With many common and exotic cartridges around how do you make the right choice for your first calibre needs?
Get it right
When you apply for your firearms certificate you have to nominate calibres too, and the novice is unlikely to have any serious experience of what works best for their needs. And often the advice of friends, though good intentioned is not always helpful. OK, a 300 Win Mag might be a good choice for Africa, but serious overkill for all European game species or a bit of casual target shooting.
From the bottom
A 22 centrefire is a good bet for foxes and small species and in the right rifle with the correct rifling twist; an accurate mid-range performer on the range! Go with .223 Remington, OK not the most powerful, but more than capable with bullets ranging from 40 to the 69 and 75-grain target loads. Light in recoil, easy to moderate and well-priced, what’s not to like? If you want more power then consider 22-250 Remington, but it’s not as versatile.
Thinking about deer, then there are two major choices; 243 and 308 Winchester, the former probably being the UK favourite. This 6mm can run bullets from 58 to 108-grains, with popular weights being around 75 and 100-grains.
So, can do double duty for fox/vermin and deer. The +100s are more target-oriented. 308 is the great all-rounder and will do any deer/boar in Britain, Europe and is good on African plains game. 150-180-grain loads are recommended for hunting, with the 168, 178-grain etc Match bullets for longer range performance. 243 is barrel length sensitive and you need a minimum of 22”, 308 has no such problems. Choose wisely and you cannot go wrong with either of these two.
If you want something different, the old 6.5x55mm is still an excellent choice. Heading for world domination is the 6.5 Creedmoor, this short-action calibre based on a 308 Winchester case has proven itself an equally efficient target and hunting round and is now starting to supersede the 308 in popularity. 270 Winchester is powerful and a bit specialised, but an excellent performer.
If you need more power, the 30-06 Springfield is excellent for big deer, boar or plains game and not overkill on smaller species, given the correct bullet choice. If I had to pick only one it would be this! Finally, the magnums, For longer range shots on tough game 7mm Rem Mag, 300 Win Mag, along with 270 and 300 WSM will fill the bill.
Whatever, do some research first as to your requirements, to be honest, bigger is not always better, it’s bullet placement that counts. So better to have something that you’re comfortable with and does the job.
Choose well and shoot straight.
My personal recommendation for anyone that shoots any deer in the UK is the 6.5 X 55, I load it light for small deer (100 grain but 85 grain projectiles are available) which are flat and fast. Load heavier for larger species (currently use brilliant Sako deer heads in 156 grain). Also have a .243 which has served admirably.