Rifle Cartridge Killing Power List
By Chuck Hawks
I don't have much faith in killing power formulas in general. Most are obviously designed to reinforce someone's pre-conceived notions. I was curious to see what the results would look like if I included the most obvious, easily quantifiable, factors in a simple killing power formula. These factors are velocity, energy, bullet weight, sectional density (SD) and bullet cross-sectional area.
After some thought and some time spent playing around with those numbers on my hand calculator, I found that if I took energy at 100 yards and multiplied it by bullet sectional density (a fractional number) and bullet cross-sectional area (also a fractional number), the result was a manageable two or three digit number, which I then rounded off to one decimal place. Ergo, the killing power number.
I choose energy at 100 yards, because most Class 2 to Class 4 game is killed between 50 and 150 yards. 100 yards is right in the middle of that spread and energy at 100 yards is included in most ballistics tables, so it's an easy number to use.
In addition, 100 meters is only slightly longer than 100 yards, so for all practical purposes the same killing power results will apply at 100 meters as well as 100 yards. If you want to compare the killing power of cartridges at some other distance, just plug-in the energy figures for that distance and work the equation.
For a more detailed description of the development of the killing power formula and a comprehensive list covering many more cartridges and loads than are listed below, see The G&S Online Rifle Cartridge Killing Power Formula and List.
Here is the formula:
Energy (in foot pounds) x Sectional Density (taken from reloading manuals) x cross-sectional Area (in square inches) = Killing Power Score. (Round off to one decimal place for convenience.)
E x SD x A = KPS
The most important factor in killing power, by far, is bullet placement. The second most important factor is probably bullet terminal performance. The third most important factor is probably the physical and mental state of the game animal in question at the moment it is shot. This formula takes into account none of those factors.
Unfortunately, those key factors are not quantifiable, at least by me. Therefore, I am assuming that the hunter knows how to shoot, where to put the bullet, and that the bullet is appropriate for the game and conditions.
I will say that after I had initially calculated the results for a number of common rifle cartridges using the formula above, I was encouraged. The results seemed reasonable in light of my personal research and experience. I concluded that, although undoubtedly not perfect, these killing power scores generally have a positive correlation with reality. I would suggest that a 100 yard Killing Power Score of at least 12.5 is required for hunting Class 2 game (deer, pronghorn, sheep, goats, etc.).
Remember that these scores are the result of an attempt to apply a simple formula to an extremely complex problem. Unlike the creators of "pounds-feet," "impulse energy," "hydro-static shock" and other pseudo scientific terms, I want it to be clearly understood that these killing power scores do not represent any scientific quantity or unit of measurement. Use them as an indicator as seems appropriate, but do not attempt to make them into some sort of killing power dogma.
The list that follows is intended to suggest the relative killing power of various hunting cartridges and loads at 100 yards when those cartridges are used appropriately. (Cartridge, bullet weight in grains, muzzle velocity in feet per second - killing power score at 100 yards.)
.223 Remington (60 grain at 3000 fps) - 6.3
.223 WSSM (64 grain at 3600 fps) - 10.1
.243 Winchester (100 grain at 2960 fps) - 18.1
6mm Remington (100 grain at 3100 fps) - 20.0
.25-35 Winchester (117 grain at 2300 fps) - 13.3
.257 Roberts +P (120 grain at 2700 fps) - 22.0
.25-06 Remington (120 grain at 2990 fps) - 26.5
.257 Weatherby Magnum (120 grain at 3305 fps) - 33.4
6.5x55mm SE (140 grain at 2700 fps) - 30.7
.260 Remington (140 grain at 2750 fps) - 31.6
6.5mm Remington Magnum (120 grain at 3210 fps) - 30.2
6.8mm Rem. SPC (115 grain at 2625 fps) - 17.9
.270 Winchester (130 grain at 3150 fps) - 35.0
.270 WSM (140 grain at 3125 fps) - 40.1
.270 Weatherby Magnum (150 grain at 3245 fps) - 51.4
7x57mm Mauser (140 grain at 2660 fps) - 29.0
7mm-08 Remington (140 grain at 2860 fps) - 33.6
.280 Remington (140 grain at 3000 fps) - 37.1
7mm Remington Magnum (150 grain at 3110 fps) - 44.8
7mm Weatherby Magnum (154 grain at 3260 fps) - 55.3
.30 Carbine (110 grain at 1990 fps) - 7.4
.30-30 Winchester (150 grain at 2390 fps) - 22.8
.300 Savage (150 grain at 2630 fps) - 30.0
.308 Winchester (150 grain at 2820 fps) - 34.7
.30-06 Springfield (150 grain at 2920 fps) - 37.3
.300 WSM (180 grain at 2960 fps) - 59.5
.300 Winchester Magnum (180 grain at 2960 fps) - 59.5
.300 Weatherby Magnum (180 grain at 3240 fps) - 72.8
7.62x39mm Soviet (123 grain at 2365 fps) - 15.7
.303 British (180 grain at 2460 fps) - 40.1
.32 Winchester Special (170 at 2250 fps) - 25.4
8x57mm JS Mauser (195 grain at 2550 fps) - 52.0
.325 WSM (200 grain at 2950 fps) - 75.6
.338x57 O'Connor (200 grain at 2400 fps) - 39.7
.338 Federal (210 grain at 2630 fps) - 63.9
.338 Winchester Magnum (250 grain at 2650 fps) - 94.8
.357 Magnum (Rifle) (158 grain at 1830 fps) - 12.7
.35 Remington (200 grain at 2080 fps) - 28.7
.358 Winchester (200 grain at 2490 fps) - 47.0
.35 Whelen (200 at 2675 fps) - 56.4
.350 Remington Magnum (200 grain at 2770 fps) - 60.9
9.3x62mm (286 grain at 2360 fps) - 88.2
.375 Ruger (270 grain at 2690 fps) - 106.2
.375 H&H Magnum (300 grain at 2530 fps) - 113.0
.38-55 Winchester (255 grain at 1320 fps) - 22.7
.416 Remington Magnum (400 grain at 2400 fps) - 188.4
.416 Rigby (400 grain at 2400 fps) - 188.4
.44 Remington Magnum (Rifle) (240 grain at 1760 fps) - 26.4
.444 Marlin (265 grain at 2325 fps) - 63.4
.45-70 Government (300 grain at 1810 fps) - 50.1
.450 Marlin (350 grain at 2100 fps) - 88.9
.458 Winchester Magnum (500 grain at 2090 fps) - 217.3
.458 Lott (500 grain at 2300 fps) - 228.5
Note: A more comprehensive rifle cartridge killing power list with more calibers and loads can be found on the Member Side Tables, Charts and Lists index page.
For a fascinating, two part analysis in depth of the G&S Online rifle cartridge killing power formula and its ramifications, see the articles The G&S Online Rifle Cartridge Killing Power Formula: Implications and Applications and Determining The Effective Killing Range of Rifle Cartridges by Gary Zinn.
Copyright 2005, 2017 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.