10 Best Calibers for Deer Hunting (Updated: 2019)

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Hunters are always on the lookout for the best caliber ammunition for deer hunting to achieve the best success rate. There are many ammo types produced by various brands to kill deer effectively, yet there is still need to find the best.

So, how do you choose the best caliber out of so many options?

Before we move ahead to find out which is the best calibers, I would like to introduce you to the differences between the caliber and cartridge, which is something that most people do not know.


What Do “Caliber” and “Cartridge” Mean?

Caliber is the diameter of the bullet, whereas cartridge is the comprised of projectile (bullet), casing, powder, and primer. So, the cartridge could be considered the sum of the caliber and the overall shape perhaps?

So, now, you have a better understanding of caliber, I will quickly tell you what makes a good one.

The best deer hunting calibers should have the following:

  • Perfect striking energy – the standard is 1000 ft. lbs which is sufficient to kill a deer.
  • Minimal recoil.
  • Accuracy.
  • Aerodynamics.

These qualities make the caliber ideal for deer hunting.


Best Caliber for Deer Hunting

Now the question is, what is the most efficient caliber for deer hunting and how to get an instant knock down?

I have chosen a few super effective calibers, which are the most appropriate ones for hunting deer.


Here are the top choices:

1 .25-06 Remington

One of the top 10 calibers for the deer hunting is the 25-06 Remington. Its muzzle velocity is 3440 fps, and the energy is 2364 ft. lbs. It is highly suitable if you are hunting deer within a range of around 550 yards (long range shooting).

It is bullet diameter is 0.257 inches (6.53 mm), and its weight ranges from between 75 to 120 grains (4.9 to 7.8 g). This bullet is lightweight with a high ballistic co-efficiency. It is a good combo of moderate recoil and considerable kinetic energy.

.35 Remington

The .35 Remington is another valuable caliber for hunting deer. Its muzzle velocity is 2080 fps, and muzzle energy is 1921 ft. lbs. You can hunt deer with this, at around 135 yards. So, it is ideal for mid-range shooting.

It was first introduced in 1906 and is also known as:

The cartridge contains a medium to heavy weight bullet, and it has a moderate recoil. The bullet type is round-nosed, and it weighs in at 200 grains. It is considered the best caliber for the deer hunting.

.45-70 Government

The Government .45-70 can give you the perfect hunting experience as it is one of the top calibers used by hunters. Its muzzle velocity is 1880 fps, and muzzle energy is 2355 ft. lbs. It range suitability is 310 yards, mid-range. However, it can also be used for the close range.

The bullet diameter is 0.458 inches (11.63 mm), and the powder weight in the cartridge is 70 grains (4.56 g). The bullet type is lead, and its weight is 405 grains (26.2 g). This caliber is a favorite of the USA Navy for their various rifles.

4. 7mm-08 Remington

The Remington 7mm-08 is another perfect caliber that can knock down the deer efficiently. Its muzzle velocity is 2860 fps, and energy is 2542 ft. lbs. It is most effective at a range of 550 yards, which is undoubtedly considered long range.

Bullet diameter is 7.2 mm (0.284 in), and its parent case is the .308 Winchester, with a rimless, bottleneck type case. It first originated in the U.S and was designed in the 1980s. 100 grains

to 195-grain bullets is available to choose from as per the requirements.

5. 7mm Remington Magnum

The Remington 7mm Magnum is also a highly suitable caliber for deer hunting. Its muzzle velocity is 3110 fps, with a muzzle energy of 3221 ft. lbs. It is most efficient at the 750 plus yard range.

It was designed in 1962 in the US. The bullet diameter is .284 in (7.2 mm). It is based on flat shooting capability. It is one of the perfect options available for deer hunting.

6. .243 Winchester

The Winchester .243 is one of the better calibers which can give you excellent results. The muzzle velocity is 2960 fps, with an energy level of 1945 ft. lbs. It works most efficiently in the 350-yard range.

This incredible caliber was first introduced by Winchester in 1955. The diameter of the bullet is .243 inches (6.2 mm), which is suitable for rifles. The bullet weights are available in different sizes ranging from 55 grains (3.6 g) to 115 grains (6.8 g).

7. .30-60 Springfield:

The Springfield .30-60 is a requirement of deer hunters nowadays. Its muzzle velocity is 2700 fps, and its muzzle energy is 2719 ft. lbs. with an efficiency range of 575 yards.

It was first introduced in 1906 in the US. This caliber has been used in various wars like World War I, World War II, Vietnam and the Korean War. It is considered just perfect for the deer hunting with a bullet diameter of .308 in (7.8 mm).

