What are the 5 best rifle cartridges for deer hunting? This is something that has long been debated. Obviously, the choice you make is going to depend greatly upon the terrain and conditions where you will be hunting. Of course, the local laws will have some say in what calibers are allowed. Depending upon where you live, you may encounter mountains, swamps, pine thickets, wide open prairie and everything in between. Obviously, not all calibers are going to excel in all of these possible conditions. Some will perform better than others in particular areas. Some will perform well in any of them. Some are so well-suited to a particular area as to be globally associated with it. While it is impossible to please everyone, we shall try to do as good a job as possible.
- 30/30 Winchester. Few rifle cartridges and the rifles which shoot them are as well suited to a particular task as the 30/30. That task is hunting in the pine forests, swamps and thickets that big whitetail bucks like to live in. In the northern states it is one of the most popular deer cartridges ever. The 30/30's heavy, slow moving slug is perfect for brushy country, and the slick, quick handling lever action rifles it is found in are perfect for close range encounters. Ammunition for the 30/30 is easily found almost anywhere.
30/06 Springfield. The 30/06 Springfield is a hugely popular caliber. It was introduced to sportsmen before WWI. When introduced to the military in the Springfield for WWI, millions of American service men used it and became loyal to it, ensuring its popularity as a sporting round. It can be found in perhaps more loadings than almost an other caliber. It has loadings which are appropriate for any game animal in any terrain on the North American continent, the possible exceptions being the smallest of small game. It is also one of the easier to find rounds on store shelves. It combines long range accuracy with a potent punch. It is also available in probably more different rifles, from more manufacturers, than almost any other rifle cartridge.
- .308 Winchester. Since its introduction in the early '50s, this has been a very popular round. Like the 30/06, its introduction a few years later to US service men as the 7.62 NATO insured that its fine attributes would be exposed to men who would later choose hunting rifles. It is an excellent rifle cartridge which is found in almost all of the rifle styles most popular with hunters. It also has an advantage of being chambered in military inspired rifles, which some like. Its combination of long range and power make it an ever popular choice.
- .270 Winchester. The .270 Winchester rifle cartridge was introduced in the 1920s and grew to popularity through the writings of Jack O'Connor. A whole generation of hunters has grown up with its use in their family. It has loadings suitable for game from varmints to deer. With a popular life span so far of over 80 years, it is a safe choice. Rifles and ammunition are plentiful and easy to find. It is chambered in most popular rifles types by most popular rifle makers. Its ballistic characteristics will probably help it be useful for another generation.
- .243 Winchester. This round is the smallest of the choices. It started life as a varmint round and has grown in popularity as a deer-sized game round as more chamberings were made available to the general public. It is perhaps best loved by those who hunt in the mountains or wide open plains, where its long-range accuracy is prized. It is probably most often found in very accurate bolt-action rifles, but it can be found in other styles as well.
Well, hopefully there is a choice here that appeals to you. All are good deer hunting cartridges, available in quality rifles, and in quality loadings by all ammunition manufacturers. In fact, the ability to find rifles and ammunition easily was one important factor in the inclusion of each on the list.