Best All Around Hunting Rifle Calibers – 2021 Top Options Reviewed

| Last Updated June 14, 2021

Picking a versatile caliber for a hunting rifle can be a daunting task. Especially when there is a myriad of options to choose from. Cased bullets have been around for more than a century now. Different calibers are suited for different applications and some are designed specially to suit a purpose.

But here you’ll learn about the best all-around hunting rifle calibers that you can trust for almost anything you want to hunt. Check out these best options and why they have been included on this list further in the article.

Comparison of the Best All Around Hunting Rifle Calibers

IMAGEPRODUCT
  • Muzzle energy of 2840 ft-lbs
  • Muzzle velocity of 2970 ft/s
  • Effective at all ranges
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  • Perfect for large-sized game
  • Powerful impact with super shock tip
  • Felt recoil for enhanced accuracy
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  • Minimized air resistance with a boat-tail design
  • Copper bullets retain up to 75% of weight
  • Effective expansion with polymer tip
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  • Hollow-point design for optimal precision
  • For rifles with a fast-twist
  • Good weight retention at any velocity
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Types of Hunting Rifles 

Rifles come in different loading mechanisms and sizes. While some of these have gone obsolete, some are used very commonly. 

Bolt Action Rifles

These are the most common and preferred types of hunting rifles for a very good reason. These rifles are extremely accurate since there are almost no parts that move after firing a shot and the bolt is seated firmly inside the chamber. The latter is also a reason why magnum calibers are available in bolt action rifles only. 

Although these rifles have a short magazine capacity, factors like accuracy, versatility in ammunition choices, and minimal chances of failure (due to simpler design) outweigh any such drawbacks. 

Photo credit: gfycat.com

Semi-auto Rifles

These rifles come with larger magazine capacities and allow the shooter to take quick follow up shots. Semi-auto rifles and shotguns are mostly used to hunt damage-causing animals like hogs.

Lever Action Rifles

These rifles feature a lever that has to be cocked to load a round into the chamber and fire a shot. These rifles offer a kind of mixed functionality between bolt actions and semi-auto’s. Plus they offer good magazine capacities. Lever action rifles chambered in big calibers like the .45-70 Govt and .375 H&H are widely used as guide guns and used for stopping big, dangerous charging animals like bears. 

Break Barrel/Breech Loading Rifles

These are mostly single shot rifles that allow you to load a single round in the breech and fire it. This action is more common for shotguns than for rifles.

Hunting Rifle Caliber Chart

Take a look at this chart below to comprehend the size and power of different hunting calibers and their suitability for different game animals. 

Review of the Best All Around Hunting Rifle Calibers

Listed below is a review compilation of the best all-around hunting rifle calibers and their ammo choices available on the market today. Each product in its respective caliber has been chosen to deliver the maximum effect for the appropriate quarry.

Plus, all the ammo listed here is reloadable. 

Best Overall:
Hornady Precision Hunter .270 Winchester 145 grain

PROS

  • Patented heat shield tip for perfect meplat
  • 145-grain ELD-X bullet for heavy impact
  • Designed for match-grade performance
  • Reloadable and useful at long ranges
  • Delivers amazing expansion at all range

CONS

  • Slightly pricey for a .270

What Recent Buyers Report

These ELD-X bullets perform exceptionally amazing out to 400 yards even with a big sized game like the bull moose. The penetration and decimation at short ranges are terrific. Plus, the accuracy and consistency are top-notch. Paying a match-grade ammo price for a hunting bullet doesn’t go unjustified with this one. 

Why it Stands Out to Us

The ELD-X bullet is the best you can get for the .270 Win rifle. These bullets are aerodynamically very stable and will convert your rifle into a long range accurate killing machine. The penetration and expansion at 400-500 yards are just mind-boggling. This bullet will bring down big animals with an ease that many people don’t dream of with a .270. 

Talking about short range, the bullet creates a large exit wound and liquifies the vitals near its path. The 145-grain bullet is a perfect balance between the more common 130 and 150-grain bullets. 

Bottom Line

Hunting big game at long range with the .270 may seem a farce, but not with these Hornady ELD-X bullets. Aerodynamically superior bullets with approx 3,000 fps muzzle velocity and great penetrating power at close or long range.

Runner-up:
Hornady Superformance .30-06 Springfield 165 grain

PROS

  • SST (Super Shock Tip) for quick & reliable expansion
  • Pointed polymer tip for flatter trajectory
  • Interlocking ring system between bullet core and jacket
  • Faster, more accurate, and consistent
  • Cycles reliably in all actions

CONS

  • The 165-grain bullet is not versatile for 30-06’s reputation

What Recent Buyers Report

The 165 gr SST bullet is a perfect medicine for whitetails, feral hogs, mule deer, and similar sized game. It is more preferred for deer and is a very accurate and supersonic round. The expansion is massive and the bullet exits at close range. But for larger games at long range, the bullet did fragment in some cases. 

