Best Rifle Caliber for
By Chad Myers | Updated:
Long Range Hunting
The only large game that the vast majority of hunters chase is the whitetail deer. Sure, you can find them in fields and open areas, but they tend to stick to the woods, or at least in areas where they can’t be seen from 500 yards away. The fact is, most of these hunters will never shoot a deer over 200 yards away. With modern rifles, just about any centerfire cartridge can get the job done at that range. However, if you want to wander a bit off the beaten path and hunt in an area where you will be lucky to get within 300 yards of a deer, elk, or bear, then you will need a cartridge that is up to it.
Growing up in my dad’s pawn shop, we had access to just about any cartridge you can think of, all the way up to 50 BMG. As an adult, I haven’t shied away from new cartridges either. Needless to say, I have been lucky enough to have had the chance to try out the majority of rounds that most people would consider using for long range hunting. As an engineer, I also respect the ballistics and recognize that every cartridge has its place. Today I will pair that science with my experience and help you decide which rifle to take on that awesome trip you’re planning!
If you want to skip right to the cartridges, here is a list of them with a link to their respective sections:
- Most Popular: 6.5 Creedmoor
- Most Balanced: 6.5 PRC
- Best for Western Hunts: 6.8 Western
- Most Powerful with Light Recoil: .280 Ackley Improved
- Flattest Shooting: 28 Nosler
- Best for Very Large Game: .300 Winchester Magnum
How Much Energy You Need for a Clean Kill
You probably could get just about any centerfire cartridge to plink a steel target at 500 yards, but as shooters, we want something that shoots “flat” meaning the bullet doesn’t drop a whole lot at our specified range. Flat shooting cartridges leave less room for human error, especially before you have a dope chart. Regardless of flightpath, hunters need something that doesn’t just hit the target, but has enough energy to kill the target ethically. So, in a perfect world, we want a cartridge that shoots as flat as a laser, and we want it to hit extremely hard. However, it can’t hit so hard that it destroys the animal, so laser guided missiles are out of the question unfortunately.
What does it mean to hit “hard”? How hard? That is where the energy of your cartridge comes in. Without turning this article into a physics lesson, every moving object has kinetic energy. You will see this in ballistics data, and the elementary calculation is one half time the mass of the bullet times its velocity squared. We use this calculation to determine the “Muzzle Energy”. Although as the bullet travels through the air, it slows down due to drag, and therefore its energy decreases. This is where the shape of the bullet and its ballistic coefficient come in, but that math isn’t important. What is important is that you understand that the muzzle energy is not the same as the bullet's energy when it hits the target.
Ballistics tables will also show you how much energy a cartridge has at various ranges, although how do you know how much energy you need for your particular animal? Well, that number is hard to determine. The community has more or less came up with numbers from collective experience that are a solid reference, and I am going to list them out for you here. Just realize these are more of a guideline, there are plenty of other factors at play, and if your cartridge makes 5 foot pounds of energy too little, your target still isn’t getting up.
|Game||Minimum Bullet Energy (ft-lbs)|
|Mule Deer||1,000 - 1,200|
|Black Bear||1,000 - 1,200|
|Elk||1,500 - 1,800|
|Moose||2,600 (per New Hampshire DNR)|
|Bison||2,800 (per Yukon.ca)|
Long Range Hunting Ethics
What is long range anyway? Depending on who you ask, long range starts somewhere between 500 and 1000 yards for range shooters. Although is long range the same for hunters and range shooters? I would have to say no. I am sure someone somewhere has taken an animal at over 500 yards, but I think it is safe to assume that long range hunting starts around 300 yards.
As hunters, we want to be as ethical as possible with our shots. Just because we can hit something 800 yards away, doesn’t mean we should. I don’t know many hunters that are comfortable shooting an animal much farther than 400 yards. Plus, no matter what you define long range as, you need to put in a considerable amount of range time, and develop a dope chart, to make sure you can make that shot. So head to the range, and figure out how far you can comfortably shoot, and stay under that range while you are in the field.
