The Best Caliber For Deer: Our Top Picks For You

Most people itch to bag a trophy deer; they are the most popular animal to hunt in North America. So, what is the best caliber for deer hunting?This question has been debated for years, and many hunters have particular cartridges they pledge great loyalty toward. We wanted an answer to the question, what is the best caliber for deer? We reviewed some of the cartridges that consistently come up in the conversation, knowing most of them will get the job done every time. Which one is the best of the best?

Comparison Table

Product Image Price

.270 Winchester

product photo of 270 Winchester

Image Source: Winchester.com

.223 Remington

product photo of High Performance Rifle

Image Source: Remington.com

.30-30 Winchester

product photo of 30 30 Winchester

Image Source: Winchester.com

.308 Winchester

product photo of 308 Winchester

Image Source: Winchester.com

.338 Federal

product photo of Trophy Copper 338 Federal

Image Source: Federalpremium.com

6.5 Creedmoor

product photo of Creedmoor 6.5 Creedmoor 142 Gr Matchking Ammunition

Image Source: Creedmoorsports.com

.257 Weatherby Magnum

Product photo of .257 Weatherby Magnum

Image Source: Weatherby.com

7mm Mauser

product photo of Hornady Superformance

Image Source: Hornady.com

.257 Roberts + P

product photo of Hornady .257 Roberts + P

Image Source: Hornady.com

7 mm Remington Magnum

product photo of Nosler Trophy Grade Ammunition 7mm Remington Magnum

Image Source: Nosler.com

Product FAQ

1. What Does Caliber Mean?

In searching for the best caliber for deer, caliber is a unit of measurement describing a bullet’s diameter. We are searching for the best bullet caliber as opposed to gun caliber.The caliber of a gun is the measurement of the barrel’s internal diameter. This distinction is important, because a gun with a 9mm caliber barrel is slightly larger than 9 mm in order to let the 9 mm bullet pass through.Also, some guns can fire bullets with a smaller caliber than the caliber of the barrel. So our caliber references are to the slug portion of the cartridge.This review goes one step further by looking at particular ammo relative to the caliber. For instance, there are differences in hunting for deer with 7 mm Mauser cartridges and 7 mm Remington Magnum cartridges.

2. What Is a Cartridge?

We often use the terms bullets and cartridges interchangeably, but a bullet is only one part of the cartridge. The ammunition used in a gun is called a cartridge. Cartridges are usually either centerfire or rimfire.Rimfire cartridges contain primer in the rim and they cannot be reloaded. The classic .22 Long Rifle uses rimfire cartridges.Centerfire cartridges are metallic cartridges with primer in the bottom or center of the ammunition. Centerfire cases can be reloaded.Whether the cartridge is rimfire or centerfire, the bullet is only one part. The bullet is the part of the target cartridge that strikes the target. Cartridges also have powder that burns and creates gas to push the bullet. They also have primer that explodes when struck by the firing pin to ignite the powder. Finally, all cartridges have a case that holds the primer, powder, and bullet.

3. What Is Recoil?

Recoil is the backward movement of a gun when it is fired. Recoil is caused by the gun’s momentum when it fires.Some people are more sensitive to recoil than others. Recoil can cause injury, and even for shooters who are not overly bothered by recoil, excessive recoil and long-term shooting can wear on the strongest shooters.

How We Reviewed

a man reloading a hunting rifle

Image Source: Unsplash.com

We reviewed ten of the best caliber for deer hunting cartridges based on an overview of the product along with pros and cons and cost.We tried to look at a wide range of cartridges because we know there are a wide range of deer hunters with their own gun-related needs and preferences. For instance, some cartridges feature the best caliber for deer hunting with short-action rifles. Others are only available for long-action rifles.Other hunters have preferences for range. Certain cartridges are feature the best caliber for deer hunting at inside 150 yards, while others offer long-range power and accuracy.Still others are ideal for deer as well as smaller game, while their counterparts can kill a deer, a bear or even an elephant. So, whatever your needs and preferences, we know there is a perfect caliber and cartridge for you.

