Tag Archives: caliber

Caliber Discussion for deer and elk hunting

Let’s start out by stating the obvious. There are literally hundreds of good cartridges that are more than adequate for deer and elk hunting. There is neither time or space here to go over all the possibilities. So lets focus on a few excellent groups of cartridge choices.

Today’s subject matter is deer and elk, two animals I am quite familiar with and I have had the good fortune to take many of both over my hunting career. One of the many takeaways from these many years, is that neither of them are bullet proof, and most people use much more gun than necessary. Let me be clear; Use what you think is best, if you think you need a .338 super magnum to take down a bull elk, be my guest. But I certainly don’t. With that in mind, lets get into some cartridges.

This young elk was taken with a 7mm PRC, from my Desert Tech SRS M2

The ’06 Case for elk and deer

The popularity of the 30-06 is undeniable. Probably as many deer and elk have been killed by the 06 as anything else. Quite frankly it’d be hard to go wrong with it, but there are a few offspring from the Springfield that are also more than adequate hunting cartridges. And they may assuage your taste for something more exotic.

The .270 Winchester  and 25-06 Remington are both derived from the 06 case, and both are excellent choices for your next hunting rifle. While the 25-06 may be considered a bit light for elk, it is an outstanding choice for any deer. It’s fast bullets fly a very flat trajectory, and its lower recoil make it an excellent rifle for a new hunter or one who is a bit recoil shy. The bigger .270 has a better bullet selection. With a wider range of bullet weights, and a heavier overall selection.

This probably makes the .270 a better choice if elk are in your future. I killed both my first buck, and my first elk with a 25-06. But honestly any one of these 30-06 based cartridges would be an excellent choice for your next deer or elk rifle.

Of the many elk I’ve killed over the last twenty years, most have them have been from short action cartridges like the 308 and Creedmoor. The last seven alone have been dropped in their tracks by the 6.5 or smaller.

A Magnum Option

Many hunters choose magnum cartridges in their caliber discussion for deer and elk hunting, they do so for a variety of reasons. The main advantage of magnum cartridges is power. The high velocities and typically heavier bullets used in magnum cartridges gives hunters additional power to take down animals. As skills and tech advance the range of hunters, the additional power of magnums can come in handy down-range.


The always popular 300 Winchester Magnum has long been the standard magnum cartridge for deer and elk hunters. With loads varying from 165 grain up to 240 grain bullets, and ammunition available almost anywhere ammo is sold, it is hard to go wrong with a 300WM. The 338WM and 7mm Remington Magnum are not quite as common, but comparable and excellent choices. But the old gold standard isn’t the only good option. If you want something more exotic or just different there is a cartridge just for you.

Short Magnums were a big craze years ago, and still make a good choice today. While they are not as common in the retailers, they offer some good advantages. The Winchester Short Magnum family with 270, 7mm, and 300 calibers would all make excellent elk rifles to pack into the back country. One of my all-time favorite hunting cartridges, and has claimed several of my best shots, is the 7mm Remington Short Action Ultra Magnum (7SAUM). Fast seven’s are lightning on big game. The selection of great bullets for them give you the ability to customize them to your hunting needs.

Whether you choose one of the golden oldies, or something brand new like a 300PRC, or 28 Nosler. Make sure you don’t fall for the old mistake of thinking that your magnum will make up for poor shooting. A good shot with a small cartridge is better than a bad shot with a big cartridge.

The Right Bullet

Choosing the right cartridge for your hunt is perhaps not as important as choosing the right bullet to shoot. For example, a .270 is a great cartridge for deer and elk hunting. But if you are shooting too light a bullet then you may as well be shooting a .243.

Not that it cant be done with either a .243 or light .270, it’s just a better choice to shoot something heavier. Heavy bullets carry more energy, and energy is what kills our prey. So when picking out ammunition for your next hunting rifle, pick something that is towards the heavier side. Especially if you are on the smaller side of the cartridge spectrum.

