Five More Essential Calibers for the International Hunter
My first essential caliber is the .223 Rem., which is one of the most popular rifle calibers in the United States and Internationally. The US army uses the .223 Rem in their M-16 rifle. The .223 Rem first appeared in 1957 in the Armalite AR-15 Assault Rifle. In 1964 the .223 Rem was adopted by the US Army and used in the selective fire M-16 Rifle which is based on the AR-15 design. The .223 Rem (5.6 X 45mm) is now the official US and NATO military round. The .223 Rem round can be bought anywhere and it is fairly cheap to shoot in quantity. There is a lot of military surplus ammo available at low cost. The .223 Rem is an extremely popular rifle round for Prairie Dog and Varmint shooting.
Hornady makes cartridges with bullet weights from 45-75 g. The 55 g bullet will leave the muzzle at 3240 fps. A bullet from a rifle sighted in at 200 yards will drop seven inches at 300 yards and 21 inches at 400 yards. A seven inch drop at 300 yards is entirely acceptable for Prairie Dog hunting.
I own a Ruger No.1 Single Shot Varminter Rifle in .223 Rem. The Rifle has a stout 24 inch bull barrel and weighs a recoil absorbing 8 ¾ pounds. The Rifle has a blued barrel and a beautiful two piece Walnut stock. The rifle is fitted with a Nikon 4.5-14 X 40 rifle scope. I have used this rifle in South Dakota for Prairie Dog and Turkey hunting.
Because the ammo is so affordable, a Varmint hunter can shoot all day long with the .223 Rem. I usually shoot Prairie Dogs that are within 200 yards with the .223 Rem. The dogs that are further out are dusted with the .204 Ruger or a .22-250 Rem.
Once, in August, I was shooting Prairie Dogs on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota with Steve, my Brule Sioux guide. Steve spotted the dogs for me with a set of Leupold Binoculars and a Leica rangefinder. We found a field of dogs that had not been hunted all year long. The dogs were extremely numerous and fairly naive. I slowly squeezed the 1.5 pound trigger of my single shot Ruger and accounted for a lot of dogs. I had an enjoyable day on the Rez shooting Prairie Dogs with my .223 Rem.
In Africa, the .223 Rem would be a splendid cartridge for Black-backed Jackals, Steenbok, and Duikers.
The next essential caliber for the USA and Africa is the flat shooting .25-06 Rem. The .25-06 was a popular wild cat cartridge for 35 years before Remington standardized the cartridge in 1969. The .25-06 Rem is a necked down .30-06 case accepting .257 caliber bullets. Hornady makes a cartridge with 117 g bullets that travel 2990 fps at the muzzle. A rifle sighted in at 200 yards will fire a bullet that drops 7 inches at 300 yards and 21 inches at 400 yards.
I have a Ruger Target Grey bolt action rifle in .25-06 Rem. The rifle sports a Nikon 4.5-14 X 40mm scope. I have taken two Pronghorn Antelope in Wyoming with this rifle. I usually shoot a buck and doe when I am hunting Pronghorn.
Last year my guide and I stalked to within 250 yards of a herd of does. I dropped to the prone position and used my Harris bipod to steady the .25-06 Rem. It was the first time that I had used this rifle on an animal. I placed the cross hairs on the doe’s chest and slowly squeezed the trigger. The doe dropped instantly. My guides eye's widened and he said ,"Good Shot!!" I was happy; it was, indeed, a very good 250 yard shot. We scouted the area some more for my buck. I told my guide that I wanted a 15 inch buck. We saw about 10 bucks but no exceptional animal. Brent, my guide, then spotted what he considered to be a shooter. The buck and his doe were two hills over from us. We attempted a long stalk. After climbing the second hill we spotted the buck on the adjacent hillside. Brent gave me shooting sticks and I got to my knees and placed the scope on the buck. It was about a 160 yard shot. Once again the .25-06 Rem performed magnificently. The buck dropped at the shot. I was overjoyed. We got up close to the buck and found that he scored about 80 Boone and Crockett. The wonderful thing about the buck was that he had 4 horns. Two 2 inch vestigial horns were in back of the main horns. It was a true once in a lifetime trophy.
I have talked to more than a few guides in Wyoming who swear by the .25-06 Rem. They have taken Elk, Bighorn Sheep, Mule Deer and Antelope with the .25-06 Rem. It is probably the perfect Pronghorn Cartridge. My Professional Hunter in South Africa says that the .25-06 Rem is the perfect caliber for Springbok. In 2011 I am traveling to Southern Namibia and plan to use the .25-06 Rem on two trophy Springbuck and four cull Springbok. My PH said the .25-06 Rem is a little light for Kudu or Gemsbok. I will probably bring my .30-06 for these animals. It will be an -06 trip!
