The perfect caliber for hunting deer is a topic that has been debated for ages. Still, some of the biggest things to bear in mind when making an informed decision often boil down to four fundamental principles:
- Striking energy
The four of these combine to make the best hunting caliber. Still, personal preference has a place in that equation, too.
The most common calibers used for deer hunting are listed below.
- 30-30 Winchester
- 270 Winchester
- 257 Roberts
- 222 Remington
- 223 Remington
- 244/6mm Remington
- 204 Ruger
- 25-06 Remington
- 6.5 Creedmoor
- 6.5 Grendel
Out of these ten, some are used more often than others, but we’ll be going over the biggest pros of using each one and finally going over the cons. For more information on each one, continue reading below.
What Is the Best Caliber for Deer Hunting?
Although there are many different calibers out there, we will only discuss what the best ones are. It is important to note that when looking for a caliber, consider its affordability and accessibility. However, we will get into that fairly shortly.
1. 30-30 Winchester
Timeless doesn’t even begin to describe the 30-30. With an active use time frame of over 125 years, it’s almost earned the right to be called America’s favorite.
Put simply, the bullet’s design offers the heavy penetration needed to make a meaningful kill shot and maintain a relatively low amount of recoil. Best of all, the ammo itself can be found just about everywhere with a price that is hard to beat. The only real downside to 30-30 is the range limitation.
2. 270 Winchester
The bread and butter of hunting ammunition, the 270 Winchester has enough flexibility to let you quickly down both Western Mule and Eastern Whitetail deer.
Like the 30-30, you can find the ammo itself almost anywhere it is sold. The 270 performs its best with longer barrels, so you will want to go with a 22-inch. Bigger is better in this regard.
3. 257 Roberts
You’ll be hard-pressed to find anyone who regularly mentions 257 Roberts when discussing which caliber is the best ammo for downing deer. However, don’t let popularity fool you, as the 257 makes for fantastic hunting ammo.
This is primarily for its exceptional accuracy, seconded only by the minimal recoil. The downside, however, is this ammo is somewhat rare. As such, it would become difficult to add to your regular hunting supply due to that, and for the same reasons, prices may be more than most are willing to pay.
4. 222 Remington
An excellent choice for the versed marksman, the 222 Remington lacks the general stopping power required to down deer if hit from a wrong angle or some other shortcoming. As such, you’d be wise to avoid it unless you are incredibly experienced.
5. 223 Remington
Turning the above argument on its head, the 223 Remington is still best left to those who are very talented at marksmanship. Still, for those seeking a challenge, using the 223 Remington might be your speed, with the biggest thing to be wary of being this bullet is best suited for close-range shots.
6. 244/6mm Remington
The 244/6mm Remington could claim the title for best deer hunting caliber due to its striking energy and lack of recoil.
Still, due to it being a limited supply of ammo, you’ll be hard-pressed to get enough of it to form the same opinion. However, if you seek out 243 Winchester, you’ll have the same experience, with much less hassle obtaining the ammo.
7. 204 Ruger
There is much to be said of this ammo in certain aspects, but unfortunately, few words are true positives. 204 Ruger can kill deer, but with the right setup, so could a rock.
The 204 Ruger has extreme accuracy and virtually no recoil but lacks kill potential due to how light the bullets are, and the easy fragmentation means your deer will likely walk it off, or at least enough to make you work hard for a follow-up shot.
8. 25-06 Remington
A caliber capable of impressive long-range shots, the 25-06 is an old-timer but may as well be called ol’ faithful due to what it offers. The 25-06 Remington has fantastic accuracy backed up by very light recoil, which makes this choice solid for vets and newcomers alike.
9. 6.5 Creedmoor
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard more about 6.5 Creedmoor as time passes. It’s for a good reason: the caliber supports a great accuracy range, making it a viable choice for long-range shots.
It is even better because it is known for having light recoil, which makes it a shoo-in for people who are, at the very least, interested in trying it.
10. 6.5 Grendel
Saving your best for last is not an understatement when talking about 6.5 Grendel. This caliber has exquisite accuracy and is essentially no recoil.
These two factors alone make it great for killing deer, but what’s better is Grendel is only picking up more popularity as time goes on, making securing it easier, and you aren’t locked into a bolt only. Grendel is even supported by AR-style rifles, meaning anyone can try their hand at them.
What Shot Kills a Deer Fastest?
The shot that will kill a deer the fastest is quartering toward. This position will penetrate the heart and lungs, mainly when you aim closest to the side of the sternum between the deer’s shoulders. It creates a swift kill. However, it is essential to remember not to shoot a deer behind its shoulder when it is quartering towards you but while it is quartering away.
What to Consider When Selecting Ammunition?
When selecting ammunition, it would be best to consider many things, such as the caliber, penetration, price, reliability, expansion, and local laws. Selecting the right defense or hunting gear for yourself is essential for your safety.
As long as your choice is putting deer down, and you aren’t taking out a loan to find your favorite ammo of choice, it truly doesn’t matter what you go with, but accuracy and recoil are the most important aspects after price; otherwise, go with what feels right.