Why it Stands Out to Us

The 30-06 has been voted as the most versatile hunting caliber, time and over. It is a legendary military cartridge and has proven its mettle in hunting all across the globe. From small deer to large elephants and rhinos. There are no game animals big or medium that haven't bore the brunt of this round. This specific variant in 165 grain SST bullets is a great deer and hog hunting round due to its supersonic velocity and good expansion. 

These bullets are incredible stoppers and increase the chances of easy tracking even with a near miss. It is a flat shooting round that’ll stop any game right in its tracks. 

Bottom Line

This is by far the most versatile hunting caliber ever designed. With a lot of bullets designed with the 30-06 as the parent cartridge. Opt for the heavier 185 or 220-grain bullets if you are out for buffalos or bear.

Editor's Pick:
Remington Premier Scirocco Bonded 7mm Rem

PROS

  • Supersonic ammo with 3325 fp muzzle velocity
  • Boat tail bullet design for reduced drag
  • Bonded jacket and core plus polymer tip
  • Flat shooting and very accurate over long range
  • Retains 2,558 fpe at 300 yards

CONS

  • A bit expensive with lesser options
  • Too loud

What Recent Buyers Report

For some, the 7mm Rem Mag are great backup rifles and their first choice for hunting medium-size game on a long range. But for some, it is an exaggerated cartridge that works no better than a .30-06 on normal hunting ranges. Eventually, it depends on individual liking. 

Why it Stands Out to Us

Directly derived from the venerable .375 H&H cartridge, the 7mm Remington was designed for long range accuracy and low recoil. The bullet is .284 inches in diameter and sits somewhere between the .270 and .300 caliber. Thus offering a good mix between power, range, velocity, and accuracy. 

The 7mm is great for taking down the medium-sized game at long ranges. Or even big size critters at short ranges. The bullet is more than enough for deer and great for much other big game. Even some bear species if the range and shot placement are right. 

Bottom Line

The 7mm Rem Mag has been around for quite some time and is a kind of mixed-joe that can be used for hunting or competitions. A rifle chambered in this caliber can be your go-to rifle when hunting non-dangerous game across North America.

Honorable Mention:
Winchester MATCH .338 Lapua Magnum

PROS

  • Hollow point bullet for quick & humane kill
  • 250-grain bullet delivers a lot of punch
  • Exceptional accuracy and proven design
  • Also works for matches and tactical uses

CONS

  • Loud with heavy recoil
  • Very expensive ammo

What Recent Buyers Report

The 338 Lapua has mixed reviews when used for hunting. It is an absolute killer that can handle every animal and also shoots very accurately over a long range. The cost is a scary factor for most prospective buyers, but handloading options and bullet performance outweighs it. 

Why it Stands Out to Us

This may look like an unusual inclusion on this list. Especially when the .338 Lapua is a sniper’s cartridge and mostly used in matches or tactical operations. But the reason it was included here is that the .338 takes the .30 caliber to a whole new level and differentiates largely from the other closely associated calibers from .270 to .30-06. 

A 300 Win Mag would have fared well against the .338 Lapua, and you are free to choose it over this one. People who consider the .338 an overkill probably don’t realize that the much bigger .375 H&H is a common guide/hunting gun caliber in bear country. 

Bottom Line

The .338 Lapua is a powerful and accurate long range hunting round that attracts a lot of controversy regarding its use as a hunting round. It does have some recoil and costs much, but it also ensures a quick and humane kill for the big game.

5. Barnes Vor-Tx .308 Winchester 150 Grain

PROS

  • 150 gr bullet ideal for medium-sized game
  • Polymer tip for faster expansion rate
  • Good sub-MOA accuracy and deep penetration
  • Works great in bolt actions or semi-auto

CONS

  • Pretty pricey for a .308
  • Not for big game on long range

What Recent Buyers Report

Users found this ammo to be very effective for a medium-sized game like whitetails and hogs. The kill is instant and the wound channel doesn’t waste any meat. These 150-grain bullets, however, aren’t enough for a big game and you’ll need to find an upgrade. But this specific option is great in every aspect. 

Why it Stands Out to Us

The .308 is a military round and is also widely used by hunters for medium to the big sized game. The fact that it can tackle almost every game in North America and can easily be found in semi-auto rifle chamberings makes it a great round for hunting and pest control. This 150-grain VOR-TX tipped triple shock bullet with the polymer tip delivers a faster expansion rate and doesn’t fragment to ensure easy recovery. It will either exit or stay stuck in one piece. 

