The Magnum Rifle and the Progressive Path

By Mike Pusz

I believe that the quest for lightness in a hunting rifle and magnum power in its cartridge is a chase that most shooters and hunters are going to have trouble mastering. Rifles weighing 7.5 pounds or more out of the box, and longer barrels, help prevent flinching in calibers of .270 and above. I perceive that many hunters are trading accuracy for absolute power in American rifles. The rifle can be proved to be inherently accurate on the bench, but useless in the field because of the shooter's recoil induced flinch.

Some inexperienced hunters and riflemen will inevitably go to a magnum before first mastering what I call the progressive path. This is the natural progression of calibers, allowing the rifleman time to master increasing power and recoil. It should go something like this: .222, .223, .22-250, or .220 Swift, to the .243 Winchester/6mm Remington, to the .257 Roberts/.25-06, to the .260 Remington/.270 Winchester, to the 7mm-08/.280 Remington, and finally to the .308 Winchester/.30-06.

My philosophy has been to match the tool to the situation at hand rather than over do the power resource. Just as one works up a handload, riflemanship should progress from the basics of the .22 rimfire to the power and recoil of the long and short magnums. For instance, if a 100 grain bullet is adequate, use the .243/6mm. The .25 caliber rifles are used only when a heavier bullet is required, even though they can handle a 100 grain bullet. 120 grain bullets are for use in the .25's, 130 grain bullets in the .270's, 140 grain bullets in the 7mm's, and 150 grains and above in the .308 or .30-06.

Magnum calibers, for me, are only used only in situations where I'm on a $4000 elk or sheep hunt and do not want to fool around with chasing animals over mountain ranges. On a Wyoming mule deer and antelope hunt, I can do just fine with a .308 or .30-06 out to 300 yards. A .260 or 7mm-08 is perfect in Pennsylvania.

The magnums certainly have their place for dangerous game and extended ranges, but they are not appropriate calibers for training riflemen, particularly in light rifles. One day common sense will prevail and the 8 pound rifle will make a comeback, along with physical conditioning for the hunter. I want some steel in a rifle when shooting any magnum cartridge.

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Copyright 2002 by Michael T. Pusz. All rights reserved.