If your shooting a 6.5, you may want to steer away from 100-120 grain bullets and get into a 140 or bigger bullet. If your shooting something like a 7mm or .30 caliber, bullet weights like 150 grains and above are pretty normal and more than adequate.

Bullet construction is another subject you should consider in your selection. Not all bullets are built the same. Traditional copper-cup and lead-core bullets have worked for generations. But today we have bonded bullets, copper solids, and more.

The most important thing I could mention here is that “hard bullets” or those bonded and built to stay together, work great at high velocities and up close. But if its a long shot, and much of your velocity has been lost. You may want to use a “softer bullet” with a simple lead core and thin jacket. Otherwise you may have less than satisfactory terminal performance due to the bullets impact velocity and its ability to open.


As I mentioned at the intro to this subject, these animals are not bullet proof. But magnum horsepower, and the worlds best bullet don’t mean much if you cant shoot it well. I also mentioned that a good shot from a small caliber is better than a bad shot from a large caliber. I’d rather make a heart shot with a 25-06 than a gut/liver shot with a 338 Lapua Magnum. This line of thinking applies to everything we’ve discussed here today. If the shooter is intimidated by heavy recoil, or out of practice, they are more likely to make a bad shot.

My son shot his first elk with a .260 Remington, read that story here

Keep this in mind when selecting your next hunting cartridge. Flinch factors and the ability to shoot with enough frequency to become more than proficient are just as important as the rest of the considerations.

Final Thoughts

There are more good options than bad ones nowadays, so don’t sweat it too hard. You should evaluate the application of your choices and the way you plan to hunt. Then balance it against your shooting skill level and the cost, you will be setup for a successful hunt. Enjoy it and make the most of the opportunity.


Choosing a Cartridge

Why is cartridge choice important?

If you had to choose one cartridge to shoot for the rest of your life, most of us could narrow it down to at least one or two. But when there are so many options before us these days, it can be an agonizing internal debate trying to pick one cartridge over another. Could it be that the easy answer is right before your eyes?

One advantage to my SRS A1 is that all these cartridges and more can all be shot from the same rifle

One of the first criteria that we evaluate is the intended use, if we plan on deer hunting for example, then we can eliminate some of the larger magnums, as well as lightweight varmint cartridges. If we intend on competitive shooting, then we would be wise to select from the already refined pool of serious competition cartridges that offer advantages such as; superior external ballistics, controllable recoil, and available in volumes and at prices we can afford.
Perhaps Extended Long Range (ELR) is more your preference, and a larger cartridge like a 300 or 338 is in your sights. Again, there are many popular cartridges that will fit that bill. You can evaluate several of them, and consider factors such as barrel life, recoil, and component cost and availability.
Be it 6mm, 6.5mm, 7mm, or a 30 caliber, there are great reasons to pick each one, you just need to find the best reason that applies to your shooting. And even then, which 6mm? You could go with a modest and economical 6XC, or maybe a 6X47L. The new 6 Creedmoor from Hornady has some great benefits and options, or perhaps you want to just go with a traditional .243 or 6mm Remington. You see, all these cartridges share the 6mm/.243 bore and bullet selection, but the differing cases offer different things such as cheap and easy to find brass. Some of them offer better high quality brass, and the barrel life can vary greatly depending on which one you choose.
Community input is very helpful, see what others are doing and using. If you are lucky, you can wrap up all your activities into one “do it all” cartridge.

Sierra Tipped Match Kings loaded in the 308 Winchester

For those like me who have chosen to use the multicaliber systems offered by Desert Tech , this is a double-edged sword. Simply because we are not limited to our choices of cartridges, because a barrel swap can be done in moments, but difficult because now instead of choosing one caliber, we now have two or more choices to make. I choose to look at this in a positive light.
Multi caliber means that we can choose an inexpensive and light caliber for one activity, and perhaps a heavy and devastating caliber to compliment it. Both of which can be used in the same rifle, with the same trigger pull, and optic. Once you have decided the intended use of your rifle, you can then pick calibers suitable for them. With so many options, it can be daunting and exciting at the same time.