Additionally, a high quality rifle paired with its favorite modern day cartridge are going to be more accurate than the shooter. The bullet goes where you tell it to, so don’t get caught up thinking if I use this cartridge instead of this one I will be more accurate and have a better chance at a kill shot. The odds are that that isn’t true. Your equipment can only perform as well as you can use it. Start packing that range bag.
What Makes a Cartridge The “Best for XYZ”?
If you read a lot of these articles, like I do, then you will probably see a cartridge that is the “best for x” on one page but another cartridge has the same title on another. Which one is actually the best? Well, firearms are highly subjective. No matter which cartridge you pick to be best for something, there will be people that agree with you wholeheartedly, and others that laugh in your face. So my “best for” titles try to show you what most people like about a certain cartridge, but use it as a guideline instead of gospel.
Specific Cartridges & Ballistics
Alright, now let’s get into specific cartridges! I’ll give you a brief overview of each one, my experience with it, what the community generally has to say, and we will check out some ballistics data while we are at it. This is not a ranked list, so these cartridges are sorted by their bullet diameter, aka caliber. Let’s start with the most loved and most hated 6.5 mm cartridge, the 6.5 Creedmoor.
Most Popular: 6.5 Creedmoor
In the realm of long-range shooting and hunting, the 6.5 Creedmoor has definitely turned some heads in recent decades. The 6.5 Creedmoor was developed for Hornady in 2007, making it a relatively new cartridge to the market. It has also become a polarizing cartridge, with half of the community saying it is the best cartridge there is, and the other half saying it isn’t worth the brass it's seated in, and there isn’t much room left in the middle. Regardless, this cartridge has undeniably impressive ballistics.
The 6.5 Creedmoor features a unique design optimized for long-range precision. The cartridge has a relatively short case, which allows for the use of longer, high-ballistic-coefficient bullets. The overall length of the cartridge is 2.825 inches, meaning it can go in short-action rifles. That slick bullet is also booking it at around 2,600 to 2,900 feet per second depending on your grain. Even with the small 6.5 mm bullet, it can still pack a punch at that speed.
One of the major points of shooters that don’t like this cartridge is that the small and fast bullet doesn’t transfer the majority of its energy to its target, making it a hole puncher. The opposite side of that argument is that if you punch a hole through any animal's lungs, it isn’t going anywhere. So, it depends on how you want to look at it if that is an advantage or not. Do you want small and fast, or big and slow? Both will kill.
With the popularity of this round, I couldn’t help but take it into the deer woods a few times. I usually go for rounds that hit a little harder since, as an eastern hunter, my shots are rarely farther than 100 yards. Of course, this cartridge will put deer on ground, but you do need a good shot. It is less forgiving than those larger rounds, and that could lead to longer blood trails if you rush your shot.
While the 6.5 cut its teeth with long range shooters on the range, it has been adopted by a large number of hunters. A standard 6.5 Creedmoor is more than enough to take whitetail or other deer sized game. With a 143 grain bullet, it still carries north of 1,300 foot-pounds of energy out to 500 yards. That is plenty for deer, and is even enough for black bear or caribou.
6.5 Creedmoor 143 gr Ballistics - 200 Yard Zero
|0 yds||2,700 ft/s||2,315 ft⋅lb||-1.5 inches|
|100 yds||2,556 ft/s||2,075 ft⋅lb||1.9 inches|
|200 yds||2,417 ft/s||1,855 ft⋅lb||0 inches|
|300 yds||2,282 ft/s||1,654 ft⋅lb||-7.9 inches|
|400 yds||2,151 ft/s||1,470 ft⋅lb||-22.4 inches|
|500 yds||2,025 ft/s||1,302 ft⋅lb||-44.5 inches|
Another thing that shooters love about the 6.5 Creedmoor is its light recoil. Compared to a classic .308 Winchester, or the ever popular 30-06, a 6.5 Creedmoor is very nice to shoot. The 6-5 was made for the range, so this was done on purpose to allow shooters to be able to feel their shoulders in the morning, a novel concept!
