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: Class 1 small game and varmints, Class 2 medium game, Class 3 large game and Class 4 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. In addition to the .22 LR, the .17 Mach 2, .17 HMR and .22 WMR offer small game hunting loads. You could use a .17 Hornet, .204 Ruger, .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, .35 Remington 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 .35 Magnum, .338 Magnum or .375 Magnum could replace the 9.3x62mm medium bore rifle. Finally, a .416 Magnum, .458 Lott or one of the big bore Nitro express cartridges 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, double barrel or some type of repeater. The exception would be for use on potentially dangerous game, in which case I recommend a repeating rifle or a double. 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. An 18"-22" barrel will get all that can be gotten from the .22 LR cartridge. 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.

Here is the sample hunting rifle battery:

Sporter Rifle, caliber .22 Long Rifle, 20" barrel, 4x scope, 6.5 pounds
Light Varmint Rifle, caliber .17 HMR, 24" barrel, 4-12x scope, 8.0 pounds
Medium Varmint Rifle, caliber .223 Remington, 24" barrel, 4-16x scope, 9.5 pounds
Sporter Rifle, caliber .243 Winchester, 22" barrel, 3-9x scope, 7.5 pounds
Sporter Rifle, caliber .30-30 Winchester, 20" barrel, 1-4x scope, 8.0 pounds
Sporter Rifle, caliber .30-06 Springfield, 22" barrel, 2.5-8x scope, 8.0 pounds
Sporter Rifle, caliber 9.3x62mm, 24" barrel, 2-6x scope, 9 pounds
Safari Rifle, caliber .458 Winchester Magnum, 24" barrel, 1-4x scope, 10.5 pounds

Small game (rabbit, squirrel):

  • .17 HMR
  • .22 Long Rifle

Varmints (woodchuck, ground hog, prairie dog, etc.):

  • .17 HMR
  • .223 Remington

Small predators (fox, coyote, jackal, etc.):

  • .223 Remington
  • .243 Winchester

General CXP2 class thin-skinned game (cougar, deer, antelope, sheep, goats, feral hogs; average weight 100-200 pounds):

  • .243 Winchester
  • .30-30 Winchester
  • .30-06 Springfield

Large Class 2 game (Caribou and black bear, for example):

  • .30-30 Winchester
  • .30-06 Springfield

Combination CXP2 and CXP3 class game hunts:

  • .30-06 Springfield
  • 9.3x62mm

General CXP3 class game (red stag, oryx, kudu, elk, eland, moose and similar size animals):

  • .30-06 Springfield
  • 9.3x62mm

Large, dangerous predators (Grizzly, brown bear, polar bear and the big cats; repeating rifles only):

  • .30-06 Springfield
  • 9.3x62mm
  • .458 Win. Mag.

All CXP4 game (buffalo, bison, rhino, elephant), repeating rifles only:

  • 9.3x62mm
  • .458 Win. Mag.

Of course, because there is intentional overlap in the suggestions above, this rifle battery could be compressed to accommodate more limited budgets if you were willing to forego the two rifle standard for major hunts and were not planning an African hunt that included Class 4 game. For example:

Sporter Rifle, caliber .22 Long Rifle, 20" barrel, 4x scope, 6.5 pounds
Varmint Rifle, caliber .223 Remington, 24" barrel, 4-16x scope, 9.5 pounds
Sporter Rifle, caliber .243 Winchester, 22" barrel, 3-9x scope, 7.5 pounds
Sporter Rifle, caliber .30-06 Springfield, 22" barrel, 2.5-8x scope, 8.0 pounds
Sporter Rifle, caliber 9.3x62mm, 24" barrel, 2-6x scope, 9 pounds

This five rifle battery would work nicely for most novice and intermediate hunters and it could be expanded to the full eight rifle battery over time.

Note: For many more specific caliber recommendations for individual species of game animals, see the "Cartridges and Game" section of the Rifle Cartridge Page.




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Copyright 2003, 2013 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.


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