My next caliber selection is the .270 Win. This caliber was championed by the great outdoor writer and hunter, Jack O'Connor. Jack O'Connor used the .270 Win on every species of North American Big Game and he also hunted Asia and Africa. O'Connor was a very successful Sheep hunter and he liked to use the .270 Win for these animals.
The .270 Win was developed by the Winchester Repeating Arms Co. in 1925. The .270 Win is essentially formed from a necked down .30-06 case. The cartridge gained high popularity after WWII as a result of the writings of Jack O’Connor. It now enjoys it’s status as one of the most popular and widely used cartridges worldwide. The .270 Win is superbly accurate, extremely flat shooting, has good energy at long range, and has acceptable recoil for most hunters.
My Professional Hunter in Namibia and South Africa makes frequent use of the .270 Win in his hunts in the Namib Desert; especially for Springbok. However, the .270 Win never enjoyed the popularity for hunting African Plains Game as the .30-06 Sprg; possibly because the .30-06 offers a number of readily available bullet weights and added firepower for animals approaching the size of Eland, Waterbok, Giraffe and Zebra.
Hornady offers the classic 130 g bullet in a .270 Win cartridge that developes a velocity of 3060 fps at the muzzle with 2702 foot pounds of energy. A rifle sighted in at 200 yards will fire a bullet that drops a mere 6 inches at 300 yards and 19 inches at 400 yards.
I own a Remington Model 700 BDL .270 Win with a Leupold 3-9 X 42 scope. I once shot an Antelope in Wyoming at 400 yards with this rifle. I had to aim about a necks length above the animal to hit it. I also bagged a six point 300 SCI bull Elk in Wisconsin with the .270 Win. We were at the edge of a clearing in Northwestern Wisconsin. There was much bull activity around us on a fine September morning. We could here six different bulls bugling. We saw some lesser bulls and continued to look for a shooter. All of a sudden a magnificent bull Elk emerged from the Poplar forest and entered the clearing. The bull threw back his head and bugled. The bull continued across the clearing and stopped at the treeline. I placed the .270 Win against a Poplar trunk and slowly squeezed the trigger at 100 yards. The bull jumped and did a complete backward summersault. He was down. I put two more bullets into him to keep him down. Elk are tough. The .270 Win had performed magnificently.
My next caliber is the .308 Win. The .308 Win was introduced as a commercial round by Winchester in 1952. It is the civilian version of the 7.62 X 51 mm NATO round. The .308 Win is the most popular short action Big Game hunting cartridge in the world. It is also ideal for civilian target shooting, military sniping, and police sharpshooting. The .308 Win has acceptable recoil, excellent terminal ballistics, it behaves predictably in the wind, and it is consistant in it's performance. This consistency is what makes the US Army rely on the .308 Win as a sniper weapon out to 800 yards. The USMC relies on the .308 Win as a sniper weapon out to 1000 yards.
Hornady makes a 150 g .308 Win cartridge that achieves a muzzle velocity of 2820 fps and a muzzle energy of 2648 foot pounds. A rifle sighted in at 200 yards will fire a 150 g bullet that will drop 7.9 inches at 300 yards, 23.10 inches at 400 yards, and 47 inches at 500 yards. These ballistics are close to the .30-06. The .30-06 will have more firepower and many more bullet weights to choose from. The .308 Win is sometimes called the little brother of the .30-06.
I own a Ruger Target Grey .308 Win with a Nikon 4.5 -14 X 42 riflescope. I have not used the rifle much in the field but found that it performs quite well with paper targets.
The next essential rifle cartridge is the powerful and venerable .375 H&H. The .375 H&H was introduced by the British armsmaker Holland and Holland in 1912. Since that time it has been the quintessential African Big Game caliber. Many knowledgeable hunters in Alaska and Africa would choose the .375 H&H if they could hunt with only one rifle. The .375 H&H has accounted for many Cape Buffalo and Elephant in Africa and many Grizzly Bears and Moose in Alaska. The .375 H&H is the lightest caliber allowed in many African countries for Buffalo and Elephant.
A Hornady 270 g bullet will leave the muzzle at 2700 fps with 4370 ft lbs of energy; plenty of energy for the Great Bears, Buffalo, and brain shots on Elephant.
I own a CZ 550 Safari Classic rifle in .375 H&H. The rifle has a Burris 3.5-9 X 50 Fullfield rifle scope. I have never used the rifle on game.
Well, this concludes my series of three articles on essential rifle calibers for the International Hunter. I hope you have enjoyed them.