Even though this cartridge was specifically designed for long range shooting, you will find most of the ammo marketed towards hunters. There are more hunters than range nuts, so I would say that makes sense, but the good thing about it is that you will find cartridges designed to hit game instead of steel.
Another advantage of the 6.5 Creedmoor is the availability of reloading components. Reloaders can find a wide selection of brass, bullets, and powders specifically designed for this cartridge. Its popularity has led to an abundance of load data, allowing handloaders to fine-tune their ammunition for optimal performance. Additionally, commercial ammunition options are readily available from various manufacturers, further enhancing the accessibility of the cartridge.
With its manageable recoil, reloadability, and wide availability, the 6.5 Creedmoor has solidified its place in the firearms community. I think it would be a solid choice for someone that wants to go on a hunt that requires a long range shot. You are going to get less drop than you would with heavier rounds, and it still packs enough punch to drop the animal, given you make a good shot.
Most Balanced: 6.5 PRC
The 6.5 PRC (Precision Rifle Cartridge) has quickly gained recognition as a dominant force in long-range shooting and hunting. Introduced in 2018 by Hornady, this magnum-class cartridge has captivated the shooting community with its exceptional power, precision, and performance. The 6.5 PRC is based on the .300 Ruger Compact Magnum case, which has been necked down to accommodate 6.5mm (.264-inch) bullets. This design choice allows for a larger powder capacity, enabling the cartridge to achieve higher velocities and transfer greater energy upon impact. The long, sleek bullets used in the 6.5 PRC possess impressive ballistic coefficients, ensuring exceptional accuracy and minimal wind drift.
One of the defining features of the 6.5 PRC is its ability to deliver remarkable long-range performance. The cartridge's high muzzle velocity results in flatter trajectories and increased energy retention downrange. The combination of velocity, energy, and superior ballistic coefficients makes the 6.5 PRC a favorite among precision shooters and hunters that need exceptional performance at range.
Being a 6.5 mm caliber, many people want to compare this round to the 6.5 Creedmoor. Basically, the 6.5 PRC is the 6.5 Creedmoor’s big gym rat brother. The PRC is about 15% thicker and 5% taller than the Creedmoor. That leaves plenty of room for additional powder, and therefore power. Of course, you are also going to get a bit more recoil than the Creedmoor (about 50% more), but it is still very manageable. Generally speaking, the 6.5 PRC has a little less recoil than the standard .308 Winchester.
When it comes to long-range shooting, the 6.5 PRC truly shines. The cartridge's high velocity, combined with excellent ballistic coefficients, allows shooters to maintain accuracy and energy downrange. The result is a flatter trajectory, reduced wind drift, and impressive terminal ballistics. The 6.5 PRC's reliable and predictable performance under challenging conditions has made it a sought-after choice among competitive shooters and long-range enthusiasts. Whether engaging steel targets or hitting small targets at extreme distances, the 6.5 PRC is a winner.
6.5 PRC 143 gr Ballistics - 200 Yard Zero
|0 yds||2,972 ft/s||2,782 ft⋅lb||-1.5 inches|
|100 yds||2,807 ft/s||2,505 ft⋅lb||1.5 inches|
|200 yds||2,649 ft/s||2,252 ft⋅lb||0 inches|
|300 yds||2,495 ft/s||2,019 ft⋅lb||-6.4 inches|
|400 yds||2,347 ft/s||1,805 ft⋅lb||-18.2 inches|
|500 yds||2,204 ft/s||1,610 ft⋅lb||-36.2 inches|
The 6.5 PRC's power and ballistic characteristics make it well-suited for long range hunting. Referencing the above table, you can see that the 6.5 PRC carries plenty of power out to 500 yards. Delivering over 1,600 foot pounds of energy at 500 yards, it can take deer, black bear, and even elk with relative ease. It also shoots super flat, with only a foot and a half drop at 400 yards, and three feet at 500 yards. That is impressive.