8. .308 Winchester:

The .308 Winchester is one of the most trusted calibers for deer hunters. That is the reason why I have placed it in my top 3. Its muzzle velocity is 2820 fps, and its muzzle energy is 2648 ft. lbs. It works outstandingly in the 385-yard range.

It first originated in 1952 in the United States. The bullet diameter is 0.308 in (7.8 mm), and the case type is a Rimless, Bottleneck. It is considered one of the more super-efficient calibers for deer hunting.

9. .270 Winchester:

The .270 Winchester is a classic caliber that can knock a deer down very quickly. Its muzzle velocity is 3060 fps, and muzzle energy is 2702 ft. lbs. It works well at a range of 525 yards.

It was designed in 1923 and unveiled two years later in 1925. The bullet diameter is .277 in (7.0 mm), and it is known as one of the elite calibers used to kill deer effectively. That is why it has gained popularity among deer hunters.

10. 30-30 Winchester:

The 30-30 Winchester is the top-class caliber that is the most suitable and my favorite for deer hunting. Its muzzle velocity is 2390 fps, and its muzzle energy is 1902 ft. lbs. It has extremely low recoil and high shooting ability, which is the ultimate reason it stands in the number one spot of all other calibers. Its effective range is 180 yards.

It originated in around 1895 in the United States. It has a rimmed bottleneck type case, and the diameter of its bullet is .308 in (7.8 mm).

It is also one of the most effective calibers that can kill a deer instantly. It is the very first smokeless powder cartridge for sporting produced by Winchester.


My Recommendation

All the calibers mentioned above are perfect for deer hunting, but in my opinion, I would highly recommend you try the 30-30 Winchester, which is an incredible caliber. Besides, you can also use 7mm Remington Magnum as well.

The characteristics of these calibers are just mind blowing, and they are perfect for deer hunting.

However, here is one more thing to consider: If you are using the AR 15 Rifle, you must use the Best AR 15 Scope for more powerful and accurate shots. If you are using some other kind of rifle for deer hunting, you can choose another type of scope as well.

The reason for this is because the rifle scopes make your hunting more groomed and fruitful, by making the shots more accurate.


Final Verdict

So, that is all about the best calibers for deer hunting. All the mentioned calibers are just perfect to use for deer hunting and will help you get the most amazing hunting experience along with all the other deer hunting gear you need.

They all have a great muzzle speed, muzzle energy, and ideal range. So, choose any of the above calibers and enjoy hunting deer like a pro!

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Hi there, I'm Will and I'll be your guide. Here at Gun News Daily, we support guns for self defense and and competitive shooting. We believe that America should be free and support the 2nd Amendment.

14 COMMENTS

  1. I own all but 3 cal. Very good read my favorite is a 7mm08. In a custom pistol
    To date. 286 yds for a antelope in Cheyenne wyo. And a mulie in high winds…with a 308…also in a pistol

  2. Well, I like the list and for whitetails I have always preferred my old stand by .270 even for elk, BUT last year a came up with another PERFECT short range ( under 200 yards) gun. It has a variety of different loads and can be loaded for any type of hunting. A 300 BLACKOUT in a 10.5 inch barrel. They are designed for short barrels and using a 125 grain Hornady SST, I shot three deer and not a single one took a step. I will clarify though. All three under a feeder @ 106 yards and all three head or neck shot. Above 150 yards, I would not even consider it. I have a 7 Mag, 30-06, 270, 300 Mag, 243, and 223.

  3. First time reader Will, I enjoyed your article. Like many people I started with a 30-30 winchester and used 308 win, 280 Remington and finally decided on the 7mm-08 Remington. 7mm-08 is a great caliber, low recoil, will do about anything a .280 Remington will do but with less recoil, it doesnt have much more kick than a 30-30 winchester. 308Winchester is good and very popular for a reason.

  4. Not to be picky, but at the start of the article you correctly describe the difference between caliber and cartridge, then you continue to use caliber almost everywhere else in the article when you should be using cartridge. As you said caliber is simply the diameter of the bullet. The cartridge is what you use in a properly chambered rifle. 25-06 is not a caliber, it is a cartridge!

  5. The .243 should never be used in the woods. That little bullet hasn’t got a prayer if it hits a twig, let alone a branch. It also looses its KE rapidly and is a wounding cartridge beyond 150 yards except in the hands of a very proficient shooter. Out in the open with perfect shot placement it’s fine. Far better to use a heavier slower bullet in the woods. Your 30-30 or a 45/70 is perfect. Speed is your enemy in the woods. Rarely are the deer far away when shot, and trajectory is a non-issue. The faster, lighter, or smaller diameter something is, the more prone it is to deflection. Physics !” Fast and flat out in the open”, “big and slow in the woods”.

