Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Ammunition Survey: Best Rifle Cartridges Overall

Cost Effective Rifle Cartridges Part 10: Ammunition Survey Recommendations

In the past sections, after reviewing the general results of the ammunition survey, we analyzed them in detail by categories. The above chart displays all the cartridges that were mentioned in section conclusions, whether or not they were recommended. We can now summarize our findings across all categories.

Recommendations: most affordable and available calibers
  • 22LR is, by far, the cheapest caliber overall, and the best choice for the most frequently used rifle at the range: it is a clear winner for trainer caliber. 
  • In the rimfire category, the 22LR leads the 17HMR and the 22 WMR. The 17HMR and 22WMR, better options for small varmint hunting, are approximately three times more expensive to shoot, but still significantly cheaper than any centerfire option.
  • Across all centerfire calibers, the 7.62x39 Soviet is the cheapest, in all senses of the word. For centerfire practice, we recommend the next most inexpensive cartridge, the 223 Remington, which, while a bit more expensive, is much more accurate and versatile.
  • Among varmint calibers, the 223 Remington is over 50% cheaper to shoot than its alternatives.
  • In 6mm caliber, the 243, a very popular cartridge, is the most economical to shoot. It also provides little recoil and fine long range accuracy. The 257 Roberts and the 6.5x55, both with great reputation and ability, more versatile than the .243, do not make the cut on availability and affordability grounds.
  • Among the 7mm calibers below .30, the 270 Winchester is the least expensive to shoot, and the 7mm Remington Magnum, more expensive, also carries more punch, as much range, and more recoil. The 7mm-08, although pricier, is an excellent alternative for shooters looking for low recoil.
  • Among the popular .30 caliber rounds, the most available and cost effective are the 30-30, the 308 and the 30-06; the 7.62x39 is a special case, inherited from Eastern block military weapons, large but short and imprecise, made for injuring men rather than practicing marksmanship or killing game, and not well suited to regular hunting or range applications except for its low cost. The 300 Winchester Magnum is the best option among the 300s.
  • Of the medium bores, the 338 Winchester Magnum is the only choice for availability, but, surprisingly, shows very high cost in the category.
  • Among the large bores, the only rounds with good availability are the 45-70 Government (great in brush and for any game in the US) and the 375 H&H Magnum, a cartridge with a long African and European history, the smallest of the large bores but also the most successful - the first truly universal cartridge able to be able to tackle any game on the planet.

Recommendations by purpose, to optimize cost of ownership and availability
  • Training, plinking: 22LR
  • Centerfire shooting practice: 223 Remington ( the 7.62x39 is slighter cheaper to shoot, but we find the 223 Remington much more versatile)
  • Small varmint hunting: 22WMR, 17HMR
  • Varmint hunting: 223 Remington
  • Deer hunting, low recoil: 243 (least expensive), 25-06, 7mm-08 (more expensive)
  • Deer hunting, brush: 30-30 Winchester
  • Deer hunting, any recoil: 270 Winchester, 308 Winchester, 30-06 Springfield, 7mm Remington Magnum
  • All around US hunting: 30-06 Springfield, 308 Winchester, 7mm Remington Magnum
  • All around US hunting, low recoil: 7mm-08 (more expensive)
  • Large US game: 300 Winchester Magnum (the 338 Win Mag is more than double its cost)
  • Dangerous game: 375 H&H Magnum, 45-70 Government
  • African big game: 375 H&H Magnum
These recommendations are specifically made with cost of ownership and availability as primary criteria, and are based on the ammunition survey. We can also look at the availability of rifle chamberings,  and derive similar conclusions from them. The next few sections will review our survey of rifle chamberings, along with our survey analysis.

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