Rifle Calibers for Hunting

Hunting Rifle Calibers

There are a great range of rifle calibers that cater for hunters of the smallest game through to the largest big game. Some generalizations are required in order to appreciate the range of rifle calibers and their application to hunting.

We make the distinction between varmint hunting and game hunting.

Varmint Hunting Calibers

Varmint hunting is typified by,

  • light for caliber projectile weight
  • high velocity for caliber
  • projectiles with explosive expansion
  • longer range shooting (say, 100 to 300+ metres)
  • smaller bodied animals and,
  • no concern about carcass & skin damage.

Game Hunting Calibers

Game hunting is typified by,

  • medium to heavy for caliber projectile weights
  • lower to medium velocities for caliber
  • projectiles with controlled expansion and penetration
  • closer range shooting (say, 10 to 200 metres)
  • larger bodied animals and,
  • an interest in harvesting meat, skins, bones and horns/antlers.

The choice of caliber, projectile weight and muzzle velocity is important when hunting particular species.

The following tables are not meant to be a rigid guide, but rather an indicative introduction to what rifle calibres and choices of ammunition are better suited to your hunting purpose. There is quite a degree of overlap and the opinions of hunters worldwide will be quite varied depending on their personal circumstances, experience and quarry.