Big Game cartridges - If you had to pick one and hunt big game what would it be?


Trying to be the man my dog thinks I am.
Mar 8, 2011
San Diego, Ca.
OK - this is a long argued topic - one that has been asked in "many a camp". If you had to pick one cartridge to hunt North American big game what would it be?

Well, I have 6 favorites: .260 Remington, .270 Winchester, 7mm Remington Magnum, .308 Winchester, 300 WSM and .338 Winchester - what do I usually shoot? 300 WSM...Lately anyway.

Why .260? It is nuts accurate, has no recoil, shoots flat, it has unbelievable sectional density, awesome B.C. and when you do your job placing the bullet where it is supposed to go - well, the .260 does its job!

Why .270? Does Jack O'Connor ring a bell? The .270 is a fast and accurate cartridge that also has good sectional density, great B.C. and low recoil. I have shot quite a few deer and pigs with lethal results. My two largest pigs were shot with a .270 (285# and 300#).

Why 7mm? It shoots flat and hits game as if struck by lightning. This cartridge is a hard hitting long range killing machine. I have shot deer and dozens of pig with the 7mm Rem mag. It out penetrates the 300's due to its awesome sectional density and has an excellent bullet selection with amazingly high ballistic coefficients. Both of my hunting partners grab their 7 mag more often than not when leaving on a trip. It is and has been the most popular cartridge in our elk camp. If you were just going to hunt the lower 48 from moose to antelope- the "7 Rem mag" would be an outstanding choice.

Why .308? It is accurate! Did I say it's accurate? It is accurate and it has a fabulous bullet selection too. Its bullets have good sectional density and you can find ammo anywhere in the world. I have shot pigs, deer and elk with it and never worried about having enough gun or where the bullet was going. Awesome cartridge...its a .30 caliber short action- enough said!

Why 300 WSM? Well most of all, its a .30 caliber magnum that is barreled in a short action. This means it can be built or bought housed in a very light rifle. Like the others mentioned above, it has great bullet selection, great sectional density, great B.C., it shoots very flat, its accurate and takes game down at extreme ranges as if hit by a freight train! I have shot a half dozen elk plus with the 300 WSM and I have been very pleased with the results - The elk on the other hand have not been so pleased!

Why .338? Because it is accurate, it shoots flat with 210-grain bullets and it just outright smashes game - period! I have shot quite a few elk and an oryx with it and it is very effective. I would have no problem hunting all game (including large angry bear) in Alaska and the lower 48 and do so with total confidence. My buddy carried his through Africa and lets just say he has quite a trophy room due to his .338's ability to flat out put game on the ground.

All of the above calibers are readily available over the counter but they are also very easily reloaded and offer a hunter many options in bullet weights and styles. All of them can be purchased from almost every major gun manufacturer too.

My picks:

If I were to hunt all of North America I would pick the .338 hands down. You can shoot bullets from 165 grain all the way up through 250 grain. Its is definitely a one stop shop for all game animals that roam North America.

Like I said above, if I were just hunting the lower 48 and could only have one gun it would be the 7 Rem mag…Enough said.

Currently I am shooting the 300 WSM, which is the best of both worlds for me - sort of. Less large brown or white big-headed carnivores, the 300 is an effective and lethal "do all" tool. Its light, fast and kills what you point it at!

Now if you ask my son the very same question about what he thinks is the best cartridge, he will swiftly answer back - "The .308 Winchester". I have never as much as seen an animal take one step after he has dropped the hammer with his .308. But what does he know - He hunts geese with a 20 gauge.

These are my express opinions derived from my experiences - I know less than most and half as much as some! ???

Back in 1998 I was building my house and I had all my guns in a storage container on my property, some body decided they wanted my guns more than I did.I had an elk trip planed in less than a month and I figured it would be a long time before I would be able to buy anymore guns.So I bought the gun I figured could do it all I bought a 338 Winchester Magnum.Handload 180 grain bt for deer and factory 210 partitions for elk,the 210 hit zero the 180 hit three inches high every yeer 1 to check zero the next shot animal down.I have shot animals from 50 yards to 398 yards. I have since bought quite afew guns but for deer on up I always use the 338.
Wow, you really did have to pick just one cartridge. Awesome choice!