The 300BLK (L) and the 223Rem (R) are two similar sized cartridges with vastly different applications, shooting a multi-caliber rifle like the SRS allows me to profit from both of these cartridges strong points

Choosing your cartridge

I like to start with cartridges with a proven history of performance. Sure, there are always hot ticket and fly cartridges that come and go. but there is wisdom and experience with traditional and mainstream choices. In addition to the abundant availability of these more common cartridges, there is plenty of information about their performance which could help you in your quest for perfection. And don’t rule out that significant technological advances in powders and bullets have given new life to cartridges once relegated to antiquity.

Reloading gives you the option to customize ammunition to your rifle

Another decision factor is whether you intend to reload your ammunition. Some cartridges are best left to reloaders, while others enjoy diverse and very affordable factory ammunition options. This could mean the difference between two similar but different cartridges. For example, the .260 Remington and the 6.5 Creedmoor are almost equals, but if you intend to buy ammunition, the Creedmoor is the better choice due to the high volume of factory ammunition choices. Whereas if you intend to reload, the .260 could give you an edge over the Creedmoor with customization and more velocity.

This leads right into my final criteria, which is cost. Many people want to shoot large and venerable cartridges, but not many want to pay the price of some of them. So while the 338LM might be at the top of your long range fancy list, you’d be surprised at how many more affordable smaller cartridges there are. Many of them that can get you to the same distances as the 338, but without leaving you destitute. So don’t be afraid of looking into some of those less costly calibers that will still fill your need.

Final thoughts

Once you’ve taken the time to evaluate these many characteristics, there should at least be a couple options floating to the top of your choice list. At this point it could simply be preference, or some other simple reason that swings you toward one over another. The best news of all, is that there are few bad choices anymore, so good luck.

Three very different cartridges with differing purposes that can all be used in my rifle. (top) 338Lapua Magnum (middle) 260 Remington (bottom) 223 Remington

Desert Tech SRS .223 Remington conversion kit by Short Action Customs

Short Action Customs 223Rem Conversion for the Desert Tech SRS

For many years now, a new rifle platform has been thriving both here in the free world, and in the competition, military, and law enforcement communities. A stand alone and one of a kind weapon that in the author’s opinion, has near perfected a design that shooters have long sought after.

The company is Desert Tech, (formerly Desert Tactical Arms)of Salt Lake City Utah, and the rifle is the Stealth Recon Scout (SRS). My love affair with this system began several years ago, at the end of a dirt road in the foothills below Montana’s Bear tooth Mountains. A friend of mine introduced me to a rifle I had seen and heard of before, but whose unconventional looks and impressive price tag had driven it far from my psyche.

That all changed in a moment, as soon I put this extremely compact and precise instrument to use. The metallic snap of the bolt locking into battery, and the crisp break of the trigger just felt perfect against my cheek weld. Before I left Montana, I had set my mind to own one of these beauties, even should it cost me my modest gun collection. Not quite a year later, I stood in a local gun shop, filling out the transfer paperwork. It was love at first sight.

I wasted no time familiarizing myself with Mark Gordon at Short Action Customs (SAC) in Wellington, Ohio, who in a short time had already built quite a reputation in aftermarket DT barrels as well as a quality builder of rifles in general. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the SRS, it is a detachable box magazine fed, bolt action bull pup, with the added advantage of being a switch barrel rifle. A bull pup of course meaning that the rifle’s action is behind the trigger, and against the shoulder. This design has been tried many times over the years, in order to shorten overall length, and portability of the rifle. The SRS as I mentioned earlier has all of the advantages a bull pup was designed to bring to the table, as well as the quality and prestige of a very high end weapon. And the icing on the cake is the switch barrel capability. Allowing the shooter in as short as a minute, to go from a short action 308 family cartridge, to something like a 300WM or even the .338LM, and thanks to Mark and his ingenuity, SRS owners will soon be able to shoot .223 family cartridges as well.
One of the reasons this rifle is so quickly gaining fame, is the capabilities, accuracy, quality, and utility it gives to its user. It is much shorter than its competitors, even when wearing a suppressor, the SRS also delivers consistent accuracy, regardless of caliber. And its wide array of barrel possibilities, both from DT and aftermarket companies like SAC are top of the line. I have found the rifle to be very useful in competition, practical shooting, and hunting. One of the most common lines you will hear from SRS owners is that since they started shooting it, the rest of their guns gather dust in the safe.

