What caliber for hunting?

I seldom hunt but I do know a fair amount about ballistics. I only see one thing I disagree with on the info graphic I found here:


I’m pretty sure a .50 BMG would work fine for even the largest “Jurassic class” game.


14 thoughts on “What caliber for hunting?

  1. Now I can’t argue whether the WA state regs are *right*, of course, but in any rate they are comparable to every northern state I’m aware of: .223 and .22-anything are not legal for hunting deer. (WA divides big game such that deer are big, cougars aren’t–i.e. IF you can hunt cougar, you can use .223.)


    I’ve been out deer hunting with a borrowed .243 before, but that tiny bullet never left me feeling comfortably-armed (never saw anything with antlers that trip, so it was never put to the test.)

    • I’m aware that many states don’t allow .223 for hunting deer. For the small whitetail deer I’ve seen I wouldn’t have a problem with it. You can take down a 200 pound man with a .223 so I don’t think there should be a problem taking down a 200 pound deer with a well placed shot if you are using soft point ammo.

    • .223 is legal for deer in Oregon, at least for coast blacktail (can’t recall if it’s legal for mulies). I’d pick my ammo carefully and not take long shots, though.

  2. A .223 with a good bullet will kill deer, elk, and caribou all the way dead. Bullet selection and shot placement matter a lot. Idaho hasn’t outlawed the .223 for big game. Remember, a lot of those caliber laws are legacy laws from before the days of the nosler partition or the barnes X bullet. The thing I find stupid about caliber only restrictions is that a.223 would be illegal but a .30 carbine or a pistol cartridge would be legal.

    • Part of the reasoning is that a light .223 bullet will typically fragment and not produce a quick kill because it lacks penetration. It’s designed to stop / incapacitate a man as a military round, not kill them quickly. OTOH, they assume (bad word, but there you have it) that any handgun user hunting deer will use something that will penetrate better, “even” if it’s slower and lower-energy. A 210 gr .41 Mag slug that penetrates all the way through and comes out the other side will likely kill faster than a higher-energy 55 gr .223 bullet that hits and blows up in the first three inches. Not to say that a .30-06 bullet will never blow up or anything….

      • Bullet construction is the alpha and omega on this topic. A .223 or a 30-06 is a cartridge, not a bullet. A Barnes X out of a .223 Will hold up on shots where a ballistic tip from a 30-06 Will blow up. I’m honestly not trying to be a grammar Nazi about this I just want people to understand that choosing a properly constructed bullet is just as important as cartridge selection.

  3. I have to disagree full-on when they declare the basic .30s (30-30, .308, .30-06) inappropriate for elk and moose. They’ve handled em fine for a century or more. Folks need to quit using caliber to substitute for an inability to stalk and shoot.

  4. “….50 BMG would work fine for even the largest “Jurassic class” game.”

    I’d sure want a big magazine and a high rate of fire if I had to take down a dinosaur with .50 BMG; there’s not much brain and they’re going to die very slowly.

    Also, let’s lobby hard to keep ’em from being classified as “fowl.” A three-round capacity limit would be a real problem.

    • The only modern game that I know of where brain shots are somewhat normal is with elephants. Heart/lungs/shoulders are the norm and I suspect dinosaurs will be just as susceptible to those types of hits.

      Other than that I agree with you.

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