You will not struggle to find 6.5 PRC hunting ammo either, at least online. The only downside is that you can expect to pay around three dollars a round, which makes more than your shoulder sore on range days. The good thing is that the 6.5 PRC is gaining popularity every year. That means reloaders can find a wide range of components specifically designed for the cartridge. Brass, bullets, and powders tailored for the 6.5 PRC are readily available, empowering handloaders to optimize their loads for improved accuracy, consistency, and performance.
The 6.5 PRC has made a significant impact in the world of long-range shooting and hunting. With its impressive power, precision, and versatility, the cartridge has garnered a dedicated following among enthusiasts seeking exceptional performance at extended ranges. Whether engaging targets in a precision rifle match or pursuing game in the field, the 6.5 PRC delivers unmatched accuracy, energy, and ballistic performance. It has firmly established itself as a go-to choice for those seeking the perfect balance between power and precision.
Best For Western Hunts: 6.8 Western
The .270 Winchester has been one of the most popular and effective cartridges in hunting history. Right behind it is the .270 Winchester Short Magnum (WSM), and .270 Weatherby Magnum. These cartridges are great, but they are also a little long in the tooth. Seeing the market trends, Winchester in collaboration with Browning designed a cartridge with a high ballistic coefficient and long range performance in mind. In 2021 that materialized as the 6.8 Western.
This is a classic example of using brain over brawn. Instead of beefing up the .270 WSM to reach the ballistics they had in mind, they relied on modern day ballistics to improve a 20 year old cartridge that was the sole competitor to the now 100 year old .270 Winchester. They decided on a bullet with a much higher ballistics coefficient, and paired it with 1-in-8 twist rate barrels that keeps it in the air longer, and allows it to carry more energy down range.
This 6.8 mm (.267 in) bullet sits in a slimmed down .270 WSM case that is short enough to put this cartridge into the short action class, unlike most .270 cartridges. It can also handle bullets up to around 175 grains, where the .270 Winchester tops out around 140 grains.
The 6.8 Western is an obvious competitor to the 6.5 Creedmoor, and it was designed in much the same way. Although the 6.8 Western is a bit beefier in the brass, and obviously carries a larger projectile. Of course, you don’t get that much more bite for nothing, you can expect about twice as much recoil from the Western than what you would get from the Creedmoor.
6.8 Western 175 gr Ballistics - 200 Yard Zero
|0 yds||2,835 ft/s||3,123 ft⋅lb||-1.5 inches|
|100 yds||2,686 ft/s||2,803 ft⋅lb||1.7 inches|
|200 yds||2,541 ft/s||2,509 ft⋅lb||0 inches|
|300 yds||2,402 ft/s||2,241 ft⋅lb||-7.0 inches|
|400 yds||2,266 ft/s||1,995 ft⋅lb||-20.1 inches|
|500 yds||2,135 ft/s||1,771 ft⋅lb||-40.0 inches|
One look at the ballistics and you should be impressed. I like to have equipment that is “better than I am”, meaning it is capable of performing at a level that is way above what I am comfortable doing or capable of. This cartridge fits the bill, it can comfortably take down elk at 500, and even 600 yards. Of course, a really long shot for most of us would be around 400 yards, and with this cartridge, you only need to account for 20 inches of drop at that range, what more could you want?
Since this cartridge is so new, I had to get this ballistics data from browning themselves, and 175 grain was the only option. With this grain, you can see that the 143 grain 6.5 PRC is a flatter shooting cartridge than the 6.8 Western, but not by much. I am guessing that a smaller grain 6.8 might just beat the 6.5 PRC. Nonetheless, the 175 grain 6.8 Western still shoots flatter than your standard 143 grain 6.5 Creedmoor.
