What is the best all-around hunting rifle caliber and why?

Oh boy, where do we even begin with this one? Well, spoiler it’s not a 6.5 and it certainly isn’t a .303 British (I have one, and it’s terrible.)

If you have come for a quick “well here it is” answer, then I am sorry to disappoint you but that’s not how it works, but at the same time we also not going to give the standard cheesy reply of “whichever caliber works for you!”.

To determine which is truly the best all-around caliber, we need to set up a few parameters and analyze specific caliber characteristics against these parameters.

The Parameters

When it comes to different rifles the principle remains the same, it’s all about hitting the target consistently and accurately. Whether you hunt, prefer long-range shooting, or enter into one of those competitions that have you sprawled out on a broken pallet, trying to balance your elbow on a fence pole while fiddling with your bean bag, then the objective is still to hit the target.

Below is what we would consider the most important parameters or factors to look for in a rifle that will deem it the best all-around caliber.


The saying rings true, “You can’t hunt it, if you can’t hit it!” and that means accuracy plays a major role in determining the effectiveness and quality of a caliber.

Sure, one could argue that accuracy is largely determined by the shooter and their technique and the actual caliber of a rifle has nothing to do with accuracy. One could take it further and argue that in fact the cartridge itself is what determines a rifle’s accuracy, which under the circumstances is again true and then as with just about every hunting camping there is that one know it all, pain in the bee-hind tag along person that will shout out the manufacturer and gun builder is what actually determines a rifle’s accuracy.

Those statements are all true within context, but we need to focus on the caliber itself. So, for the sake of continuity we are going to highlight a few notable calibers that are renowned for accuracy.


Next to accuracy, energy stands a top the podium of what really matters when looking at a caliber. Reloading and tweaking of powders and grain weights of cartridges can affect the energy but for the most part an certain caliber still has a ball park energy performance.

Energy can be viewed as the penetrating power of the caliber, which becomes extremely useful to know when hunting thicker, bigger bodied animals such as buffalo, bears, bison and elephants.

There is a general rule of thumb for the amount of kinetic energy needed to effectively hunt various game animals and those are expressed below:

Kinetic Energy Game Animals
> 300 ft/lbs Small Game such as hares, foxes, racoon
> 1,000 ft/lbs Medium Game such as deer and coyotes
> 1,500 ft/lbs  Large Game such as elk, hogs, black bear
> 2,000 ft/lbs Thick Skinned such as buffalo, grizzly, hippo


Velocity makes up part of the equation, along with the energy and trajectory, to give the final answer of which is the best all-around caliber for hunting.

Velocity, or speed, is important because it carries with it the energy. Hunters that are comfortable with shots out past 400 yards will take heed of what a caliber’s velocity is. 

Remember, do not get obsessed with a caliber’s velocity as there are more elements to the equation.


There just so happens to be this little thing called “Gravity” which is why every hunter, regardless of whether they use a bow rifle, is well aware of trajectory. 

You’ll often hear the term “flat-shooter” amongst rifle hunters and it’s so heavily talked about because the tighter the trajectory (the less it drops over certain distances) the less the shooter has to think about or take into consideration and focus more on pulling the trigger.


What does availability have to do with a caliber’s performance? A whole bunch! Over the years many, many manufacturers have tried to create the best all-around caliber by tweaking current calibers or completely overhauling them and giving birth to new calibers. These new calibers have sucked in many hunters and although a handful of these Frankenstein calibers have come pretty close, many failed miserably and production simply stopped. 

Now just because they stopped producing them, does not necessarily mean they are bad to the one hunter that purchased a rifle in that caliber and absolutely believed it is the best all-around caliber. The only problem that remains is the lack of ammunition and parts that are available should something go wrong.


As a hunter you are not going to have a whitetail rifle, a bear rifle, a coyote rifle, a mule deer rifle, and an elk rifle, even though that would be cool it’s just not practical, and for most a touch too expensive. This is why getting a rifle that is chambered in a caliber that offers the versatility to go after coyotes, whitetail, and larger-bodied game such as elk, makes more sense.

