Favorite calibers

May 7, 2019

This column may sound a little disjointed, but I thought I would clear the air about my preference of hunting calibers, even though many couldn’t care less what my preferences are.

A few days ago, I was in the gun shop and purchased a couple of boxes of Remington Core-Lokt 180-grain cartridges, which I have been using in my .30-06 for as long as I have had the rifle. The salesman who knows me asked, “Don’t you prefer a .300 Weatherby Magnum for big game hunting?” I told him that it depended on what and where I was hunting.

I am not a one-rifle hunter and have several rifles I enjoy hunting with. I also have some favorite calibers that I have never owned but have shot at the shooting range or seen in action because one or more of my friends hunt with them.

So I will start with the calibers I actually own. First of all, I still have the .177-caliber BB rifle I used as a small boy to stalk dragon flies, as well as other insects, birds, squirrels and snakes I found on my father’s horse ranch. The BB rifle was a real challenge because it didn’t shoot exactly straight, but would veer a little to the right each time I fired. I had to guess how far left of the target to hold in order to hit my mark. I got pretty good at the Kentucky windage guessing out to about 30 feet, but had a problem hitting anything small beyond that range. I still have a large supply of BBs and shoot that rifle for fun every once in a while.

I absolutely love my .22-caliber, rim fire rifle. This is the rifle I learned marksmanship with on jack rabbit hunts on the Arco Desert with my father. It is also the rifle I first taught my children the principles of firearm safety and marksmanship with before moving them up to a .243 Winchester and .30-30.

Once my own children were grown and had their own children, I gave the .243 to my son-in-law so he would have a soft recoiling rifle for his own sons to hunt with. I wish I still had it and kick myself every once in a while for parting with it.

I still own the .30-30 my father purchased for me to hunt deer with when I was 12 years old. I haven’t hunted with it for several years, but still take it with me if I am scouting for game prior to hunting season, hiking or camping in the back country. I would rather have it with me and not need it than to need it and not have it. So far, I have not needed to use it when not hunting.

I have an AR-15 with a 4-power telescopic sight that I hunt coyotes with. The caliber is .223 Remington or 5.56mm.

I still hunt deer, pronghorn and elk with a .30-06 if I feel that the distance I will have to shoot will be 400 yards or less. It also will do a memorable job on bears or any large ungulates in North America.

I also have two percussion, black powder, 50-caliber rifles I like to hunt with. Out to 200 yards, they are very effective on deer-sized game if one understands the drop of a round, 300-grain lead ball.

I also hunt water fowl and pheasants with and old Winchester Model 50, 12-gauge shotgun.

That brings me to the .300 Weatherby that the gun shop salesman thought I hunted deer, pronghorn, elk or possibly moose with if I can ever get the tag for one. He was partially right. I choose the Weatherby if I think the distance I will get a shot is likely to be in excess of 500 yards. I prefer to sight that rifle to hit point of aim at 300 yards. That way I can aim at the center of the vitals of game and not be more than 6 inches high or low out to 400 yards and can hold over beyond that range.

Among my favorite rifles that I never have owned are the .240 Weatherby Magnum, .25-06, .257 Weatherby Magnum, .270 Winchester, 7mm Remington Magnum, .308 Winchester, .300 Winchester Magnum, .300-378 Weatherby Magnum, .340 Weatherby Magnum and the .375 H&H Magnum.

I’m not very impressed with the .264 Winchester Magnum because there is no reason in my mind for both the .264 and .270 Winchesters, and I prefer the 270.

I also don’t like the 6.5-300 Weatherby Magnum because the bore is too small for the amount of powder in a .300 Weatherby case and there are better, more efficient, calibers for long-range hunting of deer, prong horn, sheep, elk, moose, or any of the large ungulates in North America.

So there you have it. Basically I like most calibers that serve several purposes well or specific purposes magnificently. I prefer to get as much performance out of a caliber as I can without a disproportionate amount of gut wrenching recoil, but several of my favorites recoil harder than most people want to endure. Sometimes one has to decide if the advantages are worth the recoil.

Smokey Merkley was raised in Idaho and has been hunting since he was 10 years old. He can be contacted at mokeydo41245@hotmail.com.