Overall Price Range

There are many factors that affect the price range of the best caliber for deer hunting. The quantity of cartridges you purchase affects the price per round. Like many things, the larger quantity you buy, the less you may spend on the price per individual item.Some cartridges are more common and cheaper than others regardless of quantity. The price of cartridges can also be affected by buying options, such as whether or not you buy brass bullets.We tried our best to compare apples to apples. We broke down the price per item with similar ratios based on the quantities available for purchase. We also consistently tried to use price based on the simplest options.In general, the price range among the best caliber for deer hunting range from about 20 cents per cartridge to about $2-and-a-half per cartridge. If you purchase high-end brass cartridges with other perks, you can spend much more.

What We Reviewed

  • .270 Winchester
  • .223 Remington
  • .30-30 Winchester
  • .308 Winchester
  • .338 Federal
  • 6.5 Creedmoor
  • .257 Weatherby Magnum
  • 7 mm Mauser
  • .257 Roberts + P
  • 7 mm Remington Magnum

.270 Winchester

product photo of 270 Winchester

Image Source: Winchester.com

The .270 Winchester is among the best caliber for deer hunting. This cartridge necks a .30-06 Springfield cartridge down in order to shoot .277-inch instead of .308-inch diameter bullets. The smaller bullets fire at greater velocity with a better trajectory.The .30-06 still has more downrange carry, but the .270 is plenty powerful for deer. They also cause less recoil.

Pros

  • Good velocity
  • Flat trajectory

Cons

  • Less downrange carry than some wider competitors

Price $$$

Where to Buy

.223 Remington

product photo of High Performance Rifle

Image Source: Remington.com

The .223 Remington rifle cartridge has been around since 1957 and has spent time as the standard US Military rifle cartridge. It remains the most commonly fired centerfire cartridge today.The .223 Remington is deadly to midsize game with its 40/50-gran bullets, but it is not legal in every state for deer hunting. It can certainly take out a deer, but it should be fired inside 150 yards when deer hunting.

Pros

  • One of the world’s most popular bullets

Cons

  • Not legal in every state for deer
  • Need closer range for large game

Price $

Where to Buy

.30-30 Winchester

product photo of 30 30 Winchester

Image Source: Winchester.com

The .30-30 Winchester was one of the original smokeless powder cartridges in the US. Even though it is weaker than many modern cartridges, it has a century of deer hunting to back up its ability.It is considered one of the best deer cartridges from close range; usually under 150 yards. In addition, it is handy with its quick pointing lever action.

Pros

  • Long history of successful deer hunting

Cons

  • Weaker than some competitors
  • Most reliable from short range

Price $

Where to Buy

.308 Winchester

product photo of 308 Winchester

Image Source: Winchester.com

The .308 Winchester is another of the best caliber for deer and other big game. It combines accuracy and versatility to make it a very popular choice among deer hunters.The .308 is an efficient cartridge that can be chambered in countless rifles. Its accuracy is second to none among the best caliber for deer. It meets military standards for handloading brass, and it is easily accessible and very affordable.Lighter bullets around 125 grain are sufficient for deer at close range, though 150-grain rounds can be used for extra might. The .308 Winchester can be effective at long ranges, especially with 170-grain or higher cartridges.

Pros

  • Easily accessible and affordable
  • Can be chambered in most rifles
  • Long or short-range accuracy
  • Very accurate

Cons

  • Shooters who prefer a flat shot find a flatter trajectory in some competitors

Price $

Where to Buy

.338 Federal

product photo of Trophy Copper 338 Federal

Image Source: Federalpremium.com

Since 2006, this joint effort between Federal and Sako has provided one of the best caliber for deer. The .338 Federal is a lightweight cartridge especially effective in short-action rifles.A .308 Winchester was essentially necked up to accommodate .338-inch bullets. It is not ideal for the heaviest bullets within the caliber, but those anywhere around 200 grains are perfect.The .338 Federal is one of the best caliber for deer, but it can also tackle bear and other big game.

Pros

  • Great in short-action rifles
  • Can stop a bear

Cons

  • Not ideal for the heaviest bullets within the caliber

Price $

Where to Buy

6.5 Creedmoor

product photo of Creedmoor 6.5 Creedmoor 142 Gr Matchking Ammunition

Image Source: Creedmoorsports.com

The 6.5 Creedmoor has become popular as one of the best caliber for deer since its release in 2007. It is noteworthy for its chambering that generate great ballistics for unequaled downrange capability.It is best suited for short action rifles and produces limited recoil. The recoil is great for beginners, and the downrange performance makes it a favorite of veterans.