The skill comes in balancing sufficient energy to gain proper penetration on the larger animals, without going so heavy that the only thing left behind after shooting a small game is the ears.


There are many rifle calibers that could make this list and at the same time, there is too many to mention and analyze. For the sake of efficiency and context, we have broken this section into two, Notable Calibers and Not Worthy Calibers. Save the hate mail and rather duke it out with your hunting buddies at camp, these are just suggestions and opinions will differ regardless of which calibers we choose to discuss.

Notable Calibers

  • .308 Winchester

The .308 has a strong support base and for good reason, it has proven itself on the battlefield, hunting grounds, and competition ring. If any caliber screams versatility it’s the .308 Winchester.

Let’s look at a few of its ballistics readings from various cartridges to support its versatility:

Cartridge: Remington CORE-LOKT PSP 180 grain

Muzzle 100 yd 200 yd 300 yd 400 yd 500 yd
Velocity ft/s 2,620 2,393 2,178 1,974 1,782 1,604
Energy ft/lbs 2,743 2,288 1,896 1,557 1,269 1,028
Trajectory in. 2.3 0 -3.8 -28.3 -57.8

Cartridge: Federal Premium High Energy TBBC 165 grain

Muzzle 100 yd 200 yd 300 yd 400 yd 500 yd
Velocity ft/s 2,870 2,600 2,350 2,120 1,890 1,690
Energy ft/lbs 3,020 2,485 2,030 1,640 1,310 1,040
Trajectory in. 1.8 0 -8.2 -24 -49.9


  • .270 Winchester

It has been said that the .270 and the .243 are the gateway calibers into the bigger, harder-hitting .30 calibers, but yet for many hunters these two calibers seem to offer all they need in a hunting caliber and the progression stops here.

Looks at the data from two popular .270 cartridges and how they fair in our top 4 parameters:

Cartridge: Winchester Super-X PP 150 grain

Muzzle 100 yd 200 yd 300 yd 400 yd 500 yd
Velocity ft/s 2,850 2,585 2,336 2,100 1,879 1,673
Energy ft/lbs 2,705 2,226 1,817 1,468 1,175 932
Trajectory in. 2.2 0 -8.6 -25 -51.4

Cartridge: Remington Premier SSB 130 grain

Muzzle 100 yd 200 yd 300 yd 400 yd 500 yd
Velocity ft/s 3,060 2,838 2,627 2,425 2,232 2,048
Energy ft/lbs 2,702 2,325 1,991 1,697 1,438 1,211
Trajectory in. 1.4 0 -6.5 -18.8 -38.2


  • .300 Win Mag

Is any hunting rifle caliber debate article truly worth the read or hold any credibility without mentioning the .300 Win Mag? We think not. 

The .300 Win Mag needs no introduction nor does it need this article to blow extra wind up its barrel, there are countless blogs and rifle forums on the web that can do that for us. The best is to let the data speak and see how well it performs as an all-around hunting caliber.

 Cartridge: Federal Premium Vital-Shok High Energy TBBC 180 grain

Muzzle 100 yd 200 yd 300 yd 400 yd 500 yd
Velocity ft/s 3,100 2,830 2,580 2,340 2,110 1,900
Energy ft/lbs 3,840 3,205 2,660 2,190 1,790 1,445
Trajectory in. 1.4 0 -6.6 -19.7 -40.4


Cartridge: Winchester Super-X PP 150 grain

Muzzle 100 yd 200 yd 300 yd 400 yd 500 yd
Velocity ft/s 3,290 2,951 2,636 2,342 2,068 1,813
Energy ft/lbs 3,605 2,900 2,314 1,827 1,424 1,095
Trajectory in. 2.6 2.1 -3.5 -15.4 -35.5


  • 7mm Remington Magnum

The 7mm Rem Mag was dropping deer and making bear rugs long before most of today’s hunters could even walk. It is easily, if not the most, successful hunting rifle in American history. Fans of the 7mm often state that the caliber offers the best balance of sectional density and velocity while keeping the recoil manageable.

