Bear Creek Arsenal has released a guide to the Perfect Hunting Calibers and their associated game. Most of you are probably enjoying the fall weather with the lush green forests starting to turn to autumn colors and all manner of critters starting to prepare for the winter months. For us hunters this means dusting off our old reliable hunting rifles, shoring up our tree stands, and replacing the batteries in our game cameras. So what does Bear Creek say as far as what the perfect hunting calibers are for what game? Let’s find out!
The Perfect Hunting Calibers and Their Game by Bear Creek Arsenal
To preface this list I first have to say that I’m assuming that all of these caliber recommendations are for humane kills only. While it may be possible for you to take down a 200 lb wild boar with a 223 with your super sniper skills and accuracy, the fact of the matter is that if your shot goes anywhere but the optimal spot, you’re going to be dealing with either an escaped game animal or a suffering one.
A couple of you know I actually hunt with a 458 SOCOM and so with Bear Creek’s suggestion here I feel a bit justified in my caliber decision. Bear Creek basically puts this caliber down for the big game animals and the big game only. The lightest animal on this list is the caribou which averages between 180 and 400 lbs depending on the sex of the animal.
With animals like the buffalo and the bear, you’d probably really want to rely on something like the 458 SOCOM for its relatively heavy bullet weight and a wide variety of projectile options. The heavy-hitting round has gradually come out of its boutique status and found its place in the big game hunting world.
12.7 x 42 (Basically 50 BEOWULF)
12.7×42 was originally a proprietary caliber much in the same vein as 458 SOCOM in that it was meant to be used with an AR-15 lower receiver and make use of a simple barrel and magazine swap. Since then, many other companies have reverse engineered the round and it has become more and more popular. The original 50 Beowulf round was developed by Bill Alexander of Alexander Arms and is what it is most commonly known by.
Like the 458 SOCOM before it, the 50 Beowulf is a high recoil hard-hitting round but it has the distinct advantage of being a straight-walled cartridge and thus can skirt around some local state hunting laws regarding bottlenecked cartridges for certain seasons.
350 Legend is a relative newcomer to the hunting caliber market. I don’t have much experience with it but from what I’ve heard it performs very well and basically aims to combine the high speed of more traditional bottlenecked cartridges with the hunting regulation advantages of straight-walled cartridges. This round is more suitable for slightly smaller games in the 80 to 200 lb range like mountain lions, deer, and wild boar.
450 Bushmaster shares a lot of the same characteristics as 50 Beowulf and 458 Socom, however, it might be a bit more versatile than the both of them. Ballistically, the .450 Bushmaster has a rather flat trajectory out to 200 yards; if the firearm is zeroed at 150 yards, the user can expect to see a rise of 1.8 inches at 100 yards, zero at 150 yards, and a drop of 4.9 inches at 200 yards making this a better choice for hunters attempting to engage prey at slightly longer distances than with either of the two other big-bore AR cartridges listed before.
If you’re strapped for cash this hunting season and still need to scratch that hunting itch, you could always use the old reliable Slav round – the 7.62x39mm. The round can still be found fairly cheap even during panic buy times and can be used in a wide variety of firearms. The round is suitable enough for varmints and deer as well as….other… potential targets. While it won’t get you that big game, it’s better than sitting at home with nothing else to do.
I’ve previously called this caliber a “hipster” round but for full disclosure, I own two rifles in 300 Blackout (I also still think it’s a hipster round). That being said it’s wildly popular in the hunting community for several reasons. It has a great trajectory over intermediate distances so you don’t have to worry too much about bullet drop over a 100 or 200-yard shot.
Secondly, it works extremely well suppressed which makes the hunting experience that much more enjoyable. So for whitetail season you can break out your 300 Blackout and bring on home that 12 pointer buck.
.223 Rem / 5.56 NATO
Both of these calibers are nearly identical and they’re both perfectly suitable for varmint hunting. If you’ve got a pest problem, you can always reach for your trusty AR-15 and tear up those groundhogs who are wrecking your fall harvest. Even though the round has become pretty expensive, it’s still less expensive than some more traditional hunting calibers like 7mm Magnum, .270, and a couple of the big-bore hunting rounds on this list.
6.5 Grendel basically exists to bridge the gap between smaller varmint rounds like .223 Remington and .308 Winchester. While it’s slightly smaller it packs a big punch. 6.5 Grendel tends to have a greater terminal velocity than 308 Winchester because of a higher ballistic coefficient even when used in a lighter bullet grain weight.
So with something like 6.5 Grendel why even uses 308 Winchester? Well for starters, your father probably hunted with it which means you’ve probably hunted with it and that means you actually know what you’re doing with it. 308 Winchester has been in the hunting game for as long as I can remember and on top of that, it happens to be one of the most versatile hunting cartridges on this list spanning the gap all the way from smaller game to much heavier game like wild boar or bighorn sheep. Truly a perfect hunting caliber.
6.5 Creedmoor might work out a bit better for you guys on the tundras or out in the desert. With an effective range of 1,000 yards, the 6.5 Creedmoor can deliver a lethal accurate punch and take down some of the toughest and quickest game.
When I hear the name 243 Winchester I think of one thing – coyotes. The 243 Winchester has been yeeting yotes since the mid-1950s and it even has the capability to take out some slightly larger game like deer or antelope. Almost every major firearm manufacturer offers rifles in this caliber so no matter where you are you can probably find a gun to start taking down prairie dogs with 243 Winchester.
Let the Hunt Begin
Most of you seasoned hunters probably already have your preferred calibers picked out for your preferred game. For others, this short guide by Bear Creek Arsenal can be a good starting point on your hunting journey to find the perfect hunting caliber(s). A big thanks again to the guys and Bear Creek Aresnel who shared this infographic with us. If you’d like to get a hunting rig set up for this year or anytime then all of the calibers listed in this are available in various configurations on the Bear Creek website. What’s your perfect hunting caliber?
We are committed to finding, researching, and recommending the best products. We earn commissions from purchases you make using the retail links in our product reviews. Learn more about how this works.