  6. we /illinois whitetail hunters / in the northern zones/ rely on slugs used in smooth / and rifled barreled shotguns ….. typical shots are taken at 35/50 yards/ with deadly results….. 1 st yr. hunting 1963 in the upper peninsula of michigan….using a 30/30….next year began illinois using 12 ga. 54 yrs later/ still lovin deer hunts…thank you for your time..🍁🦌🍂

  7. Any of the calibers mentioned plus a bunch more will kill deer provided they are loaded with bullets designed for big game. Far more important than the rifle’s caliber is the nut behind the butt plate who must have the skill to place that bullet in a vital area of a deer and the discretion to know when not to attempt a shot.

  8. Hunted for years with a 30-30 Marlin and took a lot of deer with it. No scope and a great brush gun. Used a 300 Savage for a short time but have been using an 06 for the last 25 or so years. I hand load and use 165 grain bullets primarily but for range of bullet weights it is very hard to beat, starting with plinkers that I think are 50 grains clear up to 220 grains. You can use it for ground squirrels right on up to moose if you want. I think that it is the best all around caliber.

  9. I have used 5 of your 10 cartridges listed. I have some disagreements with your list. First take the 7mm Mag out, overkill on whitetail deer hunting. Excessive recoil, muscle blast, and cost to shoot and practice. Repalace it with the .280 Remington, will do everything the 7 Mag will and more accurately.
    140 or 150 grain bullet. I have been in the gun business and relating since 1972 and I can remember maybe 2 individuals who used a 45-70 to deer hunt. Yes it’s effective if you don’t have anything else but I wouldn’t buy one for the purpose of hunting deer. Used a 25-06 for years and your better select a good bullet in the 120 grain class. Any of the cartridges with a bullet over 170 grains would not be my choice. The average whitetail deer is a thin skinned big game animal that requires good shot placement more than excessive knock down energy. You can kill a deer with any cartridge, even a 22 LR if well placed, not recommended though. If you have youths and women the selection would start with the .243 Winchester nothing smaller with a good 100 grain bullet, light recoil. If I was going to purchase a deer hunting rifle it would be the 7mm-08 and shoot a 140-150 grain bullet, would even work with youths and women. My personal choice is the 280 Remington , bolt action, with a 140 or 150 grain
    bullet. Excellent on whitetail and mule deer, mule deer, antelope, and 175 grain for elk. All of these calibers will take years or never catch the 30-30 Winchester in deer kills, it’s been around a long time and effective. The people who select any of the Magum Calibers either don’t have anything else or the are obsessed with Magnumitis. In the 30 caliber field, .308 and .30-06 top choices. The 6.5 calibers are gaining in popularity and would be my absolute smallest caliber to use. Top lever action calibers would be the 30-30: 32 Winchester, and 35 Winchester. That’s my 2 cents worth after years of handloading, and hunting all game in the Eastern and Western states.

  10. Loved the article, I hunt in heavy brush and timber so all I can say is I love my 45-70. It best suits my hunting locations and conditions and I’ve never had a better weapon.

  11. I have Shot and warn out Rifles over the years as a Deer Culler I found in my own experiences that the – 243 win using a 110 grain Bullet Hauled a lot of Deer with placement Shot,s & 25- 06 Remington is a very Low recoil Caliber , very accurate hard hitting, excellent Deer Hunting Calibre Low Meat Damage, as for the 270,win & 308 win Meat Damage was Dramatic , Basic Wild Beef Calibre s 308win & 270 win, When won asked them selfs what would be the perfect Trophy Hunting Caliber by Far the Famouse 7,mm Remington Magnum, I am so Looking forward to Remington making another Classic in this model with Iron Sights & Walnut WOOD, Scope Mounts ,what a accurate Rifle I hope that Remington bring another 7,mm Remington Magnum out again in a Remington Classic ,

  12. Couple things your article didn’t cover: Availability of ammunition & Cost to shoot. 45-70 and 7Mag are expensive and you may not find them in rurual stores. I settled on 270 after getting beat up for years by a 7Mag. The 270 is on the shelf in just about every store that sells ammo, and it is $10 or more cheaper than some of your list. With less expensive ammo I can shoot more and have a better chance of dropping deer efficiently.

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