I am sorry to hear that some dirtbag decided it was OK to take what he did not earn. Don't worry though, Karma is a bitch! I am a strong believer that what comes around goes around...

Thanks John.I had alot of guns but I really thought a couple would show up but they never did.They were custom wildcat cartridges that most people would'nt be able to get ammo for.One was a 6.5-06 IMP the other was a 35 Brown Wheelan,I still have the dies for them.
Dude!!! I am a big fan of the 6.5/06 Imp. I have a similar cartridge - 6.5/.280 Ackley Improved (its also known as ".264 THE Express" - The "THE" nomenclature reportedly stands for Timm, Holland and Eastman. The round is also known as the 6.5 Blowhole Express named by Darrell Holland. Another name was made by Steve Timm -.264 Brainfart Express. Steve Timm, Chub Eastman and Darrell Holland are the brain-trust of this controversial cartridge. It is the same as the 6.5/06 Imp. but the neck is a little longer to keep from having to seat the bullet into the case (the shoulder being .051" forward of the standard 06 round allows for a little more powder).

The only bad deal on both is you need to fire form the cases - it's a bit of a chore. It is a Darrell Holland built rifle...pre-700 Remington action, the bolt has an M16 extractor, Pac-Nor barrel, McMillan stock, Schmidt & Bender 4-12 42mm/30mm scope and a hand honed trigger. Its a killer!

Wow - a fellow hand-loader...Sweet!

That is a flat shooting cartridge.When you say pre 700 that a 721 ? The 6.5 I had was built on Interarms action Douglas premium barrel 26" ,Houge stock,Factory trigger broke @ 3lbs, Leupold VarixII 4X12. IMR4350 with 140grain Nosler Partitions.

Darryl was called the sportsman 78 and it was the 721. It was an action that "Sears" had produced for them by Remington. So its kinda cool, the action is stamped "Sportsman 78".

You are cool Bro. I was hoping to see some folks who are into wildcats and custom rifles show up on the boards.

My first high power rifle was a 257 Roberts 721 Remington.Loved that gun,then I picked up a 30 06 and a 300H&H both 721's,and a 222 in 722 Remington. I really liked those guns.Back then I was always looking for a 725 to add to the colection.

Thanks. Most people don't get to excited over wildcats and handloading.
Very cool to talk to you.

Right on Darryl. Ya' a pleasure. Looking forward to more exchanges. I will look into setting up a reloading section in our forum.

Big fan of the 30-06. Very versitle cartridge. Roll my own and the 150's work really well out of my Browning auto. I found that my Browning really likes a hot load. Max on the Sierra book.

Looking for a 22-250 for play and yotes. right now, I'm partial to the Savage 10XP.

30 06 is a downright killer. I have a good friend who has killed 50 elk using an 06. I'd say thats a pretty good track record.

Everything I have read on the Savage XP10 has been positive. It has the Accutrigger and most guys are reporting back sub 1/2" MOA accuracy. If you ask me - as of late Savage has done a tremendous job balancing value and quality with their new rifles. They make an awesome .22 as well.

Bottom line - the XP10 is an awesome rig! I like the .223 Rem.

These are my express opinions derived from my experiences - I know less than most and half as much as some!

I too have a 6.5 built by Mr Holland (.264 T.H.E. Express, AKA 6.5 Blowhole, AKA 6.5 Brainfart...LOL) and it shoots great.
It was built on a Sportsman 78 action which is a Rem 700 series built for Sears. This rig shoots the 130 grain Barnes X and the 129 Hornady SST really-really well.

I have two good friends (SoCalHunter being one) who have the same rig out of the first batch built by Darrell. This rig was built with the same original 6.5-.280 Ackley reamer made by Hugh Hendriksen. Steve Timm and Chub Eastman ordered the reamer and our rifles were made in the same run as theirs.

These are fairly special rigs in that respect.

Holland builds a pretty cool .260 Ackley too. I want one with a Sako 85 action...


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Here is the M16 extractor Darrell machines into the bolt...


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I want that extractor machined into my bolt. I do not remember why mine was not done at the time of the build
Ha Ha don't have a custom extractor. Ha ha! You got the Darrell Holland Friday before the hunt rifle. ;D

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