Sadly, I am not the only one that knows 6.8 Western is a good round. If you go looking online, you might be able to snag a deal for $2.00 a round, but it will likely be closer to $3.00 if you stick to big name companies. You can find some reloading materials, which will save you a bit of cash if you have the set up already. All and all, if I was going on an elk hunt that I expected to need to shoot a long ways on, the 6.8 Western would be a round that I seriously considered taking.
Most Powerful with Light Recoil: .280 Ackley Improved
If you want a cartridge that can really pack a punch without producing a ton of recoil, the .280 Ackley Improved is the ticket. This cartridge still has enough energy to put down an elk at 500 yards, but it produces about 42% less recoil than a .300 Win Mag. That is a comparable amount of recoil to a .308 Winchester, but the .280 AI carries considerably more energy down range.
This fact is a major reason the cartridge gained so much popularity. Initially, the .280 Ackley Improved was a wildcat cartridge. It was created by Parker Otto Ackley, who simply took the popular 280 Remington cartridge and changed the shoulder angle (angle from the shoulder down to the neck) from 35 degrees to 40 degrees. This allowed the casing to hold more powder, increasing velocity by about 100 fps.
On top of the light recoil, the .280 Ackley Improved is the flattest shooting cartridge that we have seen on this list so far. Mark for mark, the .280 AI beats the 6.5 Creedmoor in every way. The 6.5 PRC and 6.8 Western put up a bit more of a challenge, and they do carry a little more energy out to 500 yards, but the .280 AI still passes that 1500 ft-lbs threshold we need for elk, and is definitely able to put down deer.
.280 Ackley Improved 140 gr Ballistics - 200 Yard Zero
|0 yds||3,150 ft/s||3,084 ft⋅lb||-1.5 inches|
|100 yds||2,945 ft/s||2,700 ft⋅lb||1.3 inches|
|200 yds||2,752 ft/s||2,358 ft⋅lb||0 inches|
|300 yds||2,567 ft/s||2,052 ft⋅lb||-5.8 inches|
|400 yds||2,390 ft/s||1,778 ft⋅lb||-16.9 inches|
|500 yds||2,219 ft/s||1,533 ft⋅lb||-34.2 inches|
Luckily for hunters, this wildcat cartridge was picked up by Nosler and SAAMI registered in 2007. That means you can actually buy a box on the shelf. Although you might struggle to find ammo in person, you can find it online, or at least you can find reloading components online. The bad side about this cartridge is that the ammo is going to be expensive no matter how you slice it.
If you are planning a hunt that requires a long shot, plenty of people will suggest the .280 Ackley Improved. This cartridge does exceptionally well at range, but it won’t make your shoulder pay for it in the morning. There are also plenty of rifles that are chambered for the round, like the Weatherby Mark V, Browning X-Bolt, Christensen Arms Ridgeline, and even the Savage 110.
All and all, this cartridge is a good choice for the elk hunter that wants to be ready for a long shot. The same can be said for mule deer or blacktail hunters. The best part is that this rifle isn’t totally overkill for closer range hunts either. So, if you want a “do-it-all” rifle that can efficiently kill your target, but not your shoulder, then pick one up chambered in .280 Ackley Improved.
Flattest Shooting: 28 Nosler
Nosler is well known for having a wide variety of cartridges that perform exceptionally well. One of their most popular cartridges is the 28 Nosler. Wanting to tap into the 7mm market, Nosler had this cartridge SAAMI approved in 2015 with the goal of producing a cartridge that performs better than other 7mm cartridges at long ranges. To a certain degree, they have accomplished just that.
If there was ever a cartridge that “shot like a laser” it would be the 28 Nosler. The cartridge is well known for being flat shooting, and from our below ballistics chart, you can see that it only has around 16 inches of drop at 400 yards, and around 32 inches at 500 yards. That is the best on this list by far! To do this, the 28 Nosler has to be blazing fast, and I assure you, it is. The previous round, the .280 AI was made popular for its speed, but the 28 Nosler, while in a different class, goes 100 fps faster from the muzzle and retains most of that extra speed at range.