The topic of this article is to discuss this newly developed prototype .223 from SAC, I could go on for pages about the features and adventures of the rifle itself. But, this new conversion kit (as barrel, bolt, and magazine are called) deserves all my attention here.

Mark and I first made contact when I purchased a barrel from him shortly after I became a DT owner, and luckily he approached me about testing one of these new kits when they were ready. The added advantages that a .223 barrel would afford me were very appealing to say the least. Having a very inexpensive cartridge like the .223 in my barrel collection would make great for training and plinking purposes, and at my average density altitude here, the .223 is no slouch. Making it a shoe in for all my varmint hunting adventures. Surely I am not the only DT owner to consider all these tantalizing new opportunities Mark’s venture would bring, and I’m sure they will start lining up as soon as production begins, which at this writing, could be as soon as June 2015.

I’ll move forward under the assumption that the reader is at least rudimentarily familiar with the SRS, in the interest of time. There is much to discuss. For those of you interested, there is a companion YouTube video to this article that can be found here:

When I first opened the freshly packed box from Ohio, my impression was typical to Mark’s customers. Even the packaging shows attention to detail, and required a clever approach to unwrap and remove each piece of the kit. . It was like Christmas again, inside was a 22” Bartlein, 7.7 twist barrel, threaded with a break installed and timed. I continued opening and found the bolt, and the magazine, both proprietary from SAC. The magazine was as stout as anyone could hope, I felt like I could hitch it in the end of an axe handle and split firewood should the need arise. Built from billet aluminum, it fills the size of the original DT magazine, even though it only uses a small portion of that space for its payload. Two halves held together by machine screws, with a nylon follower. And I was happy to see as I eagerly stuffed it full of cartridges, that it has room stacked for ten. Not just ten standard .223 rounds, but my long range load using 80gr Sierra Match Kings seated much longer than standard loads (2.515coal). My attention then turned to the bolt, at first glance it seemed the same as any other DT bolt. But I soon noticed a significant difference. Normal DT bolts have two sets of three bolt lugs, this new design of Mark’s had only one set of bolt lugs. I then returned to the barrel, and sure enough, the barrel extension was different as well, made to accept only three lugs. So part of Mark’s solution to chambering such a petite round in an action made to handle up to 338LM, was to shorten the distance traveled from feed lips, into battery. By removing the second (stacked) layer of bolt lugs bringing the front of the bolt and the rear face of the barrel closer, sooner. All of which required manufacturing a new barrel extension and matching bolt head.

This was one of the newer style DT bolts, with the interchangeable bolt head. I assume that production conversion kits will have an option of purchasing just the bolt head, or a complete bolt. Depending on a customer’s needs. Much work has been put into this small bolt head. To fit ejector and extractor into it, and still accommodate for all the other functions it does must have been some feat. We went through several revisions of the bolt-head in order to ensure perfect function. With the bolt also came a new bolt stop plug, to shorten the bolt’s rear travel to the shorter length of the .223. This makes for a short and smooth stroke, making rapid shooting faster even than before.

The whole kit just screamed “shoot me”, and like a badger with a fresh can of Spam, I descended into my cave to fit this new system to its host.