Pros

  • Among the best downrange capability
  • Limited recoil

Cons

  • Though it can handle more, it is most efficient with 130/140-gran rounds.

Price $$

Where to Buy

.257 Weatherby Magnum

Product photo of .257 Weatherby Magnum

Image Source: Weatherby.com

The .257 Weatherby has a popular place among the best caliber for deer because of its light recoil and chambering in a variety of rifles.It is at its best for light and midweight game and can be effective from a respectable range. For larger game, the .257 is not ideal, but it can get the job done. Some hunters prefer a heavier cartridge.

Pros

  • Light recoil
  • Can be chambered in a variety of rifles

Cons

  • A bit light for larger game

Price $

Where to Buy

7mm Mauser

product photo of Hornady Superformance

Image Source: Hornady.com

The 7mm Mauser is among the best caliber for almost any size deer, not to mention bear and lions. It can tackle almost any game in the right conditions.Also known as the 7×57, the Mauser is a cartridge that has existed for over 100 years. It began as a military cartridge. Despite its incredible wallop, it has a reasonable recoil and great long-range capability.

Pros

  • Can stop any deer and even larger game
  • Reasonable recoil relative to power
  • Long-range capability

Cons

  • Requires a long-action rifle

Price $$

Where to Buy

.257 Roberts + P

product photo of Hornady .257 Roberts + P

Image Source: Hornady.com

The .257 Roberts finds its spot on the list of best caliber for deer for maintaining mild recoil even with the heaviest loads. It is more than able to stop deer with 115/120-grain bullets and also makes an excellent small-game weapon with lesser-grain varmint bullets.The .257 Roberts has been lost in recent years among the best caliber for deer discussion, but they remain some of the best dual-purpose rounds available for light and midsize game, including deer.

Pros

  • Mild recoil even with the heaviest loads
  • Great options for light game as well as deer

Cons

  • Less popular with hunters than some .243s

Price $$$

Where to Buy

7 mm Remington Magnum

product photo of Nosler Trophy Grade Ammunition 7mm Remington Magnum

Image Source: Nosler.com

In the search for the best caliber for deer, the 7 mm Remington Magnum is among the best long-range deer hunting options. The bullet fires at a high muzzle velocity with a flat trajectory. It is arguably more than a lot of deer hunters need, operating well beyond 250 yards.It has less recoil than the 7 mm Weatherby Magnum, and that adds to its popularity.

Pros

  • One of the best long-range options
  • Less recoil than similar competitors
  • Considerable power

Cons

  • More power and range than many weekend hunters need

Price $$$

Where to Buy

The Verdict on the Best Caliber for Deer Hunting

red deer antlers hanged on the wall

Image Source: Pixabay.com

We know that among all the cartridges and various calibers we have considered, there are a number of variables that are personal to each hunter. Our favorite does not have to be your favorite, just like your needs and preferences as a deer hunter are different than those of the person across the street.Having said that, we decided to give our official nod to the .257 Roberts + P. This Roberts has a storied history of success, and, quite frankly, we cannot figure out why options like the .243s have surpassed it in popularity.In 1943, this cartridge was born as a 7×57 mm cartridge that was necked down to 25 caliber. The shoulder was moved forward, and the shoulder angle was changed to 20 degrees. It was originally going to be called the 25 Roberts, but it was ultimately coined as the 257 Roberts. This is an excellent dual-purpose cartridge for varmints–a 75-grain bullet can travel 3,400 feet per second–as well as for deer. Even the 100-grain bullets can travel at 3,000 feet per second.It can consistently stop a deer from 275 yards. Our top choice, the 257 Roberts has a standout combination of accuracy, power, and efficiency.

Economy Choice

For hunters with a slightly tighter budget, we also want to mention the .257 Weatherby Magnum. This cheaper cartridge can drive heavy .25 caliber bullets while maintaining efficient velocity.Despite the modest price point, the cartridges are made with high-quality brass that helps with accuracy and very few of the cartridges malfunction.

Featured Image Source: Unsplash.com