullet placement are ignored. But in the real world they cannot be ignored. Use this table for informational and comparative purposes, not as a guide to how far you should shoot at game animals.

    Many cartridges are limited by their trajectory rather than their killing power. For example, the .45-70 (300 grain bullet) has the power to humanely kill pronghorn antelope at 400 yards, but in reality its trajectory limits this combination to shots within about 162 yards. To introduce a dose of reality into the situation, the last column in the table below shows the Maximum Point Blank Range (MPBR) of each load, as taken from my "Rifle Trajectory Table" (also on the Rifle Information Page). This also reveals that for a few calibers, particularly the centerfire .22's, their MPBR far outstrips their killing power.

    In this case the maximum point blank range is the distance at which the bullet falls 3 inches below the line of sight for a rifle with a telescopic sight mounted 1.5" above bore. Between the muzzle and the distance given as the MPBR, the bullet never strays more than 3 inches above or below the line of sight. See the "Rifle Trajectory Table" for more information about MPBR.

    In the table that follows the first column shows the cartridge followed by the bullet weight and muzzle velocity of the specific load (Wb@MV). The second column (Bullet BC) shows the ballistic coefficient of the bullet. The next five columns show the maximum optimal range for the five selected weight classes of game. The effective range has been calculated in yards and, in most instances, rounded off to the nearest 5 yards. The maximum range listed for any cartridge is 400 yards, since 400 yards is beyond the point blank range of every cartridge shown. Adequate killing power at longer distances is indicated by the notation "400+." The notation "n/a" means that the cartridge is not applicable (lacks adequate killing power at any range) for hunting animals of that size. The last column shows the maximum point blank range (MPBR) of each load. To convert yards to meters, multiply the distance in yards by .9144.