As I slid the new barrel into the chassis, its weight was manifest when it bottomed out perfectly in its keyed bore. I installed the barrel as I do any other, bolt and magazine followed. The shortness of the newly married combination was very impressive, I had yet to install my suppressor on the system just to test for balance and handling. It was heavy, heavy as any other barrel I own. But with a similar contour and such a small bore, I guess that should have been expected. (My next .223 barrel will either be fluted, or a lighter profile) This could also be considered a good thing, if one intends on using the barrel as a trainer, since it maintains the rifle’s weight and handling. As I worked the new bolt, and tested its operation, I was reminded why this rifle is such a joy to shoot. The SAC .223 conversion was just as smooth and crisp as every other bolt/barrel combination I had used. I could hardly wait to get it to the range.

I am a glutton for punishment, and a reclusive one at that, so my first trip to shoot the SAC kit was not to the local rifle range, but to my favorite field shooting spot, high above the city in the mountains above my home. It was there, on a sunny and dry fall day, at about 5500ASL that I broke paper. I had brought along a box of some Federal factory loaded ammo, as well as some hand loads I had very high hopes for. I started at 75yds, only to re-zero my rifle. Each barrel can have a slightly different zero from another, in my experience it’s usually not far (+/- 1MIL in any direction). In this case, the SAC .223 barrel was .4MIL lower than my regular zero. The good news is, it’s always the same with each barrel, no need to re-zero every time you switch barrels. I have since had it in and out many times, and it is always exactly zeroed when I install it. Within two or three shots, I had the new barrel zeroed. I ran half a dozen handloads over the chronograph, and was very happy to see 2880fps as an average. My load being 23.5gr of ARcomp under an 80gr SMK seated at 2.515”. In typical SAC fashion, the barrel shot much tighter than I can hold. I am terrible at shooting groups, but when I manage to hold properly, this thing easily put five Match Kings though a 3/8 inch hole. All the squirrel’s and magpies within earshot must have questioned my sanity as I chuckled like Yogi Bear while shoving more rounds into the magazine. But they know me, and know when to stay the hell out of sight, so my reputation maintained its place at the top of the food chain. Never satisfied with a hundred yards, I decided to push the limits of this new kit. And with the west side of the Rocky Mountains at my disposal, I had plenty of room to do it. I hit all my usual targets, ranging from three hundred out to nine hundred and fifty yards. The beauty was, this load/barrel shot way better than my ballistic computer had projected. And at nine hundred and fifty yards, I was a whole MIL high. I dropped it down to 7.4MIL and pummeled a target measuring roughly 18″h by 10″w for about six rounds. It was a beautiful feeling to have such accuracy and power from such an inexpensive cartridge. I was so excited to get home and share my results with Mark, I almost left without all my gear, but I quickly gathered it up, and continued my Yogi Bear chuckle all the way back down the trail to the truck.

I’ve been back to the mountains, and out to the desert, I’ve put over five hundred rounds through it already, and I can say with conviction, I LOVE this 223. I have always been a big fan of the cartridge, but it only gets better in the DT chassis. I have used it to plunder several dogtowns, many vermin, and even managed to take the first big game ever with a .223 SRS, a Wyoming Pronghorn all handily, and with a sense of confidence that’s unexplainable. I’ve stretched it out to 1035yds so far, and as long as conditions are calm, I think I’ll push it a little farther.

All in all, this prototype gets about a 9.5 out of 10 from the coldbore panel of judge, it fits into a niche that has needed a resident for some time. With almost no felt recoil, it is a fun way to train, a cheap way to practice, an efficient way to hunt, and a particularly humiliating way to smoke your buddies in a match. If I was to change anything about it, it would only be this; a lighter barrel, either in contour or fluted. Both of which should not be a problem as SAC thrives on customizing their customer’s request’s.

I am very far from being done with this kit, I see a long future filled with stacked pelts and shiny steel targets. For the many of you one rifle Desert Tech guys who have been wishing for a 223 for your counterpart, the day will soon come, and Short Action Customs will bring it to you.

Check out their website here:Short Action Customs