First hunting rifle, what caliber?

Discussion in 'Varminter & Hunting Forum' started by AAAOA, Nov 4, 2019.

  1. AAAOA


    Sep 28, 2019
    Hey all,

    I'm looking to get into hunting possibly next year but I'm finding the task of finding a caliber a little daunting. I've settled on a rifle, a ruger m77 rsi that has an 18.5 inch barrel and only weighs 6.5-7lbs. The vast majority appear to be in .243 or .270 and if I look long enough I can find a .308 or 30-06 for a couple hundred extra bucks.

    I'm not entirely sure where I'll be hunting, as now I am in college and don't know where I'll end up. My home state is Virginia, but I would love to head out west or maybe even Alaska if an opportunity presents itself. Really, it's wherever offers a half decent paying job lol. I'd more than likely be hunting deer or pronghorn at first, but I certainly want to try for elk and black bear. If I end up in Alaska or somewhere else far north perhaps a moose, but everything else is certain. Range would ideally be 200m or less.

    I've never shot any of these calibers before, the biggest stuff I've shot is a double barrel 12 gauge and an old surplus czech mauser in 8mm mauser using surplus ammo. I handle both just fine, but the metal buttplate gives you a less than friendly reminder if you don't have a good shoulder weld.

    I know all of these CAN bring down everything from a 90lb cous deer to an 800lb elk, but which is most realistic for a new hunter? If it is the 308 or 30-06 is the difference worth the couple hundred extra bucks I could put into practice shooting, tags, and licenses?

  2. mmcu

    mmcu Silver $$ Contributor

    Jun 21, 2008
    From what you describe, you'd be hard pressed to find a better caliber than the 30-06.
    Rem06, johnfred1965, Downeast and 8 others like this.
  3. JASmith


    Sep 14, 2009
    The .243 os a tad light for 800ld-class animals.

    Go with the 30-06 and use reduced recoil loads for animals weighing less than about 300 lb. They will help one get accustomed to the rifle while target practicing and harvesting average weight animals.
    daleboy, mikeinct and AAAOA like this.
  4. Bill K

    Bill K Silver $$ Contributor

    Oct 16, 2011
    The variaty of bullets available for the old war horse, 30-06 is so good, you could find a bullet weight that will do everything you want. as one suggested use light recoil loads to practice and for small game, then moved up into the 160-200 grain bullet for the larger game. And for bear and moose find some of the Nosler partition bullets in 180-200 grain and you will be set.
    MrMajestic, 338 dude and AAAOA like this.
  5. 7887mm08

    7887mm08 Silver $$ Contributor

    Mar 20, 2014
    308 or 30-06, both will do you proud.
    308 is a short action caliber so it will be a little lighter in weight if it matters to you.
    Ammo will be available almost anywhere for both of them.
  6. HTSmith

    HTSmith Silver $$ Contributor

    Jan 23, 2005
    That is cool looking rifle that would be good for someone that already had a primary hunting rifle. An 18.5" barrel makes a lot of noise and a full length stock is not conducive to accuracy. Not to mention the short barrel reduces bullet velocity. My advice is to get an ugly (but functional) hunting rifle now and buy this pretty one later. Of course if I were so smart I'd be rich;)
    mikeinct likes this.
  7. AAAOA


    Sep 28, 2019
    I see what you're saying, and if I were a more resilient man I'd buy an ugly gun that was twice as good for a third the price, but I just can't bring myself to buy an ugly gun and I've fallen for the full stock look lol.

    Thanks for all the advice so far guys, didn't even consider low recoil rounds for 30-06. It is definitely the hardest to find so far, but I'm sure once deer season wraps up a few more'll pop up.
  8. CaptainMal

    CaptainMal Silver $$ Contributor

    Aug 28, 2010
    Those short barreled guns are hard to hold steady, lose some velocity and normally are not used in open areas for longer range shooting. Make it light in 30-06 and it can kick the heck out of you.

    I like 30-06 but 270 will probably do all you want with lots of power to even handle the bigger stuff. Just get at least a 20" bbl. and maybe even a 22" one.
    MrMajestic and Mark W like this.
  9. mikeinct

    mikeinct Silver $$ Contributor

    Sep 21, 2005
    Lot's of first guns out there. I got a deal on an old Husvanque mauser pattern 30-06 for the Mrs. She likes the super light weight & I can down load the ammo for her. Myself, I use a 35 Rem lever gun, & a very old Sako bolt gun in 270 Win. These are just for deer hunting. We have other rifles as well. If I were starting out [& I could reload] No brainer, find a deal on a nice Lt. Wt. 7mm 08 bolt gun. you can make that puppy make your coffee & do breakfast. mike in ct
    johnfred1965 likes this.
  10. daleboy

    daleboy Silver $$ Contributor

    Mar 27, 2017
    Another vote for the 30-06 . I use mine for hunting ,but also use it from the bench with reduced loads . My hunting loads are reduced down to 30-30 levels,I don't get shots over 100 yards . My target loads are 110 grain V-Max also mellow loads . It is fun to shoot/practice so I have become very confident in the old '03 . If I ever need to hop it up for larger game than our Whitetails I know I can .
    MrMajestic likes this.
  11. K22


    Jan 24, 2011
    The 30 06 will serve you well and is capable of taking all big game in North America however I would not hunt dangerous game i.e. gizzly with it even though in the hands of a skilled rifleman with the proper bullet it is capable. For deer use the 150 grain bullets, for larger animals, the 165 or 180 will work very well. The Nosler Partition is especially effective on the larger animals.

