Whenever I teach hunter safety education classes in the fall ahead of the upcoming deer season, I almost always get asked two questions.
One is “What is the best deer rifle and caliber to get for my son or daughter for them to start hunting deer”?
The second is “How do you know what the best hunting ammunition is to buy for deer hunting”?
Both good basic questions any deer or any other kind of hunter ought to know. For our purposes here this information not only applies to prepping plans and long term survival in the Bug Out wilds, but sustaining ourselves with much needed protein food.
The good news is today there is plenty of superb factory ammunition available, if you can afford to buy it. Still, hunting and survival go hand in hand for many, so you have to have some hunting ammo for the pursuit of game meat.
Filet Campfire Legends From Fact
Many a deer camp or Bug Out fire ring debate has raged well into the night over the subject of picking the best ammo for hunting. You might as well try to pick the best ever issue of Playboy magazine…for the articles of course. During such oral arguments many highly varied opinions will fly, but some don’t go very far only to crash and burn. As they say though about certain parts of the human anatomy, everybody has an opinion. True that.
Of course, preppers are not exempt either from holding varied opinions on varied subjects. Hunting ammo should not be one of them. In the business of prepping though we should listen to every angle presented. We might just learn something new.
However, some opinions on foraging and fending ammo are based on factual knowledge, and others are just woodland legends about how Ole Grampa Jed shot 200 bucks using nothing but Ream-m Good ammunition. Now there is some truth to developing a faith for a brand or type of survival hunting ammo that has a proven track of reliable performance. Once you find it, never break the tradition.
I have found that in my own Browning 300 WSM A-Bolt using Winchester Ballistic Silvertip, 150 grain ammo with a Leupold scope. For whatever reason of mechanical chemistry that rifle, scope, and ammo combination cooks up every time the trigger is pulled, I seriously do not know. I do know that particular set up has thus far taken ten bucks and five does in sixteen shots. Oh, I missed one buck year before last. The sun must have been in my eyes.
Trial & Error Rites Of Passage
The simple answer here is actually too simple. Most prep hunters buy a new rifle, some box or boxes of ammo in different brands, different bullet weights and configurations. If you have the time and can afford it that is certainly one way to go. It is a reasonable approach to the problem. Hopefully if one tries enough different kinds of ammo, they will find one that will hit the target bulls-eye with regularity. And then that translates into meat on the game pole.
Another approach is to conduct a little research first, then buy ammo. Today ten thousand foot pounds of information can be found on the internet about ammunition performances, how to select the best bullet types and weights for different species of large game, and everything else one might ever want to read on the subject. Reading is good. You might actually learn something. When in gun stores, pick up any free ammo catalogs or CDs.
Also Read: Ammo Type, Quality and Performance
If you happen to be stuck on both a caliber choice and picking ammo, then start with this maxim. For deer hunting for example, the rule of thumb for minimum cartridge power to be effective is 2000 feet per second velocity at the muzzle and 1000 foot pounds of energy delivered at 100 yards. If your Bug Out location features bigger game like elk or moose then pick loads accordingly. If in doubt, go bigger if you can handle the recoil.
You might be thinking that this puts the 30-30 Winchester at the bottom of the scale, but remember this “lowly” round has collectively killed more deer than any other cartridge ever invented so far. However, it does not mean it is particularly smart to shoot at a whitetail at 200 yards with a 30-30. On the other end, the 30-06 can do just about anything with a good solid bullet and precise shot placement.
Then when you have a new unfired hunting rifle or one you wish shot tighter groups after missing a deer or two, what is a reasonable course of action to find ammo? First, I tend to rely on name brand ammunition that has a well established, long standing reputation for product quality, consistent accuracy, and well constructed bullets. A quick survey of the major brand names on any gun dealer’s shelf will reveal several brands worth checking out.
Deer are soft skinned animals without a huge, bulky bone structure like an elk or moose. Through and through penetration is not needed. I recommend starting on the lower end of bullet weight and go with a pointed soft point type bullet that will have good expansion along with adequate penetration. For a 30-06 class rifle, opt for the 150 grain loads first for deer. Buy a box each of 2-3 brands in this category. If elk is on the menu, then get a box of 180 grain.
Some hunter/preppers think there is some magic to ammo shooting accurately in their hunting rifle without actually having to fire some of it. Range time on the practice bench is the only way to determine how ammo shoots in your rifle. Most deer rifles are sighted into the classic standard of 3-inches high at 100 yards. Ballistic charts and computer ballistics programs can help you fine tune the idea sight-in range for the ammo you selected.
When you shoot at the range, this does not mean lying over the hood of your truck shooting at a cardboard box with an “X” drawn on it at some unspecified range. It means shooting off a rest on a fixed shooting table at a target a known distance downrange. There is no need to rush the process. The idea is to get the rifle/ammo combination dialed in for accuracy.
Shoot several strings of three shots to sight in the rifle. Work to get a grouping as tight as possible on the bullseye or at 3-inches high. Let the barrel cool after ten or so shots. For stainless barrels, more cool down is needed. When you are satisfied that you have achieved the best group possible with one brand of ammo, repeat the process using other brands. Determine which ammo is consistently printing the best groups of all. That is most likely the best ammo for your particular rifle.
Some shooters like to clean their rifle barrels between strings or certainly at the end of a shooting session and then try again. If the results repeat themselves, then you are set for a real trial come the next hunting season. The clean harvest of game is the ultimate ammo test. Remember too, that bullet placement is the key, not just a big gun shooting big bullets.
We may think we have packed enough food stuffs for a Bug Out. However, eventually you may have to forage for food. Game animals can be found in any part of this country, so be prepared to hunt for extra food. Select a solid rifle, a quality scope, and some ammo this is tuned in to your gun, so missing a deer or elk can only be blamed on one thing. Best practice.
Daryl L. Hunter
Dr. John J. Woods