    Cartridge (Wb@MV) Bullet BC 100 lb.
    game
    200 lb.
    game
    400 lb.
    game
    600 lb.
    game
    1000 lb.
    game
    MPBR
    (yds.)
    .223 Rem. (60 at 3150) .228 125 n/a n/a n/a n/a 281
    .223 WSSM (64 at 3600) .230 250 90 n/a n/a n/a 317
    6mm PPC-USA (90 at 3000) .385 400+ 200 n/a n/a n/a 290
    .243 Win. (95 at 3100) .379 400+ 275 5 n/a n/a 300
    .243 Win. (100 at 2960) .351 400+ 240 n/a n/a n/a 283
    6mm Rem. (100 at 3100) .351 400+ 295 40 n/a n/a 296
    .243 WSSM (100 at 3100) .351 400+ 295 40 n/a n/a 296
    6x62 Freres (100 at 3300) .351 400+ 370 115 n/a n/a 312
    .240 Wby. Mag. (100 at 3400) .351 400+ 400 150 n/a n/a 322
    .25-35 Win. (117 at 2300) .238 195 50 n/a n/a n/a 212
    .250 Savage (100 at 2820) .336 390 175 n/a n/a n/a 270
    .257 Roberts +P (100 at 3000) .336 400+ 240 n/a n/a n/a 286
    .257 Roberts +P (117 at 2800) .391 400+ 305 45 n/a n/a 273
    .257 Roberts (120 at 2700) .391 400+ 290 20 n/a n/a 271
    .25 WSSM (120 at 2990) .391 400+ 400+ 130 n/a n/a 291
    .25-06 Rem. (120 at 2990) .391 400+ 400+ 130 n/a n/a 291
    .257 Wby. Mag. (100 at 3600) .336 400+ 400+ 205 60 n/a 337
    .257 Wby. Mag. (120 at 3305) .391 400+ 400+ 280 110 n/a 317
    6.5x55 (129 at 2700) .445 400+ 385 92 n/a n/a 267
    6.5x55 SE (140 at 2645) .435 400+ 400+ 135 n/a n/a 260
    .260 Rem. (120 at 2890) .433 400+ 400+ 120 n/a n/a 284
    .260 Rem. (140 at 2750) .435 400+ 400+ 185 10 n/a 271
    6.5-284 Norma (140 at 2900) .435 400+ 400+ 260 80 n/a 286
    6.5mm Rem. Mag. (120 at 3210) .433 400+ 400+ 265 80 n/a 312
    6.5mm Rem. Mag. (140 at 3040) .490 400+ 400+ 355 160 n/a 301
    6.5x68 S (140 at 2990) .435 400+ 400+ 300 125 n/a 294
    .264 Win. Mag. (140 at 3100) .435 400+ 400+ 350 175 n/a 303
    6.8mm Rem. SPC (115 at 2800) .325 400+ 245 30 n/a n/a 267
    .270 Win. (130 at 3140) .416 400+ 400+ 290 120 n/a 305
    .270 Win. (140 at 2990) .432 400+ 400+ 290 120 n/a 293
    .270 Win. (150 at 2900) .481 400+ 400+ 350 160 n/a 287
    .270 WSM (130 at 3206) .416 400+ 400+ 320 150 n/a 311
    .270 WSM (150 at 3150) .481 400+ 400+ 400+ 275 28 311
    .270 Wby. Mag. (130 at 3375) .416 400+ 400+ 390 220 n/a 326
    .270 Wby. Mag. (150 at 3245) .481 400+ 400+ 400+ 320 70 320
    7-30 Waters (120 at 2700) .195 260 140 10 n/a n/a 238
    7x57 (139 at 2700)* .453 400+ 400+ 157 n/a n/a 268
    7x57 (145 at 2790) .502 400+ 400+ 270 70 n/a 279
    7x57 (175 at 2535) .519 400+ 400+ 305 110 n/a 256
    7mm-08 Rem. (120 at 3000) .343 400+ 365 135 n/a n/a 286
    7mm-08 Rem. (140 at 2860) .485 400+ 400+ 270 70 n/a 285
    .284 Win. (150 at 2860) .456 400+ 400+ 310 130 n/a 283
    7x64 (140 at 3000) .485 400+ 400+ 340 140 n/a 298
    .280 Rem. (140 at 3000) .485 400+ 400+ 340 140 n/a 298
    .280 Rem. (160 at 2890) .475 400+ 400+ 400 210 n/a 287
    7mm SAUM (150 at 3110) .456 400+ 400+ 400+ 250 10 305
    7mm WSM (150 at 3200) .456 400+ 400+ 400+ 290 50 314
    7mm WSM (160 at 2990) .475 400+ 400+ 400+ 260 13 296
    7mm Rem. Mag. (139 at 3100) .392 400+ 400+ 305+ 145 n/a 300
    7mm Rem. Mag. (150 at 3110) .456 400+ 400+ 400+ 250 10 305
    7mm Rem. Mag. (160 at 2950) .475 400+ 400+ 400+ 240 n/a 292
    7mm Rem. Mag. (175 at 2860) .465 400+ 400+ 400+ 275 35 283
    7mm Wby. Mag. (154 at 3260) .423 400+ 400+ 400+ 320 100 317
    7mm Wby. Mag. (160 at 3200) .475 400+ 400+ 400+ 370 115 314
    7mm STW (150 at 3280) .456 400+ 400+ 400+ 330 85 321
    7mm Ultra Mag. (160 at 3200) .475 400+ 400+ 400+ 370 120 314
    .30-30 Win. (150 at 2390) .268 365 205 40 n/a n/a 225
    .30-30 Win. (160 at 2400) .330 400+ 290 90 n/a n/a 232
    .30-30 Win. (170 at 2200) .304 400+ 230 40 n/a n/a 211
    .300 Savage (150 at 2630) .435 400+ 400+ 180 10 n/a 259
    .308 Marlin Express (160 at 2660) .400 400+ 400+ 225 75 n/a 261
    .308 Win. (150 at 2800) .435 400+ 400+ 270 90 n/a 275
    .308 Win. (165 at 2700) .410 400+ 400+ 280 120 n/a 264
    .308 Win. (180 at 2610) .483 400+ 400+ 360 175 n/a 259
    .30-06 (150 at 2910) .435 400+ 400+ 320 145 n/a 287
    .30-06 (165 at 2800) .410 400+ 400+ 380 190 n/a 273
    .30-06 (180 at 2700) .483 400+ 400+ 400+ 225 n/a 269