Although there is no such thing as a free lunch, and you have to pay for that speed and power somewhere. The tradeoff is recoil. The 28 Nosler hits your shoulder about twice as hard as a 6.5 Creedmoor, or about 40% harder than a .308 Winchester. You can compare the 28 Nosler to the classic .308 in more detail. More recoil isn’t a good thing, but most of us can tolerate it, and the added performance is likely worth it if you want to be sure you can perform on your long range hunt.
28 Nosler 160 gr Ballistics - 200 Yard Zero
|0 yds||3,250 ft/s||3,753 ft⋅lb||-1.5 inches|
|100 yds||3,036 ft/s||3,280 ft⋅lb||1.2 inches|
|200 yds||2,835 ft/s||2,860 ft⋅lb||0 inches|
|300 yds||2,643 ft/s||2,486 ft⋅lb||-5.4 inches|
|400 yds||2,459 ft/s||2,151 ft⋅lb||-15.9 inches|
|500 yds||2,281 ft/s||1,852 ft⋅lb||-32.1 inches|
Many hunters and shooters alike consider the 28 Nosler to be the best 7mm cartridge out there, and you can tell it when you go looking for ammo. I am not sure I have ever seen 28 on the shelves of my local Sportsman’s Warehouse, but you can find it online. When you do find it, you can expect to pay between $3.00 and $5.00 per round. That is fairly insane, so if I were you, I would pick up a reloading die and take that route. You can definitely find reloading components cheaper, but the price will turn plenty of people away. Although the performance is enough to make plenty of hunters pull out their wallets.
I would take the 28 Nosler on hunt where I expected to take a shot at an exceptionally large animal. This is definitely a round for elk, and I would consider it for Moose hunting within 200 yards. Seeing as this is one of if not the flattest shooting cartridge on the market, I would also consider using it if I were a hunter that doesn’t mind recoil, but doesn’t like adjusting too much for bullet drop. If you aim at the lungs of an elk at 300 yards and don’t account for drop at all, you will hit 5.5 inches low, and guess what, you will hit lung.
So, this is a great cartridge for hunters that may have not had to shoot over a couple of hundred yards before and are new to the idea of adjusting their shot over long distances. Plus, it leaves less room for error if you do account for the drop. All and all, this hard hitting laser cartridge is an awesome choice for long range hunting.
Best for Very Large Game: .300 Winchester Magnum
When most shooters think of a long range hunting cartridge that hits hard, the .300 Win Mag comes to mind. Speaking from experience, the moment that my dad and I started planning an elk trip, he pulled a .300 Win Mag out of the safe with a smile. After we sent a few rounds down range, we were ready to go, sore shoulders and all.
Yeah, the .300 Win Mag kicks a little more than your standard hunting cartridge, but this long action round lays the smack down on anything it touches. It has more than enough power to put deer down at over 700 yards if you were able to hit it. The 300 Win Mag also produces 400 ft-lbs more energy than you need to put down an elk at 500 yards. It doesn’t have a crazy amount of drop either, only dropping around 20 inches at 400 yards, and around 40 inches at 500 yards.
You will do very well on a mule deer, bear, elk, or moose hunt with a .300 Winchester Magnum by your side. This cartridge really has enough power to take down anything in North America. It is also extremely popular. Even though this cartridge was first introduced in 1963, it out competes plenty of new cartridges on the market. You can believe that on my next elk hunt, I will have a .300 Win Mag on my shoulder.