    I would not buy a light weight rifle in this caliber due to the recoil. Accordingly I'd take a look at the Weatherby Vanguard in this caliber. This rifle weighs 7 1/2 pounds, has a 24" barrel to optimize ballistics, an effective recoil pad, a Sako type extractor for trouble free extraction, a two stage adjustable trigger, and the factory stock is stiff enough for accurate shooting. It's a real value.
  12. sw282


    Mar 28, 2018
    Where l grew up in the Low Country of South Carolina everyone hunted with EVERYTHING with a shotgun. Deer, rabbits, squirrels, dove, quail, and ducks too. My first center fire gun was a 44 magnum Smith&Wesson revolver... Killed quite a few deer with it after moving to the Upper part of SC. lt didn't take me long to figure l needed a RIFLE to hunt the huge fields and logging roads around my area. Growing up Outdoor Life was my Bible and Jack 0'Conner its prophet... lt had to be a 270 Winchester.. Top that off l shot a friends 30-06 with 180gr ammo.. After that l tried a 270 w/130gr bullets, HALF the recoil of that 06 and flat shooting as a 7MM Rem Mag... Virtually ALL the big l've killed with a rifle fell to a 270Win... Never killed anything bigger than a White Tail Deer, but l have hunted larger.. Only North American Big Game that might need anything bigger would be Moose or Grizz
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2019
    K22 likes this.
  13. JimT

    JimT “I don’t even own a piece of camo!”-Kenny Jarrett

    Sep 18, 2006
    I had that exact rifle in .308. It did recoil a bit more than I expected, but nothing that made it uncomfortable. The biggest drawback I see for western or Alaska hunting is the full length stock. Humidity or precipitation can wreak havoc in the form of warping, degrading accuracy substantially. It may occur or maybe not, but that’s a big gamble on an expensive hunt.
  14. searcher

    searcher Gold $$ Contributor

    May 16, 2010
    A reasonably priced gun can get expensive if you later decide to upgrade stock, trigger, getting rust-proofed (if not already painted or stainless) Think about whether the trigger is suitably adjustable and whether you will mind dragging your stock through thorn brush and getting it wet. Synthetic rules. Also - a blued finish guarantees you will be wiping it down after just touching the metal or getting in wet weather. Cerrakote-painted or stainless rifles with synthetic stocks are FAR more practical in taking the abuse that is inherent in real hunting conditions, as are 24" barrels. I too think the 30-06 will serve as well as a "one-gun" option can. There are always a lot of really nice, lightly used 30-06's out there and not many folks shoot a higher-powered hunting rifle enough to put much wear on the barrel.
    deepwater likes this.
  15. Matt_3479


    Dec 16, 2013
    I favour the 270. Win in that list of calibers. It’s sometimes forgotten about but definitely capable of taking any of the animals listed. Loaded with 150gr partition my dad has been hunting moose with a 270. Win for 40 years now and does just fine! Never had to pull the trigger more then once.
    pcrowe, K22, mikeinct and 1 other person like this.
  16. HandgunHTR


    Apr 27, 2011
    If you just have to have the Ruger RSI, then my advice is stay away from the long action cartridges. Those RSIs don't have the barrel length to take advantage of the extra powder, so all you get is more recoil and more muzzle blast.
    I would recommend the .308 for what you want to do. It will take anything in North America reliably if you do your part. You can use 150 grain bullet factory ammo for deer and pronghorn and step all the way up to 180 grain or even 200 grain for elk, moose or bear. With today's bullets, a 180 grain .308 will do just about anything. That being said, the 308 RSI that I used to own only liked 125-150 bullets. Once I stepped up above that accuracy went to pot.
    As others have pointed out however, hunting out West is a very different experience than hunting in the East. That RSI might look great, but it really isn't the best tool available for western critters that may require long shots or a lot of time spent in less than ideal conditions.
  17. Bc'z

    Bc'z Gold $$ Contributor

    Feb 7, 2018
    No brainer....
    In case nobody's mentioned it yet, the
    30-06' load it up or down to the task at hand.
    Something to be said for a cartridge that's over a 100 years old, and has taken both man and beast on every continent.
    MrMajestic and SPJ like this.
  18. KY-Windage


    Jun 28, 2018
    People are politely trying to let you know that, even though you don't know what you're going to actually be hunting, or where, your chosen rifle is probably not going to work out well. It is a carbine that comes in big-country calibers. I would start with a more standard rifle in something like 7mm-08.
    jbarnwell, Tommie, SSL and 3 others like this.
  19. Jess Mellen

    Jess Mellen

    Mar 2, 2017
    There are better guns and caliber combinations then what you are looking at. 270 win is heavy enough for big game and shoots flat for smaller animals at longer ranges. It also will have a touch less recoil than the 3006 which is also a great caliber. Weatherby Vanguard or a tikka are both great shooting guns for the price.
    sw282 likes this.
  20. AAAOA


    Sep 28, 2019
    That's fair enough, my biggest concern is that in those large calibers the short barrel may be detrimental in terms of blast and recoil. I'd certainly like to get my hands on a shorter barreled rifle in one of these calibers and actually shoot in before actually buying anything. Should I get a different rifle, what would be "a more standard rifle"? 20" barrel, 24" barrel or something in between? It's my understanding you only lose ~50-100fps per inch so there's gotta be a point where it gets a bit unnecessary.

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