With a long history you can imagine there is a lot of variation in load data, but to keep the article fair we will highlight two of the more common cartridges used in the 7mm Rem Mag:

Cartridge: Winchester Super-X PP 175 grain

Muzzle 100 yd 200 yd 300 yd 400 yd 500 yd
Velocity ft/s 2,860 2,645 2,440 2,244 2,057 1,879
Energy ft/lbs 2,178 2,718 2,313 1,956 1,644 1,372
Trajectory in. 2.0 0 -7.9 -22.7 -45.8


Cartridge: Federal Premium Vital-Shok BTSP 150 grain

Muzzle 100 yd 200 yd 300 yd 400 yd 500 yd
Velocity ft/s 3,110 2,920 2,750 2,580 2,410 2,250
Energy ft/lbs 3,220 2,850 2,510 2,210 1,930 1,690
Trajectory in. 1.3 0 -5.9 -17 -34.2


  • .375 H&H

The darling of Africa, the .375 H&H, is an absolute icon. If this caliber can hold it’s on the Dark Continent and tussle with elephants, buffalo, lions, eland, wildebeest, and kudu then you know its capabilities are something special.

Those that have hunted the plains of Africa will attest to its capabilities but what does the data say:

Cartridge: Remington Premier Swift A-Frame PSP 300 grain

Muzzle 100 yd 200 yd 300 yd 400 yd 500 yd
Velocity ft/s 2,530 2,245 1,979 1,733 1,512 1,321
Energy ft/lbs 4,262 3,357 2,608 2,001 1,523 1,163
Trajectory in. 2.7 0 -11.7 -35 -73.6


Cartridge: Federal Premium Vital-Shok Magnum TBBC 250 grain

Muzzle 100 yd 200 yd 300 yd 400 yd 500 yd
Velocity ft/s 2,670 2,360 2,080 1,820 1,580 1,370
Energy ft/lbs 3,955 3,100 2,400 1,830 1,380 1,040
Trajectory in. 2.4 0 -10.4 -31.7 -67

Not Worthy Calibers

Now when we use the term “Not Worthy” we are not implying they can’t do the job, we are simply pointing out that when placed against the parameters outlined above, they fall short when compared against the data of better-performing calibers.

.22-250 Remington

Certainly a cool caliber and definitely the go-to for those who prefer to keep the varmint numbers low, but it lacks sufficient at distance and that could pose some difficulties for larger game.

.280 Remington

All the data checks out with the .280 Rem and on paper, you can’t really fault it, it’s quick, holds good energy, and has a tight trajectory but it’s just not one of those calibers that is readily available and easy to source parts for. Plus, being jammed in between the .270 Win and .30-06 Springfield, it kind of gets overshadowed and outperformed.

.303 British

One could argue the .303 British’s honorable service during numerous wars and years of history and experience should be enough but sadly that won’t cut it anymore. Hey, we all get old and need to pass the torch sometime. This is about the best all-around hunting caliber and we can’t get sentimental about what caliber makes the list or not. Plus, good luck trying to find a steady supply of .303 British ammo.

338 Remington Ultra Magnum

If dropping elk at 600-yards is your thing, then by all means carry on and let give your .338 the freedom to send it, but when we turn it down a notch to a nice 8-point grazing broadside at 100 yards, is the 3,888 ft/lbs of energy and a velocity of 2,647 feet per second really necessary? 


There is no one size fits all hunting caliber that can do everything we need or want in a firearm, and no matter what we had suggested there will always be a difference of opinion. The best all-around caliber is one that holds enough energy to effectively kill the animal you are targeting out to a distance of 350 yards. Why 350 yards? Because that is the middle ground between your standard meat hunter taking comfortable less risky shots at 150 to 200 yards. The trophy hunter that has only one chance to get it right at 300 yards. Then the long-range club shooters who consider anything less than 400 yards to be a simple put-in and would in any case be using a caliber and rifle setup specifically for long-range shots.

What it all boils down to is common sense and choosing the correct caliber for the hunting scenario.

**cough** it’s the .270 Winchester **cough** choose that one **cough**.

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