.300 Winchester Magnum 190 gr Ballistics - 200 Yard Zero
|0 yds||2,870 ft/s||3,476 ft⋅lb||-1.5 inches|
|100 yds||2,717 ft/s||3,119 ft⋅lb||1.6 inches|
|200 yds||2,564 ft/s||2,777 ft⋅lb||0 inches|
|300 yds||2,418 ft/s||2,472 ft⋅lb||-6.9 inches|
|400 yds||2,279 ft/s||2,194 ft⋅lb||-19.7 inches|
|500 yds||2,143 ft/s||1,941 ft⋅lb||-39.3 inches|
Long range hunters were not the only ones to notice how good the 300 Win Mag was either. The military adopted the 300 Win Mag as a sniper cartridge over 50 years ago, and it is still going strong in their M86 rifle. They consider it to have a maximum effective range of around 1,200 yards, and claim that producing a sub MOA group at 1,000 yards is not all that uncommon with their precision built rifles. That is a pretty scary idea, and if the regular hunter could produce a 2 MOA group at 500 yards, they would be unstoppable.
If you hunt with a box of ammo off the shelf, you can expect to pay between $2.00 and $3.00 a round for .300 Win Mag. That isn’t as bad as some of the other cartridges on this list, but it isn’t great. Thanks to the extreme popularity of this round, you can find reloading equipment and components for it pretty easily. With that initial investment, you can bring down your cost per round significantly.
All and all, the .300 Winchester Magnum will get the job done on any big game hunt. It packs a hell of a punch, and it carries that energy farther than any hunter would likely try a shot. If you want a rifle that you know will be able to take down any animal you chase, you should get it chambered in .300 Win Mag.
If you are planning on taking a western hunt where you might have to shoot quite a way, then you definitely need a cartridge up to the job. Any round on this list is up to the task. Some of them hit harder than others, while others kick less or fly flatter. There is no “best” cartridge for long range hunting. So whichever one you pick, what is important is that you get familiar with it at the range before taking a shot at a live target. Figure out what your maximum range is, especially your cold bore range, and develop a dope chart.
Most centerfire rifles and cartridges that are worth their salt are more accurate than we are to begin with, so when you are picking a cartridge, the main thing we want to look at is its ballistics and its recoil. After you know you have the right equipment for the job, it is just a matter of patience and practice! Good luck, and take smart shots.
Long Range Hunting FAQs
Long range hunting might be a bit different from what most hunters typically do, so there are plenty of questions that are frequently asked. We covered the majority of them in this article, but before we close out, let’s cover the most important ones in a quick snippet form.
- What Is Considered Long Range Hunting?
- Long range hunting is not the same as long range shooting, which is between 500 and 1000 yards. There is no official distance for long range hunting, but it generally starts around 300 yards, and most hunters choose not to attempt shots over 400 or 500 yards.
- How Much Scope Magnification Do You Need for Long Range Hunting?
- Generally, long range hunting isn’t farther than 500 yards. The rule of thumb is that you need 3x magnification for every 100 yards. So you don’t limit yourself, you should choose a scope with at least 15x magnification for long range hunting.
You can see my favorite scopes for this range in the “Best Rifle Scopes for Shooting 500 Yards”.
- What Is the Best Long Range Hunting Cartridge?
- The best long range hunting cartridge is subjective, but the 6.5 PRC is a well balanced round and a fan favorite. The .280 Ackley Improved is also popular because it hits hard without having a crazy amount of recoil. For very large game like elk, the .300 Win Mag is a tried and true choice.
- How Much Energy Does Your Bullet Need on Impact for Long Range Hunting?
- For deer sized game, your bullet needs to have at least 1000 ft-lbs of energy when it hits the target to produce an ethical shot, no matter what range you are hunting at. Black bear, mule deer, and caribou require 1,200 ft-lbs, elk require at least 1,500 ft-lbs, and moose require 2,600 ft-lbs.
- What Is the Best Rifle for Long Range Hunting?
- For long range hunting, you need a high quality rifle to reliably make accurate shots. You can expect to pay over $1000 for a rifle of this class. The Bergara Premier HMR Pro is one great example, but the Christensen Arms Ridgeline, Browning X-Bolt Pro, and Howa HS Precision are all great choices.
Related article: 15 Best Deer Hunting Rifles [For Any Hunter]