The ammo is non-corrosive, boxer primed and reloadable. Allowing you to handload with your own specifications. 

Bottom Line

As most hunters would know, the .308 is just a shortened version of the .30-06 designed for short action rifles. The .308 works great in semi-autos and is a great versatile round that can handle most small to big size animals depending upon range and the bullet weight.

Aspects to Consider Before Hunting Season

Check out some important considerations to keep in mind before indulging in the hunting season. 

Know the Local Hunting Laws

Make sure you acquire a hunting license from the state authority before going out on a hunt. Almost every state requires a hunter to acquire a license. Which often requires you to take a course. Also ensure that you study the hunting laws citing info like what to hunt, where/when to hunt, what to wear, minimum caliber requirements, etc. Additionally, some states require you to get a guide when hunting a specific kind of game (especially bears). 

Decide Your Target and Prepare Your Gear

Before the start of the hunting season, decide what game animal you’re after. Study its nature and the best practices and tips for hunting it down. Another very imperative aspect is to pick the right gear.

Depending upon what animal you’re after, pick the most appropriate caliber and hunting rifle. Factors like hunting distance, game size, and terrain will play an important role in this. For gear, always wear the right clothing, carry scent masking sprays, have some kind of emergency response equipment like a whistle or GPS locator. Always inform someone you’re close with that you are going on a hunting trip. 

If you are in bear country, always carry a bear spray. 

Processing Your Trophy

The animal you’re killing will most likely be brought back as food or trophy. Make sure you know the right procedure of skinning/cleaning/harvesting or have somebody with you who does. 

Conclusion 

The best definition of an all-around hunting caliber is a round that can humanely kill a quarry without causing any or much suffering and also ensure that there’s little meat wasted to ballistics. The .270, .30-06, .308, and 7mm are the most widely used and proven hunting calibers of all time. 

People Also Ask

Quench your thirst for answers on some common and important queries about hunting. This section will cover some good tips about hunting various kinds of game animals and provide you with some absolute resolutions. 

What Caliber Rifle For Deer Hunting?

The most common and widely acclaimed caliber for deer hunting is .270 Winchester. The .30-06 is a definitive deer medicine for all deer sizes at short or long range. Plus, you can also consider the 6.5 Creedmoor for flatter trajectories and also the .308 as a versatile hunting round. 

What is the Smallest Caliber For Deer Hunting?

The smallest caliber for deer hunting is .243 Winchester. It is illegal in most states to hunt deer of any caliber smaller than that. The .243 is perfect for beginners and people who are sensitive to recoil. A great cartridge for whitetails, musk deer, and the like. 

What is the Best Caliber For Coyote Hunting?

Coyotes are neither too big, nor very hunky. While any firearm caliber can take down a coyote, the .223 Remington and .243 Winchester work the best. You can also opt for the smaller .22lr at a short range. Anything bigger than the 6.5 Creedmoor will certainly be overkill. 

What is the Best Caliber For Elk Hunting?

The .270 Winchester with big bullets and a hot load is the minimum for Elk. The .30-06 and .308 are definitive elk medicines. While the 6.5 Creedmoor & 7mm Rem are also quite viable for elk, the .30 caliber range is more reliable. If you want more power and long range accuracy, go for the .300 WSM.  

What Caliber Rifle For Wild Boar Hunting?

The minimum caliber for wild boars should be the .270 Win. The .30-06 is a reliable choice and if you are on a hog killing frenzy and need a semi-auto. Get an AR-10 or similar rifle chambered in .308 Win. Wild boars are tough and will require a caliber with good penetration and weight.

What Caliber to Hunt Bear?

The most common, reliable, and trusted caliber for hunting bears is the .375 H&H. It is also carried by guides to stop charging bears. The minimum you should go for hunting bears (all sizes) is .30-06. Plus, .300 WSM and .325 are also great calibers for all bears. 

What Caliber For Fox Hunting?

The .22 calibers will be perfect for those small fluffy foxes. A .22lr and .223 Rem are perfect for disposing of foxes. The .17 HMR will also do its bit fine, but the former two are more definitive, cheap, and readily available.



My name is Jeff and I have been hunting and fishing for over 40 years. I am an avid archery lover, bass fisherman, and all-around outdoorsman. Currently, I'm obsessed with elk hunting but I'm sure I'll move onto a different favorite soon. You gotta love hunting for that reason :) If you have any questions, or just want chat about your latest hunting score or big catch, you can reach me at admin@biggamelogic.com. Read more about Big Game Logic.