Common Rifle Calibers
.22 Long Rifle (.22LR) - The most common round commercially, it is one of the older varieties of ammunition still in use. Despite “rifle” in the name, this rimfire cartridge it is often used in both pistols and revolvers as well as rifles, and is popular because of it’s low cost, minimal recoil, and relative low noise. These characteristics also make it ideal for novice shooters to learn the fundamentals of shooting before stepping up to larger calibers. It is often used for recreational shooting (“plinking”), as well hunting varmints and small game. It is also a popular round for bullseye pistol competitions, particularly indoors. While considered by most an ineffective self-defense cartridge, it’s small size lends itself well to very concealable guns. There are those who use it for self-defense who follow the idea that some gun (however small) is better than no gun.
.22-250 Remington (.22-250 Ackley Improved, 22 Varminter, 22 Wotkyns Original Swift) - A high-velocity, rimless, short action, .22 caliber rifle cartridge primarily used for varmint hunting and small game hunting, it is capable of creating hydrostatic shock. It was developed as a necked-down .250 Savage, and is capable of excellent accuracy, with slightly inferior ballistics to the more expensive and less popular .220 Swift.
.223 Remington (5.56×45mm NATO) - Developed for the AR-15, this sporting cartridge has almost the same external dimensions as the 5.56×45mm NATO military cartridge, but they are not identical and the rounds can only be used interchangeably in certain rifles, with varying effects to accuracy. It is capable of creating hydrostatic shock, and has excellent terminal performance. It is a popular round for varmint and light-medium game, with law enforcement and for personal defense, as well as with target shooters as it is relatively inexpensive.
.243 Winchester - Designed as a varmint round, this cartridge is now popular with medium game hunters. It is a necked down .308, and offers relatively low recoil with good accuracy and a flat trajectory. Due to the smaller bullet, it’s effectiveness on larger animals is dependent upon proper shot placement.
.25-06 Remington - A necked down .30-06, this round has a high ballistic coefficient in a light round, with a relatively high muzzle velocity with only moderate recoil. It is a good round for medium game, and is popular in open plains due to it’s flat trajectory for longer ranges. It can also be tailored for small animals and larger game.
.260 Remington (6.5-08 A-Square) - Also based on the .308, this round is popular in rifle competitions because of it’s relatively high ballistic coefficient. It is capable of duplicating the trajectory of the .300 Win Mag, but with much less recoil.
.270 Winchester - A very popular round with hunters (in large part because of the writing of Jack O’Connor), it is based on the 30-06. Capable of generating hydrostatic shock, different loads can be used for anything from smaller game up to deer, elk and moose.
.280 Remington (7mm Express Remington) - Also based on the .30-06, this cartridge is often compared with the .270 Win, but it has better ballistics, generating more energy at the muzzle and downrange and being less prone to air and object resistance.
7mm-08 Remington - This is a necked down .308, with a slightly flatter trajectory due to a better ballistic coefficient. This makes it a very popular round with hunters and target shooters alike for long-range shooting.
7mm Remington Magnum - Introduced with the Remington 700 bolt rifle, it has better ballistics in lighter weight bullets in longer barrels than the .30-06, with comparable recoil but lesser than other magnum loads. It is used for almost all game in North America, especially in wide plains where longer reach is preferable. Many consider this cartridge to have the heaviest recoil that they can shoot well.
7.62×39mm (7.62mm Soviet, .30 Short Russian/ComBloc) - First used by the Soviet SKS carbine, it is also the round for which the legendary AK-47 is designed for. Capable of generating hydrostatic shock, it was the standard round of the Soviet Union for many years. It has similar ballistics to the .30-30, and inexpensive SKS rifles are now replacing the lever actions once often called the “poor man’s deer rifle.”
.30-30 Winchester (.30 Winchester Center Fire, 7.62×51Rmm) - The relatively light recoil of this round makes it considered by many to be the “entry-class” for modern deer cartridges. It is usually loaded with round or flat nose bullets, as most rifles chambered for the round are lever-actions (with tubular magazines), and it is the most common cartridge chambered for these rifles. It also has a rimmed case, and is capable of taking most large game in North America at shorter ranges.
.308 Winchester (7.62×51mm NATO) - The most popular short-action, big-game hunting cartridge worldwide, it is capable of generating hydrostatic shock. It is the parent case for many other hunting cartridges, and is the commercial version of the military 7.62×51mm NATO round (although there are slight differences, not so much as .223/5.56 so that almost all rifles chambered for one can take the other). It also finds great popularity with law enforcement and target shooters.
.30-06 Springfield (7.62×63mm) - The “thirty-aught-six” was the main cartridge of the US Army until it was replaced by the 7.62 NATO. It is capable of generating hydrostatic shock and is very effective at longer ranges. It is the round used by the M1903 bolt rifle (although not initially), the M1 Garand, the Browning Automatic Rifle, and the M1917 Enfield. It’s power, and sheer volume of surplus brass and rifles almost guaranteed the popularity of the round for reloading and hunting, and it is suitable for deer, elk, moose and similar game.
.300 Winchester Magnum (.300 Win Mag, 7.62×67mm) - Developed as a shortened H&H casing, this is a highly accurate long-range round with a relatively flat trajectory. It is used for big game hunting and long-range shooting, both by civilians and law enforcement/militaries. It’s effective range is slightly greater than the .30-06, but with marginally increased recoil. Managed recoil loads have been developed that provide similar performance to the .30-06, while standard loads deliver better long-range performance than non-magnum .30 cartridges.
.303 British (7.7mm×56R) - Developed in Britain as a blackpowder round, this .311 caliber rimmed rifle and machine gun cartridge still finds popularity outside of the US. It has seen several iterations since the 1880s and is the round the famed Lee-Enfield rifle is chambered for. It is still popular with hunters for medium and large non-dangerous game.
.338 Winchester Magnum - Based on the .458 Wincester Magnum, this heavy recoiling round (almost twice that of the .308) is used for large game in North America, including bear, and thick-skinned African game.