5 deer calibers that can’t be beat

rifle
Which deer rifle caliber is the best for hunting whitetails in the Carolinas?

For whitetails in the Carolinas, it’s difficult to come up with any better examples of ammo that will do the job.

The debate over the best rifle calibers for deer has been going on as long as hunters have sat around campfires. In the Carolinas, the array of calibers is as wide as the beaches that run along both states. Narrowing the list down to five is, well, challenging.

How does one select the best caliber for Carolina deer? Began with a list of things to consider. First, leave out any caliber less than .27 and more than .35. Second, ask yourself, which of these are popular? And which would I use or already currently use? Another consideration is affordability. How much do these guns cost? Availability of ammunition is another key factor. If you run out or go out the door and forget your bullets, can you stop at almost any store that carries ammo and pick some up? Last is the accuracy and killing effectiveness of these calibers for the size of deer in the Carolinas.

There are literally hundreds of calibers to choose from. But staying within the parameters, here are five. Let the debates begin.

.30-06 Springfield

.30-06 Springfield

Arguably the most-popular deer caliber in America, it is also a favorite in the Carolinas. If not at the top, it is certainly in the top three. Available in a variety of bullet weights ranging from 90 grains to 220, it is ideal for deer. For example, the factory loaded, 150-grain bullet carries a muzzle velocity of 2,910 feet per second with a downrange velocity at 200 yards of 2,492. Equally impressive is the energy retention, at well over 2,298 foot pounds 200 yards. That makes the .30-06 Springfield one of the best, most-accurate rounds available.

.270 Winchester

.270 Winchester

Legendary gun writer Jack O’Connor referred to the .270 Winchester as the finest all-around caliber available. Certainly, he forgot more about guns than most of us will ever know. The .270 has a love-hate relationship with Carolina deer hunters; there are those who swear by it, and others who scoff at it. Still, for the size deer in the Carolinas, it is hard to beat, given its flat trajectory, low recoil and effective killing power. When asked, — “How many deer have you killed with that .270?” — one of the Carolinas’ most-prolific deer slayers answered plainly, “All of them.”

Factory loaded 130-grain bullets leave a .270’s muzzle at an effective 3,060 feet per second and are still travelling 2,627 feet per second at 200 yards. Equally effective is the energy retention, producing 2,702 foot pounds at the muzzle and a 1,991 food pounds at 200 yards downrange — more than enough energy for Carolina deer.

.7mm-08 Remington

.7mm-08 Remington

If there was ever a great marriage between the .270 Winchester and .30-caliber rounds, it is the .7mm-08 Remington. This combination of a .30-caliber case necked down to support a 7mm bullet could just be the best all-around cartridge for Carolina deer and other, similar-sized game.

The 140-grain Nosler bullet leaves the barrel at 2,860 feet per second and is still travelling 2,488 feet per second 200 yards downrange. Its energy is 2,543 foot pounds at the muzzle and 1,925 at 200 yards.

This is a caliber many parents use to introduce their children to hunting. The effective killing range and very low recoil make it comfortable for small-framed hunters to have confidence  shooting it at controlled ranges.

7MM Remington Magnum

7MM Remington Magnum

Admittedly, this is a behemoth of a round for whitetails. The size of the bullet and the extreme damage it does to deer seems overkill. But in the words of legendary author Robert Ruark, “Use enough gun,” and in choosing the 7mm Remington Magnum, you certainly have done that.

The 150-grain bullet leaves the muzzle at a blistering 3,110 feet per second, with 3,221 foot pound of energy. At 200 yards downrange, it carries 2,751 feet per second velocity and 2,520 foot pounds of energy — more than enough to drop a deer in its tracks, even with marginal shot placement. Personal preference adheres to the old adage about the 7mm Remington Magnum: “It kills on one end and maims on the other.”

6.5 Creedmoor

New to the list is a cartridge that is quickly gaining traction. Originally designed for long-range, bench-rest shooters, the 6.5 Creedmoor is an excellent cartridge for Carolina deer. It is perhaps the most-superior cartridge ever developed for deer- and antelope-sized game. Like a lot of new cartridges, it has its “nay-sayers,” but looking at the numbers, it is hard to beat a cartridge that dominates the 1,000-yard rifle competitions for accuracy and still retains downrange killing energy. Couple this with the extremely light recoil, and what is not to like about this round?

6.5 Creedmoor

More and more manufacturers are carrying the 6.5 Creedmoor, and it’s showing up in more stores, which is why it made the list. Ammunition is around $25 per box, less expensive than the magnum rounds but a shade more than the old standards. To verify, let’s look at the numbers.

Most deer hunters use the 129-grain bullets, but it also comes in 120- and 140-grain rounds. The 129-grain Hornady load pushes 2,950 feet per second at the muzzle with 2,492 foot pounds of energy. Out at the terminal range of 200 yards, this little bullet retains 2,570 feet per second of velocity and a deliberate 1,892 foot pounds of energy. Not bad for a small bullet screaming through the air.

Conclusion

There are a host of popular calibers not included here — the .30-30, .308, .243, .35 Remington, .300 Winchester Magnum, and so on — not because they are not excellent rounds, but simply due to space limitations. Narrowing the list to five is difficult, to say the least. Still, any of these listed are excellent rounds for your fall hunt for Carolina deer.

About Pete Rogers 163 Articles
Pete Rogers of Taylors, S.C., is employed with the USDA Wildlife Services and has been a sporting writer and photographer for over a decade. He has a real passion for trapping and enjoys sharing his outdoors experiences with his wife and five children.

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