A Hunting Rifle Battery and Appropriate Game
By Chuck Hawks
Okay, so you'd like to hunt all the common American / Australian / European game, and maybe an African safari is a distant dream. You probably don't own all of the hunting rifles you want, or all of the calibers you'd like (who does?). Fortunately, there is a lot of overlap in the capability of the various calibers, so one rifle can be suitable for more than one kind of hunting.
Take a look at the following example of a reasonably complete hunting rifle battery. Note the multiple choices it gives for the various sizes of game animals listed below. I always recommend taking two rifles on any extended hunt in case the primary rifle or scope or ammunition is damaged or lost and a battery such as the example below allows this. Any hunting rifle battery that includes .17-.22, 24-25, 26-32 and .33-.45 caliber rifles can provide essentially the same sort of flexibility and alternatives.
The sample rifle battery that follows is composed of rifle cartridges chosen for the following general categories of game animals: CXP1 small game and varmints, CXP2 medium game, CXP3 large game and CXP4 very large/dangerous game.
I have chosen eight of the most popular rifle calibers for the sample battery listed below, but many other calibers would serve the same purpose. You could use a .204 Ruger, .222 Remington, .22-250, or .220 Swift instead of the .223 and kill just as many varmints. The 6mm Remington, .240 Weatherby Magnum or .257 Roberts could be substituted for the .243 without missing a beat. A .308 Marlin Express or .32 Winchester Special could be substituted for the .30-30. The .270 Winchester, 7mm Rem. Magnum, .308 Winchester and .30-06 are all good "all-around" cartridges. A .350 Magnum, 9.3mm or .375 Magnum could replace the .338 Win. Mag. Finally, a .416 Rigby or .45 Lott could replace the .458 Win. Magnum. These are merely examples, the actual possibilities are numerous.
In most cases it does not matter if a hunting rifle is a single shot or some type of repeater. The exception would be for use on potentially dangerous game, in which case I recommend a repeating rifle. The common repeating rifle actions are bolt, lever, autoloading and pump; all are satisfactory.
In all cases an appropriate bullet type for the game in question is assumed. Normally, this would be a fragmenting bullet for varmint hunting (example: Hornady V-Max), a soft point or plastic tipped bullet for medium game (example: Winchester Power Point) and a controlled expansion bullet that gives deep penetration for dangerous or very large game (example: Swift A-Frame). Lighter bullets are generally best for smaller game and heavier bullets are generally preferred for larger game. For example, .30-06/150 grain for deer and .30-06/180 grain for elk.)
I am assuming barrels of typical length, which are mentioned below. 22"-24" barrels are usually a good choice for standard caliber sporter rifles and 24"-26" barrels are appropriate for varmint and magnum caliber rifles. Woods and mountain rifles may come with 20" barrels, sacrificing ballistic performance for increased portability. The barrel lengths and rifle weights listed below are typical for the various calibers and the latter include a scope and mount.
The approximate weights of average adult male animals were taken from the table by Edward A. Matunas and published in the 47th edition of the Lyman Reloading Handbook. Here is the sample hunting rifle battery:
Sporter Rifle, caliber .17 HMR, 22" barrel, 4-12x scope, 8.0 pounds
Small game (rabbit, squirrel):
Varmints (woodchuck, ground hog, prairie dog, etc.):
Small predators (fox, coyote, bobcat):
Javelina (average weight 30 pounds):
General CXP2 class thin-skinned game (deer, antelope, sheep, goats, feral hogs; average weight 100-200 pounds and not exceeding 350 pounds):
Cougar and black bear, repeating rifles only:
Caribou (average weight 240 pounds):
Combination CXP2 and CXP3 class game hunts:
General CXP3 class game (red stag, oryx, kudu, elk, eland, moose and similar size animals):
Grizzly, brown and polar bear, repeating rifles only:
All CXP4 game (buffalo, bison, rhino, elephant), repeating rifles only:
Note: For many more specific caliber recommendations for individual species of game animals, see the "Cartridges and Game" section of the Rifle Cartridge Page.
Copyright 2003, 2008 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.