    .300 SAUM (165 at 3075) .410 400+ 400+ 400+ 280 70 300
    .300 WSM (150 at 3300) .435 400+ 400+ 400+ 325 90 321
    .300 WSM (180 at 2970) .483 400+ 400+ 400+ 370 123 294
    .300 Win. Mag. (150 at 3260) .435 400+ 400+ 400+ 305 75 317
    .300 Win. Mag. (180 at 3070) .483 400+ 400+ 400+ 400+ 170 303
    .300 H&H Mag. (180 at 2880) .483 400+ 400+ 400+ 340 80 286
    .300 Wby. Mag. (180 at 3250) .483 400+ 400+ 400+ 400+ 260 320
    .300 Ultra Mag. (200 at 3025) .481 400+ 400+ 400+ 400+ 250 299
    .30-378 Wby. Mag. (200 at 3160) .481 400+ 400+ 400+ 400+ 320 311
    7.62x39 (123 at 2365) .292 290 110 n/a n/a n/a 225
    .303 British (150 at 2723) .411 400+ 400+ 220 50 n/a 267
    .303 British (174 at 2400) .262 400+ 270 110 11 n/a 225
    .303 British (180 at 2460) .328 400+ 375 180 60 n/a 237
    7.65x53 (174 at 2600) .256 400+ 330 170 75 n/a 242
    .32 Spec. (165 at 2410) .315 400+ 295 105 n/a n/a 232
    .32 Spec. (170 at 2250) .297 400+ 240 60 n/a n/a 215
    8x57JS (150 at 2900) .369 400+ 400+ 270 120 n/a 280
    8x57JS (200 at 2650) .426 400+ 400+ 400+ 260 50 260
    8x68S (220 at 2800) .448 400+ 400+ 400+ 400+ 210 277
    .325 WSM (200 at 2950) .426 400+ 400+ 400+ 390 185 289
    .325 WSM (220 at 2840) .383 400+ 400+ 400+ 373 192 276
    8mm Rem. Mag. (200 at 2900) .426 400+ 400+ 400+ 380 170 284
    .338 Marlin Express (200 at 2565) .430 400+ 400+ 370 215 5 254
    .338 Federal (180 at 2830) .372 400+ 400+ 360 220 35 274
    .338 Federal (200 at 2400) .448 400+ 400+ 295 135 n/a 240
    .338 Federal (210 at 2630) .400 400+ 400+ 400+ 265 75 258
    .338-06 (200 at 2750) .414 400+ 400+ 400+ 300 90 270
    .338 Win. Mag. (200 at 2960) .414 400+ 400+ 400+ 395 190 289
    .338 Win. Mag. (225 at 2780) .454 400+ 400+ 400+ 400+ 220 274
    .338 Win. Mag. (250 at 2700) .473 400+ 400+ 400+ 400+ 290 268
    .338 Ultra Mag (250 at 2860) .473 400+ 400+ 400+ 400+ 370 285
    .338 Lapua Mag. (250 at 3000) .473 400+ 400+ 400+ 400+ 400+ 297
    .340 Wby. Mag. (250 at 2941) .473 400+ 400+ 400+ 400+ 400+ 291
    .357 Mag. (158 at 1800) .153 110 10 n/a n/a n/a 160
    .35 Rem. (200 at 2080) .180 270 155 50 n/a n/a 186
    .356 Win. (200 at 2400) .180 340 230 120 60 n/a 211
    .358 Win. (200 at 2520) .294 400+ 400+ 240 130 n/a 239
    .358 Win. (220 at 2300) .286 400+ 365 200 100 n/a 219
    .35 Whelen (200 at 2700) .294 400+ 400+ 300 200 50 254
    .35 Whelen (250 at 2400) .409 400+ 400+ 400+ 290 100 237
    .350 Rem. Mag. (200 at 2775) .294 400+ 400+ 325 220 75 260
    .350 Rem. Mag. (225 at 2550) .430 400+ 400+ 400+ 295 95 253
    .350 Rem. Mag. (250 at 2500) .409 400+ 400+ 400+ 335 151 246
    9.3x62 (270 at 2550) .361 400+ 400+ 400+ 370 205 247
    9.3x62 (286 at 2360) .279 400+ 400+ 340 245 120 224
    9.3x74R (286 at 2360)* .410 400+ 400+ 400+ 360 180 234
    .375 Win. (220 at 2012) .231 370 220 80 n/a n/a 187
    .375 H&H Mag. (270 at 2690) .380 400+ 400+ 400+ 400+ 280 260
    .375 Ultra Mag (270 at 2900) .380 400+ 400+ 400+ 400+ 370 280
    .376 Steyr (270 at 2550) .380 400+ 400+ 400+ 390 223 248
    .378 Wby. Mag. (270 at 3180) .380 400+ 400+ 400+ 400+ 400+ 3.6
    .38-55 Win. (255 at 1700) .290 400+ 220 45 n/a n/a 164
    .405 Win. (300 at 2200) .225 400+ 387 245 170 75 231
    .416 Rem. Mag. (400 at 2400) .316 400+ 400+ 400+ 400+ 400+ 231
    .416 Rigby (400 at 2400) .316 400+ 400+ 400+ 400+ 400+ 231
    .44 Mag. (240 at 1760) .165 245 120 25 n/a n/a 159
    .44 Rem. Mag. (275 at 1580) .199 330 140 20 n/a n/a 149
    .444 Marlin (240 at 2350) .165 375 250 150 100 n/a 203
    .444 Marlin (265 at 2200) .191 400+ 290 175 110 20 197
    .45 Colt (250 at 1500) .146 175 60 n/a n/a n/a 136
    .45-70 (300 at 1800) .197 400+ 245 115 45 n/a 166
    .45-70 (350 at 1900) .189 400+ 325 185 120 35 174
    .45-70 (405 at 1330) .214 400+ 295 75 n/a n/a 131
    .450 Marlin (350 at 2100) .189 400+ 385 240 170 90 189
    .458 Win. Mag. (400 at 2050) .258 400+ 400+ 365 270 160 195
    .458 Win. Mag. (500 at 2100) .295 400+ 400+ 400+ 400+ 320 200
    .460 Wby. Mag. (500 at 2600) .295 400+ 400+ 400+ 400+ 400+ 246
    .480 Ruger (325 at 1450) .150 325 130 25 n/a n/a 134



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